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International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy

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The International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy is a law in the wizarding world that was first signed in 1689[1], then established officially in 1692.[2] The law was laid down by the International Confederation of Wizards to safeguard the wizarding community from Muggles, and hide its presence from the world at large.

History

Background

"As the witch-hunts grew ever fiercer, 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."
Albus Dumbledore's notes on The Wizard and the Hopping Pot.[src]
Wendelin the Weird

Wendelin the Weird is burnt at the stake. Witch-burnings, and wizard persecution by Muggles in general, were a contributing factor in the introduction of the Statute.

By the seventeenth century, wizard-Muggle relations were at their worst. Ever since the early fifteenth century, the persecution of witches and wizards gathered pace all over Europe, making many in the wizarding community feel, and justifiably so, that offering to aid their Muggle neighbours with their magic was tantamount to volunteering to fetch the firewood for one's own funeral pyre: many witches and wizards were locked up and sentenced to death on the charge of witchcraft, and while some, like Lisette de Lapin in 1422, managed to magic their way out, others, like Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington in 1492, were not as lucky and were immediately stripped of their wands. Wizarding families were particularly prone to losing younger family members, whose inability to control their own magic made them noticeable, and vulnerable, to Muggle witch-hunters.[3]

The widespread persecution of wizarding children by Muggles, the escalating attempts by Muggles to force witches and wizards to perform magic for Muggle ends, the increasing efforts by Muggles to force witches and wizards to teach them magic, the growth in the numbers of witch-burnings, and the increasing numbers of Muggles being burned mistakenly as witches made it necessary for some kind of measure to be taken to face the awkward situation.[4]

The newly-created Ministry of Magic attempted to liaise with the Muggle King and Queen, William III and Mary II through a special Ministry Delegation, begging them for the protection of wizards under Muggle law.[4] The failure of this attempt at official recognition and protection seems to have been the final precipitating event that made wizardkind voluntarily move in the opposite direction toward secrecy.

Enactment

"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."
Bathilda Bagshot, A History of Magic.[src]

The Statute was first signed in 1689[1] but it was only three years later, in 1692[2] that it was officially established and effectively started to be enforced by every Ministry of Magic.

The Malfoys were a wealthy and influential wizarding family who, notably, fervently opposed the imposition of the Statute. Despite their espousal of pure-blood values and their stong belief in wizards' superiority over Muggles, the Malfoys had always drawn a sharp distinction between poor Muggles and those with wealth and authority; they had historically been associated with high-born Muggle circles, such as royalty (William the Conqueror and Queen Elizabeth I being notable examples) and aristocracy, which, in part, resulted in their vast collection of Muggle treasures and works of art. Their strong opposition of the Statute was, in short, due to the fact that the law would force them to withdraw from this enjoyable sphere of social life.[5]

Once the Statue was passed into law in 1692, however, the Malfoys cut off all ties with Muggle families, as they realised that further opposition would distance them from the new heart of power: the newly created Ministry of Magic. They performed an abrupt volte-face, and became vocally supportive of the Statute, hotly denying that they had ever fraternised with such people, in spite of the ample evidence to the contrary that wizarding historians assert.[5]

Now that Muggle and wizarding societies were alienated, it seemed only natural for wizards to come together and create, as Professor Bathilda Bagshot put it on her A History of Magic, "their own small communities within a community". Several magical families were attracted to small villages and hamlets, where they could start their own communities, in mutual support and protection, alongside more tolerant and sometimes Confunded Muggles. The villages of Tinworth in Cornwall, Upper Flagley in Yorkshire, Ottery St. Catchpole in Devon, and Godric's Hollow in the West Country are a few of the most celebrated of these half-magical dwelling places whose magical communities date back to then.[1]

Contents

The Statute states that each individual Ministry of Magic is responsible for hiding the presence of the magical community in their own country. Each Ministry is held responsible for, among other things, the control of magical beasts, curbing public displays of underage magic, and ensuring that magical games and sports are played without risk of discovery.

Clause 73

In 1750, Clause 73 was added to the Statute. The Clause states:

"Each wizarding governing body will be responsible for the concealment, care and control of all magical beasts, beings, and spirits dwelling within its territory's borders. Should any such creature cause harm to, or draw the notice of, the Muggle community, that nation's wizarding governing body will be subject to discipline by the International Confederation of Wizards."
—Clause 73, International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy.[src]

Dress guidelines

The Statute also includes dress guidelines for witches and wizards when among Muggles. The Statute states:

"When mingling with Muggles, wizards and witches will adopt an entirely Muggle standard of dress, which will conform as closely as possible to the fashion of the day. Clothing must be appropriate to the climate, the geographical region and the occasion. Nothing self-altering or adjusting is to be worn in front of Muggles."
—International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy.[src]

In spite of these clear instructions, clothing misdemeanours have been one of the most common infractions of the International Statute of Secrecy since its inception.[6]

Breaches

Breaches of the Statute, such as using magic in front of Muggles for no good reason, are dealt with by the relevant Ministry, with a variety of punishments available to be enforced upon the offender.

Breaches of Clause 73

Clause 73 has been breached repeatedly, with the countries of Scotland and Tibet among the worst offenders. Scotland is home to the world's largest kelpie, which is known to the Muggle world as the Loch Ness Monster, and is the subject of repeated sightings. In Tibet, the number of Yeti sightings has prompted the International Confederation of Wizards to station an International Task Force in the mountains on a permanent basis.

Other breaches of Clause 73 include the Ilfracombe Incident in 1932.

Criticism

During the 20th century, Carlotta Pinkstone famously campaigned for the repeal of the Statute and letting Muggles know about the existence of magic. She was imprisoned several times for breaching the Statute in front of Muggles.

Behind the scenes

  • Although it is not stated, the year the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy was established is the same year as the occurrence of the Salem Witch Trials, where several men and women were accused of witchcraft, and therefore executed, which could serve as a canon staple to make the Statute validated.

Appearances

Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Chapter 16 (Godric's Hollow)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Quidditch Through the Ages - Chapter 5 (Anti-Muggle Precautions)
  3. The Tales of Beedle the Bard - Albus Dumbledore on "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot"
  4. 4.0 4.1 First question of the Third W.O.M.B.A.T. at J.K. Rowling's Official Site.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Pottermore - The Malfoy Family
  6. Pottermore - Clothing

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