Three cultural manifestations of witchcraft in Spain

Material Information

Three cultural manifestations of witchcraft in Spain
Thorton, Lisa H
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
112 leaves : ; 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Witchcraft in literature ( lcsh )
Witchcraft -- Spain ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 104-112).
General Note:
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Statement of Responsibility:
by Lisa H. Thorton.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
45139557 ( OCLC )
LD1190.L58 2000m T46 ( lcc )

Full Text
Lisa H. Thorton
B.A., University of Denver, 1982
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Humanities

This thesis for the Master of Humanities
degree by
Lisa H. Thorton
has been approved
Donald L. Schmidt

Thorton, Lisa H. (M.H.)
Three Cultural Manifestations of Witchcraft in Spain
Thesis directed by Assistant Professor Kathleen Bollard de Broce
The character of the witch appears over and over again in Western culture.
This thesis blends a historical, literary, and art historical consideration of the witch as
she (and occasionally he) was imagined in Spain. I concentrate on the three most
pronounced representations of witches, beginning with the old procuress portrayed in
Fernando de Rojas' La tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea of 1499, moving on to the
stereotypical Canizares of Miguel de Cervantes' "Coloquio de los perros," (from his
Novelas ejemplares, published in 1613), and ending with Francisco de Goya's
tormented series of Caprichos (begun in 1797).
Along the way, I consider the historical context in which these works were
produced. A consideration of the history of Spanish witchcraft through the Middle
Ages informs the study of La Celestina (as Roja's drama came to be popularly
known), since the work is both a reflection of common beliefs and a creator of new
archetypes. The period during which Cervantes created his Canizares saw the deaths
of thousands of women across Europe as the result of a "witchcraze" hysteria, one
that paradoxically encountered its first restraint in the Spanish Inquisition, and I

consider the connections between Cervantes' references to the occult and the
Inquisition's skeptical approach to the issue. Finally, my study of Goya's Caprichos
also includes a study of the Spanish socio-economic decline they reflect.
The questions that informed my research are these: "How do humans struggle
to define concepts of good and evil through witchcraft beliefs and their subsequent
cultural manifestations?" and "How do literary and artistic representations of
witchcraft both reflect and shape historical realities?" While belief -or nonbelief in
witchcraft is only one approach to defining and thus beginning to confront these
issues, it is an approach that stretches across time and the various disciplines of the
humanities. By focusing on the three undeniably important figures of Rojas,
Cervantes, and Goya, and the ways in which they define and represent witchcraft, I
believe I also elucidate the wider culture in which they lived.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I recommend
its publication.
Kathleen Bollard de Broce

My thanks to the Master of Humanities program for two generous tuition awards. I
also wish to thank my advisor, Kathleen Bollard de Broce, for her kind
encouragement and support.

1. INTRODUCTION...................................1
5. CONCLUSION................................. 100

4.1 "Aquelarre.".................................................................94
4.2 "Escena fantastica.".........................................................94
4.3 "A caza de dientes.".........................................................95
4.4 "Aquellos polbos."...........................................................95
4.5 "El suefio de la razon produce monstruos."...................................96
4.6 "Hilan delgado.".............................................................96
4.7 "Mucho hay que chupar."......................................................97
4.8 "jQuien lo creyera!".........................................................97
4.9 "Ensayos"....................................................................98
4.10 " jLinda maestra!"..........................................................98
4.11 "Sopla."....................................................................99
4.12 "Bruja comiendo con la familia."............................................99

The character of the witch appears over and over again in Western culture.
From Apuleius and The Golden Ass in ancient times to the recent phenomenal
success of the movie, "The Blair Witch Project," the witch has continued to capture
and hold the imagination of humans across time and cultures. What makes the witch
such an integral part of the human experience? Why do people react so violently to
either real or imagined manifestations of witchcraft? Why are writers and artists so
attracted to this figure?
I believe the answers to these questions lie deep within the struggle of human
beings to define, explain, and confront the contrary forces of good and evil.
In exploring this idea, I blend a historical, literary, and art historical consideration of
the witch as she (and occasionally he) was imagined during key moments in Spanish
history. I concentrate on the three most pronounced representations of witches,
beginning with the old procuress, Celestina, in Fernando de Rojas Tragicomedia de
Calisto y Melibea of 1499, moving on to the stereotypical Canizares character of
Miguel de Cervantes' "Coloquio de los perros, (from his Novelas ejemplares,
published in 1613), and ending with Francisco de Goya's tormented series of etchings
entitled Los caprichos (begun in 1797).
Along the way, I consider the historical context in which these works were
produced. I begin with a survey of the history of Spanish witchcraft through the

Middle Ages. This background will inform the study of La Celestina (as La
Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea came to be popularly known), since the work is
both a reflection of common beliefs and a creator of new archetypes. After
discussing Rojas' drama and attendant theories about its meaning, I move on one
hundred years to the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries and the pinnacle of
the Spanish "Golden Age." This period, during which Cervantes created his
Canizares, also saw the deaths of thousands of women across Europe as the result of
a "witchcraze" hysteria, one that paradoxically encountered its first restraint in the
Spanish Inquisition. Since Cervantes published his Novelas in the same year the
Inquisitor Alonso de Salazar y Frias was investigating and rejecting witchcraft
claims in the northern Spanish region of Navarre, I consider the connections between
Cervantes' references to the occult and the Inquisition's skeptical approach to the
issue. Finally, I end with a study of Goya's Caprichos, contextualized by an analysis
of the Spanish socio-economic decline so much of his work reflects.
A leading Spanish scholar in the field of witchcraft, Julio Caro Baroja, has
made an important observation about the phenomenon that I consider to be central to
my investigation: "... la information que poseemos en punto a Hechiceria, y sobre
todo Brujeria, es mucho mas abundante del lado del que cree en brujas que del lado
que se cree a si mismo brujo o bruja1,1 The questions that have informed my research
are these: "How do humans struggle to define concepts of good and evil through
witchcraft beliefs and their subsequent cultural manifestations?" and "How do literary
1 Julio Caro Baroja, Las brujasy su mundo (Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1966),

and artistic representations of witchcraft both reflect and shape historical realities?"
The same issues of light and dark, day and night, good and evil with which the
ancients struggled are with us today, and they were certainly of primary concern to
Spaniards during the period I discuss. By focusing on the three undeniably important
figures of Rojas, Cervantes, and Goya, and the ways in which they define and
represent witchcraft, I believe I will also elucidate the wider culture in which they

In the last year of the fifteenth century, on the threshold of what would later
be called a Golden Age, a Spanish lawyer of converso origins published a drama
written in the Castilian language that was to have a profound impact on subsequent
Spanish literature. Many Hispanists consider La Celestina, by Fernando de Rojas, to
be "second only to Don Quixote in literary merit."1 A product of the medieval society
that it reflects so well and a harbinger of the future, La Celestina offers a glimpse of a
world very far removed from modem sensibilities even as many of its themes retain
their relevance. The play --which has also been considered a novel or dramatic
narrative-- has offered a wide variety of options for scholarly consideration over the
centuries, but what most attracted my attention when I first read it was the way in
which the title character, Celestina, achieves her desired results through the use of
witchcraft. As the product of a period of transition in Spain from the Medieval to the
Early Modem era, La Celestina both reflects an established archetype of the witch
and creates a new one. La Celestina also stands on the line between a tolerance of
magic and aggressive efforts to eliminate its alleged practitioners an effort that
1 Olga Lucia Valbuena, "Sorceresses, Love Magic, and the Inquisition: Sorcery
in Celestina," Publications of the Modem Language Association 109 (March, 1994),
p. 207.

resulted in the deaths of thousands of women in both Europe and the Americas and
lasted into the eighteenth century.
This chapter will examine La Celestina from both historical and literary
perspectives, starting with a consideration of the terminology involved, since while
the words "witchcraft," "magic," and "sorcery" were used interchangeably, they in
fact meant very different things. After an analysis of the background of European
and Spanish witchcraft and a specific study of how it was understood in the century
leading up to the publication of Rojas' drama, I present an examination of the social
setting of the drama, emphasizing the relationships between those of different
religious beliefs. In surveying the text itself, I evaluate the way witchcraft is
presented and the possible purposes of the author in introducing its use. I end with a
question -was the main character, Celestina, a witch?- and present the evidence
that I believe corroborates my answer.
Witchcraft is an old phenomenon, seemingly as old as humanity itself.
Connected as it is with magic, sorcery, astrology, and a myriad of other occult
possibilities, witchcraft has a long history of being closely allied with religious
expression. The Old Testament demands that "Thou shaft not suffer a witch to live."
(Exodus 22: 18)2 While modem scholarship suggests that this is in fact a
mistranslation of the Hebrew text, with the original intention being perhaps "Thou
2 Robert Carroll and Stephen Prickett, eds., The King James Version of the
Holy Bible with Apocrypha (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1997),
p. 92.

shalt not suffer a necromancer to live among you,,"3 that was not how it was
understood in the Middle Ages, and certainly not during the period we are
considering. Scholars are divided in their opinions about whether medieval
witchcraft was merely a continuation of pagan practices or an offshoot of dualist
heretical beliefs, such as Catharism,4 but whatever its sources, belief in its existence
was widespread by the time Rojas wrote his drama. The historians Jeffrey Russell
and Mark Wyndham identify eight key characteristics of beliefs about witchcraft held
at the end of the fifteenth century: 1) witches were able to ride through the air,
usually at night; 2) witches formed a pact with the Devil sealed by some sort of
obscene homage; 3) witches made a formal repudiation of Christianity; 4) witches
participated in secret, nocturnal meetings, or sabbats; 5) desecration of the Eucharist
or the crucifix would occur at these meetings; 6) at the end of these meetings the
participants would engage in sexual orgies; 7) witches practiced sacrificial
infanticide; and 8) witches engaged in cannibalism. That the last three accusations
are evocative of the very rumors whispered against Christianity in its early years is
probably not coincidental,5 and Russell sees this as proof linking heresy to
3 Robert Lima, "The Arcane Paganism of Celestina," Neophilologus 82 (April,
1998): p. 230.
4 Lima, "Arcane," p. 222; Jeffrey B. Russell, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages
(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1972), p. 124; Jeffrey B. Russell and Mark W.
Wyndham, "Witchcraft and the demonization of heresy," Mediaevalia 2 (1976): p. 14.
For an exhaustive analysis of the historiography of witchcraft, see Russell,
"Witchcraft in History," in Witchcraft, pp. 27-44.
5 R. Joseph Hoffman examines these same accusations in the introduction to his
translation of Celsus, On the True Doctrine: A Discourse Against the Christians
(New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 5-24.

witchcraft.6 Richard Horsley limits his definition of witchcraft to four items common
to almost all witchcraft accusations. According to him, these included a general
category of maleficium, or "causing harm through supernatural means," night flights,
sect or cult meetings for purposes of sexual orgies, and a pact with the Devil.7 It will
be significant in a consideration of La Celestina that he finds the "vast majority" of
witchcraft suspects to be poor, elderly women.8
The distinction between witchcraft, magic, and religion can be puzzling,9 yet
Robert Lima notes that "Magic and Witchcraft have two very different venues and are
wholly distinct.... The difference is quite marked, Magic being ceremonial and
Witchcraft being religious."10 Julio Caro Baroja complicates the distinction by
calling the practitioner of magic an antisanto, noting that "es santo milagro para uno
lo que es prestigio diabolico para otro."11 The implication would seem to be that the
magician practices the occult in the interest of achieving positive ends, while the
witch seeks only to harm. Within the parameters of magic, the separations are even
more blurred between "high" and "low," "white" and "black," "sorcery" and
"witchcraft." This was certainly an issue at the time La Celestina was written. "Hay
6 Russell, Witchcraft, pp. 88-93.
7 Richard A. Horsley, "Who Were The Witches?" Journal of Interdisciplinary
History 9 (1979): p. 690.
8 Ibid., p. 689.
9 Patricia S. Finch, "Rojas' Celestina and Cervantes' Canizares," Bulletin of the
Cervantes Society of America 9 (Spring, 1989), p. 24 and pp. 57-58.
10 Lima, "Arcane," p. 221.
11 Julio Caro Baroja, Vidas magicas e inquisicion (Madrid: Taurus, 1974), p.

toda una amplia y repetida discusion, desde el siglo XV al XVII, sobre magia
verdadera y falsa, sobre falsas o verdaderas alquimia y astrologia."12
It is the differentiation between sorcery (hechiceria) and witchcraft (brujeria)
that is especially problematic. Caro Baroja sees a distinction between sorceresses
(hechiceras), who operate primarily in urban settings, and witches (brujas), who
confine their activities to rural areas.13 Maravall calls hechiceria "... la
manipulation de una serie de cosas ... que se supone ejercen una action sobre las
fuerzas ocultas y se hallan de la naturaleza... Brujeria... [es] un culto demonlaco,
de caracter colectivo y sobrenatural."14 Finch sees a continuum between the two,
with the fundamental difference being the total subversion of Christian belief through
the demonic pact: "The culmination of sorcery was witchcraft and yet it was not the
same. In it [witchcraft] there was no longer... the expectation of washing out the
sin in the confessional and thus cheating the devil. The witch has abandoned
Christianity."15 My interpretation of the differences rests on two components:
communal or individual practice and a relationship with the Devil. If a practitioner
of the occult works primarily alone, does not attend cult meetings (sabbatsj and has
no formal pact with the Devil, he or she is probably pursuing sorcery hechiceria. In
contrast, if it is believed that the practitioner in question attends the sabbat and has
made a formal agreement with the Devil, he or she is a witch -brujo or bruja. It is
12 Jose Maravall, El mundo social de La Celestina (Madrid: Editorial Gredos,
1968), p. 140.
13 Julio Caro Baroja, Las brujas y su mundo (Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1966),
p. 135.
14 Maravall, El mundo, p. 141.
15 Finch, "Rojas' Celestina," p. 62.

worth pointing out here that while the rest of Europe was burning thousands of
presumed witches, Spain (in spite of its notorious Inquisition) saw relatively few
witch-hunts, a fact that Russell attributes to the Spanish tradition of high magic --"but
little witchcraft."16 The overlap between religion and magic, and between "white"
and "black" magic, is still evident today in Spanish-speaking parts of the
southwestern United States, an observation made by Horsley17 and corroborated by
my own professional experience.
Plato's Book of Laws and Pliny the Elder's Natural History are only two
examples from antiquity of efforts to solve the dilemma of this association and to
separate magic from religion.18 Peter Dunn sees antecedents for the character of
Celestina as far back as Ovid's Ars amatora,19 and one of the classic "novels" of the
Roman Empire, Apuleius' Metamorphoses or The Golden Ass, starts with the premise
that the narrator has been turned into a donkey by inadvertently using the wrong
ointment found in a cabinet belonging to his hostess, a renowned witch.20 (Rojas
mentions Apuleius in La Celestirui21 in a clear attempt to connect with this literary
legacy, as will many Golden Age writers, including Cervantes.) Magic was
perceived by many pagan critics to be at the heart of the stories told about Jesus and
16 Russell, Witchcraft, p. 268.
17 Horsley, "Who," p. 697.
18 Patricia S. Finch, "Magic and Witchcraft in the Celestina and Its Imitations"
(Ph.D. diss., Catholic University of America, 1981), p. 56.
19 Peter Dunn, Fernando de Rojas (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1975), p. 116.
20 Apuleius, The Golden Ass, trans. Robert Graves (New York: Farrar, Straus
and Giroux, 1979), pp. 68-71.
21 Fernando de Rojas, La Celestina (Madrid: Grupo Anaya, 1990). In Act VIII,
lines 350-352, (p. 200), the character Parmeno exclaims: "\ Y en tal hora comieses el
diacitron como Apuleyo el veneno, que le convertio en asno!

his followers,22 and it is possible that Christianity gained some of its earliest converts
through the use of magic in the guise of miracles 23 One of the first Christian
apologists and "Church Fathers", St. Augustine of Hippo, spends a notable amount of
time in The City of God defending Christianity against such accusations 24 From a
legal standpoint, witchcraft was not considered as threatening in antiquity as it would
become in later centuries, and the historian of medieval witchcraft, Jeffrey Burton
Russell, observes that "Roman law tended to ignore magic unless it caused harm to
person or property. In that event it was prosecuted and punished like any other
harmful crime, an attitude that carried through the early Middle Ages."25
With the "fall" of the Roman Empire, other cultures began to mesh their laws
and understanding of magic with that of the Greco-Romans, and Raquel Hornet notes
that much of subsequent witchcraft belief reflects "el bagaje cultural del
paganismo."26 The barbarian invaders brought with them their own views about
witchcraft, and as they were assimilated into Christianity, their trolls, elves, and other
spirits became identified with "demons."27 It is perhaps significant that early
22 "Jesus himself was thought to work wonders by the use of magic and
incantations." Celsus, On The True Doctrine: A Discourse Against the Christians,
trans. R. Joseph Hoffman (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), p.
23 Ramsay MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire (A.D. 100-400) (New
Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1985), pp. 27-30.
24 Finch, "Magic," p. 12 and p. 56.
25 Jeffrey Burton Russell, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages (Ithaca: Cornell
Univesity Press, 1972), p. 55.
26 Raquel Hornet, "Cultores de practicas magicas en Castilla medieval,"
Cuademos de historia de Espaha 63-64(1980): p. 195.
27 Russell, Witchcraft, pp. 45-62.

Germanic law codes actually provided for punishment of anyone who falsely accused
a woman of witchcraft,28 although the key word here may be "falsely." In a
fascinating glimpse of ulterior motives underlying these accusations, the legal
historian John Ward has examined various Visigothic law codes and concluded that
"one can sense a gradual convergence of divorce and what came to be embraced by
the term witchcraft."29 While no other historian I have read has made this
connection, I find eminently logical Ward's argument that in a period of extreme
"political ambiguity"30 and social tensions a man who "wished to divorce his wife
without paying a fine or another payment such as he gave for her marriage price"
would seek to "either convict her of adultery, maleficium or grave-violation, exactly
the conjunction of'witchcraft' offenses allowed in the sub-roman codes.. ,"31
By the year 506, King Alaric II had outlawed sacrifice to demons in his Lex
romanum Visigothorum,32 a first step toward discouraging --or driving underground-
older pagan practices. Isidore of Seville (560-636), the premier Iberian intellectual of
the early Middle Ages, included in the eighth book of his Etymologies a lengthy
discussion of magic. Drawing to a large degree on the views of his predecessors,
including St. Augustine, Isidore lacks specific details but does mention incantations,
hydromancy, and animal transformations, making one of the first links we will
28 Suzanne Finay Wemple, "Women from the Fifth to the Tenth Century," in A
History of Women in the West, Vol. II, "Silence of the Middle Ages," eds. Georges
Duby and Michelle Perot (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), p. 173.
29 John O. Ward, "Women, Witchcraft, and Social Patterning in the Late Roman
Law Codes," Prudentia 13.2(1981): p. 111.
30 Ibid., p. 100.
31 Ibid., pp. 112-113.
32 Russell, Witchcraft, p. 58.

observe between magic and heresy.33 Nearly a century later, the Twelfth Synod of
Toledo (meeting from January 9 to 25 in 681) approved laws of the Visigothic King
Erwic against magicians and Jews34 --a linking that would become significant and
probably influenced the author of La Celestina.
An important document in considering medieval witchcraft is the Carolingian
Canon Episcopi. First appearing around 906, in a book written by Regino de Priim,
this text which is actually not a canon at all- provides valuable insights into
contemporary beliefs about witchcraft,35 and it is reasonable to assume that educated
clerics in the Iberian peninsula knew of it. Although tinged with skepticism about
shapeshifting and flight36 (important aspects of later belief), the Canon Episcopi
nevertheless exhorts bishops to be vigilant in detecting women "who through
incantations provoked love, hatred, or harm to persons or property."37 This emphasis
on the connection between magic and love will be key in La Celestina. The Canon
Episcopi also establishes a precedent for taking stem measures to stamp out
Bishops and their officials must labor with all their strength to uproot
thoroughly from their parishes the pernicious art of sorcery and
malefice invented by the devil, and if they find man or woman
follower of this wickedness to eject them foully disgraced from their
parishes... For an innumerable multitude... wander from the right
33 Eugene D. Dukes, Magic and Witchcraft in the Dark Ages (Lanham, MD:
University Press of America, 1996), p. 254-256.
34 Russell, Witchcraft, p. 61.
35 Ibid., p. 75-76.
36 Ibid., p. 234.
37 Ibid., p. 78.

faith and are involved in the error of the pagans when they think that
there is anything of divinity or power except the one God.38
Attitudes toward magic could still be ambiguous. In 1106, a Spanish Jew,
Pedro Alfonso, included in his Disciplina clerical is a debate about whether
necromancy could be considered the seventh liberal art.39 Writing in his De
divisione philosophiae just a few years later, in 1140, the archdeacon of Toledo, one
Gundissalinus, "gave a legitimate place to magic, not as true science or as a virtue,
but as worldly virtues that are neither to be praised nor condemned."40 The place of
magic within the church itself was also unclear. As early as 633, the IV Council of
Toledo advocated sanctions against "los clerigos que consultan a magos o
aruspices,"41 and fully six centuries later it was still an issue, as the XVHI
Compostelan Council of 1289 saw the need to "proscribir que ningun clerigo fuese
'sortilegus uel incantor, uel augur, uel divinator."'42 The issue was revisited in 1309
by the Council, and even as late as 1387, Juan I and the Cortes de Briviesca pide[n]
a los prelados que adopten las medidas pertinentes para poner fin a las practicas
supersticiosas de los miembros del orden clerical."43
The thirteenth century saw a serious increase in the concern with witchcraft
on the part of the church, and Russell maintains that there is a direct correlation
38 Canon Episcopi, in Witchcraft in Europe, 1100-1700: A Documentary
History, eds. Alan C. Kors and Edward Peters (Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 1972), p. 29.
39 Edward Peters, The Magician, the Witch, and the Law (University of
Pennsylvania Press, 1978): p. 64.
40 Ibid., p. 65.
41 Hornet, "Cultores," p. 210.
42 Ibid., p. 200.
43 Ibid., p.211.

between the Cathar heresy that gained a following in Western Europe and the growth
of witchcraft beliefs.44 The burning of heretics had already occurred in the previous
century in Aragon, where Pedro II in 1197 conducted a precursor to the infamous
autos da fe.45 The threat presented to the established church by the dualist Cathars,
the Waldensians, and other heretic groups, gave rise to the establishment of an
Inquisition, which in the thirteenth century set down the principles that would define
its subsequent operations. These included the use of torture, the protection of the
identity of an accuser and the use of anonymous informers, the refusal to hear defense
witnesses, the denial of counsel for defendants, and the practice of reading charges to
the accused in faulty vernacular translations and then entering their replies against the
original Latin.46 The heretic and the accused witch were both subject to Inquisitorial
scrutiny, and Pope Gregory IX wrote a letter in 1233 wherein "the portrait of the
heretic ... became the portrait of the witch. Heretical assemblies became witches'
sabbats; the ritual deference to the master and the demon became the pact, the basis
of idolatry."47 While the Inquisition would acquire sinister powers in dealing with
perceived heretics/witches, Peters advises that it was part of a larger scenario: "When
the legal aspects of heresy, magic, and witchcraft are considered, it should be
remembered that the law in general had grown more severe, more remorseless, and
more systematic, for the hardened criminal as well as for the heretic."48
Russell, Witchcraft, pp. 101-132.
Ibid., p. 158.
Ibid., p. 158.
Peters, The Magician, p. 158.
Ibid., p. 152.

This was the century that also saw the appearance of the mystical Jewish
Cabala, grimoires (manuals of magic), and translations from Arabic and Greek of
astrological and astronomical treatises. In an interesting paradox of the period, the
Castilian King Alfonso X el Sabio (1252-1284) supervised the translation of
astronomical tables in the Lapidario and Arabic magic in the Picatrix, while at the
same time warning against "low" magic and "black" witches in partida VI, titulo
XXIII, ley 3 of his Siete PartIdas.49 Farther north during the same period, in the
kingdom of Navarre, the civil authorities burned some women accused of witchcraft
in a move that Hillgarth calls "a rare intrusion into the domain of the church." 50
The concern with magic and all its various levels and implications was
gaining momentum. St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), in his Summa theologica and
Summa Contra Gentiles, contended that magic could only be performed by demons,
and he classified magical practices into three types: divination done with the aid of a
devil (praestigium), divination done through dreams (divinatio somniorum), and
divination done with the dead (necromantia).51 He would be followed by a stream of
witchcraft theorists advocating various degrees of severity in response to the practice
of the occult. The Spanish Dominican Raymond de Tarrega, writing his book On the
Invocation of Demons in 1370, would take a position toward magic and sorcery "so
permissive that it was itself condemned as heretical."52 The book was proscribed and
49 Finch, "Magic," p. 21.
50 J. N. Hillgarth, The Spanish Kingdoms, 1250-1516, Vol. II. (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1976), p. 143.
51 St. Thomas Aquinas, "Magic and the World of Nature" and "The Demons and
Man," in Kors, Witchcraft, pp. 53-71.
52 Russell, Witchcraft, p. 206.

burned by the Catalan Dominican Nicolas Eymerich (1320-1393), an inquisitor in
Aragon and Avignon who had himself written Quaestio De Invocantibus Daemones
in 1369. In 1376, Eymerich published his Directorium Inquisitorum, a sort of manual
for inquisitors that defined orthodox beliefs, delineated heresies, and then advised
how to deal with them.53 The work also identified three types of witchcraft, making
distinctions between those who practiced Devil worship, those who demonstrated
respect for devils (perhaps by calling on them in litanies along with the saints), and
those who summoned up devils.54 Women who participated in these activities were,
according to him, heretics:
Our conclusion is also proved by the sayings of the Canon lawyers ...
[and] by the decisions of the Church [here he quotes from the Canon
Episcopi]... And from this it appears that those who share and
exercise the magical art are to be considered heretics and avoided...
And from this it appears that the said evil women, persevering in their
wickedness, have departed from the right way and the faith and the
devils delude them. If, therefore, these same women, concerning
whom it is not contested that they offer sacrifices to the demons they
invoke, are perfidious and faithless and deviate from the right way as
the said canon [the Canon Episcopi]... makes clear, then, as a
consequence, if they have been baptized they are to be considered
The next century would See a marked rise in concern about witchcraft, with
severe penalties being attached to its practice. In 1410, the regents of Castile would
feel the need to address the threat:
53 Ibid., p. 206.
54 Nicholas Eymeric, "Heresy, Witchcraft, and the Inquisition," in Kors,
Witchcraft, pp. 84-92.
55 Ibid., p. 89.

Many men and women use divinations, by auguries through birds,
sneezes, proverbs, lots, enchantments, and gaze into water or glass or a
sword or mirror. They make charms with metal and the head of a dead
man or beast, the palm of a child or a virgin. They gather [herbs] from
mountains to make cures and to attain the temporal goods they want,
which God often permits the Devil that they should accomplish.56
The punishment for being found guilty of such practices was death,57 although there
were other voices expressing skepticism about the validity of the more extreme
claims about witches. The Spanish Inquisition did not necessarily believe in the
existence of "covens" of witches, and the theologian Alfonso Tostado in 1436
"denounced the 'sabbat' (meeting) as merely a delusion brought on by drugs."58
Tostado had studied in Salamanca, where the author of La Celestina would later
pursue his legal bachillerato.
Other theorists advocated a sterner response to the issue of witchcraft. Juan
de Torquemada --whose nephew would become the infamous inquisitor, Tomas-
published his Super toto Decreto commentaria in 1445 after having studied in Rome
and then Paris. France had already seen several witchcraft trials, which were to turn
into a conflagration in the next centuries. His work was followed in 1450 by Lope
Barrientos' Tratado de la Divinanza. In either 1464 or 1467 the first book printed on
witchcraft, the Tabula fortalicii fidei, was written by a Minorite theologian at
Salamanca, Alfonso de Spina. The work was last published in 1525, making it
probable that Rojas had at least some familiarity with it.59
56 Quoted in Hillgarth, The Spanish Kingdoms, p. 116.
57 Ibid.
58 Finch, "Magic," p. 38.
59 Russell, Witchcraft, pp. 347-348.

A text of fundamental importance in any consideration of Medieval and Early
Modem witchcraft is the Malleus maleficarum or Hammer of Witches. While Julio
Caro Baroja may in the twentieth century be able to call this document "pura
imagination gotica,"60 it was taken -and applied- very seriously for several
centuries after it appeared. Concerned that witchcraft had spread to the point of a
"concerted attack on all mankind,"61 Pope Innocent Vin in 1484 issued the Summis
desiderantes ajfectibus, a bull that formally recognized this threat by removing
obstacles to the prosecution of heresies in general, but witch practices in particular.
This document is generally considered to mark the beginning of the witch-craze and
its attendant persecutions, and it specifically addresses the concerns of two German
inquisitors, Heinrich Kramer (Henricus Institoms) and Jacob Sprenger (Jacobus
Sprenger), the same inquisitors who were to write the Malleus maleficarum two years
later. The bull reads, in part,
It has recently come to our ears, not without great pain to us, that in
some parts of... Germany... many persons of both sexes, heedless
of their salvation and forsaking the catholic faith, give themselves over
to devils male and female, and by their incantations, charms,
conjurings, and by other abominable superstitions and sortileges,
offenses, crimes, and misdeeds ... commit many... abominable
offenses and crimes, at the risk of their own souls, to the insult of the
divine majesty and to the pernicious example and scandal of
multitudes ... We therefore, desiring ... to remove all impediments
by which in any way inquisitors are hindered in the exercise of their
office ... do hereby decree... that it shall be permitted to the said
inquisitors ... to exercise the office of inquisition and to proceed to
Caro Baroja, Las brujas, p. 130.
Kors and Peters, Witchcraft, p. 105.

the correction, imprisonment, and punishment of the aforesaid
When Kramer and Sprenger published their Malleus maleficarum in 1486,
they included the Summis desiderantes as a sort of preface. While the Pope may have
identified a concern with both sexes, the Malleus maleficarum made a point of
singling out women as the primary source of the problem, thus establishing "for the
first time a direct connection between the heresy of witchcraft and women."63 It is a
painful document for a modem woman to read 64 65 In the section entitled "Why
Superstition is chiefly found in Women," we discover that "All wickedness is but
little to the wickedness of a woman ... When a woman thinks alone, she thinks
evil "65 The section ends with a statement directly relevant to La Celestina: "To
conclude. All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable."66
The book contains much more, of course. In its entirety, it is a meticulous
examination of how to find, identify, convict, and execute those women "given to
superstition and witchcraft."67 It is divided into three main parts with subsections
62 Pope Innocent VIII, Summis desiderantes in Kors and Peters, Witchcraft, pp.
63 Jean-Michel Sallman, "Witches," A History of Women in the West, Vol. 3,
Georges Duby and Michelle Perrot, eds. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press,
1992): p. 446.
64 It was also painful for me to see the comments penned in the margins by some
previous reader: "Sexist trash! These men are paranoid and very sick!" she (?) rants,
and later, "There, you've admitted men fear women!" as though these long dead
inquisitors would be capable of, or even interested in, a debate.
65 Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, Malleus maleficarum, trans. Montague
Summers (New York: Dover, 1971), p. 43.
66 Ibid., p. 47.
67 Ibid., p. 41.

in each that explain the heresy of witchcraft, its precise attributes, and the specific
legal steps necessary to its prosecution. The Malleus maleficarum was widely read
in the late fifteenth century, and as such it "gave a frightening relevance to witchcraft
in the years in which La Celestina was conceived and written."68 It will appear again
in my examination of the play itself.
As Julio Caro Baroja has observed in his study of Spanish witchcraft, Las
brujasysu mundo, "La information que poseemos enpunto a Hechiceria, y sobre
todo Brujeria, es mucho mas abudante del lado del que cree en brujas que del lado
del que se cree a si mismo brujo o bruja,"69 This is an important observation,
because it would seem that witchcraft as it was perceived from the fifteenth century
on was more a creation of the intellectuals studying it than of the individuals
supposedly practicing it.70 The subsequent history of witchcraft would often exhibit
pronounced differences between popular and elite beliefs. Frequently these
differences revolved around the presence or absence of the Devil in a witch's alleged
activities. After examining the testimony of peasants making witchcraft accusations
in France during the Early Modem period, for example, Horsley found that "when left
to speak for themselves, [they] accused their neighbors merely of certain maleficia..
. There is little or no mention of the Devil in these depositions."71 This failure to
mention the Devil is significant. Capitalizing the word "Devil" brings with it very
68 Javier Herrero, "Celestina: The Aging Prostitute as Witch," in Aging in
Literature, ed. Laurel Porter (Michigan: International Book Publishers, 1984), p.
Caro Baroja, Las brujas, p. 11.
Russell, Witchcraft, p. 224.
Horsley, "Who?", p. 693.

Christian connotations, which in turn can influence whether the activity being
discussed is "witchcraft" (brujeria), sorcery {hechiceria), or magic (magia), and
ultimately whether the activity falls within the jurisdiction of religious authorities.
As they were recognized in the Iberian peninsula, a good portion of the
distinction between the terms brujeria, hechiceria, and magia can only be understood
within the context of Muslim beliefs and influences. Visigothic Spain was invaded
by Islamic forces in the year 711, and from that point until shortly before the
publication of La Celestina, the Iberian peninsula saw eight hundred years of
Reconquista. This effort to expel the Muslims was a gradual process of ebb and flow,
with long periods of convivencia -coexistence-- that left an indelible imprint on the
Spanish character, not least in religious sensibilities. Islam brought with it a strong
magical tradition, with verses of the Koran even at times added to magical
practices.72 Hillgarth states that "the belief in the reality of magic, of the evil eye, of
astrology and alchemy, was shared by Muslims and Christians."73 There were two
levels of magic, with "high magic" or "magia blanca" being acceptable in its ends
and "low magic" or "magia mala / negra" viewed as bad or wrong.74 There were
even "schools" of magic in the cities of Cordoba, Sevilla, Salamanca and Toledo.75
Science and magic were often blended in the Islamic world, and "by the end of the
tenth century the influence of Muslim science and magic through Spain had become
so great that one well-educated pope, Sylvester II (Gerbert of Aurillac), who had
72 Finch, "Magic," p. 15.
73 Hillgarth, The Spanish Kingdoms, vol. I, p. 142.
74 Finch, "Magic," p. 17.
75 Ibid.

studied in Spain, was widely supposed to be a great magician."76 Just having been to
Cordoba was enough to raise suspicions, and into the twelfth century it was said of
Gerbert that he "had stolen secrets from Muslim necromancers."77
Toledo was another center for the study of magic. It was also the capital of
Alfonso X, who in his Siete Partidas "distinguished between divination by 'the art of
astrology', which was legitimate since it was based on Ptolemy, and predictions made
by augers and witches, which were linked with necromancy and deserved the death
penalty."78 It is worth quoting at length from the Partidas:
But those who carry out enchantments with good intention, such as
removing demons from mens bodies or freeing those who are husband
and wife who are under a spell so that they cannot fulfill their conjugal
duties, or destroying a cloud which might bring down hail or mist, so
that it should not destroy the fruits of the earth, or kill locusts or
insects which are harming grain or vines, or [labour] for some other
profitable end, should not be punished but rather rewarded.79
Despite Alfonso's efforts, Toledo developed something of a reputation during the
same period for being associated with the "black" magic that he condemned:
"Because it was the place of transit of Arabic astrology... throughout Western
Europe ars or scientia toletana became synonymous with magic --a local
76 Russell, Witchcraft, pp. 70-71.
77 Thomas F. Glick, Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), p.262.
78 Hillgarth, The Spanish Kingdoms, vol. I, p. 142.
79 Partidas in Hillgarth, The Spanish Kingdoms, vol. I, p. 142.
80 Glick, Islamic, p. 262.

Written precisely at the moment when a united Catholic monarchy was
seeking to eradicate the last vestiges of Muslim and Jewish influence from the Iberian
peninsula, La Celestina and its main character reflect the fusion of beliefs about the
occult that had developed throughout the period of the Reconquista. There are many
factors that contribute to making La Celestina a great piece of fiction, not least of
these being the way in which it both responded to and in turn shaped the social milieu
in which it was produced. That both the Malleus maleficarum and La Celestina were
products of the last years of the fifteenth century are indications of the extent to
which witchcraft beliefs and fears had permeated Spain as well as all of Western
Europe. E. William Monter calls La Celestina "the first and best dramatic treatment
of a certain kind of witch,"81 and the play spawned several imitations. Some scholars
see a precedent for the character of Celestina in the Libro de buen amor, a book
written by the Archpriest of Hita, Juan Ruiz, and published in either 1330 or 1343,82
but as she is developed by Rojas, Celestina is unique in Spanish literature.
The Spain of 1499 was in the throes of massive social and economic changes,
and it would emerge as the premier world power in the next century. Ferdinand of
Aragon and Isabel of Castile were los Reyes Catolicos, "the Catholic Monarchs,"
rulers who had succeeded in uniting much of the Iberian peninsula, in expelling the
last Muslim presence, and in sponsoring a voyage that would add two continents to
the Spanish dominions. In their efforts to define a singularly Christian identity for
81 E. William Monter, "The Pedestal and the Stake: Courtly Love and
Witchcraft," in Becoming Visible: Women in European History, eds. Renate
Bridenthal and Claudia Koonz (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977), p. 129.
82 Peter N. Dunn, Rojas, p. 116.

their new nation, they were also the monarchs who oversaw the establishment of a
Spanish Inquisition and the forced conversion or expulsion of thousands of Jews.
Fernando de Rojas lived and worked in an atmosphere of deep divisions along social,
economic, and religious lines. These separations could not help but influence his
view of society.
Rojas was from a corner so family, a fact that was to profoundly impact his
life and literature, and a fact that also hindered his every move. We have only
sketchy details about his life. He was probably bom in either 1475 or 1476, entering
the University of Salamanca in 1493 or 1494 and completing his bachillerato in Law
in either 1498 or 1499, the same years in which La Celestina was composed. He
lived most of his mature years in Talavera de la Reina, practicing law and achieving
the post of Lord Mayor, an unusual honor for a converso. He died in April of 1541,
though even here the exact date is uncertain.83
In his extensive study of the life and work of Fernando de Rojas, Stephen
Gilman sees a "thinly veiled anger" in La Celestina which was probably the result of
experiences Rojas or members of his family had at the hands of the Spanish
Inquisition.84 Many scholars have put forth the conjecture that Rojas wrote La
Celestina in order to offer the witch as an alternative "scapegoat,"85 or as a
"substitute to put under the spotlight."86 Jews had increasingly been suspect in the
83 Ibid., p. 12.
84 Stephen Gilman, The Spain of Fernando de Rojas (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1972), p. 153.
85 Finch, "Magic," p. 112.
86 Herrero, "Celestina," p. 31.

medieval mind, and after their expulsion from Spain their converso relatives were in
a precarious position. This was the period when Spaniards began to be preoccupied
with "limpieza de sangre" purity of blood. Despite the outward conformity of
conversos with Christianity, "Old Christians" would continue to doubt their sincerity
and would link them with any suspicious groups. As Valbuena notes, "the popular
imagination could conflate the threat of the secretive Jew, the diabolically
empowered witch, and the proverbial lustful woman."87 As the religious "other",
Jews shared with Muslims a perceived link with diabolical knowledge, and therefore
could be just as bad as any witch.88
Despite numerous references to Catholic beliefs and practices, La Celestina is
not a particularly religious work. A. D. Deyermond sees in the play a strong strain of
Petrarch, with Rojas attempting to underline the impermanent nature of earthly
happiness and the destructive effects of passion.89 While he sees its tragic ending as
being characteristic of many of the sentimental romances that were popular at the
time, Gilman also sees a Stoic influence.90
La Celestina was originally entitled La comedia o tragicomedia de Calistoy
Melibea, and it is interesting to this former bookseller that even five hundred years
ago a title was changed by printers attempting to increase sales.91 The play that
Rojas claimed he found already begun and merely completed has at its center two
87 Valbuena, "Sorceresses," p. 208.
88 Caro Baroja, Vidas, in Finch, "Magic," p. 111.
89 A. D. Deyermond, A Literary History of Spain: The Middle Ages (New York:
Barnes and Noble, Inc., 1971), p. 169.
90 Gilman, Spain, p. 371.
91 Deyermond, Literary History, p. 168.

characters of high birth, the noble Calisto and the beautiful Melibea. While flying his
falcon in an orchard abutting her home, Calisto spies Melibea and from that point on
is captivated by her. Desperate to win her affection, he consults with one of his
servants, Sempronio, who recommends to him Celestina, a "procuress" (alcahueta)
who is also "a little bit of a sorceress" (poquito hechicera).92 Despite the efforts of
another servant, Parmeno, to warn him away (Parmeno was in fact raised by
Celestina and knows exactly what she is), Calisto enlists her aid. After conjuring the
assistance of Pluton --this scene will be examined in detail later Celestina visits
Melibea. Through an artful manipulation of language, and perhaps with demonic
help, Celestina is able to arrange for the eventual consummation of the passion that
Melibea in turn develops for Calisto. This illicit love affair, of course, could only end
in tragedy. While attempting to extort from Celestina some of the money they feel
she owes them for their part in the arrangement, Sempronio and Parmeno kill
Celestina and are in turn executed by the civil authorities. Upon leaving the garden
where he has been secretly meeting Melibea, Calisto slips on the ladder and falls to
his death. Consumed by grief and guilt, Melibea commits the ultimate sin and kills
herself by jumping from the same tower. The play ends with the tragic musings of
Melibea's wealthy father, Pleberio.
Names in literature are rarely accidental, so it is worth exploring briefly the
irony Rojas evokes through them. It is not difficult to discern that the play
communicates a strong warning against unbridled lust and passion, so that while
Celestina in Spanish evokes the gentle image of a night sky, Dunn warns that "there
Rojas, La Celestina, Act I, line 670, p. 73.

is nothing celestial about Celestina... Celestinas [alcahuetas ?] exist because men
create paradises of the fantasy and require the fantasy to be made flesh. In such
artificial paradises Celestina is indeed a celestial broker."93 While many critics have
wondered why two young people of ostensibly similar social status did not simply
pursue marriage, the name of Melibea's father, Pleberio, suggests that they were not,
in fact, precise social equals. The root of the name, plebe or plebeyo, refers to the
plebeian classes, so Rojas may have been implying that Melibea came from a lower -
albeit equally wealthy-- background than the "gentleman of clear blood", Calisto.94
There are other explanations for the exclusion of a marriage between Calisto
and Melibea. Most critics agree that Pleberio and Melibea were probably conversos
(a substantial religious difference), basing this conclusion on Pleberio's lament for his
dead daughter in the last scene.95 Yet another interpretation could lie in the
decidedly medieval tradition of courtly love, with the suggestion being that Rojas was
in fact trying to subvert the illusory ideal "and point toward a catastrophic end."96
Writing at a time of crisis and transition in Spain, Rojas may have availed himself of
an imaginary standard in order to communicate a more pessimistic image: that of "a
world of prostitution."97 The work's juxtaposition of courtly love and witchcraft is
93 Drum, Rojas, p. 117.
94 Rojas, La Celestina, Act. IV, lines 425-427, p. 129. "Bien temas, senora,
noticia en esta ciudad de un caballero mancebo, gentilhombre de clara sangre, que
llaman Calisto..."
95 For a detailed discussion of this issue, see Paul Julian Smith, "La Celestina,
Castro, and the Conversos" Representing the Other: 'Race', Text, and Gender in
Spanish and Spanish American Narrative (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992): pp. 27-
96 Dunn, Rojas, p. 155.
97 Ibid., p. 167. For another view of Rojas' pessimism, see also Maravall, El

striking, and has not escaped the attention of numerous scholars.98 99 Spain had a
chivalric literary heritage stretching through the Reconquista back to El Cantar del
Mlo Cid and Amadis de Gaul, a legacy only put to rest with the stinging satire of Don
Quixote. 99 Given the many ironic touches Rojas employs in La Celestina, the
interpolation of chivalry, prostitution,100 and witchcraft was probably not accidental.
The character of Celestina both drew from and helped to create the archetype
of the witch, and Rojas developed her personality through refined manipulations of
language and imagery. She was certainly not an unfamiliar figure to the readers of
the play. Spain at the end of the fifteenth century had developed rigid social
structures that necessitated the figure of a go-between. This alcahueta was "typically
Spanish because of the duplicity of the Christian-Islamic or the Ibero-Semitic
situation."101 Being an alcahueta is a source of pride for Celestina, who declares that
she lives "cleanly" from her occupation.102 While her magical activities were only
whispered about, it was generally agreed that society needed her services,103 and
Maravall notes that for Celestina witchcraft is a "learned art." "[Ella]... presenta su
98 See Dunn, Rojas, p. 153; Monter, "The Pedestal and the Stake," pp. 119-136;
Gilman, Spain, pp. 392-393.
99 Colbert I. Nepaulsingh, Towards a History of Literary Composition in
Medieval Spain (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986), p. 127.
100 We first leam that one of Celestinas many occupations is alcahueta in Act. I,
line 670, p. 73. While the femenine alcahueta sounds fairly innocuous in English as
"bawd" or "procuress," its masculine form, alcahuete, means "pimp."
101 Finch, "Magic," p. 107.
102 Rojas, La Celestina, Act. XII, lines 672-674, p. 262. "Vivo de mi oficio,
como cada cual oficial del suyo, muy limpiamente."
103 Lima, "Arcane," p. 228.

oficio como una ocupacion tecnica y economica, perfectamente definida... un arte
There were certain aspects of Celestina's characterization that would have
made her immediately recognizable as a witch to a fifteenth-century audience. In
addition to the obvious implications of calling herself, and being called, an hechicera
or bruja, two examples attract attention. In Act III, she directs one of her "servants"
(prostitutes) to fetch the materials she will need in order to put a spell on thread that
she will deliver to Melibea in an effort to enchant her for Calisto:
Pues sube presto al sobrado ... y baja aca el bote del aceite
serpentino,... Y abre el area de los lizos y hacia la mano derecha
hallaras un papel escrito con sangre de morcielago, debajo de aquel
ala de drago al que sacamos ayer las unas.105
While serpent oil, bat's blood, and dragon's wings may sound almost comical to a
modem reader, Inquisitors knew that these were common ingredients used in
witchcraft, and in particular the prevalence of serpent imagery in the play would not
be accidental.106 After collecting the necessary items, Celestina sends everyone
away and performs a lengthy incantation that will result in the achievement of her
desired aim: Melibea will fall desperately in love with Calisto. I will quote only part
of it here:
104 Maravall, El mundo, p. 142. "Celestina presenta su oficio como una
ocupacion tecnica y economica, perfectamente definida... un arte aprendido."
105 Rojas, La Celestina, Act. Ill, lines 258-266, p. 112.
106 See Javier Herrero, "Celestina's Craft: The Devil in the Skein," Bulletin of
Hispanic Studies 61 (July, 1984), pp. 343-351, for a detailed study of the relationship
between serpents, weaving and sewing, and illicit lust in Medieval Spain.

Yo, Celestina, tu mas conocida clientula, te conjuro por la virtud y
fuerza de estas bermejas letras, por la sangre de aquella noctuma ave
con que estan escritas; por la gravedad de aquestos nombres y signos
que en este papel se contienen; por la aspera ponzona de las viboras de
que este aceite fue hecho, con el cual unto este hilado: vengas sin
tardanza a obedecer mi voluntad ... hasta que Melibea... quede
enredada... Si no lo haces ... temasme por capital enemiga... Y
asi, confiando en mi mucho poder, me parto para alia con mi hilado,
donde creo te llevo ya envuelto.107
Witches, of course, are supposed to bum as heretics and enemies of Christ,
and Melibea threatens Celestina with as much when she is first made aware of the
alcahueta's purpose.108 She soon enough gives in, though it remains unclear -and is
still much debated whether she is succumbing to Celestina's manipulative language,
her own secret passions, or the actual magic Celestina has worked.
There are other powerful images used in La Celestina that both connect
Celestina to popular ideas about witchcraft and serve to establish a prototype. The
ingredients mentioned in her spells and potions correspond very closely to cases
documented by the Inquisition in Toledo and Cuenca.109 Celestina is old, and age
was a common denominator in determining likely witches in the later Middle Ages
and the Early Modem period. She is also a former prostitute110 (the term puta vieja
is used repeatedly in talking about her, and even in addressing her directly), and as
such combines a distasteful residue of sin and lust with the frightening picture of the
old hag. The following description by a modem scholar of medieval attitudes
107 Rojas, La Celestina, Act HI, lines 293-315, pp. 114-115.
108 Rojas, La Celestina, Act IV, lines 439-440, p. 130: "jQuemada seas,
alcahueta falsa, hechicera, enemiga de honestad, causadora de secretos yerros!"
109 Caro Baroja, Las brujas, p. 136.
110 See Javier Herrero, "Celestina. The Aging Prostitute as Witch," pp. 31-47 for
an in-depth analysis of this aspect of the characterization of Celestina.

towards older women could have been written with Celestina as its model, and it is
worth quoting at length:
Many older women ... led sinful lives. They talked too much, they
attempted to disguise their aging bodies with fancy clothing and
ornaments; they sought pleasures of the flesh no longer suitable for
their age. Sermons and treatises often ridiculed them, combining
classical images of the interfering procuress wiling her way into
peoples houses, of the go-between bearing lovers messages, and of
the old sorceress cheating simple women with her magic and
witchcraft. According to preachers and moralists, these old crones
were particularly skilled in leading other women into sin. William
Peraldo [a Dominican preacher, died 1261] wrote with great concern
that 'where neither man nor the devil succeed in working their vice, the
old woman will.'111
Old women also often acted as midwives, as does Celestina on occasion.
They performed a necessary service, but with the infant mortality rate being what it
was, they very often found themselves accused of doing more harm than good in
situations where "grief shifted responsibility for death onto the person who had
assisted the mother or baby."112 The wisdom midwives possessed was itself suspect.
Often they were the only source of information about contraception and abortion, and
in a Spanish society obsessed with the purity of their women they could even restore
lost virginity, as does Celestina. Especially after 1499, Spaniards would make an
association between midwives and "the immorality and sorcery of La Celestina,"
111 Carla Casagrande, "The Protected Women," trans. Clarissa Botsford, in Duby,
A History, p. 75.
112 Chiara Frugoni, "The Imagined Woman," trans. Clarissa Botsford, in Duby, A
History, p. 384.

since "their knowledge ... seemed so close to magic and could facilitate illicit
In a time of social upheaval and change, Monter finds it significant that many
of those who were tried and burned for witchcraft were older women, either spinsters
or widows, a situation probably attributable to a general shift in European marriage
patterns that delayed marriage and in turn left a considerable number of females
perpetually unmarried.114 He observes that "if witch trials were primarily
projections of general social fears onto atypical women... then the sudden growth of
spinsters and an increased number of widows who did not remarry automatically
provided a much larger range of witchcraft suspects than before.115 However,
Monter also provides statistical evidence indicating that Spain, while producing a
literary archetype of the elderly, female witch, saw the lowest percentage of such
women actually tried and convicted. In Castile, for example, only 71% of all those
tried for witchcraft were women, as compared to a high of 92% in England and
Belgium.116 I will return to the "witchcraze" in the next chapter.
Celestina was questioned by the Inquisition, but was released. Her friend,
Claudina (who was also Parmeno's mother), was not so fortunate. The descriptions of
Claudina provide the most striking and grotesque popular images of witchcraft.
113 Mary Elizabeth Perry, Gender and Disorder in Early Modem Seville
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), p. 28.
114 Monter, "The Pedestal," p. 133.
115 Ibid.
116 Ibid., p. 132.

Claudina taught Celestina everything she knows about magic, including how to
obtain the requisite body parts:
... sin pena ni temor se andaba a media noche de cimenterio en
cimenterio, buscando aparejos para nuestro oficio, como de dia. Ni
dejaba cristianos, ni moros, ni judios, cuyos enterramientos no
visitaba. De dia los acechaba, de noche los desenterraba.117
What condemns Claudina is that after being released by the Inquisition, she is later
caught "de noche con unas candelillas cogiendo tierra de una encrucijada."118
Fifteenth-century readers knew that witches wandered around at night collecting from
corpses the ingredients for their evil potions and that they often performed their spells
at crossroads.119 They also believed that "del pecado, lo peor es la
perseverancia,"120 so that Claudina deserves her fate.
The themes of Fernando de Rojas' La Celestina and his motives in writing the
play cannot be separated. The prevalent motif is, of course, the danger inherent in
unbridled love and lust. Gilman has suggested that the love story itself may be
modeled on an incident in the life of Rojas,121 giving its admonitions a heightened
urgency. The Malleus maleficarum warns specifically against philocaptio, or magic
that occasions "the inordinate love of one person for another."122 Given the
widespread appeal of the Malleus maleficarum, it is probable then that Rojas, in
117 Rojas, La Celestina, Act. VII, lines 159-165, p. 171.
118 Ibid., lines 235-236.
119 Russell, Witchcraft, p. 183.
120 Rojas, La Celestina, Act VII, lines 223-223.
121 Gilman, Spain, p. 392.
122 Malleus, p. 176.

structuring his play around an extreme example ofphilocaptio (aided by the "witch",
Celestina), was attempting to show the destructive effects of passion.123
I have already discussed the author's status as a converso, and the speculation
that he used the character of Celestina in order to deflect attention from his own
situation, but his motives may be even more complex. It must be remembered that
Rojas was writing during a period of intense religious insecurity in Spain, and indeed
all of Europe. Kieckhefer notes that "perhaps never before in the history of
Christianity --at least never since the heyday of the Gnostics in late antiquity- were
there so many people distrustful of each other's pieties."124 At one point, Calisto
commits the ultimate blasphemy : when his servant, Sempronio, asks him if he is a
Christian, he replies, "^Yo? Melibeo soy, y a Melibea adoro, y en Melibea creo, y a
Melibea amo."125 Certainly this is an indication of the dangerous philocaptio already
discussed. Yet while Nepaulsingh sees this particular line as indicative of the need to
read La Celestina as a predominantly converso text, he also proposes that it be
considered on another level. He conjectures that Rojas structured his play around the
Hebrew commandment, "You shall have no other Gods before me,"126 with the
intention of criticizing the very Christianity he purports to practice. Valbuena, on the
other hand, sees the tragic deaths of Calisto, Melibea, Celestina, Parmeno and
123 Herrero, "Aging," p. 43.
124 Richard Kieckhefer, "The Holy and the Unholy: Sainthood, Witchcraft and
Magic in Late Medieval Europe," Christendom and Its Discontents: Exclusion,
Persecution, and Rebellion, 1000-1500, Scott L. Waugh and Peter D. Diehl, eds.
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996): p. 313.
125 Rojas, La Celestina, Act I, lines 183-184, p. 58. ^Yo? Melibeo soy, y a
Melibea adoro, y en Melibea creo, y a Melibea amo."
126 Nepaulsingh, Towards, pp. 194-196.

Sempronio as a way for Rojas to "authenticate his faith."127 Both Celestina and
Calisto call for confession before they die, and Finch sees the real tragedy as .. a
loss of true principles and a striving for twisted and false values which is punished by
death and condemnation."128
Rojas may have had any number of reasons for including witchcraft in his
play. He may have done so purely for the entertainment value, or to provide for
heightened dramatic effect, or "to give impetus to the moral lesson," or "as an
element of verisimilitude."129 Whatever the reasons for its inclusion, witchcraft is an
integral part of the experience of La Celestina, which leads me to my final question:
Was Celestina as Rojas presented her a witch (bruja) or sorceress (hechicera)! The
question of whether an accused practitioner of the occult was one or the other is
important because it would acquire added significance in the next century.
I do not believe Rojas presented Celestina as a witch {bruja). I believe most
fifteenth century readers thought she was a witch, and that may be all that matters in
considering the archetype that was both reflected and created. But after looking
carefully at the language Rojas used and the traditions he was almost certainly aware
of, I think that the author in fact very subtly manipulated the play to make Celestina
appear to be what she was not. I am not alone in this conclusion. Robert Lima finds
the name Pluton that Celestina uses in the conjuring scene to be the key. "Rather
than a devotee of Satanic Witchcraft... Celestina is a practitioner of Plutonic
127 Valbuena, "Sorceresses," p. 220.
128 Finch, "Magic," p. 201.
129 Ibid., p.166.

Magic,"130 he states, and it must be remembered that an educated Spaniard of the
time would certainly have been aware of the differences between "magic" and
"witchcraft," even if his audience was not. The use of vocabulary like diablo (devil
with a small d) in the play was merely a convention, employed "at best... in the
sense of the popular parlance of the era... in order to better communicate with the
Christian audience or reader for whom the work is intended."131 Maravall agrees:
"Creo, en consecuencia, que la presencia del elemento magico en La Celestina
responde a algo mas que a razones literarias y omamentales ... Celestina es maga o
hechicera... pero no es bruja."132 Dunn proposes that even some of Rojas' readers
would have been skeptical of her being a witch, so that her witch-like activities
served more to underscore "the reality of evil implicit in choices already made."133
Celestina does correspond closely to certain urban witch types found in
Inquisitional records,134 but of the eight general characteristics of witches listed on
page three, only perhaps two of them apply to her. She does wander around at night
(collecting body parts from corpses) and she may have an agreement with some sort
of demon, but that is all. After the death of Claudina, she acts alone, eschewing the
communal activities usually believed of witches. The fact that she calls for
confession means that she probably has not formally repudiated Christianity, and
there is no mention at all of obscene homage to the Devil, orgies, infanticide, or
130 Lima, "Arcane," p. 229.
131 Ibid., p.228.
132 Maravall, El mundo, p. 141.
133 Dunn, Rojas, p. 132.
134 Caro Baroja, Las brujas, p. 135-137.

cannibalism. Perhaps Rojas speaks directly through his characters when Celestina
says of Claudina that "con falsos testigos y recios tormentos, la hicieron aquella vez
confesar lo que no era."135
Witchcraft scholars are divided in their opinions about whether the women
thus accused were actually guilty of participating in any or all of the activities to
which they confessed (under torture). Some suspect there must be at least some
kernel of truth in the accusations, with many women believing in and practicing at
least some aspect of witchcraft. Others maintain that the overwhelming majority of
the women burned were simply innocent victims of a vicious misogyny. Yet whether
their activities were real or imagined, Fernando de Rojas created in La Celestina..
[un] esplendido personaje ... que ... correspondia tan perfectamente con tipos reales
que podian encontrarse en las ciudades espanolas ... en los siglos XV y XVI que dio
un patron excelente a los cultivadores de la literatura realista,"136 and the drama
spawned multiple imitations into the sixteenth century.137 Since the ensuing years
have often been justifiably viewed as the apogee of the "witchcraze,"138 it is
appropriate now to move on to a discussion of Miguel de Cervantes and his witch,
135 Rojas, La Celestina, Act. VII, lines 269-270, p. 174.
136 Caro Baroja, Las brujas, p. 135.
137 See Finch, Magic and Witchcraft for a detailed study of, among other works,
Feliciano de Silva's Segunda Celestina and Gaspar Gomez de Toledos Tercera parte
de la tragicomedia de Celestina, both appearing in 1536.
138 Peters, The Magician, p. 170.

Fernando de Rojas wrote La Celestina during a period when Spain was just
beginning to move to the forefront of world attention. During the next centuries, the
nation experienced an outpouring of creative genius that would leave an indelible
mark on what is now called a "Golden Age." Novelists, poets, playwrights, and other
artists would achieve remarkable heights of expression, reflecting and in turn often
influencing the larger European Renaissance. Yet underscoring the new, more
optimistic humanism, there persisted an unprecedented preoccupation with witchcraft
as it had been defined and developed during the Middle Ages. Rojas may have
created a new archetype in his Celestina, but it was left to subsequent imaginations to
exploit "el enorme potential de significado de un termino tan ambiguo como bruja.1
The witch modeled after the "tipo celestinesco," with its attendant dichotomies of
good and evil, light and dark, would appear repeatedly, from Jorge de Montemayor's
La Diana to the Desenganos amorosos of Maria de Zayas2 3 to the Asturian picaresque
novel entitled La picara Justina? However, it would fall to one of the undisputed
1 Carmelo Lison Tolosana, Las brujas en la historia de Espana (Madrid:
Ediciones Temas de Hoy, S.A., 1992): p. 223.
2 Mireya Perez-Erdelyi, La picara y la dama: la imagen de las mujeres en las
novelas picaresco-cortesanas de Maria de Zayas y Alonso del Castillo Solorzano
(Miami: Ediciones Universal, 1979): pp. 94-98.
3 Ramon Baragano, Mitologia y brujeria en Asturias (Gijon: Ediciones Noega,
1983): pp. 115-116.

literary giants of the era, Miguel de Cervantes, to most fully develop the character of
the witch.4
Cervantes included numerous magical references in his many works, a
technique that, according to Patricia Finch, "testifies to the continuing popular appeal
of the occult in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries."5 His Persiles includes a
witch, Cenotia, who demonstrates "many of Celestina's talents,"6 and characters
utilizing magical practices -whether serious or facetious pervade "El licenciado
Vidriera," "La gitanilla," "La ilustre fregona," and "Rinconente y Cortadillo" from his
Novelas ejemplares, as well as Don Quijote, where "there are frequent burlesque
references to omens and the use of charms, as well as to enchantments, bewitchings,
and astrological divination."7 That Cervantes -the consummate realist- was
reflecting popular beliefs of the time is evident.
El grupo de las hechicerias es tan amplio y variado en la obra
cervantina como lo era en el pueblo. Todas tienen acogida a lo largo
de su obra... Ademas del continuo uso de los encantamientos,
aparecen magos y hechiceros por todas partes, y toda una larga serie
de personajes ocultos, como gigantes, endriagos, vestiglos, trasgos, lo
mismo que fuerzas impersonificadas como silbos, rugidos, bramidos,
baladros, etc.8
4 Ruth S. El Saffar, Novel to Romance: A Study of Cervantes Novelas
Ejemplares (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974): p. 64.
5 Patricia S. Finch, "Rojas' Celestina and Cervantes' Canizares," Bulletin of the
Cervantes Society of America 9 (Spring 1988): p. 55.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid., pp. 55-56.
8 Francisco Garrote Perez, "Universo supersticioso cervantino: su
materialization y funcion poetica," Cervantes, su obra y su mundo, Manuel Criado de
Val, ed. (Madrid: Congreso International sobre Cervantes, 1981): p. 69.

The most clearly delineated witch occurs in the last of Cervantes' Novelas
Ejemplares, "El coloquio de los perros," and Alan Forcione considers the episode in
which the character of Canizares appears to be "one of the most powerful scenes in
Cervantes' entire literary production."9 Julio Caro Baroja calls the story "una joyita
de observation,"10 and a reading of the section narrated by Canizares provides a
veritable checklist of popularly held witchcraft beliefs.11 While the relevant portion
of the novela consists of only a few pages, the ideas it encompasses span literally
centuries. This chapter of my thesis will explore segments of the Canizares episode
piece by piece, placing each reference within its wider Spanish and European
contexts. What emerges from this study is an interesting paradox. While ordinary
Spaniards definitely embraced a belief in witches, the infamous Spanish Inquisition
did not, so that while the rest of Europe saw a conflagration of witchcraft hysteria,
Spain executed relatively few of its accused witches. After a brief examination of the
reasons for this moderation, placing particular emphasis on the investigations of
Inquisitor Alonso de Salazar y Frias into a northern Spanish witch hunt that occurred
in precisely the same year Cervantes published his Novelas ejemplares, 1613,1 end
with an exploration of Cervantes' own convictions on the subject of witchcraft.
"El coloquio de los perros" is actually a continuation of the previous Novela,
"El casamiento enganoso." Recovering in the Hospital de la Resurrection from the
9 Alan K. Forcione, Cervantes and the Mystery of Lawlessness (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1984): p. 59.
10 Julio Caro Baroja, Las brujasy su mundo (Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1966):
p. 271.
11 Garrote Perez, "Universo," pp. 66-67; Forcione, Cervantes, p. 68.

syphilis contracted in his disastrous marriage, Campuzano overhears two talking
dogs, Cipion and Berganza. In a clear parody of the picaresque novels so popular at
the time, Berganza -amazed at his sudden capacity for speech narrates his life story
and the various adventures and misfortunes he experienced under several different
masters. (We leam later in the narrative that the dogs were actually human at one
time.) Canizares herself appears fairly late in the narrative. While performing
amazing dancing tricks in front of a hospital in the southern city of Montilla,
Berganza's current master exhorts him to perform ever more daring leaps "a devotion
de la famosa hechicera que dicen que hubo en este lugar."12 Cervantes himself had
visited the city of Montilla in 1592, where he most certainly would have heard of
several famous witches with the family name of Camacha who had been active
between 1550 and 1573, and these historical women quickly become woven into the
fiction of "El coloquio." Immediately after the mention of "la famosa hechicera," the
reader is introduced to Canizares:
Apenas hubo dicho esto, cuando alzo la voz la hospitalera, que era una
vieja, al parecer, de mas de setenta anos, diciendo: jBellaco,
charlatan, embaidor y hijo de puta, aqui no hay hechicera alguna! Si
lo decis por la Camacha, ya ella pago su pecado, y esta donde Dios se
sabe; si lo decis por mi, chocarrero, ni yo soy ni he sido hechicera en
mi vida.. .13
What Canizares is, exactly, if not an hechicera, will be explored in subsequent pages,
and Cervantes himself is careful to not label her too early in the account. Convinced
12 Miguel de Cervantes, Novelas ejemplares II, Harry Sieber, ed. (Madrid:
Catedra, 1994), p. 335.
13 Cervantes, Novelas, p. 335.

that this exceptionally talented dog is the son of her dead friend, Montiela, Canizares
summons Berganza to her room that night. It will be significant that as she addresses
the dog, she becomes the only woman in the story to be revealed through her own
words,14 and in the ensuing conversation she establishes a relationship with Berganza
that will carry unmistakable overtones of another in Spanish literature, that of
Fernando de Rojas' Celestina and Parmeno. Many scholars have noticed the debt
Cervantes would seem to owe to his predecessor, noting that "Rojas taught Cervantes
the difficult art of how to develop character in the detail and on the scale requisite for
a long novel."15 In particular, the conversation between Berganza and Canizares
(which is, in truth, more of a monologue on the part of the latter) "suggest[s] the
possibility of borrowing,"16 according to Finch. There are marked similarities in the
ways in which the two living witches describe their dead friends, who are the mothers
of Parmeno and Berganza. Both sons are ashamed and humiliated by what their
mothers were (witches), with the important difference that Parmeno succumbs to the
power of Celestina, while Berganza escapes Canizares.
As Canizares begins to tell Berganza about herself, it becomes apparent that
Cervantes is drawing on more than just the "tipo celestinesco." ".. .Su composition
esta hecha de retazos y a base de lecturas, mezclando tradiciones de origenes distintos
e incluso relacionando a las brujas de la campina de Cordoba con las de los
14 Mary S. Gossy, "Witch Stories, Bodies, and the Making of Narrative in
Cervantes' Coloquio de los perros," Cincinnati Romance Review 9 (1990): p. 29.
15 Finch, Rojas, p. 60.
16 Ibid.

Pirineos."17 Forciones points out that "hysteria concerning witchcraft... infected the
spiritual life of the whole of Europe and in Spain reached its maximum intensity
precisely during the period in which the 'Coloquio de los perros' was conceived."18
Cervantes synthesized in the identity of Canizares nearly every known manifestation
of witchcraft
The momentum of concern with heresy and witchcraft that had been building
for over a thousand years found its maximum expression in the sixteenth and into the
seventeenth centuries. Peters indicates that by this time, witchcraft had legally
become an "exceptional crime" -crimen exceptum- against the community,19 and the
witch hunts that began to occur with alarming regularity clearly reflect this
conviction. Religious insecurities, alterations in traditional communal agriculture,
and migration probably all contributed to the tensions that erupted in witchcraft
accusations. A leading figure in the Spanish debate on the subject of witchcraft was
Fray Martin de Castanega, who in 1529 led a small hunt in the Navarre region. He
directed his scrutiny primarily towards women, whom he considered to be talkative,
unable to keep secrets, prone to anger and revenge, and more likely to resort to
witchcraft to achieve their aims.20 His Tratado de las supersticiones y hechicerias,
first published in 1529, is also concerned with "toda una legion de nigromantes,
17 Julio Caro Baroja, Vidas magicas e Inquisicion (Madrid: Ediciones Istmo,
1992): p. 142.
18 Forcione, Cervantes, p. 67.
19 Edward Peters, The Magician, the Witch, and the Law (University of
Pennsylvania Press, 1978): p. 153.
20 Anne Llewellyn Barstow, The Witchcraze (San Francisco: Harper Collins
Publishers, 1994): p. 93.

brujas, magos, hechiceras, adivinos, conjuradores, etc."21 Castanega clearly sees the
world as a place where the forces of good and evil do constant battle, as he explains:
"Dos son las iglesias de este mundo: la una la catolica, la otra la diabolica."22
Witch hunts were not confined to northern Spain, although they did occur
there with more regularity, probably influenced by the intensity of the persecutions in
southern France 23 Father south, one Lucia de Toledo was accused in 1538 by many
of her neighbors of having cured impotence, menaced harvests, dabbled in love
magic, and cured illnesses. That she was also a morisca is a significant aside to the
allegations, since it underscores the tensions that still persisted in a Spain only
recently united under the common religion of Catholicism. Within a twenty
kilometer radius, some half dozen other women were also charged with practicing
witchcraft, and the Toledo Inquisition dealt with them severely.24 These women did
not die, however, unlike thousands of their counterparts in other countries.
Spain saw a steady stream of testimonies on the dangers of magic. Pedro
Ciruelo condemned knowledge not acquired through natural experience in his
Reprobacion de las supersticiones y hechicerlas of 1556, and in the third chapter of
Torquemada's Jar din de flores curiosos "nos presenta un amplio y sugestivo cuadro
21 Garrote, "Universo," p. 62.
22 Fray Martin de Castanega, Tratado de las supersticiones y hechicerlas
(Madrid: Biblioteca Espanola, 1946): p. 23, quoted in Garrote, "Universo," p. 65.
23 See Lison Tolosana, Las brujas, pp. 3-38, for a lengthy discussion of this
phenomenon, including his theory that the word "bruja" itself came into the Spanish
language through French sources.
24 Jean-Pierre DeDieu, "The Inquisition and Popular Culture in New Castile,"
Inquisition and Society in Early Modern Europe, Stephen Haliczer, ed. (London:
Croom Helm, 1987): p. 141.

de toda clase de supersticiones, hechicerias y actuaciones diabolicas."25 In 1566,
Fray Vicente Mexia published an instruction book on marriage wherein he "warns
mothers against old women who claim they can heal children stricken by
aojamientos, or curses."26 He makes a clear connection between folk healing,
Celestinesque love magic, witchcraft, and sorcery 27 While such activities may have
seemed fairly innocuous, they were part of a wider international paranoia. There
were not, in many minds, appreciable differences between healing aojamientos,
astrology, and the serious heresy of a pact with the devil that Pope Sixtus V
condemned in his papal bull of 1585 entitled Coeli et terrae. In Scotland, James I
(soon to succeed to the English throne) would condemn in his Daemonologia those
who denied the reality of witchcraft,28 and ten years later the government of Phillip II
in the Spanish Netherlands "issued a warrant stating that elderly women were to be
treated as prime suspects in cases of sorcery."29 Little more than a decade after
Cervantes published his Novelas, accusations of sorcery would infiltrate the Spanish
royal court itself, with rumors first that Phillip HI had been put under some sort of
spell by don Rodrigo Calderon and then that his son, Phillip IV had fallen under the
25 Garrote, "Universo," p. 62.
26 Amy R. Williamsen and Judith A. Whitenack, eds., Maria de Zayas: The
Dynamics of Discourse (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1995): p.
27 Ibid.
28 Frances A Yates, Lafilosofia oculta en la epoca Isabelina (Mexico: Fondo de
Cultura Economica, 1982): pp. 159-160.
29 Jean-Michel Sallman, "Witches," A History of Women in the West, Georges
Duby and Michelle Perot, eds. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992): p 448.

sway of the Conde Duque de Olivares through the services provided by a madrileha
witch named Maria Alvarez.30
There are many theories about why the sixteenth century saw such a witch
phobia. Sallman speculates that it could have been the reflection of economic hard
times across Europe, as well as an outlet for the social tensions that accompanied a
dramatic transformation of the countryside.31 The question of why women in
particular were singled out is especially complex. There seems to have been a thread
of suspicion that stretched between folk medicine, midwives, healers, and witchcraft
secrets "learned... only from the devil."32 Since these were traditionally some of
the few occupations available to women, it would be easy to transfer suspicion onto
the entire gender. Some historians see the persecutions as the manifestation of a
general European tendency toward an insidious and "deliberate effort to degrade the.
female sex."33 Barstow is very specific in her judgment: "I conclude that ruling-class
European men looked at and treated their women basically as they did their African
slaves and Indian serfs and as they had treated Jews and heretics before them,
namely, with increasing violence."34 Since witch accusations and executions tended
to occur more in the lower classes,35 I disagree with her use of the term "ruling-class"
30 Caro Baroja, Vidas, p. 105.
31 Sallman, "Witches," p. 450.
32 Ibid.
33 Marc Simmons, Witchcraft in the Southwest; Spanish and Indian
Supernaturalism on the Rio Grande (Flagstaff, Arizona: Northland Press, 1974): p. 9
34 Barstow, Witchcraze, p. 164.
35 01wen Hufton, The Prospect Before Her: A History of Women in Western
Europe (New York: Random House, 1995): p. 348. "If the religious and civil
establishments put into motion a witchcraft persecution, its momentum was sustained
from below."

here, but I do concur that women perceived as witches came to occupy the place of
the "other" along with Jews and heretics. A much more likely interpretation of the
witchcraze is offered by Olwen Hufton:
The members of a community elect the label 'witch' for someone they
mistrust, credit her with evil powers and convince her that she is
indeed what they say she is. What made this collusion possible was a
common, deeply ingrained set of beliefs in magic, in evil and in the
ability of the Devil to win disciples to do his work.36
Mary Gossy suggests that once this "collusion" has been established, "once a woman
is defined as a witch, society knows what to do with her: she can be imprisoned or
extinguished once she is identified."37
Across languages, cultures, and regional boundaries, a remarkably consistent
picture of the witch can be established, one that Cervantes' Canizares very clearly
projects. "The 'typical' witch was poor, uneducated, sharp-tongued, and old, but
above all, female."38 She was closely allied with death, midwifery, healing, love
magic, demonic pacts, witches' "Sabbats" or aquelarres, and a wide variety of
magical potions. These are all components of the story that Canizares will tell the
dog, Berganza.
In my chapter on La Celestina, I explored the issue of whether the main
character was a bruja or an hechicera. This semantic exercise takes on a new set of
36 Ibid., p. 339.
37 Mary S. Gossy, The Untold Story: Women and Theory in Golden Age Texts
(Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1989): p. 71.
38 Margaret King, Women of the Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1991): p. 146.

meanings in "El coloquio de los perros," where Canizares takes repeated care to stress
that she is not an hechicera. Almost immediately after appearing in the stoiy, she
proclaims: .. ni yo soy ni he sido hechicera en mi vida."39 Later, talking alone
with Berganza, she explains: "Que has de saber, hijo, que como yo he visto y veo que
la vida... se acaba, he querido dejar todos los vicios de la hechicerla en que estaba
engolfada muchos anos habia, y solo me he quedado con la curiosidad de ser
bruja."40 And finally: "Bruja soy, no te lo niego... "41 Why would a woman, living
at a time of undeniable danger for those accused of witchcraft, choose to be called by
a title that carried dangerous connotations of demonic pacts and repudiation of
Christianity? Why not opt for the safer route of sorcery hechiceria, which
ostensibly held out the option of confession and absolution? One scholar has offered
a fascinating answer that explains as much about the social and religious world of
Cervantes as it does about the specific linguistic problem. Drawing on the Iberian
medieval tradition of Islamic high magic being closely allied with sorcery, Luis
Miguel Vicente Garcia suggests that Canizares wants to be called a bruja because "la
hechiceria se relacionaba en la mente popular con el tema morisco, con las
implicaciones sociopoliticas que eso significa en los anos de la expulsion de los
moriscos que coinciden con la gestation y publication de las Novelas ejemplares."42
Recall that the historical Lucia de Toledo was also called a morisca, a term that, put
39 Cervantes, Novelas, p. 335.
40 Ibid., p. 338.
41 Ibid., p. 340.
42 Luis Miguel Vicente Garcia, "La Canizares en el Coloquio de los perros:
^Bruja o hechicera?" Mester 18 (Spring 1989): p. 2.

alongside hechicera, "va cargando no solo de marginacion religiosa sino de
connotaciones a una raza perseguida.. ,"43 DeDieu notes that historically, witchcraft
(brujeria) was "almost unknown outside the northern third of the Iberian
peninsula,"44 so that by placing Caiiizares in a southern city and then choosing to
insist on calling her a bruja instead of the more likely hechicera, Cervantes is in fact
playing with the popular obsession with pureza de sangre with an ironic touch that
places primarily upper-class absorptions into the marginalized world of a poor,
elderly outcast45 Through this use of language, Cervantes is also subtly beginning to
question the entire framework of belief in the occult.
Literally from the moment the character of Canizares is introduced in "El
coloquio," Cervantes begins to weave into the narrative all that people would know
and believe about witches. As a hospitalera, an immediate connection is made with
popular fears of the magical knowledge possessed by healers. As a vieja of seventy
years, she is immediately assigned to the concurrent category of old hag, and the
specter of death is never far from the elderly. The fact that she screams imprecations
at Berganza's master is another key component of her personality, since witches were
widely known to be unable to hold their tongues. I find a touch of humor in the fact
that the crowd as it disperses mutters that she is barbudo\ the image that emerges of
Canizares is definitely unattractive. Berganza refuses to let the woman kiss him on
the mouth. "... Tuve asco y no lo consent!," he shudders, to which Cipion replies,
Ibid., p. 6.
DeDieu, "The Inquisition," p. 143.
Vicente Garcia, "La Canizares," pp. 3-4.

"Bien hiciste; porque no es regalo, sino tormento, el besar ni dejar besarse de una
As the narrative progresses, we learn that Canizares has not always been
associated with the penitential, healing work she purports to do. By placing her in a
hospital, however, Cervantes alludes to a whole spectrum of suspicion surrounding
women who worked as healers. When the Inquisition allowed itself to become
involved in witchcraft cases, records indicate that the largest number of accusations
were directed against healers. In an era when "magical remedies were used to deal
with the routine hazards of life, especially illness and disease,"47 people
understandably looked wherever they could for assistance. While O'Neil suggests
that "many magical remedies developed as extensions of the remedial functions of
orthodox religion rather than from some wholly separate non-Christian source,"48
often enough healers were perceived to be encroaching on a "clerical monopoly on
legitimate access to the supernatural."49 The church and the Inquisition were
especially suspicious of moriscas who possessed the knowledge of Islamic
medicine.50 Yet ordinary people could have veiy ordinary reasons for leveling
witchcraft accusations against female healers. "Many denounced them to the Holy
46 Cervantes, Novelas, p. 336.
47 Mary O'Neil, "Magical Healing, Love Magic and the Inquisition in Late
Sixteenth-century Modena," Inquisition and Society in Early Modern Europe,
Stephen Haliczer, ed. (London: Croom Helm, 1987): p. 89.
48 Ibid., p. 91.
49 Ibid., p. 90.
50 Mary Elizabeth Perry, Gender and Disorder in Early Modem Seville
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990): p. 28.

Office, resentful of their demands for payment, or fearful of their powers."51 Women
who tried to make a living through healing were expected to do so with "submission
and obedience,"52 and there was always a very real danger that they would be caught
in a vicious trap of mistrust, since "the perception that the powers to heal, especially
to heal the bewitched... implied the opposite power to harm, [and] was a standard
facet of learned and popular witch beliefs alike."53 Obviously, the efforts of
Canizares to cure the poor have not erased suspicions from the minds of her
neighbors; immediately after proclaiming that she wished to distance herself from her
past experiences by working in the hospital, she proceeds with this wonderful speech
that negates all her good appearances:
Rezo poco, y en publico; murmuro mucho, y en secreto; vame mejor
con ser hipocrita que con ser pecadora declarada: las apariencias de
mis buenas obras presentes van borrando en la memoria de los que me
conocen las malas obras pasadas. En efeto: la santidad fingida no
hace dafio a ningun tercero, sino al que la usa. Mira, hijo Montiel, este
consejo te doy: que seas bueno en todo cuanto pudieres; y si has de
ser malo, procura no parecerlo en todo cuanto pudieres. Bruja soy, no
te lo niego.54
Inextricably allied with the profession of healing was that of midwifery, and
Canizares alludes as well to this connection with witchcraft. Since before the days of
La Celestina, and especially after it became so widely known, people associated the
practices of midwives and magic. Like healing, "their knowledge... seemed so close
51 Ibid., p. 30.
52 Ibid., p. 32.
53 O'Neil, "Magical," p. 97.
54 Cervantes, Novelas, p. 340.

to magic and could facilitate illicit sex."55 In a country obsessed withpureza de
sangre, the activities and knowledge of midwives were particularly suspect. One
writer of the period, Rodrigo de Reinoso, warns readers in his Coplas de las
comadres to "beware of midwives who are old and mutter incantations."56 Who
could ever be sure? Most Spaniards truly believed that any midwife was capable of
the sort of treachery that occurs in "El coloquio de los perros," wherein the very
human mother of Berganza, Montiela, finds herself giving birth to puppies through
the malice of her one-time friend and fellow witch, la Camacha. The mystery of birth
was easily transferred to the mystery of witchcraft, as Cervantes deftly demonstrates
in his story.57
Women would not be in the position of giving birth, of course, unless they had
sexual relations, and Gossy suggests that Cervantes chose his vocabulary in
describing the birth of Berganza as a way of underlining the associations between evil
and female sexuality.58 At the same time that the witch craze hit its peak, the
Spanish Inquisition itself was making at least a nominal effort "to impress on men
that the act of fornication, not just adultery, was a mortal sin."59 Clearly, though,
women stood in much graver danger, as Cervantes implies when he points out that
55 Perry, Gender, p. 28.
56 Ibid., p. 27.
57 Steven Hutchinson, "Las brujas de Cervantes y la notion de comunidad
femenina," Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 12 (Fall 1992):
p. 132.
58 Gossy, "Witch," p. 24.
59 Hufton, The Prospect, p. 322.

Montiela was not married when she underwent her horrific delivery. The linking of
midwives, illegitimacy, and witchcraft could not be more blatant.
Death and witchcraft beliefs were always intimately bound together. The
witch who had formed a pact with the Devil was, of course, destined for Hell and
eternal death. Popular imagination took this rather abstract concept to inventive
extremes. Interestingly, the sexual anxieties connected to witchcraft often also
included motifs of death. The witch "is accused of making men impotent, of
procuring abortions, and of killing infants."60 There are numerous references to
death in Cervantes' portrayal of Canizares and her other witch friends. She narrates
her story using almost entirely dead characters (la Camacha and Montiela). She
describes in detail how, when Montiela died, she went with her "hasta la sepultura."61
She communicates with the dead in cemeteries and crossroads, she talks of
infanticide, and at the end of the section of "El coloquio" in which she appears, she
anoints herself with her special ointment (drugs but more on that later), and then
lies down on the floor "como muerta."62
Two aspects of Cervantes narrative are direct interpolations of international
witchcraft beliefs: the use of special potions or unguents, and the aquelarre or
Sabbat that Canizares may or may not attend. The popular tenet was that witches had
magical ointments which, when applied, would confer the ability either to change
shape or to travel to meetings with the Devil (aquelarres). The ointment part of the
equation has truly ancient roots: in the second century, Apuleius turns his narrator of
60 Gossy, "Witch," p. 31.
61 Cervantes, Novelas, p. 341.
62 Ibid., p. 344-345.

The Golden Ass into a donkey through meddling in the potions of a powerful witch, a
story to which Cervantes makes pointed reference, first indirectly (la Camacha "tuvo
fama que convertia los hombres en animales63) and then openly: "quisiera yo que
fuera tan facil como el que se dice de Apuleyo en El asno de oro,"64 Inquisition
records include detailed lists of the ingredients found in witch's homes. Canizares
describes hers as "compuesto de jugos de yerbas en todo extremo frios, y no es, como
dice el vulgo, hecho con la sangre de los ninos que ahogamos."65 What Cervantes
seems to imply, as indeed did many Inquisitors, is that this ointment is nothing more
than a powerful hallucinogenic drug. According to Vicente Garcia, "lo que Cervantes
nos presenta es una vieja aislada socialmente que no tiene mas consuelo que el
escape que le proporcionan sus unturas, que con su poder alucinogeno, le hacen sentir
un mundo de placer."66
Spanish witches, like their counterparts in other countries, often mixed their
unguents with spoken invocations or incantations, and the link between women,
witchcraft, and the traditional domain of the kitchen thus becomes manifest.67
Celestina had her famous conjuro, and so does la Camacha. Predicting that one day
the babies she turned into puppies will regain their original forms, she says:
Volveran en su forma verdadera
cuando vieren con presta diligencia
63 Ibid., p. 337.
64 Ibid., p. 339.
65 Ibid., p. 341.
66 Vicente Garcia, "La Canizares," p. 4.
67 Maria Helena Sanchez Ortega, La mujery la sexualidad en el antiguo
regimen: laperspectiva inquisitorial (Madrid: Akal, 1992): pp. 140-145.

derribar los soberbios levantados,
y alzar a los humildes abatidos
por poderosa mano para hacello.68
At around the same time, the Inquisition reported the following invocation used by a
certain Dona Juana de la Paz, which is almost charming in its comparative simplicity:
Yo te conjuro
sangre de mi fuente la bermeja
que vaya Fulano tras Fulana
como el cordero tras de la oveja.69
Many of the ointments made by supposed witches were for the express
purpose of transporting the woman (or, rarely, man) to the aquelarre, or Sabbat70.
What, exactly, the aquelarre was depended to a large degree on which intellectual
you consulted, and the fact that Cervantes includes a reference to one in a southern
city where they were generally not a part of popular lore71 indicates that he was
aware of the current debate about what occurred at these gatherings. Julio Caro
Baroja provides an excellent summary of the various ways in which aquelarres were
thought to function:
... en pleno siglo XVI, en pleno Renacimiento, nos encontramos:
I) Con autores que conciben los coventiculos de las brujas al modo
medieval antiguo, reflejado en el Canon Episcopi, etc., es decir,
como presidido por una especie de divinidad pagana.
68 Cervantes, Novelas, p. 338.
69 Sanchez Ortega, La mujer, p. 147.
70 That these meetings were called by some Sabbats, a word plainly derived
from the Jewish tradition, points yet again to the connection between witchcraft and
71 Caro Baroja, Las brujas, p. 272; Hutchinson, "Las brujas," p. 129.

II) Con autores que lo conciben como Sabbat propiamente dicho,
perdido por Satan, con pacto, etc.
m) Con autores que niegan la realidad de uno u otro tipo de reuniones,
atribuyendo lo que se dice de ellas a varias causas naturales, como
son: a) el procedimiento judicial con los tormentos, etc., b) los
estupefacientes; c) la debilidad psiquica.72
Canizares herself indicates that she knows about these discussions. It was believed
that when the gatherings transpired, the Devil presided over them in the shape of a
goat,73 to which Canizares refers when she comments that "muchas veces he querido
preguntar a mi cabron que fin tendra vuestro suceso."74 Many questioned, though,
whether witches actually flew to these assemblies or merely imagined it, a debate to
which Cervantes/Canizares alludes:
Hay opinion que no vamos a estos convites sino con la fantasia en la
cual nos representa el demonio las imagenes de todas aquellas cosas
que despues contamos que nos han sucedido. Otros dicen que no, sino
que verdaderamente vamos en cuerpo y en anima; y entrambas
opiniones tengo para mi que son verdaderas, puesto que nosotras75 no
sabemos cuando vamos de una o de otra manera, porque de todo lo
que nos pasa en la fantasia es tan intensamente que no hay
diferenciarlo de cuando vamos real y verdaderamente.76
These trysts, however they occurred, were "central to the Renaissance notion
of witchcraft."77 What took place once witches arrived was considered so repulsive
72 Ibid., p. 148.
73 Geoffrey Parrinder, Witchcraft: European and African (London: Faber and
Faber, 1963): p. 339.
74 Cervantes, Novelas, p. 339.
75 Note the femenine "we" here.
76 Ibid., pp. 339-340.
77 Margaret King, Women of the Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago

that even Canizares leaves it up to the readers' imagination: .alii nos da de comer
desabridamente, y pasan otras cosas que en verdad y en Dios y en mi anima que no
me atrevo a contarlas, segun son sucias y asquerosas, y no quiero ofender tus castas
orejas."78 People talked, of course, of obscene kisses, incestuous orgies, infanticide
and cannibalism. At the end of her dialog with Berganza, Canizares anoints herself in
order to go to her aquelarre. We never find out what happens there, but we do learn
a great deal about what Cervantes thought of the whole notion, since "los testigos
fueron muchos en el hospital de que la bruja... se marcho de viaje en espiritu o en
fantasia y su cuerpo quedo en su aposento."79
As Canizares lays comatose in the patio of the hospital, observers express a
variety of opinions about the woman's condition:
... unos decian: Ya la bendita Canizares es muerta; mirad cuan
disfigurada y flaca la tenia la penitencia; otros, mas considerados, la
tomaron el pulso, y vieron que le tenia, y que no era muerta, por do se
dieron a entender que estaba en extasis y arrobada, de puro buena.
Otros hubo que dijeron: Esta puta vieja, sin duda debe de ser bruja, y
debe de estar untada; que nunca los santos hacen tan deshonestos
arrobos, y hasta ahora, entre los que la conocemos, mas fama tiene de
bruja que de santa.80
All of which point to one last aspect of Early Modem witchcraft: often there was a
fine line between sainthood and damnation.81 Again, women were particularly at
Press, 1991): p. 149.
78 Cervantes, Novelas, p. 339.
79 Garrote Perez, "Universo," p. 66.
80 Cervantes, Novelas, p. 344.
81 King, Women, p. 153. "Some saints were very nearly witches, according to
contemporary definitions, and the experiences of some witches were quite like those
of saints."

risk. "The confusion of sainthood and witchcraft arose ... mainly in the case of
women, for the obvious reason that women's spirituality was more often suspect."82
With roots in Thomas Aquinas and, of course, the Malleus maleficarum, there was a
common view that "the demonic hierarchy was a sinister inversion of the angelic
prototype."83 Only a relatively short time before Cervantes imagined his Canizares, a
famous case emerged of just such a situation. Magdalena de la Cruz, who lived from
1487 to 1560, had for decades been known for her ecstasies, prophecies, stigmata,
levitations, and other miraculous manifestations of spiritual favor. Suddenly, the
saint found herself denounced to the Inquisition as a fraud. "Exorcised and
interrogated by an inquisitor, she confessed that her holiness was ... a demonic
ruse."84 Women who undertook to experience higher levels of spirituality without
benefit of male direction, such as the beatas of Sevilla, were especially vulnerable to
accusations of consorting with the Devil or with demons.85
The Spanish Inquisition makes an appearance in "El coloquio de los perros,"
albeit a brief one. After discussing the various theories about aquelarres, Canizares
adds that "algunas experiencias desto han hecho los senores inquisidores con algunas
de nosotras que han tenido presas, y pienso que han hallado ser verdad lo que digo."86
82 Richard Kieckhefer, "The Holy and the Unholy: Sainthood, Witchcraft, and
Magic in Late Medeival Europe," Christendom and Its Discontents, Scott L Waugh
and Peter D. Diehl, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996): p.329.
83 Ibid., p. 320.
84 Ibid., p. 317; also in Johan Weyer, Witches, Devils and Doctors in the
Renaissance, George Mora, ed. (Binghamton: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and
Studies, 1991): pp. 495-496.
85 Perry, Gender, pp. 111-113.
86 Cervantes, Novelas, p. 340.

Any student of Spanish history must sooner or later come to some sort of terms with
this institution. There can be no doubt that terrible atrocities were committed for the
sake of preserving religious orthodoxy. Yet perhaps the most surprising aspect of the
study of Spanish witchcraft is that this is one situation where the Holy Office actually
seems to have saved lives. The skepticism to which Canizares alludes became a
hallmark of the Inquisition's dealings with witchcraft cases, and it was a skepticism
that was to overrule mob hysteria and introduce a level of rationality where in other
regions there was none. Certainly people used the Inquisition as a tool in their
ordinary and petty grievances;87 nevertheless, when considered within the context of
a wider European witchcraze, the punishments it meted out were mild indeed.88 If
one looks at a map of where the majority of witchcrazes and burnings occurred, what
emerges is a pattern of intense persecution "in the frontier regions of heresy."89 By
way of contrast, those areas where Catholicism successfully repulsed Protestantism
presided over by the Spanish or Italian Inquisitions saw only 10% of all European
witchcraft prosecutions.90
Witches did come before the Holy Office, and much of what we know about
Spanish witchcraft beliefs comes from the Inquisitional records. Yet as early as
1526, "a congregation of the Inquisition seriously debated the root question of the
reality of witchcraft, and the punishment to be applied... They agreed that
confession was not proof enough, and that in any case the witch should be dealt with
Perry, Gender, p. 71.
Barstow, Witchcraze, p. 92.
Hufton, The Prospect, p. 344; also see Sallman, "Witches," pp. 452-455.
King, Women, p. 152.

by the Inquisition which would impose penance."91 Summarizing this same
gathering, Barstow indicates that "common sense ruled the Spanish Inquisition.
Reformed and controlled by the monarchy after its excesses against Jews, its leaders
declared in 1526 that witchcraft was a delusion, a matter more of madness than of
The years leading up to the publication of the Novelas ejemplares saw a
phenomenal growth in the number (and imaginativeness) of witchcraft accusations
across Europe. Yet during the same period, the Supreme Council of the Spanish
Inquisition intervened in only nine cases of witchcraft, and "no permitio el alto
tribunal que se quemara ni una sola bruja y en principio no permitio que se
encarcelaran sin su consentimiento y decision."93
Not all inquisitors were in complete agreement about the delusional nature of
witchcraft beliefs and confessions. In the early seventeenth century, a witchcraze
spilled over from southern France into the Basque mountains, and the initial hysteria
was fanned by zealous inquisitors. 94 In an attempt to control the situation, the
Supreme Council in Madrid declared 1611a "Year of Grace," in which people could
come forward and confess without punishment. The Council sent north Fray Alonso
de Salazar y Frias, a legal man whose meticulous attention to detail and simple
common sense would serve to permanently alter the way witchcraft was dealt with in
91 Parrinder, Witchcraft, p. 26.
92 Barstow, Witchcraze, p. 92.
93 Lison Tolosana, Las brujas, p. 84.
94 Gustav Henningsen, The Witches' Advocate: Basque Witchcraft and the
Spanish Inquisition, 1609-1614 (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1980): p. 167.

Spain. Between May of 1611 and January of 1612, Salazar questioned over 1,800
people -most adolescents- who had come forward to confess as witches. By
October, Salazar had rejected the vast majority of the claims through careful
questioning of the testimony, remarking that "indeed, these claims go beyond all
human reason and may even pass the limits permitted by the Devil."95 While he
found a deeply ingrained belief in magical healers or santiguadores (even among the
priesthood) and "white witches"96, Salazar concluded that the more bizarre
accusations were pure fantasy, fueled by gossip. His conclusion about the best way to
rid villages of their excess witches was simple: "I deduce the importance of silence
[my emphasis] and reserve from the experience that there were neither witches nor
bewitched until they were talked and written about."97 In the end, only six witches
were formally punished.
There are many speculations as to why the Spanish Inquisition acted with
such restraint. Anne Barstow believes that "it was already sated with victims, chiefly
Jews and Muslims,"98 an opinion shared by Hufton.99 Barstow also opines that
"where women were protected by their families, especially by extended kinship
networks, they were less likely to become targets for accusations."100 This would
seem to explain why women such as Cervantes' Canizares, Montiela, and Camacha
all of whom apparently have no close family- were subject to suspicion. There could
95 Ibid., p. 172.
96 Ibid., p. 303.
97 Alonso de Salazar y Frias, quoted in Henningsen, Advocate, p. 340.
98 Barstow, Witchcraze, p. 93.
99 Hufton, The Prospect, p. 344.
100 Barstow, Witchcraze, p. 94.

also be purely theological reasons why orthodox Catholic countries saw few burnings.
"Most inquisitors defused the power of people accused of witchcraft by defining their
transgressions as blasphemy or ignorant heresy,"101 In a similar vein, O'Neil
speculates that
the distinctive moderation of the Catholic approach to the repression
of magical beliefs stems from its de-emphasis of the diabolical source
of magical effects, and its treatment of such beliefs in a quasi-
skeptical way as characteristic of simple, uneducated people, to whom
the church simultaneously offered a wide assortment of orthodox,
ecclesiastically administered remedies for the religious relief of
everyday misfortune.102
How did Cervantes view witches and witchcraft? He literally puts his
opinions into the mouth of his creations, first with Canizares and her speculations
about the reality of aquelarres and then with Cipion, who blatantly rejects the whole
package: "Mira, Berganza, grandisimo disparate seria creer que la Camacha mudase
los hombres en bestias ... Todas estas cosas y las semejantes son embelecos,
mentiras o apariencias del demonio...103 Julio Caro Baroja is adamant in insisting
that "el valor... [de "El coloquio de los perros] esta en... censura.. .de la
credulidad publica... Yo no me puedo convencer de que Cervantes creyera, ni
siquieras a medias, en lo que describe Berganza."104 Most critics agree,105 and what
emerges is a general consensus that Cervantes used the occult and not just in "El
101 Williamsen, Maria, p. 34.
102 ONeil, "Magical," p. 107.
103 Cervantes, Novelas, p. 346.
104 Caro Baroja, Vidas, p. 142.
105 Forcione, Cervantes, p. 71; Finch, "Rojas," p. 56; Garrote, "Universo," p. 74.

coloquio"- as way to underscore his belief in the value of free will106 and the
redemption offered through the Catholic faith. Cervantes, according to Garrote
Perez, "quiere comunicar a sus lectores su misma actitud de desaprobacion y rechazo
y llenarlo de contenido cristiano."107 Through a careful reading of "El coloquio," it
becomes clear that Cervantes approached the subject of the occult, and particularly
witchcraft, with skepticism; his ironic treatment of the topic leaves little doubt as to
his disbelief in the entire phenomenon. I would even suggest that his satiric voice
was an effort to mitigate the hysteria that gripped so much of Europe.
Underlying a belief or disbelief in witchcraft was the deeper question of
right and wrong, good and evil. Golden Age writers were very concerned with these
dichotomies,108 as "El coloquio de los peiros" clearly exhibits. Julio Caro Baroja
includes in his volume on Spanish witchcraft, Las brujasy su mundo, a curious series
of diagrams illustrating the opposites manifested in witchcraft beliefs between earth
and sky, life and death, light and dark, paganism and Christianity;109 Carmelo Lison
Tolosana includes a similar list of contrasting adjectives in his consideration of
Francisco Goya.110 Cervantes puts into the mouth of Canizares a quite complicated
discussion of two opposite types of evil, "males de dano" such as "las muertes
repentinas, los nauffagios, las caidas" that come from God and "males de culpa" "que.
.. vienen y se causan por nosotros mismos."111
106 Finch, "Rojas," p. 56.
107 Garrote Perez, "Universo," p. 73.
108 Williamsen, Maria, p. 30.
109 Caro Baroja, Las brujas, pp. 28-30.
110 Lison Tolosana, Las brujas, pp. 186-187.
111 Cervantes, Novelas, pp. 341-342.

The idea that emerges from Cervantes' Novela is that the world as we know it
is a place of closely allied opposites, twin parts of a whole. A saint could also be a
witch. An animal could acquire the human faculty for speech, and babies could be
turned into puppies. A woman could be alive, yet surrounded by the dead. In the
end, night turns into day in "El coioquio de los perros," and Berganza rejects the evil
he has encountered in Canizares. Perhaps Cipion summarizes this dichotomy best:
"Digo, pues, que el verdadero sentido es un juego de bolos, donde con presta
diligencia derriban los que estan en pie y vuelven a alzaT los caidos y esto por la
mano de quien lo puede hacer."112
As Spain moved from the height of its Golden Age to a social and economic
decline that would herald its end as a world power, the witch surfaced once more in
the imagination of another creative genius, Francisco de Goya. Through his
Caprichos and Pinturas negras, the evil expressed through the language of Rojas'
Celestina and Cervantes' Canizares would find a new, frightening visual
Cervantes, Novelas, p. 347.

Almost two hundred years after the Inquisitional Auto defe in Logrono that
precipitated the investigations of Alonso de Salazar y Frias, Spaniards were still
fascinated by the concept of witchcraft. Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828),
court painter to Carlos IV and native of Aragon, would use the Relacion del Auto de
fe de Logrono, popular works of drama and fiction --including La Celestina and "El
coloquio de los perros"-- and personal childhood memories1 to give the witch a very
real and horrific face. Through his series of etchings entitled Los Caprichos, as well
as paintings such as the Pinturas negras, Goya effectively synthesized thousands of
years of witchcraft beliefs into a powerful visual record. In it, we see a fusion of the
popular and intellectual views of witches that had been evolving for centuries. The
tension that had existed between what people believed and what scholars theorized
found full expression in these images. While some of the plates and paintings defy
easy classification, in many we know the subjects are witches because they utilize an
entire visual vocabulary that had developed around witchcraft: night flight, brooms,
owls, cats, infanticide, aquelarres, the mixing of potions, and Devil worship. Goya, a
1 One biographer, Gaspar Gomez de la Serna, relates that in Goya's childhood
home there are drawings of witches that tradition has the boy drawing, "impresionado
por los cuentos y consejos que escuchaba en las noches de inviemo. . Goyay su
Espaha (Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1969), p. 20.

man of the people who pursued his career in the company of some of the leading
intellectuals of his day, gave the Malleus maleficarum the face of a common villager.
Goya's witches are more than just witches. They are also metaphors for what
the artist and his Enlightenment friends (los ilustrados) saw as superstitious beliefs
that blocked their country's --indeed all of mankind's-- potential. As such, they
operate on several levels of meaning and offer many possibilities for interpretation.
In this final chapter I briefly examine the time period in which Goya painted, paying
special attention to the ways in which the artist both reflected and inverted
Enlightenment ideals. I then look at the late eighteenth-century fascination with
witchcraft, a fascination which became manifest in Goya's Caprichos. After
exploring the various historical, artistic and literary influences that came to bear on
these etchings, I present a brief analysis of the individual Caprichos that deal with
witchcraft and the artistic techniques that make these drawings so powerful. I
conclude with a consideration of Goya's other witchcraft paintings and how his work
influenced future generations of artists and writers.
If ever an artist mirrored the times in which he lived, that artist was Goya.
"No se olvide," warns biographer Gaspar Gomez de la Serna, "que la vida de Goya ha
transcurrido en el nucleo promotor, para bien y para mal, de la historia de la Espana
de su tiempo."2 Eighteenth century Spain no longer enjoyed the economic, political,
or social power it had seen during its Golden Age. At the time Goya produced his
Caprichos (1797) the country was only a decade away from foreign invasion and
economic ruin. While this devastation could not have been evident at the time Goya
Ibid., p. 249.

prepared his Caprichos, Sarah Symmons sees them in hindsight as "a unique visual
chronicle of a great country's slide to disaster."3
That a young man of considerable talent but humble background could rise to
the high position of court painter indicates that Spain had, in the eighteenth-century,
moved somewhat beyond the rigid social structure that characterized its Golden Age.
Yet in the intellectual circles in which Francisco Goya found himself after his
relocation to Madrid in 1775, even greater changes were envisioned. An elite group
of noblemen and churchmen, inspired by the sweeping ideals of the European
Enlightenment, began to believe that "Spain could not go on forever on the dreams of
its past glory."4 They advocated a series of reforms that would loosen Spain from the
grip of the Church, would lessen the crushing tax burden on the peasantry, and would
move the populace beyond the ignorance and superstition that still prevailed in much
of the countryside. The Inquisition, in particular, was viewed as an oppressive and
outdated institution. We have already seen at least in the case of witchcraft
accusations that the Inquisition was in fact a voice of moderation and reason, yet
Symmons notices an interesting historical paradox: "... as Spain declined as a major
European power during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, so the mythology of
Spanish Inquisitional terror acquired even greater credence in popular belief."5 The
ilustrados did enjoy a small measure of success under the benevolent Carlos in,
3 Sarah Symmons, Goya (London: Phaidon Press, 1998), p. 184.
4 Robert Wemick, "Out of Dark Dreams and Bright Hopes, the Blazing Art of
Goya," Smithsonian 19 (January 1989): p. 59.
5 Symmons, Goya, p. 172.

although the Inquisition would not be abolished until 1S20.6 However, with the
accession in 1788 of the incompetent Carlos IV and his consort, Marla Luisa, the
country saw a reversal of many reforms as the monarchy reacted to the threat posed
by the French Revolution.7
Goya came to a royal court dominated by the neo-classical preferences of his
predecessor, the court painter Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779). It was Mengs who
recognized the talent of the young provincial and gave him employment preparing
tapestry cartoons for the Royal Tapestry Factory of Santa Barbara.8 From the
beginning of his career, there is a tension in Goya's work between the neo-classical
norms of his employers and other artistic tendencies surging to the forefront during
the period. Among these was the Enlightenment ideal, as expounded by Scottish
philospher David Hume, that art should be useful or morally instructive.9 Indeed, as
Arthur Danto points out, "the Enlightenment workof art entailed a moral and
pedagogical transaction between it and the viewer, through which the latter was to
emerge changed or strengthened in resolution."10 In a portrait done early in his
career (1782) of the Conde de Floridablanca, Goya deftly manipulates both the neo-
classical and Enlightenment styles, with the minister surrounded by the books, maps
and clocks so indicative of ilustrado values.
6 Henry Arthur Francis Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition (New York: New
American Library, 1968), pp. 278-279.
7 Ibid., p. 339.
8 Ibid., p. 338.
9 Arthur C. Danto, "Goya and the Spirit of the Enlightenment," The Nation 249
(July 1989): n. 66.
10 Ibid., p. 68.

In 1792, Goya became seriously ill, though scholars still debate from what
exactly he suffered. While he eventually recovered his health, he remained
completely deaf for the remainder of his life. The experience seems to have been a
deciding factor in Goya's subsequent art, including the Caprichos. Bihaljii-Merin
suggests that "since [Goya] could no longer hear, he had both to understand and to
explain everything on a purely visual level...1,11 Searching for a way to express
himself beyond the confines of official portraiture, Gqya began his Caprichos. While
one of his contemporaries, Valentin Carderera, insisted that the etchings were begun
immediately after or even during his illness of 1792-1793, most scholars find more
credible the date given by Goya's son, Javier, of 1797.12 The "Album de Sanlucar,"
prepared during Goya's extended stay at the estate of the Duchess of Alba, contains
drawings that would lead to the Caprichos, but the first documented notice of them
appears in 1799, when they are included in a receipt written in the name of the
Condesa-Duquesa de Benavente.13 Reaction to the series was mixed. The Duchess
of Osuna purchased four sets, while one professor of engraving at the Royal Academy
of Madrid, Pedro Gonzalez de Sepulveda, found them "obscene."14 They did not sell
particularly well, and in 1803 Goya donated the remaining sets and the original
copper plates to the Royal Printworks in exchange for a pension for his son.15
Certainly many of the prints were controversial, and years later, in an 1826 letter to a
Bihaljii-Merin, Francisco Goya, p. 10.
Johnson, Francisco Goya, 1992.
Jose Manuel Pita Andrade, Goya (Madrid: Silex, 1979), p. 26.
Symmons, Goya, p. 182.
Ibid., p. 183.

friend, Goya recalled that he withdrew them because .. me acusaron a la Santa."16
There is no concrete evidence to indicate that the Inquisition took any action, and
Symmons suggests that, in fact, "underlying the Caprichos is a moral austerity and a
scale forjudging vice and virtue which derives ultimately from much Catholic
dogma."17 Even after the definitive end of the Inquisition in the 1820s, the Junta de
Fe removed plates that it found offensive from sets of the Caprichos that were for
sale in Valencia.18
By the time Goya prepared and published his Caprichos, he had seen Spain
move into serious political and social turmoil under the inept leadership of Carlos IV
and his secretary (and, some said, the Queen's lover), Manuel Godoy. While his 1798
portrait of the ilustrado intellectual Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos would be a
quintessential Enlightenment composition, his series of etchings would be very
different. The first part of the Caprichos, which concentrates on satirizing
contemporary issues including marriage, politics, and religion, aligns very closely
with the Enlightenment artistic ideal of what Gaspar Gomez de la Serna defines as "la
observation critica de las costumbres con intention moralizante y didascalica."19
Yet the second section,, with its horrific witches and other fantastic creatures,
challenges the viewer to move beyond Hume's simple directive.
Goya and his witches essentially surpassed and inverted the Enlightenment
norm, and Arthur C. Danto points out that "it would be difficult to think of any work
Gomez de la Serna, Goya, p. 267.
Symmons, Goya, p. 184.
Wolf, Goya, p. 10.
Gomez de la Serna, Goya, p. 116.

that more precisely exemplified the negative pole of Hume's formula than the
Caprichos... The spirit of the Caprichos is at the antipodes of Enlightenment art."20
If the defining value of the Enlightenment was a hope in the ability of man to change
for the better, then "to accept the Caprichos... was to abandon Enlightenment hopes
altogether."21 As art critic Kay Larson asks pointedly, "What else could these works
be but the flip side of the Enlightenment?"22 Even in 1797, Goya had probably
begun to realize that many of the ideals to which he and his friends aspired were
unattainable. The etchings in the second half of the Caprichos, then, become more
than just satire. They could be the expression of a frustration with failed reforms.
They could be a biting critique of the uneducated masses, where the very Catholic
Malleus maleficarum became fused with the popular practices of a people led by fear
and superstition. Or they could signal the emergence of Goya's deeper
disillusionment with human nature in general.
Goya drew the inspiration for his witches, both in his Caprichos and in
numerous paintings, from a rich and varied assortment of historical, artistic, and
literary sources. Julio Caro Baroja notes that after 1612, witchcraft in Spain "se
quedo reducido a un delito comun, equiparable a los de fraude y engano y esto por
magistrados que poco o nada tenlan que ver con la ilustracion... 23 Punishments
may have been less severe than in other European countries, but interest (and belief)
20 Danto, "Goya," pp. 67-68.
21 Ibid., p. 68.
22 Kay Larson, "Dark Knight," New York 22 (1989): p. 112.
23 Julio Caro Baroja, Lasbrujasysu mundo (Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1966),
p. 259.

in witchcraft continued unabated. Even after the witchcraze died down in much of
Europe and Enlightenment ideals took hold, the late eighteenth century saw a
resurgence of interest in the subject of witches, if only as something from the past
worthy merely of ridicule.24 Indeed, Jovellanos notes in his Diario of May 13, 1795,
that he had acquired a copy of the Malleus maleficarum,25 which is probably how
Goya became familiar with the work. Gwyn A. Williams explains the fascination in
The interest in the supernatural and the occult which was general in
the late eighteenth century acquired particular intensity in Spain, more
especially among its small but passionate minority of luces: the
tension between an imported Enlightenment and an increasingly
assertive and xenophobic costumbrismo, the failure of hope and loss of
confidence after 1790, the darkening political scene, focused then-
minds sharply on the central problem of what, to them, was the hag-
ridden psychology of Spaniards.26
Some twenty years before Goya published his Caprichos, one Spanish
intellectual in particular sought to explore the issue of witchcraft and put to rest the
superstitious beliefs surrounding the topic. Benito Jeronimo Feijoo y Montenegro
(1676-1764), a Benedictine theologian, attempted in his Cartas eruditasy curiosas to
dispel the whole notion of witchcraft. By undertaking to expose the unscrupulous
24 Jose Lopez-Rey, Goya's Caprichos: Beauty, Reason and Caricature
(Westport: Greenwood Press, 1953), p. 141; Gwyn A. Williams, Goya and the
Impossible Revolution (New York: Random House, 1976), p. 23.
25 Edith Helman, Los "Caprichos"de Goya (Barcelona: Salvat Editores, 1971),
p. 123-124.
26 Williams, Goya, pp. 55-56.

tactics, including torture, used to obtain confessions at witchcraft trials,27 as well as
by attacking a vast spectrum of superstitious beliefs themselves,28 Feijoo, "todo un
Quijote, quiere vengar con su pluma los desafueros contra la razon... "29
Feijoo's work, according to Edith Helman, "sin duda alguna dio impetu a
todas las polemicas sobre tales temas en la segunda mitad del siglo XVUI."30 The
intellectuals may have viewed Feijoo as a sort of champion of rational thought, but in
the countryside old beliefs died hard. Julio Caro Baroja relates the story of how Don
Antonio Ponz, an art historian during the reign of Carlos HI, found himself in a small
town near Cuenca conversing with an old man who attacked quite vehemently the
witchcraft denunciations of Feijoo. "Hay brujas," insisted the stranger, "las ha habido
y las habra: y yo no hablo por cuento de otros, sino por lo que a mi me ha
sucedido."31 Goya must have found himself to at least some extent suspended
between the beliefs he would have been exposed to as a child in Aragon and the
enlightened ideals held by his intellectual friends in Madrid. In fact, much of the
power of the Caprichos, particularly those dealing with witchcraft, comes from the
tension between the traditional and the modem, the old and the new, the believable
and the fantastic. As Williams points out
27 D. B. Wyndham Lewis, The World of Goya (New York: Clarkson N. Potter,
1968), p. 122.
28 Emiliano M. Aguilera, Las brujerias de Goya (Barcelona: Producciones
Editoriales del Nordeste, 1953), p. 14; I. L. McClelland, Benito Jeronimo Feijoo
(New York: Twayne Publishers, 1969), pp. 80-96.
29 Carmelo Lison Tolosana, Las brujas en la historia de Espaha (Madrid:
Ediciones Temas de Hoy, S A., 1992), p. 246.
30 Helman, Los "Caprichos, p. 120.
31 Caro Baroja, Las brujas, p. 273.

In Goya, the only one of... [the ilustrados] who was a man of the
pueblo with an instinctive response to its tastes, the ingrained
ambivalence of the ilustrados' attitude towards that pueblo acquires a
creative intensity. The incipient and what was to prove the endemic
Spanish civil war fought itself out within his own mind.32
Artists were not exempt from the late eighteenth century resurgence of
interest in the theme of witchcraft.33 While certain of Goya's paintings reflected
Enlightenment paradigms, other works, including his Caprichos, mirrored diverse
European artistic trends, including Romanticism34 and the "Sublime." Sarah
Symmons explains the latter concept:
The experience of viewing scenes of unusual horror, vastness or
immeasurable quantity created in the spectator a strange thrill which
could be positively identified as "Sublime." For late eighteenth-
century artists the popularization of "the Sublime" enabled them to
attempt subjects which ran counter to the fashion for calm and
serenely rational classical images.35
While Symmons warns that Goya is not easily classified as a "Sublime" or Romantic
artist simply because some of his works reflect those styles, she does contend that
32 Williams, Goya, p. 59.
33 I should note here that one art historian, D. B. Wyndham Lewis, maintains
that Goya's fascination with witchcraft was "a trifle out of date," given "the amount of
practical witchcraft still existing... even in the Basque country, in Old Castile, or
outlying districts of his native Aragon." Since every other critic I read indicates
exactly the opposite, including Julio Caro Baroja (whose work pre-dates that of
Lewis), I am inclined to disregard his conclusions. I include Lewis's opinions here as
an example of the varied responses Goya's art evokes. See Lewis, The World, pp.
34 Symmons, Goya, p. 223.
35 Ibid., pp. 158-159.

"his penchant for images of violence and fantasy... shares the prevailing taste for
the dark uncertainties of life which attracted so many critics and visitors to art
galleries at the end of the century."36 Witchcraft scenes were particularly popular
forms of Sublime images, and a year before the Caprichos would appear in print, in
1798, Goya sold a series of six small paintings with witch themes to the Duquesa de
Osuna for inclusion in one of the rooms of her country estate (Figure 4.1).37
In his official capacity as court painter, Goya had access to the Royal Library,
where he could have examined the macabre works of artists like Leonardo, Bruegel,
Griinwald, and Bosch 38 Certainly many critics have seen an affinity between the
latter and Goya. Yet the creator of the Caprichos was also drawing on a rich source
of more contemporary inspiration, specifically the caricature prints that were so
popular in England and continental Europe (especially revolutionary France) at the
time. Reva Wolf argues convincingly that Goya would have been exposed to these
types of prints, and particularly those of the Englishman, William Hogarth, through
collections owned by his friends. Luis Paret, Sebastian Martinez, and the playwright
Leandro Fernandez de Moratin all acquired satirical prints produced by Hogarth in
the 1730s, and Goya most certainly would have been attracted to them, at first
perhaps because they were fashionable and then because they would have offered him
36 Ibid., p. 159.
37 Ibid. Illustrations are grouped at the end of this chapter.
38 Lewis, The World, p. 125; Oto Bihaljii-Merin, Francisco Goya: Caprichos -
Their Hidden Truth (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980), p. 27.

a venue for freedom of expression and choice of subject not easily found in his
official, commissioned portrait work.39
Wolf identifies four key ways in which Goya's Caprichos reflect a debt to the
English satirical print, particularly those of Hogarth. She notes that both share a
similarity of settings, characters, poses, exaggerated faces, and brief ironic
captions.40 The satirical prints also fulfilled a social function, with purchasers using
them as "vehicles for conversation,"41 which was probably why the Duchess of Osuna
purchased four sets of the Caprichos in 1799. Written commentaries on the prints
were another English tradition duplicated in Spain, and a common practice was to try
to identify specific famous persons (even though Goya denied the inclusion of
portraits in his etchings)42 Just as English prints found their way to Spain, so the
Caprichos found their way abroad. Foreign customs often needed interpretation,
however. One English commentary explains Goya's witchcraft scene in plate 65 as:
"In Spain the superstitious believe that witches are carr'd by the Devil."43
If the Caprichos reflected the cross-currents of artistic thought in eighteenth-
century Europe, they also drew considerably on literary precedents.44 While many of
39 Reva Wold, Goya and the Satirical Print in England and on the Continent,
1730-1850 (Boston: D.R. Godine, 1991), pp. 9-11.
40 Ibid., p. 2.
41 Ibid., p. 15.
42 Ibid., pp. 15-18.
43 Ibid., p. 16.
44 Lison Tolosana, Las brujas, p. 261; Nigel Glendinning, "El arte satirico de los
Caprichos," Caprichos de Francisco Goya: una aproximaciony tres estudios
(Madrid: Calcografia Nacional. Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando,
1996): p. 22.

his biographers and critics suggest that Goya was not an especially scholarly type,45
they do emphasize that through his friendships with the foremost intellectual figures
of the day, Goya had access to a wide range and depth of written materials and ideas.
The decision to produce a series of satirical prints can be traced directly to Hogarth,
who also associated the visual arts with written satire.46 By including a self-portrait
as the first plate of his Caprichos, Goya further underscored that connection, since "in
literary works, a portrait of the author was of course the image that was most
commonly found on the frontispiece."47 Wolf notes that both Hogarth and Goya
"compared their work to traditions of satire in literature,"48 and an 1811 article
published by scientist Gregorio Gonzalez Azaola about the Caprichos also stressed
the literary relationship.49 Helman suggests that "los escritores del siglo XVIII,
Torres Villarroel, Feijoo y Cadalso, Iriarte y Moratin, incluso Jovellanos, cuentan y
describen terrores magicos y prodigios brujeriles porque les fascinan a ellos y a sus
lectores y proporcionan al mismo tiempo libre vuelo a la fantasia del poeta y a la
critica satirica del moralista.50 Carmelo Lison Tolosana notes that in the Caprichos,
"parece que Goya sigue muy de cerca las publicaciones y traduce al... aguafuerte la
45 Jose Lopez-Rey remarks that "Goya's learned contemporaries regarded him as
an artist of knowledge and judgement which is not to imply that they saw a scholar
in him." Goya's Caprichos, p. 14. Commenting on Goya's interest in witchcraft,
Lewis quips that"... being... no great student, Goya can hardly be visualized in the
act of reading up on the subject from standard medieval tomes, Latin or otherwise."
The World, p. 124.
46 Wolf, Goya, p. 27.
47 Ibid., p. 29.
48 Ibid., p. 2.
49 Ibid., p. 18.
50 Helman, Los "Caprichos," p. 119.

satirizacion de brujas que sus contertulios vierten en libros, almanaques y
On February 6,1799, Goya published the following advertisement for his
Caprichos in the "Diario de Madrid. The artist's own words clearly explain his
Coleccion de estampas de asuntos caprichosos, inventadas y grabadas
al agua fuerte, por Don Francisco Goya. Persuadido el autor de que la
censura de los errores y vicios humanos (aunque parece peculiar de la
eloquencia y la poesia) puede ser tambien objeto de la pintura; ha
escogido como asuntos proporcionados para su obra, entre la multitud
de extravagancias y desaciertos que son comunes en toda una sociedad
civil, y entre las preocupaciones y embustes vulgares, autorizados por
la costumbre, la ignorancia 6 el interes, aquellos que ha creido mas
aptos a suministrar materia para el ridiculo y exercitar al mismo
tiempo la fantasia del artifice. --Como la mayor parte de los objetos
que en esta obra se representan son ideales, no sera temeridad creer
que sus defectos hallaran, tal vez, mucha disculpa entre los
inteligentes: considerando que el autor, ni ha seguido los exemplos de
otro ni ha podido copiar tan poco de la naturaleza. Y si el imitarla es
tan dificil, como admirable quando se logra; no dexara de merecer
alguna estimation el que apartandose enteramente de ella, ha tenido
que exponer a los ojos formas y actitudes que solo han existido hasta
ahora en la mente humana obscurecida y confusa por la falta de
ilustracion 6 avalorada con el desenfreno de las pasiones. Seria
suponer demasiada ignorancia en las bellas artes el advertir al publico
que en ninguna de las composiciones que forman esta coleccion se ha
propuesto el autor, para ridiculizar los defectos particulares, a uno u
otro individuo; que seria en verdad estrechar demasiado los lrmites al
talento y equivocar los medios de que se valen las artes de imitation
para producir obras perfectas. -La pintura (como la poesia) escoge lo
universal, lo que juzga mas a proposito para sus fines; reune en un solo
personage fantastico, circunstancias y caracteres que la naturaleza
Lison Tolosana, Las brujas, p. 253.

presenta repartidos en muchos, y de esta convinacion, ingeniosamente
dispuesta, resulta aquella feliz imitation, por la cual adquiere un buen
artifice el titulo de inventor y no de copiante servil. Se vende en la
calle del Desengano, Numero 1, tienda de perfumes y Licores,
pagando por cada coleccion de a 80 estampas 320 rs. vn..52
The literaiy roots of the Caprichos are clearly evident in this announcement. Three
times Goya refers to himself as "author," a term which "shows how strongly he prized
his originality in choosing the themes and developing the compositions."53 Of the
two references to "poetry," ope is a straightforward comparison with the plastic arts:
"La pintura (como la poesia) escoge lo universal..." In the caption to plate 2 of the
series, the first following his self-portrait, Goya immediately establishes a
literary/poetic connection by quoting two lines from the satirical poem A Arnesto, by
Jovellanos: "El si pronuncian y la mano alargan / A1 primero que llega."54
The captions of the Caprichos are themselves both an innovation of Goyas
and a reflection of their literary associations. "In order to make this imaginary world
recognizable, Goya employed an unusual mode of presentation. Veiling his own
thoughts and the criticism implicit in them, he captioned the etchings with popular
phrases and cliches."55 Edith Helman points out that many of these refranes, with
their double meanings, harken back to the language of the picaresque genre and of
Cervantes,56 and Johnson goes even farther, maintaining that Goya's art can only be
Francisco Goya, Announcement of the Caprichos, Diario de Madrid (6
February, 1799): pp. 78-79; reprinted in Lopez-Rey, Goya's Caprichos, pp. 185-186.
Symmons, Goya, p. 182.
Francisco Goya, Caprichos, Plate 2, as reproduced in R. Stanley Johnson,
Francisco Goya: Los Caprichos {Chicago: R.S. Johnson Fine Art, 1992): pp. 30-31;
Wolf, Goya, p. 29.
Bihaljii-Merin, Francisco Goya, p. 23.
Helman, Los1 "Caprichos," p. 122.

understood "as growing out of the Golden Age of Spain's seventeenth century."57 In
preliminary drawings and sketches, it appears that Goya originally intended plate 43,
"El Sueno de la Razon produce monstruos," to be the frontispiece of the series. John
Ciofalo argues that when he first conceived the Caprichos, Goyas intention may have
been to model them after the ideas of Quevedo, but that they eventually evolved into
a more Cervantine/Quixotic composition.58 As I will show when I examine the
specific witchcraft Caprichos, the influence of Cervantes (and his predecessor,
Fernando de Rojas) is unmistakable.
Probably the single largest source of inspiration for the Caprichos came from
Goya's friend, the playwright Moratin, whose impact "was personal, direct, and
decisive."59 It has been suggested that it was Moratin who, having traveled in
England, exposed Goya to the idea of the "humor, poses, and exaggerated gestures"60
of the English satirical print that so closely emulated those of the theater. Witchcraft
themes were exceedingly popular in contemporary theatrical productions in Spain,
and Lison observes "un vocabulario teatral ya consolidado que presenta a la bruja, a
la heehicera, al mago y al demonio bajo un prisma ridiculizador y esperpentico."61
The theatrical overtones are especially evident in the series of witchcraft paintings
Goya sold to the Duchess of Osuna.62 La lampara del diablo, for example, shows a
57 Johnson, Francisco Goya, p. 7.
58 John J. Ciofalo, "Goya's Enlightenment Protagonist -- a Quixotic Dreamer of
Reason," Eighteenth-Century Studies 30 (1997): pp. 421-437.
59 Williams, Goya, p. 54.
60 Wolf, Goya, p. 27.
65 Lison Tolosana, Las hrujas, p. 244.
62 Symmons, Goya, p. 121.

scene from the play by Antonio de Zamora, El hechizado por fuerza,63 and in Escena
fantastica (Figure 4.2), "the witches are indistinguishable from real people. They
might be a company of actors, except that they are up in the air with no visible
It was also Moratin who introduced Goya to the Relation del Auto da Fe de
Logroho, a work he had re-edited and to which he added his own mocking
commentary.65 The Relation was popular among late eighteenth-century ilustrados,
for whom it "was a veritable tragic force, an appalling documentation of the depths of
unreason and superstition to which people could sink."66 Williams goes so far as to
assert that "the witchcraft theme in the Caprichos, not merely in conception and
scope, but in minute detail of iconography and comment, is drawn from ...
Moratin."67 68 Centered around Moratin was a group of friends calling themselves the
"Sociedad de Acalofilos" -"lovers of ugliness" who met regularly in tertulias68 and
certainly must have contributed to Goya's interest in witchcraft motifs.
As they appeared in 1799, the Caprichos could be divided into two halves,
with plate 43 ("El Sueno de la Razon produce monstruos") marking a transition from
63 Lison Tolosana, Las brujas, pp. 252-252.
64 Wemick, "Out," p. 56. As an aside, Robert Huges offers the following
interpretation of the painting: "Part of the subliminal power of the image for a
Spanish Catholic in the late eighteenth century would have been that it reminds one
of a Christian image, the Resurrection of Christ, which it morally inverts." In "The
Liberal Goya," The New York Review of Books 36 (1989): p. 32.
65 Lison Tolosana, Las brujas, p. 254; Williams, Goya, p. 54; Helman, Los
"Caprichos,"?. 122-123.
66 Williams, Goya, p. 55.
67 Ibid., p. 54.
68 Helman, Los "Caprichos," p. 123.

themes of a primarily political, social, or religious nature to those that deal with the
supernatural world of witches and spirits.69 Sanchez Canton divides the 80 plates
into five categories: "I) Viciosa education; II) Optica del cortejo y de sus frutos;
III) Gentes de pro; IV) Brujeriles; and V) Duendes."70 Of these, he counts seventeen
plates dealing in some way with witchcraft -more than any other theme.71 Lewis
opines that "the witchcraft obsession inspires, imaginatively and artistically speaking,
the cream of the collection."72
In a few of Goya's plates the witchcraft theme can be so veiled as to be
undiscemable.73 In most, however, the witch is clearly identifiable. Bihaljii-Merin
suggests that this was quite deliberate:
Why did Goya retain the traditional, conventional forms derived from
medieval notions of witches and devils and their retinue, the bats,
owls, goats, and cats, or the tools of their trade, the brooms and
spindles? All of them were part of the common alphabet of popular
superstition. And the drawings themselves were intended to be legible
for all.74
As Goya had indicated in his announcement of the Caprichos, his intention was to
satirize the "errores y vicios humanos" that he saw around him. In a letter to his
friend, Zapater, written around the time he was preparing the etchings, Goya
69 Gomez de la Serna, Goya, p. 115.
70 F. J. Sanchez Canton, Los Caprichos de Goya y Sus Dibujos Preparatorios
(Barcelona: Institute Amatller de Arte Hispanico, 1959), p. 21.
71 Ibid., p. 39.
72 Lewis, The World, p. 120.
73 Nigel Glendinning, for example, considers only 15 of the plates to be
specifically associated with witchcraft. See "El arte satirico," p. 29.
74 Bihaljii-Merin, Francisco Goya, p. 22.

commented: .. ya, ya, ya, I'm not afraid of witches, hobgoblins, apparitions,
boastful giants, knaves or varlets, etc., nor indeed of any kind of beings except human
beings...1,75 According to Robert Wemick, Goya's witches are, in fact, "human
beings who have turned themselves into monsters by their irrational behavior, their
contempt for or fear of the divine light of reason."75 76 As such, they have become truly
frightening: "Goya... nos dejo unas imagenes de tal fuerza que en vez de producir
risa nos producen terror, panico. "77
There are a variety of ways in which to approach the Caprichos and uncover
their meanings. The preliminary drawings that Goya prepared for the etchings offer
valuable clues, as do three contemporary commentaries: the Ayala text (prepared
between 1799 and 1803); the Prado text (from the same period); and the Biblioteca
Nacional text. Most scholars believe the Prado text was actually written by Goya
himself, although recent research has questioned that view.78 Given the imprecise
allusions of some of the Caprichos. as well as the many subtle layers of meaning
possible in their interpretation, I have found helpful the following general divisions of
the witchcraft etchings. Gomez de la Sema identifies three main types: those dealing
with "hechicerias infanticidas" (Plates 44,45,47, and 71); those presenting "brujerias
eroticas" (Plates 56,61,62,72,74, and 75); and those that depict "aquelarres de
75 Francisco Goya as quoted in Juliet Wilson-Bareau and Manuela B. Mena
Marques, Goya, Truth and Fantasy (New Haven and London: Yale University Press,
1994), p. 212. I was, unfortunately, unable to find the original Spanish.
76 Wemick, "Out of dark dreams," p. 56.
77 Caro Baroja, Las brujas, p. 274.
78 See Wolf, Goya, p. 16.

brujas voladoras" (Plates 63,64,65,66,68,69, and 70).79 Glendinning sees two
demarcations: "se distinguen la imposibilidad y la posibilidad (ironica) del vuelo:
aquella en los caprichos 60,... y 67,... y quizas tambien el 59,... y esta en los
caprichos 64-66 y 68. "80
I would add my own additional category of those Caprichos that include
Celestina figures (Plates 5,15,17,28, and 31).81 While these compositions may not
specifically allude to witchcraft practices, an eighteenth-century viewer who
recognized the Celestina type certainly would have made at least a mental connection
with her supernatural activities in the 1499 drama. Symmons remarks that the period
saw a renewed interest in Rojas' play, and that Celestina "was to become a particular
symbol in Goya's art."82 Sanchez Canton asserts that"... la descendencia literaria de
La Celestina encuentra en Los Caprichos insuperable expresion plastica,"83 and
Moratin included a reference to La Celestina in his annotated Relacion del Auto de
Logroho 84 As Emiliano Aguilera quips: "... contemplando tanta alcahueta como
/y Gomez de la Serna, Goya, p. 123.
80 Glendinning, "El arte satirico," p. 29.
81 This is my personal assessment of the etchings. Aguilera leaves out Plate 31
in his discussion of "alcahuetas como brujas" (see Aguilera, "Las brajerias," p. 26);
Wolf mentions only the Celestina figure in Plate 31 (see Wolf, Goya, p. 84); and
Johnson remarks on a Celestina in Plates 15 and 28 (see Francisco Goya, p. 56 and p.
Symmons, Goya, p. 162. She even suggests that Goya may have made the
Celestina a self-portrait in his Majay una Celestina of 1824-25! (Ibid., p. 300.)
Sanchez Canton, Los Caprichos, p. 31.
Helman, Los "Caprichos," p. 64.

[Goya] dibujo y grabo, o llevo a lienzo y tablas, hay que pensar que el oficio de
terceria era uno de los mas difundidos en el alegre Madrid de Carlos IV... "85
Three other plates of the Caprichos, again not showing witches expressly, do
establish direct links between Goya, Rojas, and Cervantes. In Plate 12, "A caza de
dientes" (Figure 4.3), a young woman averts her face even as she attempts to extract a
tooth from a corpse. The Prado text notes that "los dientes de ahorcado son
eficacisimos para los echizos," and the Ayala text adds: "De que no es capaz una
mujer enamorada!"86 This oblique reference to the love potions of La Celestina will
be revisited in Plates 23 and 24, "Aquellos polbos" (Figure 4.4) and "No hubo
remedio." In the first, we see an Inquisition scene, where the polbos of Goya's
caption could very well be the love potions and powders prepared by a Celestina or a
Canizares. In the second, a woman found guilty by the Inquisition is being escorted
to her death. Again, the allusions to the deaths suffered by Rojas Claudina and
Cervantes' Montiela are subtle, but evident nonetheless.
Plate 43 (E1 Sueno de la Razon produce monstruos", Figure 4.5) does not
include a witch, but the bats, owls, and cat are clear symbols of the withcraft motif
that will follow in the next plate, "Hilan delgado" (Figure 4.6). Here, three obvious
witches sit spinning yam, while in the background there is a broom and, suspended in
the upper right hand comer, a group of dead babies. The allusion to the common
belief that witches sacrificed babies to the devil is unmistakable. In the next plate,
number 45, "Mucho hay que chupar" (Figure 4.7), the dead babies sit in a basket in
Aguilera, Las brujerias, p. 21.
Johnson, Francisco Goya, pp. 50-51.

the foreground The Prado text notes that "las que llegan a 80 chupan chiquillos: las
que no pasan de 18 chupan a los grandes. Parece que el hombre nace y vive para ser
chupado."87 The infanticide theme will appear again clearly in plate 47, "Obsequio a
el Maestro," with a witch offering a baby to a goat-like figure; and more obliquely in
plate 71, "Si amanece, nos Vamos." The Relation del Auto... de Logrono cites
several cases of alleged witches committing infanticide,88 and on a general level,
Symmons concludes that these plates symbolize "the innocent young murdered or
corrupted by the elderly."89 If one considers the particular details of Goya's life,
these plates take on an added layer of meaning. Goya and his wife had only one child
who lived to adulthood; Aguilera cites evidence for believing that another eighteen to
twenty died as infants.90 A popular saying of the time asserted that children who
died in infancy "estan cogidos por las brujas."91 Throughout his art, Goya
demonstrates a particular sensitivity to the innocence of children and all the myriad
threats to it.92 He probably did not really believe that his children had been "taken"
by witches, but through his use of that imagery he found a way to express the deep
grief that could find no other outlet. Aguilera may be correct in concluding "el
artista se sintio [my emphasis] embrujado, autenticamente tornado por las brujas, de
las peores maneras."93
Ibid.,pp. 116-117.
Helman, Los "Caprichos," p. 125.
Symmons, Goya, p. 179.
Aguilera, Las brujertas, p. 19.
Ibid.,p. 18.
Wilson-Bareau, Goya, p. 214.
Aguilera, Las brujerias, p. 18.

The dead infants of the Caprichos perhaps the victims of abortions? also
evoke memories of the illicit activities of Celestina and Canizares. As I have
demonstrated in previous chapters, both of these literary characters were associated
with midwifery and all the suspicions that accompanied that occupation. The sexual
undertones associated with witchcraft beliefs are evident in many of the Caprichos.
In plate 62, "jQuien lo creyera!" (Figure 4.8), the Ayala text comments that "dos
viejos entregados a la lascivia son devorados por los monstruos,"94 and the lewd
overtones are quite obvious. In others they are more subtle, as for example in plate
72, "No te escaparas," and in number 61, "Volaverunt." Many scholars have noticed
in the latter a decided resemblance between this witch, who is actually quite pretty,
and the Duchess of Alba, with whom Goya is suspected of having had a physical
The aquelarre theme that Canizares discussed with Berganza in "El coloquio
de los perros" finds full expression in the Caprichos. There are at least seven plates
showing witches going to, returning from, or participating in these gatherings. Plate
60, "Ensayos" (Figure 4.9), could be one of these in that it shows a witch practicing
her craft under the watchful eye of a homed, goat figure. More obvious are plates 64
("Buen Viage"), 65 ("^Donde va Mama?"), 66 ("Alla va eso"), 67 ("Aguarda aue te
unten"), 68 ("Linda Maestra" Figure 4.10), 69 ("Sopla"), and 71 ("Si amanece, nos
Vamos"). In all of these plates, the stock language of brooms, cats, owls, goats, and
special unguents appear. There prevails a dream-like quality, remeniscent of
Johnson, Francisco Goya, pp. 150-151.
Ibid., pp. 148-149; Aguilera, Las brujerias, p. 20; Bihaljii-Merin, p. 21.

Canizares' discussion of whether witches attended the aquelarre physically or merely
spiritually. Helman observes that
muchas de las estampas de esta serie ... llevan... en sus dibujos
preparatories la inscription de Sueno, o Sueno de brujas. ^Se trata de
suenos del autor de los Caprichos, que los saca de sus propios suenos
y los realiza sonando ... se trata mas bien de suenos de las
brujas mismas?96
Some of the witchcraft Caprichos have an almost domestic feel, again
evoking the inverted families of Canizares and Celestina. Plate 65, "^Donde va
Mama?," shows us a parody of family concerns, but within the context of "una escena
familiar o domestica mas que el vuelo de unas brujas."97 In plate 66, "Alla va eso,"
Goya explores the idea of how evil is passed on. The Biblioteca Nacional
commentary on this plates explains: "Las viejas astutas son las que pieden a los
jobenes; les exhan a volar; y ensenan a ser sierpes y gardunas de los bolsillos."98
Plate 68, "jLinda Maestra!," returns to the theme, this time with pronounced sexual
connotations, as the Biblioteca Nacional text suggests: "Las viejas... las dan
lecciones de volar por el mundo, metiendolas por primera vez, aunque sea un palo de
escoba entre las piemas."99
Several of the Caprichos move beyond allusion to become blatantly, albeit
purposefully, offensive. In the Prado text explanation of plate 70, "Devota
profesion," Johnson concludes that "every one of these verbs has a double-meaning
95 Helman, Los "Caprichos," p. 126.
97 Glendinning, "El arte satirico," p. 23.
98 Johnson. Francisco Goya, pp. 158-159.
99 Ibid., pp. 162-163.

with the second meaning being one obscenity after another."100 The obscenities
become patently obvious in plate 69, "Sopla" (Figure 4.11). While this disgusting
scene could be interpreted as a condemnation of the mis-directed education of
youth,101 one modem critic believes that in this etching, Goya "goes much deeper
into the fears of the pueblo, down to the crossroads of the demonic and the sexual,
protesting against the sexual abuse of children in an image whose details shock us
even today."102
Goya's Caprichos are disconcerting not only in their subject matter, but in
their artistic techniques as well. Within the very term, "enlightenment," is the word
"light," a word often used by the ilustrados as a symbol for their goals and aspirations
for Spain.103 Yet the entire concept of light is distorted in the Caprichos to such a
degree that traditional beliefs about drawing and perspective are rendered obsolete.
In none of the prints is there a logical, natural source of light, and shadows are also
prone to deviate from the established norms. Johnson explains that "light here
originated in the artist's mind, was 'directionless,' found its only use in clarifying and
distorting an image and essentially followed the artist's whims, desires and
exigencies."104 In this play of light and shadow, Glendinning believes that "la
sombra tiene un sentido metaforico muchas veces y representa una falta de luces en
el sentido 'ilustrado' de la palabra... [en] varias escenas de brujas ... es evidente
100 Ibid., p. 166.
101 Ibid., p. 164.
102 Robert Huges, "The Liberal Goya," The New York Review of Books 36 (1989):
103 Johnson, Francisco Goya, p. 168.
104 Ibid., pp. 23-24.

[que] se desarrollan por la noche, aunque no predominan en ellas lo oscuro."105
Plates 61,63,65,66, and 68 are only a few examples of this.
Perspective is also subject to Goya's caprice. In plate 12, "A caza de dientes,"
for example, the viewer can be certain neither of where he or she is standing nor of
from what, exactly, the hanged man is suspended. "In his Caprichos, Goya often has
taken away from his viewers the normal up-down coordinates as well as the one-point
perspective present in Western art over the preceding centuries," Johnson explains,
leaving us with "no firm footing.... The traditional fixed points of view having been
eliminated, the artist and therefore his viewers are left with only relative 'truths' and
partial 'realities' emanating from the artist's own fragmentary and personal
perceptions."106 Perhaps Licht sums up the effect of Goya's innovation best: "His
true theme... is the inadequacy of man's intelligence and sensory apparatus for
gaining knowledge of himself and of his world."107
The subject of witchcraft was one to which Goya would return throughout his
life. In 1819, he purchased a house outside of Madrid, now known as the Quinta del
Sordo. In an interesting bit of trivia, Aguilera points out that "las proximidades...
tuvieron fama desde antiguo de ser lugar frecuentado por las brujas."108 A year later,
Goya would begin painting his famous Pinturas negras on the walls of the home, five
of which would depict scenes of witches. "Dos brujas volando," "Cuatro brujas por
105 Glendinning, "El arte satlrico," p. 30.
106 Johnson, Francisco Goya, p. 25.
107 Fred Licht, Goya: The Origins of the Modern Temper in Art (New York:
Universe Books, 1979), p. 103.
108 Aguilera, Las brujerlas, p. 25.

los aires," "Conventlculo campestre," "Aquelarre," and "Bruja comiendo con su
familia" (Figure 4.12) are, in the opinion of Julio Caro Baroja, "la mayor muestra de
Pesimismo que puede damos el arte."109 Consumed by his disillusion in the ability
of mankind to overcome irrationality and achieve the Enlightenment ideals he had
embraced, Goya expressed in these paintings all the deepest manifestations of evil he
could imagine. Caro Baroja sees in "El aquelarre," for example, "el simbolo mas
perfecto de una sociedad fea y bestial, dominada por crimenes y violencias de todas
clases."110 In addition to the Pinturas negras, Goya would include witches in his
Disparates etchings, probably begun in 1823111 or 1824112 and published
posthumously. As late as 1828, the year in which he died, Goya painted a "Bruja en
Goya would leave an indelible mark on the art world and on how witches
were imagined. At the end of the Nineteenth century, Charles Baudelaire would say
of him: "Goya is always a great and often a terrifying artist."114 Commenting on
plate 62 of the Caprichos, "jQuien lo creyera!," he observes that "every kind of
hideousness, every vice and moral filthiness that the human mind can conceive, is
written on these two faces."115 Caprichos numbers 44,45, and 47 ("Hilan delgado,"
109 Caro Baroja, Las brujas, p. 275.
110 Ibid.
111 Gomez de la Serna, Goya, p. 242.
112 Symmons, Goya, p. 341.
113 Gomez de la Sema, Goya, p. 270.
114 Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life, and Other Essays, trans.
Jonathan Mayne (London: Phaidon, 1964), p. 191.
115 Ibid.

"Mucho hay que chupar," and "Obsequio a el Maestro") resonate in these lines from
Baudelaire's 1857 poem, Les Fleurs du Mai:
Goya, nightmare world of the unknown,
Foetuses cooking where the witches meet;
Hags at mirrors, children bare; girls shown
For devils stretching stockings on their feet.116
Theophile Gautier believed of Capricho 59, "jY aim no se van!," that "even Dante
himself never achieved such an effect of suffocating terror."117 The Nicaraguan
modemista poet, Ruben Dario, would perhaps best summarize the dream-like quality
of Goya's witches:
En tu claroscuro brilla
la luz muerta y amarilla
de la horrenda pesadilla.118
Why would Goya choose to expend so much artistic energy on clearly horrific
images, and particularly on witches? Some scholars, of course, are attracted to the
psychological dysfunction many of his drawings and paintings would seem to
signal.119 In the final analysis, though, I suggest that Goya was no more nor less
disturbed than any person could be who had witnessed the violence and savagery of
late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Spain. Here was a clearly thoughtful,
sensitive human caught between the idealism of his age and the realities of human
behavior, frustrated by the failure of reason to triumph over irrationality. As Wolf so
116 As quoted and translated in Nigel Glendinning, Goya and His Critics (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1977), p. 55.
117 Theophile Gautier, quoted in Glendinning, Goya, p. 79.
118 Ruben Dario quoted in Aguilera, Las brujerias, p. 29.
119 See Lewis, The World, p. 112; and Muriel Julius, "The Nightmare World of
Francisco Goya," The Contemporary Review 264 (1994): p. 314.

eloquently summarizes the Caprichos: "If Goya had one overiding message to
convey, it was that human nature, at its worst but also at its best, is a common
denominator that unites past and present, nationalities, and classes, and that its power
should never be underestimated."120
Goya's witches essentially preserve for us the distillation of ideas that are as
old as humankind itself. His drawings and paintings draw on thousands of years of
superstition and witchcraft belief in order to give visual testimony to what we suspect
about ourselves, but are afraid to admit. In them the popular and the elite visions of
evil merge; the Malleus maleficarum witch becomes part of the popular imagination.
Carmelo Lison Tolosana best summarizes Goya's art when she writes, "al pintar la
bruja, el aquelarre y al Gran Buco, Goya escorza el mal omnipresente, el mal sin
sentido y gratuito, sin esperanza... En el fondo, nos dice el genio, todos tenemos
algo de brujas."121
120 Wolf, Goya, p. 90.
121 Lison Tolosana, Las brujas, p. 268.