As a colonial holding, Spanish Florida was a provincial backwater. It was located on the periphery of empire and parsely settled. Spain spent comparatively little time and effort developing the infrastructure of the colony.1 However, it is for these very reasons that Florida reflects to a magnified degree a problem in mission fields throughout the Americas during the colonial period: how to combat disease in the mission populations while still working to extirpate Native practices seen as anti-doctrinal. Descriptions of healing rituals by Franciscan friars and other Europeans offer tremendous insight into how the Timucuans of Spanish Florida viewed their relationship with the sacred. Healing rituals often employ the most potent objects and symbols known to a culture to combat disease, purify the sick, and connect with the sacred. Healing rituals also offer insight into how individuals were able to negotiate both the pollution of disease and the purifying force of the cures, and these individuals had greater power to interact with the sacred than the rest of society. Among the Timucuas, these groups included shamans (who were called sorcerers or priests in some of the documents),2 herbalists, midwives, and a third gender group.3
Spike, Tamara Shircliff
"Sucking, Blood, and Fire: Timucuan Healing Practices in Spanish Florida,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 94:
2, Article 3.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol94/iss2/3