Welcome to Ilvermorny: Everything We Know To Date
In case you missed it, although I’m sure you didn’t since the internet is positively abuzz, J.K. Rowling released a new short story on Pottermore about Ilvermorny, the American School for witchcraft and wizardry that, until Tuesday, had been shrouded (both literally and figuratively, as it turns out) in mystery.
For months, people speculated where Ilvermorny would be located. Rowling stated via Twitter that the school was not in New York but that it would have prominent ties to Native American tribes. Salem, MA, was the popular fan-choice for very obvious reasons but, at least for me, always felt a little too on-the-nose. Being born and raised in Massachusetts, I was ecstatic to hear that Ilvermorny is not in Salem but located in the western part of the state atop Mount Greylock.
For those of you who don’t know (or haven’t yet feverishly Googled), Mount Greylock towers at 3,000 feet, making it the tallest point in the state. The mountain hasn’t always been called Greylock. In the 18th century it was Grand Hoosuc(k), later established as the Saddleback Mountain in the 1800s. How the name Greylock came about is still something of a mystery, although the popular opinion seems to be that it originated from the shroud of mist around its peak. This mist is now being used by Rowling as the blanket of magic used to disguise the school from the muggle gaze.
Ilvermorny was founded by the Irish witch, Isolt Sayre (a descendant of the famous witch, Morrigan) and her No-Maj husband, James Steward. Together with their adopted sons, Chadwick and Webster Boot, they divided the school into four houses. Sound familiar?
The Four American Houses
The Ilvermorny houses are as follows: Pukwudgie (which represents the heart of the wizard and favors healers), Thunderbird (which represents the soul and favors adventurers), Horned Serpent (which represents the mind and favors scholars), and Wampus (which represents the body of the wizard and favors warriors.) As promised by Rowling, all four houses have ties to Native American tribes and lore. Legends of the horned serpents vary from tribe to tribe but are generally described as enormous, scaly snake-like creatures that can be found in or near bodies of water, which sounds a whole lot like North American dragons to me. The “wampus” comes from Cherokee mythology and is said to look something like a cougar. Thunderbirds are legendary creatures that can throw lightning and create thunder by flapping their wings. A little digging on the interwebs revealed that, while horned serpents controlled the underworld, our world was controlled by the thunderbird.
The most interesting to me (maybe I’m biased since I was sorted into this house on Pottermore) is the lore surrounding the Pukwudgie. A “Pukwudgie” is said to be a 2 – 3 foot tall creature from Wampanoag mythology. They look somewhat human but have exaggerated features, such as their ears, nose, and fingers, which sounds vaguely like the house elves and the goblins from Harry Potter that we’ve come to know and love. According to Rowling, Isolt befriended a Pukwudgie upon arriving in America which she named after her father, William. Her husband was so taken with the curmudgeonly creature and his wife’s story that he named one of the Ilvermorny houses after it.
This time around, there’s no sorting hat and the classic black robes have been traded in for blue and cranberry. And let me tell you: you don’t get more inherently Massachusetts than the color cranberry.
While Rowling has answered many of our burning questions, there are still more left unanswered. What are the house colors? Do the students of Ilvermorny play Quidditch? What famous witches and wizards are products of Ilvermorny? Is Bertie Botts the genius behind Boston Baked Beans? Do attendees of Ilvermorny support the Red Sox? DO WIZARDS AND WITCHES RUN ON DUNKIN’ TOO? I do hope more will be revealed about Ilvermorny and its history between now and the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
By the way – we’d love to know which Ilvermorny house you’ve been sorted into! If you haven’t taken it yet, there’s a quiz waiting for you over on Pottermore.