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Memory Charm

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"If there's one thing I pride myself on, it's my Memory Charms."
Gilderoy Lockhart[src]

A Memory Charm (Obliviate), also known as a Forgetfulness Charm,[1] was a spell that could be used to erase memories from an individual's mind. It was different from the charm that creates false memories[2].

Effects

Memory Charms were generally intended to erase a specific memory. They were regularly used if a Muggle witnesses something related to the wizarding world; the Ministry of Magic had Obliviators remove their memories of the event, such as if a Muggle saw a dragon[3]. Occasionally, a mass use of Memory Charms was necessary to cover up major incidents that violated the Statute of Secrecy, such as the Ilfracombe Incident. Some Muggles slipped through the cracks in these situations, according to Blenheim Stalk in Muggles Who Notice.[4] When particularly intense memories needed to be erased, it often left the victim disoriented for a short period of time, as happened with the Roberts family after the Quidditch World Cup in 1994.

Dangers

Gilderoy Lockhart Who Am I 02

Gilderoy Lockhart's book Who Am I?, written after he lost his memory

If performed improperly, a Memory Charm could erase significant portions of an individual's memory and cause brain damage, with difficulty in recovery. For instance, Gilderoy Lockhart attempted to wipe the memories of Harry Potter and Ron Weasley during the events surrounding the re-opening of the Chamber of Secrets. However, Ron's damaged wand backfired, thus causing Lockhart to suffer extreme obliviation. He thereafter became a permanent resident in the Janus Thickey Ward of St Mungo's.[5]

Barty Crouch Snr placed a Memory Charm on Bertha Jorkins to try to make her forget her discovery that he was keeping his son in captivity. However, the charm he put on her was was too strong, and thus it damaged her memory permanently, making her chronically forgetful about other things as well.[6]


Breaking the Charm

Memory Charms could be broken through torture. In 1994, Lord Voldemort and Peter Pettigrew broke a Memory Charm placed by Barty Crouch Snr on Bertha Jorkins, and extracted information from her regarding the whereabouts of Crouch's son. However, the breaking of the charm had caused a great toll on Bertha, and her body and mind was damaged beyond repair.[6]

In 1997, Voldemort had Antonin Dolohov and Thorfinn Rowle tortured with the Cruciatus Curse after they failed to capture Harry Potter. Hermione Granger had cast Memory Charms on them so as to cover the trio's tracks. It appears that the charms were not broken by torture, since the Death Eaters remained unaware that Ron Weasley was with Harry and Hermione, rather than sick at home with spattergroit, as had been claimed.[7] This may mean that a certain level of torture was necessary to break the charm, or that the torturer needed to be specific on wanting to break it, rather than just inflicting the pain.

Since Lockhart's backfired Memory Charm was never been broken through, it is possible that torture was the only method of complete recovery, as it is doubtful that St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries would commit crimes against humanity just to recover Lockhart's memory. It is also possible, however, that since it was cast improperly, Lockhart's memory was actually erased permanently with no chance of recovery whatsoever.

Known uses

Caster(s) Victim(s) Notes
Toke family Many Muggles Known as the Ilfracombe Incident, it was the largest casting of the Memory Charm in the twentieth century, after a Common Welsh Green attacked a group of sunbathers in Devon, England in 1932.[4]

Gilderoy Lockhart

Several Witches and Wizards Gilderoy Lockhart rose to fame by tracking down less-than reputable characters who had accomplished mighty feats, questioned them in detail about it, placed Memory Charms on them to remove all recollection of the feat, claimed credit for it, and published a book on it. This was revealed to Harry and Ron in the Chamber of Secrets venture.
Himself (Unintentionally) In 1993, Lockhart was attempting to cast the charms on Harry Potter and Ron Weasley in order to take credit for braving the Chamber of Secrets, but he used Ron's damaged wand, and the spell backfired and wiped all of his memory.[5]
Barty Crouch Sr. Bertha Jorkins Bertha discovered that Crouch was keeping his son trapped in their home under the Imperius Curse. Lord Voldemort later broke the charm protecting this memory.[6]
Ministry Obliviators Mr Roberts, Mrs Roberts, and their children To keep the family unaware of the 1994 Quidditch World Cup occurring near their campground, and after the family was attacked by Death Eaters.[6]
President of unknown country This Muggle official was made to forget to telephone the Prime Minister in order to clear time in the latter's schedule to meet with Cornelius Fudge and Rufus Scrimgeour.[8]
Kingsley Shacklebolt Marietta Edgecombe Marietta was prevented from talking about secret Dumbledore's Army meetings in 1996[9].
Hermione Granger Antonin Dolohov, Thorfinn Rowle, and a Muggle waitress After the Death Eaters attacked her, Harry Potter, and Ron Weasley on Tottenham Court Road in 1997, Hermione wiped their memories of the event in order to throw them off the scent of the trio's whereabouts, and to preserve Ron's cover story of being sick at home with spattergroit. The waitress was a witness to the skirmish.[7]
Xenophilius Lovegood Used after an attempted ambush of her, Harry and Ron at the Lovegood House in 1998 to wipe his memory of the conversation he had with the trio about the Deathly Hallows to ensure that Xenophilius was unable to tell the Death Eaters that Ron was with Harry and Hermione.[7]

Attempted uses

Caster Intended Victim(s) Notes
Ministry official Fenrir Greyback When Greyback successfully faked being a Muggle tramp after being hauled into the Ministry of Magic regarding a werewolf attack that resulted in the death of two Muggle children in 1964, the Ministry wizard escorting him attempted to cast a Memory Charm on the "Muggle tramp" so as to make him forget about the Ministry of Magic. However, before he could, Greyback overpowered him and escaped with three werewolf accomplices.[10]
Gilderoy Lockhart Harry Potter and Ron Weasley When Lockhart inadvertently admitted himself to be a credit-stealing fraud to Harry and Ron, he attempted to cast a Memory Charm on them to cover his tracks. However, Harry was faster at disarming him, and Ron threw Lockhart's wand out the open window. Later that same day, Lockhart once again attempted to cast the charm on the duo, but the wand he used was malfunctioning and it backfired.[5]

Etymology

The incantation "obliviate" may be derived from the Latin oblivisci, meaning "to forget", or the English word oblivion, defined as "the fact or condition of forgetting or having forgotten"[11].

It may be derived from the Latin term oblivio, which also means "to forget"

Behind the scenes

  • In Chapter 9 of Deathly Hallows, just prior to erasing Antonin Dolohov and Thorfinn Rowle's memories, Hermione says that she has never performed a Memory Charm before, despite having already altered her parents' memories.[7] However, J. K. Rowling has said this was a different charm[2], which alters memories rather than removes them.
    • Despite Rowling's statement that the charm Hermione used on her parents was not the same, in the Part 1 film adaption, Hermione uses the actual Memory Charm to eradicate her mother and father's memories of her.
      • However, it all still fits in as in the film Hermione doesn't say she hasn't used it before.
      • Either symbolically or by actual magic, when Hermione performed the charm on her parents, all images of her in their family pictures were erased as well.
  • In the W.O.M.B.A.T.'s on J. K. Rowling's Official Website, it is referred to as the Forgetfulness Charm.
  • As Bertha managed to remember about Barty Crouch Jr after Voldemort tortured her and broke the charm, it is possible that the charm simply suppresses memories, as opposed to erasing them. However, when Lockhart suffers a backfiring Memory Charm, it seemed that his memories were irreversibly erased.
  • In the German translation, the incantation is sometimes translated as Amnesia, in the Czech translation "Zapomeň/te" and in Italian it is used Oblivion while in other cases remains Obliviate.

Appearances

Notes and references


The Standard Book of Spells
Grade 1 · Grade 2 · Grade 3 · Grade 4 · Grade 5 · Grade 6
Charms included in the series: Fire-Making Spell · Levitation Charm · Locking Spell · Mending Charm · Softening Charm · Severing Charm · Unlocking Charm · Dancing Feet Spell · Disarming Charm · Engorgement Charm · Freezing Charm · General Counter-Spell · Memory Charm · Tickling Charm · Summoning Charm · Banishing Charm · Substantive Charm

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