Department of Mysteries

Insights from Pottermore


Warning: Spoilers below regarding content on the site and questions from the Sorting quiz. The Sorting Hat is one of the cleverest enchanted objects most witches and wizards will ever meet. It literally contains the intelligence of the four founders, can speak (through a rip near its brim) and is skilled at Legilimency, which enables it to look into the wearer’s head and divine his or her capabilities or mood. It can even respond to the thoughts of the wearer. (J.K. Rowling, Pottermore) Other than this short section from Pottermore, (and a paragraph about “hatstalls,” when the Sorting Hat takes longer than five minutes to make a decision), Jo doesn’t give us a whole lot of new information about this perplexing magical object – though she does give some fans the chance to try it on. Perhaps by looking at some of the questions the Pottermore Sorting Hat put to beta-users we can draw a few more conclusions about how it operates. In no particular order, here are a few out of the 200 questions beta-users encountered on the Pottermore Sorting quiz, the possible answers, followed by a brief analysis. After you have died, what would you most like people ... Read More »

Time Travel: How it Works


Time travel is a very complex area of magic–so complex that we presume it is completely regulated by the Ministry of Magic. Going back in time, however, is not the complex part. The difficulty arises in the ability to leave everything as it is. This is discussed in more detail in the “What Can’t Happen” section. After finding a way to go back in time, we must go back. Some people find this difficult to understand, so see the figure below:   As you can see, the normal time line is the top line, and the original group is indicated by the red line. When they go back in time at point B to point A, they turn to a blue line. Because of the mixing, the purple section of the line is where both the past and future person are existing at the same time. They continue to exist at the same time until the past person goes back in time at point B, and the future person continues to exist where they left off on the original time line. Because the past can be affected greatly, care must be taken not to change anything, especially changing something that ... Read More »

Time Travel: Methods of Going Back

PoA Time Turner

In terms of methods of time travel, we must first think about who has access to time travel. Is making a time travel object just like setting up a Portkey or do you need special privileges, perhaps even special powers to set it up? Time Turners So far, the only method of time travel we know about is the use of Time Turners. Hermione says in POA that Professor McGonagall had to write lots of letters to the Ministry for her to use the Time Turner. This raises two issues: Is the use of a Time Turner kept down in records, like it is when an underage wizard uses magic outside of Hogwarts? Are the Time Turners completely Ministry controlled or is there a way to acquire them from elsewhere? If the Ministry does have complete control over time travel, then would they be able to alter all time? If this is the case, then if Fudge is, as many people believe, under the control of Voldemort, there may be serious time travel implications in future books. If the people who make Time Turners can create them on demand, they have a lot of power. Assuming they can also refuse ... Read More »

The Seven Explained

Tom Riddle's Diary

Below is an analysis of the seven Horcruxes Voldemort created. Each contains a brief description, the individual abilities of the Horcrux, and a timeline detailing the appearences of each in the series. The Diary: (1943 – 1992) Description: This malicious journal was made into a Horcrux when Voldemort was a student at Hogwarts, and most likely produced from the death of Moaning Myrtle. Before he met Harry, Voldemort entrusted the book to Lucius Malfoy, hoping it could be used to release Slyterine’s monster once more. It worked, until the diary met Harry Potter, who would destroy the thing and, in effect, a spectral Tom Riddle Jr. with a basilisk fang. Abilities: 1) Could converse with a reader through writing on blank pages. 2) Could make a person see memories originally written. Much like a pensieve, perhaps, though the visions might be altered by the Horcrux. 3) Could draw energy from a human source and create a body exclusively for its piece of soul. Timeline: Created during Voldemort’s time at Hogwarts -> Given to Lucius Malfoy -> Slipped into Ginny Weasley’s Transfiguration textbook -> Used by Ginny to discuss her boy troubles (Harry!) -> Thrown at Moaning Myrtyl -> Discovered by ... Read More »

The Significance of Horcruxes

Ravenclaw Diadem

To be killed permanently and absolutely, the entirety of a person’s soul must be destroyed. When part of it lies hidden in a Horcrux, it is impossible to kill the witch or wizard without first destroying all the Horcruxes they created. Obviously, this is of immeasurable importance to those dark wizards seeking immortality, particularly if the locations of the Horcruxes they made are hidden. Most significant, though, is Voldemort’s use of Horcruxes. It explicitly explains why he wasn’t killed when the Avada Kedavra curse intended for Harry rebounded and hit Voldemort instead. As Hagrid put it, “Dunno if he had enough human left in him to die.” Dumbledore said he believed Voldemort made six Horcruxes, with the original part of his soul still remaining in his body. The locations were: The Gaunt Ring (DESTROYED) Riddle’s Diary (DESTROYED) Nagini, the snake Slytherin’s Locket, stolen by R.A.B (which some have speculated is the locket that wouldn’t open from the glass cabinet in Book Five) Helga Hufflepuff’s Cup An item of Rowena Ravenclaw’s or an item of Godric Gryffindor’s. The first five seem perfectly legitimate, but the last two possibilities have been the subject of heated debate. Since the beginning, Rowena Ravenclaw has ... Read More »

Horcruxes: How Do They Work?

Tom Riddle

The etymology of the word seems to be this: a combination of “hors” from the French “dehors” meaning outside and “crux” meaning “essence.” Thus, a Horcrux is a device for keeping your soul (the essence) outside your body. A Horcrux is created by manually putting part of the soul into an object. Firstly, the soul must be split into two, where one part remains in the human body while the other is destined for the Horcrux. This splitting is accomplished by the “supreme act of evil,” murder, which “rips the soul apart.” Secondly, a powerful spell must be used to gain control over the divided soul to allow the witch or wizard to physically move it into the object they have chosen for the Horcrux. Creating a Horcrux is unnatural and immoral. Professor Slughorn notes that “the soul is supposed to remain intact and whole…splitting it is an act against nature.” Whether this means the creation of a Horcrux is inherently evil is debatable, but it is clearly frowned upon at the very least in the wizarding community, shown particularly by Dumbledore’s banning of its discussion at Hogwarts. Post Deathly Hallows AnalysisCreating a Horcrux Given what we’ve learned from Deathly ... Read More »

What is the Sorting Hat?

The Sorting Hat

By Allie Summary: One of the most intensely fascinating parts of the Harry Potter series has been the Sorting Hat, which can never seem to be truly explained. This topic leaves fans plenty of room for our minds to wander freely and for us to form our own opinions. What really is the Sorting Hat? How could it be an ordinary piece of clothing when it has so much brain power, and has been sorting students into their correct houses for a thousand years? “Twas Gryffindor who found the way, He whipped me off his head The founders put some brains in me So I could choose instead!” Excerpt of song from Goblet of Fire The sorting hat clearly seems to have started out as a normal hat. He, or she, as gender is never specified, started as a plain inanimate object. It was really nothing more then a hat that sat on Gryffindor’s head until the time came that it was needed to do its duty for the founders. How could the sorting hat make such a huge jump from ordinary hat to a extraordinary all-knowing-gives-warnings-in-grave-peril hat? It says that “the founders put some brains in me so I ... Read More »

Wands: What Are They, Really?

The Elder Wand

Wands are truly mysterious instruments. Their curious ability of finding the perfect counterpart and the wondrous ways in which they interact with each other are features that set them apart from other magical objects, as it implies a degree of sentience. Constructed from the many wand-worthy woods – holly, yew, and blackthorn to name a few – wands are created with the greatest possible care by wizards who are learned in wandlore. Within every one of them, there exists the essence – in the form of a hair, feather, or heartstring – of a magical creature. Usually a Phoenix, Dragon, Unicorn or in rare cases Veela. In the case of the Elder Wand, however, the core contained the tail hair of a Threstral. With wands in hand, witches and wizards can more easily accomplish the more mundane tasks of daily life: washing cauldrons, mixing potions, cooking dinner, etc. Additionally, wands have the capacity to aid in tortuing a person, causing pain, and worse, death. Could wands be a conspirator in such an act like committing murder? Most in the wizarding world have it as fact that it is not the wands themselves that do these things; it is the wizard ... Read More »

On Wandless Magic

Dudley at the Zoo

Consider, for a moment, the “accidents” often done by premature wizards before they are accepted into magical schools. Take for example Harry’s trip to the zoo with the Dursleys when he made the glass between himself and the boa disappear. Or the time Harry made his Aunt Marge blow up like a balloon (actually that one Harry did in his third year, but he was under high-stress). These events proved random explosions of magic may exist in a witch or wizard despite relative magical control. But that’s exactly my point, isn’t it? These spontaneous eruptions of magic in youth are examples of wandless magic. It would follow, then, that wandless magic is primarily hard to cast because it is driven by emotion. Considering the range of emotions a human can hold, a spell meant for sparring could potentially kill someone. Yes, because of its nature to act wildly, a wandless spell has the potential to be far more powerful than that of a spell done with a wand. And yet, unforgivable curses cannot be cast without one. Why? As we know of unforgiving curses, you have to “mean them.” Perhaps a wand not only provides a physical focus but a ... Read More »

On “Priori Incantatem”

Priori Incantatem

A jet of green light issued from Voldemort’s wand just as a jet of red light blasted from Harry’s – they met in midair – and suddenly Harry’s wand was vibrating as though an electric charge were surging through it; his hand seized up around it; he couldn’t have released it if he’d wanted to – and a narrow beam of light connected the two wands, neither red nor green, but bright, deep gold.” – Goblet of Fire The sequence that followed was extraordinary. Both Harry and Voldemort lifted into the air and were moved by an unknown force out of the graveyard. Threads of light passed over and around the two until a dome-like exterior appeared. Then Harry heard, emanating from the light, a phoenix’s song. It gave Harry hope in the following battle of the minds that ensued between he and Voldemort moments after. Finally, after Voldemort lost the preliminary scuffle, the force of the Priori Inacantatem was pushed on Voldemort and his own wand. Out of which appeared the ghosts of those he had killed in reverse order. (And that is why Priori Incantatem also goes by the name of “Reverse Spell Effect”. That is exactly what ... Read More »

On the Elder Wand

The Elder Wand

Indeed it was Ollivander who introduced this notion that if a witch or wizard should “beat” another, then the victor should simply own the loser’s wand and that wand should naturally respond to its new carrier. Such was a vital issue in Deathly Hallows, especially when considering the devious plot twists centered on the Elder Wand’s bloody legacy. Not to mention the rule’s importance at the final resolution of the series where the loyalty of the Elder Wand, in reality, cemented Harry’s victory. Now, as was made clear in Deathly Hallows, the term “beating” really has a variety of meanings. Let us look at the Elder Wand’s bloody path and see what we can derive: 1) Death -> Antioch Peverell (Killed in his sleep) 2) Emeric “The Evil” (Died in a duel) -> Egbert (Unkown demise) 3) Godelot (Son locked him in a cellar) -> Hereward (Stole it) 4) Barnabas Deverill -> Loxias (Unknown demise) 5) Gregorovitch -> Grindelwald (Stole it) 6) Grindelwald (Defeated in a duel) -> Dumbledore 7) Dumbledore -> Draco Malfoy (Expelliarmus) 8) Draco Malfoy -> Harry Potter (Stole Draco’s regular wand) When taking the above into consideration, it’s obvious that the term “beating” can be interpreted ... Read More »

Prophecies: What Exactly Are They?

Hall of Prophecies

A prophecy is defined by as (among other things): An inspired utterance of a prophet, viewed as a revelation of divine will. A prediction. The first definition relies on a few things. Firstly, the person who says it has to be a prophet. Prophets are those who either speak through divine intervention (the word of God) or who are gifted with profound moral insight and exceptional powers of expression. I’m not so sure this would be true for Professor Trelawney, but it is generally thought that the prophecy she made in front of Harry and the one in front of Dumbledore are her only two prophecies. This is also stated by Dumbledore at the end of GOF. The second definition raises a few questions. A prediction is not normally associated with divine inspiration and is based on evidence rather than supernatural goings on. Therefore, it may be that Trelawney’s predictions are based on things she has seen in the past and so may not carry so much weight or be so accurate. On the other hand, it may be that she has more knowledge of Harry and the events that may happen than we think. This brings us to ... Read More »

Strong Mothers, Smart Lovers: Identity Conflict of Harry Potter’s Women (Through the eyes of the Reader)

Narcissa Malfoy

By Carmen Abstract: This essay analyzes the new perspective on the ideals and roles of women that has been brought to discussion by Harry Potter and its readers, and how understanding how this perspective can continue the discussion (and ultimately progress) with women’s equality for the next generation.  Strong Mothers, Smart Lovers: Identity Conflict of Harry Potter’s Women (Through the eyes of the Reader). Although the Harry Potter series is arguably the most successful work of literature in the postmodern era (in terms of financial success and mainstream pop culture recognition), the women in the series can be identified as anything but postmodern in characterization. At least, that is what one initial interpretation of a fan forum discussing female characters might suggest. In fact, as I read the forum and the written responses talking about how the anonymous contributors admired different female characters for their ‘loyalty’ to the more prominent male characters, and admitting how woefully underdeveloped the histories of the female characters are (especially when compared to the mini-biographies given within the series for Harry Potter, Lord Voldemort, Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape), I even began to question myself whether or not I had shamefully forgone my own principles ... Read More »

Harry Potter and the Nerdy Feminist

Hermione Granger

By Rosie Abstract: The writer explores to what degree Harry Potter can be read as a feminist text, analyzing such characters as Ginny, Hermione, Molly, and Bellatrix. “I’m three years older than you were when you fought You-Know-Who over the Sorcerer’s Stone, and it’s because of me Malfoy’s stuck back in Umbridge’s office with giant flying bogeys attacking him!” – Ginny Weasley standing up to Harry and Ron in Order of the Phoenix page 761. Reading the books for the first time, one would think that Ginny Weasley is just Ron’s little sister who has a crush on Harry. But if you take a closer look, she is so much more than that. Being the youngest and only girl of 6 siblings, you would think that her brothers would control her life. But on the contrary, Ginny does and says whatever she wants despite what her brothers and others around her say. We are first fully introduced to Ginny in Chamber of Secrets. Throughout the book, Ginny has a crush on Harry and can barley function when in his presence. But then we see Ginny standing up to others that are older and of opposite sex when she yells at ... Read More »

A Recent History of Magic and Muggles

Rufus Scrimgeour

By Darryl Abstract: This essay describes how certain plots in the Harry Potter series help teach children about the Holocaust with the use of comparative plots and certain characters that can be compared to the actions and significant individuals of the Nazi Party before and during World War Two. Teachers have been looking for new ways to teach their students since the dawn of time. These ways tend to be hard to find especially for subjects such as history, which deal mainly in facts and evidence that can be interpreted in only a few ways and can often prove difficult to teach without students’ full attention. World War Two is one of those subjects. Harry Potter, a children’s book series by J. K. Rowling, has certain plot lines, among others, that in a way mirror certain aspects of wars during the twentieth century. In the latter three of the seven books (Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows) several plots are not unlike those of the Jewish or other – (hereafter referred to as undesirable) – races during World War Two. These books appropriately include elements of discrimination, racism, and extreme punishment dealt heartlessly by those in places ... Read More »

Choosing ‘between what is right and what is easy’ The Anatomy of Power and the Search for the Self in J K Rowling’s Work


By Ursula Mueller Abstract: A lecture given at Accio 2005. ‘There is no good and evil, there is only power and those to weak to seek it.’ (Prof. Quirrell / Lord Voldemort, PS, chapter XVII) ‘It is our choices Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.’ (Prof. Albus Dumbledore, CoS, chapter XVIII) I. The bottom line ‘What is at the heart of the HP series? What is driving JK Rowling to tell this epic story, besides the plain fun and intellectual excitement in outlining such a highly complex plot?’ These questions crossed my mind certainly more than once during the past years. Underneath this extremely entertaining storyline lies a coming-of-age novel with a truly existential and moral groundwork. Even if Rowling in her first excitement might not have consciously deliberated the ethical aspects of her work, it must very soon have been obvious to her, that she is dealing with the existential questions of mankind. What constitutes us as humans? How can we transcend our Ego and find our true Self? What constitutes evil? And at the heart of the matter: what is power and how should we deal with it? In my point of ... Read More »

Harry Potter and the Complexity of Inequality


By emmy668 Summary: In this essay, the idea that racism in the Harry Potter books, as well as in real life, is a deeply ingrained part of human nature, and even the best of people show signs of discrimination. J.K. Rowling presents a complex view of racism and discrimination throughout her Harry Potter series. In all of the Potter books, racism and other social inequalities play a major role through the plot. From the House-elves, the most easily recognizable example of prejudice, to even just muggles, or non-magical humans, discrimination is shown as both something only villains see, and something characters on the ‘€˜good’€™ side show. Immediately as Harry is introduced into the wizarding world, the different social classes become recognizable. Some classes of people are looked down upon by others; for example, pure-blooded wizards look with distain to muggles, mud-bloods (wizards born to muggle parents), and blood traitors (pure-blooded wizards who don’t believe they must preserve their bloodline). Even more classes show prejudice towards humanoid beings, such as centaurs, goblins, and other half-breeds. Despite the amount of kindness in a characters heart, nearly all of them show some type of discrimination throughout the course of the series. By providing ... Read More »

Harry Potter and the Macbeth Essay


By Tawny Abstract: The writer proves that not knowing your future leaves you better off in the end than knowing it by comparing characters that do know their future and revealing their downfall. Fate is a word for the unstoppable course of events that take place in someone’s life. Some people believe that their fate is all set in stone long before they are even born. In the history of literature, many authors have written about characters learning their fate in a prophecy and then attempting to change it. Unfortunately for these characters, knowing your fate is usually more dangerous than not knowing it, especially for the characters Macbeth in the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare and Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Both characters eventually find out that hearing your fate and then messing around with it becomes the reason for their downfall. Voldemort and Macbeth both become so cocky with the knowledge of their futures that they feel they are invincible and miss important information about their prophecy, though both in the end could have “saved their souls” from evil if they had never heard the prophecy. In both the Harry Potter series and ... Read More »

Harry Potter and the Hero’s Journey


By Taylor Abstract: Does Harry Potter follow the basic outline of epic poetry? We’ve all heard of the epic poems of the Odyssey and Beowulf. These poems follow a specific outline – this is called the “Hero’s Journey.” The Hero’s Journey has three big divisions – Separation, Initiation, and Return. The question is, how does this relate to Harry Potter? Seperation We’ll begin with Separation. It has three subcategories – Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, and Crossing the First Threshold. The Call to Adventure is when the protagonist sort of awakens from the world of drudgery and desolation to pursue something more. In the case of Harry Potter, this is when Hagrid arrives at the hut on the rock in the first book and tells Harry that he is a wizard. The Refusal of the Call is when the hero has self-doubt. Again, in Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, pg. 58 (U.S. Version): “‘Hagrid,’ he [Harry] said quietly, ‘I think you must have made a mistake. I don’t think I can be a wizard.'” The last sub-division is crossing the first threshold. This is when the hero discovers what they can do. There is a sense of ... Read More »

The Gangster Genre in Harry Potter

The Godfather

By Anonymous Abstract: This essay is about the villains of the Harry Potter having some connection to the American gangster film genres. In this essay I would compare actors like James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, and Humphrey Bogart to villains like Draco Malfoy, Bellatrix Lestrange, and Voldemort. I also compare classic films like Goodfellas, The Godfather part I and II, and Miller’s Crossing to certain plotlines to the books/films. Does the Harry Potter book series have elements of the gangster film genre? There are many examples to support this question. In the opening chapter of Deathly Hallows, the Death Eaters gather at Malfoy Manor to discuss with Lord Voldemort about ambushing Harry Potter and infiltrating the ministry. This scene feels sort of similar to a scene in the film, “The Godfather” (1972) with the heads of the five families discussing with Vito Corleone about ending the long gang wars between themselves, Vito “sharing” the politicians he has in his pockets, and agreeing to the distribution of narcotics. Even though both scenes are different in style and writing they both share the similarities of the head honchos (Vito Corleone and Voldemort) having enough corrupting influence with the politicians of their world ... Read More »