Confused about MACUSA

J.K. Rowling has released a new article on MACUSA, the American magical government. My first instinct is confusion, because I’ve been pronouncing it mac-USA in my head, but apparently it’s “mah-cooz-ah”. I’m not sure any American would pronounce USA “ooz-ah”, and I know that’s going to annoy me when Fantastic Beasts comes out. For now I’m still pronouncing it my way.

Overall, I feel kind of like I do about a lot of the Fantastic Beasts tie-in content. It’s interesting, but underdeveloped. I finished it with very few questions answered and a huge number of new ones:

If MACUSA was officially neutral in the American Revolution, then what about other wars? The War of 1812? The Civil War? Did wizards from the north and south turn against each other? Did they want to take sides, even if their government was officially neutral? Did wizards abolish slavery at the same time as muggles?

What about the 20th century? Did Rappaport’s Law extend to ignoring even World Wars? Did MACUSA engage in an arms race with the Russian magical government? Did their twentieth century involve civil rights movements and women’s movements? Did their long history of female presidents give American witches things like the right to vote much earlier than muggle women? Did they consider moving the seat of their government out of New York City after the September 11 terrorist attacks?

And why, oh, why did they move their headquarters to Washington state in the 1770s?

Washington state did not exist in 1770s. It was not visited by European muggles until 1774. It was not fought over by the Americans and British until the War of 1812. It didn’t become a state until 1889. At the time when MACUSA supposedly moved there, what would become America was thirteen British colonies on the east coast.

(I thought it might mean Washington, D.C., but nope. The Sasquatch, AKA Bigfoot, is supposedly from the Pacific coast. And the whole point was to get away from the muggle congress in Baltimore, so staying in the muggle capital for so long would make no sense.)

I should say again that I didn’t necessarily dislike the article. I just think it was incomplete, focusing on the early days and the 1920s at the expense of the rest of American history, and a certain part of it does not fit. Some parts were great. I love that the third MACUSA president was a woman. I love the question of loyalty to one’s country versus loyalty to the magical community, which certainly is something that would come up, especially surrounding things like revolutions. I would like to know more about the things the article didn’t cover.

But … Washington state? Really?

My Patronus

… is a sphynx cat, according to Pottermore.

I wasn’t thrilled, for reasons that a quiz like this one could never have predicted. I’m allergic to cats. So when I think of them, I don’t think of my happiest memories, I think of the puffy eyes and runny nose they give me. Even as cats go, sphynx cats are kind of ugly, hairless ones. I’ve loved my results on Pottermore quizzes in the past: my Hogwarts house, my wand, even my Ilvermorny house, although those are so vague and unknown that it’s hard to have a strong preference. Patronuses are not vague or unknown. They’re such a big part of the Harry Potter series that I would imagine most fans have wondered or speculated on what their patronus would be.

The Pottermore article – no doubt expecting cases like mine – says it’s not uncommon for witches or wizards to produce “Patronuses in forms that their casters might not expect, for which they have never felt a particular affinity, or (in rare cases) even recognise”. Apparently this is because “a human confronted with inhuman evil, such as the Dementor, must draw upon resources he or she may never have needed, and the Patronus is the awakened secret self that lies dormant until needed, but which must now be brought to light”. So maybe a patronus isn’t supposed to be an animal you like. Maybe it’s more of a secret weapon.

I’m still not particularly happy that Pottermore thinks my patronus is a hairless cat.

You can read the two follow-ups here and here

Pottermore Ebooks? Yes, Please!

hp ebooks

I can spend all day reading through articles on Pottermore. The Harry Potter world is rich and fascinating, and there can never be too much detail. Yes, tell me all about young Minerva McGonagall’s love affair with a muggle, and what it means to be a hatstall, and the enchanted book and quill that don’t always agree on whether kids are magical enough to go to Hogwarts.

But one of the few things I don’t like about Pottermore is the layout. It’s easier to find the article you want now than it was on the old Pottermore, where you had to track down the chapter it was in. But while a simple search function makes finding that hatstall article easier, casual browsing can be a bit frustrating. I really wouldn’t mind some kind of index, or … table of contents?

So I’m thrilled to find out they’re releasing some of the articles in ebooks (coming out September 6), and even more excited that two of the books will include new content. I’ll definitely be buying them!

Making Sense of the Ilvermorny Houses

I don’t think it’s possible to come up with a one-to-one equivalency between the Hogwarts houses and the new Ilvermorny ones. Horned Serpent has a snake mascot like Slytherin, but represents the mind and chooses scholars, which sounds more like Ravenclaw. Wampus and Thunderbird both sound quite Gryffindor, although they are very different from each other and could certainly include people from other houses. And Pukwudgie sounds like a subtype of Hufflepuff, but certainly not the same thing. Even if all the descriptions lined up, the vast number of people across the internet reporting all kinds of different house combinations would be enough to show that there are no perfect equivalencies.

Instead, I think the two different house systems measure different aspects of personality.

The Hogwarts houses represent what a person values. Gryffindors value bravery, Ravenclaws value knowledge, and so on. These values do not even necessarily line up with one’s personality. Hermione, for example, is extremely intelligent, but outright tells Harry at the end of Sorcerer’s Stone that friendship and bravery are more important than books and cleverness. However, characters who start out quite different from their Hogwarts house description usually grow to fit it. Neville is timid and awkward in the early books, but by the end, he is leading Dumbledore’s Army in Harry’s absence and stands up to Voldemort himself when Harry seems to be dead.

Ilvermorny houses, on the other hand, don’t have anything to do with the values that the Hogwarts houses represent. In the Pottermore article, J.K. Rowling explains:

It is sometimes said of the Ilvermorny houses that they represent the whole witch or wizard: the mind is represented by Horned Serpent; the body, Wampus; the heart, Pukwudgie and the soul, Thunderbird. Others say that Horned Serpent favours scholars, Wampus, warriors, Pukwudgie, healers and Thunderbird, adventurers.

Therefore, it seems that the Ilvermorny houses represent the ways in which a person makes choices:

  • Horned Serpent is for “scholars” who make decisions based on logic and reason (the mind)
  • Wampus is for “warriors” who focus on the practical and immediate (the body)
  • Pukwudgie is for “healers” who are driven by love and emotions (the heart)
  • Thunderbird is for “adventurers” who are guided by their beliefs (the soul)

There may be certain correlations, Hogwarts houses and Ilvermorny houses that go well together and even overlap in some ways. However, in the end, the Hogwarts and Ilvermorny houses measure two separate aspects of personality: one is based on values, whereas the other is focused on decision-making.

House Thunderbird

The latest from Pottermore is an article on Ilvermorny, the American school of magic, and a sorting quiz for its houses: Thunderbird, Horned Serpent, Pukwudgie, and Wampus. I got Thunderbird.

Thunderbird

Interesting. I wasn’t expecting that, but I like it.

On a side note, I loved the story of Isolt and James and the founding of Ilvermorny. You can read it here. It’s very different from Hogwarts, aside from the four Houses. The idea of a girl fleeing from her abusive aunt, a muggle man, and two orphaned wizard boys coming together to form a family, and then eventually founding a school almost by accident, because somebody has to teach the kids magic, is actually very sweet.

Because I made my old account back before the site was remodeled, I had to make a new one and do the Hogwarts sorting quiz again, too. I was holding my breath as I clicked the button, because you can’t let me think I’m a Ravenclaw for years only to put me somewhere else now, but then my result came up and I got Ravenclaw again. 🙂 I guess Pottermore thinks I’m a bird person.