Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Witches of Chiloe

This article tells the tale of a secret society of witches and warlocks which apparently operated in the late 19th-century in the island of Chiloe, Chile. Most of the evidence discussed by the article is suspect testimony from a trial in which many of the members of the society were charged with a variety of crimes (including murder).

Author Mike Dash argues that the secret society of witches was quite real (despite the superstitious exaggerations surrounding their activities), and that they appear to have combined the religious and magical practices of the island's indigenous shamans (the Mapuche Machis) with covert political activity aimed at resisting the authority of the central government in Santiago and establishing an alternative local shadow-government in Chiloe. According to the testimony of some of the witnesses in the trial, the secret society appears to have taken a turn to the dark side of shamanism (sorcery or witchcraft) as a result of internal political disputes.

Here are some pictures of the beautiful Isla Grande de Chiloe.

Addendum (3/1/15): And here are some pictures of the "calendar" designs used by Machis (shamans) on their drums.

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