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Divins remèdes

 | 
Ines G. Županov
, 
Caterina Guenzi

Stratégies de guérison

Conversion, Illness and Possession. Catholic Missionary Healing In Early Modern South Asia

Conversion, maladie et possession. La guérison missionnaire catholique en Asie du Sud, au début de l'époque moderne

Ines G. Županov

Résumé

Cette étude montre comment les missionnaires catholiques en Asie du Sud, au début de l’époque moderne, ont instrumentalisé les techniques de santé et l’aide médicale dans une optique de conversion. J’examinerai minutieusement les récits missionnaires dans lesquels les événements touchant à la guérison, présentés comme des actes culturels dramatiques ou des rituels, ont ouvert un espace de rencontre entre des technologies chrétiennes et sud-indiennes du corps et de l’âme. Si les intentions des jésuites dans les actes thaumaturges étaient clairement adaptées à construire des liens sociaux et à établir des communautés d’obédience catholique, les « patients » avaient aussi un programme qui leur était propre. En situation de détresse, ils acceptaient la réciprocité et les relations sociales offertes par les missionnaires afin de résoudre leurs préceptes existentiels.
Les miracles de guérison, surtout les cures de « possession démoniaque » et d’autres types de troubles mentaux, ont mis en scène le conflit entre christianisme et paganisme, dans lequel les questions fondamentales sont apparues: la nature de la réciprocité sociale, la construction de l’identité et du genre, les relations de pouvoir et d’autorité. L’intervention rituelle catholique dans le paysage socio-religieux sud-indien était conçue pour refaçonner la vie sociale et remanier les barrières culturelles. Les agents possesseurs, en particulier, conceptualisés comme des démons par les missionnaires catholiques, et ainsi dépouillés de toutes les qualités divines, devaient disparaître avec l’avènement du christianisme et la conversion. Mais la porosité culturelle a travaillé à la fois dans les deux sens et au XVIIIe siècle, des saints chrétiens ont commencé à acquérir certaines qualités des « divinités » païennes. Bien plus tard, les anthropologues ont confirmé le fait que quelques saints chrétiens ont sauté le pas pour devenir eux-mêmes les agents possesseurs, en dépit du dédain catholique officiel.
L’indigénisation de la « guérison spirituelle » chrétienne en Inde était donc un processus complexe d’adaptation mutuelle et d’emprunts. On se concentrera aussi sur l’émergence de la prêtrise « indigène » chrétienne à partir du XVIe siècle et son rôle dans la dissémination et le recadrage de la guérison spirituelle.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Antonio Vico to Alberto Laerzio in 27 May 1611 in Laerzio to Acquaviva, 25 Nov. 1611, ARSI, Goa, 54 (...)

1In 1611, Antonio Vico reported from Madurai that a local physician had converted to Christianity because he was convinced that Christian prayers were more efficient in curing the sick than his habitual “heathen” mantiram (prayers). The young Italian Jesuit missionary corroborated, therefore, the “truth” of the well known Mattean formula that the ministry of a Christian, in imitatio Christi, is to teach, preach and heal.1

  • 2 Some contemporary historians doubt that the rudimentary organization of the Portuguese colonial adm (...)
  • 3 A temporal coadjutor is a lay member of a Jesuit order who does not pronounce solemn vows of religi (...)
  • 4 For Jesuit medical projects in Brazil see Gesteira (2004: 75). See also O’Malley (1993: 171-173).

2The Jesuit missionaries such as Vico posted on the frontiers of the Portuguese Estado da Índia, a colonial formation comprising small territorial settlements along the coasts of India, Africa and South and South-East Asia, were essential cultural and political agents of the expanding early modern Catholic “empire” (Subrahmanyam 1993). As partners of the Portuguese colonial enterprise in India, the Jesuits were skillful fundraisers who succeeded in founding some of the most vital “state” institutions in Portuguese colonial enclaves and in their inland mission territories, such as schools, colleges, dispensaries and hospitals (Souza 2000: 117-132).2 By the end of the 16th century, they were acclaimed as administrators of the Royal Hospital in Goa (Hospital del-Rey) and other smaller regional hospitals while some of their temporal coadjutors were reputed for their professional help as bone-setters, surgeons and apothecaries.3 Jesuit medical assistance was recognized by the authorities as one of the most important services for the social and health maintenance of the Portuguese empire oversees.4

  • 5 On the plague epidemics in the 16th-century Europe and the Jesuit therapeutic program to combat the (...)

3Curing the body and offering medical assistance were intended, however, by the founders of the Society of Jesus merely as an auxiliary step in the process of “curing the soul” and accomplishing the ultimate Jesuit goal: conversion to Christianity.5 Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), significantly, excluded teaching medicine in his otherwise famous educational institutions. Moreover, ordained priests were under the canonical ban from practicing medicine. Only upon Alessandro Valignano’s direct demand in 1576, the pope Gregory XIII bestowed a special dispensation for the Jesuit physicians in Asia (Wicki, DI X: 889). If medical practice was institutionally problematic for the Jesuits, the evidence from their prodigious correspondence attests to the centrality of healing in their missionary procedures. In fact, spiritual healing became their hallmark.

  • 6 Županov (2005: 226); APO (fasc. 4: 176). Tacchi Venturi (1950: part 2, 190-195).

4In that respect, every missionary and even every priest in Portuguese India was also called a “soul doctor” (médico das almas).6 When the future saint and the “Apostle of the Indies”, Francis Xavier, arrived to Goa in 1542, sent by the king João III, his aim was to restore the health of the Portuguese colonial society in which unruly desires for pleasure and riches corrupted expatriate Christian souls and jeopardized their salvation (Schurhammer 1973-1982). As soon as the Jesuits moved to occupy territories outside Goa, along the Malabar and Coromandel Coast and inland to Madurai, Mysore and other continental missions, the major “illness” (or its cause) was identified as paganism and the worship of “false” gods or prophets.

  • 7 Literature on ayurvedic practice is vast. For an excellent scholarly introduction see Wujastyk (199 (...)
  • 8 This was Timothy Walker’s argument in his lecture given in Paris in June 2007, Ehess.

5It is in this context that the Jesuit missionary spiritual healing practices were developed and they were often combined with European medical techniques. In the course of time, they also selectively assimilated Indian traditional, ayurvedic, unani and folk remedies, but only to the extent that their application was considered compatible with Christian therapeutics.7 Far from rejecting “natural” remedies, Catholic religious orders were, as is well known, experienced botanists and pharmacists. In fact, the Jesuits monopolized transcontinental market of drugs and medicines throughout the Portuguese colonial empire.8 In the early modern Christian world, however, both medical and religious specialists were well aware of their limitations compared to the providential powers of the “celestial healer”.

  • 9 The exception was, of course, conversion of important figures in local political and cultural life, (...)
  • 10 For a general introduction to medical encounters between the Portuguese and Indian early modern med (...)
  • 11 In the absence of published studies in medical strategies of the Catholic missionaries in India in (...)

6According to self-congratulatory missionary accounts, their spectacular healing acts were admired and imitated by the neophytes and converts. According to the passage quoted from Antonio Vico’s letter, Jesuit healing powers were appreciated by the local physicians to a point that they were ready to convert. As is usually the case, we have no follow-up on this story—whether or not this converted physician remained “firm in faith”, how he lived his “Christian” life and whether his Christian mantiram continued to be efficient. Typical conversion stories reported by the missionaries belonged to a stereotyped genre structured as a rite of passage event, often relatively poor in biographical details.9 On the other hand, from other “unsuccessful” conversions of local physicians occasionally mentioned in missionary sources, we know that they tend to dissociate healing techniques and remedies used by the missionaries from the complete Christian conversion “package” on offer. Since in India, as in Europe, pre-modern medicine was of little efficacy, it was only rational to seek help from a wide range of medical practitioners, holy men, sorcerers and exorcists included.10 For Jesuit missionaries, medical pluralism was a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it facilitated the entry of the missionaries on the local healing “market”, but on the other hand, it was perceived by them as threatening and they made considerable efforts at “standardizing” and limiting medical treatments.11

7Although missionary accounts provide individual narratives of illness and healing, their thaumaturgic acts were clearly geared at building larger social bonds and establishing disciplined and obedient Catholic communities. Therefore, assisting an individual patient was always invested with hopes that the whole community to which he or she belonged would be converted. In a situation of distress, pain or affliction, the health-seekers accepted reciprocity and social relations offered by the missionaries in order to solve their existential predicaments. The illness and healing episodes are therefore mostly reinterpreted in the light of a “miraculous” or “providential” outcome. Disease, on the one hand, is represented as a forceful agent which penetrates the body and turns it into a battlefield, but also as godsend and an opportunity for the sinner to repent and convert. Likewise, every good Christian was called on to provide charitable acts to all those who suffer infirmity.

8The aim of this essay is to look into missionary narratives in which the healing events, presented as highly dramatic cultural acts or rituals, opened the space of encounter between Christian and South Indian technologies of the body and the self. I will start with a discussion of how the Jesuits organized the first health-care and hospital institutions in India as a showcase of Christian charity, a quality which, they firmly believed, fatally lacked in all other religious formations, especially in “paganism”. In addition, the presence of New Christian physicians in Goa and the advent of the Inquisition in 1560 stimulated anxiety about non-Christian healers and their medical practice. With more experience in their missions and after an unprecedented investment in learning local languages such as Tamil, Malayalam, Konkani, Telugu and Kannada, Jesuit missionaries found what they were, in fact, looking for from the beginning—the hidden, malefic and diabolical causes of spiritual and corporeal suffering inflicted in the overwhelmingly non-Christian social landscape.

9Through miracles of healing, especially those of “demon possession”, the Jesuit missionaries staged the conflict between Christianity and “paganism”. In this battle, the fundamental questions were played out: the nature of social reciprocity, the construction of identity and gender, the relations of power and authority. Catholic ritual intervention into the South Indian social and religious landscape, especially its close relations with the supernatural beings and substances, was geared to reshape social life and reframe cultural barriers. Thus, the possessing agents (Bhadrakālī, Murugaṉ, pēy, yakku, etc.), conceptualized as demons by the Catholic missionaries and thus stripped of any kind of divine (i.e. benevolent) qualities, were to disappear with the advent of Christianity and conversion. The cultural porosity, however, worked both ways and by the 18th century, Christian saints were beginning to acquire certain qualities of the “pagan” deities. It was only in the 20th century that the anthropologists confirmed the fact that some Christian saints crossed over to become the possessing agents themselves, in spite of official Catholic disdain (Dempsey 2001; Ram 1991).

10Another historical strand addressed in the essay is the emergence of the “native” Christian priesthood from the 16th century onwards and its role in the dissemination and reframing of spiritual healing. The essay will therefore start with the European missionaries, the Jesuits, and will end with the establishment of the first “Indian” (Goan-Brahman) religious order the Congregação do Oratório de Santa Cruz dos Milagres and their “medical” ministrations in Sri Lanka in the early 18th century.

“Our Hospital is a Fishery of the Souls”

  • 12 Sá (1997). On printed documents about the Misericórdia in Goa, see Martins (1910-1914); Rocha (1972 (...)
  • 13 Loyola (1970: § 603, 269). On the idea that the whole world was a Jesuit mission, see O’malley (198 (...)

11One of the most important medical innovations inaugurated by the Portuguese in their Asian colonies was the setting up of hospitals and misericórdias. The latter were specifically a Portuguese solution to the early modern welfare problems.12 But it was the Jesuit hospitals that, in such vast overseas non-Christian territories as India, became veritable “missions”, encompassing both Loyola’s initial understanding of this word as an act of sending someone and tasks to be performed, and a later, more generally accepted sense of a geographical or enclosed space marked out for evangelization.13 The Goan Hospital del-Rey—described by travelers both as a marvelous social utopia and the house of the dying from where nobody came out alive—was founded exclusively for Portuguese soldiers and other Catholic men while women, native Christians and gentiles were excluded (Martins 1912, I: 287-295).

  • 14 For the official rules and regulations of the Hospital del Rey (Regimento novo do esprital del Rey)(...)

12This is why the Jesuit Hospital for the poor Natives in Goa and then in numerous other places in Asia became acclaimed in all Portuguese official reports and an object of pride for the missionaries. “Attached” to a chapel or a church, from 1546 onwards, these healing spaces were organized as totalitarian institutions avant la lettre with strictly ordered rules of behavior.14 Jesuit hospitals were both showcases of charitable services provided by the order and privileged places for social action and psychological engineering.

  • 15 Determinação e asempto pera a ordem da casa, written in Goa, June 27, 1546, by Nicolò Lancilotto, A (...)

“To make the conversion of the natives effective, it is very useful that they see us use with them all the works of mercy and obligation so that they cannot say that, after their conversion to our holy faith, we do not take care of them, and when they are sick, we do not cure them, and when they die, we don’t bury them, as they generally say. For this reason, the Hospital was erected for the natives (gente da terra) next to the house in order to be able to cure them.”15

Our Lady of Consolation Church, Goa, 2002. Formerly attached to the Hospital of the poor Natives.

(Photogr. Ines G. Županov)

  • 16 Pedro Afonso to the members in Europe, Goa, 1 Dec., 1560. Wicki (DI IV: 745-751).

13In Goa, the admittance to the hospital was in the beginning reserved for all poor people, Christian and non-Christian, but from 1560 or even earlier, women were sent instead to the hospital of the Misericórdia or to the São Lázaro hospital for contagious diseases on the outskirts of the town.16 There was also a separate casa das catecuminas, for women and children who accompanied their husbands to the hospital, which was administered in the middle of the 16th century by a very honorable (muy honorada) Abyssinian widow, Cateryna de Farão (Wicki, DI IV: 745-751, 654).

  • 17 Wicki (DI VIII: 309-342). He claims that the epidemic was so virulent that in certain neighbourhood (...)

14One of the reasons for confining patients in hospitals, especially in Goa, was a matter of public hygiene given the fact that there were regular outbreaks of contagious diseases. But there was another rational for regrouping the population into separate quarters, the sick in the hospitals, the non-Christians in particular suburbs (bairros), the honorable women indoors. The contagion was not only created by unhealthy air, such as when a dead elephant was left to rot in the street and the pestilence killed one third of the nine hundred who fell sick, but also by the presence of “heathenism”, Islam and crypto-Judaism in the city (Wicki, DI VIII: 309-342).17 The Inquisition was sent to Goa in 1560 in order to protect the Christian population from the forces of corruption, physical and moral equally, coming from everywhere, from the outside and from the inside, in the overwhelmingly tropical ( “the Torrid zone”) and non-Christian world of Portuguese Asia (Županov 2005).

  • 18 Carta do V. Rey Dom Francisco Coutinho, Conde do Redondo, mandano comprir outra da Sua Alteza para (...)
  • 19 O Primeiro Concilio Provincial celebrado em Goa no Anno de 1567, in APO (Fasc.4: 25).

15As soon as it became clear that the native physicians (ffysycos da terra), the gentile vaidyas and Muslim hakims, were relatively more efficient in their cures, a suspicion that they actually practiced sorcery and witchcraft spread among the Christians. What followed was a series of legislations banning the non-Christian physicians from practicing medicine within the territory of the Estado da Índia. In 1563, the viceroy Dom Francisco Coutinho ordered all Brahman and other gentile physicians (médicos gentios), “who were prejudicial to Christianity” to leave Goa within a month.18 The first Church Council of Goa, held in 1567, issued a prohibition against allowing non-Christian physicians and midwives (dais or daya) to cure or help Christian patients or clients.19 How lightly were these prohibitions taken comes out clearly from the subsequent, even stronger, interdictions issued by the Third (1585), Fourth (1592) and Fifth (1606) Goan Church Councils (Archivo portuguez Oriental = APO, 4 : 132, 176, 263-265). Even if these laws “for conversion and in favor of Christianity (sobre a conversão e favor da Christandade)” targeted the gentile and infidel doctors and paramedics, the New Christians were considered to be more pernicious for Christian health (APO, 5/2 : 543-545).

16As the Inquisition started its deadly spiral of denouncement, confessions, judgments and auto-da-fés, fears of the New Christian revenge for the violence wrought on them multiplied accusations and fed into the inquisitorial machine. As a passionate Archbishop, Gaspar de Leão pereira, wrote to the Jews in his Letter of the Archbishop of Goa to the People of Israel who still follow the Law of Moses and the Talmud because of the deception and the maliciousness of their Rabbis,

  • 20 The Archbishop’s letter was printed in Goa in1565, as a preface to the translation of another 15th- (...)

“Is there any other infirmity & greater misadventure than yours? It lasts already two thousand years, & two thousand millions of souls died of this illness. The proper time for remedy has expired, in which a great number of your ancestors cured themselves and profited from the doctor (medico) when he came, & those were the principals (principaes) of the early Church. You remained sick, suspicious of all doctors, the law tells that you will die of this infirmity […]. The prophets think of you as dead, although long ago they prophesized your health”.20

  • 21 Orta (1563, facsimile ed. 1963). I quote from the annotated edition by Conde de Ficalho, published (...)

17Judaism (just like heathenism and Islam) was an illness, which had to be cured was the point Dom Gaspar de Leão pereira relentlessly repeated in his text. The ominous strength of his argument was underlined by the fact that he wrote his Letter as if addressing the Jews and “Judaizers” directly in front of his eyes. The so-called New Christians (cristãos novos) who stemmed from the converted Jewish families certainly got his menacing message right. One of the aims of the Archbishop’s Letter—printed incidentally in the same press two years after the publication of Colóquios dos Simples e Drogas he Cousas Medicinais da India, a compendium of various entirely secular remedies in the tropics written by a famous New Christian author, Garcia da Orta—might have been to dwarf any special claim to medical expertise by the New Christian doctors (Orta 1563, facsimile ed. 1963).21 Christian faith is the only remedy, Christ is the ultimate doctor of souls (médico das almas).

  • 22 Christóvão de Castro to Claudio Acquaviva, Cochin, 5 Jan. 1582. Wicki (di xii: 552). Strictly speak (...)
  • 23 Francesco pasio to Claudio Acquaviva, Goa, 5 Nov. 1581. Wicki (DI XII: 372).

18With a chronic dearth of Christian doctors and with permanent doubts, verging on panic, about all other non-Christian medical specialists, the Jesuits, according to their own words, provided hospital services “on which depends the spiritual and temporal welfare of whole India”.22 In 1581, Francesco Pasio reported to Claudio Acquaviva, the general of the Society of Jesus in Rome, that there were only three doctors in Goa, all of them New Christians and suspected of having killed a viceroy and a few captains out of “hatred for the Christians”.23

19Although there were a number of professional physicians among the Jesuits, there were only two of them in 16th century Goa: Pedro Afonso who worked in the hospital of the poor Natives from 1560 until his death in 1578, and Giovanni Battista de Loffreda who, although respected as a physician, became a major embarrassment to the Society of Jesus. The reason for this was the canon law banning missionaries and priests from practicing medicine. Alessandro Valignano, a famous Jesuit who came to India in 1574, had doubts about allowing Pedro Afonso to continue practicing surgery, although technically Afonso was not a priest, but only a temporal coadjutor.

  • 24 Alessandro Valignano to the general of the Society of Jesus, Goa, Dec. 25, 1574. Wicki (DI IX: 512)

The Brother cures wounds and lets blood, and all in all does all the things done by the surgeons because there are no other surgeons to do them. Although this work is very necessary, I am not sure that it is proper for him to continue to cure with his own hands.24

20In spite of indecision, Valignano did apply for the papal dispensation for de Loffreda and for all future Jesuit doctors and it arrived in 1576—Unigeniti Dei filii—with the stipulation that Jesuit doctors were to be employed in case of a shortage or lack of secular doctors.

  • 25 According to Christóvão de Castro, only a few patients who entered the Royal Hospital in Goa came o (...)
  • 26 Pedro Afonso to the members in Europe, Goa, 1 Dec. 1560, WickI (DI IV: 748).

21However, in the period in which, according to the common adage, one had equal chances of being either cured or killed by a physician, it was not the Jesuits’ special medical skills that bolstered their reputation, but the success of their “spiritual healing”.25 The gentiles were drawn to the hospitals, wrote Pero Afonso, when their own “temples and sorcerers” were unable to cure them of illnesses, most of which were unknown to the “ancient doctors (doutores antigos).” When it is impossible to cure them, “I recommend myself to our Lord and to the saints Cosma [and Damian], who teach me [what is] the best [to do] and who have a remedy”.26 What he is referring to is the application of the Catholic gestures and objects to the body in pain: praying over the body or over the head of the patients; sprinkling it with the holy water; applying the holy relics and other holy objects, etc. One of the most important part of the healing, reserved for all types of Catholics in India—the old (cristãos antigos), new (cristãos novos), and newly converted (cristãos novamente convertidos)—was confession, considered the most efficient remedy for the ailing soul, which in turn purified and, hopefully, healed the body.

22The daily routine in Jesuit hospitals in Goa, but also in Ormuz, Cochin, Punnaikayal and elsewhere, was strictly ordered. Each hour was planned in advance. Temporal help (cleaning, feeding, administering cure) followed regularly with prayers and pious conversation, Mass and confession. Gaspar Barzaeus, a Flemish Jesuit in Ormuz celebrated Mass in the hospital every Wednesday and Saturday, while in the Royal Hospital in Goa the day began at five in the morning with church bells and the first Mass. To be admitted to this hospital one had to first confess on the veranda in front of the entrance door, and a few days later “they [the newly-arrived patients] have to receive the Lord (Communion) so that He helps them in their illness and gives them health” (APO, 5/3: 1008). According to a French traveler Pyrard de Laval, the Jesuits supervised the Royal Hospital as if it were a “big monastery” (Laval 1998, 2: 526).

  • 27 Pedro Afonso to the members in Europe, Goa, 1 Dec. 1560. Wicki (DI Iv: 749).
  • 28 The fishing metaphor was used not only in the Jesuit maritime missions in South India but also in t (...)

23It was in the Hospital for the poor Natives that healing was directly connected with conversion. His hospital was, as Pedro Afonso wrote, a “fishery of the souls”.27 The way the “fishing” was conducted, a metaphor often used by the Jesuits, was described in an exemplary story by Luís Fróis, a talented Jesuit writer who later made a brilliant literary career in Japan.28 A Muslim whose eight-year-old son suddenly fell ill and remained paralyzed was brought to some of his Christian aunts. They in turn took the child to the hospital and asked Pedro Afonso to baptize him before he died. In case he survived they offered him to the college of St. Paul in order to serve there and be educated. Since Pedro Afonso was only a temporal coadjutor, not an ordained priest, he hurried to get somebody qualified to perform baptism.

  • 29 Luís Fróis to the members in Portugal, Goa, Dec. 1, 1561. Wicki (DI V: 257-8).

“As soon as the boy was made Christian, Our Lord allowed that he gets better. The Brother [Afonso] applied his own required remedies and brought him back to these Christian aunts who took care of him. From there, as paralyzed as he was and unable to move any limb, the other day Our Lord allowed that by the virtue of the holy baptism he came on his own feet to see the Brother in the hospital and to ask him to give him more of those remedies that he gave him before to fortify his limbs. He learnt the doctrine and left healthy. His father and mother, confused about what happened, the Brother [Pedro Afonso] told me, were already Christian or are going to be.”29

  • 30 On ambiguity of miraculous healing in the early modern Naples see Gentilcore (1995).

24This story of healing is obviously told by interweaving the narrative of a miraculous heavenly intervention with the one of curing by using common remedies. The scenario of recovery/conversion, which is typically used in this and many other cases reported in Jesuit letters, follows closely a tripartite structure often associated with the theory of ritual developed by Van Gennep ( [1909] 1960) and refined by Victor Turner ( [1966] 1979). There is first the “separation” from the “infidel” family, then the dwelling in the interstitial communitas space which is the hospital, and then the reaggregation into the Christian family. A Christian hospital was, therefore, a space in which religious and medical cure worked together “for the Greater Glory of God”. Luís Fróis who wrote this “propagandist” letter to the members of the Society of Jesus played, of course, on the ambiguities inherent in this miraculous moment of human uncertainty and divine grace.30 He did not mention the word miracle, but he constructed the whole story as if there was one. In this particular story, Fróis also had to underscore the fact that the Jesuit Brother was also a professional physician of good repute in Goa and that he may have given the child the right type of medicine.

  • 31 Taylor (1958 : 131). He is quoting ST. Augustine’s De Trinitate (IX : 13).
  • 32 Henrique Henriques to the members in portugal, Cochin, 12 Jan. 1551. and Henrique Henriques to Port (...)

25The story in question underscores another distinctive and often commented feature of the “heathen” and “infidel” social and psychological make-up. It is the lack of charity and love. These were considered exclusively Christians virtues. “We must love all things with reference to God”, wrote St. Augustine. Hence, the Christian conception of love was considered more complete than any heathen or non-Christian idea of love.31 Gathering all patients in one place and taking care of them until they heal or die was, according to Henrique Henriques, a Jesuit on the Fishery coast, “something that has never been seen before” in those regions and he repeated a year later that the hospital in Punicale [Punnaikayal] was “very edifying for Christians, gentiles and Muslims, because they had no idea about this type and kind of charity and hospital”.32

Smallpox and Heathen “Defective” Sense of Charity

  • 33 Luís de Gouvea to the members in Lisbon, Coulano, 12 Jan. 1564. Wicki (DI VI: 152-3). arsi, Goa 11  (...)

26The Native Uncharitable Behavior During The Contagious Disease epidemics, based on this particular Christian preconception, became a topos in all missionary reports from South Asia. Luís de Gouvea described a sweeping smallpox (bexigas) epidemic in Kollam in 1563 in which a great number of people had died.33 This was an occasion for the Jesuits to edify their local “audience” with their indefatigable service to the sick, many of whom were, according to Gouvea, left on their own. “During this illness, the natives, Christian and gentile, do not respect each other; a father’s, son’s, or a mother’s love is not enough to make them nurse each other.” The Jesuits and their helpers were the only ones to take care of the patients left alone in the houses, in spite of the horrible stench of the bodies “eaten by worms”. A common diagnosis of such visibly “corrupting” ailments was that it was caused by worms (bicho). Besides cleaning the beds and cooking camja, a boiled rice and lentil soup, the Jesuits in fact spent most of their time confessing and baptizing. Many patients before dying “gave their spirit to the Creator”.

27Attributing a lack of ethical tradition to the non-Christians was an old patristic theory revived and applied in particular to the Amerindian societies in the 16th century. Following the same lead, it is clear that Gouvea also implied in his description of the smallpox epidemic that even the “newly converted” Christians were somehow still enslaved by their “pagan” uncharitable customs. Although this line of reasoning would continue to thrive, especially among the official ecclesiastical community in Goa, in the missionary territory, the Jesuits learnt that to rely on such clear-cut distinction was beyond the point and certainly not helpful.

  • 34 Henrique Henriques to members in Portugal, Cochin, 13 Jan. 1575. Wicki (DI IX : 603-4).
  • 35 On the Parava communal conversion see Bayly (1989) and Županov (1994: 35- 56, 2005: 232-258). What (...)

28For example, in the mission among the Catholic Parava fishermen in the Gulf of Mannar, also known as the Fishery Coast, which refers to its well established pearl fishing business, the chronic want of missionaries accelerated the “indigenization” of all Christian services and acts. In 1575, Henrique Henriques reported that the hospitals established in various parts on the coast were given in charge of the “pious” Christians. Each week, two Christians were elected to serve in the hospital and “they do it very well”.34 He also says: “if an infidel comes, asking for baptism or not, we receive him and cure him”. The success of the efficient pastoral surveillance and discipline on the Fishery Coast established by the Jesuits was due to a carefully thought out “legislation” and the fact that their converts were not “caught in the net” as individuals, but as a whole community.35

  • 36 Henrique Henriques to the General, Manakkudi, 13. Jan. 1558. Wicki (DI Iv: 36).

29Illness and healing were events of such importance in individual lives that a simple confinement of patients into Christian hospital was not enough to stop the family looking for alternative kinds of cures, even outside the Catholic network. In 1558, Henriques complained that the local physicians, some of them possibly already Christian, rarely cured only with the remedies “in which God deposited virtues”, but also used words and “what is worse they attributed many times the causes of the illnesses to being seen by a demon, or a soul or something similar and [to be cured] they have to offer money or do some sacrifices”.36

30Manuel de Moraes gave a condensed and caricatured description of a heathen healing practice he witnessed in 1547. This and similar ritual performances were regularly branded as demonolatry. The healing ritual starts with a pledge to reward the supernatural agent with the construction of a memorial or an earthly abode such as a chapel or a temple. After a preparation and cleansing of the body, the celebrants cook a lot of food and bring it to the temple.

  • 37 Manuel de Moraes to the members in Portugal, Cape Comorin, 15 Dec. 147. Wicki (DI I: 244-5). arsi, (...)

“The Brahmans and some gentiles do their ceremonies, and one man disguises himself as a demon, saying that he would cure and facilitate the birth; [there is] loud drumming and feasts, much painted cloth; and the one who made himself into a figure of the devil (diabo) […] appears like a real demon.”37

31This was one of the very early first hand missionary descriptions of the village healing rituals in Tamil Nadu. They will culminate four centuries later in a compendium written by Henry Whitehead steeped in gore, village Hindu mythology and author’s cultural racism (Whitehead [1921] 1988). In 1547 when Moraes related the possession trance-dance of the healer, he interpreted it as an idolatrous practice based, as it was commonly believed, on a cognitive error which took the creation for the creator, and as an act directly inspired by the devil. All around the world in this period European travelers and missionaries described rituals and sacrifices of the non-Christians against the same theological and ethnographic framework (Bernand & Gruzinski 1988; Pagden 1982; MacCormack 1991).

  • 38 For Jacome Fenicio see Charpentier (1933). On Agostinho d’Azevedo see Rego (1960 : I, 197-263). On (...)
  • 39 See dispute between Nobili and Fernandes Trancoso in Županov (1999).

32How exactly were these healing rituals, labeled as diabolical, performed was not elaborated in missionary literature before the early 17th century. It was the missionaries in the Malabar region and in the continental missions away from the Portuguese enclaves on the coast who produced larger treatises, often anonymously, with detailed ethnographic material.38 All of the texts were written by experienced missionaries who knew one or more local vernaculars—Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu—very well. According to one historian, these customs and manners treatises were written at the time of a deep crisis in the missionary method (Rubiés 2000: 318). The notion that behind Indian gentility there was a complex civilization with perfectly rational civil customs continued to gain ground against judgments, such as those by Francis Xavier and Alessandro Valignano, of an inherent racial inferiority of the “black” Indians. What used to be considered with abhorrence as simple idolatry and sorcery was given a second glance.39

  • 40 See Charpentier (1933).
  • 41 The story of Minachiamman of Madura, see Whitehead (1988: 112-3).

33Jacome Fenicio, an Italian missionary, was identified by a Jesuit historian Georg Schurhammer, as the author of the manuscript Livro da Seita dos Indios Orientais, a text pilfered without acknowledgement by Catholic and protestant writers alike, from Faria e Sousa, Idelfonso a S. Presentatione, to Baldaeaus, Paulinus a S. Bartholomaeo, etc.40 In this detailed compendium of Hindu mythology and cosmology from Malayalam and Tamil sources, one of the first ones written in the early modern period by an European, Fenicio is both repulsed and enticed by “the Brahmanical doctrines ‘so much devoid of reason (tão fora de rezão)’.” It is not easy to identify Fenicio’s sources with exactitude. He quotes Malayalam verses by a poet, Pacunar, who is not readily identified while the rest are probably orally transmitted stories of puranic origin. Many of these match with the material collected centuries later by Whitehead.41

34Fenicio was probably the first to document South Indian popular “beliefs” about the etiology and cure of smallpox. It was a familiar and deadly contagious disease in India, mentioned in classical Sanskrit texts as masurika and recorded under a variety of vernacular names in medical treatises and travel reports. The famous 11th century traveller Alberuni wrote that the southern coastal people believe “that the small pox is a wind blowing from the Island of Lanka towards the continent to carry off souls” and that among other things people string cloves and wear them around their necks in order to ward it off (Sachau 1910: 309; see Alam 2001 : 85-93).

  • 42 Bixa or bissa is made of a root called Aconitura ferox. It is a variant of a Sanskrit word visha, w (...)

35By the time Fenicio wrote his text, the smallpox epidemics were clearly associated with the Goddess. The story of patragali [Bhadrakālī] is told with relish and Fenicio’s habitual irony. She was created in an interesting exchange of fluids between Ixora [Iśvara i.e. Śiva] and Vistnu [Viṣṇu], two major gods. From Viṣṇu a certain substance called bixa came out and then entered Śiva’s body and subsequently came out again as fire from his third eye.42 She resembled “more a devil than a woman” with “eight faces and sixteen hands, black as coal, with big eyes and her round teeth like those of a wild boar, and she had two elephants hanging from her ears as jewels, and she was dressed in cobras instead of clothes and her hair was like a peacock’s tail” (Charpentier 1933: 45-47). She was also provided with certain instruments such as a trident, various types of swords, a vessel called capâla, a conch sell, a bow and arrow and so on. The reason why she was created in the first place was to help deliver the cosmos from the menacing Rākṣasa called Darida [Dārika] who threatened to destroy all the gods due to the boon initially granted to him by Brahma, the third major god in the Hindu pantheon. partly by martial valor, partly by ruse, she managed to kill Dārika and cut off his head which she then brought to Śiva. As he was about to take his bath and was improperly dressed to receive her, he hid in the water tank and to appease her gave her some blood and flesh to eat. However, even the blood that he poured into her vessel from his own finger did not calm her down and she took a golden pepper corn from her necklace and threw it in Śiva’s face. Immediately his face was covered with smallpox (bexigas) and he exclaimed in surprise “basuri (which means) you woman full of wrath” (ibid.).

36This is why the Malabars call smallpox “basuri”, wrote Fenicio, a disease which came regularly in spring and killed many people. He also added some interesting details to the usual claim that out of fear of contagion nobody wanted to take care of the sick. According to Fenicio, some actually did. These were comaras, or Bhadrakālī temple priests. They were in charge of cock sacrifices for the Goddess. “The blood [of the cocks] is sprinkled on the ground and they lick it” (ibid.: 49). Moreover, they were also accused of killing their patients in order to appropriate their personal belongings. professional healers and nurses were therefore perceived, according to this Jesuit account, as acting without charity and only in hope of material acquisition.

  • 43 The foundation of their order was not confirmed by the pope until 1707. In 1699, the Overseas Counc (...)
  • 44 José de Meneses, puttalam, 16 July 1698, BA, ms. 51-IX-34, f. 235v.
  • 45 Jose Vaz beatified in 1995 by the Pope John Paul II at a public Mass in Colombo.

37By the end of the 17th century, the Oratorians in Sri Lanka reported a similar phenomenon among the enemies of their Catholic mission. The Oratorians, also known as Milagristas and Padres Bragmanes were members of the first indigenous, Goan missionary order—the Congregação do Oratório de Santa Cruz dos Milagres.43 During the smallpox epidemic of 1697 that spread from the kingdom of Kandy towards the lowlands, they selflessly cared for the sick and dying. They reported on several occasions the cases in which the local families, in order to escape the contagion, abandoned their houses and the sick. Sometimes they would leave the sick in the “woods” on the outskirts of towns or villages. Thus, a wife abandoned her husband and children, and children abandoned their parents.44 For the Oratorians, this “scourge” (peste), as it was often called, was an occasion to show both their social altruism and their superior powers of healing. Instead of fleeing the area like everybody else, the two missionaries, José Vaz, a future Sri Lankan saint, and José de Carvalho, stayed on in Kandy.45

  • 46 The Buddhist priests from Siam managed to ordain 120 Sri Lankan Buddhist monks and 33 obtained the (...)
  • 47 We know that six of them died, but it is not clear if their deaths were due to smallpox.
  • 48 José de Carvalho, 22 May 1698, BA, ms. 51-IX-34, ff. 237r-238r.
  • 49 The role of the Oratorians during the smallpox epidemic was confirmed by the local manuscript sourc (...)

38Among those who quickly packed and left the island was an embassy of the Buddhist priests from Siam who were invited by the king to ordain and consecrate gânes, the Buddhist monks residing in the kingdom of Kandy.46 According to José Vaz, there were “thirty three bishops” and “two principal heads” and they cut their visit to only two months in order to escape the smallpox epidemic.47 José Vaz, on the contrary, remained and took care of the abandoned patients. He brought them a mildly spiced lentil broth (canja), two times a day, according to José Carvalho’s report in 1698, and he even built some huts near the church for their protection.48 Those who were left unattended died of hunger and were at times devoured by wild animals. In the center of town, the dogs were seen feeding on the corpses scattered along the streets.49

  • 50 Misericórdia was an institution that accompanied, as a kind of social security or welfare, the earl (...)
  • 51 José de Carvalho, 22 May, 1698, BA, ms. 51-IX-34, f. 137v.

39Faced with a situation of complete social collapse, and with no community left (even the king moved to another town), Vaz and Carvalho behaved as perfect members of a misericórdia, a confraternity with an excellent reputation in Portuguese Asia.50 Besides feeding, consoling, curing and burying the victims of the epidemic, they also profited by converting and baptizing as many souls as possible. Although missionary aid and selfless service during the illness was appreciated by everybody and brought admiration from the king of Kandy, as normalcy returned, this success quickly soured. The enemies of the missionaries tried to persuade the king that the Christians had a higher mortality rate and based their observation on the number of funerals conducted by the Fathers. Another malicious complaint was that all that care given to the dying was for the purpose of acquiring the belongings of the deceased.51

40Although the missionaries exaggerated and perhaps misinterpreted on purpose the “native” indifference for the sick, they were quite accurate in recognizing the immensity of the problem that appeared with each new outbreak of the smallpox epidemic. It is clear that epidemics were then, as they are now, a social and political issue with the society, rather than an individual, at its center. Humoral medical theories (Galenic, ayurvedic, unani), espoused both by the Europeans and Indians in the early modern period, all attributed the outbreaks of morbidity to a certain disturbance in the atmosphere which stimulated putrefaction and corruption of air. However, Portuguese colonial enterprise developed early on a “proto-sanitary” concept of public order, at least in its major urban centers such as Goa. The Estado da India incessantly tried to enforce through royal and especially through ecclesiastical legislation various measures imposing a tighter relationship between the individual and the state.

  • 52 Missionaries who were under Goan ecclesiastical jurisdiction and the Portuguese royal Padroado were (...)

41The state could obviously do little to improve the climatic conditions, although fumigation of streets was used as palliative in Goa as early as mid 16th century, but it did encourage the establishment of confraternities and charitable institutions responsible for managing public and private calamities.52 Even without fully espousing the Portuguese “state” ideology, missionaries were part of the larger Catholic imperial project of “spiritual conquest” of the world. When assisting the dying and the sick, the missionaries were building social bonds and linking individuals to a larger Christian society which also presupposed a presence of a benevolent ruler at its head. It was precisely the lack of such political body and of a responsive and caring ruler among the “heathens” that prompted the missionary complaints about the “lack” of ethical and charitable acts. Bonds of charity were therefore directly related to and constitutive of the power vested in a legitimate government. This is also the reason why “medical practices” of the missionaries were always politicized.

42In the late 17th and 18th century, the native Catholic communities in Goa and elsewhere organized themselves into confraternities and endowed charitable institutions, because it was a way of proving their own ethical and political maturity. One of the hidden tasks of the Oratorian mission in Sri Lanka was precisely to prove that the former natives, in this case the Christian Goan Brahmans, were perfectly capable of “ruling” over other heathen mission territories and thus also in the home territory in Goa (Županov 2007). Native Christian elites in 18th-century Goa, according to Angela Barreto Xavier, forged their political identity within the Portuguese “empire” by using and manipulating “religious” institutions and Christian symbolism, and by creating a native Christian historiography (Xavier 2005).

From Demon Possession to Catholic Confession

43What was ultimately at stake in all medical measures employed by the missionaries in Asia was the conversion of the souls. However, it was also inevitable, due to the nature of healing practices in general, to target first of all the body in pain. Considered in Christianity a mere external envelop of the soul, which was an instrument of damnation or salvation, the body was, especially in the missionary situation, the first tangible proof of the failure or success of conversion. In the Jesuit letters there is an obsession with an exact number of converted “souls”, but as soon as the narrative telescopes closer to the ground we encounter bodies. Many of them were counted at the moment just before they expired, when the extreme unction or a baptismal formula was given as a last “remedy”.

44A special sub-genre in missionary accounts belongs to the narratives of miraculous healing and edifying suffering wrought by the demonic powers. Whether the patient ultimately lived or died was not as important as how his or her body witnessed the calamity and won the battle against the malefic spirits that attacked it. In the early modern period, the disease was usually represented as an active force entering the body and making it into a battle ground. The struggle can be provoked by both divine and diabolical intervention as well as by natural causes. In medically pluralistic societies of both early modern Europe and Asia there was a plethora of healers and healing techniques competing among themselves. For the Catholic missionaries in India, before they could employ their own medical expertise, it was imperative that they learn and understand how health and illness were culturally constructed (etiology, diagnosis, prophylactic) and who were their principal rivals in the medical field.

45Already in 1547, Manuel de Moraes identified one particular local method of healing that attracted his attention because it was inextricably linked, in his view, with idolatry. The same type of heathen healer who “made himself into a figure of a devil” reappeared in another Moraes’s letter two years later with more ethnographic details.

  • 53 Manoel de Moraes to the members in Coimbra, Goa, 3 Jan. 1549. Wicki (DI I: 465).

A gentile came in through the door dressed in certain clothes that made him look like a devil, with many rattle bells (cascaveis) around his legs and he went jumping through the house performing a thousand diableries and saying in his language: “If you want to be healthy, give me a fanão”, which is a coin worth 30 reis, or: “Give me quacha”, which is a thin cotton cloth. After having demanded this, he screamed in the house and everyone lay on the ground as if dead and they adored him like god.53

46In South India, the missionaries found themselves in a specific religious terrain in which the characteristic experience of the divine is connected to possession. It has already been noted by the students of the Tamil religious tradition recorded in the Cankam literature that the divine force is immanent and that it invests actual objects and human beings (Hart 1975; Hardy 1983; Zvelebil 1973). The divine can therefore transit in and out of a person and in the process it becomes temporarily visible. According to Friedhelm Hardy, the divine is “available within the confines of empirical reality” (Hardy 1983: 135). From an ancient Dravidian religious substratum focused on ecstatic agricultural cults comes also the idea that this divine energy, śakti, is in fact female. It has been argued that in bhakti, devotional worship of a later period, the psychology of religious awareness was specifically female (Ram 1991: 69). On the other hand, śakti continues to be ambiguously coded as both creative/divine and destructive/malefic force.

  • 54 On the nature of a person in South India and possession rites see Freeman (1999: 149-182).

47For example, Bhadrakālī, the goddess of smallpox is seen as both causing the illness and curing it. Jacome Fenicio was well aware of it when he wrote, “these gentiles believe very firmly that Patragali [Bhadrakālī] is the cause of this illness… and because of that, when they see someone with the smallpox disease they worship him with the same veneration with which they worship gods (pagodas)” (Charpentier 1933: 47). Divinity and humanity intersected in ways that was not easily translated into Christian cultural framework, especially because the missionaries operated with a different concept of personhood.54 The enhanced permeability of the body to this ambiguous power charge that was śakti was identified by the missionaries as a direct result of idolatry which was the realm of the demonic.

48Professional healers who acted as oracles in a ritual of trance-possession, such as the one described by Moraes, were the first target of the missionary wrath. They were often perceived as charlatans and tricksters profiting from the credulity of the distressed and ignorant people. A much bigger problem continuously referred to in the missionary letters from the 16th to the 18th century were cases of spontaneous possession states that occurred among the heathens and Christians alike. If in the beginning the demonic agency was taken for an explanation, by the end of the 18th century the “Brahmanical deceit” was evoked more frequently.

49The “demonic” landscape of south Indian cultural practices was treated by the missionaries as if it were itself a body afflicted by a contagious disease. The missionaries applied, therefore, two healing strategies. One was a long-term measure geared at eradication of the demonic agents through fortification of the bodies and souls prone to the “attacks”. It was based on a series of Christian rituals—sacraments—and on a few important prescriptive, catechetical texts. The other was a whole range of techniques for ad hoc exorcism of both Christian and heathen patients and they were more performative, according to Marshall Sahlins’s distinction, and allowing for improvisation (Sahlins 1985: xi).

  • 55 For the Jesuit method of accommodation in Tamil Nadu see Županov (1999).
  • 56 From Africa to Vietnam, Jesuit missionaries such as, for example, Gonçalo de Silveira and Alexander (...)
  • 57 Luís Frois to members in Europe, Goa, 15 Dec., 1561, Wicki (DI V: 344-20). When Silveira’s luggage (...)

50The meanings attributed by the missionaries to the events described in their letters show the ambiguities and cultural risks involved in their “accommodationist” enterprise. The famous method of accommodation applied in certain mission territories in India and China was premised on cultural porosity and translation. The missionaries were not aware immediately of the fact that cultural osmosis affects all sides in the process.55 Hence, often the missionaries themselves were taken for sorcerers and wizards, experts in miraculous cures, and they always kept their identity fluid and unclear on purpose.56 In 1561, Luís Fróis wrote that Gonçalo de Silveira, a Jesuit killed in Monomotapa, was considered by the natives as a “sorcerer (feiticeiro)” who brought famine and came to kill the king with his various medicines (muitas meizinhas).57 He was probably murdered precisely for that reason.

  • 58 McBrien (1995: 1148). Sacramentality means that all reality is potentially the bearer of God’s pres (...)
  • 59 P. Hieronymus (Vaz) de Cuenca to the members in Lisbon, St. Roque, Mannar 16 Dec. 1573, Wicki (DI I (...)

51Fear of demons and sorcery was a common and widespread phenomenon in the early modern world. Based on the principle of sacramentality, Catholic pastoral acts were intended to alleviate that fear and offer protection.58 All sacraments were considered as remedies bringing a “spiritual regeneration” to the soul. In South India, the sacrament of penance became very popular among the newly converted Christians so that even the priests themselves expressed their astonishment, as well as delight, at this unexpected success. Jerome Vaz de Cuenca, a missionary among the Parava pearl-fishing community in the Gulf of Mannar, wrote in 1573 that the Christians have “a great devotion to the holy sacraments (grande devotione ai santi sacramenti)”, in particular confession.59 This devotion grew to an extreme, according to the Jesuits who endlessly complained in their letters that they lacked priests who were capable of hearing confessions in Tamil. Moreover, some Christians, especially women, followed the priests on their pastoral rounds through the area and desired to confess every day. A note of panic can be discerned in some of the letters at the enormity of the task.

52From a confession manual in Tamil published in Kollam in 1580, we can glimpse at this world of missionaries and their converts as they negotiated the framework for articulating a new Tamil Christian subjectivity (Henriques 1580). Confessionairo addresses directly male and female “sinners”, then those belonging to different layers of the society and different professionals, and in the end the priest in charge of the sacrament. It is an invitation for the “sinner” to remember (niṉaikku veṇṭum) every single sin committed by desire, acts, word and thought (iccai, naṭapaṭi, vacanam, niṉaivu). After memorization, each and every sin, from the “ordinary (piḻai)” to the mortal ones (cāvāna toṣam), had to be expiated through confession, deep interior discipline and exterior works. The process of acquiring interior predisposition by way of “attrition” and “contrition”, for which the author Henrique Henriques found no Tamil equivalents and therefore simply transcribed them in Tamil from Portuguese, was expatiated in a minute detail.

53The interior preparation is followed by a long list of all possible sins against the Ten Commandments, by a warning not to commit them, and by a counsel how to avoid them. Only then could one receive the sacrament of penitence which served as a protection against demons.

If so, the one who confesses often will remain without being caught by the trick (iṇappukku) of the demon and having confessed he will let out all the bad thoughts that occurred due to the demon. Therefore, more goodness will come to his soul. Besides, the trickery (tiriyāpurankaḷ) and the bad deeds of the devil will be revealed. Without those things occurring, the demon will not come that close to those people who accept the sacrament. Besides what is said, great purity and form (vaṭivu) will occur to the soul of those who accept the sacraments many times. Why is it so, as said by the prophets your soul will remain darkened like [black] charcoal, due to de-coloring because of the great mortal sins. [Henriques 1580: 95b]

54In a word, after confession and after receiving the sacrament, a Christian was fortified against the demons perceived as to always be lurking in the trees, crossroads, water streams, cremation grounds and nearby heathen temples.

55However, from the list of sins to be confessed to the priest we can discern a vertiginous demonic world that surrounded the newly converted Christians, as well as various other, alternative instruments and agencies that offered non-Christian cures and precautionary advices. Thus it was forbidden to the Christians to participate in the religious rituals (muṟaimai) of their gentile cousins in which they worshipped demons (pēy) and goddesses (pakavatikaḷ), the sun, the planets and other “creatures of God”. It was also forbidden to consult magicians (vittaikkarar) and astrologers (kaṇiyaṉ), the use of medicine or charms “to make someone fall in love”, wearing magical plates (yantiram), iron bracelets to ward off demons, and so on. The list is long. For example, there were some specific heathen rituals performed by the pearl divers in order to protect them from sharks. They were also strictly banned.

If so, that many times one will wash and sanctify his soul due to the sacrament called “confession”, the soul gets whiteness [or purity], beauty and strength to do service to our Lord (tampiraṉ). When we receive the Sacrament (Cakkiramentu) which is [or gives] a special life full of taste and all the happiness for the soul, we obtain suitable strength in order to do service to our Lord. Besides this, those people who have accepted these two sacraments have a good mind to know well that a great loss will happen if they do sin, and also to know themselves well and to know the Lord (ibid.: 96a).

56The ultimate reward for the “sinner (toḻcavāḷi)” promised by Confessionairo was self-knowledge, which is defined as identical to knowing God. The sense of self was, in Jesuit spiritual and pedagogical literature, attached to the sense of the divine which functioned primarily as an ultimate legislating agency responsible for the creation of the Christian cosmos. The selfhood proposed to the new converts was based on the principle of subjective autonomy constituted by contracting the kinship ties (played out in rituals, magic and sorcery) and by expanding a sense of transnational and transcendental bonds.

57The structuring medium for the formation of the post-Tridentine Catholic self was emotionality. Throughout Confessionairo—as, indeed, throughout most Jesuit literature, in particular Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises—the language of emotion is sequenced, inventoried and analyzed for quick and efficient use. In particular, the response to suffering, defined as the most important cognitive event, is codified under a whole range of spiritual dispositions. These dispositions of the soul such as sorrow, anxiety and fear are then dramatized both in the text of Confessionairo and in theatrical performances of which the Jesuit missionaries often reported in their letters.

  • 60 Henriques (1580: 68b). “He created love (aṉpu) that was fit to be placed upon Him, and instead of d (...)

58In the theater of the soul choreographed by the missionaries there were two types of villains or causes of illness that had to be continuously confronted and expurgated. They were bad desires and demons.60 These are standard, millenarian enemies in Christian imagination conceived as agents of misrule and spiritual disempowerment that Confessionairo taught how to discipline and expel by words in confession and then by acts in exorcism. In the context of the South Indian religious habitus in which spirit possession was an integral element in the cultural construction of personhood—characterized by an anthropologist as “motile and transposable, partible and fusible”—confession and exorcism became immensely popular practice among the newly converted Christians (Freeman 1999: 154). What appealed to the Christians was the agonistic verbal and ritual drama that brought out and resolved the problems that were embedded in the traditional spirit possession in the first place: the experience, even if fleeting and culturally bounded, of autonomous identity (Nabokov 2000: 15).

St. Thomas Christians and Management of Ambivalent Demonic Forces

  • 61 Pedro Martins, annual letter, Goa, Nov. 30, 1591, Wicki (DI XV: 666-7). Besides studying major litu (...)

59In 1578 when the Jesuits were entrusted with the mission among the St. Thomas Christians, they discovered that spirit possession was also an integral part of the cultural values and psychological makeup of these “ancient” Christians on the Malabar Coast. The key institution from which a handful of Jesuits (never more than six at a time) launched their campaign of purifying the St. Thomas Christians’s liturgy, customs and their “heretical”, Nestorian beliefs was the Vaipikotta College. It became a nursery of the “reformed” Catholic Christians and, more importantly, of future Catholic priests and kattanars. By 1585, the first generation of well-educated Jesuit disciples graduated and was sent into their own communities as missionaries/catechists.61 The residence and the college of Vera Cruz de Vaipikotta was also a think-tank and intelligence center from which the Jesuits and their students were sent on particular missions in the neighboring states or to other St. Thomas Christian settlements. What can be sensed in the interstices of the Jesuit self-congratulatory narrative, like a ghost within a sheet, is the existence of a local world of supernatural beings that continued to have a grip over Christian, Hindu and Jesuit minds. While reforming and suppressing certain facets of the St. Thomas Christians’s popular religious sociability, the missionaries gave a fillip to some other modes of devotional and existential expression such as Christian demonology. It became an important field of action for the Jesuit missionaries and their disciples in Vaipikotta. From the late 1580s onwards, spectacular exorcisms, if one is to believe Jesuit annual reports and individual letters, became highly visible and much appreciated events by the St. Thomas Christian community and their non-Christian neighbors.

  • 62 Bartolomeu dos Santos to the Jesuits in Portugal, Cochin, end 1588, Wicki (DI XV: 164-6).
  • 63 Possession in India has been amply studied. For the most recent research see, Nabokov (2000) and ar (...)

60Consequently, seminarians from Vaipikotta were sent regularly to various places in order to heal and help tormented souls. In 1588, Fr. Bartolomeu dos Santos reported a few of these miraculous cases successfully accomplished by one particularly talented seminarian whose name was never given in the text.62 He seemed to have had a special touch for exorcising women. Female “demonic” possession—both spontaneous and willingly induced for the sake of communicating with the dead or solving some psychological or communal problem—is one of the distinctive features of South Indian emotional devotionalism.63 There is a wide variety of possessing agents such as pēy (malevolent spirit), āvi (ghosts of the persons who died a violent death), nāga (snakes), yakṣi (tree and water spirits). Likewise, the goddess Kāli and god Murugaṉ and their various local substitutes are all potentially powerful and dangerous divinities that mediate between supernatural, natural and social spheres. These ubiquitous spirits easily crossed religious boundaries and attacked Muslims and Christians. A frenzied dance or violent shaking and hollering were the hallmark of the event. Early on, the Jesuits identified the phenomena as demonic effects and introduced a plethora of instruments to “cure” it.

  • 64 Bartolomeu dos Santos to the Jesuits in Portugal, Cochin, end 1588, Wicki (DI XV: 165).
  • 65 For the 16th century, some of the letters are worth looking at, such as: Francisco Cabral, Annual l (...)

61The seminarian from Vaipikotta recited seven psalms before the daughter of a local Christian big man. When he arrived to Miserere, Bartolomeu dos Santos noted, the girl started thrashing her head and screaming. He then put the Breviary in her hands and she shouted that it was burning her fingers until she relaxed and stopped. It was the sign that the demon left her body. He cured another woman by reading St. John’s Gospel over her head.64 The narratives of exorcism among the St. Thomas Christians and other newly converted communities in India, and particularly among women, dominate annual letters all through the 17th century and belong to a Jesuit literary sub-genre that still needs to be properly studied.65 In comparison with growing contemporary anthropological literature on female possession, Jesuit accounts appear flat and missing the point. However, if the ritual of possession is healing or venting hidden, unconscious pent-up emotions, the Jesuits were also successful, for better or for worse, in resolving some of the social or psychological conflicts involved.

62What the Jesuits did not care to discover was who those spirits really were, their names and their life stories—the information anthropologists would have died to know—which would have revealed to them the neuralgic points built into the edifice of traumatized and troubled identities. By refusing to accord independent personhood to possessing spirits and to local deities, the Jesuits in fact slowly threw them out of the game. They became simple heathen demons, pure evil, which is not exactly how they were conceptualized in South India where they inflicted pain but also solved problems for all communities regardless of religious affiliation. But the story does not end here. Certain powers associated with these supernatural agents reappeared elsewhere, surreptitiously but permanently. And where was a better place to reappear than in the newly reconstituted cult of saints and models of Christian holiness.

  • 66 A doctoral thesis focusing on possession and healing in a Catholic thaumaturgic sanctuary of Puliya (...)
  • 67 The Goddess has various names: Kali, Durga, etc. In Europe, St. Sebastian was associated with plagu (...)

63It was in the miraculous and devotional revival that the reformed (henceforth Catholic) St. Thomas Christians recovered their own religious nerve. Newly empowered hybrid saints, such as St. George [Verghese]—who made his debut at this point but became a major saint during the British colonial era and is, incidentally, considered a brother of the goddess Kāli -St. Sebastian, St. Gregorius, St. Thomas, the Virgin Mary and other lesser saints turned into powerful holy persons associated with excess of sacred power.66 Thus St. George is a protector against snakebites, but in his rage might also send snakes to his offenders. St. Gregorius protects against yakṣi—a female vampire dwelling in sweet-smelling pālā trees. St. Sebastian is considered efficient against smallpox and chickenpox, the domain usually associated with the Goddess (Māriamma).67 In a word, with the suppression of “animistic” or “Hindu” spirits, as one may call them today with a touch of anachronism, the St. Thomas Christians’ saints were infused with some of the sacred ambivalence characteristic of the non-Christian religious environment. Thus, they became excellent “managers of calamity” whose primary function was to solve human earthly problems (see Dempsey 2001).

64It would be farfetched to claim that the Jesuits stimulated unwittingly or “by mistake” the re-invention of Christian saints as Hindu gods and spirits. St. Thomas Christians were already a hybrid minority community in the region, tuned to the supernatural beings and events of their neighbors. What the Jesuits did was a simple redirection of the sacred energy into some new and some old channels. For example, to the crosses and the tombs of their holy men (bishops and monks from Syria) that used to be the most venerated sacred places scattered through the St. Thomas Christian religious landscape, the missionaries added sacred statues, icons, Latin books and Catholic relics. Before the arrival of the Portuguese, without entering into a controversy as to whether or not, before the arrival of the Portuguese, the replication of holy figures was considered idolatrous and completely omitted from St. Thomas Christian churches, with the arrival of Catholic missionaries, the statues and portraits of saints became conspicuous.

65In a way, with the missionary help, the St. Thomas Christian community became aware of its particular position within the old regime of the Malabar (Kerala) system of kingship and kinship. Some historians defined this process that came to its apogee two centuries later under the onslaught of the protestant missionary groups as “the collapse of Syrian Christian ‘integration’” (Bayly 1989). Jesuit and other missionaries who came in the 17th and 18th centuries such as Discalced Carmelites, sent by the propaganda Fide and the pope, and not by Portugal, all strove quite logically to make St. Thomas Christian church in partibus infidelium a sort of a miniature replica of a Roman church. As such it was also supposed to produce missionaries and send them further towards those dark areas of paganism.

66When one reads Jesuit letters from the end of the 16th century, it appears as if, under the Jesuit pastoral care, an immense religious fervor were being created among St. Thomas Christians. Surely, Jesuits were masters of dramatic narratives and self-congratulating reports, but not all could have been just a figment of their imagination. In particular, teaching them spiritual exercises, devotional introspection and the meaning of confession, all of which was novel to St. Thomas Christians, a new type of religious climate was brought into being. A climate of miraculous healing and spectacular exorcism that appealed to all Christians, those in Goa and Sri Lanka included.

Goan Brahman Catholic Missionaries and the Art of Exorcism

  • 68 On the Oratorian mission in Sri Lanka see Županov (2007).
  • 69 Possession in India has been amply studied, but possession in Sri Lanka appears to be an anthropolo (...)

67During the British colonial period Sri Lankan “demonism” was identified as the “darker” underside of Sinhala Buddhism (Tennent 1998: 229). However, in the late 17th century, the mission of the Oratorian priests, all of them native Goan Brahmans who were sent to Sri Lanka to preserve the Catholic population in danger of converting to Dutch Calvinism, clearly evinces that demonism was also a “darker” side of Catholicism.68 Just as in South India, trance-possession in Sri Lanka was one of the most prominent public expressions of grievance, resistance or dissent, occurring either spontaneously or as part of an organized public trial.69

68For the missionaries these events were important because they were moments in which they could display their expertise in exorcism and healing. Many stories were told in their reports about successful conversion of a whole family after an effective exorcism of one of its members. One typical case was described in the report written in 1723, in which a woman possessed by the devil was unable to give birth to a child. “The demon held on to her entrails” (Nunes 1966 : 590). The husband “danced for the devil”, that is, he went into possession and performed many other diableries (diabruras) before coming to ask help from the Father José Barreto. After making sure that the woman was “sincerely ready to embrace Christ”, the Father read the Gospel over her body, blessed her and instantly the devil ran away, allowing her to give birth. A few days later the whole family was baptized.

69The scenario of this possession and exorcism story is comparable to descriptions coming from the Catholic missions in India from the 16th century onwards. It is obvious that these events were taken serious by all actors involved—the missionaries, the possessed, the oracles and the audience. They all agreed that these were supernatural interventions into terrestrial affairs and that these malign spirits or demons existed in the interstices between the holy and earthly existence, hiding out in the lush environment and thick jungle. They attacked bodies and souls and provoked illnesses, which in turn caused social disintegration, as in the case of the smallpox epidemics that occurred with frightening regularity.

70Catholicism had produced its own demons and had developed ways and strategies for containing them. It was therefore quite easy working within other “demonological” traditions such as that of the Tamils and Sinhalese. Missionaries coming from the Brahman convert families were in addition quite familiar with the folk traditions of possession and healing. This is probably one of the reasons why their “anthropological” descriptions were less spectacular than the descriptions of the Jesuit missionaries. American and British missionaries in the 19th century produced much more coherent and detailed narratives of what they called “demon worship”. Even more spectacular are 20th-century anthropological studies of the rituals such as yaktōvil, on the effects of distiya (evil eye), on pretas (ghosts), and so on.

  • 70 For Catholic demonic possession in contemporary Sri Lanka and ways of dealing with it, see STIRRAT (...)
  • 71 Nunes (1966: 587). Jesuit missionaries in Madurai were also renowned for their ability to find stol (...)

71Just as in Tamilnadu and along the Konkan and the Malabar coasts, when Catholic exorcist practices met healing rituals that used possession, the two tended to borrow from each other. Therefore, the Oratorian fathers were very busy exorcising their own Catholics who continued to be attacked by the local demons (yakku) against whom the priests proposed new names and explanations and new, more efficient, treatments.70 It is no wonder that those who were most impressed by the priestly powers of exorcism were those gentiles or Catholics who themselves performed similar functions in society. One apostate Catholic who used to “invoke the devil by dancing and with musical instruments and horns… and who used to receive him (the devil) in his body in order to have the power to foretell the future and to manifest hidden things” reconverted after hearing the sermon of Good Friday. “He courageously resisted all the devices and stratagems with which the heathens, both ordinary people and the Vanniyas (who are like governors or petty rulers of these regions), tried to prevent him from giving up the darkness of heathenism” (Nunes 1966: 589). It is possible that this local religious specialist considered it profitable to align himself with the priests who introduced certain practices and publicized them as more efficient than those available on the local market of magical tricks. For example, they persuaded the king that the image of St. Anthony could be used for exposing theft. 71

72The ability to control magical and supernatural powers was an important skill in the missionaries’ struggle to reconvert Christians who had gone over to the protestants, precisely because the Dutch ministers took only a scant interest in staging supernatural performances. Sick, disturbed and possessed people were often brought to the fathers in order to be cured. As they insist in their letters, they never refused anybody and never charged for their services, in contrast to the Dutch custom of collecting fees and money in the church.

73Moreover, in order to cure the possessed, the endemoniado, the priest had to have a good command of Tamil and/or Sinhala, because dialogue with the devil was an integral part of the treatment. The Dutch ministers were aware of the need to learn languages, but never properly managed to learn them themselves. In the long run, however, the schools for local boys created local men who were well versed in protestant doctrine and who were able to speak, write and proselytize in local idioms (Arasaratnam 1988 : 235). Oratorian missionaries had very limited means and personnel, and no time to set up schools, but compensated for this by emphasizing community discipline administered by the church, the priest, the catechist and the elders.

  • 72 Nunes (1966: 496-497). Pattankatti is a title of a village headman.

74The exorcism that the missionaries performed was therefore often a public and collective affair in which the priest played a major role, through not the only role. Basílio Barreto told a dramatic story of a Christian Vannia panthagantty of Pejally [¨Pessalai] who was possessed by the devil for a whole year.72 The evil force burned the face of his daughter, and since the missionaries were prevented from visiting their place because of the Dutch persecution of Catholics in the area, the family started employing soothsayers and other magicians in order to cure her. While the Oratorian Father was on his way from Kottiyar to Mannar, he passed close by the village and the Christians brought him to the house of the possessed without telling him the source of the problem in advance. As soon as Barreto understood the problem, and in full view of the community, he put on his surplice and stole and with the “discipline” (a whip) in his hand started the exorcism. What follows is a “duel” conversation between the Devil inside the man and the priest. The devil cunningly also addressed the audience in order to win them over to his side: “Look here, this land belongs to the Dutch and the Catholic priest has come to kill this man”. Before the onlookers trembling with fear, the father continued his conversation without giving in to any of the demands of the devil. In the end, the devil lost the battle and before leaving the body of the possessed requested that the Father promise to take care of the man and to give him his hand, “for without it he could not go away”. As soon as the priest touched the hand of Vannia Panthagantty, he prostrated himself on the floor, unconscious, and was cured with some relics applied to his body and with the sprinkling of the holy water. In a few days he was fully integrated back into his local Christian community. This story reads as an almost transparent critique of missionary neglect of the community. From the letters, we know that some places were left without a priest for up to five years because of the lack of missionaries, Dutch persecutions or some other reason.

75Sometimes the devil appeared and engaged in conversation in the form of a local deity or a goddess. Thus in a story that followed in the same report, Basílio Barreto told of his conversation with the powerful goddess Patragali (Bhadrakālī). It all started with an agricultural disaster, a pest that fell on the field of nanchiny or palava (small grain). The Velalla (Belala) family who tended the field gave an offering to “the devil” in order to spare their harvest. AChristian son of the family collected some of the infested leaves and brought them to the Father, obviously trying to combine local religious skills with those of the Catholic missionaries (Nunes 1966: 496-497). However, when the man fell asleep, a goddess appeared to him in a dream, blinded him and possessed his spirit. The Father was called to intervene and speak to Bhadrakālī and started to “discipline” the body of the man. With the first stroke of the whip, the man opened his eyes and as he was continued to be hit by the Father the She-devil fled and he instantly reclaimed his sight. The next day the insects disappeared from the field.

  • 73 José de Meneses, Puttalam, 16 July 1698, BA, ms. 51-IX-34, f. 235v. The “female devil” was, accordi (...)
  • 74 José de Meneses, Puttalam, 16 July 1698, BA, ms. 51-IX-34, f. 235v.

76The missionaries knew very well that the nature of the local powerful beings was ambiguously coded as both inflicting and curing illnesses. For example, the goddess Bhadrakālī, also known, among other names, as Durgālī, or Kāli, was considered in India and Sri Lanka as both the cause of and the cure for small pox. The description of the epidemic that suddenly appeared in September 1697 in Kandy, and within a year swept throughout the island, shows a striking resemblance to descriptions written by the Jesuit missionaries in India. It was commonly attributed to the anger of the Goddess who contaminated individual bodies with her heat.73 While the Jesuits organized a hospital in Kandy at the start of the epidemic, as a way of prophylaxis as the epidemic began spreading in the region of Puttalam, José de Meneses organized penitential processions in the three most important villages of the region in order to counter not only the disease, but also the processions and sacrifices “in honor of the devil” that were being financed by the gentiles and Muslims.74 With his own hands, he punished by flogging (açoute) all the Christians, “small and big”, who, “ignoranter ou scienter”, participated in the gentile ceremonies. According to his report, the three villages were spared the epidemic.

77In spite of an early success, the Oratorians’ fortune in Sri Lanka petered out by end of the 18th century because of the chronic lack of missionaries, the lack of financial support from Goa, and the changing political situation in Sri Lanka. The fact that they were Brahmans by birth and Portuguese priests by training was initially Oratorians’ important asset in the local hierarchy, both at the Kandy court and in the lowlands. Gradually, the rivalry with other religious specialists, especially the Buddhist Sangha, grew in momentum. In the second half of the 18th century, the presence and success of a talented preacher and writer Jacome Gonçalves provoked a violent reaction against Oratorians. The ferocious professional animosity percolated down and blended with anti-Christian folk tales.

  • 75 Arahants (rahats) are Buddhist demigods endowed with supernatural powers. Fox Young (1995: 62).

78The folk tale about The Carpenter-Preta studied by Richard Fox Young, reveals to what extent Oratorian teachings were taken seriously in Sri Lanka. The story retells the life of Jesus from the Buddhist point of view and each and every detail or event is interpreted within the context of Buddhist mythology and explanatory system. Instead of divine creation, the Carpenter-Preta is a trickster sent by the Great Deluder, Mara. He is born from the grave and is thus defined as a ghost or goblin, preta, and his cronies (rahats) are dressed in black and fly with attached wings.75 The latter bear an obvious resemblance to the Oratorian missionaries.

  • 76 The Goddess who provoked smallpox was the best cure against it herself.
  • 77 The same may be argued in the case of protestant Reformation in Europe under the pressure of the ne (...)

79The more the Oratorians insisted on their skills to fight the demons and to expurgate them, the more they were, by homology, seen as malignant spirits themselves.76 As they tried to fit Christianity into another set of religious beliefs and practices, missionaries in Sri Lanka, like those in India before them, found that in the transition interstice anything is possible. The receptor culture may disintegrate, but the splinters could engender unpredictably new religious unities.77 It can also, in fact, gain confidence and vocabulary to respond and to win. In the case of Sri Lankan Buddhism, the way to victory took another two centuries and, according to historians and anthropologists, it was Protestantism that helped it in finding its voice of “revival” (Obeyesekere 1970b: 43-63); Malalgoda (1976). The Oratorians did not exist any more, but some of their demons and saints remained to haunt, first the British and then the historians and anthropologists. Thus, an anthropologist found that among the Catholic Sri Lankans, “St. Anthony is frequently said to be the same being as Kataragama; only the names are different.” pattini is viewed as an alternative form of the Virgin Mary. “St. Sebastian is considered to be a younger brother of the goddess Māri Amman (or Kāli)” (Stirrat 1981: 188).

Conclusion

80Although the Catholic missionaries, Jesuits and Oratorians, engaged in a ferocious struggle for epistemological sovereignty with other religious specialists in all social fields, health included, the outcome was always subject to momentary local configuration. The indigenization of Christian “spiritual healing” in South Asia in the early modern period was a complex process of mutual adaptation and borrowing, a process that still continues to negotiate its destiny. Medical ideas and practices continue to be integrated into a wide array of cultural and religious practices. The reason why the missionaries identified possession as central pathogenic zone of “paganism”, in which diabolical energy circulated into the human bodies and souls in order to enslave them, was because Christian demonology had an elaborated set of explanations for similar types of social events. The confrontation with local demons enabled the missionaries to acquire both “ethnographic” and “therapeutic” expertise, but it also stimulated in the long run a religious crossover. Missionary engagement, as an open-ended process, allowed the possession, characteristic of the South Asian “technology of the self”, to became an important feature of local contemporary Catholicism. By appropriating thaumaturgic qualities of Hindu deities, the Christian saints became even more powerful supernatural agents, but lost, what they probably desired the most—the monopoly of healing.

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Notes

1 Antonio Vico to Alberto Laerzio in 27 May 1611 in Laerzio to Acquaviva, 25 Nov. 1611, ARSI, Goa, 54a, ff. 93-129. On Matt, 4: 23 and 9: 35 see Comber (1978: 431-434). The Greek words are didascō, kēryssō and therapeuo. Mantiram means mantra in Tamil transcription.

2 Some contemporary historians doubt that the rudimentary organization of the Portuguese colonial administration deserves to be called a “State”. They prefer to use “the Crown” Xavier (2003).

3 A temporal coadjutor is a lay member of a Jesuit order who does not pronounce solemn vows of religion. Temporal coadjutor was, therefore, employed in various “secular” professions such as that of painters, administrators, cooks, physicians, etc. His official title is “brother”. Two famous physicians in the 16th century Asia were Pedro Affonso [Afonso] who lived and worked in Goa and Luís de Almeida in Japan. See Nogueira (1991) and Županov (2005: 195-231).

4 For Jesuit medical projects in Brazil see Gesteira (2004: 75). See also O’Malley (1993: 171-173).

5 On the plague epidemics in the 16th-century Europe and the Jesuit therapeutic program to combat them see Martin (1996).

6 Županov (2005: 226); APO (fasc. 4: 176). Tacchi Venturi (1950: part 2, 190-195).

7 Literature on ayurvedic practice is vast. For an excellent scholarly introduction see Wujastyk (1998). For a philosophical and anthropological approach to Indian classical medicine see inspiring works by Zimmerman (1982, 1989, 1995).

8 This was Timothy Walker’s argument in his lecture given in Paris in June 2007, Ehess.

9 The exception was, of course, conversion of important figures in local political and cultural life, such as kings, nobles and learned men, Županov (1999).

10 For a general introduction to medical encounters between the Portuguese and Indian early modern medicine see Pearson (1995, 2001: 11-120); Arnold (1991); Harrison (1999); Gaitonde (1983); Gracias (1939); Jaggi (1979-80). For later colonial experience, both Portuguese and British, see Arnold (1988); Correia (1947); Bastos (2004). For general complexities of colonial interaction in the scientific field, see Raj (2007). For environmental approach see Grove (1998).

11 In the absence of published studies in medical strategies of the Catholic missionaries in India in the early modern period, it is useful to consult works on the later period and protestant missions such as Fitzgerlad (2001). See also Beals (1998) for an anthropological view of the choices available to the health-seekers in the plural medical tradition.

12 Sá (1997). On printed documents about the Misericórdia in Goa, see Martins (1910-1914); Rocha (1972 and 1973).

13 Loyola (1970: § 603, 269). On the idea that the whole world was a Jesuit mission, see O’malley (1984: 1-20).

14 For the official rules and regulations of the Hospital del Rey (Regimento novo do esprital del Rey) in 1576, see Martins (1912, II: 319-334). For the description of the daily routine in the Jesuit Hospital of the poor Natives, see Wicki (II: 506-509).

15 Determinação e asempto pera a ordem da casa, written in Goa, June 27, 1546, by Nicolò Lancilotto, ARSI, Goa 22 I, fol. 48v.

16 Pedro Afonso to the members in Europe, Goa, 1 Dec., 1560. Wicki (DI IV: 745-751).

17 Wicki (DI VIII: 309-342). He claims that the epidemic was so virulent that in certain neighbourhoods (bairros) so many people died that the houses remained empty. To everybody surprise and edification not a single Jesuit fell sick. He also reported that one man who helped Jesuits fell sick and died. However before dying he declared that the cause of the illness were his bad deeds.

18 Carta do V. Rey Dom Francisco Coutinho, Conde do Redondo, mandano comprir outra da Sua Alteza para lançar fora de suas terras os bramanes e gentios, que impedem a christandade, in APO (Fasc. 5/2: 543-545). Coutinho’s edict was prompted by D. Sebastião’s letter, Wicki (DI VI: 13).

19 O Primeiro Concilio Provincial celebrado em Goa no Anno de 1567, in APO (Fasc.4: 25).

20 The Archbishop’s letter was printed in Goa in1565, as a preface to the translation of another 15th-century homily against Judaism written by a physician and converted Jew, Hieronimo (Jeronimo) da Sancta Fe, see Jeronimo DA Santa FE (1565: 2).

21 Orta (1563, facsimile ed. 1963). I quote from the annotated edition by Conde de Ficalho, published in 1891 and reprinted in 1987. Garcia da Orta was judged by the Inquisition and burnt at the stake in effigiem in 1580, twelve years after his death in 1568.

22 Christóvão de Castro to Claudio Acquaviva, Cochin, 5 Jan. 1582. Wicki (di xii: 552). Strictly speaking, he is talking about the Hospital del-Rey administered at that time by the Jesuits.

23 Francesco pasio to Claudio Acquaviva, Goa, 5 Nov. 1581. Wicki (DI XII: 372).

24 Alessandro Valignano to the general of the Society of Jesus, Goa, Dec. 25, 1574. Wicki (DI IX: 512).

25 According to Christóvão de Castro, only a few patients who entered the Royal Hospital in Goa came out alive. Christóvão de Castro to Claudio Acquaviva, Cochin 5 Jan., 1582. Wicki (DI XI: 552-4).

26 Pedro Afonso to the members in Europe, Goa, 1 Dec. 1560, WickI (DI IV: 748).

27 Pedro Afonso to the members in Europe, Goa, 1 Dec. 1560. Wicki (DI Iv: 749).

28 The fishing metaphor was used not only in the Jesuit maritime missions in South India but also in the interior, for example, at the Mughal court. Jerome Xavier described his audiences with Jahangir as “throwing the hook into the water, hoping that the fish would bite.” (Maclagan 1972: 71).

29 Luís Fróis to the members in Portugal, Goa, Dec. 1, 1561. Wicki (DI V: 257-8).

30 On ambiguity of miraculous healing in the early modern Naples see Gentilcore (1995).

31 Taylor (1958 : 131). He is quoting ST. Augustine’s De Trinitate (IX : 13).

32 Henrique Henriques to the members in portugal, Cochin, 12 Jan. 1551. and Henrique Henriques to Portuguese members, Punicale, 6 Nov. 1552. Wicki (DI II : 161, 392)

33 Luís de Gouvea to the members in Lisbon, Coulano, 12 Jan. 1564. Wicki (DI VI: 152-3). arsi, Goa 11 I, f. 196v.

34 Henrique Henriques to members in Portugal, Cochin, 13 Jan. 1575. Wicki (DI IX : 603-4).

35 On the Parava communal conversion see Bayly (1989) and Županov (1994: 35- 56, 2005: 232-258). What I call legislation are catechetical works such as Doctrina Christã and Confessionairo. Henriques (1579, 1589). Henriques, Henrique, translation into Tamil of Jorge Marcos’s catechism, “Doctrina Christã” (1579), and “Confessionario” (1580), Vet. Or. f. Tam. 1.

36 Henrique Henriques to the General, Manakkudi, 13. Jan. 1558. Wicki (DI Iv: 36).

37 Manuel de Moraes to the members in Portugal, Cape Comorin, 15 Dec. 147. Wicki (DI I: 244-5). arsi, N.N. 66 I, f. 226v.

38 For Jacome Fenicio see Charpentier (1933). On Agostinho d’Azevedo see Rego (1960 : I, 197-263). On Antonio Rubino see Rubiés (2001: 210-256.). See also D GOnçalves, (1953); S. Gonçalves (1957-1962); Fernandes Trancoso (1973); Nobili (1931).

39 See dispute between Nobili and Fernandes Trancoso in Županov (1999).

40 See Charpentier (1933).

41 The story of Minachiamman of Madura, see Whitehead (1988: 112-3).

42 Bixa or bissa is made of a root called Aconitura ferox. It is a variant of a Sanskrit word visha, which means “poison”. Garcia da Orta and Cristóvão da Costa both mention it as pisso and bisa. Costa (1578); Dalgado (1919, I: 130).

43 The foundation of their order was not confirmed by the pope until 1707. In 1699, the Overseas Council advised Dom Pedro II, the King of Portugal, to endorse the foundation of the Congregation only if its missionary activity became its duty (obrigação) and its members became “true missionaries”. If they ceased to be so, the Congregation was to be dismantled. Oratorians ceased to exist in 1835. NUNES (1966: 164). See Županov (2007).

44 José de Meneses, puttalam, 16 July 1698, BA, ms. 51-IX-34, f. 235v.

45 Jose Vaz beatified in 1995 by the Pope John Paul II at a public Mass in Colombo.

46 The Buddhist priests from Siam managed to ordain 120 Sri Lankan Buddhist monks and 33 obtained the title of “bishops”, according to Vaz. José Vaz, 10 September 1697, BA, ms. 51-VII-27, ff. 263r-v. On exchanges of embassies of Buddhist monks between the Arakan and Kandyan kingdoms see Raymond (1999: 87-105).

47 We know that six of them died, but it is not clear if their deaths were due to smallpox.

48 José de Carvalho, 22 May 1698, BA, ms. 51-IX-34, ff. 237r-238r.

49 The role of the Oratorians during the smallpox epidemic was confirmed by the local manuscript source, Vijitavelle Rajavaliya, see PERNIOLA (1983: 1, 156).

50 Misericórdia was an institution that accompanied, as a kind of social security or welfare, the early modern Portuguese overseas expansion. See SÁ (1997).

51 José de Carvalho, 22 May, 1698, BA, ms. 51-IX-34, f. 137v.

52 Missionaries who were under Goan ecclesiastical jurisdiction and the Portuguese royal Padroado were, therefore, considered as the agents of the Portuguese colonial state. All the “charitable” institutions were “mixed”, both secular and religious, in terms of the personnel employed and the sanitary strategies used. It is well known that the Portuguese colonial government, rudimentary as it was, had no other choice but to piggyback on the ecclesiastical institutions. The Constitutions of the Archdiocese of Goa, written by the Archbishop Gaspar de Leão Pereira in 1567, acted de facto as official legislation for the whole Estado da India. Xavier (2003). About street fumigation in Goa in 1570 see Duarte Leitão to the members of the Portuguese province, 16 Nov. 1570. Wicki (DI VIII: 319).

53 Manoel de Moraes to the members in Coimbra, Goa, 3 Jan. 1549. Wicki (DI I: 465).

54 On the nature of a person in South India and possession rites see Freeman (1999: 149-182).

55 For the Jesuit method of accommodation in Tamil Nadu see Županov (1999).

56 From Africa to Vietnam, Jesuit missionaries such as, for example, Gonçalo de Silveira and Alexander de Rhodes were taken for sorcerers and magicians.

57 Luís Frois to members in Europe, Goa, 15 Dec., 1561, Wicki (DI V: 344-20). When Silveira’s luggage was opened upon his death to find “medicines and fetishes (meizinhas e feitiços)”.

58 McBrien (1995: 1148). Sacramentality means that all reality is potentially the bearer of God’s presence and the instrument of God’s saving activity. The sacrament is a visible sign and instrument of the invisible presence and activity of God.

59 P. Hieronymus (Vaz) de Cuenca to the members in Lisbon, St. Roque, Mannar 16 Dec. 1573, Wicki (DI IX: 298).

60 Henriques (1580: 68b). “He created love (aṉpu) that was fit to be placed upon Him, and instead of doing service to our Lord who made so many benefits [for us], being enslaved to our bad desires and to the demons and having behaved according to what appeared good to us, we should remember this behavior”.

61 Pedro Martins, annual letter, Goa, Nov. 30, 1591, Wicki (DI XV: 666-7). Besides studying major liturgical languages, Chaldean and Latin, they also received a thorough instruction in Malayalam, a vernacular language used for confession, indoctrination, moral cases (casos de consciencia), spiritual exercises, basic catechism, preaching sermons and other type of religious propaganda.

62 Bartolomeu dos Santos to the Jesuits in Portugal, Cochin, end 1588, Wicki (DI XV: 164-6).

63 Possession in India has been amply studied. For the most recent research see, Nabokov (2000) and articles in Assayag & Tarabout, eds. (1999).

64 Bartolomeu dos Santos to the Jesuits in Portugal, Cochin, end 1588, Wicki (DI XV: 165).

65 For the 16th century, some of the letters are worth looking at, such as: Francisco Cabral, Annual letter, Goa, Nov. 7, 1594, Wicki (DI XVI: 698-756), Francisco Cabral, Annual, Goa, 29 Nov. 1595, (DI XVII: 357-422), Francisco Cabral, Annual, 16 Dec. 1596, Wicki (DI XVIII: 646-684), Simão de Sá, Annual, Goa, 1 Jan. 1598, Wicki (di xviiI: 867-932).

66 A doctoral thesis focusing on possession and healing in a Catholic thaumaturgic sanctuary of Puliyampati in Tamil Nadu has been recently defended by B. Sébastia and published. It is the non-Catholics who come to use the powers of a Catholic saint in order to be exorcised from “Hindu” possessing agents, sébastia (2007).

67 The Goddess has various names: Kali, Durga, etc. In Europe, St. Sebastian was associated with plague. The arrows sticking out of his body were metaphorically associated with the rays of God’s wrath.

68 On the Oratorian mission in Sri Lanka see Županov (2007).

69 Possession in India has been amply studied, but possession in Sri Lanka appears to be an anthropological cottage industry. See Kapferer (1983); SCOTT (1994); Obeyesekere (1970a: 97-111, 1981).

70 For Catholic demonic possession in contemporary Sri Lanka and ways of dealing with it, see STIRRAT (1977: 133-157, 1981: 183-200).

71 Nunes (1966: 587). Jesuit missionaries in Madurai were also renowned for their ability to find stolen or lost objects. See Županov (1999).

72 Nunes (1966: 496-497). Pattankatti is a title of a village headman.

73 José de Meneses, Puttalam, 16 July 1698, BA, ms. 51-IX-34, f. 235v. The “female devil” was, according to José de Meneses, in each sick person.

74 José de Meneses, Puttalam, 16 July 1698, BA, ms. 51-IX-34, f. 235v.

75 Arahants (rahats) are Buddhist demigods endowed with supernatural powers. Fox Young (1995: 62).

76 The Goddess who provoked smallpox was the best cure against it herself.

77 The same may be argued in the case of protestant Reformation in Europe under the pressure of the new currents and interpretations of Christianity.

Table des illustrations

Légende Our Lady of Consolation Church, Goa, 2002. Formerly attached to the Hospital of the poor Natives.
Crédits (Photogr. Ines G. Županov)
URL http://books.openedition.org/editionsehess/docannexe/image/21771/img-1.jpg
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Auteur

Historian, CNRS research fellow at the Centre d’Études de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud (EHESS-CNRS), Paris, her main research includes Catholic Orientalism, 16th-18th centuries and French Orientalism in India, 17th-19th centuries. She is also involved in natural history and history of science in Colonial India.

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