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We know that today there are witches and wizards in countries throughout the world (at least in the Potter-verse). But how about before European colonization and immigration? Were there magical people amongst the Incas or Mayans? Or among the native tribes in North America?

How about in Australia, Africa, or parts of Asia before Europeans spread to those areas?

Or did all witch and wizard bloodlines originate from Europe?

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2 Answers 2

(ETA 12.25.12 at the end of the answer)

I think there probably were witches and wizards throughout the world, aside from Europe.

I looked through Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, thinking that magical creatures must have very long histories in their countries of origin -- for example, as we know from Chamber of Secrets, a basilisk can live for 900+ years. I don't think it's a stretch to extrapolate that where there be dragons, there be witches and wizards! Therefore, I think each creature's country or continent of origin is indicative of the presence of generational magic folk.

Newt Scamander writes:

I have visited lairs, burrows, and nests across five continents, observed the curious habits of magical beasts in a hundred countries, witnessed their powers, gained their trust and, on occasion, beaten them off with my travelling kettle.

[...]

I was then but a lowly Ministry of Magic employee and leapt at the chance both to augment my pitiful salary of two Sickles a week and to spend my holidays travelling the globe in search of new magical species.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Introduction

The International Confederation of Wizards argued the matter out at their famous summit meeting of 1692. No fewer than seven weeks of sometimes acrimonious discussion between wizards of all nationalities were devoted to the troublesome question of magical creatures.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - A Brief History of Muggle Awareness of Fantastic Beasts

Here's a quick paragraph about some of the magical creatures and their native countries:

The Acromantula is native to Borneo, so there's one country represented. Billywigs are native to Australia, and generations of Australian witches and wizards have attempted to lure Billywigs into stinging. Centaurs are thought to have originated in Greece. The Clabbert originated in the southern part of the United States and the Demiguise is found in the Far East. The Diricawl comes from Mauritius. The Antipodean Opaleye dragon is native to New Zealand; the Chinese Fireball dragon is native to China, where its eggs are prized in Chinese wizardry.the International Confederation of Wizards sent in exterminators to Peru in the late nineteenth century to eradicate an over-population of the Peruvian Vipertooth dragon. The Dugbog is found in North and South America; the Erumpent and Fwooper come from Africa. The Fire Crab is native to Fiji. The Kappa is a Japanese beast. The Lethifold¹ is found only in tropical climates. The Occamy lives in the Far East and India. The Phoenix comes from Egypt, China, and India. The Pogrebin comes from Russia.

ETA 12.25.12: I came across this bit regarding ancient Egyptian wizards in Prisoner of Azkaban. It's an excerpt of a letter from Hermione to Harry talking about the Weasleys':

Did you see that picture of Ron and his family a week ago? I bet he’s learning loads, I’m really jealous – the ancient Egyptian wizards were fascinating.

Prisoner of Azkaban - page 14 - Bloomsbury - chapter 1, Owl Post

Also, while European, Hermione mentions she's learned a lot about French wizards on her holiday in France and has adjusted her History of Magic essay with the new information she's uncovered. Two extra rolls of parchment's worth even.

¹ The Lethifold is not super common in highly-populated areas, but it does come into contact with humans here and there. Whether that means travelers from other regions is unclear.

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This is of course all speculation:

Since Witches and Wizards can be Muggle-born, it is very likely that they existed in the Americas before the introduction of the Europeans. From Wikipedia:

many Native American cultures have traditional healers, ritualists, singers, mystics, lore-keepers and "Medicine People"

This people were likely Muggle-born witches and wizards using their inate magical abilities. I would also think it likely they did not have wandlore, which probably limited their ability channel their magic. They may have substituted other objects though, as Ollivander says:

...if you are any wizard at all you will be able to channel your magic through almost any instrument.

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But isn't being a Muggle-born because of recessive genes? I seem to remember that being mentioned at some point. –  Gabe Willard Apr 11 '12 at 15:02
    
@GabeWillard - That's mentioned in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, but I don't think it's canon. –  Brendan Long Apr 11 '12 at 16:32
1  
I've gone over that quote from Ollivander like eleventy-one times, and at first I thought it meant a wizard could channel their magic through a pot or pan, a Wellie boot, or an ear of corn. However, I'm now leaning toward "almost any instrument" is referring to wands. Wizards need wands for magic in canon; I don't recall any instances of someone using a shoe to cast Avada Kedavra, know what I mean? I don't know if I'm right or not, but being able to use any object to cast a spell isn't consistent with what we see in canon. :) –  Slytherincess Apr 11 '12 at 17:52
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@Gabe: JKR said some (somewhat contradictory) things about magical genes, see the references in this discussion on the Harry Potter Wiki. A more convincing theory can be found on MuggleNet. –  Hendrik Vogt Apr 11 '12 at 18:53
    
I would translate Ollivander's use of the word 'instrument' to mean 'any magical device which can focus a witch or wizard's magical abilities'. That would not necessarily be a wand, per se, but it would have to have some magical construction. So while not just any old pot, a pot finished with Peruvian instant darkness powder might work. –  morganpdx Apr 11 '12 at 20:35
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