- "The magical defence of the mind against external penetration. An obscure branch of magic, but a highly useful one."
- —A basic description of Occlumency[src]
Occlumency is the act of magically closing one's mind against Legilimency. It is ancient, and has existed since medieval times. It can prevent a Legilimens from accessing one's thoughts and feelings, or influencing them. A person who practises this art is known as an Occlumens.
- "I told you to empty yourself of emotion! ... Fools who wear their hearts proudly on their sleeves, who cannot control their emotions, who wallow in sad memories and allow themselves to be provoked this easily — weak people, in other words — they stand no chance against his powers! He will penetrate your mind with absurd ease, Potter!"
- —Severus Snape on the difficulty of learning Occlumency[src]
The most basic form of Occlumency, judging from Severus Snape's early lessons on the subject to Harry Potter, involves clearing one's mind — making it "blank and empty" — in order to prevent a Legilimens from perceiving one's emotions and thoughts. More advanced Occlumency involves suppressing only the thoughts, emotions, and memories that would contradict whatever it is an Occlumens wishes a Legilimens to believe; hence, it is not obvious that Occlumency is being used even if the person is lying. It requires a great deal of willpower, as with resisting the Imperius Curse, as well as a high degree of mental and emotional discipline. It is also one method of resisting the influence of Veritaserum.
Occlumency is not part of the normal curriculum taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and appears to be a rare and difficult skill.
- "Used properly, the power of Occlumency will help shield you from access or influence. In these lessons I will attempt to penetrate your mind. You will attempt to resist. Prepare yourself! Legilimens! "
- —Snape during Harry Potter's Occlumency lesson[src]
Gellert Grindelwald was a very accomplished Occlumens, as he was able to conceal his true mind from even natural-born Legilimens Queenie Goldstein, which worked in tandem his acting skills and at the time disguising as Percival Graves. Even in advanced age and long-time imprisonment, Grindelwald remained a powerful practitioner as Voldemort failed to penetrate his mind.
Bartemius Crouch Junior was an accomplished Occlumens, as he managed to hide his true mind from Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape, both accomplished Legilimens, while disguised as Alastor Moody. Had Barty not been groggy when stunned later that year, he would have the prowess in Occlumency to resist the Veritaserum.
In the 1995-1996 school year, Albus Dumbledore had Severus Snape teach Harry Potter Occlumency in an effort to prevent his mind from being penetrated and influenced by Lord Voldemort. Snape was a highly skilled Occlumens, being able to successfully deceive extremely accomplished Legilimens Voldemort, but his lessons with Harry were ultimately unsuccessful. Harry was not able to repel most attacks, though it is likely that the personal enmity between him and Snape as well as the stressful events in his life that year hindered his ability; Harry's climbing interests in Voldemort's repeated attempts at the Hall of Prophecy made him further neglect his practise of the skill. He eventually gave up attempting to learn. Harry later managed to block his connection to Voldemort, on occasion, by focusing on feelings of love and grief, rather than by using Occlumency.
After the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, Voldemort realised the dangers of his connection with Harry, and employed Occlumency to seal off the link, thus preventing Harry from feeling any pain from his lightning-bolt scar. However, by 1997 to 1998, Voldemort started losing control due to repeated failures of his Death Eaters infuriating him more and more, and the report of the loss of his Horcruxes became a tipping point where he forgot to close his mind, allowing the thoughts to be seen by Harry as he mentally organised his Horcrux hiding locations.
In 1996, Bellatrix Lestrange trained her nephew, Draco Malfoy in Occlumency so that he could keep his mission to kill Albus Dumbledore a secret. Draco became skilled enough to repel Snape's attempts at Legilimency. Draco's success was due to him shutting out his compassion to become the bully he is, making it easy for him to close his mind.
Horace Slughorn was noted for his skills in Occlumency, more accomplished than Morfin Gaunt, and he would be able to resist the likes of Dumbledore, hence a reason Dumbledore refused to use force or coercion to wrest a memory out of Slughorn. His mastery would also allow him to resist the effects of Veritaserum, though he would nevertheless carry an antidote, which for all accounts, makes it redundant.
The word "occlumency" comes from the Latin occludere, meaning "to shut up" and mens, for "mind".
Behind the scenes
- On the subject of Occlumency, J. K. Rowling has discussed why Draco Malfoy would be skilled at it while Harry Potter was not:
- "...I think Draco would be very gifted in Occlumency, unlike Harry. Harry’s problem with it was always that his emotions were too near the surface and that he is in some ways too damaged. But he's also very in touch with his feelings about what's happened to him. He's not repressed, he's quite honest about facing them, and he couldn't suppress them, he couldn't suppress these memories. But I thought of Draco as someone who is very capable of compartmentalising his life and his emotions, and always has done. So he's shut down his pity, enabling him to bully effectively. He's shut down compassion — how else would you become a Death Eater? So he suppresses virtually all of the good side of himself."
- Occlumency, being a "magical defence of the mind against external penetration" most likely will make the use of the Imperius Curse against an Occlumens either ineffective or at the very least reduce its effectiveness, although this is unconfirmed. Snape did regard the power required to utilise Occlumency effectively as similar to that of resisting the Imperius Curse.
- Occlumency does not appear to be a generally offered subject of study at Hogwarts and is probably only taught in private courses to students who show potential for it. Snape described it as an "obscure branch of magic", further suggesting that it is lesser known to the community as a whole.
- Narcissa Malfoy may be an Occlumens, as she lied to Voldemort about Harry's demise without consequences. However, Voldemort may not have been using Legilimency on her at the time, as he might not have believed she would lie to him with her family's lives at stake, a sign of Voldemort's greatest weakness: arrogance.
- According to W.O.M.B.A.T., it is possible that Occlumency can guard against possession.
- Voldemort employed Occlumency against Harry Potter to try to end the connection but started to lose control during the events of 1997 and 1998.
- Harry Potter briefly used Occlumency against Voldemort, although he has never been able to master it. Also of note, while Harry's use of Occlumency in the books was negligible, he was nigh-effortlessly able to throw-off the Imperius Curse (both by Bartemius Crouch Junior-as-Alastor Moody, & by Tom Riddle), by willpower-alone.
- Bellatrix Lestrange was most likely taught Occlumency by Voldemort since she stated in the Battle of the Department of Mysteries that he taught her the dark arts.
- Draco was most likely taught Occlumency by Bellatrix Lestrange, a theory made by Severus Snape when he tries, unsuccessfully, to break into Draco's thoughts.
- Remus Lupin was able to conceal the fact that Sirius Black was an unregistered Animagus from Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape, both highly skilled Legilimens, throughout his entire tenure teaching at Hogwarts in spite of the latter's intense dislike for him and stated suspicion that he was aiding Sirius Black. Dumbledore only found out because Lupin told him voluntarily, and because Black revealed himself in front of Ron Weasley. It is unknown if he was using Occlumency to conceal this knowledge or if Snape and Dumbledore just never used Legilimency against him.
- The Wizengamot believed that Sirius Black might have been an Occlumens, as they believed that even if they give him a fair trial under the influence of Veritaserum, he would still be able to resist it with Occlumency or other tricks.
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (First appearance)
- 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 Deathly Hallows
Notes and references
- ↑ See this script.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 "The Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet interview Joanne Kathleen Rowling: Part Two," The Leaky Cauldron, 16 July 2005
- ↑ See this image.
- ↑ F.A.Q: Veritaserum at J. K. Rowling's Official Site
- ↑ https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/809361237054201856
- ↑ MuggleNet 16 July 2005 Interview with J.K. Rowling
- ↑ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows