- "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."
- —Professor Severus Snape[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. The Dark Arts are not necessarily "evil", just because it's labeled "dark".
The Dark Arts encompass many spells and actions ranging from the powerful Unforgivable Curses to brewing harmful or poisonous potions to breeding Dark creatures such as Basilisks, and its practise is 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
- Dumbledore: "You call it 'greatness,' what you have been doing, do you?"
- Riddle: "Certainly. I have experimented; I have pushed the boundaries of magic further, perhaps, than they have ever been pushed —"
- Dumbledore: "Of some kinds of magic. Of some. Of others, you remain... forgive me... woefully ignorant."
- 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."
- — Albus Dumbledore and Tom Marvolo Riddle[src]
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 Marvolo Riddle's appearance demonstrated his corruption — he lost his former handsomeness, eventually taking on serpentine physical qualities and red eyes. 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". 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. 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. 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
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 love. He was perhaps referring to the Sacrificial Protection shield which Lily Potter used to protect Harry Potter and Harry himself later used to protect the people on his side by taking a Killing Curse from the Dark Lord. However he was not killed by this curse, since it only destroyed the part of Voldemort's soul inside him.
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).
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 and phoenix feather 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
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 patronized by "hundreds of people", 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.
In addition, there is a matter of degree. The three Unforgivable Curses are punishable by an automatic life sentence in Azkaban Prison 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 can be classified into three groups: jinxes, hexes & curses. These groups form a hierarchy, with jinxes at the base, curses at the top and hexes in-between. 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:
Minor Dark Magic, minor inconvenience to the target.
- Knockback Jinx (Flipendo)
Consistently affects the object in a negative manner, major inconvenience to the target.
The worst kind of dark magic, intended to affect the target in a strongly negative manner.
- Cruciatus Curse (Crucio)
The following potions are identified as Dark:
- 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.
- Voldemort's rebirth potion: This potion is said by Voldemort to be "an old piece of Dark Magic". 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 infections or protections, like a love sacrifice or lycanthrophy, it will also affect or protect the wizard or witch reborn with it.
- Drink of Despair: a 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.
- Cursed books: 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.
- Hand of Glory: 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.
- Horcrux: Thought to be the darkest of all objects, 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.
- Opal necklace: This 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.
- Objects in the Black house: Some of the objects in 12 Grimmauld Place, are probably Dark, such as a music box, purple robes, and a locket Horcrux.
- Blood quill: A quill that 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 siphoned 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. For example: the dementor, lethifold, inferius, basilisk, grindylow, acromantula, vampire, hag and werewolf, all of which are deeply feared and/or despised by numerous different wizards and witches.
Some other practices that would be considered Dark include:
- Breaking the Ban on Experimental Breeding by hatching a basilisk, for example.
- Consuming the blood of a unicorn
- Necromancy, the Dark Art of raising the dead.
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 and Witches
- Gellert Grindelwald
- Grindelwald's followers
- Gregory Goyle
- Herpo the Foul
- Morgan le Fay
- Salazar Slytherin
- Vincent Crabbe
- Various other wizards and witches
- Antonin Dolohov
- Amycus Carrow
- Alecto Carrow
- Augustus Rookwood
- Bellatrix Lestrange
- Bartemius ("Barty") Crouch Jr.
- Crabbe Sr.
- Draco Malfoy (later defected)
- Goyle Sr.
- Igor Karkaroff (later defected)
- Lucius Malfoy (later defected)
- Tom Riddle (alias Lord Voldemort)
- Walden Macnair
- Mulciber (Riddle-era)
- Mulciber (Marauder-era)
- Peter Pettigrew
- Rabastan Lestrange
- Regulus Arcturus Black (later defected and fought against them)
- Rodolphus Lestrange
- Severus Snape (later defected and fought against them)
- Death Eaters
Non-Dark Wizards and Witches
- Albus Dumbledore
- Bartemius ("Barty") Crouch Sr.
- Harry Potter
- Hermione Granger
- Minerva McGonagall
- Pius Thicknesse (under the Imperius Curse)
- Viktor Krum (under the Imperius Curse)
- Durmstrang students
- Hogwarts students during the 1997–1998 school year (under threat of the Cruciatus Curse)
The following texts are known to discuss the Dark Arts:
- Magick Moste Evile
- Secrets of the Darkest Art
- Sonnets of a Sorcerer
- The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts
- Confronting the Faceless
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.
- The Dark Arts are similar to magic known as maleficium, which is used in a similar manner.
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (film)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (film)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (video game)
- Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Book
- LEGO Harry Potter: Building the Magical World
- LEGO Harry Potter: Characters of the Magical World
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
- Harry Potter LEGO Sets
Notes and references
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- ↑ Deathly Hallows, Ch. 5. Also, in Ch. 17, Harry mentions "the injuries from Dark Magic... You can't repair the damage."
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- ↑ Harry Potter Lexicon: Dark Magic Items
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone