LESSON 2 ILVERMORNY SCHOOL OF WITCHRAFT & WIZARDRY
The school itself is located atop the highest peak of Mount Greylock which is located in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. Majestic in appearance, the massive front doors are flanked by giant marble statues of the founders. These doors open into a circular room which is topped by a glass cupola; the room itself is empty save for four wooden carvings representing the school's four houses (which we will discuss later in the lesson). Sounds grand, right? Well, to complete the impressive sight, the protection spells woven around the school wreath it in a mystical mist, which only adds to the illusion. But for all of its present loftiness, the school itself has much humbler beginnings. In order to better appreciate the school for what it has become today, let us travel back in time to 1603, Coomloughra, County Kerry, in Ireland. Thus begins the tale of a young girl named Isolt Sayre...
Isolt's father, William, was a direct descendant of the Celtic witch, Morrigan, and nicknamed his daughter with the same name because of her affinity for all things that could be found in nature. By all accounts, young Isolt lived quite the idyllic life until she was five years of age, when an attack on the family's home would change her fate forever.
The attack was launched by none other than the girl's maternal aunt, Gormlaith Gaunt, who pretended to rescue her niece from the very fire she had started. Gormlaith was a cruel and unstable woman, who despised her estranged sister and husband for mingling with and helping out their Muggle neighbors. A fanatical pure-blood, Gormlaith truly believed that she was, in fact, saving her niece from a 'bleak' future of possible marriage with a Muggle man, as her parents would have seen no issue with the matter. Only by Gormlaith taking matters in hand and raising the girl herself could she 'set her right' and undo whatever damage her parents had done. As a descendant of both Morrigan and Salazar Slytherin, the girl HAD to cherish and preserve her bloodline. Never mind, that she kept the girl a virtual prisoner in the process.
Forced to watch her aunt curse and hex any Muggle that strayed too close to their cottage, and denied permission to attend Hogwarts, Isolt's life was one of misery until her seventeenth year. Seeking escape from her prison, Isolt stole her aunt's wand and fled to England. The only other thing she took with her was a golden brooch that had belonged to her mother. It was not long, however, until Gormlaith was getting too close for comfort, and she was forced to flee again, this time to America. In order to better disguise herself, she cut her hair and traveled under the guise of a Muggle boy named Elias Story.
Hiding among the Puritan No-Majs (No Magics-the American equivalent of Muggle) was not an option, as the Puritan colonists did not suffer witches gladly. Therefore, young Isolt was forced to hide in the forest, having the good fortune to befriend a Puckwudgie after saving him from an attack by a Hidebehind (both are forest-dwelling creatures of the New World). After she nursed him back to health, the puckwudgie was obliged to bind himself to her until such time as the debt could be paid. Little did Isolt know that the puckwudgie had little love for humans, witch of no-maj alike. As he could not release his name due to superstition among his kind, she dubbed him William in honour of her father.
Puckwudgie & Hidebehind
With William by her side, Isolt was soon introduced to other forest creatures, including the Horned Serpent, which took an immediate liking to the girl, much to William's dismayed surprise. And even though Isolt herself had no idea what a Parseltongue was, she knew exactly what the serpent was saying, and vice versa. Not wishing to upset William, she took to visiting the serpent alone, where it always gave the same foreboding message, "Until I am part of your family, your family is doomed."
Life continued along these lines until the fateful day that Isolt and the hindbehind once again crossed paths. When out hunting with William, a cry alerted her to a nearby clearing, where two small boys watched in horror as the hidebehind murdered their parents. Unable to just walk away, Isolt ordered William to help her carry the two boys home, an order which he deliberately ignored. In fact, his true colours really shown forth as he threw a tantrum, declaring his hatred for humankind. Enraged by his behaviour, Isolt informed him that she would consider his debt to her paid, if William would consent to carry at least one of the boys, she the other. The bargain was struck and upon returning home, Isolt told William that she had no further need of him. Their parting was bitter, to say the least.
Chadwick and Webster Boot (the two boys that Isolt had saved) blossomed under her care, and after a few weeks deemed them well enough to leave alone for a few hours in order for her to return to the clearing and dig a grave for their parents, providing the couple a decent burial. Upon her arrival, she happened upon a young man named James Stewart. As fate would have it, he was a friend of the Boot family, and helped her in her task. Well, that is until he managed to get himself knocked out after attempting to use Mr. Boot's wand. Being a No-Maj, James had no chance against the dragonstring core, and when next he awoke, he was in the tender ministrations of Isolt, who brought him to her cottage to recover.
James, who had been a stonemason in England, constructed a stone house for her and the boys on top of Greylock Mountain, which she dubbed Ilvermorny, named after her childhood home that her aunt had destroyed. Despite her best intentions to Obliviate James, the two fell in love and were married, raising the two Boot boys as their own. She promised the two boys that once they turned eleven, she would find them wands and start a school for them right there in the cottage. Basing their knowledge of what a magical school should be on their adopted mother's tales of Hogwarts (which had been told to her by her aunt), the boys decided that they wished for the school to have four houses, with each named after their favourite animals. Thus, Chadwick chose Thunderbird, a creature as temperamental as the boy himself, while his brother, Webster, chose Wampus, the name of a magical creature that was incredibly fast and hard to kill. For herself, Isolt chose to honour her friend, the Horned Serpent. For his choice, James, who was the only no-maj in the family, chose Puckwudgie, because his wife's stories of William always made him laugh.
From this humble idea, Ilvermorny grew in reputation, and by 1634 had grown large enough in the student body to have inter-house competitions, and all was well until Gormlaith decided to extract her revenge. Determined to burn the school down and once again 'rescue' her two nieces, Martha and Rionach (the two natural daughters of James and Isolt). Despite her best efforts, however, she failed, killed by William the Puckwudgie, who had returned when he mistakenly believed Isolt had called out for him. (In reality, she was shouting 'William' because it was under the guise of Isolt's dead father that her aunt had presented herself). Warmed by James' delight (and flattery) at finally getting to meet the William of the stories, the Puckwudgie decided to stay with them and make the school his home.
In time, the granite cottage became a castle, and witches and wizards from all over North America clamored to attend. And despite the fact that he denies it, the Puckwudgie, William, still serves the school today. Speaking of which, it is time to leave the past and return to the present..
The students of Ilvermorny wear robes of blue and cranberry in honour of their founders. Blue was Isolt's favourite colour as she had dreamed of being in Ravenclaw as a child, and cranberry due to James' love of cranberry pie. The robes are fastened by a golden Gordian Knot, in memory of the brooch Isolt had carried with her from her childhood home.
The students are sorted into their houses in an elaborate ceremony which takes place in the grand Entrance Hall. One by one, they are called to the center of the room to stand on the Gordian Knot symbol emblazoned on the floor. The enchanted wooden carvings will then react, choosing the student for their respective house. If the Horned Serpent wants the student, the crystal sets in its forehead will light up, whereas if the Wampus claims the student, it will roar. Likewise, if it Thunderbird to which the student belongs, it will signal its approval by beating its wings, and if Puckwudgie desires the student, it will raise its arrow. In the event that more than one house lays claim, the student will then be given the choice to choose between them.
The houses of Ilvermony make up the 'whole body' of the witch are wizard, with each having their own special attributes:
Horned Serpent-said to represent the mind, this house favours those students who are natural scholars. Wampus-said to represent the body, this house favours warriors (those with physical prowess). Thunderbird-said to represent the soul, this house favours those with an adventuresome spirit. Puckwudgie-said to represent the heart, this house favours healers.
After the ceremony is complete, the children are taken to another room to be chosen by a wand.
Ilvermorny is known to be one of the most democratic, least elitist schools around, which is exactly the type of legacy that Isolt and James would have wanted. In conclusion, I apologize for the length of this lesson, but Isolt's story was such that it could not be left untold.