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Sirius Black's soul

"Lord Voldemort’s soul, maimed as it is, cannot bear close contact with a soul like Harry’s."
—Discussion regarding souls[src]

The soul is the immaterial part of a being, which in many belief systems is held to live on after death. Wizards and witches, like Muggles, have sought to uncover the nature of the soul, particularly its role in magic. Tampering with the soul is to break the "deepest laws of magic" according to Albus Dumbledore.[1]

Overview

The soul is the sense of self of the individual, residing inside the materialistic body. It serves as the memory, awareness, and individuality mindset. It is supposed to remain intact and unharmed, as ripping it is considered a violation of the laws of nature.

While the human body relies on the soul to have their own unique mindsets, a torn soul that is encased in a Horcrux is dependent on the object's well being. That is to say, if the human dies, the soul would be able to move on beyond the Veil or return as a ghost, while if a Horcrux is destroyed, the soul within would die away and disappear. This seems different for the "main" portion of the soul that remains within the body, as it serves as the sense of awareness and psyche for the person, meaning that only one portion can maintain such full attributes despite multiple pieces, and this piece can retain existence without any container.

Any portion of a soul encased into a Horcrux can gain a sense of sentience, by sapping away the life-force of any unfortunate person to come in possession of such an item, and in turn that portion of soul can gain a solid human form for itself. This was best shown when T. M. Riddle's Diary started draining Ginny Weasley's life over a year of spilling her secrets into it. On the other hand, if a possessor of such an item is inclined to malice, such a person may be strengthened by the evil fragment within such as Dolores Umbridge, who was able to create a Patronus due to her wearing Slytherin's Locket.

A single body usually cannot host more than one sentient soul without taking a heavy toll, as many animal hosts to Voldemort's fragmented soul had their lifespan drastically reduced, and Quirinus Quirrell, the only known human host, had to drink Unicorn blood to sustain his own body's ailing health. This may be inapplicable to a non-sentient soul fragment used for horcrux purposes such as Nagini, who showed no side effects from housing her master's soul and even possessed a powerful telepathic bond with him.

The healthy state of Harry Potter's soul kept Voldemort from trying to possess him after the attempt at the Ministry of Magic because it was too painful for Voldemort's tortured maimed soul to share a body with Harry's complete soul, as Dumbledore explained to Snape in a Pensieve memory.

A Fidelius Charm implants a secret into a person's very soul, which would give the secret the highest level of security, unless the Secret-Keeper chooses to divulge it. Bewitchment and torture cannot force the secret out of the Keeper, as it must be done so voluntarily.

The beauty of the Phoenix Lament is such that it is able to touch the souls of those who listen to it, affecting them emotionally.

Damage to souls

Ripping

Albus Dumbledore: "That boy's soul is not yet so damaged. I would not have it ripped apart on my account."
Severus Snape: "And my soul, Dumbledore? Mine?"
Albus Dumbledore: "You alone know whether it will harm your soul to help an old man avoid pain and humiliation."
— Discussion regarding Dumbledore's final wishes[src]
Voldemort's mutilated soul

The final result of Voldemort's soul after ripping it so many times

The act of committing murder, which is said by some to be an act of supreme evil, causes the murderer's soul to become damaged.[2] It seems that the murder may be committed indirectly as long as the murderer has the intent, seeing as how Tom Riddle used the Serpent of Slytherin to kill Myrtle Warren to create his first Horcrux rather than kill her himself.

It should be noted however, that killing in and of itself seems not to have the same consequences to a soul as committing deliberate murder, as Dumbledore seemed to imply to Snape, when requesting that Snape kill him, that the act would not harm Snape's soul due to the circumstances of the killing.

Partial removal

"Well, you must understand that the soul is supposed to remain intact and whole. Splitting it is an act of violation, it is against nature."
Horace Slughorn reluctantly explains Horcruxes[src]
Voldemort Spirit

Voldemort's mangled soul, clinging onto the world of the living due to his Horcruxes

Wizards and witches who have committed murder can use a spell to place a torn fragment of their soul inside an external object called a Horcrux, which anchors their soul to the living world, thus rendering them immortal.[2] Creating a Horcrux makes the part of the soul left inside one's body unstable,[3] and, for obvious reasons, it is widely considered the most wicked of all the Dark Arts as well as a violation of the first of the Fundamental Laws of Magic.

If the soul fragment has been detached from the body for a long time, the destruction of a Horcrux containing such a fragment might not be felt by the owner.[2]

A person who creates a Horcrux can only reverse the damage by experiencing genuine remorse, but the process is extremely painful, and can even be deadly.[3]

Harry Potter's soul was whole and unblemished, but he shared a body with a soul-bit of Voldemort, a state of being which Dumbledore's silver instrument described as "in essence divided". That is why Harry could sometimes view things from Voldemort's point of view or even Nagini the snake, since the creature also contained a Horcrux.

A soul that has been torn apart and partially removed from the body will of course become lesser in substance. This is shown to cause the soul to experience some form of mental and physical regression. In extreme cases, this regression can be so severe that the individual's soul essentially becomes sub-human and remains in Limbo, unable to leave and unable to become a ghost.

It is possible for a wizard to create more than one Horcrux. However, only one wizard, Voldemort, has ever been recorded as having done so. Due to his willingness to create multiple Horcruxes and committing many murders in doing so, Voldemort is wildly considered the most evil wizard on record. However, there seems to be a limit as to how many times one can separate the soul before doing any more attempts as going further seems to be dangerous which is exemplified by how Voldemort ceased creating any more Horcruxes once he intentionally reached his desired six and refused to create any replacements for the ones that were destroyed. In fact, Voldemort's soul was so unstable that by the time he created five Horcruxes, it split on its own when his Killing Curse rebounded the first time, which caused the fragment to be removed from him and attached to Harry.

Complete removal

"You can exist without your soul, you know, as long as your brain and heart are still working. But you'll have no sense of self any more, no memory, no...anything. There's no chance at all of recovery. You just — exist. As an empty shell. And your soul is gone forever...lost."
Remus Lupin explains the effect of the Dementor's Kiss to Harry Potter[src]

It is possible for a person to live without any soul at all so long as their heart and brain are still functioning.[4] However, without a soul, a person is left in an incurable vegetative state — they have no awareness of themselves or the world around them.[4] The soul cannot be recovered once it has been lost.[4] This is a fate that is considered by many to be worse than death.

One known method of removing the soul from the body intact is the Dementor's Kiss. The Dementor — a creature which is itself soulless[5]— locks its mouth over that of its victim and sucks out his or her soul. The Ministry of Magic has, in the past, used the Dementor's Kiss as a form of extreme capital punishment.

The Dementor's Kiss was a punishment suffered by Barty Crouch Jr, when he was caught masquerading as Mad-Eye Moody. The first two times a Dementor attacked him, Harry Potter heard his mother screaming as she died. The third time, when both Harry and Dudley were attacked on Privet Drive, Harry was able to summon enough happy memories to keep the creature at bay and cast his Patronus to chase it away, although Dudley was in the process of being attacked. Harry told Vernon that if Dudley's soul had been sucked out by a Dementor, they would know since he would not be functioning anymore. A Patronus is a "soul guardian" which can chase away a Dementor and keep the soul safe from harm.

Ghosts

Nearly Headless Nick: "Wizards can leave an imprint of themselves upon the earth, to walk palely where their living selves once trod. But very few wizards choose that path."
Harry Potter: "Why not? Anyway — it doesn't matter — Sirius won't care if it's unusual, he'll come back, I know he will!"
Nearly Headless Nick: "He will not come back. He will have...gone on."
— Discussion regarding the afterlife[src]
A ghost is the imprint of a deceased wizard or witch who chooses to linger in the world of the living after death; some (including the notoriously bitter Severus Snape) believe them to be nothing more than imprints left by the souls, though ghosts commonly identify themselves with their living selves, suggesting they are the soul itself lingering instead.[6][7] According to Nearly Headless Nick, few people actually choose this fate, because it means they will never move beyond the Veil as most do.[6] This cannot be achieved if the soul is damaged or completely removed.

The Resurrection Stone is capable of summoning the souls of the deceased back to the world of living as more than ghosts, but less than bodies.

Behind the scenes

  • The relationship of souls and brains in relation to sentience or sapience is unclear. While Dementors provide an example of apparently soulless beings who are capable of rational thought and communication, and Tom Riddle's cunning was not affected by his mutilations of his soul, it is worth noting that victims of a Dementor's Kiss lose the ability to think even though only their soul is removed and not their brain. Ghosts or the shades summoned by the Resurrection Stone, who lack a physical brain and are nothing but souls (or imprints thereof) wrapped in ectoplasm, are also fully capable of thought. There are even many examples of artificial intelligences created through magic, such as Portraits, the Sorting Hat or the Stairwell Gargoyle, though some readers believe them to be only simulacra with no true consciousness. 
  • In the film adaptions of the series, the soul has been portrayed in several manners that have not been mentioned in the novels:
    • In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, after Harry killed Quirinus Quirrell, Voldemort's mangled soul left the dying body and pierced through Harry.[8] (In the book, it is said that Voldemort "left" Quirrell, but whether he took on a smokelike physical form as in the movie goes unmentioned).
    • In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, when Sirius Black suffered prolonged exposure to the Dementors, his soul began to leave his body, but only returned when a three-hours later Harry cast a Patronus Charm to drive off the Dementors.[9]
    • In the part 2 film adaption of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the fragmented portion of Voldemort's soul that Harry sees in Limbo is the same in appearance to the rudimentary body that Voldemort inhabited four years prior. While both the fourth and seventh novels give off similar description of Voldemort's mangled form, the film made it more confirming.[10] Whether this is a coincident or intention on the film makers' behalf is unknown.
      • Seeing that ghosts are imprints of a wizard's or witch's soul,[6] in which its appearance would take on that of the said wizard or witch at the moment of death, it does seem likely that Voldemort's soul is indeed reflected by his rudimentary body's form.

See also

External links

Appearances

Notes and references