The first of J.K. Rowling's four new short stories detailing North America's magical history made its Pottermore debut this morning (March 8). Titled "Fourteenth Century -- Seventeenth Century," the story examines the early days of the magical community on the continent, the Native Americans and skin-walkers, and an oft-wondered about subset of wizarding: wandless magic.
In Rowling's Harry Potter series, Dumbledore demonstrated the ability to possess wandless magic on several occasions, most memorably when he cast Aresto Momentum without a wand to save Harry from falling to his death during a Quidditch match. Lord Voldemort was also able to practice powerful wandless magic. From what we were able to glean about wandless magic from those that practiced it in Harry Potter, it's particularly volatile, and can only be used effectively by powerful and disciplined wizards and witches.
According to Rowling's History of Magic in North America, wandless magic originated in the Native American wizarding community. Similar to what was established in Harry Potter, some members of the Native American community where magical, while others were deemed No-Majs. Those that practiced magic, however, were generally "gifted in animal and plant magic," with the ability to brew sophisticated potions "beyond much that was known in Europe" at the time -- and they did this all without the use of a wand.
"The most glaring difference between magic practiced by Native Americans and the wizards of Europe was the absence of a wand," Rowling wrote. "The magic wand originated in Europe. 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."
While sophisticated wandless magic once thrived in North America among the indigenous wizarding communities, wands are the status quo in modern wizarding times in America. Wands make the magic easier to channel and therefore easier to control. So despite the fact that Native American magic was extremely important in the founding of Ilvermorny, we'd imagine that students at the North American wizarding education institute are subject to the same kind of wand practices as students at Hogwarts.
The same can be said for brooms. Harry uses his Nimbus 2000 to fly around the Quidditch pitch, but technically, a broom is a tool used to channel magic, which means that gifted wizards and witches have the magical ability to fly without them. Although, it's pretty risky.