Magical Law in the Wizarding World: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Believe me when I tell you that this video is about law. Stay with me. We are first introduced to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. And it only seems right to start off my analysis of magical law in the Wizarding World by starting with that very first book. If you have not read the Harry Potter Books this video contains many spoilers, so do not continue watching if you have not read the books and think you might want to read them in the future.
There is one major law that governs the Wizarding World, and that is that magic is to be kept a secret from those who do not themselves practice magic or know what magic is. That means keeping it secret from the Muggles; “muggles” is a term for a person who does not possess supernatural powers, in other words, people like you and me. This law is called the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy and it was passed into law in 1692, according to chapter five of Quidditch Through the Ages.
As is the case with all laws, there are institutions that exist for its creation, interpretation, and enforcement. And the Wizarding World is no exception. The first time the Ministry of Magic is mentioned is in Chapter Five Diagon Alley of the Sorcerer’s Stone during an exchange Harry has with Rubeus Hagrid. This exchange starts when Hagrid says, “Ministry o’ Magic messin’ things up as usual.” Harry responds by asking “There’s a Ministry of Magic?” and then later asks “But what does a Ministry of Magic do? ” Hagrid responds, “[T]heir main job is to keep it from the Muggles that there’s still witches an’ wizards up an’ down the country.” I find it interesting, all the laws that are in the Wizarding World that is, especially now that I am a legal assistant.
Within the Sorcerer’s Stone there are a few random laws that are mentioned here and there. I’ll mention some. This is not a conclusive list, so if you think of some more, please leave them in the comments section below.
Owning dragons is illegal. In chapter 14 Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback we learn that Hagrid was hatching a dragon in his apartment. In a conversation between Harry Potter and Ron Weasley Harry says, “Hagrid’s always wanted a dragon, he told me so the first time I ever met him.” To which Ron response by saying, “But it’s against our laws. Dragon breeding was outlawed by the Warlocks’ Convention of 1709, everyone knows that.”
Preforming magic, if you were expelled from a wizarding school, is explained to us in chapter four The Keeper of the Keys, as illegal too. At least this was the case for Hagrid who said asked Harry not to mention any of the magic he preformed because, “Be grateful if yeh didn’t mention that ter anyone at Hogwarts, I’m – er – not supposed ter do magic, strictly speakin’.” When Harry asked him why, Hagrid responded that, “I was at Hogwarts meself but I – er – got ex-pelled, ter tell yeh the truth. In me third year. They snapped me wand in half an’ everything…” However, I am unsure if everyone who gets expelled from a wizarding school is not allowed to do magic or it is on a case by case basis.
In chapter 15, The Forbidden Forest it is mentioned that killing a unicorn is a crime and according to the Harry Potter Fandom Website unicorn blood is, “probably a Non-Tradeable Item, since the sale of this substance is controlled by the Ministry of Magic, making it strictly forbidden.” When Harry and his classmates were in the Forbidden Forest while serving detention, they are looking for what has been slaying and drinking the blood of unicorns in the forest. While in the forest Harry meets Firenze the Centaur who tells Harry, among other things about killing unicorns, “The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price.”
Students using magic outside of school while still under the age of 17 is also illegal according to the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery, which was passed in 1875, but we do not learn more about it until you get to book two: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
While preparing this I started to realize how many laws Hagrid constantly breaks while still trying to do what is right. There are of course plenty of Hogwarts rules Harry, Ron, Hermione, and others in the Wizarding World break, but those are rules, not laws. In the future books we learn more about other laws and the punishments for breaking them.
Thinking about these laws from a legal assistant’s perspective is very interesting. Imagine having to move for or draft an order or something of the sort for violating Wizarding World law. Those would be some interesting things to draft. However, the Wizarding World’s legal and court systems are different from what we have in the United States. We will get more into that later when we talk about Magical Law in the Wizarding World: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.