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"Are you sure that’s a real spell? Well, it’s not very good, is it? I’ve tried a few simple spells just for practise and it’s all worked for me."
Hermione Granger's talent for spell-casting at an early age[src]

A spell was a controlled manifestation of magic that affected the world in a supernatural fashion,[1] such as levitating objects,[2] conjuring fire[3] or water,[4] or stunning an individual.[5] Generally cast by a witch or a wizard, spells were often produced with an incantation, and could appear as jets of light. Because of this, spells could often miss, be dodged, or blocked, either with an object or another spell. The action of performing a spell is referred to as casting or spellwork.[6][7]

Usage

"Now, don't forget that nice wrist movement we've been practising! The swish and flick! And saying the magic words properly is very important, too — never forget Wizard Baruffio, who said 's' instead of 'f' and found himself on the floor with a buffalo on his chest."
Professor Flitwick in Charms class[src]

Normally, spells required four main factors to be properly accounted for in order to succeed: wand movement, incantation, concentration and intention. If one did not move their wand in the correct way, did not speak the incantation properly and/or could not retain their concentration and/or desired outcome in their imagination during casting, then the spell would fail or backfire.[2]

It should be noted that spells could be performed with or without speech and wands, though non-verbal and wandless spells were much more difficult and hence were usually not taught to practitioners until they reached a more advanced level, such as the sixth year of study at Hogwarts.[8] Notable practitioners of non-verbal spells included Albus Dumbledore, Tom Riddle, and Severus Snape, who were also known to perform wandless spells.

"There was a lot more to magic, as Harry quickly found out, than waving your wand and saying a few funny words."
— Harry Potter learning that magic is not as easy as he thought[src]

Most incantations derived from the Latin language (such as Accio)[9] but there were also some English incantations (such as Obliviate[10] or Stupefy).[5] It could be that, in other countries and wizarding territories, spells with an English incantation or another incantation other than Latin-based, could be used in other languages, as long as wizards used the same wand movement, concentration and intention.

A simplified analogy for the differentiation between Transfiguration and Charms is the difference between form and function or matter and energy; one was concerned with what the object is (its form - Transfigurations) whilst the other was concerned with what the object is doing (its function - Charms).[11]

Appearance

When performed, spells usually manifested as light, sparks, lightning, or fiery energy of various colours from the wand they were cast with, such as the tell-tale red of Stupefy[12] or green of Avada Kedavra.[13] However, some spells, such as Accio and Silencio, produced no visible intermediate effect. Some spells also made loud noises when cast, although Harry Potter noted that "bangs and smoke were more often the marks of ineptitude than experience."[14]

Durations

Typically, spells brought about through magic had a certain time limit placed upon them. This means that effects and after-effects magically induced by them were not meant to last, since spells like Expelliarmus only operated briefly and swiftly,[15] while spells like Stupefy[6] and Petrificus Totalus would wear off eventually.[16] Counter-curses could also end a designated spell's effect. Likewise, a spell whose effect had yet to diminish would disappear at the moment of the caster's death. However, it was mentioned that ancient Egyptian wizards could place curses on their tombs for anyone who might open them, and that these curses remained long after the casters were presumed dead. It could be that the Egyptian wizards used curses that could grow stronger over time or at least retain their power after the casters' deaths, as that was one known aspect of certain Dark magic.[17] Memory Charms could be so strong that they could completely remove a person's memory or even damage his or her mind permanently.[10][18]

Origin

New spells could be crafted by wizards and witches, though Spell creation was a highly difficult and dangerous practice, as exemplified by Pandora Lovegood, who was killed in a backfired attempt at spell-crafting.[19] Severus Snape was often attributed with the creation of spells such as Levicorpus and Sectumsempra during his time as a student at Hogwarts.[20][21]

Classification

Below is a list of all known categories that spells could be assigned to. It should be noted that when it comes to the classification of spell types, "the boundaries are flexible," and as such, types of spells may overlap, or have non-indicative effects.[22] It also seems likely that certain spell types belonged to separate classification schemes to others. For example: Petrification was dark magic of the most advanced kind,[23] but it was also Transfiguration; Melofors was both a Jinx and a Conjuration,[24][25] Fiendfyre could be considered as conjuration as well as a curse[26] and many healing spells could also be considered either charms or counter-spells. Hence, it appears that charm vs transfiguration is one method of classification and differentiation, and that charm/counter-spell/healing spell vs jinx/hex/curse is a different one.

Spell Type

Defining Feature

Notes

Example

Transfiguration

Alteration of the object's form or appearance.

Spells of this group may be separated into true transfiguration spells (where an existing object was altered) and conjurations, where the desired object was seemingly transfigured out of thin air.

Vera Verto - a true transfiguration spell that would change animals into water goblets.[27][24]

Avis - a conjuration that would produce a flock of birds.[28][29]

Charm

Alteration of the objects inherent qualities i.e. its behaviour and capabilities.

When cast by an experienced practitioner, charms appeared to usually have fairly long-lasting effects.

Expelliarmus - the Disarming Charm, so-called because it would change its object's (the opponent's) quality from armed to disarmed by separating them from their wand.[15]

Jinx

Minor dark magic; spells whose effects were irritating but amusing, almost playful and of minor inconvenience to the target.[3]

Jinxes could only be maintained as long as the caster kept eye contact.[30]

Impedimenta - the Impediment Jinx, which (appropriately) would impede the forward motion of an object.[5]

Hex

Consistently affected the object in a negative manner; had connotations of dark magic, but more so than a jinx. Major inconvenience to the target.[3]

Densaugeo - a hex that would horribly enlarge the target's teeth.[28]

Curse

The worst kind of dark magic, intended to affect the target in a strongly negative manner.[3]

Avada Kedavra -Would instantly kill the target.[13][31]

Counter-spell

Inhibition of the effect of another spell.

Counter-spells were used to inhibit or counteract the effects of other spells. There were four known types: Counter-jinxes, counter-curses, counter-charms, untransfigurations and undifferentiated counter-spells (it is unknown whether or not counter-hexes exist). Whilst nomenclature is complex, they all shared the common trait of inhibiting another spell.

Finite Incantatem - a widely-employed counter-spell used to terminate spell effects in general.[15]

Healing spell

For improving the condition of a living, injured or ill target.

Episkey - used to heal minor injuries.[32]

A simplified analogy for the differentiation between a transfiguration and a charm is the difference between form and function or matter and energy; one was concerned with what the object is (its form - transfigurations) whilst the other was concerned with what the object is doing (its function - charms).[11]

Behind the scenes

  • J. K. Rowling defined a spell as "The generic term for a piece of magic."[33]
  • Many spells are portrayed as energy blasts, bolts or beams, sometimes in the shape of lightning, with various colours. Other times, spells can manifest as balls or bursts of sparks and fire of various colours, vibrational shockwaves, wave like wisps of smoke like energy, or flashes of light, but in many instances, these physical manifestations of spells can be used as projectiles.
  • Commonly, a spell can also contain great concussive force or even intense heat, especially when they hit something that is not the target of the spell, with it being enough to damage objects or surfaces. Also, many offensive spells are able to knock down or send a person flying through the air.

See also

Appearances

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Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 Wonderbook: Book of Spells
  2. 2.0 2.1 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 10 (Hallowe'en)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Pottermore
  4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 11 (Hermione's Helping Hand)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 31 (The Third Task)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 18 (Dumbledore's Army)
  7. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 20 (Hagrid's Tale)
  8. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 9 (The Half-Blood Prince)
  9. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 20 (The First Task)
  10. 10.0 10.1 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 16 (The Chamber of Secrets)
  11. 11.0 11.1 J.K.Rowling Official Site - Extra Stuff
  12. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 9 (The Dark Mark)
  13. 13.0 13.1 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 14 (The Unforgivable Curses)
  14. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 26 (The Cave)
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 11 (The Duelling Club)
  16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 16 (Through the Trapdoor)
  17. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 1 (Owl Post)
  18. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 23 (Christmas on the Closed Ward)
  19. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 38 (The Second War Begins)
  20. Pottermore - All about... Severus Snape
  21. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 28 (Flight of the Prince)
  22. J.K.Rowling Official Site
  23. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 9 (The Writing on the Wall)
  24. 24.0 24.1 Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery
  25. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game)
  26. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 31 (The Battle of Hogwarts)
  27. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film)
  28. 28.0 28.1 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 18 (The Weighing of the Wands)
  29. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 14 (Felix Felicis)
  30. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 11 (Quidditch)
  31. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 32 (Flesh, Blood and Bone)
  32. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 8 (Snape Victorious)
  33. J.K.Rowling Official Site - Extra Stuff (available via Web Archive)
  34. https://www.pottermore.com/news/watch-the-new-trailer-for-new-mobile-game-harry-potter-hogwarts-mystery
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