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."

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