15 Things To Know About J.K. Rowling’s ‘History of Magic in North America’

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Author J.K. Rowling has published another story detailing the founding and traditions of Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the American equivalent of Hogwarts. The piece helps set up the upcoming film, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," due to be released in November. Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Harry Potter devotees became intimately familiar with the ins and outs of the British wizarding world through seven books, eight films and nearly two decades of immense popularity. In the fourth installment of J.K. Rowling’s series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, fans got a glimpse of the magical communities that lay far beyond the confines of Hogwarts when students from Beauxbatons Academy of Magic and the Durmstrang Institute arrived for a tournament.

Since the conclusion of the series, Rowling has occasionally revealed additional information about the characters she created and the world they inhabited. In late January, the author wrote about 11 wizarding schools scattered around the world, divulging details about institutions like Mahoutokoro in Japan, Uagadou in Uganda and Castelobruxo in the Brazilian rainforest, and announcing that Ilvermorny served as the American school.

Rowling continued filling in the structure and past of her fictional world this week with a four-part series on the “History of Magic in North America,” published one per day from Tuesday through Friday on the Pottermore website. The history includes chapters on the 14th to 17th centuries—a section which sparked backlash for its depiction of Native Americans and their relationship with magic—as well as the 17th century “and beyond,” “Rappaport's Law” and “1920s Wizarding America.”

These brief outlines came as the November release approaches for the Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, set in New York City circa 1926. Warner Bros. Pictures posted a preview of the “Magic in North America” series to YouTube Tuesday, and linked it with the upcoming film, which stars Eddie Redmayne.

Here are 15 things to know from Rowling’s brief history of the American wizarding world:

1. The American word for “Muggle” is “No-Maj,” which stands for “No Magic.” Rowling had previously revealed this tidbit. Just a warm-up.

2. The wizarding communities of North America, Europe and Africa knew of one another and were in contact long before their non-magical counterparts.

3. The use of a wand to perform magic began in Europe, while Native American witches and wizards started off practicing wandless magic, particularly in the realm of plant and animal magic. The wand, which allows for more precise spells, was later adopted in America as well.

4. The Puritan immigrants to the “New World” were particularly intolerant of magic, more so than other non-magical communities around the world.

5. “Scourers” were “an unscrupulous band of wizarding mercenaries of many foreign nationalities, who formed a much-feared and brutal task force committed to hunting down not only known criminals, but anyone who might be worth some gold.” Wizarding historians, Rowling writes, say there were Scourers among the judges of the Salem Witch Trials.

6. As a result of the intolerant No-Majs and the Scourers, there were relatively few witches and wizards among the population in North America during certain periods and there were many No-Maj-born witches and wizards, compared to other parts of the world.

7. The Magical Congress of the United States of America, also known as MACUSA, was created in 1693 following the events in Salem.

8. Scourers who were able to escape conviction by MACUSA often started non-magical families and “passed on to their descendants an absolute conviction that magic was real, and the belief that witches and wizards ought to be exterminated wherever they were found.”

9. A unit of American wizarding currency is called a Dragot.

10. Witches and wizards in the U.S. were more secretive than their counterparts in Europe. A 1790 law enacted by then-President of MACUSA Emily Rappaport “enforced strict segregation between the No-Maj and wizarding communities,” prohibiting intermarriage and communication beyond the bare minimum.

11. A “Dorcus” became American wizarding slang for an idiot or inept person. The term came from Dorcus Twelvetrees, the not-so-bright daughter of the Keeper of Treasure and Dragots in the late 18th century who put the American wizarding community in grave danger by revealing information about the magical world to an intolerant No-Maj. It was her mistake that led to Rappaport’s Law.

12. MACUSA headquarters moved from Washington to New York City at the end of the 19th century.

13. Around the same time, a new law required all witches and wizards to carry a “wand permit.”

14. North America had four great wandmakers: Shikoba Wolfe, Johannes Jonker, Thiago Quintana and Violetta Beauvais.  

15. The American magical community didn’t adhere to Prohibition laws in the 1920s. Rowling writes that Madam Seraphina Picquery, a “famously gifted” witch from Savannah and president of MACUSA during that period, told her chief of staff that “the Gigglewater is non-negotiable.”