Between the 14th and 18th centuries, religious and cult superstitions, magic, sorcery, and witchcraft flourished in a singular way in all spheres of Christian Europe. There was widespread fear. Many were convinced that God, in order to punish people for their sins, allowed the Devil to work through his agents in the world. The artist Francisco Goya was a strong advocate of the principles of the Enlightenment, which gave priority to reason over those religious and cult superstitions that had existed for several centuries. Between 1819 and 1823, Goya painted fourteen works (known as the Black Paintings) that were dedicated to this dark vision incited by the religious superstitions of society that he detested. The fourteen works were painted with the dry oil technique (on walls covered with plaster) in his house, “La Quinta del Sordo” in the outskirts of Madrid. Goya lived as a solitary, deaf recluse. Art historians consider these works to reflect his great delusion with society and his deteriorating health, as they express his deepest fears and darkest depression in a nightmarish and disturbing way.
It is believed that his work, El Aquelarre or El Gran Cabrón, was a critique of the oppressive practices and persecution of the Inquisition. Goya‘s El Aquelarre, or, El Sabbat de las Brujas, explores themes of violence, intimidation, aging, and death. The silhouette of Satan, in the form of a billy goat, is projected in the moonlight onto a coven of terrified witches. El Aquelarre is the generic name for the grouping or gathering of witches to perform rituals and spells, either as a pre-Christian or neo-pagan religious belief or accepted in Christian writings as acts of invocation and worship of Lucifer.
Our new perfume created by Miguel Matos is inspired by one of the works of Goya‘s Las Pinturas Negras, known as El Sabbat de las Brujas de Goya, El Gran Cabrón, or, El Akelarre. It is believed that his work, El Akelarre, was a critique of the oppressive practices and persecution of the Inquisition that explores themes such as violence, intimidation, and the very tempo, aging, and death. Goya was then about 75 years old, living alone, and suffering from severe mental and physical disorders.
The new perfume by nBitor is a very risky project and a very daring proposal. Even for the world of niche-artistic perfumes. As Miguel Matos explains, to represent Goya‘s work, he had to “create a really dark and almost distressing fragrance, which would evoke turbulent feelings and events, and at the same time a perfume that would transmit beauty in its grotesque form. This is a very earthy and metallic perfume with a very sensual heart, something capable of arousing very intense feelings and images. I have used many very unusual notes with the intention that the result would be extremely striking in a scent that may not be easy to wear but which harbors a lot of thought and emotions inside.”
Akelarre, on the one hand, represents this dark part that the human being carries inside, often engendered by ignorance, but at the same time, represents this positive part of our ability to grow and evolve towards becoming something better. The perfume, on the one hand, represents this very negative side that can produce acts such as the inquisition, but also the progress of society through the principles of the Enlightenment, which prioritized reason over religious and cultic superstitions. It is surprising and unfortunate that in many societies today, there is a resurgence or trend that once again rejects both enlightenment and logic. As a society, we must be keenly aware of this reality in order to be well prepared to fight against it as Alonso de Salazar y Frias did at the time of the Inquisition and thus avoid the re-emergence of a society in which ignorance and darkness once again prevail.
Alonso de Salazar y Frias (1564-1636) was the Spanish Inquisitor who sought to detain the mass hysteria of religious superstition, sorcery, and witchcraft (which came from other countries in Europe) and succeeded in having the Spanish Inquisition declare that witchcraft could not be prosecuted because it simply did not exist, putting an end to such superstitious beliefs decades or, in many cases, centuries before other European countries. During those waves of mass hysteria that were unleashed around witchcraft, there were few people who kept a reasoned mind. Not only did he achieve this, but he also managed to de-escalate the situation in Zugarramurdi and bring about legislative change: in 1614, the Supreme Court of the Inquisition, and from there to the civil courts, declared that witchcraft did not exist. The truth is that in Spain there was little persecution of witchcraft, and, in fact, not only were there fewer cases compared to the other countries in Europe, but they were also terminated earlier.”