Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry: Founded on Freedom
In 1620, hundreds of years before her fellow Irish would head to the “New World” in droves, Isolt Sayre boarded a ship to America. Just like the other passengers on the Mayflower, she was searching for a new beginning and freedom from oppression. The pilgrims wanted the freedom to practice their religion, while Isolt was looking for the freedom to practice magic. In fact, “freedom” is the foundation on which Isolt would later build Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore writings recount Isolt’s escape from her fanatical pure-blood aunt, Gormlaith Gaunt. As a child, Isolt was kept away from Hogwarts and denied a wand. She endured her aunt’s cruelty and pure-blood superiority. Isolt did not agree with these practices, and once she was far away from Gormlaith, she followed her own set of values. In stark contrast to her aunt’s ideas of blood status, Isolt married a Muggle, James Steward, who ran Ilvermorny alongside her, as an equal.
The ability to make those choices and follow your beliefs is a significant component of Ilvermorny’s Sorting Ceremony. The four Houses of Ilvermorny are Horned Serpent, Wampus, Pukwudgie, and Thunderbird. Similar to Hogwarts, each House has certain attributes or values. According to J.K. Rowling’s writings on Pottermore, “Horned Serpent favours scholars, Wampus, warriors, Pukwudgie, healers and Thunderbird, adventurers.” Alternatively, it’s said that the four Houses together represent the whole of a person. Horned Serpent represents the mind, Wampus is the body, Pukwudgie is the heart, and Thunderbird represents the soul. During the Sorting Ceremony, four statues – one for each House – indicate to the student whether they want that pupil in their House or not. When more than one House chooses a student, it’s then up to the student to decide where they will be placed. Again, the idea of the freedom to choose for yourself and build your own life perseveres.
Ilvermorny as a whole is designed to give witches and wizards a place to freely be themselves, in terms of both performing magic without fear of punishment and choosing their own path. As Albus Dumbledore once said, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are” (CoS 333).