At least some content in this article is derived from information featured in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. Spoilers will be present within the article.
Wandlore was an ancient, complex, and mysterious branch of magic dealing with the history, abilities, and actions of wands, quasi-sentient magical tools used by wizards and witches to cast spells. This particular branch of magic was carefully studied by wandmakers such as Garrick Ollivander and Mykew Gregorovitch.
The study of wandlore
Wandlore may have been explored first by ancient wizards more than two thousand years ago. This can be deduced from the peeling sign outside of Ollivanders which read "Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands Since 382 B.C." In the beginning of wizarding history, the magical forces of the wand may have been experimented upon and explored through the ages, with all its findings written down, as with many other mysteries of the world, each with its dedicated and brilliant explorers. And like those fields, it was further comprehended as time went on.
Study of the lore
After magical education, a person seeking to become a wandmaker must become the apprentice of a skilled wandmaker. From there, they might undergo the study of wandlore. There is also a possibility that there were gatherings where wandlore lessons were taught. Even so, it is clear that wandlore must be understood clearly in order to become a skilled wandmaker.
Mr Ollivander revealed to Harry Potter in 1998 that wandlore was "complex and mysterious"; even the most skilled did not fully comprehend it. Ollivander himself confessed that he did not fully understand Priori Incantatem, a reaction between two wands with cores from the same source, or why Harry's wand destroyed the wand of Lucius Malfoy when Harry faced Lord Voldemort during the Battle of the Seven Potters.
Wands chose the wizard or witch in a way that was neither random, nor serendipitous. There was much ancient mythology and botanical knowledge regarding the powers and natures of wood and other natural elements.
Harry Potter and Voldemort's wands
Harry Potter's wand was made of holly, with a phoenix feather core. In numerous ancient and modern historical references, the holly tree, an evergreen, represented life and was deemed a guardian and protector against poison, lightning, and witchcraft. The phoenix feather represented a renewal of life, which Harry accomplished on more than one occasion when others thought he should be dead. His wand wood was also the same as his birth month's wood on the Celtic calendar, which associated holly with courage and a battle between kings.
In contrast, Voldemort's wand was yew and phoenix feather. Yew was associated with some of the oldest legends of Great Britain, for it was revered by the Druids. It was poisonous and was known to kill cattle. The phoenix feather might represent Voldemort's obsession with preserving his own life; he created Horcruxes so that he might be reborn each time he was killed.
- Draco Malfoy's wand was made of hawthorn. According to botanical and historical references, Hawthorn flowers had the smell of death or decomposing meat, and were fertilised by carrion insects. Hawthorn was also Draco's Celtic birth month wood.
- Hermione Granger's wand was made from vine wood, which was the wood attributed to her birth month on the Celtic calendar. The Celts associated vine with the autumnal equinox, and with looking inward.
- Ron Weasley's wand of ash also corresponded to his birth month on the Celtic calendar, which associated ash with balance.
- The Elder Wand was made of elder. From ancient tradition, elder was the emblem of sorrow and death. Some of the mythology surrounding elder assigned it the power to drive away evil spirits and protect against witches. In the Celtic calendar, the Elder Moon contained the darkest days of the year and was associated with death and regeneration, transformation, and the underworld.
Other properties of wands could also reveal aspects of their owners' characters. For example, Ollivander described Bellatrix Lestrange's wand as "unyielding", Peter Pettigrew's wand as "brittle" and Draco Malfoy's wand as "reasonably pliant". Another example is the length of the wand; Rubeus Hagrid's wand was one of the longest noted wand, at 16". It was representative of his half-giant blood, and Dolores Umbridge's wand was particularly short, as she was described.
Certain wands could also be predisposed to skill at a particular magical discipline. For instance, the wand of James Potter was particularly good for Transfiguration. This may have been due to the various flexibilities of the wand, which accommodated different wand motions.
Through wandlore, a future wandmaker could learn the ancient secrets of creating a wand, each having four components: wood, core, length, and flexibility. However, no single aspect of wand composition should be considered in isolation of all the others.
Just as only a minority of human were born with magic, only a minority of trees produced wood that was of wand quality - wand wood. Therefore, it can be assumed that one could not simply walk into a forest, retrieve a twig, and create a wand. It took years of experience for a wandmaker to be able to recognize a wood as wand quality. However Bowtruckles, tree-guardians, opted to live only in trees of wand quality wood.
Different types of wood had their own "personalities" and thus wands were likely to choose a wizard with a matching personality. For example, a wand of cypress wood was well matched with someone noble and willing to heroically sacrifice themselves for others, a wand of pine was known to choose an independent and intriguing loner, and a spruce wand chose a firm-handed wizard who was bold and had a good sense of humour. However, as no two wands were the same and wands and wizards learned from each other, these were considered to be general notes and should not be used to describe any given wand.
Some wand woods were better suited for certain branches of magic. Fir wands were particularly good for transfiguration, yew wands were especially fearsome in the fields of duelling and curses, and alder wands worked better than any other wand wood with nonverbal spells. Alternatively, some woods were poorly suited for certain branches of magic. Acacia wands had a subtle nature and were not suited for "bangs-and-smells magic", and apple wood mixed poorly with the Dark Arts.
Wand woods might already be magical or merely be the only kinds of wood strong enough to sustain the power of magic within.
Every wand contained a magical core, possibly magically inserted once the wand had been carved. These magical cores enhanced the wand magic or gave the wand wood magical abilities. The only cores able to produce magic were from a magical species. There are many different possible materials that can be used as wand cores, including Veela hair, Thestral tail hair, Troll whiskers, and Basilisk horns, among other materials.
Mr Ollivander opted to only use phoenix feathers, unicorn hairs, and dragon heartstrings, which he believed might be the best and most powerful of magical cores. He was likely correct about these three supreme cores as Ollivander's wands had been praised by many witches and wizards from around the world.
Different wand cores had different magical properties. Unicorn hair was not very strong, but it was stable and reliable, whereas dragon heartstring was very strong and flamboyant, but more prone to accidents. Additionally, wand cores were known to reflect the nature of the source they came from; since a phoenix was one of the most detached and independent creatures in the world, a phoenix feather wand was incredibly picky when choosing a potential wielder, and unicorn hair wands were incredibly difficult to turn to the Dark Arts due to unicorns' purity.
Interestingly, certain wand woods reacted with certain cores in unique ways, affecting the wand's personality and/or magical abilities. Holly and phoenix feather were a difficult combination due to their opposite natures, but when such a wand found its perfect match, nothing and nobody should stand in their way. A cherry wand with dragon heartstring was ill-advised to be paired with a wizard who lacked exceptional self-control and strength of mind. A wand of ash was wholly loyal to its one true original master and would lose power and skill if passed to someone else, especially if it had a unicorn hair core.
All wands had their individual lengths, usually between 9 and 14 inches. However shorter wands (8 inches and under) and longer wands (15 inches and more) did exist. Longer wands tended to suit those with big personalities, of a more spacious and dramatic style of magic. Neater wands favoured elegant and refined spell-casting. Particularly short wands would choose wizards whose character lacked something. This was exemplified by the extreme length of Hagrid's wand, being attributable to his excitable, outgoing, and energetic personality, while Umbridge, who had an "unusually short" and stubby wand, was known for her extreme bigotry and lacked empathy and was very cruel, yet stuck to politics and never sought power greater than what the law could grant her.
The type of wood, the core and the flexibility may either counterbalance or enhance the attributes of the wand’s length.
There might also be some correlation between a person's size and the lengths of their wands. Rubeus Hagrid, who was half-giant, owned one of the longest known wand; it was sixteen inches long and made of oak. The shortest known wand once belonged to Dolores Umbridge, who was described as being squat and toad-like. However, according to Garrick Ollivander, matching a wand to a wizard solely by height was a crude measure.
Usually, wands were only described in terms of the source tree, its core and its length. However, occasionally, the firmness of the wand wood had also been described. For example, on inspection of the wands of Harry Potter, Bellatrix Lestrange, Draco Malfoy and Rubeus Hagrid, Garrick Ollivander described them as "nice and supple", "unyielding", "reasonably springy", and "rather bendy", respectively. Rigidity or flexibility of a wand characterised the willingness to change and adapt of the wand-and-wizard pair.
Although, this factor ought not to be considered separately from the wand wood, core and length, nor of the owner’s life experience and style of magic, all of which will combine to make the wand in question unique.
The creation of the Elder Wand
The creation of the Deathly Hallow Elder Wand was highly unusual. In the book The Tales of Beedle the Bard, there was the legend of the Deathly Hallows called The Tale of the Three Brothers. In the story, Death was asked by the oldest of the Peverell brothers to be given a wand that would win duels. Death approached an Elder tree, retrieved a branch, and created the Elder Wand.
It is not said if this tree bore wand wood and likewise the nature of the core was never disclosed in the original tale. However, Albus Dumbledore and many others who chased after the Deathly Hallows believe that it was actually created by Antioch Peverell himself, instead of by Death. The wand was known to be made of Elder wood with a core of Thestral hair, both of which had strong cultural connotations of death.
Wand death and wilting
"Wilting" of a wand occurred when the wand expelled all magic, inhibiting its further magical use. This phenomenon most often occurred with hazel wands, which often bonded so strongly with their true masters that after their owners' death those wands lost all magic in this way. This was curable by replacing the wand core, unless the core was originally of unicorn hair, in which case there was no hope and the wand would have actually "died" as opposed to simply wilted.
Certain wands could wilt by other means. Salazar Slytherin's wand was commanded to wilt by Gormlaith Gaunt to prevent it from being used against her. She was able to do this due to the unique composition of the wand, and her gift of Parseltongue.
The subtle laws of wands
- "The wand chooses the wizard. That much has always been clear to those of us who have studied wandlore...if you are any wizard at all you will be able to channel your magic through almost any instrument. The best results, however, must always come where there is the strongest affinity between wizard and wand. These connections are complex. An initial attraction, and then a mutual quest for experience, the wand learning from the wizard, the wizard from the wand."
- — Mr Ollivander[src]
Wands possessed a force of magic that itself had its own boundaries where none could go beyond. This was similar to Newton's laws of motion and other forces, and were known as the subtle laws of wands.
The fundamental laws
Garrick Ollivander stated that a wand chose a wizard. It is not always clear why, but certain wands seemed to have a natural affinity for certain wizards or witches; this was the most fundamental law. The second stated the connections made between both wizard and wand were complex, and would grow with experience, the wand learning from the wizard, the wizard from the wand. Thirdly, a wizard might channel his energy with any wand, whether his or not. However, the best results came where there was a great likeness between a wizard and a wand.
Lastly, a wand might be won from its master, and only then would its allegiance bend towards the new master. To win a wand, one must overpower and hence defeat its master in some way (this did not apply in situations such as practise duels, in which being disarmed or defeated would not affect a wand's loyalty). However, it should be noted that wands usually stayed loyal to their original owners. For example, even if a wizard was disarmed or lost a fight while carrying his wand, the wand would have developed an affinity with its original owner so that it would not be given up easily. Therefore, simply disarming a wizard might not be enough to win over a wand's allegiance. The only exception to this was the Elder Wand, which was "completely unsentimental" and would only be loyal to strength. In other words, when won, it switched its allegiance entirely. When a wand had not been won, it would not work as well for its new owner, as when Harry Potter was forced to use a blackthorn wand and when Hermione Granger used Bellatrix Lestrange's wand, neither of which they had won. Therefore, it seemed that any wand used against its own true owner would cause it to work lesser or cause the attempted spell to fail or backfire upon the user, similar to the Elder Wand.
- Hermione Granger: "I hate that thing. I really hate it. It feels all wrong, it doesn't work properly for me… It's like a bit of her."
- Ronald Weasley: "It'll probably help you get in character, though. Think what that wand's done!"
- Hermione Granger: "But that's my point! This is the wand that tortured Neville's mum and dad, and who knows how many other people? This is the wand that killed Sirius! I miss my wand."
- — Hermione on using Bellatrix Lestrange's wand[src]
In some families, wands might be inherited, such as Neville Longbottom using his father's wand and Ron Weasley using his brother Charlie's old wand. However, each of these cases ended with the wands being snapped in half, and both Neville and Ron were more successful using other wands, therefore making it questionable that one could fully master a wand gained in this way. This was especially true in Neville's case, as his magical aptitude had almost been non-existent before the loss of his father's wand during the Battle of the Department of Mysteries in his fifth year, with him only being able to accomplish useful spells with tremendous effort and focus. During his sixth and seventh year, however, Neville's magical talents became evidently powerful with a wand that had chosen him. Therefore, it may have actually been his father's wand which had suppressed his talents so much.
Two wands with cores coming from the same magical creature, referred to as "brothers", could not be forced to duel against one another. Should two such wands ever come in the way of one another, a rare connection was formed called Priori Incantatem. When the connection was formed, the wands battled to merge a golden orb into the other's shaft; the one that succeeded to force the orb in the other was the winning wand. Another case was that when two wands with the same source of their core were used alongside each other, their combined magical power would increase significantly to the benefit of their owners. Because of its rarity, most wizards never learned that such a connection was possible - this was the first law of Priori Incantatem.
After two brother wands connected through means of Priori Incantatem, both wands came to know one another and might react towards each other without the consent of their owners, or the winning wand only reacted towards the losing wand - this was the second law of Priori Incantatem. Also, under special conditions, it was possible for one wand to recognise its "brother's" master, even when a different wand was used. For example, during the Battle of the Seven Potters, Harry's wand recognised Voldemort and spurted "golden flames" at him, even though Voldemort was using Lucius Malfoy's wand at the time.
Wands that had suffered an immense degree of damage could not be fixed by any means most wandmakers knew, except with help from the Elder Wand, as seen when Harry Potter's wand was broken from a reflected Blasting Curse and Hermione Granger was unable to repair it; Harry, however, fixed it with the aid of the Elder Wand.
By the 1920s, there were four great and prominent wandmakers in the United States of America, all of whom had different methods and views on what it took to craft a good wand, but who all had ties with Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, from whom the school sought expertise when the students were to be selected for a wand following the school's sorting ceremony. There were Shikoba Wolfe, a witch of Choctaw descent who were particularly well known for her intricately carved wands containing Thunderbird tail feathers, which were reputed to be extremely powerful, though difficult to master. Another accomplished soul in the craft of wandlore were Johannes Jonker, the son of non-magical parents who learned the art of working with wood from his father, who had been an accomplished cabinet maker. Jonker made wands that were both instantly recognisable because most of them were inlaid with mother-of-pearls, and, more importantly, highly sought after. Thiago Quintana, on the other hand, preferred a sleek and oftentimes lengthy design or his wands, into which he would encase a single translucent spine from the back of the White River Monsters of Arkansas known to produce spells of force and elegance. Violetta Beauvais from New Orleans, on her part, made wands that always made of swamp mayhaw wood that contained hair of the rougarou, the dangerous dog-headed monster that prowled Louisiana swamps.
Two of the most accomplished European wandmakers were Garrick Ollivander and Mykew Gregorovitch. The former of the two was widely considered the best wandmaker in Britain, and, some would say, the whole wizarding world. Yet others maintained that Gregorovitch was even more skilful than his British counterpart.
Ollivander was kidnapped by Death Eaters for information on the connection between Harry Potter's wand and Voldemort's wand, but later escaped with the assistance of Dobby, while Gregorovitch was killed by Voldemort for not telling him who the thief of the Elder Wand was. Ollivander also had an associate in Hogsmeade, who was learned in wandlore. It is unknown whether he also manufactured wands.
Apart from those, there were other lesser known wandmakers living and working in Britain, though not in the same vein as Ollivander, such as Jimmy Kiddell.
Behind the scenes
- Both the shortest wand (Dolores Umbridge's wand) and one of the longest wands (Rubeus Hagrid's wand) known in the series were snapped in half.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Voldemort appears to have some knowledge of wandlore, as he recognises Lucius Malfoy's wand as being made of elm without having to ask, as he does in the novel.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (First mentioned)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (film) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (video game) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (First identified as Wandlore) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Mentioned only)
- The Tales of Beedle the Bard (Mentioned only)
- Pottermore (Mentioned only)
- Wizarding World (Mentioned only)
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Mentioned only)
- Wonderbook: Book of Spells (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter for Kinect (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery (Mentioned only)
Notes and references
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 24 (The Wandmaker)
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 6, Chapter 2 (Curses and Prophecies) - History of Magic Lesson "History of Wandlore"
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 5 (Diagon Alley)
- The Tales of Beedle the Bard - "The Tale of the Three Brothers"
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 4 (The Seven Potters)
- The Celtic Tree Calendar
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 18 (The Weighing of the Wands)
- Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Wand Lengths and Flexibility" at Wizarding World (archived from Pottermore)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 21 (The Tale of the Three Brothers)
- J.K. Rowling's site
- Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Wand Woods" at Wizarding World (archived from Pottermore)
- Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry" at Wizarding World
- PotterCast 131
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 36 (The Parting of the Ways)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 17 (Bathilda's Secret)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36 (The Flaw in the Plan)
- "History of Magic in North America: 1920s Wizarding America" on Pottermore
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 14 (The Thief)