The 16th century was a tumultuous epoch, overseeing momentous events, as well as a significant rise in the popularity and presence of magic in society.

Magic was believed to be strongly connected to the relationship between God and man, with practising magicians performing divination rituals and trying to contact God. People believed God was reaching out through a select number of enlightened people, and one of particular importance was Lucrecia de León.

16th century Spain – the apogee of Spanish imperialism and ruled by King Philip II, whose goal of an entirely Catholic Europe, perpetuated the brewing of a Spanish invasion of England. The Spanish Armada was strong – her soldiers and ships seemingly unconquerable. However, this young girl from Madrid doubted the fleet’s brilliance.

Lucrecia de León’s prophetic dreams depicted the Spanish Armada’s approaching battle against England ending with the rapid retreat of the Spanish after a colossal defeat. Lucrecia’s dreams also concerned the leader of the Armada, the Marquis de Santa Cruz, and the King. Her visions informed her that God himself was displeased with King Philip’s reign of religious conquest, and he would soon be replaced. Her dreams appeared to outline all of Spain’s problems, and King Philip II was the overall catalyst. Taxes, mistreatment towards the poor, and religious corruption all pointed towards the same culprit, and the biggest failure of all was the encroaching defeat of the Spanish Armada.

True enough, Lucrecia’s prophecies were correct, and the Spanish Armada suffered a spectacular defeat in 1588.

Lucrecia’s prophecies were supported by several people, claiming her dreams were a warning from God. Historically, prophecies have been used by leaders to establish and legitimise rule. Leaders could quash rebellions and stamp out the opposition by claiming it was their divine right, and the will of God, to lead the kingdom. Lucrecia’s dreams were attractive tools for people to encourage Philip to alter his leadership methods.

The Spanish Inquisition, founded in 1590, arrested and interrogated anyone who had not fully converted to Catholicism, and Lucrecia’s dreams of relinquishing King Philip’s religious authority made her a prime suspect.

King Philip II felt considerably threatened by Lucrecia, thus she was arrested by the Spanish Inquisition in 1590, upon charges of heresy and treason. She was also accused of leading a group that supposedly challenged and was conspiring against the King.

Lucrecia the Dreamer, as she has been dubbed, is a tragic example of how institutions like the Spanish Inquisition condemned women possessing a skill that threatened men in power. Spiritual gifts like Lucrecia’s were often rendered demonic and women would be labelled witches. Throughout her interrogation, Lucrecia maintained her truth, eventually succumbing to the Inquisition’s torture, yet becoming a martyr of female spirituality.