Professor W.R. Summerhill
January 28, 2012
The Devil and the Land of the Holy Cross
Laura de Mello e Souza’s doctoral dissertation began a study on sorcery in colonial Brazil during the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The years prior to the time when she began writing her dissertation many works in historiography had been published. With nothing focusing on Brazil, de Mello e Souza knew there was an abundance of information from the Portuguese Inquisition. Delving deeper into her research contained within the Devassas, a new issue surfaced for de Mello e Souza, the emergence of the colonials living religion. Merging together with folkloric European reminiscence were new contributions from both African and indigenous cultures. The formation of Brazilian culture is directly attributed to the newly formed colonial sorcery and religiosity. The final product of colonial calundu took three hundred years to evolve from the traditional European sabbat. Once she concluded her doctoral dissertation in quickly was published in 1986, and The Devil and the Land of the Holy Cross: Witchcraft, Slavery, and Popular Religion in Colonial Brazil quickly became the basis of any future investigation into Brazilian sorcery and witchcraft.
Being able to only work with the documents from Visitations, ecclesiastical inquiries, and trials of accused Brazilians that de Mello e Souza found in the National Archives at Lisbon’s Torre do Tombo, she was able only to obtain one version of the actual events that occurred. This clearly limits her ability to fully understand the meanings and the cultural significance of the practices of the indigenous population and African slaves that were brought to colonial Brazil. Although she was successful on her path led to the colonial calundu, only being able to obtain records from the Portuguese point of view severely restricts the influence Europeans had on indigenous and African cultures. At first...