Harry Potter is one of the most recognizable and celebrated franchises in modern pop culture, and has even prompted crossover content from fandoms of other franchises. It’s an iconic tale of good versus evil, with a lot of grey areas thrown in. For Potterheads who grew up with the books and the movies, it’s a heartwrenching first taste of how unfair and muddy life can be.
At the center of the action is Harry Potter, a young boy who manages to grow up to be good and kind despite a lifetime of mistreatment from his Muggle family and the trauma of being hunted by one of the greatest Dark Wizards of all time, Lord Voldemort. And as the saying goes, a hero is only as good as his villain, and boy, Voldemort is more than a formidable opponent. However, the Dark Lord would be nothing without his army of loyal minions, known as the Death Eaters. Without them, he would’ve stayed incorporeal after his curse on baby Harry rebounded onto him and tore him apart. As mysterious as the Death Eaters are, there are plenty of secrets about their bodies that have been uncovered over the years.
The list below draws from both the books and the movies, and includes in-universe facts about the Death Eaters as well as details from behind the scenes. Some facts apply to most Death Eaters, while others are more specific to particular members of Voldemort’s army. If you’re not fully caught up, you might want to proceed with caution, keeping your guard-- and your wand-- up.
Here are 20 Strange Details About Death Eaters’ Anatomies.
20 Dark Marks On Their Left Forearms
During Voldemort’s initial reign, many were terrorized by the ruthless tactics he used to maintain his position of power. One of the critical components of his rule is the network of Death Eaters that eroded trust in the Wizarding world because many of them couldn’t be identified.
However, one of the most obvious signs of a Death Eater is the Dark Mark on their left forearm. This requirement was enforced by Voldemort to secure his minions’ loyalty. You’d have to catch a glimpse of it to confirm someone’s allegiance to the Dark Lord, but it’s highly unlikely that someone would have it as a temporary tattoo, given the horror it strikes into the hearts of the masses.
19 They Don't Know One Another
Even though readers and viewers eventually learn the names and faces of several high-profile Death Eaters, the Death Eaters generally don’t know one another’s identities. Their elaborate masks and dark, flowing robes aren’t just precautions against the Ministry of Magic or the Order of the Phoenix.
The disguises prevent Death Eaters from ratting each other out in the event of capture.
That being said, it is by no means fail-proof: Igor Karkaroff turned in some of his Death Eater peers to the Wizengamot to get pardoned for his own crimes. Voldemort does call some Death Eaters by name in the graveyard when he’s resurrected, though, which kind of defeats the purpose of hiding their identities.
18 Some Claim They Were Controlled And Cursed
As Hagrid tells Harry in The Sorcerer’s Stone, plenty of folks joined Voldemort’s ranks when he started looking for followers. Some joined out of fear, while others wanted to share his power and authority. That said, after Voldemort’s downfall, some Death Eaters claim to have been under the Imperius Curse, like Lucius Malfoy and Avery.
While that may sound like a measly excuse to escape punishment, some of Voldemort’s followers were indeed not in control of their own bodies. According to Sirius Black, it was common knowledge that Voldemort could control people so that they’d do his bidding without their own consent. However, since Death Eaters are part of the Dark Lord’s inner circle, it’s unlikely that he’d rely solely on the Imperius Curse when loyalty is of utmost importance.
17 The Dark Mark Is Permanent
Not many Death Eaters stuck by Voldemort’s side or tried to find him when he first disappeared. Even outright defectors from the Death Eaters aren’t unheard of— the two most famous instances are probably Severus Snape and Igor Karkaroff. In general, being a Death Eater is a lifelong commitment. Even if you leave Voldemort’s ranks, the Death Mark will follow you forever. There’s no way to remove the brand, and Death Eaters are marked for life even if they defect to the good guys.
There’s no proper way of hiding their past association with the Dark Lord.
Plus, any attempt at deserting would usually end badly— Voldemort doesn’t take to defectors kindly.
16 They're Not All Pure-Bloods
One of the most important aspects of Death Eaters’ ideology is blood status. They uphold— or pretend to uphold— the false idea that pure-blood witches and wizards are inherently superior to their Muggle-born counterparts. In reality, though, it’s impractical to maintain blood purity. Some ardently blood supremacist families would “trim” their family tries by striking out anyone who is pro-Muggle. Other more extreme pure-blood families, like the Blacks and the Lestranges, would even resort to inbreeding to preserve their blood purity.
Plus, Voldemort himself was born to a Muggle father. While most of his followers probably didn’t know his half-blood status, it goes to show that one’s actual blood status doesn’t matter as long as they espouse anti-Muggle rhetoric.
15 Muggle-Borns Can Be Death Eaters
Despite the vehemently anti-Muggle views of Death Eaters, many of their ranks are actually half-bloods. As J.K. Rowling insinuates, there might even be some Muggle-born Death Eaters. When describing Snape’s ancestry at a panel for Order of the Phoenix, she says that “clearly he is no Muggle-born” because Muggle-borns can’t be Death Eaters-- except in rare circumstances. That begs the question: how do Muggle-borns become Death Eaters?
They’d most likely have to hide the fact that they’re not pure-blood, which would probably be really hard, considering how tight-knit and established pure-blood families are within the Wizarding World. Mmaybe the fact that Death Eaters don’t know one another’s true identities would work in a Muggle-born’s favour, helping them hide their heritage. We’re just glad Hermione isn’t on their side.
14 The Dark Mark Burns
The Dark Mark is a major symbol of a Death Eater’s allegiance to the Dark Lord and his vision for the world, but it’s not just there to add to the Death Eater aesthetic. It serves a practical purpose as well: Voldemort can summon his followers by pressing a finger onto a Dark Mark.
When Voldemort activates a Dark Mark, his followers’ forearms will burn, alerting them to his call.
As soon as they feel the sensation, Death Eaters must always Apparate to Voldemort’s whereabouts. One of the most famous instances of Voldemort summoning his Death Eaters is his rebirth in the graveyard of Little Hangleton. He makes it clear that Apparating to him is non-negotiable.
13 They Must Be Human
The Death Eaters recruit the help of many non-human creatures, most notably the Dementors to help them break out of Azkaban. They’ve even formed alliances with giants during the Battle of Hogwarts by promising to solve their grievances should they win. However, none of these non-humans are allowed to be Death Eaters.
Fenrir Greyback is one of Voldemort’s most vicious allies, known for his brutal attacks on children and desire to turn others into werewolves. He is allowed to wear Death Eater robes, but even he isn’t technically a Death Eater due to his lycanthropy. He doesn’t have the Dark Mark, either. Despite Voldemort’s disdain for non-humans, Greyback stays on his side, driven by his bloodlust.
12 Fenrir Greyback can't turn others in his human form
Greyback is notorious for his plans to deliberately infect as many people as possible in order to create a world dominated by werewolves. He would even stay close to potential victims right before a full moon on purpose, to make sure that he would infect them as soon as he transforms. Fenrir even developed a taste for humans without a full moon. He managed to turn Remus Lupin into a werewolf as revenge against Remus’ father, but Bill Weasley wound up much luckier.
During the Second Wizarding War, Greyback badly scarred Bill’s face, but Bill didn’t turn because Greyback doesn’t attack him while transformed.
Bill does begin to develop some wolfish traits, like a preference for rare steaks.
11 Death Eaters Can Summon Voldemort
Voldemort can press his finger to a Death Eater’s Dark Mark to summon his other followers. This nifty trick also works the other way around. At one point, the Dark Lord orders them to signal him if they capture Harry.
Neither the books nor movies ever specify whether Death Eaters can contact one another using their Dark Marks, or if the brands are exclusively connections between them and Voldemort. With law enforcement on their tails, you have to admit, it’s a smart way to keep their correspondence under the radar. Sure, it’s a technique used to facilitate some truly unsavory acts, but at least Hermione is able to use it as inspiration for her Dumbledore’s Army coins.
10 Death Eaters Outnumbered The Order Of The Phoenix 20:1
Voldemort and his followers aren’t just ruthless and powerful—they’re also relentlessly cunning. In Goblet of Fire, Peter Pettigrew and Barty Crouch, Jr. form an elaborate plan to facilitate Voldemort’s physical return, allowing him to regroup with his Death Eaters to take over the Wizarding World once again.
Thankfully, the Order of the Phoenix is resilient in its efforts to resist the Dark Lord. However, they’re seriously overpowered. According to Lupin in Order of the Phoenix, the Order was outnumbered twenty to one by the Death Eaters during the First Wizarding War.
Since Voldemort mentions after his resurrection that he’s only lost six followers, things don’t look bright for the Order during the Second War, either.
Of course, peace is eventually restored, but not without some heartwrenching casualties.
9 They Only Appear As Black Smoke In The Movies
As with any adaptation, changes were needed to help translate Harry’s adventures from the page to the screen. One of the most notable changes is the way Death Eaters travel. In the books, the Death Eaters simply Apparate and Disapparate like every other wizard or witch. Popping out of thin air is hardly the most cinematically striking visual. As a result, the Death Eaters are shown flying around like dark smoke. They can even physically wreak havoc in their wispy state.
Similarly, the good guys are portrayed as streaks of bright white smoke when they Apparate. The effect doesn’t quite make sense within the universe's logic, but it does help viewers differentiate between the two sides during intense battle sequences.
8 The Dark Mark Is red and changes color
Stunning multicolored tattoos exist in our real-life universe, but they certainly don’t change colors. Dark Marks, on the other hand, do change in hue.
Not only do the brands burn when Voldemort summons the Death Eaters, they also turn black if they’ve been activated.
In Goblet of Fire, Harry sees the Dark Mark on Wormtail’s arm when Voldemort pulls back his sleeve, and notes that it looks like a “vivid red tattoo.” Once Voldemort activates the Dark Mark by touching it, it turns black, as Snape notes in his attempt to convince Fudge of the Dark Lord’s return. The tattoo-like symbol eventually fades to a scar after Voldemort’s demise, so let’s hope it stays that way.
7 Digital Doubles Replaced The Real Actors
Some hardcore Potterheads might object to the way Death Eaters turn into dark smoke at will in the movies, but you have to admit: it’s quite a sight to behold. Double Negative was the visual effects studio in charge of Goblet of Fire, and apparently, the digital results were so convincing that the actual actors were left out of many shots altogether. Even scenes in which multiple Death Eaters Apparate around Voldemort were just portrayed with digital doubles.
David Vickery reveals that director Mike Newell initially shot footage of the real actors stepping out of the smoke to transition from their digital doubles. However, matching the digital doubles to the real actors would have taken too much time.
6 Only Voldemort And Snape Can Fly Unassisted
Despite the seemingly endless ways in which magic helps the Wizarding World function, several limitations still exist. For example, you can’t conjure food out of nowhere, and there is no spell that allows wizards to fly without support from an object like a broom.
As it turns out, Voldemort has invented a spell to fly unsupported, as revealed in the Battle of the Seven Potters in The Deathly Hallows. At some point, he teaches the spell to Snape, allowing the former Death Eater to fly away at the end of the book. Rowling has since clarified that brooms, like wands, are just tools that help channel magical powers, and that the most talented witches and wizards can forgo those tools.
5 The Dark Mark Is Connected To Voldemort's Health
We’ve already discussed how the Dark Mark can change color if it’s been activated, but in addition, the color also depends on Voldemort’s health.
After Voldemort’s first downfall, the Dark Marks began to fade away, although they never fully disappeared.
Similarly, the brands become clearer when Voldemort starts to regain his strength in the follow-up to the Second Wizarding War. When Snape reveals his Dark Mark to Fudge as proof of Voldemort’s return, he says that the Marks on both his and Karkaroff’s arms had been growing clearer and burning over the past year. He explains that this is what prompted Karkaroff to flee, since the latter had correctly interpreted these changes as signs of Voldemort’s return.
4 Wormtail Can't Fully Control His Silver Hand
In order to complete the potion to facilitate Voldemort’s return to his physical form, Pettigrew needed to secure three ingredients, one of which was the flesh of a servant. Despite being a Gryffindor, Pettigrew isn’t exactly known for his boundless courage, but he sacrifices his own right hand in order to revive his master.
Voldemort grants him a silver hand to replace his lost limb. At first, it seems like Pettigrew has full control of his fancy magical hand, but as it turns out, Voldemort’s “gift” is also a fail-safe against potential betrayal. Pettigrew attacks Harry with his silver hand, but he briefly hesitates because Harry had previously saved his life. In response to the moment of mercy, the hand ends up attacking Pettigrew himself.
3 They attack each other
It’s pretty common knowledge that Voldemort will use any means necessary to ensure absolute loyalty to him, whether it be his liberal use of the Unforgivable Curses or handing out potentially fatal “gifts.” In addition to his own ruthless actions, he also commands Death Eaters to harm their peers on his behalf.
When Thorfinn Rowle fails to capture Harry in The Deathly Hallows, Voldemort orders Draco to punish Rowle using the Cruciatus Curse.
As brutal and inhumane as it is, it’s a good way of solidifying his authority over his Death Eaters. In one fell swoop, he punishes Rowle for his failure and further forces Draco into his ranks, reminding him that he’s a tool for Voldemort’s cause.
2 The Ministry Used The Unforgivable Curses On Suspected Death Eaters
Voldemort and his Death Eaters use the Unforgivable Curses on their own people-- which makes sense since they’re the bad guys-- but Aurors were also allowed to use them during the First Wizarding War. Use of the curses was legalized by Barty Crouch, Sr. in response to the horrific violence from Voldemort’s side.
In fact, Aurors were allowed to use the Unforgivable Curses not only on confirmed Death Eaters, but also on suspects.
They’d often end the suspects’ lives instead of capturing them, and those captured under suspicion of supporting Voldemort would be sent to Azkaban without any trials. The Unforgivable Curses were eventually criminalized once again, until Voldemort legalized them under his reign during the Second Wizarding War.
1 Quirrell can fly when he shares his head with Voldemort
For most of the books, it’s a common belief among wizards and witches that nobody can fly unassisted. In fact, Voldemort’s ability to fly is a major surprise to the members of the Order of the Phoenix. In the movies, however, Quirinus Quirrell—the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor during Harry’s first year at Hogwarts—is somehow able to fly.
After Quirrell reveals that he’s been sharing his body with Voldemort all this time, Voldemort orders him to end Harry’s life. Quirrell’s compliance is immediate, and he shoots through the air towards Harry with ease. It’s most likely just a mistake, but a possible in-universe explanation could be that Voldemort shared the spell with Quirrell for his own convenience even though he's not technically a Death Eater.
What are some other secrets about Death Eaters' bodies in Harry Potter? Tell us in the comments!