Dark Mark.jpg
The First Wizarding War

c. 1970 - 31 October 1981


Ministry/Order of the Phoenix/allies victory; disappearance of Voldemort and decline of Death Eaters

"Imagine that Voldemort's powerful now. You don't know who his supporters are, you don't know who's working for him and who isn't; you know he can control people so that they do terrible things without being able to stop themselves. You're scared for yourself, and your family, and your friends. Every week, news comes of more deaths, more disappearances, more torturing… The Ministry of Magic's in disarray, they don't know what to do, they're trying to keep everything hidden from the Muggles, but meanwhile, Muggles are dying too. Terror everywhere… panic… confusion… that's how it used to be."
Sirius Black on the war[src]

The event known as the First Wizarding War was a major conflict with foundations as early as the 1940s, but officially beginning in 1970 and ending abruptly in 1981. It marked the original "reign" of the Dark Lord Voldemort.

The Dark Lord's rebellion occurred with the help of his Death Eaters, Dark wizards and witches who served him and brought terror to both Muggle and magical innocents. They were opposed by the Ministry of Magic and the Order of the Phoenix, an organisation founded by Albus Dumbledore that would play a crucial role in both of Voldemort's defeats.

Prelude[edit | edit source]

Rise of the Heir of Slytherin (1940s)[edit | edit source]

File:Teen Riddle.JPG

A teenage Tom Riddle.

Harry Potter: "You. You're the Heir of Slytherin. You're Voldemort."
Tom Riddle: "Surely you didn't think I was going to keep my filthy Muggle father's name, did you? Keep the name of a man who abandoned my mother when he found out that she was a witch? No! I fashioned myself a new name, a name I knew wizards everywhere would one day fear to speak, when I became the greatest sorcerer in the world!"
Tom Riddle and Harry Potter in the Chamber of Secrets in 1993[src]

Lord Voldemort was born Tom Marvolo Riddle, who began his quest for power while he was a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in 1943. At some point, Riddle discovered that he was the heir of Salazar Slytherin, and in 1943, he used Parseltongue to open the Chamber of Secrets and unleash a basilisk on the school with the task of killing Muggle-born students. Several were petrified and one, a girl now known as Moaning Myrtle, was killed. This prompted discussions about closing down the school; because Riddle did not want this to occur, as it would force him back into the Muggle orphanage in which he grew up, he closed the Chamber of Secrets and framed fellow student Rubeus Hagrid and his pet acromantula Aragog for the crimes.[1]

Around this time, Riddle also learned about Horcruxes and planned to make his own in order to secure himself immortality. He began committing more murders to facilitate this goal, including a triple murder of his own relatives, the Muggle Riddle family. He framed his maternal uncle Morfin Gaunt for the crimes and used the House of Gaunt's signet ring as a Horcrux. While at school, Riddle also began assembling a group of friends who would become his followers, the Death Eaters.


Salazar Slytherin's Locket, one of Voldemort's Horcruxes.

After graduating from Hogwarts, Riddle began working at Borgin and Burkes, a Dark shop in Knockturn Alley. He used this position to befriend Hepzibah Smith, a wealthy old witch who was soon found dead with two of her most prized possessions stolen. Riddle acquired two more Horcruxes and soon left Britain.[2]

Immersion in the Dark Arts (1950s-1960s)[edit | edit source]

Dumbledore: "You call it 'greatness,' what you have been doing, do you?"
Voldemort: "Certainly. I have experimented; I have pushed the boundaries of magic further, perhaps, than they have ever been pushed..."
Albus Dumbledore and Lord Voldemort[src]

For the next two decades, Riddle, now known as Lord Voldemort, laid low and travelled, notably to Albania.[3] He studied the Dark Arts extensively, and underwent several transformations which made him more powerful and less human. He returned to Britain briefly at some point to request that Hogwarts' new Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, give him the position of professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts. Dumbledore, who had been suspicious of Riddle ever since he admitted to enjoying inflicting pain as a boy, turned him down, and took note of how his former student had changed for the worse. As a result of this rejection, Riddle placed a curse upon the job position, making it so that the job could not be held more than a year[2].

War[edit | edit source]

Death Eater Rebellion[edit | edit source]

"...this wizard, about twenty years ago, started lookin' fer followers. Got 'em, too -- some were afraid, some just wanted a bit o' his power, 'cause he was gettin' himself power, all right."
Rubeus Hagrid telling Harry Potter of how the First War began.[src]
File:Death eaters worldcup.jpg

Death Eaters

By 1970, Voldemort had formed the Death Eater organisation and proclaimed himself the new Dark Lord. With this army and his Horcruxes, he planned a revolution against the Ministry of Magic.

The Death Eaters originally attacked mostly Muggles and Muggle-born wizards and witches, while using the Imperius Curse and blackmail to gain secret servants in high places, intending to destabilise the Ministry, which desperately tried to keep order as well as secrecy from the Muggle world. Albus Dumbledore, in response to the growing threat of the Dark Lord and his minions, formed the Order of the Phoenix to combat the Death Eaters directly. Some Aurors from the Ministry also joined the Order of the Phoenix to participate in more secretive, sudden assaults to crush the Dark Rebellion.[4]

Height of the War[edit | edit source]


Voldemort and his Death Eaters (after his rebirth).

Remus Lupin: "The last time Voldemort had power he almost destroyed everything we hold most dear..."
Sirius Black: "...he had huge numbers at his command -- not just witches and wizards but all manner of Dark creatures..."
Remus Lupin and Sirius Black on the First Wizarding War in 1995[src]

When the Ministry showed it would not fall easily to insurrection, the Death Eaters stepped up their efforts. The prominent Bones family was nearly obliterated. Fabian and Gideon Prewett, both Order members, were slaughtered by a group of Death Eaters led by Antonin Dolohov, though they fought bravely. Order member Dorcas Meadowes was killed by Voldemort himself, the McKinnon family was massacred by Death Eaters, Order member Caradoc Dearborn disappeared, and Order member Benjy Fenwick was mutilated to death by Voldemort's supporters.[4]

Terror and chaos gripped the wizarding world at the increased brutality of the Death Eaters, whose identities were still largely unknown.[5] This made people suspicious of one another, even within the Order; Sirius Black, for instance, came to distrust his old friend Remus Lupin, suspecting that he might be a spy.[6]

Voldemort also made use of his alliance with the Giants and werewolves. Aurors fought hard to maintain resistance during the Invasion of Britain, which was fronted by Voldemort-supporting Giants. Many lost their lives and entire tribes of Giants were wiped out until, finally, the beasts retreated and went into hiding.[4]


The Order of the Phoenix.

Decline of the Death Eaters[edit | edit source]

After the Giants' defeat, the tide of the war began to turn. Death Eaters Evan Rosier and Wilkes met their ends at the hands of Aurors, now given permission by the Ministry per an edict from the office of Bartemius Crouch Sr. to employ the Unforgivable Curses against their enemies. Many ordinary wizards also met their ends while bravely trying to face Death Eaters, such as the father of Dean Thomas.[4]

Regulus Black, a young Death Eater, became disenchanted with the Dark Lord's cause and attempted to destroy one of his Horcruxes, resulting in his death at the hands of the Inferi guarding Salazar Slytherin's Locket in the Horcrux cave. His house-elf, Kreacher, escaped with the locket while replacing it with a fake prepared by Regulus beforehand. This act would later play a key role in the Second Wizarding War.[7]

The Prophecy and the Death of the Potters[edit | edit source]

The Potters' home in Godric's Hollow.

"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches...born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies...and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not...and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survive..."
The prophecy of Voldemort's fall[src]

During the worst days of the war, a prophecy was made by Sybill Trelawney about the person who would have the ability to defeat Lord Voldemort. There were two possible candidates, both born to members of the Order of the Phoenix in July of 1980: Harry Potter and Neville Longbottom.[4] Death Eater Severus Snape overheard part of the prophecy and reported it to Voldemort, who believed it meant the Potters' son, a half-blood like himself, and resolved to kill the infant. This caused Snape, who was in love with the boy's mother, to defect to the Order without any of the Death Eaters or Lord Voldemort finding out.[7]

File:Lily eath.jpg

Voldemort murdering Lily Potter - one of his greatest mistakes.

Dumbledore bade the Potters go into hiding with the protection of the Fidelius Charm. While James and Lily Potter wanted to have their close friend Sirius Black be their Secret-Keeper, Sirius thought the enemy would suspect him, but not a “weak, talentless thing” like Peter Pettigrew. Thus, Pettigrew became the Potters' Secret-Keeper. No one, not even Dumbledore or Remus Lupin, knew of the switch. However, Pettigrew was a traitor working for Voldemort, and he told his master that the Potters were hiding in Godric's Hollow.[6]

On 31 October, 1981, Voldemort travelled there himself. He killed James when the latter opposed Voldemort unarmed, but offered Lily a chance to save herself if she stepped away from the crib containing her infant son - Snape had requested that she be spared. Lily refused, and Voldemort killed her before turning the Killing Curse on Harry Potter. However, Lily's sacrifice gave her son the protection of an ancient magic, and the curse backfired, destroying Voldemort's physical body and leaving a lightning-shaped scar on Harry's forehead that a fragment of Voldemort's soul became attached to, inadvertently making Harry a Horcrux.[7]

End of the War[edit | edit source]

File:Harry J. Potter.jpg

Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived

"Harry Potter rolled over inside his blankets without waking up. One small hand closed on the letter beside him and he slept on, not knowing he was special, not knowing he was famous…. He couldn’t know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: “To Harry Potter – the boy who lived!”"
—Description of the celebrations going on at the end of the war and the destiny forced upon the young Harry Potter.[src]

The Dark Lord's body was destroyed, leaving behind only his mangled soul which fled the collapsing building to go into hiding. Voldemort's defeat meant that his followers were sent into disarray; some, like Bellatrix Lestrange were sent to Azkaban and others, such as Lucius Malfoy, used their wealth, power, and influence (and claims that they had been under the Imperius Curse) to avoid imprisonment. There was celebration all across the country at the end of Voldemort's reign of terror.

Harry Potter, now orphaned, was taken from the remains of the Godric's Hollow cottage to 4 Privet Drive, the residence of his aunt Petunia and her husband Vernon. Waiting for Hagrid in the Muggle neighborhood of Little Whinging was Albus Dumbledore and Minerva McGonagall, and Dumbledore left a note with the sleeping baby Harry explaining everything to the Dursleys; most importantly, that they must allow Harry to grow up in their home and return there once a year in order to ensure that his mother's protection would continue working. The plan worked: While the Dursleys abused and tormented Harry during all his years living there, they did always allow him houseroom.

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

"The Dark Lord will rise again, Crouch! Throw us into Azkaban; we will wait!"
Bellatrix Lestrange at her trial[src]

Although the war was over with Voldemort's defeat, some Death Eaters were still free to cause trouble, leading the Ministry, spearheaded by Barty Crouch Sr to launch a massive crackdown on the Death Eaters and their acts of terrorism against the wizarding world. Peter Pettigrew attempted to go into hiding, but was tracked down by Sirius Black, who had realised his treachery, on a Muggle street. Faking his own death, Pettigrew created an explosion that killed twelve Muggle bystanders, and then transformed into his Animagus form of a rat, escaping. Sirius was blamed for the explosion as well as the betrayal of the Potters and the "murder" of Pettigrew, and, by order of Bartemius Crouch (who was, at that time, the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement within the Ministry of Magic) was imprisoned in Azkaban without a trial.[6]

Shortly afterwards, Aurors and Order members Alice and Frank Longbottom were tortured to insanity with the Cruciatus Curse by Death Eaters Rodolphus, Rabastan, Bellatrix Lestrange and Barty Crouch Jr, who believed the two Aurors had information regarding the whereabouts of Lord Voldemort. The Longbottoms were subsequently moved to St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries for long-term care, and their infant son Neville was raised by his grandmother Augusta Longbottom, Frank's mother. The Death Eaters were caught and put on trial; as part of his harsh treatment of the criminals, Crouch sentenced them all, including his son, to a lifetime sentence in Azkaban. Bellatrix Lestrange proudly proclaimed her loyalty and declared that the Dark Lord would return.[5]

Other Death Eaters who were imprisoned included Antonin Dolohov, Travers, Mulciber, and Augustus Rookwood, some of whom were turned in by fellow Death Eater Igor Karkaroff[5]. Some Death Eaters, such as Lucius Malfoy and Avery, managed to avoid imprisonment by claiming that they had only served Voldemort under the influence of the Imperius Curse. While the Ministry of Magic believed them, there were those, such as Arthur Weasley, who knew better.[1]

Though the war was over, Albus Dumbledore knew that Lord Voldemort would return. He and Severus Snape - pardoned for his Death Eater crimes because of his defection - agreed to protect Harry Potter, the boy destined to defeat the Dark Lord.[7]In 1995, Lord Voldemort's return marked the beginning of the Second Wizarding War which was more terrible than the first, but ended when Harry Potter killed Voldemort in the Battle of Hogwarts on 2 May, 1998.

Appearances[edit | edit source]

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.