Saturday, October 30, 2010

Demonic Possession

Last year I posted a period ghost story about Columbus' colony of La Isabella.

This Halloween I have one on demonic possession courtesy Garcilasco de la Vega, the least reliable and most most readable chronicler of the De Soto expedition.

from Garcilaso's Florida of the Inca:

"THE night before the Spaniards left for Cofaciqui, their guide, who was one of the Indians they had taken in Apalache, and whom they named Pedro, without, however, having baptized him, began to cry for help, and that they were killing him. The troops immediately seized their arms in the fear of some treason, and put themselves in order of battle. But not seeing anything, and having inquired the cause of alarm, they learned that it was their guide, whom they found quite frightened, and almost half dead. When the general demanded of him what had made him utter such loud cries, he replied that the devil, with a frightful visage, accompanied by many little demons, had appeared to him ; that he had threatened to kill him if fee led the Christians to Cofaciqui; that, thereupon, he had trodden upon his belly; had dragged him through the room, and had given him so many blows that he could not move ; that if he lead not been succored by two Spaniards the devil would have killed him ; but that the moment he perceived them he fled away with all his attendants; that, therefore, since the demons feared the Christians, he begged that they would baptize him immediately, it) order that the devil might not come any more to maltreat him. The general and his officers, who judged of the truth of the adventure by the wounds, sent for the, priests ; who, after leaving interrogated this poor Indian, baptized him, and (lid not abandon him the rest of the night nor the following day. He was in such a pitiable condition that it was necessary to restore him, and the army could not decamp until the next day; yet it was necessary that this Indian should mount on horseback."

I should note that, Garliasco's relation, earlier in the expedition soldiers explain the escape of an Indian Chief on a demon:

"The Indians immediately entered the forest with this order. In the mean time, the Spaniards placed sentinels everywhere; they reposed during the night, satisfied with the conduct of Capasi, and in the expectation of returning with honor to the camp. But when the day appeared they experienced that the most flattering hope is often disappointed. They no longer found the cacique nor one of the savages who had accompanied him. Surprised at this extraordinary event, they inquired of each other how the thing lead happened ; and, as they replied that it was impossible that be had fled, because the sentinels asserted that they had watched all the night, they believed that Capasi had implored the succor of some demon, and that he had been carried away by him. What is certain is, that the Spaniards being fatigued fell asleep, and that the savage, who saw a good opportunity to escape, dragged himself, without noise, on all fours ; that whilst he fled, he found in ambush some of his subjects who carried him off. Heaven, without doubt, favored on this occasion the Spaniards; for if, at the time they slept, the Indians had come to attack them, they would have slaughtered them. But, all transported with joy, they thought only of putting their chief in safety. As they concealed him very well, the Spaniards searched in vain for him all the day. Besides the Indians contented themselves with ridiculing the Spaniards and insulting them. So that they returned to the camp, without jeopardy, but in the greatest confusion in the world for having let their prisoner escape. They excused themselves, because in the night in which he had escaped they had heard in extraordinary noise; and that, leaving been guarded with so much care, the devil must have carried him off.
The general, who saw that the error was irreparable, would blame no one. He feigned to give faith to all that they told him ; that the Indians were great sorcerers, and that they did very wonderful things. Nevertheless, however good a face he put upon it, he was sensibly touched at the negligence of his officers."

Conquistador Clothing

As sometimes happens, a recent query leads to a serendipitous finding. In dispelling the ubiquitous image of the conquistador as arrayed in a combed morion helmet, peascod breastplate, a ruff , pumpkin pants and thigh-high boots there is a distinct lack of contemporary images to prove the point. Even most of the Aztec and Mayan codices about the conquest date from the second half of the sixteenth century.

David Rickman directed me to this page:

Of fragments of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala at the university of Texas, Austin. I'd seen this image before, though only in black and white, its used in the endpapers of Hammond Innes' The Conquistadors. Interestingly enough the Cortés figure in the codex is dressed very similar to that of Cortés in the Christoph Weidtiz image of him in the Trachetenbuch c.1529

Years ago I can across one of the few European images of conquistadors done in the first half of the 16th C. of the Welser entrada [Long story short: German bankers financed an expedition from Spain to S. America c. 1534], in John Hemming's The Search for El Dorado p.57.

I was looking for a clearer and color version of this image to illustrate my point. No luck finding this one but I did find another that appears to be from the same artist depicting the same event.

Welser entrada mustering at San Lucar de Barrameda, Spain:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Historians still search for mysterious Mabila

In the News: Historians still search for mysterious Mabila

Historians still search for mysterious Mabila
Montgomery Advertiser
The Spanish conquistador's 1540 exploration began to unravel at a south Alabama village where his well-armed troops had the advantage and slaughtered ...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Columbus Day

Columbus Day, October 12, the "real" Columbus Day, on the anniversary of landfall during his 1492 voyage, not the Monday observed holiday. Though other than no mail and the banks being closed I didn't see much observance. I seem to recall that we got the day off school when I was growing up. My daughter's school was in session yesterday and the subject of Columbus did up in her second grade classroom. Quizzing her on the ride home from school the three ships were the Nina (she doesn't remember visiting the Nina replica when she was a toddler - does remember being chased by a turkey at Yorktown Victory Center-go figure), the Pinta and "something else." She did learn were the term "Indians" came from and the story of Columbus fall off a ship, finding a paddle and "swimming six miles to shore"-though her timeline is mixed up thinking that it happened during the first voyage of discovery and not much earlier in his career.

In my lifetime the reputation of Christopher Columbus has gone from the visionary explorer and Admiral of the Ocean Sea as he titled himself to that of a slave trading , genocidal manic in some of the most extreme diatribes that I've read. I think the truth lies somewhere in between. He was a man of his time, where slavery was an excepted practice. He was clearly a master navigator, if a bit obsessive, and if he'd stuck to exploration, I dare say his reputation would would have remained intact. Alas, he was an incompetent colonial administrator, and both unable to control his settlements, nor able to fulfill his over-reaching promises to his sovereigns. He is also as far as I can tell, and neglected as the originator of the mystery meat phrase, "it tastes like chicken."

"While going around on of the lagoons I saw a serpent which we killed with lances, and I am bringing Your Highness the skin. When it saw us, it went into the lagoon, and we followed it in because the water is not very deep. This serpent is about 6 feet long. I think there are many such serpents in these lagoons. The people here eat them and the meat is white and tastes like chicken."

-Christopher Columbus

The Log of Christopher Columbus, Trans. by Robert H. Fuson (International Marine Publishing Co., Camden Maine, 1987) p.89.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Bill Boston at the Fort King Festival

I see that Calderon's Company's Caballero, Bill Boston was at Ocala's Fort King festival as noted in a couple of blogs:

Ocala Daily Photo:

Sustainable Madness blog:

Scroll down a bit for the photos and description:

Sustainable Madness: Fort King Festival
By Amber
This is a Spanish Conquistador. His horse's name is Dixie, I forgot his name... He was incredibly knowledgeable in the history of the different conquistadors and what kinds and numbers of horses they brought with them. Dixie is a decendant of the Florida Cracker horses, which are believed to be decendants of the Conquistador's horses that were left here in Florida.
The blog also mentions The Old Florida Festival in Naples. Which I'm informed has been moved from November 2010 to March 19-20. It always one of my favorite time-line type events. And how could I not like the publicity photos?

Me in my helmet:

and Larry May firing off the large breech-loading bombarda: