|"We must've been through hundreds of books already and we can't find him anywhere —"|
- Hermione Granger: "I do hope they start right away, there's so much to learn, I'm particularly interested in Transfiguration, you know, turning something into something else, of course, it's supposed to be very difficult —"
- Percy Weasley: "You'll be starting small, just matches into needles and that sort of thing —"
- — Hermione Granger and Percy Weasley talk about lessons during the 1991 Start-of-Term Feast[src]
Transfiguration is a branch of magic that focuses on the alteration of the form or appearance of an object, via the alteration of the object's molecular structure.. Transfiguration can be done to most (if not all) objects and as with most forms of magic it includes - but hardly limited to - Transfiguration spells.
Currently, transfiguration is divided into four branches (though - whilst based on canonical information - the typology is conjectural). They are, in ascending order of difficulty: Transformation, Vanishment, Conjuration and Untransfiguration. They are described below.
This refers to any Transfiguration that deforms or alters the target in some way.
It should be noted that whilst this branch of transfiguration is the first covered in the Hogwarts curriculum (containing simple transfigurations such as Match to needle) it can also pertains to the most complex and dangerous forms of transfiguration too. For example, Petrification is a form of transformation and is very dark, complicated and powerful magic.
Transformation is divided into three sub-types, each with their own divisions and all of which overlap with one another to some degree.
Human Transfiguration refers to Transformation where either the target or end-product is a human being. As well as the general Human Transfiguration spells that exists, this category houses the following type of transformation magic:
Human Transfiguration spells are taught in sixth year.
Switching is another sub-type of transformation magic. During switching, a physical feature from one of the two targets is switched with that of another, hence the name. It differs from a straight transformation in two ways: firstly, switching targets two objects simultaneously; secondly, the change in one of the pair is dependent on a change in the other.
It is difficult to gauge the relative difficult of switches exactly compared to other types of transfiguration because the exact year in which they are learn is not known. However, Professor McGonagall was impressed when Hermione knew about switches as a First Year student but was disappointed in Neville for not being able to perform even simple switches by Fourth Year. Therefore, students must start learning switches in Second, Third or (early) Fourth Year (most likely third), earlier than almost all the other branches of transfiguration save transformation.
The only known sub-group of Switching is Cross-Species Switches.
This is a term which refers to transformation magic that (partially or completely) changes the target organism into a new species. It includes Cross-species switches and hence has some overlap with switching magic.
Vanishment is the art of causing things to Vanish; to make things go into non-being. Vanishment is moderately difficult - learned in Fourth Year and up - and is considered one of the hardest transfigurations to be tested on in one's O.W.L. The difficulty of the Vanishment to be performed positively correlates with the complexity of the organism to be Vanished (for example, invertebrates are easier to Vanish than vertebrates).
Strangely, only one incantation is needed to Vanish any object - Evanesco , Latin for "disappear" (with the intent of the caster alone directing it), unlike conjurations (which can requires a variety of complicated incantations)
Conjuration is the art of conjuring things (bringing things into being) and hence is the opposite of Vanishment. It is harder than its counter-part, being a N.E.W.T. level feat.
One should note that there are numerous restrictions (both in Law and Nature) placed on the art of Conjuration, unlike Vanishment which appears to be unrestricted. For example, something that is conjured will not last (or, "remain in being") but it is unknown whether or not something that is vanished could forever remain in non-being if left to its own devices.
Untransfiguration is the art of reversing a previous transfiguration (and is therefore considered both a transfiguration and a counter-spell). It is a mysterious branch of transfiguration not much elaborated on in the franchise, though it appears to be covered at some point in the Hogwarts syllabus.
Transfiguration is a very systematic, exact magical discipline, working best for the scientifically-inclined mind, and as such it is deemed very hard work (especially compared to Charms, which affords a much larger margin for personal creativity).
Whilst Transfiguration is an exceedingly useful branch of magic, it naturally has its own set of limitations.
The branch of Transfiguration known as Transformation magic has the largest number of restriction placed upon it (both natural and legal). Firstly, even before one becomes an Animagus (both a Trans-species Transformation and Human transfiguration) one is monitored closely as attempting to become such a thing is highly dangerous and even if one succeeds one must then register oneself at the Ministry of Magic (or face trial), due to the many potential uses of this kind of transfiguration in criminal activity. An Animagus is also limited by the fact that they can only transfigure into one kind of animal this way. Conversely, general Human Transfiguration is more varied in that it allows one to transform another into a plethora of different animals but, on the other hand, the object of transfiguration will then possess the intelligence of the creature they become (unlike Animagi, who retain all their mental faculties in animal form). If this is an animal of lower intelligence (which is more likely than not) then one will, by extension, be entirely dependent on the caster to untransfigure them, which could potentially cause someone to be stuck in that form forever (which is why it is not recommended to cast this type of transfiguration on oneself).
Usually, a wizard or witch attempting to perform a transfiguration spell would often find it easier to transfigure one thing into something else provided that the state it was orginally in had something in common to what it would be coverted into (i.e. a statue of a dragon turning into an actual dragon, albeit of the similar size).
Transformation is also limited by the fact that the dead cannot be revived via magic and hence one cannot "transfigure" the dead back to life, no matter how recently the death occurred. The overall mass and size of the object or entity to be transfigured into something else must also be considered, since it was stated by Hermione that it was extremely difficult to transfigure something as large as a dragon, even by a skilled transfiguration expert like McGonagall.
Conjuration is principally limited by the Five Principal Exceptions to Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration. The first (and only known) of these is the restriction that one cannot conjure food (though, pre-existing food can be charmed in certain ways - such as by summoning & multiplication - and transfigured by the other the other branches). Similarly, Wizarding law sets legal limitations on what one is and isn't allowed to conjure. Finally, even if it is both possible and legal to conjure something it will ultimately never last.
Strangely, whilst there are a variety of limits placed on Conjuration, the branch referred to as Vanishment seems to be completely unrestricted (this also appears true of Untransfiguration).
- "Transfiguration is some of the most complex and dangerous magic you will learn at Hogwarts. Anyone messing around in my class will leave and not come back. You have been warned."
- —Minerva McGonagall lecturing first-years[src]
Due to the applied, precise nature of Transfiguration magic there is a large potential for it to go disastrously wrong, even for the experts. This is especially true if the practitioner is not taking things seriously and/or punching above their weight (with respect to the magic they are attempting to perform). If it is done improperly, the Transfigured object can become half-Transfigured or permanently stuck in one state (whether fully or partially Transfigured); for example, Viktor Krum once half-Transfigured himself into a shark in the Second Task of The Triwizard Tournament in 1994 (although he was not stuck in that form, so it may have been intentional).
Albus Dumbledore was the Transfiguration teacher of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry during Tom Marvolo Riddle's time. When he was promoted to headmaster, his successor was Minerva McGonagall, who taught the course during the Marauders' time, up to Harry Potter's seven years. In 1998, she was promoted to headmistress, and her successor is unknown. It is possible that she continued teaching Transfiguration although she was the headmistress.
- Arrow-shooting spell — Shoots arrows from the wand tip
- Avifors — Used to turn a small statue into a bird
- Avis — conjures birds from the wand tip
- Beetle Buttons — Turns beetles into buttons
- Cauldron to Sieve
- Draconifors — Used to turn a dragon statue into a real dragon that will breathe fire
- Ducklifors — Used to turn an opponent into a duck
- Duro — Used to turn objects to stone
- Ebublio — Used to make the victim inflate and then explode into hundreds of water bubbles.
- Fera Verto — Used to turn an animal into a water goblet
- Glass to sand shield — Transfigures glass back to sand within a certain radius
- Glisseo — Used to make objects slippery
- Incarcerous — Conjures ropes or chains at your opponent
- Incarcifors — Used to transfigure an object to capture an opponent
- Lapifors — Used to turn a small object or creature into a rabbit
- Match to needle — Turns a match into a needle
- Melofors — Used to turn an opponent's head into a pumpkin
- Mice to Snuffboxes
- Piertotum Locomotor — Animates statues and suits of armor
- Pullus — Used to turn opponents into geese
- Rock to dog
- Reparifarge — Reverses unsuccessful transfigurations
- Tentaclifors — Used to turn a person's head into a tentacle
- Scribblifors — Used to turn objects into quills
- Smoke to daggers — Coalesces a horde of daggers from smoke
- Snufflifors — Used to turn books into mice
- Steelclaw — Used to make an animal's claws bigger and made of steel
Known accomplished Transfigurers
- Albus Dumbledore - Transfiguration teacher at Hogwarts. Later became Headmaster.
- Minerva McGonagall - Transfiguration teacher at Hogwarts. Known Animagus (takes form of a cat).Later became Headmistress.
- Horace Slughorn - Successful at Human Transformation. Can take the form of an armchair.
- James Potter - Successfully became an Animagus (unregistered). Took the form of a stag.
- Peter Pettigrew - Successfully became an Animagus (unregistered). Took the form of a rat.Missing toe/finger.
- Sirius Black - Successfully became an Animagus (unregistered). Took the form of a large black dog (Snuffles)
- Hermione Granger - One of few students in Harry Potter's year who could perform McGonagall's tasks successfully on the first or with few attempts.
- Harry Potter - Took the subject at N.E.W.T. level.Later became an Auror.
- Ron Weasley - Also took the subject at N.E.W.T. level
- Rita Skeeter - Successfully became an Animagus (unregistered). Took the form of a beetle.
- Nymphadora Tonks - A natural Metamorphmagus, along with her son, Teddy Lupin.
- Teddy Lupin - A natural Metamorphmagus, along with his mother, Nymphadora Tonks.
- Lily Evans - Successfully transfigured a lily petal to become a fish when Slughorn found it.
- Viktor Krum - Partially transfigured himself into a shark.
- Lord Voldemort - Transfigured Dumbledore's rope of fire into a serpent, and created a silver hand for Peter Pettigrew.
Behind the scenes
- As revealed in Pottermore, J. K. Rowling had originally devised this class to be called "Transfiguration/Metamorphosis".