Early Magical Communities: The Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas, also known as Native Americans, were a highly diverse group of people, spanning from what is now modern Canada down to what is now modern Chile and Argentina. All of these societies had integrated tribes of both magic and non-magic (“Muggle”) peoples, with witches and wizards holding traditionally important roles in their communities. Of particular interest to magical history are the Clovis culture throughout the Americas, the Olmec peoples of Mexico, and the Maya of southern Mexico and northern Central America. The customs, cultures, and histories of each of these tribes are varied and rich. This section will provide an introduction to the influences that witches and wizards have had on these cultures and how these cultures have influenced current magical communities, particularly in the areas that the tribes were formerly concentrated.
Migration to the Americas
The first peoples were believed to have migrated to the Americas between 28,000 and 10,000 B.C.E. Muggles commonly believe that the first peoples migrated from Asia to a far-northern part of North America by a land bridge that has since been covered by the modern day Bering Strait. Magical historians agree on this point as the migration occurred prior to the invention of broomsticks and before the development of the Apparition method of transportation. It is, however, believed by prominent magical historians that the migration would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, without witches and wizards who assisted the ancient Muggles by providing Healings, multiplying existing food supplies, and using a primitive Point Me spell for navigational support. Once in the Americas, the peoples migrated across the entirety of the North and South American continents, creating separate civilisations with different cultures and belief systems, but in all of them, high importance was placed on the magical peoples in the communities, partly because of the help that primitive witches and wizards gave to their Muggle companions on the journey.
The Clovis people are widely believed to have been the very first people to live in the Americas, though there is some recent debate among Muggles as to the accuracy of that fact, due to new Muggle dating methods in the field of ‘science.’ The noted magical historians who specialise in ancient times remain of the persuasion that the Clovis were, in fact, the first civilisation in the Americas that involved witches and wizards. The name ‘Clovis’ is fairly recent, originating in the 1930s with discoveries of various artefacts by Muggle archaeologists. While witches and wizards had pre-existing evidence of the existence of these people, to minimise confusion, magical historians chose to adopt the Muggle name for records. In this way, the study of history can be unencumbered by the barrier between magic and non-magic communities. The hope is that this will give future magical historians the option of using Muggle records to solidify and expand their knowledge, because, as science improves, it has proven more and more useful to the field of history for both magic and non-magic peoples.
The Clovis peoples are known to have used both bone and ivory for tools; bone is believed to have been a Muggle idea, but the use of ivory appears to stem from Wizarding contributions in an effort to encourage their Muggle counterparts to use every part of slain animals, including the tusks of woolly mammoths. Many magical historians believe that, in addition, it was a primitive wizard who suggested the woolly mammoth as possible prey, offering his skills in magic to his fellow men to take down the mighty beast. Some magical historians believe that, without the aid of magic, Muggles would have been unable to kill such huge animals, though this is a source of contention among many historians who debate whether witches and wizards give less credit than is possibly due to Muggle peoples.
The Clovis people migrated all across North and South America and settled in many areas. Eventually, however, they began to decline. Magical historians believe that the decline was due to a combination of a decreased availability of megafauna, or big game, such as mastodons in the Americas, and a massive climatic cooling that made it difficult for the non-magic peoples to survive. While witches and wizards could perform simple Warming Charms, the Muggles often died due to complications of the cold, and the witches and wizards dispersed into other populations of people over time. When the Clovis people died out, some of their culture lived on in other primitive American peoples, but it was not until the 1930s that Muggles finally gave a name to this first culture that migrated across two vast continents.
The Olmec was the first major civilisation in Mexico. The Olmec peoples lived in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, where now are the modern-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco. The civilisation thrived during what is called the Mesoamerican Formative period, from about 1,500 B.C.E. to 400 B.C.E. From as early as 2,500 B.C.E., pre-Olmec civilisations had thrived in this area, but the Olmec did not really come into their own until 1,600 B.C.E. to 1,500 B.C.E.
Importantly, the Olmec had a very structured society, far more so than the more ancient Clovis peoples, who seem to have been less hierarchal. The Olmec were one of the first civilisations, along with the Maya (to be discussed below), to put witches and wizards in their own elite class of people within their communities, above the artisan, labourer, and farming classes.
In the Olmec civilisation, witches and wizards made up the top two elite classes—the ruling class and the shaman class—and were just above the Muggle priest class. The ruling class was seen to have a direct link to deities worshipped by the Olmec, but many of these perceived links to the gods are thought now to have been accidental magic by young witches and wizards in the Olmec society. When these young people, with no control over their abilities, accidentally showed their magic, it was seen as a direct act by the gods to acknowledge them as the next ruler, and because even witches and wizards had very little knowledge of where their power came from at the time, it was widely believed to be divine intervention. Magical historians, through ancient records, have found this to be the most likely explanation as to how rulers with what were assumed to be direct links with gods were chosen, though there is still some debate among leading experts.
The witches and wizards of the Olmec had a love of jade, obsidian, and magnetite luxury goods. Some evidence exists that points to witches and wizards using these materials in symbolic shapes for magical assistance, to enhance their power with the help of natural substances. Indeed, there have even been primitive obsidian- and jade-topped wands found by magical historians, though current research shows that these decorative tips may have actually inhibited magical power in the wands rather than enhanced it. Magnetite was a common material used for mortars and pestles by witches and wizards in the Olmec culture for it was believed that it enhanced the potency of draughts, but it has since been proven that, while some materials do work better with potions, magnetite is not one of them and that this was merely a superstition among the Olmec people based on the shininess and prettiness of the material.
The Great Pyramid is the most important feature of the Olmec people and marks one of the most important influences that witches and wizards had on the Muggles in Mexico at that time. Today, it is 112 feet tall and conical in shape, but when it was originally built, it was rectangular with stepped sides and inset corners. This pyramid was the largest Mesoamerican structure, and it would not have happened without magical assistance. To this day, Muggles puzzle over wonders such as the pyramids, but magical historians know that magic peoples helped the non-magic peoples of the time build tributes to their mutual gods. Primitive witches and wizards used sorcery to lighten the loads of Muggle labourers and also to help perfect the shape and symmetry of such monuments. The Great Pyramid was the largest Muggle-magic collaboration in the Olmec civilisation.
A large part of culture is art, and the Olmec had a striking artistic feature that makes their artefacts stand out from other art from the time period: they made colossal heads, often over 9 feet tall. While Muggles have puzzled over this for centuries, magical historians know that this is another important example of the influence that witches and wizards had on their Muggle tribesmen. Witches and wizards had encouraged idolisation of the head because they had already come to understand that the brain was what separated humans from animals, and the witches and wizards of the day believed that there were key differences in the brains of magic and non-magic peoples that separated them in terms of ability.
Between 400 B.C.E. and 350 B.C.E., the Olmec civilisation faded. Muggle research points to the reasons for this being mostly environmental, but many magical historians are of the belief that the magic and non-magic peoples of the Olmec ceased to exist together as peacefully as they had before. Some evidence points to the non-magic peoples choosing to branch out and live separate from the ruling and shaman classes, but, after such reliance on magical help in every aspect of life–from agriculture to building to medicinal needs–they found themselves woefully unprepared. The magic peoples, likely insulted by the insinuation that their peers no longer wanted their help, had moved on by the time that the Muggles changed their minds, and the Olmec society fell apart, their decline sped up by the environmental changes that Muggle science says is the main reason behind the Olmec decline.
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilisation that occupied southern Mexico and northern Central America around the same time that the Olmec culture was thriving in south-central Mexico. However, the Mayan culture lasted much longer, having had their zenith in the Common Era (C.E.), and are, in fact, still in existence today. The Maya are noted for being the only Mesoamerican civilisation to have had a fully formed written language and also for significant mathematical, architectural, artistic, and astronomical advances, much of which can be attributed to the Wizarding influence in Mayan culture.
The Mayan civilisation can be divided into several historical blocks of time. Of interest in this chapter are the Early Preclassic period, which covers roughly from 2,000 B.C.E. to 1,000 B.C.E., and the Middle Preclassic period, which spans from 1,000 B.C.E. to 400 B.C.E.
The Early Preclassic period is significant because this marks the time when the Mayan peoples began to change their lifestyle from hunter-gatherer nomadic peoples to agricultural village societies. Magical historians are of the belief that this gradual change was, in part, due to the magic peoples in the Mayan culture who found it more profitable to plant food than chase after it. It is believed that the witches and wizards in the Mayan civilisation used their magic to assist the Muggles in their farming and benefited from such by being able to use extra ingredients in their potions, an art the Mayan witches and wizards were very interested in advancing, but had been unable to do so properly when their people had been constantly moving from place to place.
Due to the proximity of the Olmec, the two fledgling civilisations traded with each other and each influenced the other. Both societies had written systems, though the Mayan system was more advanced and based on phonetics rather than symbols that represented ideas (like Egyptian hieroglyphs), and both made important mathematical and astronomical advances; both civilisations used the concept “zero” and both used calendars.
By the year 1,000 B.C.E., the Middle Preclassic period had begun. The society had become more complex as it developed roots in a community rather than moving about as nomads. Luxury goods for the elite began to surface, such as jade mosaics and, notably, obsidian mirrors. Magical historians believe that ancient wizards experimenting with the art of Divination used these mirrors as primitive scrying tools. There is evidence that they were very popular among the “fortune-tellers” of the day, though current Diviners would have laughed at such a material being used for Divination today. During this period, the Olmec were at their cultural zenith, their highest point, and the Maya were on their way up. The relations between the two trading civilisations is thought to have been positive as the Maya were heavily influenced by Olmec culture, in everything from diet (maize and, notably, the cocoa plant) to worship (jaguars were central to both religions), and even language.
The architecture of the Mayan civilisation was fairly advanced for the time period. Most important to magical history is the notion that the temples and pyramids of Mayan civilisation were remodelled every 52 years, in accordance to their calendar. Muggles have speculated on this and are, to date, unsure whether or not this happened, but magical historians are of the mind that it did. In fact, the magical historians believe that it was the witches and wizards of the Mayan community that initiated this idea, because, in numerology, 52=5+2=7. Seven is and, even in ancient times, was an important number in magic, and the Mayan witches and wizards recognised that, consciously using it in their temple and pyramid upkeep.
Another important aspect of Maya culture that is rich with the influence of the ancient witches and wizards who lived among them is the importance of astronomy, and the advanced knowledge that the Mayans had of the skies. The lunar cycle was extremely important to them, primarily because of the influence that it had on potions with which the Mayans experimented. The influence of ancient witches and wizards gave primitive Muggles insight into the importance of such cycles.
The integration of society is the primary cause of the extraordinary advances such ancient civilisations made. The influence magic peoples had on a primarily non-magic society cannot be ignored. Without primitive witches and wizards, these cultures likely would not have lasted as long as they did, nor would they have made many of the advances in astronomy and mathematics that they did without the influence of magic peoples.
Throughout North, Central, and South America, the civilisations prior to 350 B.C.E. that migrated to the continents were strongly integrated. Witches and wizards, particularly in the Olmec and Mayan cultures, were held as elite members of society, revered for their abilities and their talents in astronomy and other magical arts. While less is known about the Clovis culture, the Mayan and Olmec both lived in agricultural villages and towns with a structured societal hierarchy, with most witches and wizards near the top or at the top of these chains. Materials such as obsidian, jade, and magnetite were frequently used in primitive magical tools, such as ancient wands, scrying mirrors, and mortars and pestles. The joint influence of non-magic peoples on magic peoples and vice versa led to a rich tapestry of culture that would have been nonexistent without such crucial cooperation among these now-segregated groups.