History of Witchcraft:

American Witchcraft

Native American Traditions

native american witchery way ceremonial clothing

There are many forms of Native American witchcraft that are practiced. In Native American culture, magic is unique for each region. With different kinds of amulets and charms, rituals, masks, practices and ceremonies. They all share a sense of awareness and oneness with their land, plants and creatures of the land. They look to the land to provide materials for magic such as herbs, stones, shells, feathers, bones and other materials for healing, charms, costumes and masks.

North American Navajo medicine men, Hatalii, use several methods to diagnose a patient’s ailments such as using crystals, chanting, and hand-trembling and trances. Training as a Hatalii is difficult and takes many years. The famous Navajo shapeshifters, the Skinwalkers or the Yea-Naa-gloo-shee are witches who take animal forms to travel surreptitiously and to deliver their curses in secret. The most common type of Navajo witchcraft is known as the Witchery Way. The Witchery Way includes a sub-branch that is based on the power of names, body material like fingernails and possessions to affect their owners by sympathetic magic and curses.

Appalachian Granny Magic is a form of Native American witchcraft that dates back to the first European settlers of the Appalachian Mountains, who came in the late 1700s from Ireland and Scotland. There were “Water Witches” and “Witch Doctors”, who believed in and gave daily offerings to fairy folk and other magical creatures that they believed followed them into the new country. They also believe in the spirits of the dead and seek out the guidance of ancestral spirits. It is believed that in the Appalachians, the legendary Cherokee witch Spearfinger, who had a finger that looked like a spear and wore a dress of impenetrable stone and eat the liver of her victims haunts the mountains to this very day.


Hoodoo or “conjure” is a syncretic combination of practices from African and Native American traditions that are practiced in the Americas. It is also based on some of the European magical practices and grimoires and even biblical figures. Rootwork is a subcategory or type of Hoodoo practice involving the use of roots and herbs in magical practices. Witches of this practice have largely been African Americans in the American Southeast, but there are also some white root doctors as well as Latinos and Native Americans. Those who practice Hoodoo perform practices such as potion and charm-making. They believe these allow people to access supernatural forces to improve their daily lives by gaining power in many areas of life, luck, money, love, divination, revenge, health, employment and necromancy.

North American Witchcraft

marie laveau

Looking at Hawaii, there are practitioners known as Kahuna, traditional sorcerers and healers. They are also experts in anything from diagnosing illness, herbal medicine, canoe building, temple building, wood carving, star-gazing, agriculture and more. Both the health and sorcery of the Kahuna were based in prayer and the ancient gods, and the practitioners were forced underground when the christians arrived in the 19th century.

There are many other traditions practiced in Northern America, such as Pow-wow (a system of American folk magic and magic associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch), Santería (a syncretic Afro-Caribbean religious tradition with beliefs of the Yoruba people of Nigeria), and Vodou (or Voodoo). Louisiana Voodoo (or New Orleans Voodoo) is a variant of Voudou, and originates from religions of the African diaspora and syncretized with the Catholic religion as a result of the massive forced migrations and displacement of the slave trade. Many famous witches came from this practice such as Marie Laveau, a Lousiana Creole Voodoo practitioner, herbalist and midwife. Her daughter Marie Laveau II was also a well practitioner that carried on many of her mothers views, events and traditions.

South American Witchcraft

woman with boa morte staff

Brujería is a general label for the witchcraft practices of Central America, where there are combinations of those from European settlers and the indigenous Mayan people of the region. Brujos hold beliefs that are similar to witches around the world. They are a diverse group and can resemble faith healers. They can be shamanic, spiritualistic or pagan. Brujos practice spells, charms, amulets, divination, herbalism, rituals and ceremonies, shape-shifting and glamoury. They also refer specifically to a mystical sect of male witches from the southernmost part of Argentina.

In the Peruvian Amazon Basic, and northern coastal regions of South America there are healer shamans known as Curanderos. They use rattles and rituals for their sorcery and deification. They typically do not use spells or divination, but rather work as psycho-spiritual healers doing such things as soul retrievals. Another South American group are the Mapuche people of Chile. They are a community shaman, usually a woman and are known as a Machi. They serve the community by performing ceremonies to cure disease, ward off evil, influence weather and harvest, and herbalism.

The Kalku is a Mapuche sorcerer or shaman who has the power to work with spirits or wicked creatures known as “wekufe.” In Brazil, Macumba is a form of Vodou or Santería or the worship of the ancient African gods through spirit possession and magic. It is an umbrella term for the two principal forms of African spirit workshop in Brazil, Candomble and Umbanda. 

Candomble ceremonies start with invocations to the gods, prayers, offerings and possession of the faithful by the gods. An example is the Sisterhood of the Boa Morte, who worship the iyás, the female spirits of the dead. Today, the Boa Morte (“good death”) festival takes place in Cachoeira, Brazil every August. It is syncretized with the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Another celebration held on January 1st every year, millions of celebrants wad into the ocean at dusk where a priestess known as a “mao de santo” (“mother of the saint”) lights candles and purifies and ordains the other young priestesses.

Umbanda incorporates the worship of Catholic saints along with the beliefs of the Brazilian Indians and spiritualism. Typical practices include spiritual possession and mediumship, spells for health and cursing which are often performed as a commercial service. An important spiritual teacher of Umband was Gildette César, a medium who directed the Tenda Espírita Guaracy in Rio de Janeiro for more than 50 years.