In honor of the fast-approaching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, to quickly educate her fans about North American wizarding history.
Today, a new story and video appeared on Pottermore that dives deep into the rich history of the
Unlike Rowling’s previous writings about other schools Castelobruxo and Mahoutokoro, the feature on Ilvermorny is extremely detailed. Considering it clocks in at almost 5,000 words, we’re breaking things down into a TL;DR version to get you the most essentially pieces of info.
Here’s what we know about the school and it’s totally badass founder Isolt Sayre:
1. Isolt Sayre Founded Modern American Magic
Isolt Sayre was born in Ireland in 1603. She was the daughter of two powerful pure-blood wizarding families, but her parents were sympathetic and oftentimes helpful to Muggles. When she was five, her parents died in a fire that was secretly caused by her estranged aunt.
2. She Was Taken In by Her Aunt Gormlaith Gaunt
Gormlaith Gaunt — whose surname should sound familiar to any Harry Potter fan, as they are direct descendants of Salazar Slytherin — stole Isolt away. She used dark magic to keep her niece isolated from Muggles in the hopes of keeping their pure-blood heritage intact.
Instead of allowing her to attend Hogwarts, Gaunt taught her niece enough magic to be practical but never allowed her to have a wand of her own.
3. Isolt Came to America on the Mayflower
After fleeing her aunt’s tyrannical reign, Isolt traveled to England with only a gold Gordian Knot brooch and her aunt’s wand. In 1620, she disguised herself as a Muggle boy and secured spot on the Mayflower.
After arriving on Plymouth Rock with the rest of the Puritan Muggle settlers — or No-Maj, as they came to be known — Isolt set off on her own.
4. Gormlaith Wand Belonged to Salazar Slytherin
Unbeknownst to Isolt, the wand she had stolen from her aunt belonged to her ancestor and one of the Hogwarts founders, Salazar Slyherin. The core of this powerful wand was from a Basilisk — like the one found in the Chamber of Secrets.
5. She Befriended a Pukwudgie Named William
In her travels, Isolt found a Pukwudgie — which J.K. Rowling describes as “a short, grey-faced, large-eared creature distantly related to the European goblin” — being attacked by a Hidebehind — “a nocturnal, forest-dwelling spectre that preys on humanoid creatures.”
She cast the spell that made the Hidebehind flee. Despite disliking wizards, the Pukwudgie owed Isolt a debt after she nursed him back to health. She went on the name her new companion “William” after her father.
6. Isolt Was a Parseltongue
Like her ancestor Salazar Slytherin, Isolt learned she could speak Parseltogue after meeting a Horned Serpent in a nearby creek.
Each time she visited the serpent his message was the same: “Until I am part of your family, your family is doomed.”
7. She Adopted Two Magical Sons
One day, Isolt followed agonizing cries into the forest and saw the same Hidebehind that had attacked William slaughtering two adult wizards. Although she was too late to save the parents, Isolt and William were able to kill the Hidebehind and save the couple’s two young children, Chadwick and Webster Boot.
William wanted no part in saving the critically injured boys. After helping Isolt carry them back to their house, she declared his debt was repaid and he vanished.
8. Isolt Married a No-Maj
Not long after saving the Boot boys, Isolt met James Steward — a No-Maj who had met the Boot family in his trip to America when he came across the bodies of the Boot parents and buried them. Isolt intended to Obliviate James, but after realizing that he accepted her magic, the the two eventually fell in love and married.
9. Isolt and James Had Twin Daughters
In addition to raising Chadwick and Webster as their own, Isolt gave birth to twin daughters: Rionach and Martha. Martha, the elder and named after James’s mother, turned out to be a Squib and happily married a No-Maj.
Rionach, named after Isolt’s mother, went on to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts at Ilvermorny, but never married for fear of passing on the Slytherin bloodline.
10. Isolt: Mother of North American Wandmaking
To fulfill her promise to teach Chadwick and Webster magic on their eleventh birthdays, Isolt had to first make them wands. Only wandless magic had been used by North American wizarding families and she possessed the only known working wand.
After a prophetic dream, Isolt learned that a shard from the crown of the Horned Serpent could work as a powerful wand core. She build wands for her adopted children using the magical serpent core and prickly ash.
Together they discovered usable cores in “Wampus hair, Snallygaster heartstring and Jackalope antlers” which they used to build the wands of all future Ilvermorny students.
11. Ilvermorny Started as a Home School
To teach Chadwick and Webster about magic, Isolt and James turned their house on Mount Greylock in Western Massachusetts into a school. The school is protected by a number of powerful enchantments that conceal the school from prying non-magical eyes.
Soon, word of their small school spread and magical families in the area began brining their children to the Ilvermorny School to learn magic and wandwork from Isolt. The school quickly grew from a stone shack to a castle that could house all faculty and students.
12. Gormlaith Gaunt Came Back for Revenge
Upon learning about the mysterious school, Gormlaith tracked down her niece with the intention to steal Rionach and Martha. Gormlaith cursed James and Isolt as she attacked the castle.
Webster and Chadwick, now 14 and 16, fought off Gormlaith thanks to their mother’s teachings and powerful Horned Serpent-core wands. Ultimately, Gormlaith was defeated after William the Pukwudgie came to Isolt’s aid and shot the evil witch with a poison arrow.
Isolt, James, Webster, Chadwick and the twins all survived and went on to live long, happy lives.
13. Slytherin’s Wand is Buried Near Ilvermorny
To finally move forward from her painful childhood, Isolt buried Slytherin’s wand. Eventually a snakewood tree with magical medicinal properties grew in its place.
14. Ilvermorny Became the Most Popular Wizarding School in North America
By the 1800s, Ilvermorny became the preferred boarding school for young witches and wizards in the region. Since it was co-founded by a No-Maj, it is also the most accepting of all wizards — pureblood or otherwise.
15. Ilvermorny’s Robes are Blue and Cranberry
Blue was chosen by Isolt, who had always wanted to be in the Ravenclaw house, and cranberry for James’s love of cranberry pie. All robes are fastened with a gold Gordian knot.
16. The Family Named the Ilvermorny Houses
Each of the family members chose . Together, each of these creatures is said to represent a part of every witch and wizard.
Isolt: The Horned Serpent, the creature she felt a strong bond with, represents the mind.
James: The Pukwudgie, chosen because it was his wife’s dear friend, represents the heart.
Chadwick: The Thunderbird, a bird “that can create storms as it flies,” represents the soul.
Webster: The Wampus, “a magical panther-like creature that was fast, strong and almost impossible to kill,” represents the body.
17. The Ilvermorny Sorting Ceremony is Pretty Different from Hogwarts
As new Ilvermorny students enter the castle for the first time, they are called individually to stand on the Gordian knot — which is surrounded by carvings of each of the Houses — at the center of the entrance hall.
Once the student is in place, the carvings will react to claim the student. Sometimes, multiple Houses want a student, in which case the student must pick their own fate.
In addition to this new story, that will tell you which of the four houses you belong to.
18. Pukwudgies are Basically House Elves
Similar to the House Elves at Hogwarts, the curmudgeonly Pukwudgies help out around Ilvermorny. The small, grey creatures still love to complain, but year after year they return to their posts. Some even suggest that Isolt’s dear friend William still works at the school.
To read J.K. Rowling’s work in full — which I highly suggest you do — or to be sorted into a Ilvermorny House, be sure to visit .
Which Ilvermorny House were you sorted into?1 Votes
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will be released in theaters on November 18.
MP Staff Writer, cinefile, and resident Slytherclaw // UCLA Alumna // Follow me on Twitter: kristin_lai