When Witches Burn

I remember a few years ago I saw something terrifying, a beaten young woman, her beauty replaced by a series of cuts and bruises, watches in terror as some villagers prepare the pyre where she’ll be executed under the sentence of witchcraft.

She’s taken out of a poultry yard where she was kept and she’s taken to a stake where moments later a sweaty executioner will light a fire in cold blood as if he was lighting a cigarette.  Moments later the witch burns, in reality what burns first is her hair, later the fire takes over the rest of her. This scene belongs to a movie about the inquisition the title of which I don’t even want to remember.

Now I will tell you about a moment in a novel about the inquisition, I don’t want to remember the title of this book either. This time the victim is a man who was a hero during the Spanish war against the moors.  His hero’s status is not respected, he is condemned to burn at the stake as a warlock, that’s it.  When the flames are covering his body, for a moment there he shows his hand, as if he is pleading for help, and in it there’s the mark of a cross branded  with a hot iron on the palm that held one of the swords that liberated Spain.

I considered all this as part of our culture or the pastime of someone who goes to the movies or reads a book until I came to live this experience in the real world all because of film director Jac Avila and his latest production, Maleficarum.

The victim in the movie is the talented Amy Hesketh who is taken to the pyre by a group of perverse men led by a priest that seems to have come from hell, of course, he’s the inquisitor who will spare no efforts to bring to this young woman and her friend all sorts of torments in the name of the Holy Church.

The pyre swallowed this actress in the midst of screams that brought me close to a nervous breakdown because I was living what I had seen in the movies or read in a book ages ago, however this time I could feel the fire almost licking my face while the hallucinatory expression of Hesketh told me that the movie did not exist and that we had traveled back in time for this encounter with pain.

After this incredible scene was over, in which the naked body of Amy contorted in pain in the center of the unbearable heat, after the screams stopped, and when we were eating our sandwiches, I could only look at her and tell her, “Bravo, bravo.”.

Now, by an act of Jac, I had left the dusty movie seat, I had left the thick book that I read during my sleepless nights, to enter into the reality of how a witch really burns. Of course, it’s only the shooting of a movie but so intense that for moments I was transported to the times of the nefarious inquisition and the only thing that kept me attached to the reality of the 21st century was the voice that said, “CUT… let’s do it again.”, in that beautiful valley on the outskirts of La Paz where the pyre was set up.