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Wand Basics 101

by David Haber

As long as there have been Witches and Wizards, there have been magical wands. No part of Harry Potter's magical heritage goes back further. The ancient Celtic Druids who lived in what is now called Scotland employed wands all the way back to 500 BC. As a matter of fact, "Druid" actually means "man with the wisdom of the wood".

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Reader Comments: (Page 5)

I have always wondered if the spells they say are pre-programmed into the wand. And do all wizards everywhere speak Latin spells? Even Chinese wizards or African wizards? Seems strange that every wizard in the world speaks a language thats only a couple thousand years old. What did they use as a language before that?

Posted by Jeremy Davis from Eugene, OR on June 26, 2007 09:30 AM

Jeremy, you know, that's a very good question. We see very few foreign wizards - who we never see performing magic - and Jo has said that she didn't want to just put them in for the sake of putting them in, so this question may never be answered. I would think, though, that spells in countries with a non-European based language would probably have spells in an archaic form of their own, i.e. Japanese wizards would possibly speak some form of Ainu for some of their spells.

As for what they spoke before Latin - the earliest known use of Latin was in the 6th century BCE, and we know wands were used as early as the 4th century BCE (how long the Olivander family has been in the business.) We also know that the Anceint Egyptian used some pretty nasty curses on their tombs, which date back as far as 3100 BCE ("Before the Common Era", a more politically correct version of BC), and the pyramids at around 2700 BCE. Magic may not have been organized in the same way back then, and use of a wand may not have been necessary or practiced until closer to the 5th or 4th century BCE.

Perhaps the wand merely focuses or creates an outlet for magic within the witch or wizard, meaning that the spell is an utterance intended to help the witch or wizard concentrate on what she or he intends to do, and there is no magic within the wand. In Ancient Egypt, �spell� meant simply �words to be spoken� (as found in such texts as the Book of Coming Forth by Day, aka The Book of the ). If this is the case, then it does not matter what the person says really, or in what language.

Posted by Monkeeshrines from orlando fl on June 27, 2007 07:44 AM

I am so glad that someone brought this question up. As I read the first book I wondered the very same thing. My general attitude quickly became that London is a metropolitan city and therefore thanks to immigration is filled with non-Europeans and therefore the ethnic diversity of Hogwart's would be much different now then it was say 100 years ago. That would also account as for why all the spells are performed in Latin. Location means everything. Beauxbatons Academy which speaks French also uses Latin as the base of their spells considering that French is a part of the Indo-European language family. It was spoken and spread by the Roman Empire. Originally called Latium spoken in central Italy, it slowly supplanted all the other languages of Italy. It spread throughout the Western Empire supplanting the languages spoken there (except Basque), and those of Dalmatia and Dacia in the Balkans.
That being said, depending on the location of the recruits and School Of Magic attended the languages for spell casting can be very different. African wizardry would have choices between Akkadian and Egyptian sa they are two of the oldest. Asian Wizards have the ancient forms of their languages to chose from as well, so as they say, it's a matter of "location, location, location".

Posted by Andromeda Williams from St. Charles, Missouri on July 19, 2007 5:18 PM

smk said: "i do have a doubt regarding wands..if Harry had to try out manyt wands before he found his match how do people like Voldemore use other's wands?(he used Morfin's in HPB or so Dumbledore says)"

A good explanation for this came up in one of the (now) many 'Time-Turned-Back' fanfics (wish I could remember which)... Knowing the significance of the brother-wand to TMR's, Ollivander made sure that no other wand attuned properly to Harry before letting him even try to match with the holly-and-Fawkes one. This, to ensure that the person who got that wand was uniquely attuned to it and no other. Perhaps, if a lesser wand had chosen Harry, some excuse would have been found to get Neville in to try the holly one (and, no doubt, Dumbledore's unrelenting full attention and manipulations, as the probable subject of Trelawney's prophecy, too).

Posted by siaru from boston suburbs, ma on July 23, 2007 7:19 PM

I also think that the "strength" of the wand reflects a person's personality. In the 7th book, Ollivander says that Draco's wand was "springy", sort of like how Draco springs back and forth in loyalty. He also said that Bellatrix's wand was unyeilding, like her unyeilding faith for Lord Voldemort. -shrugs- Maybe I'm reading into it a little too much.

Posted by Ali from Virginia on July 23, 2007 8:38 PM

is there any way of finding out what the core of your wand be?

Posted by tiny from london, east ham on August 7, 2007 12:45 AM

Actually, siaru, Neville couldn't have gotten the holly wand because he used his dad's wand until OotP!

I think Harry got the perfect wand because the wood was correct according to his birthdate, he had a reasonable lenghth of elveven inches (same as his reasonable height), and phoenix feather is undefeatable (however, this is not the only weapon the core of his wand had)!

And while we are talking about cores, do you think Ollivander could have foreseen that Harry should get the protection of the twin cores? Did Ollivander save that wand, after all the years it was made, for precisely Harry? I think Ollivander knew that Harry should have this wand, or at least suspected it; he tried out few other wands for Harry and then knew for sure that Harry should get the holly wand.

I wonder how long Ron's wand is, seeing as he's so tall.

Posted by C.J. from Utah on August 12, 2007 10:24 PM

As quoted in this article "Powerful wizards such as Dumbledore frequently do impressive magic with just the wave of a hand."

Knowing now what we know about ownership of the Elder Wand, and that it was in Dumbledore's possession during the time of the septology, I wonder if Dumbledore purposely did magic without using any wand, so that he would be less likely to be put into a situation such as his fateful disarming by Draco.

Posted by Patty from Quincy,Massachusetts on August 15, 2007 5:51 PM

what? i can't have a wand because my birthday is december 23rd!?

Posted by Karina on October 6, 2007 9:56 PM

No, I think that since you fall on the boundary, you can have either Birch or Elder, which ever feels better for you.

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on October 9, 2007 12:24 PM

Knowing that Dumbledore had the elder wand at the time makes the duel between him and Voldemort at the end of OotP (and the great special effects in the movie) all the more spine chilling for me.

The wand chooses the wizard...Ollivander may have saved the wand for Harry...on the other hand, the wand may have been waiting to choose him. IT chose the person capable of defeating Voldemort.

Posted by Joe from England on October 9, 2007 2:23 PM

True. Wands know a lot more than we give them credit for.

I was just thinking...since phoenixes are extremely loyal, do Harry's and Voldemort's wands show particular loyalty to their owners? If the twin cores, had been, say, dragon heartstring, would Harry's wand be less powerful?

Posted by C.J. from Utah on October 9, 2007 8:38 PM

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