Superstition and fraud: the saludadores of early modern Spain

I picked up Arthur Bryant’s Samuel Pepys: the saviour of the navy from my shelves, and opened it at a passage where Pepys was travelling through Spain, while assigned to the evacuation of Tangier.  One of his aims was to investigate the Spanish saludadores — people supposed to have supernatural powers of healing.  He met one, who claimed to be able to stand in a red-hot oven unharmed, arranged for such an oven to be provided, and brought the saludador to it.  The latter confessed that it was merely an imposition on the credulity of the people.

I had never heard of these people before, and searched the web.  I found an academic article here by M. Tausier discussing them, and their powers of witch-finding — and the attitude of the ecclesisatical courts and the inquisition to  them.  Tausier records that ecclesiastical courts tended to investigate the claims, and recounts many instances of the saludador being convicted for fraud.

It is a salutory reminder to us all that people claiming the blessing of God sometimes do so purely for purposes of fraud.