Sunday, 3 February 2013

Witch Trials of New Mexico and South Carolina

This time I'm going to blog about little known colonial witch trials. The witch trials of New Mexico were associated with the Spanish Inquisition. Beatriz de los Angeles was a Native woman. She and her mixed heritage daughter, Juana de la Cruz, were gifted in the use of herbs and tutored friends in the making of love potions. In Santa Fe, allegations were brought against them for sorcery. A friar had been warned of Juana's powers in 1626.

In 1628, the accusations increased, but still no investigation was made. In 1631, numerous witnesses came forward. Beatriz was accused of experimenting on two Indian servants, who later became ill and died. She then allegedly turned her attention to her lover. Although the records aren't specific, she served him a drink, and he later died in the same fashion as her servants.

Juana was suspected of being a witch even before her mother. She was presumed to have been unfaithful to her husband. As a result, he beat her. In an act of revenge, she gave him a potion where he later died. Stories circulated that she also had an evil eye, and children that she held became ill, which included one child eventually dying.

Supposedly both women traveled by magic. Fortunately, the friar in charge was skeptical about all of the stories, and the women were never tried.

Also in New Mexico, the Spaniards attempted to suppress the customs of the Indians. The numbers against the Native people were overwhelming, and in 1675, the governor attempted to stamp out their traditions for good. He arrested forty-seven medicine men on sorcery and witchcraft. Three were hanged in order to send a message to the others.

The South Carolina witch trials seemed to have bypassed the 17th century. In 1792 Winnsboro, Mary Ingelman, who had a knowledge of "pharmacy... and simple cures," and three others were found guilty after cattle got sick and people began acting possessed. Rosy Henley accused Mary of casting a spell on her that made her levitate. Another neighbor said that Mary caused his cow to fly, then fell down and broke its neck. Jacob Free said that she turned him into a horse and rode him. In an illegal trial, the sheriff was judge and jury. Four people, including Mary, were flogged and tortured by burning their feet "until the soles popped off." After they were let go, Mary was assaulted by another man, who threw a log over her neck. She wasn't rescued until the next day.

Mary filed suit against the sheriff. He was fined five pounds, which was never paid, and he left town.

And finally for South Carolina, in 1813, a girl testified against an older woman by the name of Barbara Powers in Chesterfield. She claimed that Barbara choked her with "great violence," then turned her into a horse and rode her. Barbara was acquitted.

Kim Murphy

1 comment:

Elf Ahearn said...

Wow. And isn't it always the women they go after. Step a little out of line and the accusations will fly (along with the cows).