J.K. Rowling thoroughly explored North America's magical origins earlier this year in a series of short stories called "The History of Magic in North America." One significant part of America's magical history, however, was intentionally left out: Ilvermorny School Of Witchcraft And Wizardry. That is, until now.
A newly released story, posted on Pottermore today (June 28), dives into the magical institution's interesting origins, from its founding in the 1600s to its Slytherin connection and the creation of its houses: the Horned Serpent, the panther Wampus, the Thunderbird, and the Pukwudgie. (You can even take a sorting quiz to find out which house is for you.)
Founded by a runaway Irish witch named Isolt Sayre and her No-Maj husband James Steward, the Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is located at the highest peak of Mount Greylock in Massachusetts. Initially created as a small magic school for their adoptive children, Chadwick and Webster Boot, Ilvermorny now ranks among the greatest magical establishments in the world.
Born into a powerful pure-blood family, Isolt experienced a great tragedy at the age of 5 when her parents were murdered. She was raised by her aunt Gormlaith Gaunt, a "fanatical pure-blood" and descendent of Salazar Slytherin. Gormlaith was so fearful that her niece would associate with Muggle-borns that she destroyed her Hogwarts letter and instead homeschooled her. For 12 years, Isolt was subjected to her aunt's teachings of Dark Magic. Then, at the age of 17, she stole her aunt's family wand and set off for the New World on the Mayflower in 1620.
Far from home and isolated from magic, Isolt found refuge in the magical creatures native to North America. She took a particular liking to a curmudgeonly Pukwudgie named William. According to Rowling, Pukwudgies are kind of like the America equivalent of goblins. They hunt with poisonous arrows and "enjoy playing tricks on humans."
During one of their many outings together, William and Isolt discovered a grisly scene just outside the Plymouth settlement: two dead wizards and their badly injured young sons. Since it's against a Pukwudgie's nature to help a human, William refused to help the young boys. Isolt, however, didn't give up so easily. She nursed them back to health with the help of a No-Maj named James Steward.
James had befriended the boys and their parents on the ship to America. Upon their disappearance, he went looking for them. Instead, he found Isolt. The two eventually fell in love and constructed a small home for themselves on the top of the Greylock. "Isolt christened her new home ‘Ilvermorny’ after the cottage in which she had been born, and which Gormlaith had destroyed," Rowling wrote.
As the boys, Chadwick and Webster, grew older, Isolt promised them that when they reached 11 years old, she would find them wands and start a school of magic right there in the small cottage. On Chadwick's 11th birthday, Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was born.
Chadwick insisted that there should be four houses, similar to Hogwarts, the school Isolt had told him so much about. When it came time to name them, they each chose their favorite magical beast. "For Chadwick, an intelligent but often temperamental boy, it was the Thunderbird that can create storms as it flies. For argumentative but fiercely loyal Webster, it was the Wampus, a magical panther-like creature that was fast, strong and almost impossible to kill. For Isolt, it was, of course, the Horned Serpent that she still visited and with which she felt a strange sense of kinship," Rowling wrote.
James, a No-Maj, was at a loss. He didn't know much about magical creatures. However, he quite loved the stories his wife told him about a curmudgeon named William, so he decided on the Pukwudgie. "Thus were the four houses of Ilvermorny created, and while the four originators did not yet know it, much of their own characters leaked into the houses they had so light-heartedly named," Rowling added.
So, think of the four houses of Ilvermorny like this: Horned Serpent favors scholars, Wampus is know for its warriors, Pukwudgie is a house for healers, and Thunderbird speaks to adventurers.
Ilvermorny soon outgrew its humble origins, as news of its existence began to spread to tribes across the land. In order to accommodate her students, Isolt began to make wands. She used Horned Serpent hair to make wands for Chadwick and Webster and learned to use a variety of cores, including Wampus hair, for her other students. Isolt, a Parseltongue, always felt a kinship with the Horned Serpent — and her instincts would prove to be invaluable when Gormlaith's return threatened to destroy Ilvermorny and her family.
Alas, Gormlaith was no match for the powerful Horned Serpent wands — or the loyal albeit curmudgeonly William, who shot the wicked witch with one of his poisonous arrows to protect Isolt, William, and their children from harm. Since that very day, William and his fellow Pukwudgies have served as Ilvermorny's private security team, maintaining the grounds and protecting its students.
As for Isolt and her family, Chadwick authored Chadwick's Charms Vol. I-VII, which are now required texts at Ilvermorny. He married a Mexican Healer named Josefina Calderon, and "the Calderon-Boot family remains one of wizarding America’s most prominent today." (Might we see this surname pop up in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them?) His brother Webster became an Auror and eventually returned to Europe. His descendants would go on to be educated at Hogwarts.
Isolt and James's two daughters, Martha and Rionach, had two very different paths. Martha was a Squib who married a non-magical man and lived the rest of her days as a No-Maj. Meanwhile, Rionach taught Defense Against the Dark Arts at Ilvermorny and never married for fear of carrying on the Slytherin legacy.
Similar to Hogwarts, students of Ilvermorny are required to wear school robes -- blue and cranberry -- fastened by a gold Gordian Knot, in memory of Isolt's mother. The students also engage in inter-house competitions. Unlike Hogwarts, however, wands are distributed to students after the sorting ceremony. (The wands tend to choose their owners.) And it's also possible for a student to be chosen by more than one house. If that happens, the student gets to decide which house to join.
OK, that's cool and all ... but what about Quidditch?! Oliver Wood is disappointed in you, Rowling.