What We’ve Learned About J.K. Rowling’s New Wizarding World

Movies Harry Potter
Movies Harry Potter

With Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them about six months away, J.K. Rowling is starting to get fans hyped by adding more to the Harry Potter canon. From Mar. 8-11, Rowling released four stories on Pottermore detailing the history of magic in North America, the location of the next film trilogy featuring Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). Her first story got some raised eyebrows, specifically from the Native American community in the U.S., but there are some interesting additions to Harry Potter lore overall that adds nice background for the upcoming films. Keep reading for the highlights we gleaned from Pottermore, and get ready for the first installment of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them November 18, 2016!

Native Americans were the OG wizards in North America…duh

According to Rowling, the wizarding world knew about America a long time before European explorers “discovered it” thanks to various modes of magical transportation. How Native American magic users in North America were treated varied across communities. Some were celebrated as great healers and/or hunters, but some were stigmatized, accused of being possessed by evil spirits. One story that offended modern day Native Americans was her use of the skin-walkers legend. In Harry Potter canon, the skin-walkers legend came about mostly as malicious rumors from Muggle (we are taking a stand against the No-Maj term North America uses) medicine men faking their own powers, and the legend was that skin-walkers sacrificed their family members to gain the power to transform. We’re not taking a stance on the subject, but we are glad, at least, that Rowling didn’t try to make colonists the original wizards of North America.

Scourers = Anti-Death Eaters

Pottermore depiction of Salem Witch Trials

Unlike the villains under Voldemort, Scourers were the scourge of North America. These bad guys were wizard mercenaries that started off as bounty hunters and vigilantes, but came to hate magic users. We’re not exactly sure why since they were wizards themselves, so it seems Rowling is basically saying that Scourers really hated themselves. Either way, these guys were running around North America unchecked when wizarding communities first started forming because said communities were so small and had no law enforcement mechanisms in place yet. You might say it was the Wild West! Scourers were known for their bloodlust, and started trafficking fellow wizards, even passing off Muggles as wizards in order to collect bounties from witch-hunting Puritans. At least two known Scourers were judges during the Salem Witch Trials, an event that resulted in the death of many innocents, both magical and Muggle. Due to corrupt Scourers roaming the land, many magical people fled or made the decision to not locate to North America, which meant the pureblood mentality in Europe that Voldemort used to his advantage never really made it across the ocean.

After the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) was formed in 1693, the law smacked down on Scourers and any found guilty were subsequently executed. Scourers started going into hiding, marrying Muggles and slowly weeding the magic out of their blood. Scourer descendants in North America inherited the same prejudices as their forefathers and made it their duty to eradicate magic from the land.

Don’t be a Dorcus

Magical Congress of the United States of America logo

Things really picked up for the MACUSA after an unfortunate incident with a Scourer descendant. A witch named Dorcus Twelvetrees, whose father was essentially the Secretary of Treasury for MACUSA, fell in love with a Muggle named Bartholomew Barebone, not knowing that he was from a Scourer family who wholeheartedly believed the wizarding world was evil. Barebone used poor Dorcus to gain information about the secret addresses for MACUSA and Ilvermony (the American wizarding school), details about her wand and the wizarding community in general. He then printed and passed out leaflets with said information and started a persecution campaign against witches and wizards. Luckily, Muggle authorities got involved when Barebone made the mistake of hurting Muggles he thought were wizards, but the MACUSA and North American wizarding community still felt repercussions from his actions. The MACUSA had to relocate and obliviate anyone they thought involved with the incident, Dorcus was sent to jail for a year and then lived in seclusion after her release. Then the 15th President of the MACUSA, Emily Rappaport, instituted a law creating total segregation of the Muggle and wizarding worlds.

Fraternizing with Muggles had extremely harsh penalties and very limited communication with Muggles was allowed only to complete necessary daily activities. Compare this attitude to Harry Potter when authorities would just come in and obliviate people, and wizards would get a warning or a tap on the wrist. The American wizarding community was much farther underground than those in other countries, and this incident and Rappaport’s law only made the wariness between Muggles and wizards worse. Years later, Dorcus was still remembered for unknowingly causing all that trouble and it became common to say a person being an idiot was “being a Dorcus.” Dorcus…dork, we see what you did there, J.K.!

You’re a wizard, Harry!
Harry finds his wand at Ollivanders

One of our favorite scenes from Harry Potter (both in the book and in the movie) was when Harry found his wand at Ollivanders. Beyond the Hogwarts letter and Hagrid rescuing him from the Dursleys, finding his wand truly cemented the fact that he was a real wizard and that it wasn’t all a dream. When we think wizards and witches, we think wands and broomsticks, but wands originated in Europe and weren’t used very much in Native American communities until people started immigrating over. Once the wizarding world entered the 20th century, high-quality wandless magic was still a good indicator of a wizard’s power, but wands were more popular tools for channeling magic. Wizards and witches also had to carry a wand permit if they wanted a wand. While Europe had Ollivander and Gregorovitch (the latter noticeably not mentioned in these recent stories), North America had four famous wandmakers: Shikoba Wolfe, Johannes Jonker, Thiago Quintana, and Violetta Beauvais.

Wolfe wands were extremely powerful but hard to master, and he was known for using Thunderbird tail feathers (like a phoenix, but the North American version that can generate storms) in his products. Jonker had fancy wands usually inlaid with mother-of-pearls and his signature material was Wampus cat hair. Quintana’s wands carried White River Monster spines, but the material disappeared from wand making after his death because he didn’t share the secret of how to lure those creatures in with anyone. Finally, Beauvais always made her wands with swamp mayhem wood, and they also usually contained a rougarou‘s hair, dog-headed creatures inhabiting Louisiana swamps.

Harry Potter "I love magic"

And those are the highlights! As you can see, North America’s wizarding World has quite a few differences from the old European world we know and love. Along with a different historical beginning, the new world we’re entering has a much different mindset. Pureblood supremacy isn’t an issue, wands are more diverse, and staying away from Muggles is a much higher priority. Can you even imagine how much trouble Arthur Weasley would have gotten into in America? Knowing all of this, we’re even more intrigued by Fantastic Beasts since Newt blatantly breaks the Statute of Secrecy, even if by accident, and we know he teams up with a Muggle named Jacob who isn’t supposed to know about the wizarding world.

Here’s to hoping J.K. Rowling drops some more stories before the movie premieres!

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