After J.K. Rowling established North America's magical origins, the Harry Potter author is winding her time turner forward to examine "The Seventeenth Century and Beyond" with her second short story in The History of Magic in North America. Rowling's sophomore entry casts Lumos Maxima on America's dark history, from the Salem Witch Trials in 1692 to the growing divide among the wizarding communities in the New World with the persecution of millions of Native Americans.
Much like their No-Maj brethren, wizards and witches flocked to America from the Old World for exciting new opportunities and a sense of freedom. In the New World, there were no wizarding laws to abide, not to mention there were none of the amenities that European wizards and witches had become accustomed to, including local Apothecaries, wandmakers, and schools. According to Rowling, the Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which would one day rank among the greatest magical establishments in the world, was at that time "no more than a rough shack containing two teachers and two students." (Don't worry, Rowling will have more on Ilvermorny later.)
The absence of wizarding laws lead to the formation of a brutal taskforce known as the Scourers. Described as "an unscrupulous band of wizarding mercenaries of many foreign nationalities," the Scourers hunted down criminals and anyone else "who might be worth some gold."
"As time went on, the Scourers became increasingly corrupt," Rowling wrote. "Far away from the jurisdiction of their native magical governments, many indulged a love of authority and cruelty unjustified by their mission. Such Scourers enjoyed bloodshed and torture, and even went so far as trafficking their fellow wizards. The numbers of Scourers multiplied across America in the late seventeenth century and there is evidence that they were not above passing off innocent No-Majs as wizards, to collect rewards from gullible non-magic members of the community."
In fact, two known Scourers went as far as to disguise themselves as Puritan judges in order to persecute witches, and No-Majes, in what would later be known as the Salem Witch Trials. The brutality of these events, and the immense loss of life, had a pivotal impact on America's wizarding community at large. Many pure-blood families fled to their native Europe out of fear of both the Puritans and the Scourers, and those who were contemplating journeying to the New World put their plans on hold.
This lead to an interesting development: There were a far higher percentage of No-Maj-born witches and wizards in the New World than anywhere else in the world.
"While these witches and wizards often went on to marry and found their own all-magical families," Rowling wrote, "the pure-blood ideology that has dogged much of Europe's magical history has gained far less traction in America." In other words, it's unlikely that a man like Voldemort, one who campaigned for the erasure of Muggle-borns, would have gained political traction among the wizarding community in the States.
Of course, the Scourers represented their own unique kind of malice and bigotry -- one that had to be quashed for the safety of all wizards. As a result of what happened in Salem, the Magical Congress of the United States of America was created in 1693, pre-dating the No-Maj version by a century. Per Rowling's account, the Magical Congress is known to all American witches and wizards by the abbreviation MACUSA (commonly pronounced as: Mah-cooz-ah).
"It was the first time that the North American wizarding community came together to create laws for themselves, effectively establishing a magical-world-within-a-No-Maj-world such as existed in most other countries," Rowling wrote.
MACUSA's first line item was punishing the Scourers who had persecuted their own. Many Scourers were tried for their crimes and executed, but there were a small percentage who fled and vanished into the No-Maj community. Here's where things get truly interesting.
"The vengeful Scourers, cast out from their people, passed on to their descendants an absolute conviction that magic was real, and the belief that witches and wizards ought to be exterminated wherever they were found," Rowling wrote.
The Scourers will undoubtedly play a huge role in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. From what we already know, wizards and witches are still in hiding by the time Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) makes his way to New York City in 1926. There, a extremist sect called the Second Salemers, lead by the narrow-minded Mary Lou (Samantha Morton), look to expose and kill wizards and witches.
Clearly, Mary Lou is a descendant of a Scourer, and she's created yet another group of fanatical, rogue magical mercenaries to spread fear among the wizarding community. But the real question is: What is MACUSA going to do about it?
We'll have to wait until November 18, 2016 to find out.