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Dark Mark in the sky

The Dark Mark having been conjured in the sky

"...You-Know-Who and his followers sent the Dark Mark into the air whenever they killed. The terror it inspired... you have no idea, you're too young. Just picture coming home and finding the Dark Mark hovering over your house, and knowing what you're about to find inside... Everyone's worst fear... the very worst."
Arthur Weasley[src]

The Dark Mark was the symbol of Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters. It refers both to a magically induced brand that every Death Eater bore on his or her inner left forearm, and to the same symbol summoned in the sky by the spell Morsmordre.[1]


"Then he realised that it was a colossal skull, composed of what looked like emerald stars, with a serpent protruding from its mouth like a tongue. As they watched, it rose higher and higher, blazing in a haze of greenish smoke, etched against the black sky like a new constellation."
— Description of the Dark Mark[src]
Dark Mark (Book)

The appearance of the Dark Mark

The Dark Mark appeared as a glittering green skull with a snake protruding from its mouth.[1] This might have been inspired by the hiding place of the Basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets. When summoned, the basilisk would emerge from the mouth of the statue of Salazar Slytherin. The serpent was also the symbol of Slytherin house, and thus appropriate to be used by the Heir of Slytherin.[2]

The symbol might also have been related to Lord Voldemort being a Parselmouth, a gift he thought made him unlike the rest of the wizarding world. The Dark Mark on the forearm was black, while the Dark Mark conjured by Morsmordre was green; this was most likely for more contrast with each respective background as a black Dark Mark would be hard to see in the night sky. It was also said that the Dark Mark represented immortality and power.[1]

The Dark Mark in the sky and on the Death Eaters' arms were different in appearance. The one in the sky was plainly a skull with a snake coming out straight out of its mouth,[1] while the brand on a Death Eater's arm was much more intricate and detailed, the snake being much longer and winding.

On the arm[]

"The werewolf might be allowed to wear Death Eater robes when they wanted to use him, but only Voldemort's inner circle were branded with the Dark Mark: Greyback had not been granted this highest honour."
Harry Potter regarding Fenrir Greyback's lack of a Dark Mark[src]

The Dark Mark on Bartemius Crouch Junior's arm

An inactive Dark Mark appeared as a faint mark on the inner part of the left forearm, similar to that of "a vivid red tattoo"; an active one was jet black.[3]

Lord Voldemort placed the Dark Mark on his followers' inner left forearms both as a sign of their loyalty to him and as a method of summoning them to him when he or she desired.[1] This was done by pressing his or her finger to any Death Eater's Mark, which turned it jet black and delivered a burning sensation to any person with the Dark Mark, including traitors such as Igor Karkaroff.[4][5] Feeling the burn, the Death Eaters then could Apparate to Voldemort's side, but they were not forcibly compelled to do so.[3] It is unknown whether all Death Eaters would always feel the burning, or if Voldemort could choose to signal a specific person or people.


Dolohov's clearly visible Dark Mark after the Rebirth of Voldemort

The deepness of the Mark's colour was connected to Voldemort's physical health. When Voldemort suffered his first defeat, the Marks on the Death Eaters faded, but as he began regaining his strength, the faded marks became clearer and burnt slightly, a sign of Voldemort's return to his Death Eaters; the burn may be sudden and stings rather sharply, as Snape suddenly gripped where his mark was during the night Harry Potter was solving the Golden egg riddle.[6] Death Eaters could also use it to signal Voldemort by pressing on their Dark Marks. Bearing this mark also allows the Death Eaters to bypass a Cursed barrier.[7] During the height of the Second Wizarding War, they were under orders to only signal Voldemort if they had successfully captured Harry Potter, or else they would face severe penalties by him.[8] After Voldemort was defeated for the final time, the Dark Marks faded to a scar, similar to Harry's lightning-bolt scar. They would no longer activate nor burn, but would still remain nevertheless; there was no possible way of removing the Dark Mark.

Only Voldemort's inner circle, namely the Death Eaters, were branded with the Dark Mark, which was considered a great honour among his followers. Thus, people like the Snatchers never received one.[9]

Hermione Granger used the Protean Charm to create special coins for Dumbledore's Army, which would heat up when signalling a meeting, and she claimed that she indeed got the idea from the Dark Mark.[10]

Peter Pettigrew, despite being a low-ranking Death Eater for his cowardice and disloyalty, was branded with a Dark Mark.[3] However, he was not given the same respect as the other Death Eaters would have received, and was instead treated as a lowly household servant by both his master and his colleagues.[11][12][13][9] Voldemort used this particular Dark Mark brand shortly after his rebirth to summon his other Death Eaters in the Little Hangleton graveyard.[3]

In the sky[]

Main article: Morsmordre

As a signature of their work, the Death Eaters could also use a spell to create an image of the Dark Mark in the sky. The incantation of this spell was Morsmordre. The appearance of the Mark in the sky was similar to the Mark on the forearm, but green.[1]

B4C9M1 the trio seeing the Dark Mark

The Dark Mark above the Quidditch World Cup Campsite

Notable uses included in the woods during the 1994 Quidditch World Cup Final, when it was cast by Barty Crouch Jnr, and over the Astronomy Tower of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry by Gibbon in 1997. It normally appeared where there had been a murder by the hands of Death Eaters or Lord Voldemort. Due to the terror Voldemort and his Death Eaters had brought to the world in the First Wizarding War, the Dark Mark being cast over a location brought deep fear to the community, even after Voldemort's first downfall.[1]

Dark Mark similarities[]

During his studentship at Hogwarts, Gilderoy Lockhart shot a holographic image of his own face like the Dark Mark into the air, in an attempt to garner attention.[14]

Fred and George Weasley created Edible Dark Marks for their joke shop, Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.[15]

When Harry mentioned that the Dumbledore's Army coin reminded him of the Death Eaters' brands, he incorrectly referred to the brand as a scar.[citation needed]

Voldemort summoning his Death Eaters by touching their Dark Marks and vice versa seemed to be the same, or at least a similar, magic to Aurelius Dumbledore summoning Gellert Grindelwald by touching the Deathly Hallows necklace Grindelwald gave him.[citation needed]

Behind the scenes[]

Dark Mark comparision

The Dark Mark as seen in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (left) and the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (right)

  • As the spells used to brand and conjure the Dark Mark were invented by Lord Voldemort, he may have based the spell on the Protean Charm, as Hermione Granger mentioned in 1995 that the Dark Mark inspired her to use the Protean Charm to create the method of communication used by Dumbledore's Army.
  • In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the Dark Mark is cast by Gibbon in order to lure Dumbledore to the Astronomy Tower. In the film adaption, the Mark is cast by Bellatrix Lestrange in celebration after Dumbledore's death.
  • In the beginning of the fourth film, the skull and snake appear as a green glowing light, while in three later instances, the skull is moulded from the clouds.
  • In every film with the Dark Mark in the sky, Death Eaters are shown able to Apparate into and out of it in forms of long plumes of black smoke, seemingly using it as some sort of portal.
  • At the near end of the fourth film, when Barty Jnr held Harry inside his office, he kept rubbing Harry's wound where Pettigrew cut him, using the blood to form a crude form of the Dark Mark.
  • In the books and in the back cover of the Scholastic edition of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the Dark Mark is depicted by Mary GrandPré as being a group of green glowing stars, like a monstrous constellation. Otherwise in the film adaptations, they are either shaped from the clouds or made of glittering green light.
  • In the film adaption, the tattoo of the Dark Mark on the forearms were always jet black, even when inactive, as opposed to a vivid red.
  • In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Draco Malfoy openly displays his Dark Mark to Albus Dumbledore. In the novel, it is not verified that Draco received the Mark, though it was highly speculated by Harry Potter that it was what Draco showed Borgin as a form of intimidation.
  • In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, during the Quidditch World Cup, you can see the shadow of Barty Crouch Jnr when the ring of fire comes, Death Eaters stay and attack; however, in the book and film they flee.
  • The Dark Mark has been used on both the J. K. Rowling's official site and Pottermore to indicate content of a spoiler-inducing nature.
  • During the Second World War, members of the Nazis paramilitary organisation the Waffen-SS had their blood group tattooed on their inner left arm. During the immediate aftermath of the war, this was used to identify fugitive SS men. This may be the inspiration for the Dark Mark.
    • When Hermione Granger remarked that once the Ministry started hunting down Death Eaters, Sirius Black's lack of a Dark Mark would be evidence that he is not a Death Eater, which meant that bearing a Dark Mark is sufficient evidence.
  • Another potential inspiration is the ancient idea that when a man or woman made a deal with a incubus or succubus to become a witch, they gained a visible mark or blemish on their skin to mark them as one who had made a deal with a demon.


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Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 9 (The Dark Mark)
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 17 (The Heir of Slytherin)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 33 (The Death Eaters)
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 23 (The Yule Ball)
  5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 27 (Padfoot Returns)
  6. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 25 (The Egg and the Eye)
  7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 27 (The Lightning-Struck Tower)
  8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 9 (A Place to Hide)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor)
  10. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 16 (In The Hog's Head)
  11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 1 (The Riddle House)
  12. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 2 (Spinner's End)
  13. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 1 (The Dark Lord Ascending)
  14. Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Gilderoy Lockhart" at Wizarding World
  15. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (film)