Book VI, Chapter XLVIII
Which deals with a newly or recently found remedy to cure wounds from poison arrows, which the Indians shoot with and which until this secret became known were incurable and for the most part all or most of those wounded died, as proved in these histories. And it tells of the manner whereby divine clemency allowed this remedy to be known.
Translated by Andrea Tellez ‘21
Those who have read will not regard it as something new for things revealed or disclosed through dreams to turn out to be true, time conferring authority on them by making them real. This has been written about many times, as in the story of Hecuba, who dreamed that she birthed a fire that burned Troy as she was pregnant with her son Paris: and so was he ember enough to cause Troy’s ruin, since having abducted Helen, Menelaus’ wife, the Greek princes joined in its destruction. It is also written about King Astyages that in a dream he saw a vine or shoot sprout from his daughter and heir, whose leaves cast a shadow over all of Asia. And his fortune tellers, interpreting his dream, told him that it meant his daughter would give birth to a son who would steal his kingdom, and so it was fulfilled; because Cyrus, his grandson, stole his kingdom, as Justin writes at greater length in his Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus.
When the famous poet Dante was about to be born, his mother dreamed that she was in a green and flowery meadow next to a clear spring, and that beneath a laurel she birthed a son who was raised with the grains and fruit of said tree and with the water of such spring, and in a short time grew up and became a shepherd; and trying to take a branch from the laurel tree he fell and hastily got up, no longer a man but having turned into a peacock. Giovanni Boccaccio interprets this dream, as does Cristoforo Landino at greater length in the commentary he wrote on Dante’s comedy; he says that the shepherd represents philosophical and theological teachings, and the feathers of the peacock stand for Dante’s ornate poetry, and the spring and laurel symbolize high and exalted poetry. And no one should be surprised by this, because many times and in various regions and ages there have been wonders that have proclaimed the excellence of one about to be born. It is written about Maron that his mother, the night before giving birth, dreamt that she birthed a laurel branch, and that in a short time it grew full of flowers and fruit. It is also read in the history of the glorious Saint Dominic how while being pregnant with him his mother dreamed that she gave birth to a dog with white and black spots, with a burning axe in his mouth; and the dream’s prediction would be turned to reality through the preaching of this saintly doctor, light and brightness of the Catholic faith, and founder of the sacred Order of Preachers of the evangelical truth against heresy and apostasy. And the dog represents the excellence in loyalty to its master achieved by these animals above all other irrational animals, and the white and black colors denote the habit of this religious order: white signifies purity and chastity and black the strength and determination and Catholic perseverance shown by this blessed saint to the Christian republic, and that of all those who follow him.
What seems to fit better with what I proposed above about the remedy for the poison herbs is Alexander the Great’s dream, of which Quintus Curtius Rufus tells that while fighting against the soldiers of the Sambi kingdom, who carried poisoned swords, those they wounded died suddenly and very swiftly, without the doctors being able to understand the cause, as the wounds were minor or not deep. With Ptolemy thus wounded, Alexandre felt great sorrow for him, since he loved him very much and suspected that he was his brother, a son of King Philip. Falling into a very deep sleep, Alexandre awakened to say he had seen in a vision an image of a dragon bearing in its mouth an herb he offered him as a remedy against the poison, and spoke of the color and shape of the herb and said he would know it if it was brought to him; and it was found, because many went looking for it, and he had it placed over the wound, and it suddenly took the pain away, and it healed in a short time. Justin speaks of the same case, and he says that as Alexandre was arriving to King Ambiger’s city, the people prepared poison arrows and used them, and Ptolemy was among the wounded and in such a state that he appeared to be dead; and that Alexander was shown (while sleeping) an herb remedy for the poison which, when obtained, quickly cured Ptolemy; with such a remedy at hand most of Alexandre’s army was saved. Even though these authors seem to disagree on the details of the story, they both conclude that the means through which this remedy became known was Alexandre’s dream.
Well, I want to mention here a notable thing we learned from the dream of one of our Spanish noblemen, which I think came from divine mercy, since until what I mention here was known, many Spaniards were injured or died from the poisoned arrows of the Indian archers, called Caribs, and those who were wounded died very cruelly for the most part, throwing up and raving, biting their own hands and arms. And we learned of this boon and relief sent by God for this purpose in this way. In the year 1540, a nobleman named García de Montalvo, a native of Medina del Campo, son of Juan Vaca, governor of Elche and other towns in the kingdom of Valencia by appointment of the Duke of Maqueda, was on the island of Cubagua and one night dreamed that the Carib Indians had shot him with a poisoned arrow, and being thus injured and believing he was about to lose his life, as he had seen others injured like him die, he had put corrosive sublimate powder on the wound as a remedy, and dreamed that his leg was thus bound: and very frightened, commending himself to Our Lady, Santa María del Antigua, he woke up very disturbed, so much so that those who saw him asked what the matter was and the reason for his fright, and they approached him to try to help him dispel his fears. And Montalvo, returning to himself, seeing himself without injury and recognizing that his bewilderment came from that dream, began to give thanks to God and His blessed mother, and told of what he had dreamed, and said he proposed to try that remedy on the first one he saw injured by the poison, because in his mind he was sure that those who were treated in this way would be cured. And as I was informed by people of standing, and especially by a reverend and devout priest by the name of Friar Andrés de Valdés, of the Order of the Franciscans, worthy of all credit and my acquaintance of many years, who wrote to me from the said island, where he lived at the time, that that nobleman dreamed what has been told three times, that corrosive sublimate was a good remedy for the poison; and afterwards Montalvo came to the Mainland, where the Indians shot a companion of his with an arrow, and opening the wound and washing it with corrosive sublimate, he escaped. And this remedy is so commonplace nowadays that just like the soldiers in Castile during the Moorish wars were accustomed to carrying antidotes for monk’s-hood poison, the ones engaged here on the ongoing war against the Carib Indians carry with them corrosive sublimate powder. And some tell me they have seen the wounded heal after Montalvo’s revelation or dream, and that no one is in danger if they are quickly helped; and the way of treatment is to quickly suck on the wound, as much as possible, and open the wound a little more and fill the wound with ground corrosive sublimate powder, and then close it and move the wounded to a place set apart, protected from the breeze; and he should eat a specific diet, and within four or five days a root grows out of the wound, like a nail or callus, and afterwards the hole that remains scars over and heals, like any other wound or common injury, and soon the lesion disappears. The corrosive sublimate works by stopping the herb’s poison from spreading with such severity, and instead turns it back and dissolves it into that nail or callus, and no one injured is in danger except if wounded in the belly or hollow part of the body, where the remedy and cure described above cannot be carried out.
And it has come to the point that the men engaged in the ongoing war against the Carib Indians are so confident about this medicine that they show no concern about this herb’s poison. This has been a very remarkable thing, and still is, and we should offer infinite praise to God for such a significant remedy and mercy as that of having shown the Christians how to cure themselves in this very difficult war and from such a clear and threatening danger, that I dare to say that after the Admiral, Don Christopher Columbus, who was the first discoverer of our Indies, no other man has come to them more useful for the preservation of Christians and of the soldiers of this conquest than García de Montalvo and his dream or, better yet, his revelation. But nonetheless we should be thankful only to God and his mercy, from whose goodness and clemency so much good has clearly come, since, as that reverend master in holy theology Pedro Ciruelo writes in that Catholic treatise he wrote against superstitions and witchcraft: dreams come to men for three reasons, to wit, natural, moral and theological, and of these three the last one is the one to the purpose here, of which he says that the theological and supernatural reason is what ensues when dreams come as a revelation from God or some good or bad angel that stirs man’s imagination and presents to him what it wants to reveal. The Holy Scripture says that under the Old Testament laws God used to speak to the prophets in this way when they slept; and the Gospel says that God’s good angel would appear in dreams to Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ our Redeemer and later appeared to the sleeping Three Wise Men, and warned them not to return to King Herod: and the devil, in between dreams, called the great necromancer Balaam so that he could go curse and put a spell on God’s people. And in the same way he speaks in dreams to necromancers and fortune-tellers in public or secret pact with him, and he reveals many things to them, so that they can predict what is to come. The difference between these two forms of revelation is this. In the revelations of God or his good angel there is no mention of anything vainglorious, and it does not happen often, except for very important matters belonging to the common good of God’s people, and such a vision assures man of the revelation’s good source, because God enlightens man’s mind and certifies the truth. But in the dreams of necromancers and fortune-tellers there is no such certainty, and they come often and deal with frivolous things and man is blinded and deceived by the devil. All this come from the aforementioned Master Ciruelo. Therefore, applying this wisdom to our case, we can say that Montalvo’s revelation came from God or the good angel.
Let’s move onto other matters, but without neglecting what was discussed here, so that if the need for it ever arises the reader can make good use of what I have written or help with this warning whoever can benefit from it, as it will be very worthwhile charity among Christians.
After writing the above, finding myself in Spain in November of 1547, I inquired from the same García de Montalvo and he told me it was true and that it was he who had taught others about this remedy, and that it happened in the way that is said by God’s will and mercy.
 Chron. Troyana: Dares, phrigio; Dictis, griego: Homero [GFO]
 Just. Book I. [GFO]
 Cristoforo Landino. [GFO]
 Hist. Alex. Magn., Book IX. [GFO]
 Just., Book XII. [GFO]
 Reprobación de las supersticiones y hechicerías, Part II, Chapter 6. De los sueños. [GFO]
 Numeri, Chapter 12. [GFO]
 Matthew, Chapter 2. [GFO]
 Numeri, Chapter 22. [GFO]