1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Between Magic and Medicine: Colonial Yucatec Healing and the Spanish Atlantic World

  • Reception follows in Brooks Hall Commons 

In 1586, the encomendero Don Juan de Loria stood accused of falling into the “malas costumbres” (evil customs) of the Mayas of the Yucatán. According to the local priest, Fray Martín Ruiz de Arce, Don Juan not only encouraged indigenous idolatry, he actively participated in the most egregious acts of paganism. Side-by-side with Maya priests, Don Juan tattooed his body. He bled his genitals and he offered his blood to Maya deities. Local natives, it seems, even identified the encomendero as powerful priest and a healer. Utilizing a rich trove of records from the Mexican Inquisition, this paper examines the persistence of Maya rituals in sixteenth- and seventeenth- century Yucatán and argues that Spaniards, and Africans, and people of mixed ethnicity actively participated in the unorthodox practices of divination, sacrifice, and healing of the colonial Maya. Furthermore, by the seventeenth century, ancient Maya ritual activities of sacrifice evolved to form a system of healing and remediation built on shared experience and participation.

Event Date: 
Friday, 24 April 2015 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Ryan Kashanipour
Speaker Title: 
Assistant Professor, History, Northern Arizona University NEH Postdoctoral fellow, Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture