Layers and Layers of Fact Checkers circa 1962

From John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, p56:

     I had working for me a Filipino man, a hill man, short and dark and silent, of the Maori people perhaps. Once, thinking he must have come from a tribal system which recognizes the unseen as a part of reality, I asked this man if he was not afraid of the haunted place, particularly at night. He said he was not afraid because years before a witch doctor gave him a charm against evil spirits.
     “Let me see that charm,” I asked.
     “It’s words,” he said. “It’s a word charm.”
     “Can you say them to me?”
     “Sure,” he said and he droned, “In nomine Patris et Fillii et Spiritus Sancti.”
     “What does it mean?” I asked.
     “He raised his shoulders. “I don’t know,” he said. “It’s a charm against evil spirits so I am not afraid of them.”
     I’ve dredged this conversation out of a strange-sounding Spanish but there is no doubt of his charm, and it worked for him.

Brothers and sisters, we with the modern science of the 21st Century recognize that Maori are not native to the Philippines (they’re native to New Zealand). Perhaps Steinbeck is thinking of the Moro, who are from the Philippines, but they’re Muslim. So I’m not sure whether witch doctors would teach them to say “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Is Steinbeck calling a Catholic priest a witchdoctor, or does he just not know? I don’t know.

The Spanish might have been strange sounding because, if the fellow in question is a hill man from the Philippines, Spanish might be his second language.

I’m having difficulty knowing whether some of the ignorance he displays in this book is for effect or not. I’m leaning toward not.

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