J.K. Rowling's Latest 'Fantastic Beasts' Essay Features Salem Witch Trials

The trials are described as a "tragedy for the wizarding community."
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Expect to hear about the Salem Witch trials and a new group of adversaries known as "scourers" in WB's upcoming Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

In her second piece of original writing aimed at introducing audiences to the film's pre-Potter and North American setting, J.K. Rowling introduces the scourers as an "unscrupulous band of wizarding mercenaries" that emerged in the 17th century following mass emigration from Europe to the New World.

Rowling describes the Salem Witch Trials of 1692-93 as a "tragedy for the wizarding community," and partly the blame of scourers, with at least two of them among the Puritan judges sending innocent witches and sometimes even No-Majs to their deaths.

Scourers, described as "probably the most dangerous problem encountered by wizards newly arrived in North America," were initially committed to hunting down known criminals but then turned to "anyone who might be worth some gold" and, over time, became increasingly corrupt and "enjoyed bloodshed and torture, and even went so far as trafficking their fellow wizards."

Titled "Seventeenth Century and Beyond" and the second part of Rowling's "History of Magic in North America" being published this week on her Pottermore website, the latest essay deals with the effects of mass migration of wizarding types and "No-Majs" (the American term for Muggles) across the Atlantic.

Alongside the growing threat of scourers, she explains how new magical settlers had to deal with issues such as a profound lack of apothecaries, established wandmakers and wizarding schools.

Following the Salem Witch trials, the Magical Congress of the United States of America was created, which, she writes, helped establish "a magical-world-within-a-No-Maj-world such as existed in most other countries."

The congress' first task was put on trial and execute scourers who had betrayed their own kind, but several evaded justice and disappeared into the No-Maj community, leading to families of descendants who had a profound conviction that "that witches and wizards ought to be exterminated wherever they were found."

The third piece of writing, due to be posted on Thursday, is set to examine the manner in which the local wizarding community was driven deeper underground in the 18th century. The final section of History of Magic in North America, to be posted on Pottermore on Friday, goes through to Roaring 1920s, the setting for Fantastic Beasts.