Lesson 8) Dementors, Part One

Before we begin class today, I must take a moment and ask you each to internally answer a question. Do you trust me? It is imperative that you trust me as we move into these next few lessons, and even more important next term. Today, you will experience things you have never wanted to experience. You will feel dread and terror like nothing else you’ve experienced in this course before. But you need to trust that I am taking every precaution to ensure your safety. Nothing you experience in this class will harm you, at least not in the confines of this classroom or this educational experience. What you will see in this classroom in the next few lessons is merely a series of enchantments I have cast in order to make the experience feel real. The creature we will be studying for the next two lessons is the Dementor.

In this first lesson about Dementors, we will look at physical characteristics, what it is that Dementors do, and how they fit within our previously discussed Trifecta of Fear. In the next lesson, we will look at the psychology and other scientific information about what is occurring during a Dementor attack and why foods such as chocolate help afterwards, and we will also be learning about the Patronus Charm. With that prepared, let us begin our exploration.

What is a Dementor?
The quick answer is that Dementors are among the foulest creatures that roam the Earth. However, this answer will not be sufficient to get you through your examinations, nor does it adequately prepare you should you find yourself against one. Therefore, a more thorough explanation is that a Dementor is a spectral, humanoid creature that wears a long, black, flowing cloak that is torn and tattered. Under its cloak, its skin is deathly gray.


Image: Dementor. Image Credit: https://i2.wp.com/truehorrorstoriesoftexas.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/dementor-of-Donna-Texas.png?fit=672%2C372&ssl=1

These creatures are born from decay, and I mean that quite literally. Nobody is completely certain of how Dementors are “born,” but it is certain that they are born like fungi in places that know decay - some argue that cities that are deteriorating or decaying (though not in the traditional sense of the word) can be the breeding grounds for Dementors, though this hypothesis has not yet been proven. Most often, they are bred, or some say “grown,” in isolated places.

The first Dementors were found on the island that would later become known to house Azkaban. On this isolated island, the wizard Ekirzdis practiced all sorts of Dark magic, some of which we are unable to identify the complete effects of to this day. He had placed a great many protective enchantments on his island; eventually he died there. A while after he died, the protective enchantments came down and the Ministry was able to get in. Among the multitude of Dark artefacts and creatures that were found on the island was the Dementor. All of the other creatures were able to be safely moved and taken care of humanely, but the Dementors were their own beasts. They would not leave, and as the Ministry had no way of killing these foul creatures, they were left where they were and eventually became utilized by the Ministry. To this day, we still do not fully understand how Dementors are formed, nor how to completely destroy them. This has been a topic of research among Dark Arts scholars, yet so far answers have proved elusive.

The previously mentioned use, and probably the reason most people know about Dementors, was their job as guards of Azkaban prison, built on the island. However, there have been instances when the Dementors have abandoned their post and left the prison solely for the purpose of feeding on the happy. One of the most notable instances of this was during the Second Wizarding War, after the return of Voldemort. Voldemort, in gathering his army of Dark creatures, recruited the Dementors, which also allowed him to free his Death Eaters from Azkaban. This was a highly informative moment for the Ministry, as it taught us that Dementors are even more fickle than imagined; they will serve only themselves and cannot be trusted on the chance that a better offer for more food comes along. This led to them being permanently removed from Azkaban as guards after the end of the war.

What Can a Dementor Do?
I hope I do not need to say it, but Dementors are very powerful, Dark creatures and should be treated with extreme caution. They feed on your happiest memories, and force you to relive your worst traumas. In the presence of a Dementor, it will feel as though you are incapable of ever being happy again. This is one of the two identifying characteristics to look for if you believe that a Dementor is in the area. The second identifying characteristic is a sudden decrease in temperature. Dementors cannot stand the warmth, as many people have a strengthened sense of hope and happiness when they are warm. Therefore, Dementors can naturally drop the temperature of any area they happen to be in. This is why it was always so cold at Azkaban, before the Ministry removed Dementors from the premises. The chill also makes it much easier for victims to relive their worst memories; they simply do not have the strength to summon any happy memories.

Dementors also have the ability to fly. This may seem like a small thing, but this makes them much more versatile and capable of chasing their targets down through any terrain. However, they do not hunt by sight. Dementors are, in fact, blind and cannot see in the traditional sense. Instead, they hunt by sense. They suck in air through their mouth and can taste the happiness in the air, and so move in the direction of the happiness. This presents many possibilities of escaping them, however none are pleasant, nor are they easy.

Speaking of their mouths, this brings me to the most important and most dangerous way a Dementor attacks. If you are unfortunate enough to be caught by a Dementor, you face the possibility of being kissed. While this would be unfortunate in the best of situations (considering their sliminess and the death-like nature of their skin), it is even worse because when a Dementor kisses you, they suck out your soul. I have seen my share of people who became victims of the Dementor’s Kiss; I will be blunt, they would have been better off dead. When a Dementor takes your soul, you are still alive, but you enter a completely vegetative state. You cannot do anything, cannot think, cannot even perform basic functions to survive on your own. But you are alive and, as far as scholars can tell, aware of what is happening. You can feel the hunger you cannot satisfy; you can feel the thirst you cannot quench; you can feel cold and heat and pain, but are incapable of doing anything about it. At that moment you simply exist, nothing more.

Now, as horrible as this sounds, this is not unlike the situation that some people face every day. Therefore, I believe it is prudent that we discuss this and understand, completely, how big of a problem our own internal Dementors can be.

Depression
Depression is a serious illness that, as of 2018, affects 19 million teenagers and adults in the United States alone; this figure increases exponentially when you account for the global population. It is also a very generic term, as there are many types of depression that can occur: Persistent depressive disorder, postpartum depression, psychotic depression, and seasonal affective disorder, to name just a few of the possible types of depression. Because of these varied types of depression, researchers have had troubles finding common symptoms that allow them to place an illness under the umbrella of depression. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad or empty
  • Feeling pessimistic
  • Being irritable
  • Lost interest in previously pleasurable hobbies for no apparent reason
  • Being regularly fatigued
  • Aches, pains, or headaches without a clear cause

This list is not inclusive, and there are many other symptoms that can point towards a depressive disorder. A key part of the diagnosis of depression is that the symptoms must be present for most of the day, every day, for a period of at least two weeks. If the duration is less than this period of time, is it not likely that it is a depressive disorder.

I will leave talk of treatments to the Potions professor, as I am aware that you have already discussed this illness in your previous studies in that course. However, I feel it necessary to say that there is no shame in reaching out for assistance if needed. You cannot be your best self if you are not taking care of yourself both mentally and physically. If, between these two classes, you have heard things that felt familiar, I encourage you to reach out for professional help.

Relation to Dementors: A Case Study
While some of the connections to Dementors are obvious, such as the “feeling sad or empty” and “aches, pains, or headaches without a clear cause,” some of the other symptoms may not be a obvious. This is, in part, because some of these symptoms will only manifest after prolonged exposure to Dementors. Many of them, particularly the irritability, are only demonstrated by prisoners in Azkaban, before they become so pessimistic that they lose the will to continue fighting the influence of the Dementors. However, there is one particular case study that I would like to present, and it is a case study that demonstrates the strength of the mind. The case I would like to present to show the relation of depression to the Dementors, and the mentality of fighting back, is the case of Sirius Black. Before I begin, let me be clear: I am not saying it’s all a matter of thinking happy thoughts and you will be over depression. I am not saying that the right attitude will cure you of depression. What I am saying is that the mind is a powerful resource, and the right influences in your life can make a difference.

Sirius Black was one of the most notorious prisoners in Azkaban. He was believed to have murdered 13 Muggles, as well as told Voldemort the location of Lily and James Potter. None of this proved to be true, however Sirius still spent twelve years in Azkaban for the crime, as it was a time of war and nobody thought to delve deeper. What matters today is not that Sirius spent time in Azkaban, but that he escaped from Azkaban in a far better mental state than most people. Ignoring the prominent fact that few people leave Azkaban, most of the residents go insane within a year or two of being sentenced to Azkaban. By the three to four year mark, most people are begging for death. Yet none of this happened to Sirius.

Sirius Black spent twelve years reliving the worst moments of his life, yet he never went completely insane. He was not eaten alive by the guilt of his alleged crime. To this day, nobody is quite sure why Sirius remained in the strong mental state that he did, though some speculation is that he was not eaten by his guilt because, in the context of his alleged crime, he had no guilt; he did not betray the Potters, at least according to reliable sources from within the Ministry. It has also come to light since his imprisonment, that Sirius was an animagus, capable of taking the form of a black dog. It is speculated, though again there is no concrete evidence to support the hypothesis, that an animagus form functions as a method of protection against a Dementor because the emotions of an animal differ greatly from those of humans, and Dementors are not attuned to those types of emotions.

Trifecta of Fear: Fear of the Subconscious
To bring this lesson to a close, we will cover the final stage of the Trifecta of Fear. For those who may not remember, since we have not discussed this since Year Three, the Trifecta of Fear is a method of describing different levels of fear within the mind. There are three levels of fear named as such: Fear of the Physical, Fear of the Conscious, and Fear of the Subconscious. I will not be doing a complete review here; I expect you to have your notes about the subject still. If you are struggling to understand parts, please send me a message so that I may clarify the confusion.

We have previously covered the Fear of the Physical and Fear of the Conscious, so now we will discuss the Fear of the Subconscious. Similar to the Fear of the Conscious, the Fear of the Subconscious is a classification of fears that focuses primarily on the fears within the mind. However, the difference is that these fears have affected us at such a deep level that we are not even consciously aware of them. We have such an aversion to them that we cannot fully bring them to the forefront of our mind. In many ways, these fears can be heavily related to trauma and some scholars are drawing connections between the Fear of the Subconscious and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Dementors attack these fears that qualify within the Fear of the Subconscious because it draws these fears to the surface and makes you face them. This, to a large extent, is why people who are exposed to Dementors for a long period of time are driven insane: they are forced to face their deepest, most horrifying fears for a prolonged amount of time. The extremity and the severity of these fears and these memories is also why so many people struggle to produce the most effective defenses against the Dementors; they are incapable of seeing past the trauma and the horrors they are faced with in order to concentrate on the most powerful happy memory they can conjure.

Conclusion
I have already begun to allude to the content of the next lesson: we will be learning the Patronus Charm and learning about why certain foods, like chocolate, have positive impacts on a person’s emotional well-being. After the dreariness of this lesson, I feel that it is necessary to have a happier subject matter for the final lesson of the term. However, you will need all of the knowledge you gain next class, as part of your final will be attempting to produce a Patronus against my enchanted “Dementor.”

Until next time.


Resources
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml

https://medlineplus.gov/depression.html

Year Six Defense Against the Dark Arts becomes more theory heavy as students begin their work at the N.E.W.T. level. This year focuses on mental magic, defense of the mind, and application of logic in order to overcome challenges. Sixth Year students will come face to face with their inner demons and be challenged to perform magic more difficult than they have thus far, all while proving their ability to grapple with the heavy theories behind their spellwork and defending themselves against the Dark Arts.
Course Prerequisites:
  • DADA-OWL

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