The killing of alleged children sorcerers has been widely reported among the Arawak of eastern Peru. Accusations of child sorcery multiplied at junctures of increased outside pressures marked by violence, displacement, and epidemics. Mythical foundations for this belief are found in the legend of Saint Christopher and the Child Christ. Appropriated through mimetic image in colonial times, the tale of this “plague saint” was transformed into the myth of a cannibalistic giant and his evil infant son. The notion that children could become potent witches was reinforced in postcolonial times by epidemics affecting mostly adults. An example of mimesis gone wrong, the belief in child sorcery is one of those unforeseen and tragic products of the colonial encounter.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.