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Magick Moste Evile - What is (and isn't) a Horcrux

by Kevin McDonald

A Horcrux is a container in which the witch or wizard who makes one puts a piece of their soul to keep safe in the event that their body is destroyed. A Horcrux prevents the soul from "passing on" and thereby holds the witch or wizard's consciousness earth bound. That's it. From that point on, steps would have to be taken to re-establish ones self in a body.

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Reader Comments: (Page 9)

Did Dumbledore change his mind about Nagini being a horcrux? He certainly suggested it as a possibility, but I don't recall any change from that. At the time he suggests Nagini as a possible horcrux he also says that it is not necessarily a good idea to entrust your soul to a creature that can think and act for itself.
Various people have suggested that Harry might be a horcrux. I think it unlikely for one very simple reason. Voldemort found it impossible to possess Harry. When he tried it was an agony to him. So I have to doubt that Harry could be the horcrux. One of the things that Dumbledore cited in his reasons why Nagini might be the horcrux is the very great power Voldemort has over her; extraordinary even for a Parselmouth. He has no control over Harry.
If you think about it, what Voldemort did in ing Harry's parents to get to Harry is to set up his own destruction. There are plenty of parallels in Greek tragedy of people trying to avert a prophesied fate and simply bringing it crashing down on their heads. In LOTR Galadriel warns of this type of thing when she permits Sam and Frodo to look into her mirror. She warns then that some of the things shown may never come to pass unless someone turns aside from their task to prevent them. Sam sees the ruin of the Shire, but if he'd turned back, then Frodo would never have made it.
Another thing to consider from LOTR is that in the end the destruction of the Ring is dependent on two acts of mercy. Both Bilbo and Frodo spare Gollum when it would have made cold-blooded sense to him. Is Peter Pettigrew perhaps our "Gollum"? Will the "worm" turn and atone for his betrayal of James and Lily and repay his to Harry by turning on Voldemort?

Posted by Elizabeth from Australia on February 13, 2007 05:11 AM

The key and recurring issue here is defining just what it is that makes a Horcrux evil. Is it the act of deliberately ing or even accidentally ing another? Or, is it the following encasement of your damaged soul's fragment in a container that makes the Horcrux evil?

And does the soul differentiate between its owner ing in self-defense or ing as a preemptive strike? Is ing simply ing, taking a life, regardless of the circumstances? Does the soul only split under certain circumstances when ing occurs, or does it occur whenever its owner takes a life regardless of the circumstances? (There are no answers to this question in Book 6)

Try this:
1) When Ballatrix ed Sirius, was it ing or ?
2) If Sirius had ed Bellatrix instead, would it have been ing or ?
They were both equally engaged in the same activity, with the same motivations. What if Sirius had blasted Bellatrix and she fell backwards through the veil? Was one more evil than the other? Or equally evil? Did Bellatrix's soul split? Would Sirius's soul have split had he ed Bellatrix instead?

1) If Voldemort s Harry, is it ing or muder?
2) If Harry s Voldemort, is it ing or ?
They are both engaged in the same activity -- looking for ways to eliminate the other's life -- and both have anger and vindictive feelings. Will Voldemort's soul split yet again if he s Harry? And Harry spilt his soul by ing Voldemort (or any of the Eaters, for that matter)?

1) If Harry had ed Malfoy with the Septumsempra spell, would it have been ing or muder? Harry really, really wanted to hurt Malfoy at that moment and then cast the Septumsempra spell. (Snape saved him from ing Malfoy)
2) If Harry had ed Quirrell in Book 1 (he didn't really, that was just in the movie...), ing or ? (Dumbledore saved him from ing Quirrell)
3) If Harry believes he is responsible for Cedric's (and there are several passages where he expresses remorse for suggesting they both touch the Cup at the same time), would he see himself as a er or not? (No one saved Harry from causing Cedric harm)

1) If Dumbledore ed Grindlewald in 1945 -- regardless of the circumstances -- would his soul have split off a small piece? And could he have, as Slughorn says, 'Used this to his advantage' and made a Horcrux to contain it? And if he ed Grindlewald but didn't encase his torn soul in a container, would he be more or less evil?

Dumbledore tells Malfoy, on the Tower at the end of Book 6, that ing is harder than people suspect. I think Dumbledore speaks with wisdom and from experience here. I believe there are circumstances where ing an evil person may be the right thing to do even if it isn't the easy thing to do. And I also believe that ing -- all ing -- would damage the soul. And if Dumbledore encased his damaged sliver of soul in a Horcrux so that he could continue the fight against evil in years to come, I would be hard pressed to consider it an evil act of Horcrux making.

Posted by Jan-Marie from New York on February 13, 2007 11:29 AM

Jan-Marie: The answer to your original question is: BOTH! The act of ing someone for your own gain is evil, and the act of intentionally splitting your immortal soul is evil as well!

One of the problems in the world today is this insane moral equivalence of both sides in a war. Your depiction of Bellatrix and Sirius, that they're both engaged in the same actions for the same reason is incorrect. Bellatrix wants to for personal gain. Sirius wants to for justice and to protect other innocent people. Bellatrix MURDERED Sirius, if it had ended up the other way around instead, with Sirius ing Bellatrix, it would NOT have been .

It's very possible that a good person's soul IS damaged when they for a justifiable reason. HOWEVER, it may not be a clean split, and in any event, a good person would never take advantage of that damage of their own immortal soul by creating a horcrux from the damage.

JK obviously wants us to understand this distinction, we know this because she tells us about Dumbledore and Grindlewald. Grindlewald was definitely on the other side of good in WWII. That means he was either very close to or aligned with Hitler. Hitler was the most evil human of his time, and millions of people were ing because of him. He had to be ed at any cost. Those that caused his end were not evil, and not ers. JK wants us to see that difference.

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on February 13, 2007 11:39 AM

As I read this article and the comments, I've come to think of the horcrux as tent stakes. Six stakes holding down one soul with Voldemort's body as the 7th stake. Destroy one stake and a corner of the tent flaps in the wind. Destroy them all and the tent blows away (to an afterlife). With a horcrux, the soul is divided in some sense but not necessarily in the everyday literal sense that appeals to us (like an apple or a piece of paper). In the book, they say the soul is “ripped apart”, but that is an analogy. Any analogy between a physical item and a soul is probably flawed in some way. When Rowling created the horcrux concept, she may not have intended it to stand up to this level of scrutiny. Relaxing my concept of a soul that has been “ripped apart” has allowed me to accept the “tent stake” analogy.

By the way, when I read HBP, I thought destroying a horcrux or Voldemort would destroy a portion of the soul; and that Voldemort would have to “consume” a horcrux to come back. I knew there were problems with that view, and this article and the comments have convinced me that the soul is not destroyed. Thanks to all.

Posted by LD on February 13, 2007 1:17 PM

Jan-marie and Dave H.

I think your postings infer that there is some grand decider that determines what ings warrant the creation of a horcrux and what ings don't. [whether it be God, the Cosmos, some other divinity...]. And I'd like to believe that it doesn't rest with an external judge. In that case perhaps it is like the Unforgiveable curses in that you have to really mean it in order for it to work.
In that case I don't think Dumbledore could ever make a horcrux because he would feel genuine remorse for taking a fellow life regardless of the circumstances. On the otherhand Voldemort would relish in the ing.

Posted by Mikey from New Jersey on February 13, 2007 7:51 PM

Before we get too deep in all of our speculations we need to remember that this is still just a book series. J.K.R. is a brilliant author, but I bet she still didn't get into half of the issues we do in conversing on this sight. She did, however write in a lot of clues as to what occurs as the story progresses.

To Dave Haber, I have a slight dissagreement as to what & ing consist of. I do think it takes only in its most vile form of forthought & predudice to rip the soul in two. I do not, as a veteran, think that solrs acting under "most orders" are ers, but we all know that there are some counter examples here as well. This is not the place for this discussion. We are here to have fun waiting for the 7th book.

I do have an idea who may have provided the horcrux spell to Voldemort. Remember in CoS when Harry has to duck into the vanishing cabinet in Borgin & Burkes. Lucious Malfoy comes in and is selling several items that he wishes to have "picked up". He refers to the items as ones that "could be seen as evil". I would bet that they are not only illegal potions but some contraband spell books that would have had devious curses in them that eaters would have surely loved (& more than likely used). Just a thought, since none of us are Lucious fans!

Posted by Dave Porter from New Mexico. USA on February 13, 2007 8:26 PM

vs. not .

Let's say you are in a store and you pick up a small item that you haven't decided if you really want yet or not. You see someone you haven't seen in a long time and the two of you get to talking. You soon realize that way too much time has passed and you are late for an appointment, so you quickly rush out of the store. As you are walking out the door a security gaurd stops you. You then realize that, in your haste to leave, you had forgotten the small item that was still in your hand.

Now, are you guilty of shop-lifting? Have you commited theft? No. The difference is in intent. You never intended to steal that item. The worst thing you are guilty of is absent-mindedness.

After being detained for a few moments, talking to store security while they run a criminal background check on you to determine if you have a history of shop-lifting, you likely be let go with an admonishment to pay more attention to your surroundings. You may end up late for your appointment, but you aren't likely to be going to jail.

So, was Bellatrix trying to Sirius? Most likley. It is in her nature. Was Sirius trying to Bellatrix? Doubtful, he was there to protect Harry and the others.

Now, if Harry had allowed Sirius to Pettigrew in POA, that would have been , and Sirius' soul would have been ripped apart.

Posted by Michael Brinkley from Oceanside, Ca on February 14, 2007 06:39 AM

Michael Brinkley and Dave Porter, you both have brought up excellent points. I really think that what we're saying is that every /ing is not the same. Intention and motives seem to be important.

Dave Porter, I agree, it's really hard to equate a cold blooded premeditated ed with a man/woman of the armed services doing their honorable "duty". There must be a distinction.

Bottomline, Voldemort and his Eaters fall into the first category---evil cold blooded ers. Some of them (Voldermort for one) interested in mutilating their souls further by creating a horcrux.

Those of the Order would then be ing out of self defense, duty or whatever. Technically not . In this situation their souls may or may not be torn (we still haven't figured that out), but I would argue that none of them would be interested in the mutilation of their soul and therefore would not create a Horcrux.

Posted by Heather from NJ on February 14, 2007 10:58 AM

The difference is intent. Its like one of those questions on the SAT... all s are ings but not all ings are s... and not all ers make Horcuxes but any one that makes a Horcrux is a er... what a solr does is not unless it crosses that thin line between what is necessary and what is excessive... semper phi...

Posted by Kevin from Wisconsin on February 14, 2007 11:43 AM

So it again comes down to this question. Does the ability of making a horcrux depend on the approval of some authority, just as lets say a security guard might decide whether or not to prosecute you for shoplifting, depending on your ability to disprove intent to the official?
Or does it come from within?
I think if you meant to as an intentional malevolent act, you get to produce a horcrux. If you ed because you felt you had no choice, and wish circumstances were such that you didn't have to , then no horcruxes for you.

Posted by Mikey from New Jersey on February 14, 2007 6:26 PM

Real interesting thoughts. I wonder if using Avada Kedavra or not makes the difference. Avada Kedavra is an Unforgivable Curse, but ing someone is not said to be unforgiveable.

When four wizards stunned Mc Gonagall, Pomfrey said that she could have been ed. If Snape hadn't been there, Harry would have ed Malfoy with a Sectumsempra curse. If Harry had not found the bezoard, the potion Malfoy put inside the bottle would have ed Ron. Did that make Umbridge, Harry, Malfoy ers? Did that tear their souls? I doubt it. The fact is we never see a "good person" using a ing curse, even Sirius in front of Bellatrix, even Dumbledore in front of Voldemort, and probably not Snape in front of Dumbledore. And when Sirius and Lupin want to Pettigrew, Harry stop them from being ers.

Posted by herve from strasbourg on February 15, 2007 01:15 AM

Whether or not you can make a horcrux is not decided by anyone. A horcrux can not be made if your soul is intact. ing out of duty or need does not damage the soul. Therefore there is nothing to make a horcrux with. Anyone can make a horcrux if they choose. Harry could make one if he chose to. All he would have to do is ingly commit so that his soul would be torn and then perform the spell to encase the torn portion of his soul inside an object.

Granted, Harry does not have the inborn evil needed to commit in the first place. But you get my point. The creation of a horcrux is just like any other magic. You just have to have the and intent to make it happen.

Posted by Michael Brinkley from Oceanside, Ca on February 15, 2007 07:02 AM

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