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Welcome to Care of Magical Creatures! This is the fifth year of the course. You can find the first year of the course here. Below you can find links to an optional textbook, additional pages you may find of interest, and details about when and why the course was last updated. 

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Announcements Last Updated: October 2021

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Lesson 8) Feel The Thunder

Welcome students to the last lesson in which we will be covering creatures this year. I know Professor Cattercorn and I are disappointed, as it means another year is starting to come to a close. We are especially disappointed as it means we only have one more year to teach you all about the creatures of our world. We do sincerely hope that you have enjoyed your time with us, and will be around for that final year!

Now, today we will be covering two creatures seen in the United States, and are often some of the most important creatures covered in the Care of Magical Creatures classes at Ilvermorny. They are both deeply embedded in Muggle Native American lore and each are represented by a house of Ilvermorny. Today we will be covering thunderbirds and Wampus Cats! I will start with thunderbirds, and then Professor Cattercorn will follow with Wampus Cats. We will be covering quite a bit of lore today, so make sure to have your parchment and quills ready!

Thunderbirds

Appearance

Thunderbirds are a magical creature native to the Southwestern United States. Specifically, they are commonly seen in Arizona. They have an eagle-like head, three pairs of wings, and feathers that shimmer, which create cloud and sun-like patterns. Now, you must be thinking, they don’t sound too bad. They sound really pretty and calming. Why didn’t we cover them in Year Two or Three? Thunderbirds are rated XXXX by the Ministry of Magic because of their extraordinary powers, which we will discuss in just a few moments! Most thunderbirds are light brown to white in color, but once in a while you see a dark-colored one. This is considered a recessive gene, meaning it only shows up if an individual is homozygous, or has two copies, of the recessive gene. When you consider where they originate, it makes perfect sense that dark colors are recessive. Dark colors don’t give the thunderbird a natural ability to blend in with the tan settings of the Southwest. In regards to other magical creatures, their closest relative is actually the phoenix! It’s interesting, but makes sense, as both of them have the ability to control a fourth state of matter, as well as the ability to bring someone or something back from the brink of death. In the thunderbird’s case, it is plants and the environment.

Diet and Behavior

Thunderbirds are carnivorous, catching large game like deer and mountain lions. Despite flying most of the time, they are incredibly efficient at storing energy as they are often just soaring, meaning they lock their wings and float on the wind currents. This means they only need to eat once a day, unlike many of the large carnivores we will be studying next year who need to eat several times a day to maintain the necessary caloric energy to survive.

Thunderbirds aren’t typically considered dangerous creatures. As I discussed previously, their XXXX rating comes from their abilities. Thunderbirds are considered fairly docile, but are known to act aggressively depending on the type of danger they sense. This could be heightened if they feel the danger is in regards to the person near them. Thunderbirds can bond with people in particular circumstances, for example if they were rescued from a bad situation or the person raised them from birth for whatever reason. Of course, these scenarios are incredibly rare, so it is unlikely to bond with one, and even more unlikely for a thunderbird to protect a human.

Abilities

As discussed above, thunderbirds are known for their ability to sense danger and their reaction to the danger is what gives them their rating. After sensing danger, they fly, creating a storm as they go. This includes rain, thunder, lightning, and high winds. Depending on how urgent or close the danger feels will change the level of the storm. The storm could be as simple as a light dust storm to a Category 1 hurricane, or a storm with winds of up to 74 to 95 miles (or 33 to 42 meters) per hour. It is important to note that a hurricane is only caused in an extreme situations. The most common storm caused is a lightning storm with moderate wind and rain. While creating their storm, their feathers change colors to match, often shifting to an electric blue when causing lightning.

History and Lore

Quite a bit of history and lore surrounds these creatures. In the wizarding world they are recognized as magical creatures by several entities, including the Ministry of Magic and the Magical Congress of the United States of America. In 1927, it was declared a protected species by Seraphina Picquery, who was president of the MACUSA at that time. This protection was later extended to all species of magical creatures in North America. This recognition came after Newt Scamander brought it to the MACUSA’s attention that thunderbirds were being smuggled and sold on the black market around the world. Scamander worked to obtain these trafficked creatures and return them to their native habitats, and Picquery placing the thunderbird as a protected species certainly raised the penalties if an individual was found harboring one. Because Picquery classified them as a protected species, this made it illegal to own one. This protection is still active today.

I’m sure you are wondering why someone would sell thunderbirds on the black market. Why would anyone want a flying creature that has the ability to create terrible storms? The answer is as simple as wanting to survive. Many places around the world have experienced, or are currently experiencing, droughts of some kind. It makes it incredibly difficult to grow crops needed to produce income or to live on when rain is scarce. By illegally buying a thunderbird and making them fly over the fields, they are getting the rain they desperately need to produce their crops. This certainly does not make it okay, as more often than not the creatures aren’t being taken care of appropriately. Thunderbirds were also used by the rich, as a sign of wealth, and to keep their manicured lawns watered and vibrant. I think this one makes me the saddest, as it is so silly and materialistic.

As some of you may be aware, and if you weren’t I mentioned it at the beginning of the lesson, thunderbirds are the namesake for one of the houses of Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Massachusetts. The house is said to represent adventurers and the soul of the wizard or witch. It was founded by Chadwick Boot, one of the four founders of Ilvermorny. He was a part of the Plymouth settlement, and after the unfortunate death of his parents, he and his brother were adopted by a witch named Isolt and her No-Maj husband. She told them stories of Hogwarts, and while they longed to go, she told them she would make them wands when they turned eleven and they would have classes right in their cottage, named Ilvermorny. I have provided the crest for the house below. Note how the six wings are clearly visible in the depiction.

In terms of Native American folklore, the thunderbird has a significant role in that of the Algonquians. This is a Native American group that is prevalent along the Atlantic Coast and up into the Great Plains. Now, I’m sure you must be thinking, ‘I thought these creatures were native to the Southwest!’ and you are right. However, the native range of thunderbirds is believed to have once been much wider, spanning across the entirety of North America at one point in time. This is due to the stories and recorded sightings. With the heavy smuggling that occured, the native range shrunk, limiting the creatures to the Southwest. As the population rises, magizoologists hope to one day see them across North America.

Well, to come back from that tangent, thunderbirds hold a significant role in Algonquian culture because they are believed to be the mediator between the creator of the universe and the Algonquian people. It is said that the creature causes thunder with the flap of its wings and lightning with the blink of its eye. It was looked up to as the figure that controls the upper world. This is in comparison to the Horned Serpent, a creature we will cover next year, who is seen to control the underworld. In some texts, the thunderbird is referred to as a god of the sky, and in other texts is said to be the protector of humans from the underworld. Each group has their own variation of how they view the creature. Some even believe that the thunderbird controls their rains for the harvests. Thunderbirds are commonly depicted with an X in petroglyphs.

Thunderbird petroglyph in Jeffers Park, Minnesota

Presently, the thunderbird is seen as a cryptid in the Muggle world. Rumors of a large bird from Tombstone, Arizona can be found all over the internet. The most common story is that two cowboys killed a huge bird-like creature in the 1890s, who then dragged it to a barn and showed their friends. The following picture is believed to have been published in The Tombstone Epitaph, but no one has ever been able to confirm this story.

 

As you can see, that is clearly not a thunderbird from our world. This leads me to my next point: it is important to establish that a thunderbird in the wizarding world and the Muggle world are seen as two different creatures. Muggles see the thunderbird as a large, black flying reptile, which looks much like a pterodactyl they recognize, which is drastically different than the creature we recognize as a thunderbird. This image is also perpetuated through Muggle cryptozoologists today. The following model is on display at the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine, meant to represent a sighting that took place in the 1860s by a group of Union soldiers. Sightings of creatures like these continued into the late 1940s, with very few recorded sightings in the 21st century.

Reproduction

Thunderbirds are known for their monogamous mating practices. This is in part due to the limited quantity of mates, which we will discuss shortly, and because of their longevity. Thunderbirds are known to live for at least one hundred years, with most averaging a lifespan of two hundred years. When you live for two hundred years, would you want to search for a new mate every year, or stay with the same one each time? In turn, thunderbird populations are incredibly small. Due to the illegal smuggling, many thunderbirds never had the opportunity to mate or reproduce. Thunderbirds average only three to five offspring total in their lifetime, so when a thunderbird can’t mate it really affects the population size.

Thunderbirds lay eggs, like many other creatures we have covered recently. They sit on their eggs for a considerable amount of time, nearly three months. The eggs are around eighteen inches tall, causing them to have some of the largest offspring of any other avian creatures we will cover. Both the male and female take turns sitting on the eggs. When a baby thunderbird, or poult, hatches, it is actually already covered in the majority of its flight feathers. This is in part due to its longer development time in the egg. However, while the poults come out with nearly all their feathers, they can’t fly until they are at least six months old. Some poults take longer, as poults born in the summer months endure the warm summers of the Southwest, which often slows their development. This occurs because in the heat all the poults (and I) want to do is drink water. They have no interest in eating, which sets them back developmentally.

Once they can fly on their own, they have no interest in staying with parents. They can fend for themselves, catching small rodents and eventually working up to large game. They become loners, traveling the plains, until they reach sexual maturity at about ten years of age. After that, they will begin to search for a mate.

Uses in the Wizarding World

These days thunderbird’s tail feathers are used as a wand core. Individuals that have a wand with this core might find the wand difficult to control, but incredibly skilled at performing transfigurative spells. These wands can also sense danger, like the creature. Individuals that possess a wand with this core also have a great ability to cast weather-modifying charms, specifically those having to do with rain and lightning. This wand core is more common in the United States, where feathers can be collected as they are found. These wands were made famous by Shikoba Wolfe, who was known for producing intricately carved wands with a thunderbird feather in the center. Anyone who wanted to be a wandmaker in the states turned to Wolfe for guidance.

I will now pass the lesson over to Professor Cattercorn to discuss the Wampus Cat!

Wampus Cats

What an extraordinary creature! Thank you, Professor Anne, for that lecture. You know, I always thought I would belong in the Thunderbird house if I went to Ilvermorny. But let’s stay on topic. I will now take over the lesson and introduce our second creature of the day, and our last creature of the year, the legendary Wampus Cat.

Introduction to Wampus Cats

Instead of studying the animal as a mascot, today I want us to look at the Wampus Cat as a recognized magical creature. As a special treat, I also want to consider Native American Muggle lore on the Wampus Cat a little later in the lesson. But first, let’s discuss the creature as magical folk know it.

Description

The Wampus Cat is a large, feline beast with a Ministry of Magic rating of XXXXX. It is native to the Appalachian Mountains of North America. Cherokee Native Americans are likely the most knowledgeable about this creature due to the fact that they lived in the same area for so long. It is also worth mentioning that only the Cherokee have been able to take hair from the Wampus Cat for use in their wandmaking.

The Wampus Cat is most often compared to a mountain lion or puma. They are quite similar in size and coat color, and even in certain distinct physical appearances, but this is of course only to an extent. The most obvious physical difference between the mundane mountain lion and the magical Wampus Cat is the fact that the Wampus Cat has six legs total.

This magical cat is extremely powerful and strong, and has the ability to walk on its hind legs. It has been said that the Wampus Cat is so incredibly fast that it can actually outrun arrows. It is also nearly impossible to kill. The Wampus Cat has bright yellow eyes that are thought to have the incredible gift of hypnosis and even Legilimency. It is these powers that warrants the rating of XXXXX.

Diet and Behavior

As a predatory carnivore, the Wampus Cat has a perfect area for hunting. The Appalachian Mountains are full of all kinds of creatures to eat. The most popular animal for a Wampus Cat to eat is a deer (the white tailed deer is the most common). In North America, deer are abundant. Having animals like the Wampus Cat around prevents animals like deer from overpopulating. Therefore, the Wampus Cat helps maintain habitat control.

When it’s not hunting deer, the Wampus Cat will also prey on foxes, wild boars, beavers, or raccoons. It has been known to hunt the occasional black bear. Wampus Cats are solitary creatures and therefore do not travel in packs, so each cat will hunt for itself. If there are offspring, the female Wampus Cat will be the sole caretaker of her cubs. When the cubs are about six months old, the mother will begin to take them hunting with her so that they are able to develop their hunting techniques. Wampus Cat cubs tend to prey on smaller animals such as rodents and birds.

Reproduction

Wampus Cats are interesting in many ways. For example, did you know that even though they do not travel in groups, they are polygamous? Each gender will mate with any Wampus Cat of the opposite gender regardless if they have had a previous partner before or not. A female Wampus Cat will only mate when she goes into her estrus period which can happen at any time of the year. If a female is receptive to mating, she will stick with the male she is mating with for no more than ten days. The two will mate several times during this time period, and they will both go their separate ways once again.

When a female Wampus Cat becomes pregnant, she will carry her young for a gestation period of approximately 90 days. She will give a live birth to a litter of one to six cubs, but three to four is the most common litter size. The Wampus Cat has litters every eighteen to twenty-four months, but if something happens to her current litter, she will go into estrus again.

As we talked about earlier, Wampus Cat cubs go on their first hunt at about six months old, and the mother is the only caretaker. When they are between twelve and twenty-four months old, the cubs will go off on their own. Male Wampus Cats reach sexual maturity when they are approximately one year old, and female Wampus Cats will hit sexual maturity at about eighteen months old. They can live to be 20 years old.

Native American Lore

There are several legends surrounding the Wampus Cat, especially in Native American history. There are, without any doubt, Native American witches and wizards. The Native American tribes possessed what I like to acknowledge as a peaceful culture. They were very accepting of magic, even the people who were born without it. This is certainly not confirmed, but I firmly believe that the Wampus Cat comes from a time long before the English arrived to America. However, due to the years of lost translations and genocide throughout the years, the true origin story has been lost, and it is nothing more than undecided myths now. Muggles today have their theories and stories about the creature but they can’t exactly decide on one as a whole. However to them, the Wampus Cat is exactly that: a story. It’s nothing but a myth. Some indigenous Muggles still believe that they are real (as they are) but in this particular case, they would consider it to be a cryptid. With that bit of information, I would like to introduce to you all a story. This is an old tale passed down in Cherokee culture. Here is a supposed origin of the Wampus Cat. The transcript may be found here: http://www.appalachianhistory.net/2017/10/story-of-wampus-cat.html

https://youtu.be/yXn2isN52ms


Closing Remarks

That’s all for this lesson, class! We do hope you enjoyed not only these two featured creatures, but the year in general. Next week, as stated previously, we are having a course review. Next year is much anticipated by all of us I’m certain, but this year is simply going by too fast! We will see you next time for the last lesson.

All pictures are found using the Google Images search engine, and belong to their owners.  

In your fifth year of Care of Magical Creatures, we will cover fifteen different creatures that are popular in both the wizarding and Muggle worlds. We will be building off of your previous knowledge of these creatures from popular culture, and helping you understand why they are seen in both worlds. Some of these creatures are considered cryptids or mythological in the Muggle world, whereas others have Muggle counterparts. Additionally, a year long that follows these themes will be completed.
Course Prerequisites:
  • COMC-OWL

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