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Anais do Museu Paulista: História e Cultura Material

Print version ISSN 0101-4714On-line version ISSN 1982-0267

Abstract

TEIXEIRA, Dante Martins. Com o diabo no corpo: os terríveis papagaios do Brasil colônia. An. mus. paul. [online]. 2017, vol.25, n.1, pp.87-126. ISSN 1982-0267.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/1982-02672017v25n0104.

Since ancient times, parrots and their allies (Psittacidae) have fascinated Europeans by their striking colors and notable ability to interact with human beings. The discovery of the New World added new species to the international exotic animal trade, which for many centuries had brought beasts to Europe from Africa and the Orient. Lacking large mammals, tropical America participated in this trade with its most appealing species, essentially felines, primates and birds - especially parrots - which were shipped in large numbers. It should be noted, however, that at times these birds were not well liked. In fact, according to documents from colonial Brazil, only the ants rank higher than parrots as the animals most often mentioned as agricultural pests. On the other hand, some of these birds were so chatty that people suspected them to be demonic or possessed animals, since only three classes of beings - angels, men and demons - have the ability to speak. Nowadays, several Psittacidae still constitute a threat to agriculture, and the suspicion that extremely talkative birds were demon possessed has also survived. More than a joke or a mere curiosity, this belief exemplifies how intricate man’s relationships with the “natural world” may be. In this sense, the existence of birds that are able to speak adds a further twist to these relationships, demonstrating that the problem of establishing a boundary between the animal and the human does not only involve primates, but also includes some unusual zoological species.

Keywords : Parrot; Psittacidae; Animal trade; Agriculture; Pest; Devil; Possession; Witchcraft; Folklore; New World; Colonial Brazil.

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