At least some content in this article is derived from information featured in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. Spoilers will be present within the article.
Blood status, also called purity of blood, was a concept in the wizarding world that distinguished between family trees that had different levels of magically-endowed members. It often resulted in prejudice towards those who had a large number of Muggles in their families.
As Sirius Black informed Harry Potter, almost all wizards of their time had Muggles in their family trees, though some claimed not to. The concept played a key role in both the First and Second Wizarding Wars. Families that claimed to be pure, to whatever extent they ever really were, were dwindling in number.
Levels of blood purity
- "Mudblood's a really foul name for someone who is Muggle-born — you know, non-magic parents. There are some wizards — like Malfoy's family — who think they're better than everyone else because they're what people call pure-blood… I mean, the rest of us know it doesn't make any difference at all."
- — Ronald Weasley explaining blood prejudice[src]
A child born with magic to two Muggle parents was considered a Muggle-born. In wizarding Britain, they were allowed to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, although some other schools, such as Durmstrang Institute, did not admit Muggle-borns. Salazar Slytherin fell out of favour with the other founders of Hogwarts because he wanted to limit attendance only to those from all-magic families.
Those with prejudice against Muggles and their families often referred to such wizards as "Mudbloods", a highly offensive term implying that the individual had dirty and inferior blood. Those who discriminated against Muggle-borns believed that they did not deserve magic and should be excluded from the wizarding world, in spite of the fact that Muggle-borns were just as magically talented as those of other blood statuses.
When the British Ministry of Magic fell under the indirect control of Lord Voldemort during the Second Wizarding War, it began distributing propaganda against "Mudbloods" under the authorship of Dolores Umbridge. Muggle-borns were also forced to register with the Ministry's Muggle-Born Registration Commission, which accused Muggle-borns of having stolen their wands and sentenced them to Azkaban. This ended once Voldemort was defeated and the Ministry was reformed.
Wizards with parents or grandparents split between Muggles and wizards were referred to as half-bloods. Due to the dominance of the magic gene, children born to at least one magical parent would usually be magical themselves. This means that a non-magical child born to a Muggle and a wizard was considered a Squib, not a Muggle.
The term "half-blood" is misleading in that it does not necessarily imply a half-and-half split in wizarding/Muggle ancestry, but rather a witch or wizard with Muggle or Muggle-born parents or grandparents. By the 1990s, most of the magical population were half-bloods.
The term was used as an insult from members of fanatical pure-blood families. Walburga Black, for instance, was a fervent believer in pure-blood supremacy and her portrait at 12 Grimmauld Place often screamed "filthy half-breeds" and other insults at passers-by somewhat indiscriminately, which points to the mania surrounding blood purity. Bellatrix Lestrange was also known to have insulted Harry Potter and Severus Snape on the basis of their half-blood heritage.
Some half-bloods also expressed prejudice against those with Muggle ancestry, despite having it themselves, often clinging to what wizarding heritage they did have. Lord Voldemort, the son of a pure-blood witch, Merope Gaunt and a Muggle Tom Riddle Snr, epitomised this. He hated Muggles and Muggle-borns and held his status as the Heir of Slytherin in great esteem.
Ancestry of a half-blood
- "I'm half-and-half. Me dad's a Muggle. Mum didn't tell him she was a witch 'til after they were married. Bit of a nasty shock for him."
- — Seamus Finnigan regarding his mixed heritage[src]
|Pure/half-blood parent &
|Tom Marvolo Riddle (Lord Voldemort)|
|Pure/half-blood parent &
|Harry James Potter|
|Muggle-born parent &
|Muggle ancestry||Edward Remus Lupin|
|James Sirius Potter|
|Albus Severus Potter|
|Lily Luna Potter|
- "There are some wizards — like Malfoy’s family — who think they’re better than everyone else because they’re what people call pure-blood. I mean, the rest of us know it doesn’t make any difference at all. Look at Neville Longbottom — he’s pure-blood and he can hardly stand a cauldron the right way up."
- — Ronald Weasley regarding pure-bloods[src]
Pure-blood families were wizards and witches without known Muggles or Muggle-borns on their family tree. Some had achieved this simply by removing any Muggles or Squibs from their family trees and pretending they never existed.
Many pure-bloods considered themselves to be akin to royalty in the wizarding world, or at the very least the elite. They often disdained those of different blood status and Muggles, some even arguing that Muggle-borns should not be admitted into the wizarding world. The Death Eater organisation took this philosophy to an extreme, striving to eliminate Muggle-borns altogether.
To be pure-blood was an uncommon trait and their numbers continued to decline over time. To maintain their "pure-blood pedigree", families such as the House of Black and the House of Gaunt had practised inbreeding, accounting for the mental instability of certain family members. Those same families tended to disown members who accepted Muggles or Muggle-born wizards into their lives. These family members would be deemed "blood traitors". For instance, the Blacks commonly blasted these relatives off the family tree tapestry.
- "The pure-blood families are all interrelated. If you’re only going to let your sons and daughters marry pure-bloods your choice is very limited; there are hardly any of us left."
- — All pure-blood families are in someway related[src]
Inbreeding amongst pure-blood families such as the Gaunts, Blacks, and Lestranges had been known to cause a tendency towards instability, violence, and enfeeblement. Members of these families were known for their psychopathic tendencies and inability to feel compassion towards others whom they regarded as inferior such as Muggle-born wizards and the Muggle population in general.
A large number of Death Eaters partook in the torture of other fellow wizards and witches, to the point of persecution and outright extermination, simply based upon their blood-status. Deterioration of their minds was overlooked as they had kept the proper pedigree praised by Salazar Slytherin and all those who followed his standards of what made a good or worthy Wizard/Witch.
Known instances of inbreeding
- "Marvolo, his son, Morfin, and his daughter, Merope, were the last of the Gaunts, a very ancient wizarding family noted for a vein of instability and violence that flourished through the generations due to their habit of marrying their own cousins."
- — Description of the Gaunts' habit of inbreeding[src]
|Orion Black||Sirius and Regulus's parents are second cousins.|
|House of Black||Black family tree spans seven centuries, so there is probably more inbreeding in that family than is known.|
|House of Gaunt||According to Dumbledore, the House of Gaunt has many inbred relatives, causing their instability.|
|Arthur Weasley||They are second cousins by marriage once removed, which is not technically inbreeding, but shows how the spouses are somewhat interrelated. Going back more generations might show some actual biological links.|
|Lestrange family||According to Corvus' bloodline and Cyrille's bloodline of the Lestrange family tree, inbreeding was a common practice among the family. Some examples of inbreeding was Corvus Lestrange III and Eglantine Lestrange, who were first cousins. As well as their son Corvus Lestrange IV, who married his second cousin Clarisse Lestrange (née Tremblay), who was also his first cousin through his maternal aunt who was Clarisse's mother.|
Squibs were individuals from wizarding families but had no magic themselves. One example is Argus Filch, who was so embarrassed by this that he hid it from students and studied magic fruitlessly in his spare time. Another example is Arabella Figg, who did not seem to particularly care that she had no skill in magic. Squibs appeared to keep in contact with wizarding society if they chose, whereas Muggles had little to no contact, as they didn't know it even existed.
Squibs were generally looked upon with disdain by most wizards and witches. Even families like the Weasleys, who did not look down on Muggles or Muggle-borns, were rather embarrassed to have a Squib, who worked as an accountant, in their family. Neville Longbottom's family was also upset at the prospect that he might be a Squib and repeatedly tried to scare accidental magic out of him when he was a child.
Squibs were able to use magical devices, such as Dark Detectors, or other items whose magical capabilities were inherent, but not devices such as wands, which required magical abilities in the user.
Muggle-borns were possibly descended from Squibs who married into Muggle families as in historic times went by the affectionate name of "Magbobs" as the magic "bobbed up" out of nowhere
It is possible that a child or later descendant of Hector Dagworth-Granger, a famous potioneer, was a Squib, because Horace Slughorn stated to Hermione Granger that the two could have been related. This could be possible if magic in a family died out.
Half-breeds were humans with at least one non-human parent, although witches and wizards with non-human ancestry further back would also be considered half-breeds. They were very rare and had traits of both species, such as the ability to use magic and spell resistance in half-giants. Prejudice against half-breeds appeared to be relatively common in the wizarding world, which is intolerant toward non-human peoples in general.
"Half-breed" might be an insulting, rather than proper, term. It was known to be highly offensive to centaurs, though this might only be because it was in fact, incorrect: centaurs were their own non-human breed, rather than a mix of species.
Known half-breed types
Behind the scenes
- It is stated all "pure-blood" families are interrelated. Muggle-borns are children of Muggles and have the magic gene possibly because of a squib, half-blood or pure-blood ancestor. Squibs are born into half-blood/pure-blood families but do not possess the power to use magic (though they would be carriers of the gene). Half-breeds are half-bloods/pure-bloods with a non-human ancestor. Muggles can become related and produce half-blood children when mixed with half-bloods/pure-bloods. A muggle may marry a squib and their descendants know nothing of their magical heritage until the gene resurfaces randomly.
- There are many parallels to the notion of blood purity that exist in the Muggle world, largely in the form of racism and 19th Century pseudo-science. Examples of this being manifested include the Ku Klux Klan, European colonialism (where, for instance, the children of slave-owners and slaves were denied the legal status of the slave owner's white children), some parts of the British National Party, Combat 18, some parts of The UK Independence Party, The National Front, some extreme forms of Afrocentrism (which might advocate for Black people to only marry and have children with other Black people), discrimination against immigrants in various cultures, and the persecution and mass murder of racial minorities such as Jews, Roma, Slavs, so-called "Mischlings" and others by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Adolf Hitler, promoting a society with a "pure Aryan race," is rumoured to have had a Jewish ancestor, and is thus similar to Lord Voldemort (Rowling herself compares the two figures).
- A more direct parallel, however, is the formation of blood purity laws and the infamous Spanish Inquisition in Mediaeval Spain to regulate the activities of Spanish conversos (converts to Christianity from either Judaism or Islam). These conversos, although officially equal to their Christian brethren, were nonetheless scrutinised and even persecuted: if a converso showed any hint of heresy or apostasy, they would be subjected to auto-da-fé.
- J. K. Rowling consciously drew such parallels: “The expressions ‘pure-blood’, ‘half-blood’ and ‘Muggle-born’ have been coined by people to whom these distinctions matter, and express their originators' prejudice. As far as somebody like Lucius Malfoy is concerned, for instance, a Muggle-born is as ‘bad’ as a Muggle. Therefore Harry would be considered only ‘half’ wizard, because of his mother's parents. If you think this is far-fetched, look at some of the real charts the Nazis used to show what constituted ‘Aryan’ or ‘Jewish’ blood...the Nazis used precisely the same warped logic as the Death Eaters. A single Jewish grandparent 'polluted' the blood, according to their propaganda.” Note also that, like the Nazis, the Death-Eaters rise to power in the Second Wizarding War, an analogue of the Second World War.
- Another direct parallel between blood purity and Harry Potter has been seen in the American Mafia. According to the code of the mafia, only men who are full-blooded Italian, meaning both parents are full Italian and can prove familial ancestry extending to Italy, are eligible to become "made men", or gain full-fledged mafioso status. In actuality, the American Mafia has found it increasingly difficult to adhere to those standards due to the large amount of immigration and intermarriages in the United States. Son of famous American mobster John Gotti; John Gotti Jnr, for instance, was born to a Italian/Russian mother and an Italian father, and should not have been made according to his own standards. Newer mafia code has said that men who can prove Italian ancestry through patrilineal descent (father's side) are eligible to get made.
- As in the Harry Potter universe, these parallels in Muggle society have caused great strife, suffering and cruelty in society.
- An interesting fact of note is that despite the ideals that pure-bloods are inherently more powerful wizards, some of the most powerful or particularly adept wizards and witches in the series are in fact either half-blood (such as Lord Voldemort, Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, Severus Snape and Harry Potter) or Muggle-born (such as Hermione Granger and Lily Evans).
- There is probably no such thing as true blood purity any longer. This is because several pure-blood families have either died out, or mated with Muggles.
- Although Ron Weasley stated that wizardkind would have died out without Muggle-borns, it would be more accurate to say that all pure-blood lines would die out through infertility, with the possible loss of most, if not all, compiled magic knowledge, skills and spells. However, there would still be wizards born out of the dispersed inherited magic from among Muggle kind, which could allow for individuals with magic abilities to eventually discover each other over generations and form groups. Such groups could then rediscover magical knowledge and eventually recreate lost spells and skills, essentially allowing a new wizardkind to start over, even if it took centuries.
- One example of the four levels of wizards can be seen after the Battle of Hogwarts, near the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, in which there are two shots showing a Pure-blood (Ron Weasley) a Half-blood (Rubeus Hagrid), a Muggle-born (Hermione Granger), and a Squib (Argus Filch) all at once.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (First mentioned)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Called "Purity of Blood")
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (First identified as Blood status)
- Pottermore (Mentioned only)
- Wizarding World (Mentioned only)
- J. K. Rowling's official site (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery (Mentioned only)
Notes and references
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 11 (The Bribe)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 36 (The Parting of the Ways)
- F.A.Q. Are all the pure-blood families going to die out? at J. K. Rowling's official site
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 9 (The Writing on the Wall)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 7 (Mudbloods And Murmurs)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 13 (The Muggle-Born Registration Commission)
- "Squibs" at J.K. Rowling's Official Site
- FAQ at J. K. Rowling's official site - "I saw one in the Holocaust Museum in Washington when I had already devised the 'pure-blood', 'half-blood' and 'Muggle-born' definitions, and was chilled to see that the Nazis used precisely the same warped logic as the Death Eaters. A single Jewish grandparent 'polluted' the blood, according to their propaganda."
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 4 (Number Twelve Grimmauld Place)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 6 (The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 35 (Beyond the Veil)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 2 (Spinner's End)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 17 (The Heir of Slytherin)
- Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Pure-Blood" at Wizarding World
- Writing by J. K. Rowling: "The Malfoy Family" at Wizarding World
- F.A.Q. Section at J. K. Rowling's official site
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 5 (Diagon Alley)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 1 (The Dark Lord Ascending)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 10 (The House of Gaunt)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 2 (A Peck of Owls)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 8 (The Hearing)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 6 (The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 7 (The Sorting Hat)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 8 (Snape Victorious)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 9 (The Half-Blood Prince)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 24 (Rita Skeeter's Scoop)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 29 (The Dream)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 33 (Fight and Flight)