An artistic depiction of the burning of a witch

A witch-hunt was the Muggle search for and punishment of persons suspected of being witches or of practising witchcraft.[1][2]


The period of witch-hunts in Europe and colonial North America spanned roughly the 14th century to the 18th century.[2][3] Those targeted by these hunts may or may not have actually been magical.[2] Those found guilty of witchcraft were typically sentenced to death, often by being burnt alive at the stake.[2][3] However, the effectiveness of burnings involving actual witches and wizards was questionable, as many, such as Wendelin the Weird, were able to escape death by using the Flame-Freezing Charm.[3]

As the witch-hunts grew ever fiercer, British wizarding families began to live double lives, using charms of concealment to protect themselves and their families. By the seventeenth century, any witch or wizard who chose to fraternise with Muggles became suspect, even an outcast in his or her own community. Upon the signature of the International Statute of Secrecy in 1689, wizards went into hiding for good. It was natural, perhaps, that they formed their own small communities within a community. Many small villages and hamlets attracted several magical families, who banded together for mutual support and protection.

The Salem Witch Trials, which occurred in colonial Massachusetts in 1692 and 1693, were a major traumatic event in the history of the wizarding world.[4][2]

Witch-hunts apparently continued into at least the 20th century in some regions. In 1926, Newt Scamander encountered a young girl in Sudan whose magical powers were discovered by Muggles, leading to her imprisonment.[5][6]

Behind the scenes

  • Witch-hunts are a real phenomenon throughout the world. They were most prominent in Europe and North America during the Early Modern Period, corresponding roughly to the dates given on Pottermore, but are still practised in places where witches are still believed in.

Notes and references

*Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Fandom will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.

Fandom may earn an affiliate commission on sales made from links on this page.

Stream the best stories.

Fandom may earn an affiliate commission on sales made from links on this page.

Get Disney+