© WikimediaThe man who prosecuted Calderon was Fray Juan de Zumarraga (his statue is shown here), the archbishop of Mexico and Apostolic Inquisitor of New Spain. For reasons unknown he gave Calderon a light sentence, prohibiting him from saying mass for two years and exiling him back to Spain.
On Jan. 30, 1540, in Mexico City, at a time when Spain was carving out an empire in the New World, an epic trial got under way.
An ordained Catholic priest named Pedro Ruiz Calderón was being prosecuted for practicing black magic
. The priest actually bragged about the powers he had acquired according to records a researcher is working on publishing.
He claimed to be able to teleport between continents, make himself invisible
, make women fall in love with him, predict the future
, turn metals into gold, summon and exorcise demons and, most importantly, discover buried treasure.
"He really typifies all of the major types of learned magic, from summoning and conjuring demons, to exorcising demons to the powers of cloaking himself, making himself invisible," said John Chuchiak IV, a professor at Missouri State University who translates and publishes documents recording the opening of the trial in his new book The Inquisition in New Spain 1536-1820
(John Hopkins University Press, 2012). [See Photos of the Trial Records
"He could hypnotize people, too; it's one of the earliest, I think, descriptions of hypnotism, mesmerizing people."
At the start of the trial, Calderón was denounced in a speech by Miguel López de Legazpi, the Secretary of the Holy Office, who would later become a conquistador in the Philippines. In translation, the trial records state that "many persons have made it known before him [Legazpi] that the said Calderón knows of the Black Arts and that he learned them from others." The records go on to claim that Calderón is able to make himself invisible and can travel across great distances in a short amount of time. "It's just fascinating. The story just goes on and on," Chuchiak told LiveScience of the more than 100 pages of trial records.
The prosecutor Fray Juan de Zumárraga, the Franciscan archbishop of Mexico and apostolic inquisitor of New Spain, was known for his extreme punishments. "Other people he had their tongue split for very minor blasphemy
," said Chuchiak. In the end, for reasons unknown, the bishop gave Calderón only a minor punishment - exile back to Spain and a prohibition from giving Catholic services for two years; Zumárraga may have wanted to get rid of him without publicly executing a priest. What happens to Calderón after he is exiled is not known.