In Pop Culture: An American Hogwarts


by Katie Cline, Proud Ravenclaw & Thunderbird

You’re already a proud JSU Gamecock, and you probably know which house you’d be in at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but have you been sorted into your Ilvermorny house yet?

For those No-Majs reading this (or maybe you’re just a Muggleborn who hasn’t learned about their powers yet), Hogwarts and Ilvermorny are wizarding schools created by British author JK Rowling. Hogwarts is the British wizarding school featured in Rowling’s "Harry Potter" books, and Ilvermorny is it’s North American counterpart. It’s predicted that Ilvermorny will be featured in the film "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," a spinoff of the Potter series, due out for release on Nov 18.

Founded in the 17th century by Isolt Sayre and James Steward, Ilvermorny is located at the peak of Mt. Greylock, the highest natural point in Massachusetts. The school began as a way for Isolt, a witch, to train her two adopted wizard sons, Chadwick and Webster Boot. Isolt’s husband, James, though a No-Maj (a person without magical abilities, from the phrase “No Magic”), was a skilled stonemason and carpenter, and he crafted his adopted sons' wands out of nearby saplings. James also helped build the building that would become Ilvermorny.

Ilvermorny is based off stories of Hogwarts that Isolt heard growing up in Ireland with her abusive aunt, Gormlaith Gaunt. Because of its similarities to Hogwarts, each member of Isolt and James’ family was allowed to choose a house mascot. Isolt chose the Horned Serpent, James chose the Pukwudgie, Chadwick chose the Thunderbird, and Webster chose the Wampus.

The Horned Serpent is a river-dwelling creature with a jewel set into its forehead. Isolt chose this creature because, as a direct descendent of Salazar Slytherin, Isolt felt a kinship with the snakelike animal, and the Horned Serpent gave part of its horn to be used as the core of her sons’ wands. Horned Serpent House is said to be the house of mind, as it favors scholars.

The Pukwudgie is a small, gray creature with large ears and is related to the European goblin. They are powerful magical creatures that hunt with poisonous arrows. Pukwudgies are stubbornly independent and distrustful of humans. James chose this creature because of Isolt’s Pukwudgie friend, William, whom she saved and who, in turn, saved the family from an attack by Gormlaith. It is rumored that William the Pukwudgie, who would now be over 300 years old, still works at Ilvermorny, polishing the statues of Isolt and James that stand in the school’s entrance. Pukwudgie House is thought to be the house of the heart and it favors healers. 

Not much is known about the Thunderbird as of yet, other than it is said to create storms as it flies. The Thunderbird is present in much Native American mythology, often serving as a godlike creature of thunder. The Objibwe (Chippewa) people believe the Thunderbird will punish humans who break moral rules, and it is often seen as the topmost symbol on totem poles. The Thunderbird was Chadwick’s favorite magical creature, and Thunderbird House is known as the house of the soul, favoring adventurers.

Like the Thunderbird, little is known of the Wampus. It is a magical panther-like creature distinguished by its speed and strength, making it nearly impossible to kill. It is the favorite magical creature of Webster Boot, an argumentative but fiercely loyal boy. Wampus hairs can also be used in wand cores. In North American mythology, some tribes believe the wampus cat was a woman who was turned into a half-cat creature after spying on the tribe’s men. Wampus House is the house of the body, and it favors warriors.

Though the two schools are similar, the Hogwarts and Ilvermorny houses do not directly correlate to each other. For example, a Ravenclaw is not guaranteed to be placed in Horned Serpent, despite both being known as the scholarly houses. Instead of using a sorting hat, Ilvermorny first-year students are sorted by standing in front of four statues symbolizing the houses. The statues can sense the student’s personality and potential, and the house that wants the student will react to their presence: the Horned Serpent’s jewel lights up, the Pukwudgie raises its arrow, the Thunderbird flaps its wings, and the Wampus roars. If more than one house wants the student, the student chooses.

So, where will you end up? Are you a scholarly Horned Serpent, a heartfelt Pukwudgie, a soulful Thunderbird or a fierce Wampus? What happened to Gormlaith? What is Ilvermorny like today? All this and more can be discovered in Rowling’s story “Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry” on the Pottermore website, where you can take quizzes and get sorted into your Hogwarts and Ilvermorny houses.