McGonagall Animagus

Minerva McGonagall, a registered Animagus

"An Animagus is a wizard who elects to turn into an animal."

An Animagus (pl. Animagi) was a witch or wizard who could transform themselves into an animal and back again at will. It was a learned skill, unlike the hereditary skill of a Metamorphmagus. Information on Animagi was taught to Hogwarts students during their third year Transfiguration class.[1] An Animagus Registry existed to keep track of those that had learned to transform in this way.[2]

Acquiring the skill

It took skill, practice, and patience for wizards and witches to become Animagi. The process of becoming an Animagus was long and arduous, and had the potential to backfire and cause the transformation to go horribly wrong. Many witches and wizards simply felt that their time might better be employed in other ways, as the skill was of limited practical use unless one had a great need of disguise or concealment.[3]

Part of the process by which one became an Animagus was holding the leaf of a mandrake in their mouth for an entire month, using the leaf for the creation of a potion, reciting an incantation (Amato Animo Animato Animagus) on a daily basis,[4][5] and drinking the Animagus potion during a lightning storm. Once the initial training was over, an Animagus could then change at will, with or without the use of a wand. Animagi who took on the form of species capable of Flight could enjoy the sensation without the need of broomsticks, flying carpet, or riding on flying animals.[6] It was debated (but generally believed possible) for one's Animagus form to be a magical creature, and also debated (but generally believed impossible) for an Animagus to be a dementor.


Sirius Black as "Padfoot," one of the four known (modern) unregistered Animagi

The process was extremely difficult and could result in disaster (such as permanent half-human, half-animal mutations) if done incorrectly. A witch or wizard had to keep a single mandrake leaf in their mouth for an entire month (from full moon to full moon). If the leaf was removed or swallowed, the witch or wizard would have to start over again. At the next visible full moon (if the night happened to be cloudy, one would have to start over) the wizard had to spit the leaf in a phial within range of the moon's pure rays. To the moon-struck phial, the wizard or witch must add one of their own hairs, a silver teaspoon of dew that had not seen sunlight or been touched by human feet for seven days, and the chrysalis of a Death's-head Hawk Moth. The mixture had to then be put in a quiet, dark place, and could not be in any way disturbed.[7]

The next thing that had to happen was for the wizard to wait for an electrical storm, whenever that might be. During this waiting period the wizard would have to, at sunrise and sundown without fail, chant the incantation Amato Animo Animato Animagus with the tip of their wand placed over the heart. When, at last, there was a lightning storm, the wizard had to move immediately to a large and secure place, recite the incantation one final time, and then drink the potion.[7]


At Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the theory of Animagus transfiguration was taught about in third year. When Minerva McGonagall, an Animagus herself, was the teacher, it also included a practical demonstration. Talented and determined students could acquire the skill during their school years if they wished to. Minerva had become an Animagus by the age of seventeen, being taught by Professor Dumbledore, who made a note within The Tales of Beedle the Bard to explain for her that, while Animagi were usually people who saught to avoid punishment when they broke the law, she merely became one to further her studies in Transfiguration. She learned to become an Animagus under Dumbledore's tutelage during her time as a student.[3]

At Uagadou School of Magic, a school known for its focus on self-transfiguration, students could become Animagi by the age of fourteen.[8]



Peter Pettigrew as "Wormtail", one of the four known (modern) unregistered Animagi, known also as Scabbers in his rat form

An Animagus could not choose their animal form. Rather, one became the animal which suited them best.[9] It may be that a wizard's Animagus form was always the same as their full-bodied Patronus; Minerva McGonagall was one such case, both being a known cat Animagus and having a cat Patronus.[10] Apparently, the form one's Patronus took may have been determined by the same inner-traits as the Animagus form.

An Animagus in animal form was not restrained by the usual lifespan of the animal they were. Animagus Peter Pettigrew lived as a rat for at least twelve years, despite rodents normally living at most a few years.[11]

Each Animagus bore an identifying mark on their animal form that was caused by some visible trait on their human body. This could be physical, like their dental structure, or acquired, like glasses. Both Minerva McGonagall and Rita Skeeter had markings on their Animagus forms caused by their spectacles. If an Animagus underwent a major physical change, such as the loss of a limb, their animal form would reflect that, as in the case of Peter Pettigrew missing a finger, and his rat form missing a toe.[11]

An Animagus could consciously choose if they also wanted to transfigure their jewellery and clothing with them.


The difference between Transfiguration and the Animagus transformation ability was that an Animagus could change into an animal whenever they want, without a wand or an incantation. Being an Animagus was an ability, and Transfiguring required a spell. An Animagus would still think as a human does when they were in their animal form, seeing as Rita Skeeter was able to eavesdrop on others' conversations when she was in the form of a beetle.[12] However, an Animagus' feelings were not as complex when they were in their animal form. A Dementor's influence on an Animagus in its animal form was weaker than on its human form.[13]

Padfoot to Sirius Black

Sirius Black transforms back to his human form

Animagi also had the ability to communicate with normal animals. There seemed to be a clear understanding of want and need in this ability, but the full extent and quality is unknown. Sirius Black's Animagus form, a black dog named Padfoot or Snuffles, was able to communicate on a rudimentary level with Crookshanks, Hermione Granger's part-kneazle cat. As well, Peter Pettigrew's Animagus form, a grey rat named Wormtail or Scabbers, was able to communicate on the same level with passing rats that gave him hints and directions as he travelled around Albania in search of Voldemort.[11] The precise form of communication is yet unknown, though it was probably not telepathy since Sirius did not know Crookshanks' name until Hermione told him.

Animagus reversal spell GIF

Peter Pettigrew is transformed back into his human form

There was a reversal spell which created a blue and white flash that would force an Animagus out of its animal form. Remus Lupin and Sirius Black once used it to force Peter Pettigrew out of his rat form.[11] This spell could possibly be the Homorphus Charm that Gilderoy Lockhart claimed he used on the Wagga Wagga Werewolf to force him into his human form.[14]

It was also important to note that werewolves were fundamentally different from Animagi. Lycanthropy was caused by a blood infection transmitted through being bitten by another werewolf, whereas the Animagus skill was learned. The werewolves could not keep their minds after a transformation (unless they took the Wolfsbane Potion), nor could they control themselves when they transformed, while Animagi could do both. However, as werewolves only harmed humans, Animagi, while in their animal forms, were safe to be in the company of werewolves. They could actually help calm them down and make the transformations easier, as demonstrated with the Marauders: three of them transformed to help the fourth, who was inflicted with such a curse.[2]

Wizarding law

"You know that I can disguise myself most effectively."
Peter Pettigrew speaking about his advantage of being unregistered[src]

Every Animagus was required to register with the Ministry of Magic at the Animagus Registry. This registration included revealing one's animal form and one's distinguishing markings. The register was available to the public. The primary reason for registration was to ensure the Animagi did not abuse their abilities, as the Ministry would be able to keep track of them.[2] A prime example was that Rita Skeeter was able to get into Hogwarts undetected (despite being banned from Hogwarts grounds by Dumbledore) by transforming into a beetle.[12] Sirius Black was able to escape from Azkaban and infiltrate Hogwarts Castle in his Animagus form, as the Ministry did not take this into account when imprisoning him. Peter Pettigrew managed to fake his death and hide from the rest of the world in his Animagus form, as the Ministry did not take this into account either since it would help them consider the possibility that he was alive;[11] Pettigrew regarded this advantage as an effective disguise to the Dark Lord.[15]

The penalty for failing to register as an Animagus was a sentence in Azkaban,[16] although the length of time is unknown. Rita Skeeter gave up an entire year of writing articles, her main means of livelihood, so that Hermione Granger would not turn her in as unregistered, and consented to writing an article about Harry's account of the night Lord Voldemort was resurrected, free of charge at Hermione's request.[17] That suggests a rather lengthy sentence, even though being sent to Azkaban for any length of time was a considerably bad punishment to begin with.

Animagus Registry

Due to the complexity of the magic involved, the time it took, and the limited use (for those who were registered) of the ability, Animagi eventually became very rare. There was a total of seven known registered Animagi in the twentieth century, among who there was Hogwarts' Transiguration Professor Minerva McGonagall.[1] According to Remus Lupin, it was also partially because of this complexity that Animagi were required to register themselves.[2]

Known unregistered Animagi

On the night of June 6th, 1994, Remus Lupin stated that the Ministry "never knew that there used to be three unregistered Animagi running around Hogwarts", the three being his schoolmates Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew and the late James Potter;[2] Black's, Pettigrew's and Potter's Animagi nature was revealed by Remus Lupin to Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley in the Shrieking Shank,[2] and by Sirius Black himself to Albus Dumbledore in Professor Flitwick's office on the same night.[18] The existence of a fourth unregistered Animagus, Rita Skeeter, was spotted by Hermione Granger about a year later,[12] and revealed to Harry Potter and Ron Weasley in June 1995 (on the Hogwarts Express returning to London) and, indirectly, to Luna Lovegood on February 14th, 1996 (at the Three Broomsticks Inn).[17]

The 2579th edition of Transfiguration Today contained a guide to identifying unregistered Animagi.[19]

Known and speculated Animagi

Pre-Registration System

Post-Registration system


Uagadou School Team - elephants and cheetahs[8]


Animagus is a combination of the word "animal" and the Latin word magus, meaning "animal wizard."

Behind the scenes

  • According to W.O.M.B.A.T., an Animagus transformation is two of the following: a kind of Self-Transfiguration, a kind of Self-Charm, or a kind of magic that is neither Transfiguration nor Charm. You are asked to pick the statement that is incorrect. This would mean Animagus transformation is either a kind of Self-Transfiguration but not actually a Transfiguration or Charm, a kind of Self-Charm but not actually a Transfiguration or Charm, or a kind of Self-Transfiguration and Charms/
    • Applying college-level logic on this, it would be possible for the Animagus transformation to be both a Self-Charm and a Self-Transfiguration because if either the Self-Transfiguration or the Self-Charm statements were wrong, you would have been left with two conflicting statements, one that affirms the status of this and one that specifically denies the affirmation.
  • An Animagus does not know what his or her animal form will be prior to the transformation.[27]
  • Albus Dumbledore indirectly stated that the Marauders never revealed to anyone, the Order of the Phoenix included, that three of them became Animagi until mid-1994, when Sirius Black told the entire story to him.[18] It is unknown if Lily Evans knew it, but as she married James Potter, she supposedly did.
    • It is worth noting that James Potter saved Severus Snape from Remus Lupin without transforming himself, because Snape told to Dumbledore about Lupin being a werewolf, but never mentioned Potter being an Animagus, as can be deduced by the fact that Dumbledore, as stated above, didn't know it.
  • It is not known if the registration system is used worldwide, or just by some countries.
    • Interestingly, the first four known Animagi prior to the registration system all took the form of birds (Falco Aesalon, Morrigan, Morgan le Fay and Cliodna). The two known registered Animagi both become cats (Minerva McGonagall and an unknown witch).
  • Given an Animagus form is determined by the wizard's personality, it's unknown if the culture the wizard lives in has any influence. Some animals are attributed with different traits in various cultures. For example, Mongolian culture has historically revered wolves, attributing them as the ultimate hunters who can only die by human hand if the wolf consents to death as wolves are considered to be inherently superior to mankind. In other cultures, wolves are vilified and treated as cowardly, blood thirsty, and loathsome beasts.
  • A teacher who teaches the skill does not need to be an Animagus him/herself, as shown when Professor Dumbledore, who is not an Animagus, taught Minerva McGonagall.[3]
  • In Latin, the female form of Magus is Maga. However, in canon, female Animagi are never referred to as "Animaga" or "Animagae", which would be the female plural.
  • J. K. Rowling has stated that she would fancy an otter — her favourite animal — as her Animagus form, though if she actually transformed, she suspects she might be "a guinea pig or something, which would be quite embarrassing."[27]
  • J. K. Rowling once joked that Godric Gryffindor was actually the Giant Squid in the Hogwarts lake.
  • In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban:
    • Peter Pettigrew is fully clothed when he transforms to his human form in the Shrieking Shack, but later, when he transforms to a rat, he leaves his clothes behind, demonstrating that a wizard is able to consciously choose to transform what they are wearing along with them.
    • Sirius's Animagus form is a large, mangy and tough looking dog but in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, he looks more like a kind harmless dog. It could be that he fixed his appearances in his human form, as well as the fact that he was potentially recovering from being mentally and emotionally broken due to the loss of James and Lily, the betrayal of Pettigrew, his framing, and his years of imprisonment in Azkaban.
  • In Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Jacob's sibling has the option to become an Eagle, Black And White Cat, or brown dog Animagus in a time-limited, optional sidequest, meaning they do not necessarily become one. Those that do the side quest, has to convince Talbott Winger to register, despite fears of him suffering the same fate as his parents, as an Animagus. His parents were identified and killed by Death Eaters.
  • During the 1994-1995 Triwizard Tournament, when Harry Potter was searching for methods for the second task, he wished that he could become an Animagus so he could transform into a fish and survive in the Great Lake for an hour, not realising that his form is predetermined.[28]

See also


Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Chapter 6 (Talons and Tea Leaves)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Chapter 18 (Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 The Tales of Beedle the Bard - Albus Dumbledore's commentary for "Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump"
  4. Pottermore facts from the 2014 UK editions of the Harry Potter books (transcript and link to photographs here)
  5. Pottermore Presents: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies - Animagi
  6. Quidditch Through the Ages
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Pottermore Presents: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies, Chapter 1 (Minerva McGonagall)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Writing by J.K. Rowling: "Uagadou" at Wizarding World
  9. 2004 World Book Day Chat
  10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 30 (The Sacking of Severus Snape)
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Chapter 19 (The Servant of Lord Voldemort)
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 37 (The Beginning)
  13. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Chapter 21 (Hermione's Secret)
  14. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 10 (The Rogue Bludger)
  15. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 1 (The Riddle House)
  16. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 25 (The Beetle at Bay) - Hermione Granger instructed Rita Skeeter to interview Harry Potter truthfully and free of charge, commenting, "Otherwise, as you very well know, I will inform the authorities that you are an unregistered Animagus. Of course, the Prophet might give you rather a lot for an insider's account of life in Azkaban."
  17. 17.0 17.1 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 25 (The Beetle at Bay)
  18. 18.0 18.1 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Chapter 22 (Owl Post Again).
  19. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (film) (see this image).
  20. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game)
  21. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game)
  22. Writing by J.K. Rowling: "Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry" at Wizarding World
  23. Famous Witches and Wizards Cards
  24. 24.0 24.1 The Tales of Beedle the Bard - Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump
  25. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 1 (The Boy Who Lived)
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 3, Side Quest "Become an Animagus!"
  27. 27.0 27.1 Edinburgh "cub reporter" Press Conference, available via Accio Quote!
  28. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 26 (The Second Task)

Transfiguration (class)
COS Vera Verto demo
Branches of Transfiguration Transformation · Vanishment · Conjuration · Untransfiguration
Notable practitioners Circe · Emeric Switch · Falco Aesalon · Mirabella Plunkett · Thaddeus Thurkell
Professors Albus Dumbledore · Minerva McGonagall
Textbooks A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration · Intermediate Transfiguration · A Guide to Advanced Transfiguration
Transfiguration spells studied at Hogwarts
Colour Change Charm (Colovaria) · Change of hair colour and style (Crinus Muto) · Hardening Charm (Duro) · Mending Charm (Reparo) · Reparifarge · Softening Charm (Spongify) · Switching Spell · Vanishing Spell (Evanesco)
Conjuring Spells Bird-Conjuring Charm (Avis) · Inanimatus Conjurus Spell · Orchideous · Snake Summons Spell (Serpentsortia)
Transforming Spells Animal to Water Goblet (Vera Verto) · Beetle Buttons · Cat to Cauldron (Felifors) · Cauldron Cakes to Cabbages · Chair to cat · Cross-Species Switches · Desk Into Pig · Goldfinch to Golden Snitch · Flobberworm to Fritter · Gnomes to Lawn Gnomes · Guinea fowl to guinea pig spell · Gobstone to skunk · Hedgehog to pincushion spell · Lovebird to Love Note · Match to needle · Meddling Man to Monkey · Mice to Snuffboxes · Owl to Opera Glasses (Strigiforma) · Pawn to Queen · Porcupine to Pin Cushion (Hystrifors) · Puffskein to Paperweight · Small Child to Rat · Small Object to Dragon (Draconifors) · Snail to Teapot · Target to Bird (Avifors) · Target to matchbox (Flintifors) · Target to Rabbit (Lapifors) · Teacup to gerbil spell · Teacup to Rat · Teapot to tortoise spell · White Rabbits to Slippers

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