"[My parents] thought Voldemort had the right idea, they were all for the purification of the Wizarding race, getting rid of Muggleborns and having pure-bloods in charge."
-- Sirius Black (OP6)
One of the underlying problems in the wizarding world is intolerance and prejudice based on the “purity” of a person’s wizarding blood. Wizards distinguish between purebloods (no Muggle ancestry), half-blood (at least one wizarding parent but at least one Muggle parent or grandparent) and Muggle-borns (both parents were Muggles).
Many members of the old, pure-blood families look down on those who are not pure-blood. This intolerance permeates the entire culture and also extends in many cases to a prejudice against "half-breeds," such as the half-giant Hagrid and creatures such as centaurs. Voldemort exploits this prejudice, turning the natural enmity between various groups in the wizarding world to his advantage. Many people, such as Sirius Black's parents and brother, were first drawn to support Voldemort because he preached a message of intolerance toward non-pure-bloods.
Interestingly, Voldemort, who pushes a pure-bloods philosophy, is a half-blood himself. It is possible that his followers do not realize this, since Bellatrix acted as though Harry were uttering blasphemy when he mentioned that fact to her. It is also interesting, according to Dumbledore, that when Voldemort chose which child to attack of the two who fit the prophecy, Voldemort chose the half-blood like himself as being the more dangerous (OP37).
In order to understand the entire issue of blood status, it is necessary to understand the nature of wizards.
- Magical ability is referred to as magical "power" and all witches and wizards have that power at some level. For example, Barty Crouch Sr. is described as being "powerfully magical."
- According to the pure-bloods extremists such as Sirius Black's parents, a wizard is not simply a human being who happens to have some genes in a certain combination that results in that magical power. According to this philosophy, wizards are actually a separate race from Muggles (the "wizarding race") (OP6). Remember the source - just because some pure-blood families take this position does not indicate that it has any scientific merit. As a parallel case, consider that according to Scamander (FB), there are wizarding folk of an even more extreme persuasion who have campaigned for the classification of Muggles as "beasts" rather than "beings".
- Muggles have no magical power at all, but this does not prevent them from seeing magical things altogether. Without being given direction about magical things, however, their eyes tend to simply miss them.
- Muggles just don't notice the Leaky Cauldron - their eyes seem to slide from the shop on one side to the shop on the other side without seeing the pub in between.
- Muggles' minds can be influenced so they see, for example, a sign saying "danger keep out" and a ruin when they look at Hogwarts.
- If directed, however, Muggles can see magical things. Hermione's parents apparently saw the Leaky Cauldron because they entered Diagon Alley, but this was undoubtedly only when shown the way.
- Wizards have widely varying levels of magical power. Some, like Barty Crouch Sr., are said to be "powerfully magical" while others, like Neville Longbottom, seem to have limited power. In Neville's case, this seems to be a condition which is "curable" with training, although we are not told all the factors influencing Neville's levels of ability (the use of his father's wand instead of a wand of his own, effects of the attack on his parents, etc. -- McGonagall has told him that the only thing standing in his way is his own lack of confidence.)
There are terms used, some more polite than others, for people depending on their blood status.
A witch or wizard of 'pure' wizarding ancestry, without any Muggle ancestors whatsoever as far as can be determined.
pure-blood families are extremely rare, and thus are interrelated; given the limited selection of potential pure-blood spouses, pure-bloods are getting rarer as their members either become more liberal and marry out, so that their descendants are no longer pure-blood, or consciously restrict themselves to pure-blood marriages.
- Black family (now died out in the male line with the death of Sirius Black)
- Crouch family (now died out with the deaths of Barty Crouch Sr. and Jr.)
- Gaunt family (the family name has died out with the deaths of Marvolo and his children)
- Lestrange family (married into by Bellatrix Black)
- Longbottom family (currently continuing through Neville)
- Malfoy family (Currently continuing through Draco's son Scorpius)
- Weasley family (not included in the Sacred Twenty-Eight because of their "blood traitor" beliefs)
In the 1930s, an anonymous author published a book called The Pure-Blood Directory which listed the "Sacred Twenty-Eight" families which represented the epitome of being pure-blooded. Some pure-blood families were left off the list because of their beliefs or uncertainty about their lineage (Pm). The families included in the Sacred Twenty-Eight families are:
Note that there is nothing good or bad about being pure-blood, in and of itself. The only issue with maintaining pure-blood purity is that it requires either a lucky chance (falling in love with someone who happens to qualify as a fellow pure-blood) or deliberately maintaining a prejudiced attitude about who is acceptable. The latter characteristic is why so many of the pure-blood families we know of find Voldemort's philosophy attractive - many have deliberately chosen a course of action for generations that is compatible with his, to a certain degree.
A witch or wizard with at least one wizarding parent but at least one Muggle parent or grandparent.
- Harry Potter (Muggle-born witch mother, wizard father)
- Tom Marvolo Riddle (Muggle father, pure-blood witch mother)
- Seamus Finnigan (Muggle father, witch mother)
- Nymphadora Tonks (Muggle-born wizard father, pure-blood witch mother)
- Dean Thomas (Muggle mother, wizard father, although he does not know this) (JKR)
- Rubeus Hagrid (wizard father, giantess mother)
Both Harry Potter and Tom Riddle (now Lord Voldemort) are half-bloods. Harry taunted the Death Eaters with this in the Department of Mysteries to stall for time (and as a side benefit, making the Death Eaters so angry that some of them lost the fine edge of their self control):
"Did you know he's a half-blood too?" said Harry recklessly. Hermione gave a little moan in his ear. "Voldemort? Yeah, his mother was a witch but his dad was a Muggle - or has he been telling you lothe's pure-blood?" (OP35)
Much of the wizarding world is actually in this category. Without marrying Muggles, the wizarding race might very well have died out by now (CS7).
Wizarding person born of two Muggle parents.
- Colin and Dennis Creevey
- Lily Evans
- Justin Finch-Fletchley
- Hermione Granger
- Ted Tonks
Many witches and wizards are Muggle-born. A foul, nasty name for Muggle-born is Mudblood (lit. "dirty blood"), but that's not a term used in polite company (CS7).
After Voldemort and his minions assassinated Minister of Magic Scrimgeour during the Second Wizarding War and took over the Ministry of Magic, Muggle-borns were required to present themselves to the Muggle-born Registration Commission and were listed in the Muggle-born Register (DH11).
A pure-blood who doesn't insist on maintaining his or her purity.
pure-blood families tend to be exclusive, looking down on those who are half-blood or Muggle-born. A pure-blood who doesn't hold these kind of prejudiced views is called a blood traitor.
Essentially, the term is used (generally by prejudiced pure-bloods as an insult, but occasionally ironically by those to whom it applies) to refer to a pure-blood witch or wizard who doesn't subscribe to the bigoted extreme of pure-blood-consciousness. Sirius was considered a blood traitor by his parents, and as he said to Harry while looking at his mother's edited tapestry of the Black family tree,
"...if ever a family was a bunch of blood traitors it's the Weasleys."
A non-magic person born of Wizarding parents, a much rarer phenomenon than a Muggle-born witch or wizard. (From "squib" = Eng. a dud firework that won't ignite properly)
- Arabella Figg
- Argus Filch
- Marius Black
- Dolores Umbridge's brother
- Martha Steward, daughter of Isolt Sayre, founder of Ilvermorny
A Squib is not a Muggle. Born to a wizarding family, a Squib has such a low level of magical power that he or she is essentially unable to do any magic at all. However, while a Squib cannot cast spells, he or she can apparently see magical beings such as poltergeists, though not dementors (JKR).
Some squibs choose to live more comfortably apart from the Wizarding world. The squib daughter of Isolt Sayre of Ilvermorny married into the Pocomtuc tribe and lived as a No-Maj (Pm). The family of Dolores Umbridge split up when she was fifteen; she stayed with her wizard father, while her squib brother and Muggle mother went their own way (Pm). We can probably assume that any Squibs from pure-blood families, such as Marius Black, were never heard from again.
Some Squibs seem to have formed special bonds with cats, whom they refer to as Mr or Mrs. It is possible that these cats function as guides and aides to Squibs as they live in a world in which they don't really fit. In a sense, these cats may be the wizarding equivalent of Guide Dogs and other animals which are trained to help Muggles with disabilities.
The American equivalent of the word "Muggle." Due to threats of persecution by Scourers, the President of MACUSA in 1790 instituted Rappaport's Law which completely segregated the Wizarding and No-Maj communites. Until the law was repealed in 1965, inter-marriage and even friendship was forbidden. Due to the restrictions, there was no cooperation between MACUSA and the No-Maj government on any level (Pm).
Ironically, one of the founders of Ilvermorny Wizarding School in Massachusetts was a No-Maj - James Steward, husband of Isolt Sayre, who also became a great wandmaker (Pm).
J.K.Rowling on blood status, prejudice, and intolerance:
Entertainment Weekly, 9/7/2000
One of Goblet's biggest themes is bigotry. It's always been in your books, with the Hitlerlike Lord Voldemort and his followers prejudiced against Muggles (nonmagical people). In book 4, Hermione tries to liberate the school's worker elves, who've been indentured servants so long they lack desire for anything else. Why did you want to explore these themes?
Because bigotry is probably the thing I detest most. All forms of intolerance, the whole idea of "that which is different from me is necessary evil." I really like to explore the idea that difference is equal and good. But there's another idea that I like to explore, too. Oppressed groups are not, generally speaking, people who stand firmly together -- no, sadly, they kind of subdivide among themselves and fight like hell. That's human nature, so that's what you see here. This world of wizards and witches, they're already ostracized, and then within themselves, they've formed a loathsome pecking order.
Book Four explores several themes - some we've seen before like prejudice in Chamber of Secrets. We see more of that with foreign students and people with different parentage. Is that something you've been wanting to explore?
From the beginning of Philosopher's Stone, prejudice is a very strong theme. It is plausible that Harry enters the world wide-eyed: everything will be wonderful and it's the sort of place where injustices don't happen. Then he finds out that it does happen and it's a shock to him. He finds out that he is a half-blood: to a wizard like Lucius Malfoy, he will never be a true wizard, because his mother was of Muggle parentage. It's a very important theme.
Voldemort's a half-blood too...
Like Hitler! See! I think it's the case that the biggest bully takes their own defects and they put them on someone else, and they try to destroy them. And that's what he [Voldemort] does. That was very conscious - I wanted to create a villain where you could understand the workings of his mind, not just have a 2-D baddie, dressed up in black, and I wanted to explore that and see where that came from. Harry in Book Four is starting to come to terms with what makes a person turn that way. Because they took wrong choices and he [Voldemort] took wrong choices from an early age. (Newsround)
Why are some people in the wizarding world (e.g., Harry) called 'half-blood' even though both their parents were magical?
The expressions 'pure-blood', 'half-blood' and 'Muggle-born' have been coined by people to whom these distinctions matter, and express their originators' prejudices. As far as somebody like Lucius Malfoy is concerned, for instance, a Muggle-born is as 'bad' as a Muggle. Therefore Harry would be considered only 'half' wizard, because of his mother's grandparents.If you think this is far-fetched, look at some of the real charts the Nazis used to show what constituted 'Aryan' or 'Jewish' blood. I saw one in the Holocaust Museum in Washington when I had already devised the 'pure-blood', 'half-blood' and 'Muggle-born' definitions, and was chilled to see that the Nazis used precisely the same warped logic as the Death Eaters. A single Jewish grandparent 'polluted' the blood, according to their propaganda.