At least some content in this article is derived from information about Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. As such, spoilers will be present within the article.
- "Lord Voldemort's soul, maimed as it is, cannot bear close contact with a soul like Harry's."
- — Discussion regarding souls[src]
The soul was the immaterial part of a being, which in many belief systems was held to live on after death. Wizards and witches, like Muggles, had sought to uncover the nature of the soul, particularly its role in magic. Tampering with the soul was to break the "deepest laws of magic" according to Albus Dumbledore.
The soul was the sense of self of the individual, residing inside the materialistic body. It served as the memory, awareness, and individuality mindset. It was supposed to remain intact and unharmed, as ripping it was considered a violation of the laws of nature.
While the human body relied on the soul to have their own unique mindsets, a torn soul that was encased in a Horcrux was dependent on the object's well being. That is to say, if the human died, the soul would be able to move on beyond the Veil or return as a ghost.
A Fidelius Charm implanted a secret into a person's very soul, which would give the secret the highest level of security, unless the Secret-Keeper chose to divulge it. Bewitchment and torture couldn't force the secret out of the Keeper, as it must be done so voluntarily.
- "Lord Voldemort’s soul, maimed as it is, cannot bear close contact with a soul like Harry’s."
- — Voldemort's mangled soul[src]
If a Horcrux was destroyed, the soul within would die away and disappear. This seemed different for the "main" portion of the soul that remained within the body, as it served as the sense of awareness and psyche for the person, meaning that only one portion could maintain such full attributes despite multiple pieces, and this piece could retain existence without any container.
Any portion of a soul encased into a Horcrux could gain a sense of sentience, by sapping away the life-force of any unfortunate person to come in possession of such an item, and in turn that portion of soul could gain a solid human form for itself. This was best shown when T. M. Riddle's Diary started draining Ginny Weasley's life over a year of spilling her secrets into it. On the other hand, if a possessor of such an item was inclined to malice, such a person might be strengthened by the evil fragment within such as Dolores Umbridge, who was able to create a Patronus due to her wearing Slytherin's Locket.
A single body usually couldn't host more than one sentient soul without taking a heavy toll, as many animal hosts to Voldemort's fragmented soul had their lifespan drastically reduced, and Quirinus Quirrell, the only known human host, had to drink Unicorn blood to sustain his own body's ailing health. This might be inapplicable to a non-sentient soul fragment used for Horcrux purposes such as Nagini, who showed no side effects from housing her master's soul and even possessed a powerful telepathic bond with him.
The healthy state of Harry Potter's soul kept Voldemort from trying to possess him after the attempt at the Ministry of Magic, because it was too painful for Voldemort's tortured maimed soul to share a body with Harry's complete soul, as Dumbledore explained to Snape in a Pensieve memory.
Damage to souls
- Severus Snape: "If you don't mind dying, why not let Draco do it?"
- Albus Dumbledore: "That boy's soul is not yet so damaged. I would not have it ripped apart on my account."
- Severus Snape: "And my soul, Dumbledore? Mine?"
- Albus Dumbledore: "You alone know whether it will harm your soul to help an old man avoid pain and humiliation."
- — Discussion of murder and the soul[src]
The act of committing murder, which was said by some to be an act of supreme evil, caused the murderer's soul to become damaged. It seemed that the murder might be committed indirectly as long as the murderer had the intent, seeing as how Tom Riddle used the Serpent of Slytherin to kill Myrtle Warren to create his first Horcrux rather than kill her himself.
It should be noted however, that killing in and of itself seemed not to have the same consequences to a soul as committing deliberate murder, as Dumbledore seemed to imply to Snape, when requesting that Snape kill him, that the act would not harm Snape's soul due to the circumstances of the killing.
- "Well, you must understand that the soul is supposed to remain intact and whole. Splitting it is an act of violation, it is against nature."
- — Explanation of the effect Horcruxes have on the soul[src]
Wizards and witches who had committed murder could use a spell to place a torn fragment of their soul inside an external object called a Horcrux, which anchored their soul to the living world, thus rendering them immortal. Creating a Horcrux made the part of the soul left inside one's body unstable, and, for obvious reasons, it was widely considered the most wicked of all the Dark Arts as well as a violation of the first of the Fundamental Laws of Magic. Existing as an earthbound soul was a fate that few would prefer over death.
A person who created a Horcrux could only reverse the damage by experiencing genuine remorse, but the process was extremely painful, and could even be deadly.
Harry Potter's soul was whole and unblemished, but he shared a body with a soul-bit of Voldemort, a state of being which Dumbledore's silver instrument described as "in essence divided". That is why Harry could sometimes view things from Voldemort's point of view or even Nagini the snake, since the creature also contained a Horcrux.
A soul that had been torn apart and partially removed from the body would of course become lesser in substance. This was shown to cause the soul to experience some form of mental and physical regression. In extreme cases, this regression could be so severe that the individual's soul essentially became sub-human and remained in Limbo, unable to leave and unable to become a ghost.
It was possible for a wizard to create more than one Horcrux. However, only one wizard, Voldemort, had ever been recorded as having done so. Due to his willingness to create multiple Horcruxes and committing many murders in doing so, Voldemort was widely considered the most evil wizard on record. Most dark wizards who use Horcruxes only rip their soul once.
However, there seemed to be a limit as to how many times one could separate the soul before doing any more attempts, as going further seemed to be dangerous, which was exemplified by how Voldemort ceased creating any more Horcruxes once he intentionally reached his desired six and refused to create any replacements for the ones that were destroyed. In fact, Voldemort's soul was so unstable that by the time he created five Horcruxes, it split on its own when his Killing Curse rebounded the first time, which caused the fragment to be removed from him and attached to Harry.
- "You can exist without your soul, you know, as long as your brain and heart are still working. But you'll have no sense of self any more, no memory, no...anything. There's no chance at all of recovery. You just — exist. As an empty shell. And your soul is gone forever...lost."
- — The effect of the Dementor's Kiss[src]
It was possible for a person to live without any soul at all so long as their heart and brain were still functioning. However, without a soul, a person was left in an incurable vegetative state — they had no awareness of themselves or the world around them. The soul couldn't be recovered once it had been lost. This was a fate that was considered by many to be worse than death.
One known method of removing the soul from the body intact was the Dementor's Kiss. The Dementor — a creature which was itself soulless — locked its mouth over that of its victim and sucked out his or her soul. The British Ministry of Magic had, in the past, used the Dementor's Kiss as a form of extreme capital punishment. The Dementor's Kiss was a punishment suffered by Bartemius Crouch Junior, when he was caught masquerading as Mad-Eye Moody. The first two times a Dementor attacked him, Harry Potter heard his mother screaming as she died.
The third time, when both Harry and Dudley were attacked on Privet Drive, Harry was able to summon enough happy memories to keep the creature at bay and cast his Patronus to chase it away, although Dudley Dursley was in the process of being attacked. Harry told Vernon that if Dudley's soul had been sucked out by a Dementor, they would know since he would not be functioning anymore. A Patronus was a "soul guardian" which could chase away a Dementor and keep the soul safe from harm.
- Nearly Headless Nick: "Wizards can leave an imprint of themselves upon the earth, to walk palely where their living selves once trod. But very few wizards choose that path."
- Harry Potter: "Why not? Anyway — it doesn't matter — Sirius won't care if it's unusual, he'll come back, I know he will!"
- Nearly Headless Nick: "He will not come back. He will have...gone on."
- — Discussion regarding the afterlife[src]
A ghost was the imprint of a deceased wizard or witch who chose to linger in the world of the living after death; some (including the notoriously bitter Severus Snape) believed them to be nothing more than imprints left by the souls, though ghosts commonly identified themselves with their living selves, suggesting they were the soul itself lingering instead. According to Nearly Headless Nick, few people actually chose this fate, because it meant they would never move beyond the Veil as most did. This couldn't be achieved if the soul was damaged or completely removed.
Behind the scenes
- The relationship of souls and brains in relation to sentience or sapience is unclear. While Dementors provide an example of apparently soulless beings who are capable of rational thought and communication and Tom Riddle's cunning wasn't affected by his mutilations of his soul, it is worth noting that victims of a Dementor's Kiss lose the ability to think even though only their soul is removed and not their brain. Ghosts or the shades summoned by the Resurrection Stone, who lack a physical brain and are nothing but souls (or imprints thereof) wrapped in ectoplasm, are also fully capable of thought. There are even many examples of artificial intelligences created through magic, such as Portraits, the Sorting Hat or the Stairwell Gargoyle, though some readers believe them to be only simulacra with no true consciousness.
- Draco Malfoy claimed that he would sell his soul to see his late wife Astoria one more time. However this may be just a figure of speech, meaning that someone is so desperate to do something that they would do something drastic.
- In the film adaptations of the series, the soul has been portrayed in several manners that have not been mentioned in the novels:
- In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, after Harry killed Quirinus Quirrell, Voldemort's mangled soul left the dying body and pierced through Harry. (In the book, it is said that Voldemort "left" Quirrell, but whether he took on a smokelike physical form as in the movie goes unmentioned).
- In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, when Sirius Black suffered prolonged exposure to the Dementors, his soul began to leave his body, but only returned when three hours later, Harry cast a Patronus Charm to drive off the Dementors.
- In the part 2 film adaption of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the fragmented portion of Voldemort's soul that Harry sees in Limbo is the same in appearance to the rudimentary body that Voldemort inhabited four years prior. While both the fourth and seventh novels give off similar description of Voldemort's mangled form, the film made it more confirming. Whether this is a coincidence or an intention on the filmmakers' behalf is unknown.
- Seeing that ghosts are imprints of a wizard's or witch's soul, in which its appearance would take on that of the said wizard or witch at the moment of death, it does seem likely that Voldemort's soul is indeed reflected by his rudimentary body's form.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Possibly)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (film)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (video game) (Possibly)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Possible appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game) (Possible appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (film)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (video game) (Possible appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (video game) (Possible appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (video game) (Possible appearance)
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - The Original Screenplay
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
- Wizarding World
- Harry Potter: The Character Vault (Mentioned only)
Notes and references
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 35 (King's Cross)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 23 (Horcruxes)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 38 (The Second War Begins)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 10 (The Marauder's Map)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 29 (The Phoenix Lament)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 17 (The Heir of Slytherin)
- "(Umbridge) is a very nasty piece of work. She has an affinity for this horrible object" - JK, Online Chat script, accessed 30/7/2011
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 17 (The Man with Two Faces)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33 (The Prince's Tale)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 6 (The Ghoul in Pyjamas)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 12 (The Patronus)
- 30 July, 2007 chat transcription at Accio Quote!
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 37 (The Beginning)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 5 (The Dementor)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 2 (A Peck of Owls)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 21 (The Unknowable Room)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 34 (The Forest Again)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (film)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2