Lesson 6) Dark Artefacts
With creatures and spells behind us, it is time we start talking about topics we have rarely breached in this class: other forms of the Dark Arts. These include Dark artefacts, Dark potions, and Dark practices. Each of these categories will be the focus of the remainder of our year, starting with Dark artefacts. I will continue to emphasize this as we progress through our lessons together, but we will not be covering any of these topics in a way that would instruct you how to make or do them. Rather, we will be covering them in such a way as to ensure that you know how to protect yourselves against them and can begin thinking about how to counter the types of magic that go into them. This lesson, we will be looking at three specific Dark artefacts: a hand of glory, a black quill, and the most evil of all, horcruxes.
Hand of Glory
The first artefact we will be discussing today should give us a hand as we start our discussion about Dark artefacts. I do mean hand quite literally, because the hand of glory is created from an actual severed human hand. It will also serve as a guide in more than one way, but I am starting to get ahead of myself. Let me just say that, as we move through this discussion, I want you to be aware of your own moral compass and how you determine whether an action is or is not moral. Where is your line, and how will you know if it has been crossed?
A hand of glory is an artefact that grants light to its wielder in a dark place. In the proper hands, it can be an extremely useful artefact for those who travel by night frequently or to those who travel alone. It is a Dark artefact in part because of its creation - again, it is literally a severed hand - but also because of the issues of morality that arise when an individual uses it in a group of people. Since a hand of glory only provides light to its wielder, this means that the wielder is the only person who is able to see. Anyone else who is traveling with the wielder will continue to be left in the dark. Now, they could of course use spells such as the Wand-Lighting Charm to provide light to the group, and this is where we start to get into the grey areas. Most people who would want to use a hand of glory as a source of light are using it to complete an action they do not want others to see; this action is likely nefarious. In a group, they would not want the risk of exposure that would come with using spells like the Wand-Lighting Charm.
However, this brings into the conversation a question about morality: what does a person do with this power when they are the only ones who are able to see anything around them? For all of the beneficial uses of a hand of glory, there is the potential to reveal the more sinister nature of a person through its use. What stops a person from guiding their group into trouble, claiming that it is safe, in order to enact a broader plan? In Year Five, we talked about offensive combinations and the types of spells that appear in combinations. One of the combination components we discussed was a lure, which was a spell used in a combination with the intention of distracting the target or diverting their attention elsewhere. Now imagine that, instead of using a spell to accomplish that goal, a person using a hand of glory used their group for that purpose. Imagine being blindly guided into a group of aggressors and having to fight for your life so that the person with the hand of glory could get by unseen. Further, imagine the moral complexity of the person holding the hand of glory who has that kind of power. How do you decide what to do?
This is why I raised the question about your own moral compass. What would you do in this situation, where you have this kind of power? Would you be able to guarantee that you would only use that power for good, or would you be influenced by the temptation of the power? And if you fall to the temptation of this artefact, where does it end for you? Would it ever end? This, above all else, is why I have warned you about the dangers of the Dark Arts in our time together since your first lesson with me. Once you begin to dabble in the Dark Arts, it is tough to come back, which you will see as we continue on with our lesson and examine even more malicious artefacts.
If you remember from our first lesson of this year, we briefly discussed The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an act that was the combined effort of magical and non-magical people in order to establish a concrete series of rights that applied to all human beings. If none of this is ringing a bell, I suggest you return to Lesson One and review the information provided there. Use of this second artefact, black quills, is to act in violation of two of the articles provided within the Universal Declaration.
Since both of the articles are related to each other, they will both be covered in the same space. The first is article three: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” The second of the articles is article five: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” What these articles guarantee for every individual is personal security. You, as an individual, have the right to feel safe living on this planet. You cannot be tortured or treated with cruel and inhuman treatment; if you are, you are guaranteed the right to a fair trial under a different article of the declaration.
Now, imagine if I forced you to take a knife and carve a word into your arm. Pick any word you want to imagine, but I give you a knife and force you to write the word on your arm using the knife. Is that humane? Is that cruel and unjust? It absolutely is, particularly because it violates your right to security of person. You are no longer safe because I am causing you bodily harm. After almost seven years in this classroom, I would hope you all know this is not the type of situation I would ever put any of you in, but there are others who are not so kind. Others would do it without hesitation. Likewise, there are people in the world who would gladly use a black quill to inflict bodily harm on another.
By all appearances, a black quill looks like any other quill: a nib attached to a feather. The difference is that the feather of a black quill is the feather of a crow. The crow has frequently been associated with death, and though the use of a black quill will rarely kill you, the correlation between death and harm is not a large leap to make. Of course, there are a variety of other enchantments used on a black quill to make it function the way it does. But for some reason, based upon conversations I’ve had with colleagues, the correct series of enchantments on any other feather will not result in a quill with the same effects.
What are these effects, you ask? Return to my hypothetical statement where I ask you to take a knife and carve a word into your arm. This is very close to the effect of a black quill. It does not require ink to write; instead, it uses the blood of the individual using it. It does not need to be dipped in anything, as it will take the blood straight from your body by magically scratching your hand open and using the drawn blood. It is extremely painful and incredibly cruel. A single use will hurt, but will fade with time. However, repeated uses will eventually cause the writing to remain permanently on your skin. A type of tattoo, but this one to remind you of the form of torture you endured. There is no doubt that a black quill is evil, and it is clearly a violation of human rights, but it is not the worst that our world has to offer. To close out this lesson, I have one last artefact to discuss.
This final artefact I cover because, unfortunately, there has been a renewed interest in them in the magical world at large. The Ministry has been working to round up all known resources that have any instructions about their creation, but some will slip through our fingers. Even if we got all that have been recorded, there are no doubt resources that we are unaware of that will continue to instruct new generations of evil to create horcruxes. With that in mind, it is imperative that the next generation is also equipped to handle this threat, which is the only reason I am discussing them today. I feel that it is important that you know what these artefacts are, why you should not deal with them other than to destroy them, and how to destroy them should you ever need to. I will state this once: I will answer no questions about this topic beyond what I provide in this lesson. I will endeavor to be as clear as I can about what information I do provide, and will answer questions only about this information, but I will not be providing anything further. I am teaching you only what you need to know in order to destroy them, and why these abominations are a violation of natural laws.
The simplest explanation of horcruxes is that they are a method of ensuring that an individual does not fully die after their bodily death. This artefact, when crafted properly, serves as a home for a severed part of the human soul and allows the person to potentially be reborn even after they have died. However, being the home of the soul is not enough. In order for an individual to come back to life via a horcrux, the life force of another individual must be used. This can be a willing offering or it can be forced upon an individual. In some cases, the person who finds the horcrux pours their own life into it in some way, while others have their life force drained by constant exposure to the horcrux. One tell-tale sign of recurring and prolonged exposure to a Horcrux is increased irritability, rapidly occurring fatigue, and suddenly distancing oneself from those closest to them. The individual affected will not always notice the mood swings, yet those around them certainly will. The effect of the horcrux is stronger the closer it is to your body. Placed right against your skin, it will be at its most powerful.
I hope you all are starting to see why these artefacts are abominations. Not only do they unwillingly change who you are as an individual, but they violate the laws of nature that state all living things must die. By creating a horcrux, someone avoids dying and prolongs their life unnaturally. It does come at a cost, though. Prolonged life is a cursed life, as you must endure the agony of your friends and loved ones dying while you live on. You also have to sacrifice a lot; I will not go into all of the details, but one detail I can disclose is that one endangers a prized possession by making it the potential target of an attack. You see, horcruxes cannot be housed in any old object - they are not like Portkeys - but must be housed in an object that the soul has an attachment to in some way. It might be a cherished book, or a scale from your favorite pet reptile, but whatever the object would be, it must have importance to you.
Not only do we know that the soul must be housed in some sort of case, but we also know one action that would split the soul in such a way that it could be housed in a case. One way to accomplish that goal is murder. As we talked about earlier this year when we discussed the Killing Curse, the act of killing another is a direct violation of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, particularly Article 3, which reads “Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person” (Universal Declaration). By taking the life of another, you take away their right to life. Such actions delve into a broad spectrum of moral questions, particularly about rights in general, but for our current purposes it is enough to focus on the human rights issue and how it is immoral to take away somebody’s right to live. By doing so, your soul breaks and you begin the traversal of an evil road.
Enough about the evils of them. I think I have driven that home well enough. Let us move the conversation to the more relevant point: how to destroy them. Horcruxes are tough; the soul does not want to die. In fact, most times the soul itself is fairly difficult to destroy. Therefore, it requires an immense source of power to destroy a horcrux. You must either penetrate and corrupt the soul to the point that it cannot survive, or you must fuse the piece of the soul with the container it is trapped in. Due to the lack of physicality of the soul, both of these are far more difficult to accomplish than they sound. That is why, to date, there are only two known sources capable of destroying a horcrux. The first is basilisk venom, which is so potent that it will kill a person within a few minutes. Once the venom has spread a certain amount, it is nearly impossible to recover from; its venom spreads to every living part of the body it can find and kills it from within. Because of that, it also manages to find the soul, so that even if someone was able to bring the body back, it would still be, for all intents and purposes, a lifeless corpse.
The other method of destroying a horcrux is Fiendfyre. Fiendfyre is the hottest fire known to magical kind. It burns hotter than even dragon fire, and it melts even the most flame-resistant materials. Due to this immense heat, even a soul cannot help but be affected. Cased within a shell, the soul and case both become so hot that they fuse together, which makes the soul vulnerable. Once the soul and container are fused, the Fiendfyre will continue to melt both the container and the soul until they are gone forever.
Now, I hope that none of you ever have to encounter this artefact in particular. They are vile and should never have been made in the first place - curse Herpo the Foul for doing his experiments. However, since Dark witches and wizards are attempting to recreate them, I felt it was my duty to educate you as to how to handle them should you ever encounter one.
Now, there are obviously many more Dark artefacts in the world. I cannot possibly cover all of them in this lesson, nor would I want to try. Instead, I want you to take what we have covered and find ways to utilize it in other scenarios. I would hope that each of these Dark artefacts will have given you ways to think about artefacts at all levels of evil. For your essay, I will be providing you with an artefact that we have not discussed. I want you to research it, provide information about it, and discuss how you would counter it. This will be a more open essay, but I will be highly critical of your responses and how you approach the situation. This will require more work of you, but this will be good practice for your N.E.W.T.s. Next lesson, we will be bringing in your skillset from another class you have hopefully been taking. Off you go, students; you have work to do.
Hand of Glory - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hand_of_Glory
Black Quill - https://www.ebay.com/itm/Harry-Potter-Professor-Umbridges-Quill-Noble-Collection-Replica-/223194366160