Horcrux creation

The creation of a Horcrux — the "darkest art"

"The Dark Arts are many, varied, ever-changing, and eternal. Fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster, which, each time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before. You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible."
—Description of the Dark Arts[src]

The Dark Arts, also known as Dark Magic, refers to any type of magic that is mainly used to cause harm, control, or even death to the victim. Despite being labelled "dark", the Dark Arts are not necessarily "evil".

The Dark Arts encompass many spells and actions ranging from the powerful Unforgivable Curses and brewing harmful or poisonous potions to breeding Dark creatures (such as Acromantulas, Basilisks, Dementors, Grindylows, Hags, Inferi, Lethifolds, Rougarous, Vampires and Werewolves), all of which often illegal or at least discouraged. Practitioners are referred to as Dark wizards or witches, the most prominent and powerful of whom was Lord Voldemort. His followers, known as Death Eaters, also practised the Dark Arts.

Nature of the Dark Arts

Tom Riddle: "I have experimented; I have pushed the boundaries of magic further, perhaps, than they have ever been pushed —"
Albus Dumbledore: "Of some kinds of magic. Of some. Of others, you remain... forgive me... woefully ignorant."
Tom Riddle: "The old argument. But nothing I have seen in the world has supported your famous pronouncements that love is more powerful than my kind of magic, Dumbledore."
— A serious discussion regarding the nature of the Dark Arts[src]

Lord Voldemort after his transformation by the Dark Arts

The Dark Arts are generally regarded as corrupting to those who use them (which is part of the reason they are considered "dark"). After engaging in them extensively for many years, even Tom Riddle's appearance demonstrated his corruption — he lost his former handsomeness, eventually taking on serpentine physical qualities and red eyes[1]. Albus Dumbledore, in particular, suggested that engaging in any of the Dark Arts that involve murder was damaging to the soul; for instance, he told Severus Snape that Draco Malfoy's soul was "not yet so damaged" that he is probably capable of murder, but that if he did go through with murder, his soul would be "ripped apart"[1]. This suggests that using very dark magic, such as the Killing Curse, damages an individual's soul. The dark art of creating a Horcrux involves literally splitting the soul for the unnatural purpose of achieving immortality. Quirinus Quirrell was interested in dark magics, initially by a theoretical view to gain recognition, but his curiosity turned to avarice, and eventually he was completely drawn in and corrupted.

According to Snape, the Dark Arts are pragmatic in nature, where every time a branch is defeated, it only comes back "fiercer and cleverer" than before. It is therefore imperative that one's defences must be as versatile as these foul arts themselves.

Powerful dark spells also require malicious intent in order to be successful. To cast the Cruciatus Curse, for instance, one must truly desire to cause pain in and of itself, according to Bellatrix Lestrange.[2] The Dark Arts can also be difficult to control; for example, Vincent Crabbe lost control of the cursed fire he created in 1998 and was killed by it.[3] Injuries caused by dark magic sometimes never fully heal, such as George Weasley's ear after it was cut off by a Sectumsempra he was struck with during the Battle of the Seven Potters[4]. Some curses can remain in one's genes, being passed down through generations as recessive, or can reemerge in a descendant that could lead to frail health. For example, Astoria Malfoy was one such victim of her ancestor's curse.

Harry's wound because of the bite of Slytherin's Basilisk 03

Effects after Harry Potter is injured by a baskilisk fang

Dark creatures can also have lasting impacts that are deadly or incredibly harmful to those who come into contact with them. Basilisks have the ability to petrify people who see them indirectly or kill them with their gaze, or from the venom in their fangs. While petrification can be cured by mandrake root, and wounds from basilisk fangs cured by phoenix tears, these treatments are difficult to prepare or obtain. Dementors have the ability to suck out people's soul with their kiss. There is no cure for someone who has had their soul removed as they spend the rest of their lives in a vegetative state.


"You are protected, in short, by your ability to love! The only protection that can possibly work against the lure of power like Voldemort's!"
—Explanation of the best type of protection against the Dark Arts[src]
Lily murder

Lily Potter bodily shielding infant Harry from the Killing Curse

According to Albus Dumbledore, the only power strong enough to enable a person to resist the temptation of the Dark Arts, and to defeat them, is pure love. He was perhaps referring to the Sacrificial protection shield, which Lily Potter inadvertently used to protect infant Harry Potter and Harry himself later used to protect the defenders of Hogwarts by letting himself willingly be hit by a Killing Curse from the Dark Lord. However, Harry was not killed by this curse, since it only destroyed the part of Voldemort's soul inside him; he spent a brief time in limbo before returning to the land of the living.

Ethical considerations

While the Dark Arts have a bad reputation, overall, dark magic is not, by definition, "evil" magic. Indeed, dark magic can be used for good as well as evil. Even the Killing Curse can be used for good, as Albus Dumbledore said that it would not harm Severus Snape to kill him (Dumbledore) as he had asked Snape to kill him since he was going to die anyway (and it would ultimately serve to fool Voldemort and lead to his destruction). Using the Dark Arts in an act of true mercy in and of itself contradicts the very stark moral view that many such as Bartemius Crouch Senior publicly espoused regarding them.

At the same time, dark magic is not the only type of magic that can be used with the intent to kill. For example, the Severing Charm can kill if used irresponsibly.

The only exception to this rule is the spell which creates a Horcrux; this is an entirely selfish act — taking a life in order to prolong one's own. This act is so reprehensible that the caster's soul becomes fragmented, allowing the creation of a Horcrux. The soul can only be restored by complete remorse for the murder, or repentance, which is actually painful enough to cause death.


The suitability of a wand to perform dark magic depends, at least partly, on its core; dragon heartstring, phoenix feather, and rougarou hair have a reputation for being suitable for it, while it's hard to perform dark magic with unicorn hair wands.

The Dark Arts and the law

"When a wizard goes over ter the Dark Side, there's nothin' and no one that matters to 'em any more..."
—The nature of the Dark Side[src]

Four known Death Eaters stand trial in front of the Council of Magical Law

Although many members of the wizarding world appear to frown upon the Dark Arts, they are not prohibited (with the exception of the Unforgivables) and may even — under certain conditions — be encouraged. For example, while Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry teaches only Defence Against the Dark Arts, Durmstrang Institute teaches the Dark Arts itself. Moreover, shops like Borgin and Burkes in Knockturn Alley openly trade in Dark artefacts, and are patronised by "hundreds of people",[5] which suggests that at least some aspects of the Dark Arts are somewhat socially acceptable or at the very least legal among parts of the wizarding population.

Also, in times of war, the Ministry of Magic has been known to permit Aurors to use strong Dark magic against its enemies. When Lord Voldemort was in control of wizarding Britain in late 1997 to mid-1998, every aspect of the Dark Arts was legalised and taught at Hogwarts by Death Eater professor Amycus Carrow. However, Voldemort was controlling the Ministry at this time, so it may not be standard protocol.[3]

In addition, there is a matter of degree. The three Unforgivable Curses are punishable by an automatic life sentence in Azkaban Prison[6] when used on humans, except when permitted in wartime, whereas some types of magic can have more benign uses as well as Dark uses and, thus, are presumably not always illegal. 

Known Dark magic

Dark spells

"Magic, especially Dark magic... leaves traces."
—The negative effects of Dark magic[src]
Killing curse spider

An Unforgivable Curse, the Killing Curse (Avada Kedavra)

A Dark spell is primarily defined as any spell that consistently affects the object in a negative manner, usually associated with varying levels of discomfort.

Dark spells can be classified into three groups: jinxes, hexes, & curses. These groups form a hierarchy, with jinxes at the base, hexes in-between, and curses at the top. The further one ascends up this hierarchy, the more wicked, the stronger, the longer-lasting and the less reversible the Dark spell's effects appear to be. The Unforgivable Curses are the strongest known Dark spells in existence, as their effects are very powerful and their use requires skill.

The following are some Dark spells:

Type Spell Incantation
Minor Dark magic, inconvenience to the target.
Knockback Jinx Flipendo
Oppugno Jinx Oppugno
Revulsion Jinx Relashio
Consistently affects the object in a negative manner, major inconvenience to the target.
Bat-Bogey Hex Unknown
Stinging Hex
Toenail-growing hex
The worst kind of dark magic, intended to affect the target in a strongly negative manner.
Cruciatus Curse Crucio
Imperius Curse Imperio
Killing Curse Avada Kedavra

Dark potions

Dark Potions are potions that cause negative effects on those who drink them or cause harm in some way or another. Dark Potions may also include ingredients that are not common in regular potions, that possess usual properties. Some Dark potions include the following:

Potion Notes
Rudimentary body potion A potion used to or used in combination with other magic to create a rudimentary body that can be inhabited by a non-corporeal wizard.
Regeneration potion A potion noted by Lord Voldemort to be "an old piece of Dark Magic".[6] Its ingredients include a bone from the father unknowingly given, flesh from the servant willingly given, and blood from an enemy of the one for whom it is intended. It creates a new body for a Dark witch or wizard who has used Horcruxes and lost their original body, as Voldemort did. This new body is a replica of the old one and has its former powers too. It apparently requires that the Dark wizard exist within a rudimentary body that can be placed within the cauldron after all the ingredients are added. If the blood of the enemy contains protections or infections, like a love sacrifice or lycanthrophy, it will also affect or protect the wizard or witch reborn with it.
Drink of Despair An emerald green potion used in a basin in which the locket Horcrux was hidden. Its consumption caused the drinker to see "terrible things", dehydrate, and experience excruciating burning in one's insides. Because of the 'terrible things', it has an effect similar to the presence of a Dementor.[1]

Dark items

"Of the Horcrux, wickedest of magical inventions, we shall not speak nor give direction —"
—the introduction of Magick Moste Evile[src]
Some items can be bewitched by Dark Magic for various purposes. They then become known as Dark Magic Artefacts (or simply Dark items). The following items are associated with Dark Magic:[7]
Tom Riddle's Diary

Tom Riddle's Diary

Books can be bewitched to cause harm to anyone who attempts to read them. Examples include Sonnets of a Sorcerer, which causes the reader to speak in rhymes, and an unnamed book that a person can never stop reading. Tom Riddle's Diary is both a cursed book and a Horcrux.

A Hand of Glory is a severed human hand with a candle placed within it. It provides light only to the holder, and is commonly attributed to thieves and plunderers. It is able to penetrate Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder.

A Horcrux is thought to be the darkest of all objects, as a Horcrux is an object (or living being) that contains a fragment of a Dark wizard's divided soul. It is used to provide protection against death.[1]

An Opal Necklace is an item turned up in Borgin and Burkes, was apparently purchased by Draco Malfoy, and almost killed Katie Bell. It is cursed very heavily, to the extent that merely touching it causes nearly instant death. It has killed at least nineteen Muggles.

Various objects in the Black house can be classified as Dark, such as an enchanted music box that would put people to sleep, purple robes that try to strangle those who get close, and a highly dangerous locket Horcrux that contained Voldemort's mutilated soul.[2]

A Black Quill does not require ink, as it writes with the blood of the person using it. What the user writes will be carved onto the back of his or her hand, and the blood from the words sliced into the hand will be magically syphoned and used as ink on the parchment. It is used as a torture device.

Dark creatures/beings

Many magical creatures and beings alike may be considered Dark, all of which are deeply feared and/or despised by numerous different wizards and witches. Some of those creatures/beings include the following:

Acromantulas are a species of giant spider with a taste for human flesh. There is a large colony of them living in the Forbidden Forest on the grounds of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It is suggested that wizardkind stay clear of them due to how dangerous they are. Breeding Acromantulas has been made illegal by the Ministry of Magic and are included in the Ban on Experimental Breeding.

A Basilisk is a giant serpent, and is also known as the King of Serpents. Looking a Basilisk directly in the eye will immediately kill the victim, but indirect contact will merely render them Petrified. It is known as one of the foulest creatures on Earth. Breeding Basilisks has been made illegal by the Ministry of Magic and are included in the Ban on Experimental Breeding. The punishment for breeding this creature depends on the ruling of the Wizengamot.


A cloaked Dementor

Dementors are widely considered to be one of the foulest beings to inhabit the world. Dementors feed on human happiness and thus generate feelings of depression and despair in any person in close proximity to them. They can also consume a person's soul through the process known as the Dementor's Kiss. The Dementor's Kiss is considered a fate worse than death.

Grindylows are small, horned, pale-green water demon. It has long, strong (albeit brittle) fingers which it uses to strangle its prey. Students at Hogwarts are taught to defend themselves against them in their third year of magical education.

Hags are a savage being that looks like an ugly, old witch but has more warts. They possess rudimentary magic, similar to that of a troll. They prefer to eat children and some even advertise themselves as babysitters.

A Inferi is a dead body, reanimated by a Dark Wizard's spell. The spells used to reanimate the corpse are complex and difficult to preform. There is a large difference between an Inferius and a ghost. Voldemort was known to have an army of Inferi, mostly consisting of homeless Muggles that the Dark Lord murdered.

A Lethifold is a carnivorous and highly dangerous magical creature. It was also considered a Dark creature because of its aggressive and violent nature. The only known spell that will work against it is the highly advanced Patronus Charm.

A Rougarou is a dangerous dog-headed monster that inhabited swampy regions of Louisiana in the United States.

RemusLupin WB F3 ConceptOfLupinInForestAsAWerewolf Illust 080615 Land


A Vampire is a magical humanoid that is famed for biting people on the neck and sucking their blood. They are part of the family of beings known as the Living Dead.

A werewolf is a human-being who, upon the complete rising of the full moon, becomes a fearsome and deadly near-wolf. This condition is caused by infection with lycanthropy. Werewolves are unfairly treated within the magical community and are looked down upon by witches and wizards who do not have the condition. The Ministry of Magic has introduced legislation in regards to Werewolves, as a means of controlling them.

Dark practices

Some other practises that would be considered Dark include: Breaking the Ban on Experimental Breeding by hatching a basilisk, for example; consuming the blood of a unicorn[8], and Necromancy, the Dark Art of raising the dead.

Known practitioners

The following wizards and witches are known to have used Dark Magic. Note that as above, the Dark Arts encompass many different types of spells, including many that seem to be in everyday use by most wizards — this section is limited to those who have used strong dark magic at least once.

Dark Wizards

Wizard(s) Notes
Barnabas Deverill Warlock who mastered the Elder Wand in the early 18th century and "used it to carve himself out a fearsome reputation, until his reign of terror was ended".
Egbert the Egregious Was once Master of the Elder Wand after killing Emeric the Evil in a ferocious duel (Emeric was "slaughtered")
Ekrizdis Dark Wizard of unknown nationality and the original inhabitant of the fortress of Azkaban
Emeric the Evil A short-lived but exceptionally aggressive dark wizard who terrorized the south of England in the early Middle Ages; first recorded master of the Elder Wand.
Dolores Umbridge
Gellert Grindelwald The most dangerous dark wizard of the early 20th century, notorious for initiating the For the Greater Good revolution that terrorized Europe from 1926 to 1945. Eventually defeated by Albus Dumbledore and imprisoned within his own fortress of Nurmengard.
Godelot An "unpleasant character", was a dark wizard who once owned the Elder Wand.
Gormlaith Gaunt A pure-blood supremacist and the aunt of Isolt Sayre
Hereward Mastered the Elder Wand after murdering his own father to acquire it
Herpo the Foul An Ancient Greek philospher regarded as the first dark wizard to successfully hatch Basilisk, create a Horcrux and speak Parseltongue.
Loxias Master of the Elder Wand after Barnabas Deverill and gave it the name of "the Deathstick"
Merwyn the Malicious Credited with the invention of many unpleasant jinxes and hexes .
Morgan le Fay Half-sister of King Arthur and Queen of Avalon, who antagonized her own brother and Merlin in many Arthurian legends; regarded as a proefficient healer and bird Animagus.
Narcissa Malfoy Not officially a Death Eater herself, Narcissa believed in the importance of blood purity and supported her husband in following Lord Voldemort
Raczidian A tyrannical sorcerer who (according to an ancient story) attacked a wizarding village near his Dementor-infested castle in an attempt to abduct and marry the young witch Eliana, only to be foiled by the Patronus of her orphaned lover Illyius.
Salazar Slytherin One of the four founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Tom Riddle (Lord Voldemort) The most dangerous dark wizard of the late 20th century, ill-famed for initiating the two Magic is Might subversions that terrorized Great Britain from 1970 to 1981, then again from 1995 to 1998. Defeated by Harry Potter at the Battle of Hogwarts.
Walburga Black A pure-blood supremacist and believer in Voldemort's cause
Yardley Platt Infamous wizard because he was a serial Goblin killer

Death Eaters

Wizard(s) Status Notes
Adonis Mulciber After graduating from Hogwarts, he became a Death Eater
Antonin Dolohov Possibly imprisoned Fought in the First Wizarding War, during which he tortured many Muggles as well as wizards and witches who were not supporters of the Dark Lord
Amycus Carrow 1997, Amycus was made Defence Against the Dark Arts professor. This class, which for all intents and purposes simply became "Dark Arts"
Alecto Carrow Professor of Muggle Studies; she taught the thinking that Muggles are inferior to Wizardkind,
Augustus Rookwood Spy who worked as an Unspeakable in the Department of Mysteries
Avery Member of Tom Riddle's gang when they attended Hogwarts
Bartemius Crouch Jnr Dementor's Kiss A loyal follower who helped ensure Voldemort's return to power in 1995
Bellatrix Lestrange Deceased Voldemort's most loyal follower and best lieutenant. She was the last of the Death Eaters standing during the Battle of Hogwarts
Corban Yaxley Possibly imprisoned Since Voldemort was in control of the Ministry of Magic, Yaxley became the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement
Draco Malfoy Defected Was made a Death Eater as a means to punish his father and given the task of assassinating Albus Dumbledore
Evan Rosier Deceased After graduating from Hogwarts, he became a Death Eater
Crabbe Possibly imprisoned Participated in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries
Avery II
Goyle Returned to Lord Voldemort when he rose to power again in 1995
Gregory Goyle Fought in the Battle of Hogwarts
Igor Karkaroff Deceased Headmaster of Durmstrang Institute and was murdered for defecting
Lestrange Member of Tom Riddle's gang and one of the earliest Death Eaters
Lucius Malfoy Defected He joined the Death Eaters, who shared his views on blood purity, and participated in the First and Second Wizarding War
Muliciber Possibly imprisoned Member of Tom Riddle's gang and one of the earliest Death Eaters
Peter Pettigrew Deceased Betrayed the Potter family to Voldemort during the First Wizarding War
Rabastan Lestrange Possibly imprisoned Brother of Rodolphus and brother-in-law of Bellatrix. He fought in the First and Second Wizarding Wars
Regulus Black Deceased Discovered the location of Voldemort's locket Horcrux and was drowned in his lake of Inferi
Rodolphus Lestrange Possibly imprisoned Brother of Rabastan and husband of Bellatrix. He fought in the First and Second Wizarding Wars
Rosier One of the earliest Death Eaters of Lord Voldemort. He fought in the First Wizarding War
Severus Snape Defected Became a spy for the Order and was instrumental in the defeat of Voldemort
Travers Possibly imprisoned He fought in the First Wizarding War, during which he helped murdered Marlene McKinnon and her family, and was imprisoned for committing this crime. He also fought in the Second Wizarding War
Vincent Crabbe Deceased Died during the Battle of Hogwarts attempting to murder the trio
Walden Macnair Possibly imprisoned He managed to avoid Azkaban, and worked for the Ministry of Magic as Executioner. He fought in the First and Second Wizarding Wars
Other Death Eaters

Non-Dark Wizards

Wizard(s) Status Notes
Alastor Moody Occasional user Capable preforming the Unforgivable Curses and many other curses, hexes, and jinxes
Albus Dumbledore Capable of preforming many curses, hexes, and jinxes
Bartemius Crouch Senior Capable of preforming the Unforgivable Curses and many others
Ginevra Weasley Capable of preforming a highly powerful Bat-Bogey Hex and can preform  other curses, hexes, and jinxes
Harry Potter Capable preforming two of the three Unforgivable Curses and many other curses, hexes, and jinxes
Hermione Granger Capable of preforming many curses, hexes, and jinxes
Isolt Sayre
Minerva McGonagall Capable of preforming the Imperius Curse
Molly Weasley Capable of preforming many curses, hexes, and jinxes. This includes a powerful curse the killed Bellatrix Lestrange
Pius Thicknesse Imperiused While Imperiused he preformed numerous Dark spells
Viktor Krum While Imperiused he preformed the Cruciatus Curse
Durmstrang students Durmstrang is infamous for teaching its students the Dark Arts
Hogwarts students (1997–1998 school year) Threatened Forced to preform the Dark Arts, including the Unforgivable Curses

Known texts

The following texts are known to discuss the Dark Arts:

Behind the scenes

  • Some spells may not be considered Dark magic in and of themselves, but may be used for Dark purposes. For example, the Taboo curse allows the caster to track anyone who says a certain word or name. This gives the caster a great deal of power over people's speech, and spreads fear. It may thus be considered to have Dark applications, such as when it was used by Death Eaters to track their enemies during the Second Wizarding War[3].
  • The Dark Arts are similar to magic known as maleficium, which is used in a similar manner.
  • The antihero in the fairy tale The Warlock's Hairy Heart utilised a piece of Dark Magic to remove his heart from his body to ensure he would never fall in love, while keeping himself alive without this vital organ within his body. This was considered an impossible feat outside of the story.


Notes and references