Harry Potter Forbidden Spells (Complete Overview)

The forbidden spells in the Harry Potter universe, also known as the “Unforgivable Curses,” are some of the most powerful and sinister magic in this fictional world.

While they have been around for quite some time, it wasn’t until 1717 that they were classified as “Unforgivable.”

They were likely used during the dark ages and medieval period, and possibly even during ancient times.

In modern civilized times, this dark magic is unnecessary.

The Harry Potter forbidden spells are Avada Kedavra, Crucio, and Imperio:

  • Avada Kedavra is The Killing Curse
  • Crucio is The Cruciatus Curse
  • Imperio is The Imperius Curse

While all of them probably seem a bit familiar to you, you’re probably most familiar with the first one.

While these are descriptions of this kind of spellcraft, keep in mind that some spoilers are necessary to explain them.

The Dark Arts in Harry Potter

Dark Magic and the Dark Arts are any kind of magic or spell that’s main purpose is to harm or control the victim, even going so far as to kill him or her.

Apart from the three banned spells, not everything in this area is illegal, but often this is the case.

At the very least, they’re discouraged by most people throughout the wizarding world.

Dark witches and wizards are practitioners of this craft.

The worst practitioners in the history of this world were Voldemort and his Death Eaters, giving the practice an even worse reputation than it already had.

Some examples include curses, brewing poisonous or harmful potions, and breeding various Dark creatures.

Not everything illegal is considered part of this craft.

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For example, some breed various creatures such as Dragons, including Hagrid the Gamekeeper, though it’s possible that they can be used for nefarious purposes.

There are various artifacts related to this area. On a side note, the Japanese Ministry of Magic completely banned these practices outright.

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The Durmstrang Institute located in northern Europe actually teaches this.

The Three Forbidden Spells in Harry Potter

Only some of the most nefarious witches and wizards would even consider using such wizardry.

However, these were made legal once by Aurors fighting evil wizards during the First Wizarding War, and once again during 1997-1998 when Voldemort took control over the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts.

In normal circumstances, any willful use of such a craft, whether muggle or wizard, results in staying in the Azkaban prison for life.

I noticed that people sometimes confuse Forbidden Spells with Horcruxes, which is a common mistake.

If you’d like to learn more about Horcruxes, make sure to check also this article.

Avada Kedavra, The Killing Curse

As you can tell, this spell means instant death for its victim.

Its spelling and pronunciation is a sort of corrupted take on the popular magical phrase “abracadabra.”

When this spell is cast, an intense and stunning green light bolt shoots from the wand of the caster.

The contact of the light with its victim causes instant death. Nothing else happens except for this, and no biological causes of death can be found.

Perhaps the internal organs just freeze in place and cease to function.

While Muggle investigators are clueless, the Ministry of Magic recognizes this curse’s signs.

Modern Uses of this Spell

Throughout the main series, it was quite apparent that Voldemort used it whenever he got the chance.

As a result, he killed many people using this method, including some of his own family members.

It’s probable that he actually used it more than any other kind of curse or spell.

Likewise, his Death Eaters had similar behavior.

While some lethal curses don’t require to be verbally cast, this one has to as a rule for its casting.

Crucio, The Cruciatus Curse

Not as obvious as the previous one, this involves inflicting excruciating pain unto anyone unfortunate enough to be its victim.

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To actually successfully cast this, the spellcaster must be desirous and willing to cause pain.

While the nature of this inflicts an immense amount of pain for its own sake, it’s also used as a form of torture because of how painful it is.

This method was used frequently by Death Eaters.

As a fun but morbid fact, the word literally translates to “I torture” in Latin.

It originates from crux, meaning torture platform or stake.

Another version of its origin is the word cross.

Similarly, the word ex-cruciating actually has the same root, as does crucifixion.

Modern Uses of this Spell

In the series, Alice and Frank Longbottom were unfortunate victims of this curse.

In fact, it was so painful that they had to go to St Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries in the permanent ward due to insanity.

This was done by a group of dark magicians, including Bellatrix and two other Lestranges.

Imperio, The Imperius Curse

As another curse that’s unfamiliar to those who don’t know Latin, this one involves controlling its victim to perform any bidding of the caster without any question.

This is done by putting the victim in a dreamlike trance state without any control over him or herself.

Unfortunately, the victim experiences a wonderful state of not having any responsibility, remaining calm while doing some things they would be physically or morally incapable of doing.

While it’s actually possible to resist the curse, doing so is close to impossible for most.

This word is actually a corruption of the Latin word Impero, which literally means “I command.”

Modern Uses of this Spell

There were multiple cases of Death Eaters using this for malignant purposes.

In fact, many claimed to be under its effects while committing their horrible acts, since doing so under such influence isn’t entirely illegal.

Imperio was used in cases when Voldemort or a Death Eater needed something they didn’t have access to, such as a particular prophecy residing in the Department of Mysteries.

It was also used to take control of the Ministry of Magic.

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Out of necessity, Harry Potter learned how to resist such an influence.

Harry Potters’s Use of Curses

In one case, Harry Potter actually tried using this curse on Bellatrix Lestrange because he was absolutely furious that she killed Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather.

While his righteous anger was enough to inflict some pain on her for a moment, his desire and will to induce pain for its own sake wasn’t enough.

In another instance, the young wizard successfully inflicted the curse upon Amycus Carrow, one of Voldemort’s Death Eaters, before the Battle of Hogwarts.

While under normal circumstances he wouldn’t do such a thing, Harry Potter used this curse against two individuals in Gringotts during the heist.

This allowed Harry, Ron, and Hermoine to get into the vault and try to find what they were looking for.

These uses were likely considered legal when using them against the evil wizards during the Second Wizarding War.

Furthermore, they were technically legal under Voldemort’s abdication of the law against them.

Besides the forbidden spells, the young wizard found an old spell in a strange alchemy textbook that he had to borrow.

This was in the sixth movie and book when things were getting darker.

In fact, many strange spells were created by the mysterious half-blood prince.

The young Potter used Sectumsempra on the young Malfoy, leaving him on the floor and in pain.

Out of anger for Snape’s outward betrayal, Harry tried to use it yet again only to find out that it was in fact Severus Snape the half-blood prince himself, making the spell entirely useless.


While these three forbidden spells in the Harry Potter fictional universe are simple enough to understand, they give terrible powers that any witch or wizard would be tempted to use for nefarious purposes.

This is why they’re banned and considered “Unforgivable Curses.” If anyone could use them, chaos would ensue.

If only a few people could use them, they would have too much power.

Both scenarios were likely played out to disastrous effects.

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I believe that life is magic. I'm a playing cards collector, I love performing magic tricks and I'm also the owner of a small magic shop. Apart from that I like to explore different kinds of supernatural magic that we all have in our lives and I like to share what I learn... I'm great fan of Harry Potter...

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