16th-Century Trial Records Reveal Priest’s Magic ‘Superpowers’

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).

Included in the trial records is a list of books Calderon was found with. The most puzzling material was a group of archival letters written in a special cipher that Calderon claimed to be able to read, no one else could.

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