Get out your tin-foil witch hat because things are about to get crazy magical.
In honor of the Fourth of July, I thought it only made sense to dive deeper into the biggest American news of the past week. Well, the biggest American news for big ol’ nerds like me.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that earlier this week, J.K. Rowling released new original writing about Ilvermorny, the American Wizarding School. In addition to that, she also released a new feature on Pottermore where you can be sorted into your Ilvermorny house: Wampus, Thunderbird, Pukwudgie, and Horned Serpent respectively. In case you were wondering, I’m a Thunderbird and a proud Ravenclaw.
Now, Rowling has only released a small amount of information about each house. No doubt in November we will find out more with the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. However, like any Ravenclaw, I want to know now. So, I decided to dive into the Native American mythology which inspired the house names and make some fan predictions based upon that research.
The first thing I thought when the American school name was announced back in January was that I didn’t know how to say it, and I probably never would. It’s an awkward word; it’s not a nice, neat compound word like Hogwarts.
Back then, I simply assumed that Ilvermorny was someone’s odd last name, and that I’d find out more eventually. However, after reading the history of Ilvermorny last week, I was disappointed to find out that all we know about the name origin is that it was the name of the cottage where Isolt Sayre, the founder of Ilvermorny, was born.
So, I decided to do some research and figure out why J. K. Rowling would choose that name. There are already some pretty intense fan theories about the name already including one that takes state names and configures them into Ilvermorny. However, I went a bit more simple.
J.K. Rowling is a fan of using root words to construct her characters’ names and especially her spells. So I decided to start there, and it ended up producing some pretty interesting results.
First I broke it down into syllables: IL-VER-MOR-NY.
- The prefix IL means WITHOUT such as illegal (without legality, not legal).
- The prefix VER means truth such as in veracious or veritaserum.
- The word MOR or MORT means death such as in immortality or Voldemort.
- The suffix NY is commonly used to transform something into a noun.
With this translation it would break down into:
Pretty cool, huh? Encouraged by these results, I went another way as well. I thought that maybe it could be broken down differently. So I separated the syllables this way: IL-VER-MORN-Y.
- The prefix IL can also mean IN or INTO such as in illuminate (in light)
- The prefix VER still means truth such as in veracious or veritaserum.
- The word MORN could stand for Morning or Dawn.
- The suffix Y meaning the act or state of something.
With this translation it would break down into:
Again, this is only a fan theory, but I really like the duality that is captured with this breakdown. The idea that without truth there is only death, but with truth there is awakening and the dawn of understanding. I think we see these themes throughout the Harry Potter series, so it would make sense that this could be the way J.K. was going when she named Ilvermorny.
So, now I’m going to take you on a journey to show you what we know from Pottermore about the individual houses, as well as what we know from some additional research into the Native American myths and legends about the different magical animals.
- The houses were named after the favorite magical animal of each member of Isolt Sayre’s family.
- The idea of having “houses” was influenced by the stories about the Hogwarts houses told by Isolt to her children.
- The sorting is done in the entrance hall where the school gathers to watch the new Ilvermorny students step onto a Gordian knot set into the stone floor. There are four, large wooden carvings of the magical animals which represent the houses, and they will magically react if they wish the student standing on the stone knot to join their house.
- A great horned river serpent with a jewel set into its forehead
- Represents the mind
- Favors scholars
- chosen by Isolt, a decendent of Salazar Slytherin, because of her kinship with an actual Horned Serpent
- During the sorting, the the crystal set into the Horned Serpent’s forehead will light up.
From Additional Research:
- Many of the stories discuss the Horned Serpent’s many magical abilities such as shape-shifting, invisibility, hypnotic powers, and weather controlling abilities.
- Many of the stories talk about the danger of the man-eating Horned Serpent, but still tend to venerate them as gods.
- However, just as many of the stories discuss how the Horned Serpent gifts powerful medicine upon humans who defeat them or help them.
- Multiple stories discuss how Horned Serpents will leave the lake or river in order to take a human spouse (connection to Isolt marrying James, I think).
- A creature that can create storms as it flies
- Represents the soul
- Favours adventurers.
- Chosen by Chadwick Boot, “an intelligent but often temperamental boy”
- During the sorting, the Thunderbird beats its wings.
From Additional Research
- Usually represented as a great eagle, who produces thunder from the beating of his wings and flashes lightning from his eyes.
- Represents the dual aspect of nature: the danger and destruction of large storms, but the healing of the land because of the rain it provides.
- There are two basic types of stories about the thunderbird: ones where he is a protector of the people and ones where he is a terror, snatching up people and carrying them off to their doom. This echoes the idea that the thunderbird represents the duel aspect of nature.
- Some stories say that Thunderbirds guard the entrance to heaven (perhaps, here is the connection to why they represent the soul).
- Commonly at odds with the Horned Serpent
- A short, grey-faced, large-eared creature
- Represents the heart
- Favors healers
- Chosen by James Steward, Isolts “No-Maj” husband, because of Isolt’s stories of William, the pukwudgie who helped serve Isolt in her time of need.
- During the sorting, the Pukwudgie raises its spear.
- Actual pukwudgies still work at Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
From Additional Research:
- Pukwudgies have by far the largest range of known abilities. They are able to appear and disappear at will, to transform into other animals, to use magic, to create fire at will, and to wield poison arrows.
- In some myths, pukwudgies are known to be mischievous in nature, but basically good-natured.
- In other myths, they are said to be extremely dangerous and steal children.
- There is a prominent myth that casts the pukwudgies against the giants. The pukwudgies originally wanted to help the Wampanoag people, but became jealous when they only sought help from the creator giant, Maushop. They eventually turned on the people and Maushop and shot them with arrows and kidnapped the Wampanoag’s children. Even through the efforts of Maushop to help the people, the pukwudgies won out, killing the giant, and continued to wreak havoc on the Wampanoag people.
- A magical, panther-like creature that is fast, strong and almost impossible to kill
- Represents the body
- Favors warriors.
- Chosen by Webster Boot who is described as “argumentative, but fiercely loyal”
- During the sorting, the Wampus roars.
From Additional Research:
- Commonly connected to the Cherokee tale of the “Ewah” where a woman spies on the men of her village in order to hear their secret conversations. She uses a cougar-skin to hide herself, but is found out. She’s punished by turning into a horrible hybrid:half-woman, half-cat.
- The cry of the “Ewah” or Wampus is supposed to be fatal for those who hear it
- The sight of the “Ewah” or Wampus is known to cause permanent madness.
- In another tale, the Wampus was eventually defeated by a woman named Running Deer by showing it a “Wampus mask” constructed out of the head of a cougar which reflected the evil magic of the Wampus back on itself.
So after all this research (seriously this was so much fun to do!), I’ve come to some conclusions and predictions for what will happen within the stories connected to Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as well as some predictions for the eventual characters within the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them world.
- All the houses are named after ambiguous mythological beasts either characterized both as fearsome and benevolent. Therefore, the wizards and witches within them can either choose to be dangerous or helpful to mankind. This will be a story about choosing the light over the dark, very similar to the HP series.
- Those in Horned Serpent will have some of the most powerful witches and wizards from their house due to the various mysterious and magical gifts of the legendary serpent.
- There will be a huge rivalry between Horned Serpents and Thunderbirds. Think Gryffindor/Slytherin proportions.
- Any characters that are Thunderbirds will be two-faced or have the most significant internal struggles between light and dark magic.
- One of the strong female leads in the Fantastic Beasts series will be from the Wampus house. The female will either represent Running Deer, a woman who will defeat evil with courage and bravery, or the original woman who turned into the Wampus, a woman punished for her attempt to gain forbidden knowledge.
- There will be a theme of madness within the series and it will involve a member of the Wampus house.
- Someone in the Pukwudgie house, or an actual pukwudgie (since they work at the school), will be a Weasley twins-level practical jokester.
Read More on the Different Native American Legends (My Resource List):
- Native American Horned Serpents of Myth and Legend
- Thunderbird and Trickster
- Appalachian History: Wampus
- American Folklore: Ewah
- Legendary Native American Figures: Pukwudgie
What do you guys think? What conclusions have you drawn from this? What do you hope to see in this new series from our girl, J.K.? Crazy fan theories welcome below 🙂
Lit & Love,