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 to brewing harmful or poisonous potions to breeding Dark creatures such as Basilisks, Dementors or Inferi, 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

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

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, they also can not recover from it, but most spend the rest of their life in a vegetative state reliving their worst memories.


"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 used to protect infant Harry Potter and Harry himself later used to protect the defenders of Hogwarts by letting themselves 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

The following potions are identified as Dark:

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.
Voldemort's rebirth potion This potion is said by 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 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]
Object Notes
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.[1]
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.[2]
Black 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 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.

Creature/being Notes
Acromantula A species of giant spider, these giant spiders with a taste for human flesh
Basilisk A giant serpent, 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.
Dementor 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.
Grindylow A small, horned, pale-green water demon. It has long, strong (albeit brittle) fingers which it uses to strangle its prey.
Hag A savage being that looks like an ugly, old witch but has more warts. They prefer to eat children.
Inferi A dead body, reanimated by a Dark Wizard's spell. he spells used to reanimate the corpse are complex.
Lethifold A carnivorous and highly dangerous magical creature. It was also considered a Dark creature because of its aggressive and violent nature.
Rougarou A dangerous dog-headed monster
Vampire A magical humanoid that is famed for biting people on the neck and sucking their blood.
Werewolf 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.

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

Grindelwald's followers

Death Eaters

Non-Dark Wizards

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