Cult Med Psychiatry. 1983 Dec; 7(4): 413-27.
The evolution of witchcraft and the meaning of healing in colonial Andean society.
This paper explores the ways in which traditional beliefs of Andean peoples regarding health and sickness were transformed by the process of Spanish colonization. It also examines how the colonial context devolved new meanings and powers on native curers. The analysis of these transformations in Andean systems of meanings and role structures relating to healing depends on an examination of the European witchcraze of the 16th-17th centuries. The Spanish conquest of the Inca empire in the mid-1500's coincided with the European witch hunts; it is argued that the latter formed the cultural lens through which the Spanish evaluated native religion--the matrix through which Andean concepts of disease and health were expressed--as well as native curers. Andean religion was condemned as heresy and curers were condemned as witches. Traditional Andean cosmology was antithetical to 16th century European beliefs in the struggle between god and the devil, between loyal Christians and the Satan's followers. Consequently, European concepts of disease and health based on the power of witches, Satan's adherents, to cause harm and cure were alien to pre-Columbian Andean thought. Ironically European concepts of Satan and the supposed powers of witches began to graft themselves onto the world view of Andean peoples. The ensuing dialectic of ideas as well as the creation of new healers/witches forged during the imposition of colonial rule form the crux of this analysis.