"My momma, your momma, gonna catch a witch,
My momma, your momma, flying on a switch,
My momma, your momma, witches never cry,
My momma, your momma, witches gonna die!

Witch number one, drown in a river!
Witch number two, gotta noose to give her!
Witch number three, gonna watch her burn,
Witch number four, flogging take a turn.
—Modesty singing anti-witchcraft rhymes[src]
Modesty Barebone[2] (b. 1918[1]) was an American girl who lived during the 20th century. She was the adopted daughter of Mary Lou Barebone. Mary Lou was the leader of the New Salem Philanthropic Society or Second Salemers, a No-Maj anti-witchcraft group.

Modesty was the youngest of three adopted siblings. Her older siblings were Credence Barebone and Chastity Barebone. She lived with them and her adoptive mother in the United States of America in 1926


Early Life

"Ma adopted Modesty out of here. From a family of twelve. She still misses her brothers and sisters. She still talks about them."
—Credence Barebone regarding Modesty's early family life[src]
Modesty was born about 1918 in the United States.[1] She lived in a tenement in The Bronx with her mother, father, and nine siblings.[3]

She was later adopted by No-Maj anti-witchcraft activist Mary Lou Barebone, perhaps because her parents had more children than they could care for.[3]

Afterwards, she missed her brothers and sisters, and would talk about them to her older adoptive brother Credence.[3] The fact she remembered her original family suggests she was at least two or three when Mary Lou adopted her.


Credence Barebone: "Where’d you get this?"
Modesty Barebone: "Give it back, Credence. It’s just a toy!"
— Credence questioning Modesty on her toy wand[src]
A precocious child, Modesty learned to hide disobedient behaviour from her strict mother, as she was aware of the abusive treatment that her older brother, Credence, received. but out of sight of her mother (and her similarly zealous older adoptive sister, Chastity), she rebelliously threw away New Salem Philanthropic Society leaflets.[2]
2018-10-03 04.07.21 1

Modesty gets confronted by his older brother regarding the toy wand she has been hiding

On 7 December 1926, Credence went into Modesty's room and found a toy wand under her bed. Modesty arrived and protested the it was just a toy, but as they argued Mary Lou entered and was appalled to see what Credence was holding. As Credence removed his belt so his adoptive mother could punish him again, Modesty confessed saying the wand was hers. Suddenly, the belt whipped out of Mary Lou's grasp, injuring her hand. As she went to pick it up, it was magically flung away.

Turning to confront the children, Mary Lou was attacked by an Obscurus, flung against the rafters of the chapel and fell dead with tell-tale scratches covering her face.

Terrified of the incident, Modesty ran away to her old childhood home to hide. With the help of Credence, Gellert Grindelwald in disguise as Percival Graves found her, believing her to be the Obscurial he was after. Graves found Modesty hiding in a corner, shaking, terrified, and confused, whimpering at the sound of Credence's name. Just as she was about to come towards Graves, an opening in the walls broke open revealing Credence to be the true Obscurial. Confronting Graves for his betrayal, Credence quickly lost control of his power and became a fully corporeal Obscurus flying away with Graves following, leaving Modesty all alone once more.

Personality and traits

Modesty was described as a "haunted" girl with "inner strength and stillness." She also possessed an ability to see into people's psyches and understand them.[4]

Behind the scenes

  • Modesty Barebone is portrayed by Faith Wood-Blagrove in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.[5]
  • The anti-witchcraft rhyme Modesty repeatedly sings were all references of non-magical people's stereotypes of and against witches, as well as the witch-trials that were designed to "persecute" them with.
    • "Flying on a switch" is a reference to broomstick flying ("switch" was a type of thin stick of wood), a stereotype from the Middle Ages.
    • "Witches never cry" is a reference to the stereotype of witches almost always cackling.
    • "Drown in a river" is a reference to the myth that witches never cross bodies of water.
    • "Gotta noose to give her", "Gonna watch her burn", & "Flogging take a turn" were all references to punishments meted out against suspected witches (i.e. the Medieval Inquisition and their respective auto-da-fés, and the Salem Witch Trials).


Notes and references

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