Ilvermorny

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Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, more commonly Ilvermorny, is a North American wizarding school in the Harry Potter universe. Ilvermorny was first introduced on Pottermore by JK Rowling in advance of the 2016 release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. A video trailer on Ilvermorny was released by Warner Bros. Pictures on July 5, 2016, as part of the promotional campaign for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.[1]

Ilvermorny Houses

It is sometimes said of the Ilvermorny houses that they represent the whole witch or wizard: the mind is represented by Horned Serpent; the body, Wampus; the heart, Pukwudgie and the soul, Thunderbird. Others say that Horned Serpent favours scholars, Wampus, warriors, Pukwudgie, healers and Thunderbird, adventurers.- JK Rowling in "Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry"[2]

Similar to the houses in the original Harry Potter series, there are four houses at Ilvermorny: Horned Serpent, Wampus, Pukwudgie, and Thunderbird. Canonically, the Ilvermorny houses are said to be named for magical creatures, although all four creatures appear in various folkloric traditions of the indigenous peoples of North America.[3]

Fanon Houses

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.

Criticism

Several months after the publication of the first installment in the History of Magic in North America series, Rowling published an account of the founding of Ilvermorny[4] and a Sorting quiz for the four Ilvermorny houses. Critical responses to Rowling's Ilvermorny writings also incorporated and referenced issues raised in response to the first History of Magic in North America essay, including cultural appropriation, Eurocentrism, and colonialism. Writing in response to the Ilvermorny story for Salon, Paula Young Lee noted:

"So…no magical human Natives in this story, like maybe a couple from the tribe known as the Massachusetts, as in the state of? How about the Wampanoag, who populated the land nearest the Plymouth colony? Rowling never mentions Natives living in the area, let alone the fact that things didn’t go so well for them once the colonists stopped being grateful. Instead, she gives us a Pukwudgie, a anthropomorphic creature from Wampanoag lore, but which in her hands becomes a resentful, English-speaking, voluntary bondservant who refuses to tell Isolt his given name and so she names him “William” after her father. Together, they forge a “unique” friendship that sounds suspiciously like the Lone Ranger & Tonto with a dash of her man Friday, precisely because it echoes stereotypes regarding good/guide Indians-as-interlocutors and specifically the history of Tisquantum, or Squanto, an English-speaking Native American of the Pawtuxet tribe, who escaped slavery and helped the first Pilgrims survive—much in the same way that William the Pukwudgie helps Isolt — by showing them how to hunt, fish, gather wild plants, and cultivate domesticated seeds."[5]

On Reddit, an extensive discussion ("Pottermore, Ilvermorny, and Colonialism") of Rowling's depiction of Native life in the wizarding world took place in the /r/yawriters subreddit.[6] Comments included the following:

"My favorite description of Rowling is a terrible world builder but a fantastic set builder.

When it's small it's absolutely brilliant. Things like the Knight Bus, Hogwarts, and all the small whimsical magical settings are the heart of Harry Potter. Having some overly prescriptivist world building exercise sucks out a lot of Potter's core essence for me.

Pottermore has just felt eugh to me. A poorly treated way to keep the Potter brand relevant.[7]- pistachio_nuts in a comment on the thread "Pottermore, Ilvermorny, and Colonialism"
Oh hoooooooooo, I have SO much to say about this. SO MUCH. (I have ranted about JKR's vision of magic in North America many, many times on Twitter.)

1. She gets history wrong. This, more than anything, offends me. As a Ravenclaw (I AM PROUD OF BEING A RAVENCLAW), lazy research is the worst sin an author can commit. Let's talk about how she claims the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) was founded in 1693...before the United States of America was even a country. In 1693, we were a loose collection of colonial settlements, with charters/grants from separate governments: Britain (we had charters from different monarchs too! Virginia in the South was from Elizabeth I, the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the North was from James I), the Netherlands, France, and Spain. Many of us were still British citizens until 1789. To some extent, I can forgive a racist, white colonialist founding of magical America; it's not too far off from the actual founding of our country. But JKR doesn't even do it in a way that makes sense.

For example, one of the boys marries a Mexican witch. Hurrah for diversity? Except Mexico itself was a Spanish colony at that time (didn't declare independence until 1830), plus said Mexican witch has a Spanish surname. So...she would have been a Spanish witch. Also, what is a Spanish colonist doing in New England? If she was an indigenous "Mexican" witch, she would have been Toltec or Oaxacan, which had their own languages.

Also, what on earth did the Nauset and Wampanoag think of this white lady setting up camp on their lands? Did they help her, like Tisquantum (Squanto) helped the Pilgrims? The whole William the pukwudgie thing left a really bad taste in my mouth because it was playing the Squanto role for her with nary an actual Native human in sight. Also, how convenient to have magical servitude! (P.S. How on earth did "William" learn to speak English?)

2. She gets our culture wrong. Let's start with the name "Ilvermorny," which is named after Isolt Sayre's Irish cottage. Ever notice how the names of a lot of our states are, you know, Native American in origin? Like the name "Massachusetts" or "Connecticut"? (Connecticut, incidentally, being initially founded by the Dutch, like New York.) Irish settlers to the US didn't come on charters; they came as immigrants. The fact that there's a cottage in the woods of Western Massachusetts with the name "Ilvermorny" is weird, also because we, as Americans, don't have a huge habit of naming our houses/estates. Those of us who did were generally the (marginally) richer gentleman farmers of the South: Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, George Washington's Mount Vernon, etc. Who had estates because they had slaves. Which she glosses over entirely.

Also, castles? Why is Ilvermorny a castle? Who goes out into the wilderness and decides to build a castle? In the 17th century? Most of our grand architecture only dates back to the Georgian era. All of our "castles" aren't real; they were created in the 19th century by rich people who decided to recreate a faux medieval sort of feel.

3. She has a shaky grasp of geography. To be fair, I've discovered a lot of Europeans have no concept of the SCALE of the contiguous US. Okay, so the Pukwudgie is a Wampanoag (Northeast) creature. But the Wampus cat is a Cherokee animal. The Cherokee lived in the Southeast, several hundreds of miles away. The Horned Serpent is more common to the Cree in the Southeast, and the Thunderbird is a sacred creature. That's like me deciding to go to Ireland, found a magic school, and claim the Morrigan as a mascot. Wands are apparently made with Jackalope antlers...a creature that exists in the American Southwest. ????

Why WOULD an American magic school even have a House system? Private boarding schools here don't really, not even Exeter or Phillips. Also, why do we only have ONE? Who pays for it? Is it federally funded? If it's in Massachusetts, does Massachusetts get a tax break? WE HAVE STATES, JKR. YOU DON'T SEEM TO UNDERSTAND HOW THEY WORK.

I could go on and on and on about this. Ugh. I hate it. I hate everything about it.[8]- sjaejones in a comment on the thread "Pottermore, Ilvermorny, and Colonialism"
I'm not saying that the story is perfect, but I think that there are some arguments that only highlight the recent developments.

When JKR introduced the four houses earlier this year, she released a tid bit on Pottermore about the inclusion of Native American Witches and Wizards. Almost immediately she was called out for cultural appropriation, and the piece has since vanished from the site, as far as I know. Now that she pushed them away, the same thing is happening again. She was damned if she did, damned if she didn't. The controversy doesn't surprise me, because the history of the States are so controversial.

"Ivernmory--is distinctly British/colonial, including the name, style of building, set-up of the school, etc."

Well of course it is, did you read the story? The founders of Ilvermorny wanted so bad to go to Hogwarts, that when they couldn't they created their own. This is why the school is the way it is, it's supposed to be like Hogwarts. Isolt fled Ireland from her mad aunt. When she realized that wasn't far enough she fled to America. When Isolt did get to America, she was unaware that there were people here, and magical people at that. Her education was severely limited by the insane aunt. Isolt didn't seek these people out because she didn't know they were there, instead she went into hiding.

At first I had an issue with the various creatures, but then it was explained to me how many of the creatures we find in the forbidden forests are directly from greek mythology. Why the sudden anger about alternate interpretation of a myth, when she's done it in the past?

Just trying to play some devil's advocate here because I feel like some of these gripes came from people who may not have read the story close enough to understand some of the choices made..[9]- Phoenixisms in a comment on the thread "Pottermore, Ilvermorny, and Colonialism"
An interesting comparison is between this and American Gods. Even though they are completely different tonally, it's still worth looking at some of the differences... Both were written by Brits about the U.S. Both use sacred symbols/characters/creatures in their plot line. Both are fundamentally fictional. But, where Gaiman wrote American Gods while visiting all the places he talked about, clearly had respect for all the religions represented (even the dead ones) and wrote about the many problems with diversity and exclusion the U.S. has, JKR seems to have glossed over all those issues, not done her research, and not shown respect to the culture's she's borrowing from. Just to say.. even though one's a book, one's a short story, they're completely different in tone, etc... you can still write outside of your area of knowledge and get it right without erasure or cultural appropriation.[10]- weirdo_octh3 in a comment on the thread "Pottermore, Ilvermorny, and Colonialism"

Ilvermorny and History of Magic in North America

Responses to Rowling's writings on Ilvermorny often referenced criticisms of her History of Magic in North America essay series, which had been launched on Pottermore in March 2016. These critiques were further contextualized against the Harry Potter franchise's perceived strides toward representation, as seen in Emma Louise Backe's analysis of Ilvermorny at The Geek Anthropologist:

"The world of Harry Potter has made steps towards diversification with the announcement of Albus Dumbledore’s homosexuality and Rowling’s public support of a black Hermione Granger, but the latest installment, Ilvermorny—the North American magical institution modeled after Hogwarts—has gained notoriety not for expanding witchcraft and wizardry across the pond, but for its problematic appropriation of Native American culture."[11]

Backe's essay also references Rowling's longstanding tendency to adapt and remix elements of European folklore, another aspect of her writing frequently cited in critiques of the History of Magic in North America series. Backe goes on to point out that it is not only an issue of what Rowling has included, but what she has excluded in her imagining of wizarding life in North America:

"Rowling’s “History of Magic in North America” not only cherry picks aspects of indigeneity but also ignores the mixing pot out of which a truly syncretic breed of American magic could emerge. There is no mention of the slave trade or the admixture of cultural traditions brought to the colonies from Africa and the Caribbean with their own models of the supernatural. Nor does Rowling attend to the fact that its neighbor, Latin America, also informs North American identity. Her history skips from the seventeenth century Salem Witch trials to the 1900’s, with no consideration of the wholesale dispossession of Native peoples—the Seven Years War, the Trail of Tears, the substitution of reservations for indigenous sovereignty."[12]

References

  1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - "Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry" Posted on July 5, 2016. Accessed on April 3, 2018.
  2. "Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," JK Rowling, Pottermore. Retrieved on March 21, 2018.
  3. "The Native American folklore behind Ilvermorny, J.K. Rowling's new wizarding school, explained," Aja Romano. Posted on June 29, 2016. Accessed on April 2, 2018.
  4. "Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," JK Rowling, Pottermore.com. Accessed on March 18, 2018.
  5. "Pottermore problems: Scholars and writers call foul on J.K. Rowling’s North American magic," Paula Young Lee, Salon.com. Posted on July 1, 2016. Accessed on March 18, 2018.
  6. "Pottermore, Ilvermorny, and Colonialism," Originally posted by user bethrevis in /r/yawriters on June 29, 2016. Accessed on March 18, 2018.
  7. "My favorite description of Rowling is a terrible world builder but a fantastic set builder," pistachio_nuts in a comment on the thread "Pottermore, Ilvermorny, and Colonialism." Accessed on March 18, 2018.
  8. "Oh hoooooooooo, I have SO much to say about this.," sjaejones in a comment on the thread "Pottermore, Ilvermorny, and Colonialism." Accessed on March 18, 2018.
  9. "I'm not saying that the story is perfect, but I think that there are some arguments that only highlight the recent developments.," Phoenixisms in a comment on the thread "Pottermore, Ilvermorny, and Colonialism." Accessed on March 18, 2018.
  10. "An interesting comparison is between this and American Gods.," weirdo_octh3 in a comment on the thread "Pottermore, Ilvermorny, and Colonialism." Accessed on March 18, 2018.
  11. "Magical Maladies and Injuries: Cultural Appropriation in J. K. Rowling’s Ilvermorny," Emma Louise Backe, The Geek Anthropologist. Posted on July 8, 2016. Retrieved on March 18, 2018.
  12. "Magical Maladies and Injuries: Cultural Appropriation in J. K. Rowling’s Ilvermorny," Emma Louise Backe, The Geek Anthropologist. Posted on July 8, 2016. Retrieved on March 18, 2018.