Massachusetts is home to some of the best schools in the world, so it’s only fitting the greatest American School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is located there as well. And with the new Harry Potter prequel, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them coming to theaters this fall, it’s a good time to finally learn all about it’s origins.
Ilvermorny, the American Hogwarts, can be found (or rather, for North American Muggles known as No-Majs, can’t be found) on the highest peak of Mount Greylock in the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It was founded by a young witch that fled to the New World along with her No-Maj husband and their two adopted sons.
The origin story of Ilvermorny, which is hidden in magical concealment spells that often manifest itself in mists, is the subject of a new J.K. Rowling story at Pottermore, where she tells the tale of the pure blood witch Isolt Sayre, whose parents were murdered by her aunt Gormlaith Gaunt. (Yes, the same Gaunt family that Tom Riddle was born from. There are tons of connections here to the world we know from Harry Potter, including Salazar Slytherin, parseltongue, four named houses within Ilvermonry, and a student sorting process for them to name a few).
Gormlaith wanted to ensure her niece would grow up to live a pure-blood lifestyle, which even meant she wasn’t allowed to attend Hogwarts. Isolt managed to escape her aunt years later and flee to America. What followed then were encounters with dangerous magical creatures, one of whom was a Pukwudgie whose life Isolt saved and who then felt he owed her a debt. She named him William after he father, and what may have become of him will likely be a fan favorite theory.
William was her first rescue, but her magical adopted sons were also saved by her; she even met her future husband, the non-magical James, after bringing him to her house to help fix him up after a he was injured by a wand.
Rowling’s story, which is much longer than her other background stories on the history of magic in the United States, explains how their home, Ilvermorny, started small, and eventually grew into one of the most respected wizarding schools in the world. But not without her evil aunt Gormlaith finally tracking Isolt down and trying to destroy what she had built–as well as take back a very important family wand.
The story also explains how Ilvermorny, with its students in their blue and cranberry robes, ended up with four houses named after creatures (by Isolt, James, and their two sons), and what kind of students each house takes in.
“It is sometimes said of the Ilvermorny houses that they represent the whole witch or wizard: the mind is represented by Horned Serpent; the body, Wampus; the heart, Pukwudgie and the soul, Thunderbird. Others say that Horned Serpent favours scholars, Wampus, warriors, Pukwudgie, healers and Thunderbird, adventurers.”
This story is deep, and also covers what happened to the family members and their involvement in growing the school to become the great magical institution it is today. Like the Harry Potter stories, it has a foundation in pain, suffering, sadness, and the battle of good and evil.
It’s fair to say that by traveling across the Atlantic Rowling is truly opening a whole new world of magic for fans to fall in love with. Now we just need to know why we didn’t get our letters to Ilvermorny when we were younger.
What do you think of this new story? Tell us in the comments below.