Superstition in Valle-Inclán’s Jardín umbrío
Geni Pontrelli, Ph.D.
One of the major themes found in Jardín umbrío is the belief in superstition and folklore.Superstition and folklore are intertwined with the everyday life in
, as is Catholicism.In Galicia , belief in superstition is a very real, everyday experience.The Galician people believe in portents and omens, in witches and demonic possession as much as they believed in God.Prudencio Roviro, on his trip through Galicia Galicia, wrote an article on and the Galician people.This article, «El campesino gallego» was originally published in Galicia in 1914. Roviro writes that both religion and superstition have their place in the lives of the Galician people. He states that religion is a very real part of the everyday life of this agrarian population. Their faith gives them the resigned attitude needed to go about their daily tasks. It gives them a melancholy happiness, a dreamlike placidness (169).Roviro goes on to say that «es lamentable que la exuberancia Madrid sentimiento religioso degenere en superstición bárbara.Como bajo los añosos robledales, los helechos, argomas y demás plantas viles indican el empobrecimiento de la tierra, así la abundancia de prácticas supersticiosas evidencia el esquilmo de una fe secular.Galicia es la tierra del curanderismo y de los exorcizadores» (169). del
José Pérez Fernández also describes the importance of superstition in the psyche of the Galician people:
Como toda tierra muy religiosa, Galicia vive de demonio. La naturaleza gallega es más naturaleza. Las fuerzas primeras mandan sobre el hombre de esa religión. Y todo el gran vacío cultural del país está poblado de esa cultura del mito y de la magia, de la meiga y de la santa compaña. La raza gallega es más imaginativa que inductiva . . . , y una raza así ha creado, naturalmente, una cultura de mitos, una simbología caprichosa y exotérica, al margen del proceso inductivo de la mente, y del hombre todo, porque el gallego parece poco apto para la especulación escéptica y conceptual, rigurosa.(85)
An example of this would be the Countess in «Beatriz». She believes that her daughter is possessed by an evil spirit. It never occurs to her that her daughter’s ailment is caused by a reasonable, practical, albeit tragic, situation - rape. When the Countess becomes aware of the crime she does not report it to the authorities or even the Church. She turns to the local witch to mete out her revenge. The Countess has the witch put a death spell on Fray Ángel as punishment for both besmirching her daughter and the Countess’ name and honour.
In Supersticiones de Galicia, Jesús Rodríguez López discusses the progression of religious beliefs brought to
by different conquerors.The grandsons of Noah brought the message of God, the Gauls, Celts, Phoenicians, the Romans and the Goths brought in their own mythologies, all of which were mixed together to create whatever superstitious beliefs in which the Galician people were inclined to practice and believe.Rodríguez López writes that «los habitantes de Galicia tuvieron, como se ve, muchas supersticiones, debida a la mezcla de tales religiones, que sólo conducían al fantasmo y a la perversión de las costumbres y que fueron el desmoronamiento del gran Imperio romano» (36).In the Middle Ages, when the Catholic religion had a firm grip on most of Spain Western Europe, superstitions increased rather than decreased.López states that «del siglo XII al XVI, el culto del diablo hizo rápidos progresos. Hechiceros y brujos se multiplicaron de tal modo, que en el año 1600, había solamente en Francia unos 300.000» (40). The devil became a studied figure. He was painted, described and studied. His customs, habits, tastes and his likes were well known. It was known how he came to possess the bodies of the sick, it was known how to exorcise him from the possessed, there were well known methods for recognizing witches and efficacious methods in making them talk.Being burned alive was their punishment (López 40).
Rosco N. Tolman writes that «in such works as Flor de santidad, Los cruzados de la causa, El embrujado, and especially Jardín umbrío, Valle-Inclán reaches the apex of his production insofar as superstition is concerned. These works are replete with mystery, mal de ojo, people possessed, symbols of evil - such as the cat and the color black, witchcraft, spirits, spells and evil omens» (132).
Witchcraft and religion often found themselves to be rivals.Emma Susana Speratti-Pinero writes of the Church's persecution of the curandero/a:«A lo largo de la historia, la actitud no desmiente la afirmación, pues para ella los brujos fueron herejes y a veces competidores de los miembros del clero» (120).Many people would go to the saludadores to have someone they knew cured if they were sick or exorcised if they were suffering from mal de ojo.According to López, «el mal de ojo» consists «en suponer que el hombre, con ayuda o intervención del demonio, es capaz de producir males materiales, por la influencia de su mirada, sobre el individuo, sobre los animales y aún sobre la hacienda» (149). The power of the saludadora is called upon to rescue three youths in «La misa de San Electus». The three youths have been bitten by a rabid wolf.Interestingly, their first choice is to consult the saludador de Cela. He could do nothing for them.They believe there is no hope for them, so they wait for their death. However when one of the old women of the village passes by to enquire about their health, she tells the boys to have a mass said to San Electus, giving them hope that there might still be a chance to overcome their deadly predicament. Sadly, the boys die the same day that the mass was said.T oo little, too late.This story illustratesto the reader that there are two paths to follow when searching for aid - the Church and/or witchcraft, the Galician people did not care which one was used as long as it was efficacious.
In «Beatriz», the Countess sends for the saludadora de Céltigos. She is an old woman of great repute. The Countess has heard of her great healing powers, «Me han hablado de una saludadora que hay en Céltigos ....Cuentan que hace verdaderos milagros» (35).Fray Ángel has also heard of her powers.The intertwining of religion and superstition is illuminated in the figure of Fray Ángel.He is the servant of God, but he has usedor cast a mal de ojo over Beatriz in order to seduce and rape her.In this instance, even a man of God uses superstition to aid him in his evil doings. The priest acknowledges the powers possessed by the saludadora de Céltigos and, so, flees as soon as he hears that she is coming to see the Countess. He realizes that either the Penitenciario or the saludadora will unmask him as the perpetrator of the crime, consequently he decides that flight is his only recourse. However he could not escape the saludadora’s supernatural powers. It is the saludadora who cures Beatriz of the mal de ojo and it is the saludadora who is the instrument of the Countess' revenge against Fray Ángel. She orders the saludadora to conjure up a spell against the priest so that he may die. Fray Ángel is found dead the next morning.
Justo Alarcón, in his Ph.D. thesis, describes the saludadores – witches, mentioned in the short stories. The saludadora, in «Beatriz», according to Fray Ángel, is over a hundred years old. She is described as «vieja, muy vieja, con el rostro desgastado como las medallas antiguas, y los ojos verdes, del verde maléfico que tienen las fuentes abandonadas, donde se reúnen las brujas» (46). Alarcón writes that this saludadora «tiene la propiedad de ver a distancia.». She had had a dream that the Countess was calling her, and so she came to her immediately. Alarcón also states that this saludadora «tiene la cualidad de ver introspectivamente y de diagnosticar el mal que aqueja a la víctima»(Alarcón 99). The saludadora looks at Beatriz for a while and then pronounces her diagnosis: «A esta rosa galana le han hecho mal de ojo» (47). She also has the power to cure (Alarcón 99). After reaching her diagnosis she goes on to give the Countess the cure, «
la Condesitaestá embrujada. Para ser bien roto el embrujo, han de decirse las doce palabras que tiene la oración del Beato Electus, al dar las doce campanadas del mediodía, que es cuando el Padre Santo se sienta a la mesa y bendice a toda la Cristiandad» (47). Here the use of prayer and of witchcraft are combined to cure the mal de ojo (curse). This saludadora also has the power to evoke evil.When the Countess asks her if she can work evil spells, the old woman baulks, saying that it is a sin.The Countess, to assuage the old woman's fear, tells her that she will have masses said on the saludadora's behalf. Reassured, the saludadora, asks for Fray Ángel's prayer book.She then rips out seven pages and places them on the Countess' mirror. She then calls upon Satan to take Fray Ángel's soul.The next morning his dead body is found floating in the river. Here we see the use of religious objects to conjure up evil spells.We also see the misuse of the religious mass as a means of easing the saludadora’s conscience in regards to her practising the black arts.In the saludadora de Céltigos we can see the intertwining of these two religions. She is cognizant of all the spells to use, good and evil, but uses them within the guidelines of the Catholic religion. She is reluctant to put a curse on Fray Ángel because the Church said to do so was a sin, however, on the assurances of the Countess that she, the Countess, could make everything right through prayer, does so.
The saludadora in «Del misterio» is basically the same. Doña Soledad Amarante is also a product of the mixture of these two religions. She is described as being devout, but also has powerful, mysterious powers. The narrator tells us that this woman, Doña Soledad Amarante, «iba todas las noches a la tertulia de mi abuela». She was a «vieja que sabía estas cosas medrosas y terribles del misterio. Era una señora linajuda y devota que habitaba un caserón en
la Rúade los Plateros. «She was always knitting with a cat in her lap.She is described as «alta, consumida, con el cabello siempre fosco, manchado por grandes mechones blancos, y las mejillas descarnidas, esas mejillas de dolorida expresión que parecen vivir huérfanas de besos y de caricias» (85). The narrator was extremely frightened of the old lady. He tells of Doña Soledad Amarante who «contaba que en el silencio de las altas horas oía el vuelo de las almas que se van, y que evocaba en el fondo de los espejos los rostros lívidos que miran con ojos agónicos»(85). One night Doña Soledad arrives and confers with the narrator's grandmother. They talk of the narrator's father who had been imprisoned in Santiago for being a `legitimista', that is to say, a Carlist. When the narrator's mother begs the old woman for details she turns to look at them, «alzó sobre nosotros la mirada, aquella mirada que tenía el color maléfico de las turquesas, y habló con la voz llena de misterio, mientras sus dedos de momia movían las agujas de la calceta» (87). She tells the boy's mother that her husband has a demon on his side.In order to ascertain what has happened to the boy's father she uses her mysterious powers: «se levantó del sofa y andando sin ruido la vimos alejarse hacia el fondo de la sala, donde su sombra casi se desvaneció. Advertíase apenas la figura negra y la blancura de las manos inmóviles, en alto.Al poco comenzó a gemir débilmente, si soñase» (88). What Doña Amarante tells them about the father in addition to the visual confirmation of her power has the boy totally transfixed with fear. At the moment that the old woman tells them that the blood that the father had spilt was now falling on an innocent head, they all hear a door open. The narrator starts to tremble. He points to the mirror where he sees a shrouded figure with a knife at his throat. His mother sees nothing. Doña Soledad pronounces the somber prognosis that the spilt blood is now on the innocent boy's head. The power of this memory in addition to the fact that superstition and fear of the ghostly prediction have been seared into the narrator's young mind have led the narrator to believe that he has been constantly dogged by the murdered spirit of the jailer; «las pisadas del fantasma que camina a mi lado implacable y funesto, sin dejar que mi alma, toda llena de angustia, toda rendida al peso de torvas pasiones y anhelos purísimos, se asoma fuera de la torre, donde sueña cautiva hace treinta años.Ahora mismo estoy oyendo las silenciosas pisadas del Alcaide Carcelero!» (89). como
Another saludadora can be found in «Comedia de ensueño». She is called Madre Silva. When the captain and his followers return to their cave, the old woman is there waiting for them. Within the booty presented to her there is a bejewelled hand. The captain feels remorse at having cut off the hand from the young woman and becomes entranced with its owner. He asks Madre Silva if she can help him find out to whom the hand belonged through her powers of magic, «[y] por ver el rostro de aquella mujer diera la vida.Madre Silva, tú que entiendes los misterios de la quiromancia, dime quién era» (127). Madre Silva then «toma entre sus manos de bruja aquella mano blanca, y sin esfuerzo la despoja de los anillos. Luego frota la yerta palma para limpiarla de la sangre y poder leer en sus rayas» (127-8). From reading the palm Madre Silva recites the owner's story. The young girl is a lamia, a folkloric character well known to the Galician people, according to Rita Posse (505-8). From birth she had been kept hidden through sorcery. A dwarf kept her prisoner. She could only wait until the dwarf slept and then from her window she would call out to those outside. Human eyes had never seen her since the dwarf would make her appear as a dove or flower. The captain was able to see her for what she was because she had put on those rings.Madre Silva tells him that if he had not cut her hand off he could have married her. She was the daughter of a king. The enchantment from the hand spills over onto the captain. He cannot forget the woman and when a dog comes in and runs off with the hand, he goes off after it in a maddened rage even though Madre Silva cautions him that he will wander the woods until he is an old man.
Through these short stories we can see the importance of the role of saludadora within Galician society.Alarcón states that «la curandera representa la autoridad suma en cuestiones de lo incógnito, de la religión, del misterio y de la superstición. Y puesto que tiene el secreto de curar la posesión de los malos espíritus, enfermedad terrible, de ahí radica también parte de su autoridad y respeto que la gente la tiene» (102). She/he is the person to whom all turn in times of crisis. She/he holds a position of great respect and fear in the Galician society portrayed in these short stories.
One can also find many instances of demonic possession or mal de ojo by one of Satan's legions in Jardín umbrío’s «Beatriz», «Mi hermana Antonia», «Milón de
la Arnoya», «Un ejemplo». As we have already discussed, Beatriz is the victim of a mal de ojo. In his article «La lógica de la superstición en El embrujado de Valle-Inclán», Jesús Rubio Jiménez writes about the practice of the mal de ojo superstition.Many of his observations can be applied to the short stories in Jardín umbrío. According to Jiménez, the mal de ojo comes from one looking fixedly upon another. «Quien mira fijamente a otro, le agrede e intimida ejerciendo con su mirada un poder sobre él. El intimidado elabora una respuesta a esta agresión y buscará medios de respuestas” (132). This person is called, according to Jiménez, el fascinador. In these short stories we see the fascinador in the Saludadora de Céltigos, Máximo Bretal and Milón de la Arnoya. Usuallythe fascinador is a marginal member of society, that is, they live on the fringes of society, limiting their contact with it. The fascinador can be a hermit, witch, vagabound, thief etc., «Vive de forma deferente resto de la comunidad. El mal viene de fuera de la comunidad que comparte unas normas o si está dentro, lo está en la marginalidad» (133). Emma Susana Speratti-Pinero cites maledictions, that is, casting spells, the use of mirrors and enchanted apples as objects used by the bewitcher to gain his/her goal (128-132). The saludadora uses a mirror to acquire this information, «[l]evántole (the mirror) en alto la saludadora, igual que hace el sacerdote con la hostia consagrada, lo empañó echándole el aliento, y con un dedo tembloroso trazó el círculo del Rey Salomón» (47). Doña Amarante in «Del misterio» also uses a mirror in her maleficent practices, «aquella señora me infundía un vago terror, porque contaba que en el silencio de las altas horas oía el vuelo de las almas que se van, y que evocaba en el fondo de los espejos los rostros lívidos que miran con ojos agónicos» (85). del
In both «Mi hermana Antonia» and «Milón de la Arnoya» the female victims have been enchanted by eating an apple.According to Hebe Noemi Campanella, the enchanted apple was seen as «portadora
encanto amoroso» (376). In Antonia's case it was thought by the household members that she had been enchanted by one of the apples given to them in gratitude brought to them by one of Máximo Bretal's household: «Vino una vieja con cofia a darle las gracias (to Antonia's mother), y trajo de regalo un azafate de manzanas reinetas. En una de aquellas manzanas dijeron después que debía de estar el hechizo que hechizó a mi hermana Antonia» (68). In «Milón de la Arnoya» the young girl claims to be possessed, a process which commenced with her eating an enchanted apple Milón de la Arnoya had given her to eat: «Vine a esta tierra por me poner a servir, y cuando estaba buscando amo caí con el alma en el cautiverio de Satanás. Fue un embrujo que me hicieron en una manzana reineta» (135-6). The young girl has tried to flee from the source of the evil spell, that is, Milón de la Arnoya, but he has come after her. Even though Doña Dolores has offered her protection, Milón's power over the girl is too strong. Upon his appearance the girl knows it is Milón even though he has disguised himself as a beggar. He leaves on Doña Dolores' orders but the girl suffers an attack that seems as if she is possessed, «la renegrida, derribada en tierra, se retorcía con la boca espumante, y las vendimiadoras la rodeaban, sujetándola para que no se desgarrase las ropas» (139). Rita Posse writes that another method of curing the possessed is the use of the rosary, «cuya veracidad reside en el hecho de llevar la cruz. Tiene también una base aceptable la utilización del rezo del trisagio» (502). In this storywe see Micaela coming towards the girl with a rosary with the intention of using it to exorcise the demon within her or at least lessening Milon’s evil grip on her soul. At that moment they hear Milón yelling in the distance. His yells are likened to animal noises. Upon hearing Milón's summons, the young girl runs off before they could cure her with the blessed rosary. They see her running off «espumante, ululante, mostrando entre jirones la carne convulsa, rompió por entre los carros de la vendimia y desapareció ... la vieron juntarse con Milón de la Arnoya ... prendiéndola de las trenzas, se la llevó arrastrando a su cueva del monte» (139). What is described here is, according to Jiménez, a «ramo cautivo», which is «el comportamiento histérico violento de quienes tienen el diablo metido en el cuerpo según una superstición muy extendida en Galicia» (133). Thepeople attribute the possession to the devil since many said «que habían sentido en el aire las alas de Satanás» (Jardín umbrío, 139). In order to rid the person of this suffering, the tormented soul had to be exorcised. del
In «Un ejemplo», Jesús is on his way to cure a possessed woman. When they come upon the woman on the road, «Jesucristo se detuvo y la luz de sus ojos cayó como la gracia de un milagro sobre aquella que se retorcía en el polvo y escupía hacia el camino» (143). Just feeling his gaze upon her makes the woman feel touched by a miracle. Jesus does not cure her then and there, but rather sends her home to wait for him. Amaro does not understand why Jesús does this. Jesús explains that the miracle must be seen by the village, thus ennobling those lacking in faith. Thus, in the case of mal de ojo, the believers combat it using the appropriate amulets or participating in rites designed to offer protection (Jiménez, 133)
Another supernatural belief subscribed to by the characters in some of these short stories is the belief that the devil or his followers are able to metamorphose, usually into a black cat. González del Valle writes in his article «"Mi hermana Antonia" y la estética del enigma inenigmático»:Abundan en «Mi hermana Antonia» situaciones en las que lo que acontece responde, al parecer, a potencias cuyas características no se ajustana las fuerzas de la naturaleza. Es así que se cree que Antonia se enamoró de Máximo Bretal debido a que comió una manzana hechizada y que el joven estudiante asume la identidad de un gato que tortura a la madre de Antonia y que sólo abandona su víctima cuando en dos ocasiones el niño que narra el relato lo espanta debido a que es un ser inocente al valerse, en una oportunidad, de una cruz conseguir sus objectivos (172).The connection between Máximo Bretal and the cat becomes apparent when the narrator mentions that as he and Basilisa run from the door their path is crossed by a black cat, however, no one sees Father Bernardo leave. Thus it is believed that it is Bretal, appearing as the good Father Bernardo, who has come to convince Antonia's mother of the error of her thinking concerning Antonia and Máximo. Then he turns into a black cat upon leaving Antonia's mother.
The mother feels herself persecuted by malevolent spirits. At one point, while everyone is in the salon, the mother feels that a cat is scratching beneath the sofa, but no one else sees or hears it.The mother notices that Antonia is daydreaming.The mother believes it is a manifestation of Bretal.She believes that since Antonia must be thinking of him, that his malevolent thoughts have transferred themselves in the scratching cat.While Basilisa runs around the room with an olive branch sprinking holy water, Antonia's mother grabs Antonia by the hair to make her stop thinking of Bretal, thus ridding themselves of the tormenting cat.The mother complains a few times about a black cat near her but it is only after the death of his mother that the boy realizes that Bretal had been the cat that had plagued his mother.One night Basilisa comes for him. She has a pair of scissors in one hand and a cross in the other.She gives the cross to the boy and says that they must do as his mother asks and get rid of the cat.When the cat comes out from under the mother's bed, Basilisa cuts its ears off. The boy sees Máximo Bretal just before they leave with their grandmother. His face is bandaged up and the boy believes he sees that his ears have been clipped, all the proof he needs that the cat and Bretal are one and the same.The boy totally believes that Bretal is the devil and has done his utmost to bewitch Antonia.Such was his power that he killed their mother because she stood in the way of his desire for Antonia.Power that had been given to him by the devil.Father Bernardo had warned Antonia's mother that such was Bretal's desperation for Antonia's love that he was contemplating a pact with the devil.Campanella comments that «si es frecuente en Valle-Inclán la simbiosis de los religioso, lo erótico y lo diabólico, pocas veces ella alcanza la intensidad que tiene esta narración. El amor no es aquí sólo erotismo o goce estético sino verdadero sacrilegio» (375). Sacrilegious because Bretal is a member of the Church. His calling upon the devil for aid in the acquisition of Antonia's love is in direct opposition to the Catholic religion, consequently, he looks to superstitious methods to acheive his end. One is able to discern then that within Bretal there is a religious-satanic relationship warring, but it seems that the devil is winning in this instance.Campanella states that «desde este momento el tema de lo diabólico se enseñorea de la pieza, y religión y paganismo se confunden en las mismas prácticas cargadas de superstición» (375).Campanella also recalls that the black hand in
is the «demonio de los bosques» (377).Antonia's mother, who is a devout woman, has a hand that lacks some fingers, thus to hide this imperfection she wears a black glove.Consequently, it seems that Antonia's mother is also tied into the superstitious world of Galicia .Campanella writes that the significance of the black hand, like the black cat, is the expression of witchcraft in the ambiance of Galican village life.Its presence is the «nuncio de desgracias» (377).The black glove, then, is the folkloric theme which Valle uses as an expression of the demonic aspect in every human being that is found next to the angelic spirit.Valle always uses the one hand to contrast the other: GaliciaMi madre era muy bella, blanca y rubia, siempre vestida, con guante negro en una mano, por la falta de dos dedos, y la otra, que era como una camelia, toda cubierta de sortijas. Ésta fue siempre la que besamos nosotros y la mano con que ella nos acariciaba. (Jardín umbrío 69-70)Emotionally, Antonia's mother is a portrait of contrasts. She is a devout and caring woman, however, she cannot abide Bretal.Her dislike for the boy seems unreasonable. She would rather see Antonia dead than be with him. Her dislike of Bretal may have seeped throughout the rest of the household. Fortified with the explanation that Bretal had sided with demonic forces in his quest to acquire Antonia's love, the members of Antonia's household believed, as her mother believed, that Bretal was evil.
Christian ideology is brought in to combat this evil possession of Antonia, however, as in this instance, religion does not always triumph.Antonia's mother would rather see Antonia die than let the two lovers be together. Father Bernardo says that in Antonia's death the devil will win not only Bretal's soul but quite possibly Antonia's too. The mother becomes frantic at this pronouncement and asks the priest about the Grace of God.Could not God bestow upon Antonia his Grace and aid her in saving her soul?Father Bernardo responds: «
La Graciano está siempre con nosotros, hija mía.Mana comouna fuente y se seca ella» (73). Here we can see that the belief in God is not enough in certain instances.It is this belief that the combination of the superstition and religion may provide the necessary weapons in their fight against evil. comoIn «Mi bisabuelo», the great-grandfather is a legendary figure reputedly to have malevolent forces assisting his causes.The great-grandfather has a red spot on his cheek that the village people believe is the kiss of a witch. The bisabuelo is described as, «alto, seco, con los ojos verdes y el perfil purísimo» (95).Green eyes are a sign of malevolent forces.The saludadora de Céltigos in «Beatriz» has green eyes, «los ojos verdes, del verde maléfico que tienen las fuentes abandonadas, donde se reúnen las brujas» (46).Thus the village people and even the narrator's aunts believe that the great-grandfather had some connection to the occult.In «Tragedia de ensueño» there can be found many folkloric and superstitious elements.The grandmother is sure of her grandchild's impending death since for the last three nights dogs have been howling at her door. López writes that «los aullidos de los perros son de fatal agüero» (79). Rosa Seeleman also writes of folkloric elements in this particular short story: «There are all manner of commoner details of superstition. A grandmother is certain her ailing grandchild is near death because of the howling of the dogs, and her apprehensions move her to declare that she hears the beating of the child's wings, as though he were practising flying.When the doors rattle it is useless to tell her that the cause is the freshened wind of the night:she knows it is the imperative summons of death» (111).An analysis of these short stories shows that the Galician populace appear to rely on both pagan and christianbeliefs.One observes a tight bond between everyday life and catholicism.Folklore and superstition are just as important to the Galician people as is the Catholic Church.The Galician people believed in portents and omens, witches and demonic possession.One finds, through these stories, that although the Church frowned upon the use and belief of witchcraft, that it was still practiced on a daily basis.Mentions of a saludador/a are interspersed in many of these stories.In «Del misterio»it is an aristocratic woman who has these mystical powers.The intertwining of the occult and the Church are personified in Doña Amarante. She is described as being well-titled and devout. If the Church cannot be of aid then the people turned to the occult services of these village witches.
The devil figured prominently in both superstition and religion. It was believed that witches were his accomplices and that the devil could change his shape and appearance. This aided the devil in his quest for unsuspecting victims. Lily Litvak writes that «diablos y demonios fueron revividos por los modernistas que también explotaron la sexualidad latente de vampiros y súcubos y revivieron el decorado de la magia negra» (Erotismo Fin de Siglo 112). An example of this would be the possessed woman in «Un ejemplo». The old woman turns into a young, lithe woman in an attempt to seduce Amaro from his holy path. She is obviously a sucubus. People had no way of protecting themselves from the devil's diabolical schemes except through the intervention of the Church and, failing that, they could call upon the services of the saludadora. Satanism provided all sorts of answers to unanswerable questions. Beatriz was possessed. This covered up the ugly truth that she had been raped by the palace priest. Antonia's mother dislikes Máximo Bretal. The only reason Antonia is in love with him is that he has called upon the dark forces of evil to enchant her. Not so. These two young people happened to meet and fell in love. An ordinary occurrence with which Antonia's mother did not concur. Perhaps she had higher aspirations for her daughter. Perhaps she saw her aspirations to elevate her social status through an advantageous marriage for Antonia threatened by the affection between the two young people. Consequently she called their love for one another a product of demonic efforts. According to Litvak, satanism is for Valle-Inclán not only «la expresión de una estética sino también de una metafísica. Sabor de pecado y aroma de santidad. Esplandor erótico y remordimiento religioso, placer carnal cargado de angustia, goce sensual que se complace en un singular fervor de profanación y sacrilegio» (Erotismo 117). We can see the contrast of religious virtue and the temptation of the sexual animal within us all in Rosarito. She is beguiled, charmed by the sexual animal within Don Miguel. This beast calls to the hitherto unknown beast within herself. She could not fight both. Fray Ángel not only partakes of erotic pleasure with Beatriz, but compounds this sin by raping the girl in the most sacred of places, in the chapel. The sacrilegiousness of this act only heightens the erotic flavour of this story.
To Valle-Inclán, who grew up in this kind of environment, this mixture of religion and superstition was ordinary and natural. It did not surprise him that the peasants believed in folklore. It only made his peasants seem more nave and innocent. The rural populace perceived omens, portents, witches and folklore as a constant in their lives. The Church frowned on beliefs other than those defended by the Church, however these folkloric elements were so deeply entrenched in the Galician psyche that they could never be totally erased. Demonic possession was believed to be a condition any unfortunate person could suffer. A witch or local priest or a combination of both would be called upon to aid the victim. The only thing that mattered was that the aid was efficacious. It is this sense of a backward, traditional Galicia that permeates the short stories of Jardín umbrío.
© Geni Pontrelli, 2005
- Alarcón, Justo S., Técnicas narrativas en "Jardín umbrío" de Valle-Inclán. Diss. U. of Arizona, 1974. Ann Arbor: UMI, 1974. 74-28, 307.
- Campanella, Hebe Noemi., «Aproximación estilística a un cuento de Valle-Inclán.», Cuadernos Hispanoaméricanos, 67.199-200 (1966): 373-399.
- Litvak, Lily, Erotismo fin de siglo. Barcelona: Bosch, 1979.
- Pérez Fernández, José, Valle-Inclán (humanismo, política y justicia). Alcoy: Marfil, 1976.
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- Rodríguez López, Jesús, Supersticiones de Galicia y preocupaciones vulgares. 2nd ed. Buenos Aires: Nova, 1943.
- Roviro, Prudencio, «El campesino gallego», Published originally in Madrid, Imprenta de L. Aguado, 1904, in Alfredo Vicenti's Aldeas, aldeanos y labriegos en la Galicia tradicional. Madrid: Ministerio de Agricultura, 1984, 163-202.
- Rubio Jiménez, Jesús, «La lógica de la superstición en El embrujado de Valle-Inclán», Anuario Valle-Inclán, III. Anales de literatura española contemporánea, 28, 3, 2003, pp. 123-154.
- Seeleman, Rosa, «Folkloric Elements in Valle-Inclán.», Hispanic Review 3.2 (1935): 103-118.
- Speratti-Pinero, Emma Susana, «Los brujos de Valle-Inclán» in Ramón del Valle-Inclán. Ed. Ricardo Doménech. Madrid: Taurus, 1988, 118-154.
- Tolman, Rosco N., Dominant Themes in the "Sonatas" of Valle-Inclán, Madrid: Playor, 1973.
- Valle-Inclán, Ramón del. Jardín umbrío. 1st ed. 1903. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1986.
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El Pasajero, núm. 22, estío 2006