Advent Calendar of Witches, Day 14, Maria Gonçalves Cajada

Maria Gonçalves Cajada, the accused sorceress from colonial Brazil, once said, “If the bishop has a mitre, I have a mitre, and if the bishop preaches from the pulpit, I preach from the cadeira.” Like most any woman who makes demands, Maria Gonçalves Cajada was almost entirely alone in her insistence that the world be fair and also that she be granted a just place in it. I appreciate deeply, almost as a kind of profession of faith, that there is an historical record, cited by Laura de Mello e Souza in The Devil and the Land of the Holy Cross, of how a woman looked a priest in the eyes, then turned the other way to set three pieces of cheese fermented in her own vaginal fluid on a windowsill to feed the demons. It is a gesture with many layers of meanings and one of them is a very lovely note ringing across the centuries “I am.”

Published by Kathryn Nuernberger

Kathryn Nuernberger's latest books are THE WITCH OF EYE (Sarabande), an essay collection about witches and witch trials coming out in February 2021, and RUE (BOA, 2020), a collection of poems about plants historically used for birth control and pissed off feelings about patriarchal bullshit. The End of Pink (BOA 2016) won the James Laughlin Prize from the Academy of American Poets. Her collection of lyric essays is Brief Interviews with the Romantic Past (The Ohio State University Press, 2017). A recipient of fellowships from the NEA, American Antiquarian Society, Bakken Museum of Electricity in Life, H. J. Andrews Research Forest, She teaches in the creative writing program at University of Minnesota. Recent work appears in 32 Poems, Cincinnati Review, Copper Nickel, Gulf Coast, Paris Review, The Southern Review, and Waxwing.

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