Encyclopedia Article


A sorcerer, or sorceress, is a person who practices magic or witchcraft by connecting with spirits, ancestors, and the supernatural world. The term is usually used with certain dark connotations to indicate the use of magic not for healing purposes but for harmful ones. Unlike in the Navajo tradition, in which the term witchcraft is generally used in a positive way to refer to healing, blessing, and ensuring harmony, in some Pueblo traditions such as Zuni, Hopi, or Laguna, the word sorcery indicates the manipulation of supernatural powers with a negative intent. In addition, while Navajos inherit the supernatural and healing arts from elders or are chosen to learn them based on unique talents, in Pueblo culture one can independently choose to become a sorcerer and voluntarily learn and practice witchcraft, usually in secret.

Photo Credit: 

"Dust jacket for first edition of Tony Hillerman's 1970 novel, The Blessing Way, depicting a Navajo witch, or sorcerer, in a wolf's skin," design by Mozelle Thompson.

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