In the second entry in J.K. Rowling's new Pottermore series A History of Magic in North America, the author tackles a real-life dark chapter in U.S. history: the Salem witch trials.
Spoiler alert: They went very, very badly for the wizarding community. (If only Dumbledore had been born a few hundred years earlier.)
Following yesterday's exploration of the Native American magical community, the second entry traces the European settlers' arrival in the New World in the 17th century.
Like their No-Maj (non-magical, Muggle) peers, the immigrant witches and wizards "had a variety of reasons for leaving their countries of origin," writes Rowling. "Some were driven by a sense of adventure, but most were running away: sometimes from persecution by No-Majs, sometimes from a fellow witch or wizard, but also from the wizarding authorities."
And yet the New World held a new danger – and a brand-new evil introduced by Rowling: the Scourers. (Not to be confused with the Snatchers in Deathly Hallows, though they sound like they may have worked together well, or as well as bloodthirsty baddies can ever work well together.)
This "unscrupulous band of wizarding mercenaries . . . formed a much-feared and brutal taskforce committed to hunting down not only known criminals, but anyone who might be worth some gold." (Ancestral relations of Dolores Umbridge, perhaps?)
As their power-hungry corruption grew, the Scourers set their sights on the wizarding community, with at least two "so-called Puritan judges" in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692-93 later identified as Scourers "who were paying off feuds that had developed while in America."
The fallout from what Rowling describes as a "tragedy for the wizarding community" – in real life, the trials resulted in the executions of 20 people accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts – was a drop-off in immigration to the New World among magical families, and in particular pure-blood families. Accordingly, America saw an increase in No Maj (Muggle)-born witches and wizards and a more open-minded community. (U.S.A.! U.S.A.!)
Writes Rowling: "The pure-blood ideology that has dogged much of Europe’s magical history has gained far less traction in America."
The new entry also offers fans the first detailed insight into the U.S. version of the Ministry of Magic: the Magical Congress of the United States of America, or MACUSA (pronounced "Mah – cooz – ah"), which was formed in response to the witch trials a century before the No-Maj version (i.e., Congress).
Not discussed in Rowling's new piece? Whether any of the candidates currently running for U.S. President enjoy MACUSA backing. Given the author's outspoken stance on at least one candidate, we have some ideas.
The next installment of The History of Magic in North America goes live on Pottermore Thursday at 9 a.m. ET.