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Sirius Soul

Sirius Black's soul

"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 or a fellow life-form, which in many belief systems was held to live on after the biological death of the physical body or form. 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.[1]


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.[2]

Even when the human body died, the soul would continue to exist, able to either move on beyond the Veil to the afterlife or return as a ghost.[3] However the soul had to be undamaged to achieve either. A damaged soul would be trapped in Limbo forever.[1]

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.[4] 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 psychic 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.[5]

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 had to be done so voluntarily.[6][7]

The beauty of the Phoenix Lament was such that it was able to touch the souls of those who listened to it, affecting them emotionally.[8]

The Resurrection Stone was capable of summoning the souls of the deceased back to the world of living as more than ghosts, but less than bodies.[9]

A Qilin was capable of seeing into an individual's soul and judging if they were of pure heart; this unique trait was used in ancient times to determine worthiness of candidates to lead the wizarding world as a whole.[10]


Horace Slughorn: "A Horcrux is the word used for an object in which a person has concealed part of their soul.."
Tom Riddle: "I don't quite understand how that works, though, sir."
Horace Slughorn: "Well, you split your soul, you see, and hide part of it in an object outside the body. Then, even if one's body is attacked or destroyed, one cannot die, for part of the soul remains earthbound and undamaged. But of course, existence in such a form..."
Horace Slughorn unwisely informing a young Tom Riddle about Horcruxes[src]

There was a spell that allowed one to take a piece of their soul out of their body and implant it inside an object. As long as the object remained intact, the soul fragment inside would keep their soul bound to the world of the living, even if their body took fatal damage. The object containing the soul fragments was called a Horcrux.[2]

Riddle destroyed2

Harry Potter destroying the object and therefore the portion of the soul within

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. 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 being in multiple pieces, and this piece could retain existence without any container.[2]

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 ripped their soul once.[2]

B2C17M1 Harry Ginny Tom Chamber of Secrets

The diary Horcrux gaining form by draining the life out of Ginny Weasley

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 into 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.[11] 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 was the case with Dolores Umbridge, who was able to create a Patronus due to her wearing Slytherin's Locket.[12]

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]
Horcrux creation

Voldemort splitting his soul

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.[2] However it had to be an act genuine and remorseless murder; a mercy kill or killing for self defence would not damage the soul. When Dumbledore requested that Snape kill him, he implied that the act would not harm Snape's soul due to the circumstances of the killing.[5]

It seemed that the murder could be committed indirectly and soul would still be damaged, 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.

If a soul was in an unstable state, it could be torn by a certain degree of magical impact as opposed to genuine murder, as Voldemort's highly unstable soul from repeatedly ripping and separation was torn once more when his Killing Curse rebounded, without him knowing.[1]

Fracturing the soul in this manner was a prerequisite for the creation of a Horcrux.

Partial removal[]

"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]
Voldemort Spirit

Voldemort's mangled soul, clinging onto the world of the living due to his Horcruxes

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.[2] Creating a Horcrux made the part of the soul left inside one's body unstable,[13] 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 disembodied soul was a fate that few would prefer over death.[2]

If the soul fragment had been detached from the body for a long time, the destruction of a Horcrux containing such a fragment might not be felt by the owner.[2]

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.[13]

Harry Potter's soul was whole and unblemished, but he shared a body with a fragment of Voldemort's soul, 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 was also a Horcrux.

Voldemort's mutilated soul

The final result of Voldemort's soul after ripping it so many times

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.[1]

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.[2] 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.

Complete removal[]

"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.[14] However, without a soul, a person was left in an incurable vegetative state — they had no awareness of themselves or the world around them.[14] The soul couldn't be recovered once it had been lost.[14] This was a fate that was considered by many to be worse than death.[14]

Dementor's Kiss[]

Dementors Kiss OOTP

A Dementor attempting to kiss Harry Potter

One known method of removing the soul from the body intact was the Dementor's Kiss.[14] The Dementor — a creature which was itself soulless[15] — 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.[16] The first two times a Dementor attacked him, Harry Potter heard his mother screaming as she died.[17]

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.[18] A Patronus was a "soul guardian" which could chase away a Dementor and keep the soul safe from harm.[14]


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 three-dimensional imprint of a deceased wizard or witch who chose to linger in the world of the living after death[19], though ghosts commonly identified themselves with their living selves.[3][20] According to Nearly Headless Nick, few people actually chose this fate, because it meant they would never move beyond the Veil as most did.[3] 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.[21] (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.[22]
    • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, 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.[23] 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,[3] 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.

See also[]

External links[]


Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 35 (King's Cross)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 23 (Horcruxes)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 38 (The Second War Begins)
  4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 17 (The Man with Two Faces)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33 (The Prince's Tale)
  6. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 10 (The Marauder's Map)
  7. Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Secret Keeper" at Wizarding World
  8. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 29 (The Phoenix Lament)
  9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 34 (The Forest Again)
  10. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
  11. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 17 (The Heir of Slytherin)
  12. "(Umbridge) is a very nasty piece of work. She has an affinity for this horrible object" - JK, Online Chat script, accessed 30/7/2011
  13. 13.0 13.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 6 (The Ghoul in Pyjamas)
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 12 (The Patronus)
  15. 30 July, 2007 chat transcription at Accio Quote!
  16. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 37 (The Beginning)
  17. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 5 (The Dementor)
  18. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 2 (A Peck of Owls)
  19. Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Ghosts" at Wizarding World
  20. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 21 (The Unknowable Room)
  21. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (film)
  22. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)
  23. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2