An artistic depiction of the burning of a witch

"Non-magic people (more commonly known as Muggles) were particularly afraid of magic in medieval times, but not very good at recognizing it. On the rare occasion that they did catch a real witch or wizard, burning had no effect whatsoever. The witch or wizard would perform a basic Flame-Freezing Charm and then pretend to shriek with pain while enjoying a gentle, tickling sensation. Indeed, Wendelin the Weird enjoyed being burned so much that she allowed herself to be caught no less than forty-seven times in various disguises."
A History of Magic by Bathilda Bagshot[src]

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]

The Scourer descendant Bartholomew Barebone prompted a brief resurgence of witch-hunting in the 1700s when he tricked the American witch Dorcus Twelvetrees into divulging many secrets of the wizarding world in America, including the locations of both Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the headquarters of MACUSA, and used this information as well as the wand he stole from her to try and expose the existence of wizards. Barebone was taken seriously enough by some to prompt investigations into the matter, with Barebone himself taking a number of associates and ambushing a group of people they assumed to be wizards emerging from the MACUSA headquarters but who turned out to be innocent Muggles. Though nobody was killed and Barebone was quickly incarcerated and discredited, the fact that the wizarding community had come within a hair's breadth of being exposed prompted the enactment of Rappaport's Law, which segregated the magical and non-magical peoples of North America completely.[5]

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.[6][7]

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

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