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"A jet of green light issued from Voldemort's wand just as a jet of red light blasted from Harry's — they met in midair — and suddenly Harry's wand was vibrating as though an electric charge were surging through it; his hand seized up around it; he couldn't have released it if he'd wanted to — and a narrow beam of light connected the two wands, neither red nor green, but bright, deep gold... he felt his feet lift from the ground. He and Voldemort were both being raised into the air, their wands still connected by that thread of shimmering golden light."
— Harry's and Voldemort's twin wand cores connecting[src]

Prior Incantato[1] was a charm that forced a wand to show an "echo" of the last spell it had performed.[1][2][3] Its counter-charm was the Eradication Spell, which removed these images.[1]

Priori Incantatem, otherwise known as the "reverse spell effect",[4] was an especially rare manifestation of this spell that occurred when two wands with the same core (that is, taken from the same animal) attempted to duel each other. The winner's wand forced the loser's wand to produce "echoes" of the most recent spells performed in reverse order.[2][3]


Priori Incantatem[]

"The golden thread connecting Harry and Voldemort splintered; though the wands remained connected, a thousand more beams arced high over Harry and Voldemort, crisscrossing all around them, until they were enclosed in a golden, dome-shaped web, a cage of light..."
— The dome of light, a side-effect of the spell[src]
Wormtail graveyard

The cage of protective light created by Priori Incantatem

As dictated by the subtle laws of wands, when a duel occurred between wizards with wand cores harvested from the same creature, simultaneous spell-casting by both parties triggered a rare, powerful effect called Priori Incantatem.[2][3] Both wands became linked through a single, golden thread. Hundreds of smaller golden beams shot off from this central thread to form a cage around the duellers.[2]

The two wand holders were then forced to compete in a battle of wills by forcing golden beads of light to move along through the beam back towards their opponent.[2] When one wand managed to overcome the other, it forced the losing wand to regurgitate "echoes" of the most recent spells it had cast, in reverse order.[2][3]

Priori Incantatem GOF

The "echoes" of James and Lily Potter released by the effects of Priori Incantatem

If one of these spells was the Killing Curse, then a ghostly "echo" of the murdered person could emerge from the killer's wand. Such "echoes" retained the "appearance and character" of the deceased person. They were able to hold conversations and could remember the events leading up to and following their deaths.[2][3] However, these "echoes" were not ghosts, nor were they considered to be returning the deceased person from the dead;[3] indeed, they could only linger on the mortal plane for a few moments before they faded back into the beyond.

It is unclear if these "echoes" were actually conscious, sentient manifestations of the people in question, or merely conjured images. An "echo" of James Potter appeared self-aware enough to explain the predicament to his son and implore him to get to safety once Priori Incantatem ended; a similar "echo" of Lily Potter watched for an opening by which Harry could break the linked spells and duck to safety, and then pressed him to take it. Both "echoes", among others present at the time, were aware of their ability to linger and made use of it to distract Voldemort long enough for Harry to escape.[2] If these "echoes" were, in fact, recollections of the dead from behind the Veil, it would be only one of two known methods of effecting such, the other being the Resurrection Stone.


Albus Dumbledore: "Priori Incantatem."
Sirius Black: "The reverse spell effect?"
Albus Dumbledore: "Exactly. Harry's wand and Voldemort's wand share cores. Each of them contains a feather from the tail of the same phoenix."
— Dumbledore and Sirius discussing Harry's duel with Voldemort[src]
Duel little hangleton

Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort duel in Little Hangleton graveyard

Amos Diggory cast this spell on Harry Potter's wand in the aftermath of the Death Eater attack at the 1994 Quidditch World Cup, in order to determine whether he conjured the Dark Mark over the campsite.[1]

Lord Voldemort was resurrected by Peter Pettigrew using the blood of Harry Potter in the Little Hangleton graveyard on 24 June 1995. A duel ensued between Voldemort and Harry, during which their wands (which both contained feathers from the phoenix Fawkes) became connected, triggering Priori Incantatem. Voldemort's wand was ultimately overcome by Harry's, causing it to release "shadows" of people he had murdered with it: Cedric Diggory, Frank Bryce, Bertha Jorkins, as well as Lily and James Potter.[2][3]

During the 2010–2011 school year, Linderina Crane cast this spell on the wands of Daniel Page, Ivy Warrington and their friend while investigating the attack in Hogsmeade.[5]

Behind the scenes[]

  • In the US first edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the "reverse spell effect" mention is stylised as "Reverse Spell effect", which may suggest the name of the spell is the Reverse Spell. However, the letters are never capitalised in the UK editions, and subsequent US editions were also updated to line up with the UK editions.
Arthur weasley duel

Arthur Weasley and an unidentified Death Eater duelling, producing an effect similar to Priori Incantatem

J. K. Rowling[]

  • Some early editions of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire depicted the ghost figure of James emerging from Harry's wand before Lily, even though James was killed first. Rowling later explained: "Lily first, then James. That’s how it appears in my original manuscript but we were under enormous pressure to edit it very fast and my American editor thought that was the wrong way around, and he is so good at catching small errors I changed it without thinking, then realised it had been right in the first place. We were all very sleep-deprived at the time."[6]


The Harry Potter Wiki has 3 images related to Prior Incantato.

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. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 34 (Priori Incantatem)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 36 (The Parting of the Ways)
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 36 (The Parting of the Ways) - "The reverse spell effect?" said Sirius sharply.
  5. Harry Potter: Magic Awakened, Year 3, Main Story, Chapter II: Lost Key
  6. Reverse Spell Effect at The Harry Potter Lexicon