"Then he realised it was a colossal skull, comprised of what looked like emerald stars, with a serpent protruding from its mouth like a tongue. As they watched, it rose higher and higher, blazing in a haze of greenish smoke, etched against the black sky like a new constellation."
—The Dark Mark[src]

Morsmordre[1] was the incantation used to conjure the Dark Mark, the skull-and-serpent sign used by Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters[1]. The Death Eaters cast their mark over the homes of anyone they killed as their calling card.[1].


First Wizarding War

In the First Wizarding War, Morsmordre became something of a signature move for the Death Eaters[1]. After a murder, the spell would be cast in order to both claim credit for the attack, and to further terrify the wizarding community.[1].

After Voldemort's first defeat, the Mark was no longer seen since the method for casting it was known only to the innermost circle of Death Eaters. If these individuals had escaped death or Azkaban, they had done so by lying about their membership in the organisation, and therefore casting the spell would have been something of a give-away.[1].



The Dark Mark over the Quidditich World Cup

Barty Crouch Junior cast the spell after witnessing a number of disloyal Death Eaters engaged in muggle torture and rioting after the Quidditch World Cup. His motive in casting this spell was primarily to terrify the former Death Eaters, as opposed to the other spectators. This caused a widespread panic, as seeing the sign after 14 years made people think Voldemort has returned, and Death Eaters feared the possibility of Voldemort's return more than the civilians due to their disloyalty to the Dark Lord may bring retributions.

Barty crouch jr 1

Barty Crouch Jr casts Morsmorde

At first, the house-elf Winky was blamed for the act due to the fact that both she and the wand used to cast the spell were found together at the location from which the spell was apparently cast. After it was remembered that only a former Death Eater would have had the knowledge to cast the spell, both Winky along with Harry, Ron and Hermione were cleared of any involvement.

Voldemort later used his knowledge of this event to contradict Lucius Malfoy's claim that he was on the alert for any sign of Voldemort's return, and would have immediately rejoined him.


Igor Karkaroff was killed in 1996 by Death Eaters for betraying Lord Voldemort, and the Dark Mark was cast over the shack in which his body was found.


Dark Mark Over London

The Dark Mark over Tower Bridge, following the Attack on London

It was cast over Hogwarts' Astronomy Tower by Gibbon when the Death Eaters invaded the castle in 1997, in order to lure Albus Dumbledore to the tower so that Draco Malfoy could kill him. In this case, the mark was cast before, rather than after, a murder.


The incantation of this spell appears to be derived from the French mort, "death", and mordre, "to bite". This alludes to the name of Voldemort's followers, the Death Eaters. The English word murder could also contribute. The literal translation of the Norwegian word "morsmodre" would be "mothers killers".

It may also be a reference to the word "mord", which means "murder" in Icelandic, German, Norwegian, Danish Polish and Swedish, since the spell is cast after someone has been murdered, and sounds like "mass murder".

Known practicioners

Behind the scenes

Morsmordre bellatrix

Bellatrix casts Morsmordre

  • In the book version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the Dark Mark was cast over the Astronomy Tower by Gibbon in order to lure Dumbledore to that location. However, in the film adaption, the Mark was non-verbally cast by Bellatrix Lestrange in celebration after Dumbledore was killed. Furthermore, in the film the Mark was dispelled by the mourning residents of Hogwarts as a sign of respect for the late headmaster.
  • This is the only spell that Barty Crouch Jr casts onscreen, in his true form, before becoming Alastor Moody by means of Polyjuice Potion.


Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 9 (The Dark Mark)
  2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 9 (The Dark Mark) - Barty Crouch Snr accuses Amos Diggory of suggesting that he "routinely teaches [his] servants how to cast the Dark Mark", suggesting Barty Snr has at least the knowledge.
  3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (film)
  4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 29 (The Phoenix Lament))