What is a Scourer and will they appear in Fantastic Beasts?

Meet Rowling's newest magical villains in our second Harry Potter history lesson of the week

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Following on from yesterday’s tale about the origins of magic in North America, “Seventeenth Century and Beyond” charts the tale of North American magic during that time period and introduces a villainous new band of wizard hunters known as ‘Scourers’.

Described by Rowling as “probably the most dangerous problem encountered by wizards newly arrived in North America”, the Scourers emerged to fill the magical law enforcement vacuum when the American wizarding community was quite small.

They were “an unscrupulous band of wizarding mercenaries of many foreign nationalities, who formed a much-feared and brutal taskforce committed to hunting down not only known criminals, but anyone who might be worth some gold.”

Not a million miles from Umbridge and her Inquisitorial Squad.

As you can imagine, very very very nasty things. A law unto themselves, it wasn’t long before they became an increasingly corrupt bunch.

“Far away from the jurisdiction of their native magical governments, many indulged a love of authority and cruelty unjustified by their mission. Such Scourers enjoyed bloodshed and torture, and even went so far as trafficking their fellow wizards”, Rowling explains.

“The numbers of Scourers multiplied across America in the late seventeenth century and there is evidence that they were not above passing off innocent No-Majs as wizards, to collect rewards from gullible non-magic members of the community.”

Oh you can bet they did. 

“Wizarding historians agree that among the so-called Puritan judges were at least two known Scourers, who were paying off feuds that had developed while in America”, Rowling writes.

“Up until the early decades of the twentieth century, there were fewer witches and wizards in the general American population than on the other four continents. Pure-blood families, who were well-informed through wizarding newspapers about the activities of both Puritans and Scourers, rarely left for America”, Rowling writes. 

That’s why they aren’t half as obsessed with the whole pure-blood thing in America. Voldemort wouldn’t have had much luck recruiting Death Eaters there, so.

MACUSA, or “Ma-cooz-ah” as they want us to call it, was set up in the aftermath of Salem in 1693

“It was the first time that the North American wizarding community came together to create laws for themselves, effectively establishing a magical-world-within-a-No-Maj-world such as existed in most other countries” says Rowling.

The establishment of MACUSA was bad news for Scourers: The Congress’s first task was to “put on trial the Scourers who had betrayed their own kind.”

Crimes such as murder, wizard-trafficking, torture and all other manners of cruelty were punishable by death.

Rowling explains that some of the most notorious Scourers vanished into the No-Maj (can we PLEASE just call them Muggles?) community.

Some married No-Majs and tried to have as many non-magical children as possible. WIth international arrest warrants issued for their capture, they needed to do everything they could to stay off the radar.

And then they passed their beliefs on to their offspring, giving their descendants “an absolute conviction that magic was real, and the belief that witches and wizards ought to be exterminated wherever they were found.”

Well, we’re guessing Newt Scamander may have a run in with a Scourer – or at least one of their descendants. That’s got to be the reason we’ve been given all this new information.

An American magical historian by the name of Theophilus Abbot identified several families “each with a deep belief in magic and a great hatred of it”, Rowling explains. And she also points out that as a result, the North American No-Maj community is far harder to “fool and hoodwink on the subject of magic than many other populations”.

“This has had far-reaching repercussions on the way the American wizarding community is governed”, Rowling concludes.

We’re guessing Newt and his runaway fantastic beasts are going to have a whale of a time.

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Read Rowling’s full history lesson over at Pottermore.com