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As promised, the first of the new Harry Potter writings have gone up, and J.K. Rowling’s first installment of Magic in North America has revealed some interesting details about the early years of magic in this great nation.
For her first Pottermore entry in this new 4-part online series, it seems J.K. Rowling has started from the start, focusing her attention on Native American witches and wizards…
Wizards knew about America long before it was discovered.While it may have taken muggles a while to discover what was on the other side of the ocean, witches and wizards were a bit more geographically savvy. Due to the many means of magical travel, not to mention visions and premonitions, the “New World” was not so new to witches and wizards. Not only did witches and wizards know of America before it was "discovered," but the Native Americans knew about Europe and Africa well before the settlers arrived.
Skin-Walkers are AnimagiA “Skin-walker” is a Native American legend about an evil witch or wizard who can transform themselves into an animal. If that ability sounds familiar, you’ll remember the term animagus. Professor McGonagall, Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew and Harry Potter’s own father James were among the animagi featured in the Harry Potter books. Not all of them were evil, obviously, but it sounds like this ability had its own legend in North America. People thought skin-walkers sacrificed their own family members to gain the ability to transform into an animal. But in reality, most of them used this trait as a way to hunt for their tribe… or escape persecution.
Some Native American wizards were stigmatized for their abilities and beliefs.While some witches and wizards in the Native American community were accepted and allowed to use their abilities as healers, others were looked down on. People thought they were possessed by malevolent spirits. From what Rowling writes, the skin-walkers legend may have been started by No-maj (non-magical) medicine men who were trying to pass themselves off as wizards and afraid of being found out.
Native American wizards were particularly good at potions.J.K. Rowling revealed that Native American wizards had a knack for magic related to animals and plants. And while we know European wizards knew a thing or two about Potions — let’s take a moment to acknowledge Severus Snape's especially strong talent for the magical subject — Rowling says Native Americans’ potions were “of a sophistication beyond much of that was known in Europe.” It sounds like that might be something of a specialty, however that’s not the only thing that sets Native American witches and wizards apart…
Native Americans practiced wandless magicWe’ve seen it before, on rare occasions in Harry Potter. House elves can produce magic without wands. And once or twice, Harry was able to perform magic without actually holding his wand. It’s also well known that child witches and wizards start demonstrating their magical gifts well before they have a wand to hone their craft. But in the case of Native American wizards, they don’t use wands. Rowling notes that the magic wand was first created in Europe, designed to allow witches and wizards channel their magic more effectively. Native American wizards did without, finding ways to create potions and even transform themselves into animals without the use of a wand. Though Rowling does note that Charms and Transfiguration are very difficult to do without a wand.
With that in mind, while it sounds fair to say that there are a lot of similarities in how magic works, and how it can be used, I imagine the way Native Americans used magic was different from how European wizards did.
Will we see any Native American witches or wizards in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them when it hits theaters later this year? All of this new information is set up to lead up to the Harry Potter spinoff/prequel. Given that we don’t have much to go on in terms of the story and the book on which the movie is based, anything included in these new writings could prove to be particularly relevant when the movie arrives. Get the latest information on Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them here.
You'll find the full essay over at Pottermore. And there’s more to learn about North American magic. Three more writings are on the way!