Magic in America Day 1: Native American Wizards and Wand Lore

J.K. Rowling answered our questions… and then left us with a lot more questions. She’s pretty good at doing that.


The first installment of J.K. Rowling’s series of articles on Pottermore sheds light on the history of magic in fourteenth and seventeenth century America.

It was announced yesterday that Pottermore would be publishing a short series of articles called Magic in America. The Harry Potter author is currently in the process of expanding her world and canon.

Since the early days of the Harry Potter series, fans have always known that there were more wizards than just those present at Hogwarts. Aside from Goblet of Fire, little was known about them until recently. Rowling is finally answering fan questions about magical schools throughout the world, but the American wizarding community is currently receiving the most attention. This is without doubt due to Rowling’s upcoming film, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’, a Harry Potter spin-off set in New York City.

Native American Wizards
An animagi eagle, as seen in the 'Magic In America' trailer.

An animagi eagle, as seen in the ‘Magic In America’ trailer.

Rowling’s spin on “skin walkers” has its roots in a form of magic that Potter fans are well acquainted with: animagi, the ability for a witch or wizard to transform themselves into an animal. The most famous examples of these in the Harry Potter series are the Marauders (James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew).

Check out what Rowling has to say about Native American Animagi:

The legend of the Native American ‘skin walker’ – an evil witch or wizard that can transform into an animal at will – has its basis in fact. A legend grew up around the Native American Animagi, that they had sacrificed close family members to gain their powers of transformation. In fact, the majority of Animagi assumed animal forms to escape persecution or to hunt for the tribe. Such derogatory rumours often originated with No-Maj medicine men, who were sometimes faking magical powers themselves, and fearful of exposure.

Read the entire entry on Pottermore.

Wand Lore

We also learn a bit of interesting information about wand lore in this passage. According to Rowling, Native American Wizards never used wands, as they were a European invention. This is similar to what we’ve learned about the African wizarding School Uagadou, where students apparently use hand gestures to perform magic.

The magic wand originated in Europe. Wands channel magic so as to make its effects both more precise and more powerful, although it is generally held to be a mark of the very greatest witches and wizards that they have also been able to produce wandless magic of a very high quality. As the Native American Animagi and potion-makers demonstrated, wandless magic can attain great complexity, but Charms and Transfiguration are very difficult without one.

Read the rest on Pottermore.

J.K. Rowling Answers Questions

The new information has been generally well received by fans, although this first installment is raising just about as many questions as it’s answering. Rowling spent a considerable amount of time this morning responding to fans’ comments and questions on Twitter:

What’s to Come

Today’s writing is only the first in a series. According to Pottermore, tomorrow’s installment will deal with the dangers that wizards faced in the New World (perhaps referencing the Salem Witch Trials, as shown in the trailer), and Thursday will discuss the founding of MACUSA–the Magical Congress of the United States of America (America’s Ministry of Magic). Friday will conclude the series of articles and will be directly tied to ‘Fantastic Beasts’. Pottermore promises new information on the state of the American Wizarding World during the Roaring Twenties–when Newt Scamander’s adventures will be taking place.


Saul Marquez founded Bookstacked in 2014 and serves as the site's Editor-in-Chief. He primarily covers news for Bookstacked. He also co-hosts Bookmarked: A YA Book Podcast.

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