The Harry Potter universe taught readers and viewers about many events and elements from the Wizarding World, and one of the most intense (and obscure) parts from it are the horcruxes and how they’re made. This process and its objects are linked to Lord Voldemort himself, the only known wizard to successfully create more than one horcrux. The Harry Potter books and films came to an end years ago, but there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding the horcruxes and their creation.
The Harry Potter book series began in 1997 with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and came to an end 10 years later with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh entry in the series. The books were adapted into eight films (with Deathly Hallows being split into two parts) beginning in 2001 and ending in 2011. A universe as rich as the Wizarding World would be very hard to adapt into films in its entirety, and many details were left behind or barely explored. Such is the case of the horcruxes, which even within the book series are a pretty big mystery.
Tom Riddle, later known as Lord Voldemort, was a very powerful wizard – the problem was that he also had an evil nature, and used his power to commit truly horrific acts. Voldemort wanted to be immortal, and during his years at Hogwarts he came across with one of the darkest practices in the Wizarding World: horcruxes. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, readers (and viewers) learned that Tom Riddle was researching horcruxes and even asked professor Horace Slughorn about them. Slughorn gave him an overview of horcruxes as long as their conversation remained between them. Riddle expressed curiosity on whether more than one horcrux could be created, something that horrified Slughorn, who later carried the guilt of having provided information to Riddle. The process of creating a horcrux involves the biggest crime against nature as well as other things - among those being one that remains a secret.
Everything We Know About How Horcruxes Are Made
A horcrux is an object that conceals a fragment of an individual’s soul, meaning that if the person dies, a part of their soul will still be alive. Essentially, the individual would achieve immortality through this. Horcruxes can be anything, but inanimate objects work best as they’re harder to destroy; if a living being is turned into a horcrux, once it dies so does the fragment kept in it. Destroying these objects is a tough task even for the most skilled wizards, as only very powerful processes and spells can effectively destroy them.
The process of creating (and destroying) a horcrux could be found in the book Secrets of the Darkest Art, which was kept in the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts Library until Albus Dumbledore removed it when he became headmaster. Riddle read all about horcruxes in a book found at Hogwarts, and it’s believed it was this book. The steps to creating one (or in Voldemort’s case, many) of these objects have been revealed – in better detail in the books than the films – though not in their entirety. What is known is that it requires a murder, as this act is considered the most supreme act of evil and one that fragments the soul. The next step is a spell that helps separate one of those fragments and sends it into the object/being. The third step is a mystery, but it’s said to be a horrific act that has to be performed soon after the murder. It’s this unknown part of the ritual that has made way for many theories and discussions among Harry Potter fans over the years.
Theory: Horcruxes Are Made By Cannibalism
J.K. Rowling has said that the “horrific act” needed to create a horcrux is so terrible that it made her editor sick, and so she refuses to reveal it – and has teased fans so much about when she plans to reveal it that they just don’t believe it will ever happen. Within the Harry Potter universe, only Voldemort, Slughorn, Hermione, and Dumbledore knew what this act was about (there surely were other characters who knew about it, but those are the only ones confirmed), and they showed tolerance to other horrific acts committed in the Wizarding World, but for some reason, the one about horcruxes is too much for them to handle. This seemingly unimportant detail prompted an elaborate but interesting fan theory about the horrific act being cannibalism.
The theory originated on Reddit, and the author points out that cannibalism has been often associated with gaining strength, power, and even health from the dead. Cannibalism has been present in many cultures for centuries, either metaphorically or literally, and it has different connotations. In Greek mythology, for example, Cronus (god of time) ate his children as he feared one of them would kill him. The Wendigo is a mythological man-eating creature from the folklore of the Native American Algonquian tribes; in some traditions, it’s believed that humans overpowered by greed could turn into Wendigos. Rowling took inspiration from many classics of literature and elements from different mythologies, so in that sense, it would fit that cannibalism was part of the process of creating a horcrux.
The Harry Potter theory goes on to link cannibalism to necromancy, which in its broadest definition is a magical practice of communicating with the dead, and this can be achieved through different methods, such as summoning the spirits as apparitions or raising them bodily. The author of the theory picked up a definition that says necromancy is the art of using the dead for power, something the witches in the middle ages were skilled at. That said, the mysterious step to creating a horcrux would be consuming the flesh and/or blood of the victim in order to gain power from them and to “connect” with the murder that has just been committed, thus making it possible for the wizard to use that murder to create a horcrux.
The author uses Myrtle Warren aka Moaning Myrtle’s murder to support this idea. When Tom Riddle was still at Hogwarts, he opened the Chamber of Secrets and ordered the Basilisk inside it to hunt down muggle-born students, and its victim was Myrtle. This murder was used to keep the first fragment of Riddle’s soul into his diary – but Myrtle didn’t die by his hands. The Basilisk was ordered to kill, so there wasn’t a direct connection between Riddle and Myrtle, and the only way to have it so the murder could be used to create his first horcrux was by literally eating a part of Myrtle’s body. Cannibalism, supported by necromancy, makes sense as a horrific act, but this explanation leaves some plot holes.
None of Voldemort’s victims used to create his horcruxes had any marks or missing parts. According to the books, the bodies were intact and looked as if they had been frightened to death. Voldemort was very powerful, skilled, and intelligent, so it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility that he had a way to consume the heart or brain, or even drink the blood of the victim and leave no trace. This would have also helped him dissipate any suspicion on the victim being used to create a horcrux – again, not only the aforementioned characters knew how these are created. Stranger explanations have been given by Rowling since the series came to an end, so using a spell to make the bodies look intact is completely plausible. What's more, this connects to another (despicable) practice in the Wizarding World: drinking unicorn blood.
Unicorns are one of the many mythological creatures that are real in the universe of Harry Potter. Unicorns are considered one of the purest creatures there can be, and killing them was considered a crime. Their blood can keep a person alive but at a terrible price, causing the drinker to have a cursed life. Voldemort consumed unicorn blood through Quirinus Quirrell when he was inhabiting his body (as explained and seen in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone), and was later used by Peter Pettigrew in a potion (along with Nagini’s venom) to create a temporary body for Voldemort. Voldemort had no problem committing all types of crimes for his own benefit, and if he saw no wrong in drinking unicorn blood, he could have easily drank the blood of his victims if that meant reaching immortality.
Blood and flesh are very prominent in potions within the Wizarding World, so consuming any of these is confirmed have some power or effect: for example, the regeneration potion requires the “bone of the father [...] flesh of the servant [...] blood of the enemy”; therefore, it makes sense that one of the most obscure rituals/practices involves something as horrific as cannibalism, whether by consuming organs such as the heart or drinking the blood of the victim. And it certainly sounds like something that can disgust a wizard like Dumbledore – who has seen his fair share of tragedies throughout his life – as well as Rowling’s editor.
Why Rowling Won’t Reveal How Horcruxes Are Made
As previously mentioned, Rowling has said she knows what this horrific act is about, but it’s so terrible that she just won’t reveal it (emphasizing how it reportedly made her editor sick). But Harry Potter fans are used to the “horrific”, as Rowling made sure she added truly dark passages in the books that will live in fans’ memories. So why not share what this mysterious step in creating a horcrux is? It’s not like fans can create horcruxes, anyway.
Perhaps Rowling doesn’t actually know what the horrific act is, and it wouldn’t be the first time she isn’t sure how things work in the Wizarding World. Some of the stuff she has shared in the last years have been heavily criticized by fans for not fitting with the rest of the Wizarding World or because it’s very evident that she came up with them just for the sake of having something to reveal. This has prompted some fans to not pay attention to any “reveals” she may have to share anymore, and with good reason, as they only end up hurting what she established over the course of seven books. That said, Rowling might have used the “sick editor” excuse as that: an excuse, for not really having an answer as to what the horrific act is. Maybe she doesn’t know because she never thought there would be such interest around it, and never considered having to reveal what it is. Problem is, her excuse for not sharing it has only made way for new theories (some more hardcore than others), and if she ever decides to open up about it, no matter what the horrific act is, it won’t satisfy fans because they have already made up an idea of how truly horrible it is.
The unknown step in creating a horcrux might be better off as a mystery, and one that will never be revealed. In the end, it adds more mystery to the Harry Potter universe and to Voldemort’s legacy as a powerful wizard who had no boundaries, and who would do anything (quite literally anything) in order to achieve whatever he wanted at the moment.
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