Quick Hits on The History of Magic in North America: 14th Century-17th Century

As I mentioned yesterday, Pottermore is releasing a new piece from JK Rowling about the history of magic in North America from today through the 11th. So if you haven’t checked out the new stuff on Pottermore, TURN BACK NOW, because I’m going to be talking about today’s magical history lesson. I’ll wait, and give you a nice gif to watch as you head to Pottermore and come back.


Alright, so I’m assuming we’ve all read the magical history lesson on the 14th-17th century. As an American, I’m quite used to not living in the location where some of my favorite magical legends exist. Merlin, Hogwarts, it’s all in England. I’m so excited to get to hear stories of magic in my own backyard. It’s THE BEST.


So here are a few quick hits from today’s story:

  • We kick off the story right away with an explanation of the term No-Maj. Every nationality has its own term for Muggle…No-Maj is short for no magic…blah, blah, blah…Seriously, stop trying to make No-Maj happen. It’s not going to happen.
  • Ugh, I promised myself to keep an open mind about No-Maj, and it’s not working. Let’s move on.
  • Wizards knew all about the so-called “New World” and its inhabitants long before Muggle explorers, and they had been in contact with wizards in America as early as the Middle Ages. Suck it, Christopher Columbus.
  • Relations between Native American wizards and *sigh* No-Majes (wait–what is plural for No-Maj? No-Maji? No Majes? Is it like the word deer where there isn’t really a plural, it’s just the No-Maj??? Ugh. I miss Muggle) was an interesting one. Unlike what we saw in Harry Potter where Muggles and wizards lived largely separate lives, the No-Maj and wizards in Native American communities were often pretty aware of each other. Either you were lauded and treated with respect as a healer or medicine man, or thought to have a malevolent spirit.
  • While the legend of a skin walker is that they’re an evil witch or wizard, Rowling explains that, in her wizarding world, skin walkers were actually just animagi, nothing inherently malicious. #TheMoreYouKnow
  • Speaking of the more you know, apparently wands originated in Europe, which meant that Native American wizards practiced magic without the use of a wand. Wandless magic is the mark of a highly skilled wizard. In fact, she tells us that Native American wizards excelled far beyond European wizards at plant magic and potions.
  • Apparently Charms and Transfiguration are tough without wands. Who knew?

Ultimately, my favorite part of this entire thing is getting a picture into the broad world of wizardry. I’m so excited to see what the wizarding world looks on my side of the ocean, and it’s making my imagination run WILD with the possibilities for fascinating wizarding stories from North American wizards.

UPDATE: I’ve been seeing a lot of commentary from Native American/First Nations individuals really hating the portrayal of Native American wizards in this first story. Especially since Native Americans hold great value to their religious practices and traditions today, despite years of having their culture erased. So while I first read it as taking a piece of real history and fictionalizing it (much like Supernatural has done with loads of lore and religious practices–which, I know isn’t the best example as that show has its own realm of problematic stuff), I can absolutely see how this could be offensive or hurtful to read (here is a great explanation on why Native American readers took issue with Rowling’s story). I’m glad this is a conversation happening, and I’m really hoping that, as the stories go on, JK Rowling can do a better job of portraying North American magic in a way that all readers can enjoy and feel welcomed.

We get another snippet of North American magical history tomorrow morning. I’ll see you guys then. Let me know what you thought about today’s lesson in the comments! 

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