J.K. Rowling writes new stories on wands, segregation, skin-walkers and Salem witches

Harry Potter fans are in for a treat: Four installments of the "Magic in North America" series on the Pottermore website explores the history of Native American mythology, Salem witch trials, wand makers, wizard segregation and more.

Learn more about Native American Animagi, also known as skin-walkers.


To celebrate the upcoming movie "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is releasing four original stories from March 8-11 that delve into this history of wizarding in the colonies with a "Magic in North America" series.

Rowling published the first installment -- "History of Magic in North America: Fourteen Century - Seventeenth Century" -- on Pottermore on March 8.

We learn all about the American slang term for Muggle -- "No-Maj" for "no magic." But more importantly, we find out about Native American skin-walkers, or Animagi, that can transform their human form into animals.

Some people believed skin-walkers were evil Animagi who sacrificed their loved ones in order to harness the magical ability to transform. But Rowling suggests that they change into animals in order to escape persecution or to hunt for the tribe.

"The Native American wizarding community was particularly gifted in animal and plant magic, its potions in particular being of a sophistication beyond much that was known in Europe," Rowling wrote. "The most glaring difference between magic practiced by Native Americans and the wizards of Europe was the absence of a wand."

"The magic wand originated in Europe," Rowling continued. "Wands channel magic so as to make its effects both more precise and more powerful, although it is generally held to be a mark of the very greatest witches and wizards that they have also been able to produce wandless magic of a very high quality."

"As the Native American Animagi and potion-makers demonstrated, wandless magic can attain great complexity, but Charms and Transfiguration are very difficult without one," Rowling added.

Rowling's "Magic in North America" series will not only cover skin-walkers, but more American magical topics such as the Salem witch trials, the US wizarding school Ilvermorny and the Magical Congress of the United States of America.

There's more history to the Salem witch trials when "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling takes a look at them in her new stories on Pottermore.

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

UPDATED March 9: The second installment of the new series is entitled "History of Magic in North America: Seventeenth Century and Beyond." Rowling goes deeper into the Salem witch trials and offers an alternative history explaining that the New World was much more difficult environment for wizards to practice their craft. We also learn about wandless magic.

A lack of apothecaries and established wand makers in America didn't help. Not to mention the Puritans who were quick to judge others who may have any connection to the occult. But it was "an unscrupulous band of wizarding mercenaries of many foreign nationalities" known as the Scourers who really put the magic community in danger.

The Scourers were corrupt bounty hunters who not only went after criminals but also anyone worth their weight in gold.

"The famous Salem witch trials of 1692-93 were a tragedy for the wizarding community," Rowling wrote. "Wizarding historians agree that among the so-called Puritan judges were at least two known Scourers, who were paying off feuds that had developed while in America. A number of the dead were indeed witches, though utterly innocent of the crimes for which they had been arrested. Others were merely No-Majs who had the misfortune to be caught up in the general hysteria and bloodlust."

New tales from J.K. Rowling reveal the history behind the Magical Congress of the United States of America.

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

While the Salem witch trials were clearly a black spot on America's history, Rowling writes that it at least led to the creation of the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) in 1693. The organization created laws for the wizarding community to follow so the mistakes of the witch trials would never happen again.

UPDATED March 10: In the third installment of the series entitled "Rappaport's Law," Rowling explains why the wizard and No-Maj (Muggle) communities became segregated. The tragic story tells the tale of a prominent wizard's daughter Dorcus Twelvetrees who falls in love with a No-Maj Scourer descendant named Bartholomew Barebone.

Bartholomew uses her affections and knowledge about magic to expose and persecute the secret wizarding community. As a result of the information breach, Rappaport's Law took affect, which "enforced strict segregation between the No-Maj and wizarding communities."

One of the rules was that wizards were "no longer allowed to befriend or marry No-Majs." This ended up driving the magic community in America, further underground for their own protection.

UPDATED March 11: In the final installment of the series entitled "1920s Wizarding America," Rowling goes in-depth about various North American wand makers and their special materials including Thunderbird feathers, Wampus cat hair, White River Monster spines, and hair of the Louisiana dog-headed monster rougarou.

We also hear in passing about the Great Sasquatch Rebellion of 1892, which honestly needs to be its own movie.

Catch up on all the new stories from Rowling's "Magic in North America" series on Pottermore so you'll be a wizard history expert by the time the upcoming movie "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" hits theaters in November.

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