Prosecuting a Possession Priest

Case: Trial of Juca Rosa

Case Synopsis: In 1870, Judge of the 2nd District, Miguel José Tavares, received a letter accusing Juca Rosa, an Afro-Brazilian possession priest, of practicing false magic. Tavares prosecuted Rosa for “charlatanism” and fraud (estelionato), claiming that he was attempting to illegally and immorally profit by representing himself as a bearer of false magical powers. Rosa was ultimately sentenced to six years of prison and hard labor. This case module originated in the work of Paul C. Johnson.

Sources

Portuguese Criminal and Civil Code

Ordenações Filipinas (1603). Criminal and civil codes remained in effect in Brazil until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, respectively.

Analyses

Brazilian Law and Possession

Paul C. Johnson, “Possessed Persons and Legal Persons in Brazil,” Maryland Journal of International Law 31, no. 1 (2017): 180-216.

Context

Spirit Possession in the Atlantic World

Paul C. Johnson, “An Atlantic Genealogy of ‘Spirit Possession,'” Comparative Studies in Society and History 53, no. 2 (2011): 393-425.

Policing Afro-Brazilian Religions

Thomas H. Holloway, “‘A Healthy Terror’: Police Repression of Capoeiras in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro,” Hispanic American Historical Review 69, no. 4 (1989): 637-676.