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Despite the popular refrain “haberlas haylas” (it would mean that when talking about something of which proof of existence is not available if that something’ range is incommensurable enough one must assume that the lack of evidence should not necessarily imply that it does not exist or happen; for instance: one might say that, due to the wide variety in chairs, a pineapple-shaped chair could exist even though we have no knowledge of it), it is very hard for me to acknowledge any truth in the fantasies, legends and other stories regarding witchery and sorcery.

Even more so if we contextualize such stories. Before the late XIXth century the broad educational public system we now know in Europe was far from being complete. A majority of the population did not know how to read or write and facts were easily altered by superstition and ignorance.

Well, it looks that mankind has not changed that much since and nowadays misinformation and pseudosciences are frequently taken as truth by many. Knowledge of the world  tends to end up a ground for the battle of ideas and false facts are flexible and easy to accommodate when being sold.

Córdoba was not  especially rich in witches, but there were a few. Oddly enough most of the known cases occurred in the streets of our beloved neighborhood of Santiago. I guess it was, back then, considered the proper place for a witch Sabbath.

But let’s build a proper context first. Fernando III triumphantly entered the city in 1236 and thanked the Templars, who had contributed greatly to the victory. As a token of his gratitude the King granted them the mosque of Amir Hisham in the Axerquia, where they would build their church recycling for the tower bell the Muslim minaret. That church is a now the church of Santiago.

In order ensure their ground –it was common that the Knights Templars were granted land in the frontier to defend and manage it– they were also granted the Cortijo, or villa, located between the convent of Asciclo and Victoria Saint Martyrs and the sanctuary of Our Lady of the Fuensanta. That whole area, where the Hotel Viento10 would be included, was then named Barrio del Temple (the Templars’ Quarter)

Such power did the Knights Templars accumulate throughout Europe that they were eventually banned and then eliminated in 1310. That was only possible when the King of Frankia, overwhelmed by the enormous debt he owed the Templars, convinced the Church to ban them. At the peak of their power the Templars rose to be a sort of Feudal Nobility of the Faith that could easily endanger Kings and regular Knights. 

And it was here, right in the Templars’ Quartier, were the so called Panderete de las Brujas was (the Witches Square), a place that still stands in the Ravé Street. Ramírez de Arellano tells us in his Strolls in Córdoba, published in 1873, that during a gathering with some friends, he visited there a fortune teller (a witch) and that people would wait in line for their turn.

The last proper witch that lived in Córdoba was Catalina Salazar, born in town of Aguilar. She was paraded through the city riding a donkey wearing a rope and a crown and was given one hundred slashes as penitence. She was heard reciting the following verses imploring Satan:

“By black fire and coal I swear to thee,

and by as many devils that are in thee,

and by the cripple devil,

so you bring me swiftly

my Bartholomeo.

Come come

and do not stop

come swirling through the air

let no obstacle keeps you from finding me.”

Córdoba witches were popularized by the universal Writer, I am referring of course to Cervantes who in his “El Coloquio de los perros” mentioned several times the craft of these witches. Although throughout this title he continuously described that most of the witches were not originally from Córdoba itself but instead came from other villages in the countryside, especially Montilla and Aguilar de la Frontera. Thus they exported witches and great wine.

About the famous Camacha (Leonor Rodríguez), a Montilla born witch whose case was reviewed by the Inquisition as common folk denounced her for having powers: darken the sun, transporting men to the farthest corner of the world, ripen wheat in January, turning men into animals and other delirious powers.

The Inquisition, having reviewed the case, sentenced the denounced witch to exile from the village for a period of ten years, she would also be required to work the first two years in a Hospital in Córdoba. Taking into account that the Templars’ Quartier had the biggest concetration of health institutions in the city, it is very likely that a good deal of witches-women ended up living here.

For better or worse Hotel Viento10 is apparently located in the ground zero for witchery. Thank God ignorance and superstition is not as acute as it once was, also thank God the Spanish Inquisition was a rational and bureaucratic institution and managed to avoid stupid bloodsheds like those occurred in Protestant Countries, mainly in the German little states.

Now a map showing the locations cited in the text.


 

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