J.K. Rowling's New Story Reveals 8 Facts About The U.S. Ministry Of Magic
Even as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them creeps closer to theaters, Potterheads in the U.S. still don't know much about the stateside wizarding world. Thankfully, a new Pottermore article from J.K. Rowling is chock-full of things to know about the U.S. Ministry of Magic, MACUSA.
Yes, I know, I was expecting the Department of Magic as well, complete with a Secretary of Magic who could pop into cabinet meetings and scare the crap out of the No-Maj politicians. But, alas, that's not what we have here. Instead, U.S. wizards and witches have MACUSA, the Magical Congress of the United States of America. And if you're wondering, it kind of rhymes with the English pronunciation of "yakuza."
Now, as a heads up, yes, the new information on MACUSA has some, um, continuity errors. Rowling doesn't provide an original name for the Magical Congress, which leaves us to reason that it has always had that pesky "of the United States of America" tacked on. That's a minor problem, because the U.S. wasn't the U.S. when MACUSA was founded in the 17th century. We were just a bunch of loosely connected colonies along the Atlantic Coast.
I'll admit, it's possible that some witch or wizard involved in the founding of MACUSA was highly skilled at Divination, and revealed that the colonies would unite and rebel one day, but that seems unlikely.
I'm not trying to rain on Rowling's MACUSA parade here. Potterheads worldwide appreciate her updates on the inner workings of the wizarding world. But this is just stuck in my craw. I HAVE QUESTIONS, JO. SO MANY QUESTIONS.
While I tweet frantically at J.K. Rowling, here are 8 interesting things to know about MACUSA.
1. It Was Founded in the Aftermath of the Salem Witch Trials
In 1692, the International Confederation of Wizards established the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy, which, among other things, prohibited witches and wizards from participating in non-magical sports and wearing magical clothing in the presence of non-magic folk. The Salem Witch Trials were already in full swing at that point, and North American witches and wizards founded MACUSA the following year.
2. It Had a Lot of Domestic Problems to Deal With
Communities across the North American continent elect MACUSA representatives to create and enforce magical laws. Of top priority were Scourers: "corrupt wizards who had hunted their fellow magical beings for personal gain."
The colonies had also attracted a large number of magical criminals, who had fled to the continent from around the globe. It was believed that a "lack of organized law enforcement" in their home countries allowed them to go on the lam so easily, and so MACUSA elected as its first president "a warlike wizard" named Josiah Jackson.
3. The Descendents of the First 12 Aurors Are Greatly Respected
Jackson recruited and trained 12 volunteers as Aurors, many of whom died young, presumably in the line of duty. The descendents of MACUSA's original Auror brigade include Ilvermorny Headmaster Agilbert Fontaine and the politically influential Graves family.
4. Original Auror Abraham Potter Is a Distant Relative of Harry's
Harry Potter's distant cousin, Abraham, was one of the 12 original Aurors. Unfortunately, he did not live to old age, and so it is unclear whether Harry has relatives living in the U.S.
5. A MACUSA President Might Be Responsible for the Country's First Psychiatric Hospital
In 1760, MACUSA President Thornton Harkaway moved the Magical Congress' headquarters near his home in Williamsburg, Virginia. Harkaway was not particularly careful to keep his magical hobbies — which included breeding aggressively anti-No-Maj dogs known as Crups — a secret, and wound up violating the Statute of Secrecy when his Crups attacked some non-magic folks.
In 1773, Williamsburg became home to the Public Hospital: the United States' first institution for people with mental illness. However, as Rowling notes, "[s]ightings of odd happenings around President Harkaway’s residence might account for the admission of No-Majs who were, in fact, perfectly sane."
6. It Agreed to Stay Uninvolved in the American Revolution, Provided the Ministry of Magic Did As Well
With war brewing between the recently independent U.S. and its former colonizers, North American witches and wizards had to decide between "Country or Kind." In 1777, MACUSA President Elizabeth McGilliguddy presided over a debate that drew thousands to Washington, and it soon became apparent that the Ministry of Magic's involvement in the war would affect their own.
Messengers to the Ministry returned with a brief answer: "Sitting this one out." McGilliguddy's response was even more brief: "Mind you do."
Although witches and wizards did not participate in the fighting directly, many reached out to protect their neighbors during the four long years of war.
7. MACUSA Imposed No-Maj Segregation Until At Least the 1920s
Although Rowling has not let us know how MACUSA handled contemporary civil rights issues, such as slavery, suffrage, and Jim Crow, we do know that the Magical Congress imposed laws prohibiting social interaction between magical folk and No-Majs.
In 1790, MACUSA President Emily Rappaport signed Rappaport's Law, which prohibited "intermarriage and even friendship between wizards and No-Majs." Rappaport's Law was still in effect in the 1920s, when Newt Scamander came to the U.S. It is unclear whether the law has ever been struck down.
8. It Is Headquartered in NYC's Woolworth Building
MACUSA headquarters moved countless times over the centuries, sometimes by whim and sometimes by necessity. In 1892, a Sasquatch uprising forced the Magical Congress to look for a new home.
Wizards and witches infiltrated the Woolworth Building project in New York City, creating within the new construction a space for the Magical Congress, which could be opened with the proper spells. According to Rowling, "[t]he only outer mark of the MACUSA’s new secret location was the owl carved over the entrance."
Image: Warner Bros.