Witchcraft in the Southwest: Spanish and Indian Supernaturalism on the Rio Grande

Witchcraft in the Southwest: Spanish and Indian Supernaturalism on the Rio Grande

Witchcraft in the Southwest: Spanish and Indian Supernaturalism on the Rio Grande

Witchcraft in the Southwest: Spanish and Indian Supernaturalism on the Rio Grande


"Occasionally a truly remarkable book appears-one that takes a topic in need of discussion, thoroughly researches it, and presents credible results in a fascinating and extremely well manner. Witchcraft in the Southwest is such a volume, and as such, is a must for all readers, be they scholars, students, or others.... The volume devotes equal time to Spanish and Indian supernaturalism along the Rio Grande. Opening with a succinct review of the meaning and evolution of witchcraft in Europe and Spain, Simmons establishes the existence of many similar beliefs among native inhabitants of the New World. Moving chronologically to Spanish colonization, the author vividly conveys Spanish reactions to Pueblo life and religion, the fears of witches and other supernatural forces that plagued Spanish colonists.... Emphasizing the beliefs and nature of witchcraft rather than the actual mechanics (which are secret), he follows Hispanic communities into the late 19th century.... Readers learn how witchcraft fits into the Pueblo world view and how it compares and contrasts with European and Spanish varieties in such areas as motivation, types, powers, beliefs and means of acquisition.... Simmons' study provides a needed overview and one that is carefully based on available ethnohistorical documents and credible anthropological data."-American Indian Quarterly

"The narrative abounds in gothic tales of the bizarre, made more intriguing because European black arts became intertwined with native cults of animal worship, superstitions, herbalism and myths. The witch craze which seized three pueblos, Nambé, Zuñi and Pecos, is graphically reported.... A concluding chapter discusses the legacy that still lingers on the contemporary scene. It all makes for fascinating reading."-Westways Magazine

A professional historian, author, editor, and translator, Marc Simmons has published numerous books and monographs on the Southwest as well as articles in more than twenty scholarly and popular journals.


In the realm of serious history, the story of witchcraft is usually disposed of quickly with passing reference to the European crazes of the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries, or to the much condemned and frequently examined madness that infected Salem, Massachusetts, in the latter 1600s. Because scholars seldom manifest an affinity for the occult, they have tended to neglect the inescapable fact that the mass of men are firmly wedded to belief in supernatural phenomena and that the relentless rush of history is often directed by the unbridled force of superstitious conviction. Regardless of the direction of scholarly approach, however, it cannot be disputed that witchery remains a subject of endless fascination for a large segment of our population. in fact, recent resurgence of interest in the occult has raised it almost to the level of a popular fad. Perhaps the intent of any thoughtful study should be the simple one of describing the nature of witchcraft belief and the social consequences that follow as men surrender their souls and powers of reason to the baleful influence of the black arts. in such a study little purpose is served by trying to show that the existence of witchcraft cannot be scientifically established.

The present work surveys, from a historical rather than from a strictly analytical point of view, the nature of witchcraft belief in that corner of the United States generally known as the far Southwest. the Rio Grande, extending more than a thousand miles from its mouth on the Texas Gulf . . .

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