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How to Make a Horcrux: Deducing the “Horrible” Act

I recently re-read all seven Harry Potter books to see if my opinion of them had changed in the past decade. I’d always loved the first four, but could never quite get into the last three. They felt like they were missing the magic (wop wop) that the first four had.

And this time around too, unfortunately I didn’t like Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, or Deathly Hallows much more than I had the first time I’d read them. Although there was one thing I did enjoy more about them this time: Voldemort’s Horcruxes.

They were certainly a lot more interesting
than the “mystery” of who the Half-Blood Prince was.

In my opinion, the Horcruxes are the best parts of the sixth and seventh books. Up until their reveal, we never knew how Voldemort survived being hit by the killing curse. Learning that he used actual, concrete magic to do it, rather than just ambiguous magic like “magical willpower” or “the impermanence of evil” gives the stories more depth and makes them feel more real.

But one thing struck me as odd. Even though we learn all about Horcruxes in books six and seven, we never learn one of the most obvious things about them: how do you make one? Yes, we know you need to commit a murder, thereby “splitting” your soul, and then put that “split” part into a container, but there’s more to it than that.

In an interview with PotterCast J.K. Rowling was asked this:

MA: What is the process [to make a horcrux]? Do you– Is there a spell? Is there a– What do you have to do?

JKR: I see it as a series of things you would have to do. So you would have to perform a spell. But you would also– I don’t even know if I want to say it out loud, I know that sounds funny. But I did really think it through. There are two things that I think are too horrible, actually, to go into detail about. One of them is how Pettigrew brought Voldemort back into a rudimentary body. ‘Cause I told my editor what I thought happened there, and she looked as though she was gonna vomit. And then– and the other thing is, how you make a Horcrux. And I don’t even like– I don’t know. Will it be in the Encyclopedia? I don’t know if I can bring myself to, ummm… I don’t know.

So there is another step in making a Horcrux, something between committing murder and concealing your soul fragment in an object, but it’s too horrible for J. K. Rowling to even say out loud. My interest piqued, I searched online to see what other fans thought on the subject, but no one seemed to reach anything conclusive.

But now, I believe we have the answer.

Part 1. The Requirements

Even though we haven’t been told what the exact Horcrux-making act is, there’s enough evidence for us to logically deduce what it most likely is. So first let’s go over what some of that evidence is.

Requirement #1: It has to be something horribly gross.

While searching online, fans were quick to point out that the Horcrux-making act has to be something incredibly disgusting, since J.K. Rowling said in the PotterCast interview: “‘Cause I told my editor what I thought happened there, and she looked as though she was gonna vomit.”

But that’s not actually the case. Taking a closer look at the interview, the part that made her editor look like she was going to vomit was how Pettigrew gave Voldemort his rudimentary body, not the Horcrux-making act.

One of them is how Pettigrew brought Voldemort back into a rudimentary body. ‘Cause I told my editor what I thought happened there, and she looked as though she was gonna vomit.

However, even if the Horcrux-making act was not gross enough to make J.K. Rowling’s editor want to throw up, we do know that it still needs to have some sort of “horrible” factor to it. Again, taking a look at the interview, this is clear:

“There are two things that I think are too horrible, actually, to go into detail about. One of them is how Pettigrew brought Voldemort back into a rudimentary body. ….And then– and the other thing is, how you make a Horcrux.”

The word “horrible” can have many interpretations, anything from “gross” to “terrifying” to “abusive” and more. However, I think there are three things that help us narrow it down to “gross.”

First, the fact that J.K. Rowling puts the Horcrux-making act on the same level as the vomit-inducing “rudimentary-body process” means that they most likely are the same kind of “horrible,” as in, they are both “gross.”

Second, J.K. Rowling put plenty of violence/abuse into the Harry Potter books. Harry himself is maimed horribly in nearly every book, the house elves are horrifically abused, and characters die frequently. If the Horcrux-making act was simply violent or abusive, I don’t think she’d have an issue going into detail about it.

Lastly, later in the same interview, J.K. Rowling said this:

MA: After we got back from Carnegie Hall, we brought back your message of how Harry is kind of not really a Horcrux. And I won’t dwell too long on Horcruxes, but, I’d love to hear you talking about how he is or isn’t, or wasn’t.

JKR: Well, I tell you– You know what, this will not end the discussion. I know that, and you know that. But here is the thing. For convenience, I had Dumbledore say to Harry, “You were the Horcrux he never meant to make.” But I think, by definition, a Horcrux has to be made intentionally. So, because Voldemort never went through the grotesque process that I imagined creates a Horcrux, with Harry, it was just that he had destabilized his soul so much that it split when he was hit by the back-firing curse.

Since she calls the process “grotesque,” that means the Horcrux-making act is most likely something “horribly gross.” Not necessarily gross enough to make someone want to vomit, but likely at least close to it.

A young Tom Riddle learns
what the disgusting horcrux-making act is.

Requirement #2: It has to be PG-13.

Let’s take a look at the interview again. J. K. Rowling said this:

“Will it [the horcrux-making act] be in the Encyclopedia? I don’t know if I can bring myself to, ummm… I don’t know.”

There’s a piece of evidence we can glean from this: since there is the possibility that she would put it in the encyclopedia, the Horcrux-making act itself is very likely PG-13, as in, it has to be teen-appropriate.

All of the Harry Potter movies were either PG or PG-13, and the books were about the same. If J.K. Rowling was going to release an encyclopedia to the same audience with the Horcrux-making act in it, then it should fit in the same PG to PG-13 area.

This means the “horribly gross” act is most likely not anything R or X-rated, and is most likely not something overtly sexual.

Requirement #3: The act cannot physically harm/alter the corpse.

In a Bloomsbury interview where J.K. Rowling answered an onslaught of questions after the publication of Deathly Hallows, she posted her reply to this question:

Lady Bella: Whose murders did voldemor use to create each of the horcruxes

J.K. Rowling: The diary – Moaning Myrtle. The cup – Hepzibah Smith, the previous owner. The locket – a Muggle tramp. Nagini – Bertha Jorkins (Voldemort could use a wand once he regained a rudimentary body, as long as the victim was subdued).

J.K. Rowling: The diadem – an Albanian peasant. The ring – Tom Riddle snr.

The most important information here is that Voldemort used the murder of his father Tom Riddle Sr. to create the ring Horcrux. While we’re never given detailed information about the corpses of the other victims, we’re repeatedly told the state of the Riddle family after they were killed by Voldemort.

In chapter one of Goblet of Fire, we get this:

A team of doctors had examined the bodies and had concluded that none of the Riddles had been poisoned, stabbed, shot, strangled, suffocated, or (as far as they could tell) harmed at all. In fact (the report continued, in a tone of unmistakable bewilderment), the Riddles all appeared to be in perfect health — apart from the fact that they were all dead. The doctors did note (as though determined to find something wrong with the bodies) that each of the Riddles had a look of terror upon his or her face — but as the frustrated police said, whoever heard of three people being frightened to death?

Then in chapter seventeen of Half-Blood Prince, we get this, when Dumbledore is explaining the murder of the Riddle family to Harry:

The Muggle authorities were perplexed. As far as I am aware, they do not know to this day how the Riddles died, for the Avada Kedavra curse does not usually leave any sign of damage…. The exception sits before me,” Dumbledore added, with a nod to Harry’s scar. “The Ministry, on the other hand, knew at once that this was a wizard’s murder. They also knew that a convicted Mugglehater lived across the valley from the Riddle house, a Muggle-hater who had already been imprisoned once for attacking one of the murdered people.”

Since Voldemort used the death of Tom Riddle Sr. to create the Horcrux, and since the dead body was not harmed/altered in any way, the Horcrux-making act must not require any sort of desecration of the dead body.

I said desecration, Voldemort, not dessert-ification.

Is it possible that the horcrux-making act does require harming/altering the corpse, but Voldemort simply covered it up magically? Yes, it’s possible, but very unlikely. Here’s why:

First, J.K. Rowling goes through the effort of explicitly telling us, twice in two books, that the bodies were unharmed. This is a pretty big detail to point out twice, so it must be deliberate on her part. It’s something that she wanted to point out rather than cover up.

Second, we’re shown throughout the series that human-transfiguration (ie: growing back someone’s missing arm, etc.) is incredibly difficult/impossible. For example, when Harry loses his arm bones in Chamber of Secrets, there’s no spell for Madam Pomfrey to instantly grow them back, he has to endure a night of painful Skele-Gro. In Goblet of Fire, when Pettigrew sacrifices his arm to revive Voldemort, Voldemort does not replace his arm with an identical flesh one, but a silver one instead.

And perhaps most of all, in Deathly Hallows, when George Weasley lost an ear from Snape’s Sectumsempra spell, it was explained that it couldn’t grow back since it was lost due to dark magic. Considering Horcruxes are extremely dark magic, it can be assumed that any limbs/flesh lost to make one would similarly be irreplaceable.

Lastly, it wasn’t just the Muggle authorities that investigated the dead Riddle bodies; Dumbledore said that the Ministry of Magic knew what had happened to them, implying there was an investigation. If there had been any other signs of magic performed there (ie: a grown-back hand or foot), then they would have likely uncovered it.

So in review, the three requirements for the Horcrux-making act are:

Requirement #1: It has to be something horribly gross.
Requirement #2: It has to be PG-13.
Requirement #3: The act cannot physically harm/alter the corpse.

With those requirements in mind, let’s take a look at some possibilities.

Part 2. The Possibilities

Possibility #1: Cannibalism?

Is the Horcrux-making act something that involves consuming part of the victim’s body? This possibility is quite popular, but I believe it is false. Let’s take a look at the three requirements to see why:

Requirement #1: It has to be something horribly gross.
Yes. It certainly fits this bill.
Requirement #2: It has to be PG-13.
Yes. Just barely, but it could be PG-13.
Requirement #3: The act cannot physically harm/alter the corpse.
NO. Any sort of consumed flesh off of the corpse would have been noticeable.

So while this possibility fulfills two out of three of the requirements, it fails the third. Let’s take a look at some more.

Possibility #2: Self-cannibalism?

If not eating part of the victim, then how about part of yourself?

Requirement #1: It has to be something horribly gross.
Yes. This one also certainly fits this bill.
Requirement #2: It has to be PG-13.
Yes. Again, just barely, but it could be PG-13.
Requirement #3: The act cannot physically harm/alter the corpse.
Yes. Eating yourself does not alter the corpse.

That makes this one plausible, but I don’t think it’s correct for another reason: it would’ve been extremely noticeable. If Voldemort had been missing parts of his body, then people would’ve noticed, especially Dumbledore, who only became certain that Voldemort had made a Horcrux after seeing his diary.

In chapter seventeen of Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore says this to Harry:

Dumbledore paused for a moment, marshaling his thoughts, and then said, “Four years ago, I received what I considered certain proof that Voldemort had split his soul.”
“Where?” asked Harry “How?”
“You handed it to me, Harry,” said Dumbledore. “The diary, Riddle’s diary, the one giving instructions on how to reopen the Chamber of Secrets.”

If consuming part of your body was also required to make a Horcrux, then Dumbledore would have taken Voldemort’s missing body parts as the “certain proof” of him having created one, not the diary. Voldemort created Horcruxes while at Hogwarts, and had also created them by the time he had his interview with Dumbledore to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, so Dumbledore had ample time to notice any missing flesh.

You got a little Horcrux-residue there on your cheek.

Yes, it is possible that Voldemort might’ve only had to devour a small amount of his own flesh to create the Horcrux, or that he was able to consume it from places left concealed. But in a magical universe where resurrection costs an entire arm, and the other step in making a Horcrux is murder, requiring only a small amount of hidden flesh to be consumed feels out of place.

Therefore self-cannibalism is plausible, but not likely.

Possibility #3. Self-mutilation?

Same line of thinking here as with self-cannibalism. Self-mutilation is plausible, but even less likely than self-cannibalism, since it doesn’t have the same “horribly gross” factor. I’d say we can discount it.

Possibility #4: Necrophilia?

There’s little more “horribly gross” than having sex with a corpse. Could the creation of such an evil object require an evil act like this?

Let’s look at the requirements:

Requirement #1: It has to be something horribly gross.
Yes. The grossest so far.
Requirement #2: It has to be PG-13.
NO. Necrophilia would be R-rated territory, possibly X-rated. It would not be appropriate to put in an encyclopedia meant for children.
Requirement #3: The act cannot physically harm/alter the corpse.
Yes. It could be hidden with magic most likely, but we’ve already discounted this possibility.

Possibility #5: Vomiting?

If the Horcrux-making act is on the same level of grossness as Pettigrew giving Voldemort a rudimentary body, which made J.K. Rowling’s editor “want to throw up,” then maybe the act itself is just straight up vomiting? Vomiting up a part of your soul seems to make sense.

Let’s look at the requirements:

Requirement #1: It has to be something horribly gross.
NO. Vomiting happens to normal people every day. If the Horcrux-making act was simply to vomit, I don’t think J.K. Rowling would have had an issue saying that’s what it was.
Requirement #2: It has to be PG-13.
Yes, but we’ve already discounted this possibility.
Requirement #3: The act cannot physically harm/alter the corpse.
Yes, but we’ve already discounted this possibility.

Possibility #6: Something else?

While self-cannibalism (or some other horrific act) is plausible, I believe there is something else that is much more likely to be the Horcrux-making act. It fits all of the requirements, and it’s been right in front of us the entire time. To figure it out though, we have to make a few assumptions.

Part 3. The Assumptions

Assumption #1: Souls can do more than just be split

Thinking about it, the discovery of souls in the Harry Potter universe is huge. The fact that they exist and can be interacted with is tangible proof of an afterlife.

And with such an amazing discovery, it would feel a little lame if souls only had two purposes: (1) to leave the body after it dies, and (2) to be split when its body commits a murder. Therefore souls most likely have other purposes and can do other things.

At least, they’d better be able to
if they want to hang with the cool kids.

Assumption #2: Souls are affected by our actions

When a soul is split, it should be noted that it is not a magic spell that causes the splitting, it is the act of murder that does it. In chapter twenty three of Half-Blood Prince, when young Voldemort asks Slughorn about how to make a horcrux, he says this:

“But how do you do it?”
By an act of evil — the supreme act of evil. By committing murder. Killing rips the soul apart. The wizard intent upon creating a Horcrux would use the damage to his advantage: He would encase the torn portion —”
“Encase? But how — ?”
“There is a spell, do not ask me, I don’t know!” said Slughorn, shaking his head like an old elephant bothered by mosquitoes. “Do I look as though I have tried it — do I look like a killer?”

Slughorn says that you split your soul “by committing murder,” no spells necessary. (A spell is necessary for the encasing, but not the splitting.) Presumably no matter how the murder is carried out – knife, gun, Avada Kedavra – the effect would be the same.

Therefore souls are affected by our actions, not just magic spells.

Assumption #3: Love is an extremely powerful act

In Sorceror’s Stone, Harry’s mother doesn’t cast a magic spell to protect her son from Voldemort, she sacrifices herself out of love. Same thing in Deathly Hallows; at the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry didn’t cast a spell against Voldemort when he turned himself in, he sacrificed himself out of love for his friends, which kept them all alive.

Love is an extremely powerful act, requiring no wands or magic words to take effect.

If love defeated Voldemort, one of the most powerful wizards of all time, twice, then it is therefore one of the most powerful acts in the Harry Potter universe.

Assumption #4. Acts of love do something else to your soul

Putting it all together, if souls can do more than just be split, and they’re affected by our actions, and love is one of the most powerful acts, then it goes to think that an act of love would have some effect on one’s soul. It would most likely be the opposite effect of an evil act (splitting).

But what is the opposite of splitting? Strengthening? Perhaps, but I think it’s bonding. Evil splits a single soul apart, but love can bond two souls together.

Therefore we can make the assumption that an act of love between two people bonds their souls together.

Part 4. The Horcrux-Making Act

Thinking about it, bonding two souls together seems just as integral in creating a Horcrux as splitting your soul. Normally the soul does not leave the body unless the person is dead, so the easiest way to get the piece of your split soul out of your body (without dying yourself) would be to bond your soul to another soul that is in the process of departing.

In fact, taking an act of love that bonds souls together and perverting it to use on a dead body, moreover one that you murdered yourself, seems perfectly fitting for creating an object as evil as a Horcrux.

But what is the act of love that bonds souls together? (No, not necrophilia.) I believe it’s something far simpler: a kiss.

Pucker up for Voldy!

Part 5. The Evidence

A kiss is the Horcrux-making act? I know it sounds odd at first, but let’s take a look at the evidence.

First, the three requirements:

Requirement #1: It has to be something horribly gross.
Yes. Kissing a dead body is gross enough as-is, but kissing someone you murdered yourself, in a kind of mocking ritual, is even worse. Like we said in Part 1, it’s not necessarily gross enough to make someone want to vomit, but it’s close.
Requirement #2: It has to be PG-13.
Yes. Plenty of kissing happens in the Harry Potter series, so it’s something that J.K. Rowling could write for her audience in the encyclopedia. Even if it is kissing a corpse.
Requirement #3: The act cannot physically harm/alter the corpse.
Yes. A kiss might leave behind some saliva, but that’s about it, and could be easily cleaned away.

For more evidence, we can turn to something that’s been in front of us the entire time, the only other way we’ve seen any sort of interaction with souls in the Harry Potter universe: the Dementor’s Kiss.

In chapter twelve of Prisoner of Azkaban, Lupin explains the Dementor’s Kiss to Harry, saying this:

“They call it the Dementor’s Kiss,” said Lupin, with a slightly twisted smile. “It’s what Dementors do to those they wish to destroy utterly. I suppose there must be some kind of mouth under there, because they clamp their jaws upon the mouth of the victim and — and suck out his soul.”

The Dementor’s Kiss makes perfect sense when thought about as kisses bonding two souls together. The Dementor, which presumably has either no soul or something very different, kisses the human, and the human’s soul comes out, expecting to bond with another human soul. But instead it is sucked into the Dementor or destroyed.

We also see the soul departing from Sirius’s mouth in the Prisoner of Azkaban film,
further reinforcing the idea that souls come out via mouths. (Skip to 1:40 to see.)

Also in the film version of Prisoner of Azkaban, Snape says this to Sirius when he has him cornered in the Shrieking Shack:

“Ah, vengeance is sweet. How I hoped I’d be the one to catch you… But why deny the Dementors? They’re so longing to see you. Do I detect a flicker of fear? Ah, yes. The Dementor’s Kiss. One can only imagine what that must be like to endure. It’s said to be nearly unbearable to witness, but I’ll do my best.”

If the Dementor’s Kiss is “nearly unbearable” to witness, then it goes to think that a similar ritual (the Horcrux-making act) would also be similarly terrible. This gives it even more credence to it as a “horribly gross” act.

So in conclusion, I believe these are the steps to making a Horcrux:

1. Perform a murder, severing your soul.
2. Kiss the victim, bonding your soul fragment to their departing soul.
3. As your soul fragment begins to depart, cast the Horcrux-making spell.
4. Encase your soul fragment in some sort of container.

Part 6. The Explanations

If we take the Horcrux-making act to be a kiss, then some other parts of the Harry Potter universe start to make more sense.

#1. The Death Eaters

I’ve always thought the name “Death Eaters” was strange. When you think about it, for such a terrifying group, it sounds kind of lame. Unlike many other names of groups in Harry Potter (like Aurors or the Wizengamut or the Order of the Phoenix), it’s very straightforward. It has almost a childish ring to it.

But if the Horcrux-making act is kissing, then suddenly the name makes more sense.

We can assume that Voldemort would not want to call the Horcrux-making act “kissing.” He would want to distance himself from the “love” aspect of the spell. So perhaps to do that he called it “eating” instead.

Yeah sure, Voldy. Whatever you say.

It makes sense, since if the act is performed as we assume, it would be like Voldemort was eating the soul of his victim as it departed the body. He was “eating” his victim’s “death.”

Some fans have speculated that the name “Death Eaters” come from Voldemort’s group wanting to conquer death. But then why name themselves Death Eaters? Why not Death Destroyers or Death Conquerors instead? The “Eater” part suddenly makes sense though if we take Voldemort thinking of the Horcrux-kiss as “eating.”

The name “Death Eaters” being connected to the Horcrux-making act gives it far more weight as an appropriate name for Voldemort’s followers.

#2. The Dark Mark

Similarly, there is never any explanation given as to why a skull with a snake coming out of the mouth was used as Voldemort’s mark. Aside from it just being generically evil, it’s never assigned any deeper meaning.

But if the Horcrux-making act is a kiss, then it makes more sense.

The Dark Mark is a horrible perversion of a kiss. Rather than an open mouth with a soul coming out wanting to bond, it’s a skull with a snake coming out wanting to kill. It’s unclear whether the skull is supposed to be Voldemort or his victim, but either way, taking it in this light makes its design more meaningful.

#3. Voldemort’s arrogance

In chapter twenty of Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore shows Harry this conversation he had with Voldemort when he interviewed for a position at Hogwarts:

“Of some kinds of magic,” Dumbledore corrected him quietly. “Of some. Of others, you remain… forgive me… woefully ignorant.”
For the first time, Voldemort smiled. It was a taut leer, an evil thing, more threatening than a look of rage.
“The old argument,” he said softly. “But nothing I have seen in the world has supported your famous pronouncements that love is more powerful than my kind of magic, Dumbledore.”

Throughout the series, Voldemort shows that he considers love to be a lesser magic despite evidence to the contrary. For such an intelligent wizard, this seems strange. Sure, we could just say it’s because he’s “evil” or “ignorant,” but that feels like a cop out.

However, if the Horcrux-making act is a kiss, then Voldemort’s line of thinking makes sense.

Voldemort would have been required to perform an act of “love,” the kiss between murderer and victim, to make his horcruxes. He’s seen that the act of love didn’t do anything to stop him from murdering his victims, or creating the Horcruxes. In fact, far from it, he used the act of love himself to achieve his goal.

He’d taken the act of kissing and twisted it into something of his own – perhaps even naming his Death Eaters after it and designing the Dark Mark after it too.

Voldemort wasn’t ignorant of the power of love; rather, he just simply felt like he had already conquered it.

I mean, his Valentine’s Day cards are pretty good, to be fair.

Part 7. The Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed reading this theory on the Horcrux-making act. If you think there are any holes in it, feel free to let me know on Twitter.

Whether you think the theory is wrong or right, I hope it helps bring us another step closer to figuring out what the elusive Horcrux-making act is. Thanks for reading!

Published inRamblings & Ravings

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