The Death Eaters are some of the most iconic figures in the Harry Potter franchise alongside Dumbledore, Hermione, and Harry himself.
Voldemort’s merry band of minions make quite an entrance when they’re first introduced at the Quidditch World Cup Final in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. They storm the tent village and torment wizarding folks and Muggles alike. They go on to wreak plenty of havoc as the series goes on, taking a few of our most beloved heroes away from us.
Despite the sprawling world that J.K. Rowling has created, with countless spinoffs and tie-ins, there isn’t a whole ton of information on the rules that Death Eaters have to obey.
Although there’s no official handbook for Death Eaters, readers and viewers still get a pretty vivid picture of what it’s like to serve under someone as merciless and cold as the Dark Lord. After all, Voldemort has waited for years and years for another attempt at world domination and Pureblood rule over Muggles, and he’s not about to let anyone get in his way; not Harry Potter, not Dumbledore, and certainly not his own most devoted followers.
The rules listed here are gleaned from both the books, the movies, Pottermore, and the play. Some of them are implied rather than explicitly stated as if they were part of some sort of Death Eater contract. Strictly speaking, only those with the Dark Mark are proper Death Eaters, but the list encompasses rules that apply to his other devout minions.
Here are 20 Strict Rules Death Eaters Must Follow.
20 The Tattoo
In the strictest sense of the term, the only Voldemort fans who count as full Death Eaters are those with Dark Marks branded on their arms. Considering how normal Muggle tattoos are already quite a commitment, you’d have to be a pretty hard-core Voldemort follower to be okay with having the Dark Mark on you forever.
For starters, it connects you with the Dark Lord forever, allowing him to summon you whenever and wherever.
Plus, if (and when) Voldemort fails at his attempt at world domination, you’d still be tied to him forever. The Mark doesn’t disappear just because the spell-caster is gone— it’s noted that it simply fades into a scar, much like the one on Harry’s forehead.
19 They Must Apparate to Voldemort when summoned
When Voldemort touches the Dark Mark on someone’s forearm, it causes a burning sensation to everyone else with the same brand. It’s a signal to Death Eaters to congregate and immediately Apparate to Voldemort’s side.
They’re essentially on-call 24/7, unless they’re on an important undercover assignment and have a cover to maintain, like Snape. This rule isn’t all that surprising— evil plans can change at any given moment, and world domination requires a lot of meticulous planning and flexibility.
Plus, it’s not hard to imagine that Voldemort would want to keep tabs on his closest followers at all times. He’s convinced people to betray their loved ones for him before, so surely he’s wary that a traitor could be in his own ranks, too.
18 Desertion is Fatal
Another rule of service to You-Know-Who is that Death Eaters are absolutely not allowed to betray him.
When Voldemort goes into hiding, many of his followers claim that they have been working against their will under the influence of the Imperius Curse.
Others, like Igor Karkaroff, opt to provide the Ministry of Magic with information on the Death Eaters’ identities, leading to their arrests. While Voldemort decides to spare some of the former in order to maintain a larger army of followers, he isn’t so kind to those like Karkaroff. The headmaster of Durmstrang is hunted down and punished for his desertion, and is found lifeless in Europe at the hands of some Death Eaters.
17 Blood Purity is Paramount
Tom Marvolo Riddle isn’t exactly a Pureblood wizard, but because of how poorly his Muggle father treats him during his childhood, he decides to prioritize blood purity as he becomes Voldemort. Many of his followers come from prestigious Pureblood families, such as the Malfoys and the Blacks. Some families even resort to inbreeding to maintain blood purity.
As Hermione points out, there’s no way all of them are genuinely Pureblood. What’s important, though, is the adherence to Pureblood supremacist ideology, that Muggles are the lowest of the low, and Muggle-born witches and wizards somehow steal their magic from true magical folk. Sure, some of Voldemort’s followers are by his side out of fear, some because they want power regardless of how they get it, but they all at least pretend to support the ideology.
16 Lifelong Service
The permanent nature of the Dark Mark isn’t entirely metaphorical— once you’re a Death Eater, you’re a Death Eater for life. There’s apparently no such thing as a termination clause in a Death Eater’s hypothetical employment contract - apart from the unfortunate circumstance in which they fail Voldemort and face his fatal wrath.
It seems fairly obvious why the Dark Lord demands lifetime devotion. A deserter could betray his secrets, and the stakes are incredibly high when you’re doing something as shady and corrupt as Voldemort is on such a large scale. In any case, the most loyal of the pack, like Bellatrix Lestrange, would probably be more than happy to be in Voldemort’s service forever.
15 Must Be Human
Voldemort himself is born to a Muggle father, and it’s honestly not practical at all to bar any Muggle blood from the family trees of his supporters. There are Death Eaters who aren’t as Pureblooded as they claim to be.
What Voldemort really can’t tolerate is non-humans.
For example, Fenrir Greyback—best known as the werewolf who infects Remus Lupin in his infancy—is a vital asset to Voldemort’s efforts. He works as a Snatcher and is present at many major conflicts. He even catches Harry and the gang while they’re on the run. Yet Greyback is denied the (dubious) honor of full Death Eater status because of his lycanthropy, which makes him an outcast.
14 Taking A Life Is Not Required
You’d think that with the word literally in the job title, taking lives would be a requirement to be a Death Eater. Apparently, it’s not. While some Voldemort followers like Fenrir Greyback are notoriously bloodthirsty, it’s implied that other Death Eaters don’t take any lives before ascending to Voldemort’s inner circle.
Perhaps the most notable example is Severus Snape.
He serves Voldemort for several years until You-Know-Who ends the life of the woman Snape loves, Lily Potter. The first person to perish at Snape’s hands is Dumbledore while he is working as a double agent, and Snape is concerned about how the act would affect his soul, suggesting that he’s never actually taken someone’s life before.
13 Hogwarts Houses Are Irrelevant
Slytherin House doesn’t exactly make the best of first impressions in the books. Hagrid displays open resentment and distrust towards Slytherins as a whole when he explains to Harry the various houses at Hogwarts.
Your Hogwarts house doesn’t really matter on your Death Eater application. Slytherin is definitely strongly associated with Voldemort, with its founder Salazar Slytherin’s insistence on Pureblood students and having quite a large number of dark wizards and witches emerge from the house. Yet other houses have produced their fair share of evildoers, too.
Peter Pettigrew is a Gryffindor during his time at school, and still betrays his closest friends to Voldemort. In an alternate timeline in The Cursed Child, even Hufflepuff golden boy Cedric Diggory joins the ranks of the Death Eaters.
12 Purity of Bloodlines
When Voldemort talks about trimming family trees, he isn’t just talking about making sure everyone is a Pureblood. After all, he’s not Pureblood either. Instead, it seems that he wants to ensure entire families are devoted to him.
When confronted with the need to eliminate Tonks and Lupin, Voldemort tells Bellatrix to regard it as a way to refine and clean up her bloodline.
He describes the couple as a diseased pair that threatens the purity of the Black and the Lestrange families. He isn’t even talking about Lupin’s lycanthropy. Rather, it’s Lupin’s unabashed allegiance to and uncompromising camaraderie with the Order of the Phoenix that Voldemort takes issue with. It’s not simply a question of blood purity, but also of where one’s sympathies lie.
11 The Uniform
From the Sith to the Death Eaters, if there’s one thing evil fictional regimes have in common, it’s a devotion to an aesthetic. The Death Eaters are known not only by their Dark Marks, but also by their black robes and creepy masks.
It makes a lot of practical sense for the Death Eaters to don pitch black robes, as the color would provide ample cover as they carry out Voldemort’s orders in the night.
When they first appear in the films, they’re shown wearing hoods that are reminiscent of the klan. It’s the only time those hoods appear, though, as the creative team later opts for more ordinary robes for Voldemort’s army. Despite the change, the real-life parallel is still very clear.
10 Secret Identities
Let’s be honest: even though they’re servants of evil, Death Eaters get to wear some pretty cool masks. The masks protect the identities of the Death Eaters when they’re out and about executing Voldemort’s orders.
They’re not just a precaution against the Order of the Phoenix or the Ministry of Magic.
Voldemort demands that Death Eaters wear masks to conceal their true identities from one another in case someone decides to betray their cause and rat them out. Sure, some of them inevitably knew one another from working together for so man years. Plus, Voldemort does call them by their names occasionally. At the end of the day, only Voldemort knew who all the Death Eaters were.
9 They Must Earn The Robes
Not everyone gets to wear the Dark Mark on their arm, and not everyone gets to wear the uniform either. As suggested in the books, only true Death Eaters are granted the dubious honor of wearing the black robes, as it’s a simple of devotion to and favor from the Dark Lord, along with the skull and serpent brand.
However, concessions are known to have been made, most notably for the werewolf Fenrir Greyback. He’s not a proper Death Eater and doesn’t have the Dark Mark due to Voldemort’s dislike of non-humans. Yet he is granted permission to wear the Death Eaters’ signature robes because of how much valuable work he’s done for Voldemort and his allies.
8 Money and Aristocracy are more important than magic skills
It’s not hard to see why Voldemort would want some of the most powerful witches and wizards in the world to be on his side. World domination is a tough business, especially when you don’t have a body (yet). He even tries to recruit Harry in The Sorcerer’s Stone, insisting that they’d be unstoppable, if only they’d work together. Of course, one might argue that he probably would’ve just ended Harry’s life as soon as he got his hands on the Stone, since Voldemort knows about the prophecy.
Skills with a wand aren’t enough to grant you a high status in Voldemort’s eyes.
Many of those in his inner circle are also born to wealth and aristocracy, giving them priceless connections to the ministry that Voldemort could take advantage of.
7 They Must Cast The Dark Mark
The Dark Mark isn’t just a logo that Death Eaters put on their skin, but also a kind of propaganda used to spread fear. Whenever they end someone’s life, a Death Eater is required to cast the Dark Mark in the sky, signalling that the loss of life is the work of Voldemort and his minions.
Evidently, the Dark Mark doesn’t cause fear only in the hearts of ordinary witches and wizards. A group of Death Eaters terrorizes the audience at the Quidditch World Cup between Ireland and Belgium, but they flee as soon as Barty Crouch Jr. casts a Dark Mark above the tents.
Because of its frequent use as the modus operandi of Death Eaters, it’s strongly associated with Voldemort, and makes the Death Eaters fear that the Dark Lord has returned.
6 Do Not Call Him By His Name
Voldemort’s name is given a lot of weight in the Harry Potter universe, invoking fear in thousands of hearts due to his terrible reign. Though some brave souls like Harry and Dumbledore try to lessen the impact by using his name, for the most part he’s known as You-Know-Who and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
Even his own followers don’t use his name, albeit mostly out of respect rather than fear.
When Harry uses Voldemort’s name in front of Bellatrix, she screams at him, disgusted that he would tarnish the Dark Lord’s name with his unworthy lips. It’s also implied in the way Snape continues to call him “Dark Lord” when he’s at Hogwarts. Harry questions why Snape refers to Voldemort that way when he’s supposedly one of the good guys now. Snape would probably get Crucio’d if he let “Voldemort” slip.
5 Physical Punishment
This probably comes as no surprise given how ruthless he is, flinging out Unforgivable Curses left and right, but Voldemort is a big believer of corporal punishment. He demands lifelong devotion to him, which includes Death Eaters putting their lives on the line for him and his ambition. It’s really not that big of a leap for him to dole out physical punishment that his followers have to accept.
For instance, he uses the Cruciatus Curse on Pettigrew after having regained a new physical body.
Even his gifts can take on a grim turn: Pettigrew cuts off his own hand so that Voldemort can have a body again, and is granted a new one to replace it. Yet he literally gets strangled by his own hand, given to him by Voldemort.
4 Skills Aren't Really A Requirement, Either
Let’s be real, you don’t have to be a genius to be part of Voldemort’s inner circle. We’re talking about you, Peter “Wormtail” Pettigrew. In fact, Pettigrew is kind of aggressively mediocre as far as wizards go. Sure, he can turn into a rat, which is a rare skill, but he doesn’t show a whole lot of other talent aside from that.
The trait that probably allowed him to get so close to Voldemort is how self-centred and cowardly he is— Voldemort can trust that he’d do anything to save his own skin, even betray his closest friends. It’s an attribute that makes Pettigrew easy to manipulate with threats as well as words promising glory and power, making his devotion to Voldemort unquestionable.
3 Finding Voldemort
The lifelong service of a Death Eater continues even when the Dark Lord has gone missing. After Voldemort’s curse rebounds off of baby Harry and hits him instead, Voldemort goes into hiding, biding his time as he tries to regain strength.
During that time, not a lot of folks search for him, believing him to be gone for good. However, there are a handful of fiercely loyal Death Eaters that look for Voldemort, most notably Bellatrix Lestrange. She’s later praised for her devotion and is considered Voldemort’s lieutenant.
On the other hand, Voldemort does not hesitate to make his displeasure known, questioning the loyalty of those who didn’t even try to look for him during his disappearance. It’s clear then that absolute loyalty is required, even if Voldemort is hiding.
2 No Denying Their Allegiance
Understandably, Voldemort seems to mistrust the vast majority of his followers, like Draco Malfoy. On the other hand, he favors and rewards those who proudly stand by him without hiding their allegiance to the Dark Lard, such as Bellatrix Lestrange.
Although this isn’t a hard and fast rule, it’s obvious then that Voldemort thinks actions speak louder than words, especially actions done loudly and proudly. After all, once someone is vocal about supporting him, it’s unlikely that they’ll ever be free from Azkaban should Voldemort fall.
Being visibly supportive of Voldemort means that a Death Eater isn’t playing both sides, waiting to see which side wins.
There are exceptions, of course, like the double agent Snape.
1 Harry Is His
As with most villains in most franchises, Voldemort is absolutely obsessed with ending Harry’s life with his own hands. As a result, he relies on Death Eaters to help capture the Boy Who Lived, but forbids them from taking his life.
He’s not averse to the Death Eaters hurting Harry so long as he lives until Voldemort can get his own hands on him. After all, the prophecy states that either Harry or Neville will be Voldemort’s downfall, so it’s no wonder that the Dark Lord is hell-bent on ending his nemesis, once and for all, in order to secure his domination over both the wizarding and the Muggle worlds.
Plus, Harry is the one who brings about Voldemort’s first failure, so it’s no surprise he wants to taste vengeance himself.
Do you know any other rules for Voldemort's folllowers in Harry Potter? Tell us in the comments!