Lesson 5) Magical Education in the Americas
The professor sits at her desk sipping a cup of coffee and smiling at the students that begin filing into the classroom. Glancing at the clock, she notes their special guest only has a few more minutes to arrive. Not a moment later a knock on the door catches the classroom’s attention and she jumps up, rushing to the back of the classroom to embrace a witch you have never seen before. The two begin speaking in a language you’re not familiar with, as the professor leads her to the front of the room, laughing at something she said. When the bell tolls and indicates the beginning of class, she motions to a desk and asks her to take a seat.
Hello, again, all. I promise I’ll get to our guest in a bit. Over the past few weeks we have discussed the history of North America from its humble beginnings to the massiveness of the wizarding world we see in the Americas now. But there is still one aspect we have only briefly covered up until now, and that is magical education. Today we will be discussing two of the major schools in the Americas. Has anyone already heard of them?
Founders of Ilvermorny
Though Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is the most famous North American wizarding school, its origins stem from Europe, specifically Coomloughra, County Kerry, in Ireland. The school was founded by Isolt Sayre, a magical immigrant, and James Steward, a No-Maj. Yes, I see all of your shocked faces. After our previous discussion, why would MACUSA ever allow a No-Maj to assist in the founding of a magical school? First, it’s important to note that at the time of its origin in 1627, MACUSA had not yet been created!
Isolt Sayre was born to William and Rionach Sayre in a pure-blood wizarding family, but one that went against the normal ideology in every way. The Sayres were known to be very friendly with their Muggle neighbors, even encouraging Isolt to mingle with them. However, while Isolt’s parents may have not fit the stereotypical pure-blood mold, her aunt did. Gormlaith Gaunt killed William and Rionach for their crimes and “rescued” Isolt - raising her in seclusion as she taught the child Dark magic. Under the tutelage of her aunt for the next twelve years, Isolt became proficient in Dark magic, but made plans to run away as soon as possible, stealing Gaunt’s wand and hiding in the surrounding wizarding villages.
Unfortunately, no wizarding village provided enough cover for the witch and Gaunt continued to trace Isolt’s whereabouts, forcing her to change her appearance and leave the country. Due to her lack of magical foundational knowledge such as Transfiguration, Isolt cut off her hair and began to masquerade as a Muggle boy named Elias Story, setting sail for the New World in 1620 as a deckhand. Though the idea of settling down in one of the wizarding villages in the New World sounded appealing, Isolt knew how word traveled - especially in smaller wizarding villages - and did not want to hide her identity forever. So, she fled into the mountains alone leaving all to assume that Elias Story had died. During her time in the mountains, Isolt encountered many new creatures - magical and non-magical - but one in particular led to a lasting friendship. When she was out hunting, Isolt came across a Pukwudgie cornered by a hidebehind that was about to become dinner. Seeing the man-like creature, Isolt cast a curse that startled the hidebehind and saved the creature’s life. If you know anything about Pukwudgies, you may know that they are not especially fond of humankind, which is why its declaration to serve Isolt until his debt to her for saving his life was repaid was very odd - though she would not know such a thing.
Isolt and William - her name for the Pukwudgie as he refused to provide her with his real one- remained together for a number of years as he waited for a time to repay his debt. That time came sooner than either had expected when they encountered the hidebehind from before, except this time it had already killed two adults and was closing in on two terrified and wounded young boys. Having grown in her magical skills - partly in thanks to William - Isolt and William were able to slay the creature and save the boys. Though William had no desire to help the humans, Isolt demanded he help her carry the boys to her home, stating that his debt would be paid and he could leave after. Grudgingly, William agreed, but quickly left her as soon as the task had been completed.
As the boys continued to heal, Isolt made the decision to bury their parents, feeling guilty for not being able to save the entire family. After making her way back to the clearing, Isolt took Gaunt’s wand and began clearing away large amounts of soil to make graves for the parents. What Isolt didn’t know at the time was that a man named James Steward, who had met the family and the boys - Chadwick and Webster - on their trip to the Americas, had been worried and decided to go out looking for them. He stumbled upon her at an unfortunate time and began asking her questions about the family. Startled by the interruption and rushing to hide her wand, Isolt told him she had come across the parents the other day, but had seen no sign of any children. Seeing no shovel or tools to perform the job, Steward began probing farther, which eventually led Isolt to confess that she was treating them in her home. Not wanting to continue using magic in front of him, Isolt let Steward to the boys and returned to the site to finish burying the parents. Once Steward had finished visiting with the boys, Isolt led him back through the forest, talking about his travels and how she had ended up in the mountains, before stopping at the gravesite to pay their respects. However, in an effort to show his respects, Steward picked up a broken piece of wood and gave it an accidental wave - not knowing it was really a broken wand - which threw him backwards and knocked him out. As the realization that the boys she was helping could be magical hit her, Isolt quickly helped Steward up and returned to her home, where she began treating the boys with more potent magical remedies. This also meant, however, that she was unable to hide her magic from James and found herself even more incapable of obliviating him every day they spent together. As the two grew close and Steward became more comfortable around magic, Isolt and James wed and adopted the two boys into their family in addition to giving birth to two daughters later on.
As the Stewards settled into their new lives at Ilvermorny, the name of their home in the mountains, the boys became friends with a number of Native American children from the Wampanoag and Narragansett tribes. The indigenous children were eager to share their knowledge of magic in return for being taught the knowledge of wandmaking that Isolt had learned as she grew up. Thus, the indigenous people of North America became the foundation of Ilvermorny, whose descendants still make up a significant portion of the school today. By 1634, the school had grown to over 300 students and had become famous across the world. As the boys continued to learn magic, Isolt decided it was time to make them wands and used the same horn from her own wand to do so.
This decision is part of what prevented the demise of Ilvermorny when Gormlaith discovered her niece was still alive. In an attempt at revenge, Gormlaith put Isolt and James into a deep slumber and moved to steal their daughters, but it was thanks to the efforts of Chadwick and Webster, whose magic was able to match Gormlaith due to their wand cores, that allowed Isolt and James to wake from their curse-induced slumber. Knowing what Gormlaith wanted, Isolt pleaded for the woman to leave her family alone, but her aunt refused to listen. Realizing there was no other choice, Isolt resigned herself to her death, but William the Pukwudgie intervened, destroyed Gormlaith’s wand, and saved the Steward family.
After the incident, Isolt buried her wand within the school grounds where the famed snakewood tree now sits on Ilvermorny’s campus. The tree serves as a primary source of medicine due to its varying medicinal properties, which is unusual for a plant, but it has been suggested that the bond with Isolt and her proficiency in Dark magic may have contributed to its many properties. The snakewood tree is also protected by Pukwudgies who have continued to serve Ilvermorny from that day on. The grounds of Ilvermorny changed significantly in the 18th century and the building itself became a granite castle boarding school to accommodate the number of teachers and students it was bringing in.
The brave actions of the entire family were also reflected in the names of the Ilvermorny houses. The Thunderbird was chosen on the basis of Chadwick’s temper and fierce drive to protect those he cared about. Webster valued loyalty, but also had a thirst for debate, leading him to the Wampus - a magical panther-like creature that is fast, strong, and almost impossible to kill. Isolt chose the Horned Serpent out of respect for how the horns it had given her for her boys' wands saved their lives. Finally, James chose the Pukwudgie for no other reason than without William, he would not have met his wife.
Life at Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
When First Years arrive at Ilvermorny, they are sorted into their house. As previously discussed, there are four houses one could be sorted into: Horned Serpent, Wampus, Thunderbird, and Pukwudgie. First Year students are sorted in the entrance hall that houses four large statues of the mascots of each house facing the center of the room where a design of a Gordian Knot (reminiscent of Isolt’s mother’s brooch) adorns the floor. When a student is to be sorted, they step onto the knot on the floor and the statue that wishes for the student to be in its house will react. On occasion, more than one statue will react - though this is incredibly rare - and the student will be able to choose which house they wish to belong to. Each statue reacts differently: the crystal in the Horned Serpent’s forehead will glow, the Wampus carving roars, the Thunderbird beats its wings, and the Pukwudgie raises its poisoned arrow. Though the hall is deathly quiet during the sorting itself, roaring applause can be heard from the older students gathered in a balcony above when a First Year is sorted into their house.
After sorting, the student is brought to a large hall full of different wands created by Isolt or purchased from four famous wandmakers across America, namely Shikoba Wolfe, Johannes Jonker, Thiago Quintana, and Violetta Beauvais. It is here, in the creatively named Wand Hall, that students will choose their wand - or rather, the wand will choose the witch or wizard. More often than not, as the student enters the room a loud buzzing will reverberate throughout, but will eventually settle until only a few boxes are vibrating. These are the wands that feel a connection to the student and the ones from which the student will find their wand. Since the foundation of Ilvermorny as a boarding school, each child was given their first wand when they arrived, in accordance to Rappaport’s Law, and the tradition has continued even after the law was altered.
Thanks to the fascination of Hogwarts Chadwick and Webster had, the subjects offered at Ilvermorny mirror those offered at Hogwarts including Defense Against the Dark Arts, Transfiguration, Charms, Potions, Arithmancy, and Ancient Runes among a few classes such as Xylomancy - some type of divination with twigs, I believe.
With that, I am concluding our time in North America and will be shifting our focus to South America, beginning with magical education there. We spoke of one illustrious school today already, but we still have one more to visit. Now, I have invited along a very special guest I met while I was teaching Ancient Studies at Castelobruxo a year ago, please welcome Professor Moura Barretto!
"Well, I must say it is quite the pleasure to visit the famous Hogwarts! You’ve got yourself quite the teacher here, students, We miss your professor dearly back at Castelobruxo. Regardless, he asked me to come and speak to you about how Castelobruxo currently runs!
Due to our location, we ascribe a very high importance to our environment - so much so that some people consider us extremists. We instill this reverence for nature in our students through the studies offered at our school. Though we do have core courses according to Ministry standards, we have a heavier focus on Herbology, Magizoology, Potions, and Ancient History than other schools. Our Herbology and Magizoology classes offer a unique perspective as the Amazon rainforest, which surrounds our school, provides students with an astounding variety of magical plants and creatures to study in hands-on situations during their time there. In fact, if you would ever like to visit, we do host foreign students from around the world who wish to study Herbology, Potions, or Magizoology in an exchange program! If you are interested, I would be happy to speak to you about it or you could ask your professor at a later time.
Now, when a student comes of age, the parents receive a letter from our administrators inviting them and their student to come tour Castelobruxo and see if it is a good fit. We do not pick our students - fate does. The first stop a student will make at Castelobruxo is the very top of the school where an eternal flame resides to guide all students of Castelobruxo home. After casting the necessary safety charms, students will step inside the flame to determine whether or not they are accepted into the school. If they are destined to attend, the flame will glow one of four colors: citrine, emerald, ruby, or turquoise. Any color indicates acceptance, but the individual colors indicate the different families students can belong to. I understand you reference the families as houses here, but they are the same thing. The golden yellow flame is an acceptance into the Mapinguari family, one that is known for loyalty, protection, and lawful nature. Emerald speaks to students in the Iara family whose hearts are pure, yet filled with a determination to match any trial, while the turquoise is for those belonging to the Curupira Family known for their impeccable innovation and problem solving skills. Last but not least we have those who make the fire glow ruby red, belonging to the Saci family who are known to be quite the pranksters, yet some of the most brilliant minds when it comes to experimentation and theory with magic.You may have noticed that each of the colors of the families came from a type of gem and that is for a reason! After students are accepted and sorted at Castelobruxo they visit with our campus wandmakers who will help the student find a suitable wand and craft it with their family gem somewhere on it to remind them of their roots.
Castelobruxo is located deep within the Amazon rainforest and enchanted to look like ruins should any No-Maj come wandering through the rainforest. Yet, even with the enchantments, we have other security measures such as the Caipora, which are small and furry spirit-beings who are extremely mischievous. They emerge during the night to watch over our students - or play pranks on them depending upon their mood at the time - though they are also capable of transforming into the shape of human children and protecting the borders of Castelobruxo. Though the form of the Caipora may not be scary, they protect the school by scaring prey away from hunters, hiding animals tracts, and misdirecting hunters in the jungle by imitating animal noises and creating fake tracks themselves, leading to the thought that our area of the Amazon rainforest is haunted, which has worked in our favor.
I believe that is all I have for you today, but should you want to know more, Professor Becker does have my contact information. I’m sure he could answer whatever questions you may have...or at least he ought to."
Yes, yes, Professor Barretto, I think I can take it from here, thank you for exposing the students to a bit of Castelobruxo! With a look at the more modern day-to-day workings of the institution well in hand, it’s time to venture a bit further in the past to where (and when) it all started.
History of Castelobruxo
In addition to the impressive garden cities of the Amazon (which we will discuss in the next lesson), it is believed that another even more advanced group of magical people created a civilization of more grandeur than their counterparts. Known as Alvaro Vinicius, this smaller group of people were extraordinarily talented when it came to creating megalithic structures and it is believed that they were also the ones who created a monument known as the Amazonian Stonehenge, which I, unfortunately, will not have time to cover. I encourage you to do your own research on it if that snippet piques your interest!
Getting back on topic, Muggle archaeologist Daniel Dmytro discovered a series of massive stone structures deep within the Amazon rainforest, located on a cliff that fed into the Amazon River below. Mr. Dmytro had no idea what he had actually stumbled upon, but simply related the ruins to the Inca - which Muggles had already determined to be an incredibly advanced society at that time that had traveled from Peru to discover more of their continent. I don’t mean to imply that Mr. Dmytro is a poor archaeologist as the Inca civilization was still being studied in the 15th century, but most historians know that the Inca Empire was primarily found in Peru, more than 3500 km from the ruins that he discovered. Furthermore, it didn’t make much sense to conclude that Peruvians would have moved from a successful empire to the middle of the rainforest without cause. These doubts led a curse-breaker named Martin Kristaf on a hunt to see these Inca ruins for himself. When he arrived...he saw a sight much different than that of ruins.
Kristaf saw evidence of a magical society, but one that seemed to have been wiped out as there was no evidence of life anywhere. The first evidence of magic, was the pure gold megalithic structures that had withstood significant tests of time. The wear of time had seemed to skip the area and the buildings stood tall and proud. To further his theory, Kristaf found carvings in the square base of each level that seemed to contain a story, each level focusing on the life of the society that had lived here. The first level depicted a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, with women holding baskets and men carrying wheat over their shoulder accompanied by winged creatures he originally identified as pixies, but later came to understand were Caipora. As the levels progressed, so did the society and glyphs of building, democracy, and tragedy told the story of the Alvaro Vinicius civilization. After three long years of documenting their history, it was the final level that told the tragic story of human sacrifice. I’ve included Kristaf’s description of the event below, taken from the journal he left in the Castelobruxo library.
“I recall when I first discovered the Alvarion civilization I was under the impression that the people had simply disappeared without reason, but it was today that I discovered the true cause. Out of all the structures, the one I have been studying seems to be a monument to the success of the civilization, but also a grave. The final level indicates a massive famine with plants withering in a plea for life, and creatures falling forward as if to beg for death. The second side tells the story of progressive sacrifice, first plants being burned to beg the gods for provision. Then the animals - what looks like large rodents and pig-like creatures burning - and finally members of their own society beginning with the elderly and moving down to children. I believe the severity of the sacrifices grew as their pleas to the gods remained unheard. Perhaps the belief that children were the purest led to their sacrifice in the end. This insight would have been enough to make me believe, but there is a final disturbing piece of evidence - the tomb. If you look to the top, there are stone doors. I imploded them to see what lay beneath and blank eyes of those who lived before stared up at me from inside the monument.”
Wanting to pay tribute to the civilization who lived there before, Martin Kristaf, returned home to Peru and discussed his findings with other magiarchaeologists and historians before proposing the idea of a school to teach magical children in South America the skills that the Alvarion civilization had left behind. His case for the school had many facets, but he was rejected by many of his colleagues who believed it would be cruel to place a school at a place with such a tragic history. Although he was ridiculed for his idea, it was Pamella Hidalgo, a respected herbologist and potioneer, who thought the placement of the ruins and history may provide students with a unique point of view that would instill a respect for history and the natural resources around them. So, she reached out and offered her assistance and the two traveled back to the Avarion Vinicius ruins, residing in a hut for the next two years, discussing the specifics of the school and how it would work. Despite their enthusiasm, there was a vital skill neither possessed: architectural knowledge. Thankfully, Pamella had an old friend back in Peru, who assisted dragonologists with structures that could be used to contain dragons - such as the Peruvian Vipertooth. After reading their proposal, Professor Leonid, the architect, traveled to the ruins and offered his assistance in the updating of the megalithic structures, using many different spells and charms to alter the inside of those structures into a working educational layout. The only building left untouched was the monument, except for emptying it of the remains, which were buried in a valley away from the school.
Alright, everyone, I apologize for such a long lesson, but it is difficult to squeeze all the information about the Americas into just one year. And… I have to imagine by now you’re sued to it! Furthering that thought, I would like to remind you all that there is more than one school on each of these continents, though we were only able to cover the most well-known.
Speaking of academics, however, it is that time again: midterms! I will be passing those out momentarily. Best of luck!