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"William nicknamed his daughter ‘Morrigan’ for her affinity for all natural things when she was young."
— Isolt's affinity with the natural world[src]

Isolt Steward (née Sayre) (b. 1603) was a famous Irish pure-blood witch, the only child and daughter of William and Rionach Sayre. When she was just a girl, her parents were murdered in a house fire by her aunt Gormlaith Gaunt, a vicious Dark witch and pure-blood supremacist.[1]

Isolt would spent the next twelve years with her cruel aunt, until she escaped to the New World. While in the New World she befriended a Pukwudgie called William and eventually became the wife of James Steward. She and her husband were the founders of Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Isolt had four children by the time of her death and obtained a lasting legacy.[1]


Early life[]

"Her early childhood was idyllic, with parents who loved her and were quietly helpful to their Muggle neighbours, producing magical cures for humans and livestock alike."
— Isolt's life before the murder of her parents [src]

Isolt Sayre was born around 1603. Her father nicknamed her "Morrigan" after his ancestor because of her "affinity of all natural things". Growing up in Coomloughra, County Kerry, Ireland, Isolt had an idyllic childhood, well-loved by her parents and the surrounding Muggle community, for whom her parents would secretly produce magical cures.[1]

Sayre cottage on fire

The Sayre cottage is set on fire

However, around 1608 when Sayre was five years old, her family's cottage was attacked and set on fire. In the ensuing destruction, both of Sayre's parents were tragically killed; however Sayre herself was apparently rescued from the burning house by her mother's estranged sister, Gormlaith Gaunt.

This incident marked the beginning of a harsh existence that Isolt would have to endure for many years to come. Gaunt took Sayre to the neighbouring valley of Coomcallee, where she raised her, using powerful Dark Magic to enforce her cooperation and isolation.[1]

Gormlaith Gaunt takes in Isolt Sayre

Isolt is kidnapped in by Gormlaith Gaunt after the latter burns down her parents' cottage

Gaunt proved to be an unstable and cruel guardian. A pure-blood supremacist, she believed that her sister's willingness to help Muggles would lead to what she believed to be a "dangerous path" to marrying a Muggle man. As she grew older, Sayre realised that her aunt had kidnapped her and set her house ablaze, and was therefore her parents' murderer.

Gaunt would make Sayre watch as she cursed or jinxed any Muggle or animal that got too close to her cottage. The village learned to keep their distance from the cottage, and the only outside contact Sayre would get with anyone but her aunt was when local village boys threw stones at her when she played in the garden.[1]

When Sayre turned eleven around 1614, her Hogwarts acceptance letter arrived. However, her aunt refused to allow her to attend, or to obtain a wand, believing that teaching Sayre herself about magic would be better than risking sending her to a "dangerously egalitarian establishment full of Mudbloods."[1]

Gaunt herself had attended Hogwarts where she was sorted into Slytherin, and told Sayre much about it, but largely denigrated it, lamenting that Salazar Slytherin's plans for the purity of wizardkind had been unfulfilled. This, however, led Sayre, who had been isolated and mistreated by her aunt for years, to believe Hogwarts to be a sort of paradise and she spent much of her time as a teenager fantasising about it.[1]

Escape and isolation in the New World[]

"Determined to hide in such a way that her adoptive mother would never find her, Isolt cut off her hair. Masquerading as a Muggle boy called Elias Story, she set sail for the New World on the Mayflower in 1620."
— Isolt escapes her aunt and journeys to America[src]
Isolt aboard the Mayflower

Isolt Sayre aboard the Mayflower under the guise of "Elias Story" in 1620

Eventually, after twelve years with Gormlaith, 17-year-old Sayre finally worked up the courage, as well as learned enough about magic, to escape. She stole her aunt's wand, and left the cottage and fled the country. The only other object she took with her was a gold brooch in the shape of a Gordian Knot that had belonged to her mother.

Fearing her aunt's prodigious tracking abilities and her subsequent punishment, Sayre fled to England, but soon her aunt was on her tail. Determined to hide from her cruel aunt, she cut off all her hair and, for five years, pretended to be a Muggle boy, taking on the name of "Elias Story" (an anagram of "Isolt Sayre"), all the while her aunt was attempting to track her. She then went aboard the Mayflower in 1620 and sailed to North America.[1]

Sayre arrived in America as one of the earliest European settlers, most of them Muggles. Soon after arriving, Sayre left and moved to the surrounding mountains, leaving the Muggle settlers to assume that "Elias Story" was killed during the harsh winter among the others. Sayre left partly due to her belief that, despite moving to an entirely new continent, her wicked aunt would still somehow track her down. The other reason was that her voyage aboard the Mayflower led her to the conclusion that the Puritans there would be unlikely to accept her, as Sayre was a witch.[1]

After several weeks of living alone in the mountains in complete isolation, Sayre came across a Hidebehind about to disembowel a Pukwudgie. She cast a curse, making the Hidebehind flee. Unaware that Pukwudgies were rather dangerous to humans, Sayre carried him to her makeshift shelter and nursed him back to health.

The Pukwudgie declared himself bound to her until he had the opportunity to repay his debt, but was greatly humiliated to be indebted to a young, vulnerable girl. Sayre handled the Pukwudgie's ingratitude and found him amusing and was glad of the company. Over time, however, a friendship formed between the two. Faithful to the beliefs of his race, the Pukwudgie refused to tell Sayre his real name, so she named him "William" after her deceased father.[1]

Adventures with William[]

"The Pukwudgie now declared himself bound to serve her until he had an opportunity to repay his debt."
— Isolt saved the life of a Pukwudgie, whom she names William[src]

After becoming friends, William began introducing Isolt to various magical creatures he was familiar with. Various adventures and encounters they had together included a fight with a Snallygaster, observing Hodags hunting, and watching newborn Wampus kittens playing in the morning. A great-horned river serpent lived in a nearby creek. Isolt was fascinated by it, and in turn the serpent was fond of her, to William's astonishment. Isolt also claimed to understand what the Horned Serpent was saying to her.

Because this was alarming to William, she did not talk about her sense of kinship with the serpent, and that it seemed to tell her things. She visited the creek and never told William of it, and the beast always said the same thing: Until I am part of your family, your family is doomed. Isolt was unable to understand the meaning of the cryptic words that the serpent was saying, or if she was imagining the beast talking to her.[1]

Isolt rescues the Boots

Isolt rescues Chadwick and Webster Boot from a Hidebehind

One day, while foraging in the woods, the two heard a grisly noise nearby. William shouted at Isolt to stay put and, poisoned arrow at the ready, charged through the trees towards the noise. Isolt ignored the directions and followed William to find that the Hidebehind who had attempted to kill William years ago had killed two naïve humans and was preparing to disembowel them, and two boys lay seriously injured nearby. Isolt and William worked together and "made short work of" the Hidebehind.[1]

William continued to collect blackberries, ignoring the injured children. When Isolt angrily instructed him to help her carry the boys back to their shelter, he threw a tantrum. Isolt, outraged by his callousness and stubbornness, stated that she would accept assisting her in carrying the boys back as payment for being rescued. She insisted on carrying them home, as she was afraid that they were too ill to Apparate. William grudgingly agreed to carry the older boy, while Isolt carried the younger one, who were named Chadwick and Webster Boot respectively. As soon as they got back to the shelter, a furious Isolt told William that she no longer needed him and William glared at her and vanished.[1]

New friends[]

"Every day, Isolt vowed to Obliviate James, and every day, his fear of magic wore off a little more, until finally it seemed simplest to admit that they were in love, marry, and have done with it."
— Isolt falls in love with James Steward[src]

The boys that Isolt and William rescued survived the attack and, much to her delight and astonishment, were wizards. However, Chadwick and Webster were so ill for the next couple of weeks that Isolt hardly left them alone. She was troubled by the fact that, in her haste to rescue the boys, she had been unable to give their parents a burial, so when the boys were well enough to be left alone for a few hours, she returned to the forest with the intention of marking graves for their parents.

To her surprise, she found someone there. As she watched the man, James Steward, finished marking the graves she had intended to make herself, and picked up the two broken wands laid beside the corpses. She watched as he examined the dragon heartstring that protruded from the wand that belonged to the boys' father and waved it. The wand knocked James backwards and he hit a tree, knocking him unconscious.[1]

Isolt and James

Isolt and James Steward hold hands

Isolt carried the unconscious man back to her shelter, where he eventually awoke. Isolt was unable to conceal her magic from James, especially in the confined space of her shelter and brewing potions to help the boys recover. She intended to Obliviate James once he recovered from his concussion, but until then she considered it nice to be able to talk to an adult, let alone one familiar with the Boot boys and he helped to entertain them while they healed.

James also helped Isolt construct a stone house on the top of Mount Greylock by providing a workable design, and Isolt magically constructed it within an afternoon. Isolt named the new house "Ilvermorny" after her parents' house, which her aunt destroyed. Every day, Isolt vowed to Obliviate James, meanwhile James's fear of magic subsided, and they eventually admitted that they were in love with each other, and married.[1]

Founding Ilvermorny School[]

"Instead, she promised them that when they reached eleven years old, she would somehow find them wands (their parents’ wands being broken beyond repair) and they would start a school of magic right there in the cottage."
— The start of Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry[src]

Isolt and James and considered the Boot boys to be their adopted sons. Isolt told them revised stories of Hogwarts, where the boys yearned to go, and frequently asked if they could return to Europe, where they could receive their letters. Isolt, not wanting to frighten them, did not tell them of Gormlaith Gaunt, and instead promised to give them wands and open a magical school at their stone house.

The family discussed what they should name the four houses after, and instead of Hogwarts founders, they named it after nearby magical animals: for Chadwick, the thunderbird; for Webster, the wampus; for James, (after some debate) the Pukwudgie; and for Isolt, the Horned Serpent she still visited.[1]

Chadwick's eleventh birthday[]

Ilvermorny is built

James and Isolt build Ilvermorny school

At the time, Chadwick's eleventh birthday was near and Isolt had no idea how to provide him the wand she promised him, as she thought that her aunt's wand she stole was the only one in America. On the eve of his birthday, Isolt had a dream in which she went to the Horned Serpent's creek, who rose up from it and bowed it head, and Isolt shaved a long shard from its horn. She woke up and walked down to the creek.

The serpent was waiting for her, and raised its head like it did in her dream, and Isolt shaved off part of its horn, thanked it, and returned to her cottage. She woke James, who had skill in crafting and stone-carving. They eventually finished crafting a wand of "exceptional" power.[1]

Growing fame[]

By the time Webster turned eleven, reputation of the Stewards' magical home school had spread. Two boys from the Wampanoag tribe and a mother and her two daughters from the Narragansett tribe arrived one day, and had received wands from James and Isolt of their making. Isolt had a protective instinct to save the Horned Serpent wand cores only for her two adoptive sons and she and James learned to use a variety of other cores, including Wampus hair, Snallygaster heartstring and Jackalope antlers.[1]

By 1634, the school had grown a considerable amount. Each house expanded each year. Eventually, Isolt and James had children, two daughters they named Rionach and Martha after their respective late mothers.[1]

Gormlaith Gaunt's revenge[]

"The happy, busy family had no idea that grave danger was approaching them from afar. "
— Gormlaith plots her revenge against Isolt [src]
Gormlaith Gaunt casts a curse

Gormlaith Gaunt casts curses at Chadwick Boot

The Steward family had no idea that word of Ilvermorny had reached Gormlaith Gaunt, Isolt's aunt who she had managed to escaped from. When she learned of this, she made her way to America, using the name William Sayre, after Isolt's father. Gormlaith vowed to kill Isolt and James, destroy the school building, and kidnap their daughters.

As soon as she saw the house, she cast a sleeping curse on the couple, placing them into an enchanted slumber. Chadwick, having spotted Gormlaith outside, sent Webster to awaken James and Isolt. This was unsuccessful due to the powerful curse, so he went outside to help Chadwick duel Gormlaith. This was the only option, as they were the only ones awake.[1]

Isolt wand

Isolt prepares to duel Gormlaith in defence of her family

Due to the commotion, Martha and Rionach were woken up, and due to the power of love, their cries broke through the enchantment laid upon Isolt and James. Isolt woke up to the noise around her and screamed at James to go get their daughters, while she ran outside to assist her sons in duelling Gormlaith. Once she raised the stolen wand to attack, it did not, as Gormlaith had activated a hidden spell that would disable it. A gloating Gormlaith chased and drove the three back up the stairs, to the room where she could hear crying.[1]

Isolt followed Gormlaith up to the room where James and their daughters were. Certain that "all was lost", Isolt, hardly thinking, cried out her father's name. There was a clatter as Isolt witnessed William the Pukwudgie appear and a poison-tipped arrow pierced Gormlaith in the heart, killing her. The family expressed their extreme gratitude. However, William was upset that it had taken Isolt ten years to say his name again. Isolt chose not to mention that she was actually calling for her late father. William later moved in with Isolt and her family at Ilvermorny.[1]

Later life and death[]

"Isolt and James both lived to be over 100. They had seen the cottage of Ilvermorny become a granite castle, and they died in the knowledge that their school was now so famous that magical families all over North America were clamouring to educate their children there."
— Isolt later life at Ilvermorny and her death[src]

Ilvermorny as a grand castle

Isolt was unable to speak Parseltongue to undo the spell on the wand to reactivate it, so she and James buried it in the school grounds. She did not wish to keep the wand, anyway, as it was the last reminder of her unhappy childhood. Within a year, a snakewood tree grew from the ground where it was buried. Any attempts to kill or prune it was unsuccessful, and it was kept after it was discovered that the tree contained powerful medicinal properties.[1]

As Ilvermorny’s reputation grew steadily throughout the following years, Isolt and James remained joint Headmaster and Headmistress. The school's student population steadily grew with each passing year, and in turn, more teachers were hired, and the granite house expanded into a castle. Isolt and James made the robes of Ilvermorny blue and cranberry. Isolt chose the colour blue as it was her favourite colour and she had wished to be in Ravenclaw as a child. She also made the students’ robes fastened by a gold Gordian Knot, in memory of the brooch she found in the ruins of the original Ilvermorny cottage.[1]

Isolt and James both lived to be over the age of one hundred before they died.[1]


"As might be expected of a school part-founded by a No-Maj, Ilvermorny has the reputation of being one of the most democratic, least elitist of all the great wizarding schools."
— Her and James' legacy and Ilvermorny today[src]

After her death, Isolt became very well known as the founder of one of the most democratic and least elitist of every great wizarding school. A marble statue was made of her to flank the front doors of Ilvermorny Castle and remains there to this day. A Pukwudgie who goes by the name of William, who may be her old friend, is very protective of her statue and still visits her grave every year to lay mayflowers. It is also believed that the four houses of Ilvermorny represent the witch or wizard who belong to them meaning Isolt gave a scholastic quality to the Horned Serpent house.[1]

Personality and traits[]

Isolt was noted to be close to nature, having a talent and passion for the outdoors and the natural world. Despite her harsh upbringing by her twisted aunt, Isolt possessed a powerful ability to love — an ability to love so purely and unconditionally that it led to the eventual creation of her school. Isolt was a loving wife to her No-Maj husband, James and a caring mother to all four of her children, both adopted and biological. She was also a loyal friend to the Pukwudgie (William) who in turn saved the lives of her and her family. Isolt also accepted all those who she deemed as good, and did not believe in the same pure-blood supremacy as her aunt.[1]

Isolt possessed a tremendous passion for learning and together she and her husband presided over their school. Together, they helped to structure and expand the knowledge of magic in North America, and combined knowledge from the continent with that of European sorcery to create something new, beautiful, and powerful. This passion for learning and education of Isolt's was passed into her patron House at Ilvermorny, the Horned Serpent, the house of scholars.[1]

Magical abilities and skills[]

Isolt to the rescue

Isolt duelling Gormlaith Gaunt

  • Magical mastery: Despite Isolt's lack of a Hogwarts education, she proved herself to be a powerful, talented, and knowledgeable witch, to the extent where she successfully established one of the greatest wizarding schools in the world.[1]
  • Love: Isolt displayed a tremendous amount of love throughout her life. Despite her parents' tragic deaths when she was only five, and her subsequent upbringing in the Dark Arts by her evil aunt, Isolt had a pure and powerful ability to love, and so not only effectively resisted the ideologies her aunt had painstakingly tried to instil in her, but also fled for her freedom after she had learned enough magic to do so. In fact, she went on to fall in love with and marry her Muggle husband, and opened her very own school that "educated anybody with a shred of magic", both of which directly went against her aunt's ideologies. She also truly loved and cared for her adoptive sons as if they were her own, and her deep genuine love for her daughters enabled her to break free of her aunt's potent sleeping curse. Last but not least, Isolt loved her parents to the extent where, before she fled from her aunt, she took her mother's brooch with her (in fact, it was the only other object she took besides her aunt's wand), and even after she made a new life and new family for herself, she kept her parents' memory alive and honoured them by naming her school after their cottage, and much later on, she cried out for her father in a moment where "all seemed lost", which led to William the Pukwudgie saving her and her family in the nick of time from her aunt.[1]
  • Dark Arts: Isolt learned the Dark Arts from her aunt, and although not shown using them much, it's possibe her knowledge of them helped her become skilled enough to make her escape, presumably through Dark magic.[1]
  • Charms: Isolt was highly skilled in charms - to save William, she cast a curse that caused the Hidebehind attacking him to flee, and later on, alongside William, she killed that very same Hidebehind and fought a Snallygaster. This implied that she was talented in dark charms, presumably due to her aunt's training. She also had originally intended to wipe James' memories of her being a witch through the Memory Charm, and while she ultimately did not do it, her initial confidence in her success at this was still further proof of her proficiency in this field of magic.[1]
  • Care of Magical Creatures: Isolt had a natural and unique affinity for communicating with and handling magical creatures - despite the fact that Pukwudgies were supposed to be exceptionally dangerous to humans, she still befriended and formed an incredibly close bond with William, and was able to understand a Horned Serpent's speech and even communicate with it.[1]
  • Apparition: Isolt was able to Apparate at will - a testament to her being a powerful witch, for Apparition was an advanced and difficult branch of magic.[1]
  • Potions: Isolt was a skilful potioneer - she successfully brewed potions that healed the seriously injured Boot brothers.[1]
  • Healing magic: Isolt was skilled in healing magic - she nursed William (who had been wounded by the Hidebehind) back to health, and did the same for James later on.[1]
  • Teaching skills: Given how Gormlaith (a Dark witch with prodigious skill) was forced to concede that Chadwick had been well-taught in magic, how he and his brother were able to hold their own against her for a while, and Ilvermorny's success and prosperity as a wizarding school, Isolt was a highly skilful and accomplished teacher.[1]
  • Divination (possibly): Isolt once had a dream where she visited the Horned Serpent and received from it a shard of its horn, and later on, "some protective instinct" told her to save the Horned Serpent cores only for her sons. Given how her dream became reality immediately after she woke from it, and how the twin cores of her sons' wands warned them of Gormlaith's arrival and even enabled them to hold their own against the evil witch for a while,[1] it is possible that Isolt may have been a Seer.
  • Wandlore: Despite Isolt's lack of a proper training in wandlore, it was proven that she still possessed a high level of innate skill in this field - with her husband's help, she was able to make wands for her adoptive sons and the other Ilvermorny students, and it was said that her sons' wands were "finely carved" and "of exceptional power".[1]


  • Isolt is a variant of the name Isolde, whose origins are uncertain, though some Celtic roots have been suggested. It is possible that the name is ultimately Germanic, perhaps from a hypothetic name like Ishild, composed of the elements is "ice, iron" and hild "battle". In medieval Arthurian legend Isolde was an Irish princess betrothed to King Mark of Cornwall. After accidentally drinking a love potion, she became the lover of his knight Tristan, which led to their tragic deaths.
  • Sayre is a derivative of the pre-medieval personal name Saher or Seir, which itself is a short form of the Norman name Sigiheri introduced into England after the Conquest of 1066, and that can be translated as "victory, army". It can also be originated from the medieval occupational name for a wood cutter, sayhare, although the usual surname is now Sawyer. The third orgin is from Middle English say(en) or seycen, to say, and literally means "professional reciter". The fourth origin is from the medieval occupation of assaying metals or tasting food, derived from the Old French essay, meaning "trial, test".

Behind the scenes[]

  • In real-world history, the Mayflower did carry an "Elias Story" in her 1620 voyage. Apart from the fact that he came in the care of the Winslow family and that he died the first winter at Plymouth, little else is known about the historical Elias Story. The fact that he did not sign the Mayflower Compact suggests he was likely under the age of 18 or 21.[2]
  • It is possible that Isolt still has descendants through her daughter Martha.


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Notes and references[]