Connecting shamanic initiates with contemporary elders.

Towards a Common Understanding: What is Sorcery?

Whenever the issue of sorcery is brought up it seems to reveal confusion and misunderstanding. We at The Urban Shaman want to dispel this as much as possible. So we're offering our definition in hopes of furthering understanding and discussion. While we fully recognize this is a distinct language and pattern of comprehension, and that there are other words and ways to talk about the same phenomena that we know as 'sorcery', for the purposes of shamanic understanding, we're offering insight from a contemporary shamanic point of view. This may or may not be distinctly different than the definitions used by indigenous shamanic peoples. However, we believe that in essence all sorcery originates from the same source and it is just the technique of manifestation which may change according to the culture and specific practices. The understanding we offer is laden with psychological language, as this is the lens with which people in contemporary cultures generally view themselves and their experiences. 

What is sorcery?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines sorcery as, "a type of magic that is used especially to harm someone or make things happen."

Simply put, sorcery is a malevolent intention to activate or reactivate trauma in the physical, emotional, psychological, and/or spiritual aspects of a person's experience, usually for some benefit of the sorcerer. That's not to suggest all trauma is an example or sorcery, but more that sorcery has the potential to cause significant trauma and even death.

Often times sorcery is manifested through individuals who are completely unconscious. They are simply unaware, and the impulse is blinded through the Shadow. This is because the force behind sorcery is sovereign and intelligent. It can manifest through humans who are conscious or unconscious of it's existence and intention.

In it's more insidious forms, sorcery is very subtle, and may even ride in under the guise of benevolence, tricking not only the target, but the perpetrator as well. When it operates through this form it is much more difficult to detect and people may be far more willing to accept it and become victims of it, on both sides of the equation. One prevalent example of this would be in the wounded healer who is motivated by a desire to help people, but who proceeds to engage in healing modalities without the person's permission, or who enables continued self-destruction in someone because they thwart natural consequences out of the desire to help the individual avoid pain and suffering.

In it's most overt forms sorcery is intentional and the sorcerer is conscious of their actions. They may deliberately invoke spells, incantations, Spirits, etc. without regard for consequence to others, or with intention of harming others. 

Ethical shamanic practice demands that we be aware of sorcery, guard ourselves against it when others exhibit it, and do the inner work we need to do so that we're not unconsciously exhibiting sorcery towards others. 

The term 'sorcery' carries a heavy connotation and it isn't a word that should be used lightly. We caution in this regard- to truly discern when sorcery is occurring a high degree of insight is necessary, and a wisdom must be employed in knowing how to proceed. There is a danger in discounting or accusing others of sorcery on the basis of disagreement, misunderstanding, and emotional inflammation. It's best to not make assumptions or accusations about such things if you are feeling triggered by particular individuals or events, because while sorcery often does seek to trigger people, feeling emotionally inflamed is not within itself evidence of sorcery. There are many types of Ego defenses, and all of them may cause inflammation in the undisciplined person.

If there is any single Ego defense (unconscious) that most characterizes what sorcery can look and feel like, it would be projection. Projection is defined as: "A self-defense against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) wherein an individual denies the existence of the impulse or trait within themselves, but attributes it to another person."

If we can see someone's reaction as being motivated by unconscious Ego defense we can have compassion and work with them to see themselves more clearly, or deflect the projection. Separating out the "sin from the sinner" so-to-speak can neutralize most projections, if one is able to do this from a place of power.

That being said, sorcery at it's core often seeks to find the vulnerability within the individual and will attempt to hook itself in, and then activate 'triggers' that keep a person in a feedback loop (one expression of the ouroborus). And so paying attention to this process is an important aspect of developing discernment. 


What are the types of sorcery (in effect)?

  • Curses
    Curses are extremely common and can be as minor as a co-worker saying, "You're just sucking up to the boss to get a promotion", to as serious as ongoing 'gaslighting.' They generally come in the form of projection- someone defining for you who you are or what your experience is. If deeply embedded or reinforced, curses can cause death (health issues, addiction, suicide, etc.).
    One example of a deeply embedded curse is the child who hears early on in his life that he "will end up in prison just like his dad." He may hear this repeatedly over the course of his childhood, and then will manifest situations and experiences that continue to reinforce this. This type of curse has elements of ancestral curses, which carry over into the following generations. These curses can be particularly powerful because the origin may go back several generations, but because we are so removed from the original ancestor it's a vague connection that we may not even be conscious of.These kinds of curses are direct verbal and emotional attacks.Another kind of curse comes in the form of persuasion, and these work on the mind and belief system. This is what makes 'gaslighting' so dangerous, because it uses both tactics to break a person down. A common example of a persuasive curse is when a woman goes to a psychic and is told that the man she is engaged to is not her soul mate. This can cause or reinforce doubt, and the curse is particularly effective if she is unable to reject the psychic intrusion and instead begins to ruminate about the information to such a degree that she begins to outwardly manifest this. She may start to make decisions as if he is not 'the one', and may ultimately sabotage the relationship.

    When you open yourself up to another at the same time you allow them to have power over you- power to define who you are, or what you should do, or what your future will be, and the information they feed back to you causes any kind of cognitive dissonance (it doesn't seem right), you're very vulnerable to unknowingly accepting the curse.

  • Energetic Attacks (or Assault)
    Energetic attacks are aspects of both curses and spells. In other words, both curses and spells can use energy to manifest. But because these work in a little different way, we've included them as a separate category.Energetic attacks are distinct because they either work in the aether, or 'astral' realm. While all curses originate from there ('as above, so below'), not all people can consciously connect with the spiritual realms. Shamans have been using this method of sorcery in the 'shaman wars' for as long as we know. In other words, they don't have direct interface in the material realm, but do all the sorcery in the spiritual realm.But energetic assaults can manifest even through people who are not conscious of the true nature of the attack.
  • Energy darts
    Mob formation
    Astral attack (physical)
  • Spells


How do I protect against sorcery from others?


How do I stop myself from unknowingly committing sorcery against others?