There are many examples of dark magic throughout the Harry Potter series, but perhaps the most evil of all is that of a Horcrux. Not only is it a fascinatingly terrible bit of magic, but Horcruxes also serve as a major plot point throughout the series, particularly in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Whilst the movies do show and explain the different Horcruxes, there is much more lore surrounding them in the books and extended universe, and so they’ll be the main sources for this Harry Potter Horcrux guide.
J.K. Rowling expanded a lot on the details surrounding Horcruxes through her online website, Pottermore. We learned more details about the inspiration that caused her to come up with the idea, as well as how they’re created. Interestingly, it’s clear that she always intended for them to be a major plot point, as when you read the books, several of them crop up ahead of time. I’ll give more details about that in the sections for each Horcrux. Still, it’s undeniable that they’re an integral part of the series. Let’s learn more about them!
Bottom Line Up Front
- What was Voldemort’s first Horcrux? Tom Riddle’s Diary
- What are all the Horcruxes? Tom Riddle’s Diary, Salazar Slytherin’s Locket, Helga Hufflepuff’s Cup, Rowena Ravenclaw’s Diadem, Marvolo Gaunt’s Ring, Nagini, Harry Potter
- What is used to destroy Voldemort’s Horcruxes? A basilisk fang, the Sword of Gryffindor, Fiendfyre, the Killing Curse
- Who was the first person to create a Horcrux? Herpo the Foul
What is a Horcrux?
A Horcrux is an object containing part of a witch or wizard’s soul. It’s every bit as gruesome as it sounds, and the owner of the Horcrux literally has to split their own soul and trap part of it within the object. When they do so, they essentially gain a form of immortality. Even if their physical body dies, part of their soul will live on in the Horcrux and can therefore be preserved. We see Voldemort use this loophole after he’s defeated by the baby Harry Potter. His soul lives on, and his physical body is later reincarnated by Peter Pettigrew in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
A Horcrux can theoretically be any object but will usually be something of some significance to the maker; after all, they’re storing part of their soul in it. It’s a very powerful piece of magic, and just being in the vicinity of it can affect a person’s mental state. We see this on a couple of occasions throughout the series. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Ginny owns Tom Riddle’s Diary. It puts her into a trance and is able to convince her to do all kinds of things that she has no conscious memory of.
Then in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Ron wears Slytherin’s Locket for too long, and it causes him to grow aggressive and resentful, eventually abandoning Harry and Hermione. There’s also a theory that the reason the Dursleys are so awful is that they grow up around Harry, who is himself a Horcrux, but this seems unlikely as he doesn’t seem to have any effect on the Gryffindor boys who share his dormitory.
How Do You Make a Horcrux?
The specifics of Horcruxes are still shrouded in mystery (probably to prevent the details from falling into the hands of would-be dark witches and wizards). However, what we do know about them makes it clear what a terribly unnatural act it is to split one’s, own soul.
For starters, it’s not as simple as just saying a quick spell, and voila, Horcrux. No. To create a Horcrux, you first need to weaken your soul by committing an act of ultimate evil – murder. The murder needs to be unprovoked and deliberate because it’s the evil of the action that makes the soul ready to be made into a Horcrux, so self-defense wouldn’t cut it.
Not every murder results in a Horcrux, and making one is an intentional act by the creator. It requires a spell. However, the exact words of the incantation are as yet unknown. The spell severs the damaged soul so that it can be attached to the object of choice. The object then takes on the dark witch or wizard’s persona as they were at the time of creation. This is why Tom Riddle’s Diary contains a 16-year-old version of Voldemort rather than him as an adult.
There is a limit on how many times the soul can be split, after which it simply crumbles into nothingness. This is why Voldemort didn’t replace any of the destroyed Horcruxes, as he knew his soul was already too weak and wouldn’t survive the process another time.
One example of an unintentional Horcrux is when Voldemort accidentally turned Harry Potter into one. He’d committed murder already that day when he killed Lily and James Potter. Because his soul was already so weak from making so many other Horcruxes, it severed of its own accord. Thus when Lily’s love magic thwarted his attempts to kill Harry, the broken bit of soul lodged into the nearest living being – Harry himself.
How Do You Destroy a Horcrux?
Horcruxes are incredibly powerful magical objects, and as such, not just anything can destroy them. They’re able to withstand that majority of offensive spells and can’t be burned or smashed. There are three confirmed ways of destroying Horcruxes; however, I would imagine it’s likely that there are others. Otherwise it seems too coincidental that the trio just happened to encounter all three destruction methods. Here are the ones we know about:
- Basilisk Venom. Basilisks are incredibly dangerous creatures, and their venom is so potent that it can even destroy a Horcrux. The basilisk stores its venom in its fangs, so you can stab a Horcrux with a fang that’s no longer attached to the basilisk, and it will still work. In the series, Godric Gryffindor’s Sword is used to destroy some of the Horcruxes. This works because it has been imbued with basilisk venom. The sword is made from silver that was crafted and magically enchanted by goblins, which allows it to take on any characteristic that makes it stronger. So when Harry stabs it through the basilisk’s jaw, it takes on the venom that it encounters there.
- Fiendfyre. We don’t know the incantation to produce it. Still, Fiendfyre is a particularly brutal blaze and falls under the realm of dark magic. Fiendfyre acts almost sentient and will actively chase people in an attempt to burn them, taking on the form of beasts such as serpents. In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (book), Crabbe casts it in the Room of Requirement. In the film version, the actor for Crabbe was under arrest and so didn’t appear in the movie, thus meaning that they chose Goyle to cast the curse for Fiendfyre instead.
- The Killing Curse. Avada Kedavra! It’s okay; I wasn’t holding a wand, so you’re safe this time. But any being on the receiving end of those words when cast by a witch or wizard would certainly not be safe. Those two words can immediately stop a heart beating, freezing the individual in their tracks as they drop dead. It’s one of the three unforgivable curses and requires a truly dark heart to cast it. You have to fully intend to kill someone, which means that even if someone tried to cast it but didn’t really mean it, then it probably wouldn’t totally kill the person, just injure them. We know that this can be used to destroy a Horcrux, as it’s how Voldemort unwittingly destroys the part of his soul that resided in Harry.
Who is Known to Have Made a Horcrux?
As Horcruxes are such a dark and dangerous piece of magic, the Ministry went to great efforts to bury knowledge of them. As such, most witches and wizards weren’t even aware of their existence. However, just like there are shady circles in the muggle world, some dark witches and wizards did learn the details of how to create Horcruxes. There are only two known wizards who did this. Still, the likelihood is that there were several created throughout history, and it just remained a secret.
Herpo the Foul
Herpo the Foul is the wizard who created the very first Horcrux. It’s therefore likely that he was also the one who invented the incantation, as nobody was known to have created one before him. So there would have been nobody for him to learn it from. We know that he made it in ancient Greece, but the exact object he used is unknown.
It would appear that Herpo created just the one Horcrux, rather than multiples of them. What happened to the Horcrux after the death of his physical body is unknown… Maybe Herpo’s soul is still out there, just waiting for someone to resurrect him!
Tom Riddle (Lord Voldemort)
When you think of Horcruxes, you think of Voldemort. Although other wizards may have created a Horcrux, it’s believed that Voldemort is the only person to create more than one. In fact, he created a grand total of 6 (plus Harry, but that was unintentional). Whereas we don’t know much about Herpo the Foul’s original Horcrux, we know almost everything about Voldemort’s ones. Instead of rushing to summarise them in this section here, read the rest of this guide to find out more about them.
How Did Voldemort Learn About Horcruxes?
If we’re to assume that Tom Riddle was telling the truth in his conversation with Professor Slughorn, he first found out about the concept of Horcruxes when reading a book in the restricted section. He had heard of the term and had a basic understanding of what they were but had sought to find more knowledge about them. He knew that Horcruxes were incredibly dark magic and not to be discussed with most people, so he went to Professor Slughorn, who was already fond of Tom Riddle.
Professor Slughorn was initially quite taken aback by the question but proceeded to clarify a few things for Riddle. He confirmed that Horcruxes were a form of immortality as the object would forever protect a part of the soul. He also confirmed that to make a Horcrux, you had to commit a murder.
Riddle wanted to know more about how many times the soul could be split, as 7 is a powerful magic number, and he wanted to know if the soul could be split into 7. Slughorn became increasingly uneasy at the conversation, and so he did not reveal any more information (although he may not have known anything else anyway).
Professor Slughorn did not know the spell for making a Horcrux, so Voldemort had to learn that elsewhere. It’s assumed that he learned it from the same book that he found in the restricted section, Secrets of the Darkest Art. Dumbledore removed all the books containing knowledge of Horcruxes from the restricted section, but this was after Voldemort had already had the conversation with Professor Slughorn.
What Are All of Voldemort’s Horcruxes?
In total, Voldemort created 7 Horcruxes (6 intentionally, one accidentally). They each have fascinating backstories, so I’ll talk a little more about each one. This Horcrux guide is intended to be a comprehensive article covering everything you should need to know, so as well as giving details on the creation and destruction of each one, I’ll also share a bit about the objects themselves. Please note that I’ll be using ‘Tom Riddle’ and ‘Voldemort’ pretty much interchangeably, but usually using ‘Tom Riddle’ to refer to his younger self. Enjoy!
Tom Riddle’s Diary
Destroyed by: Harry Potter
Using: A basilisk fang
This was the first Horcrux that Voldemort ever created, and he did so in his fifth year at Hogwarts when he was just 16 years old. Moaning Myrtle’s death at the hands of the basilisk (on Tom Riddle’s instruction) was the catalyst for severing Voldemort’s soul.
Tom Riddle bought the diary itself from a muggle shop, and it was engraved with his initials and surname. Dumbledore claims that Voldemort chose to make the diary into a Horcrux as proof that he was the Heir of Slytherin. Still, in my opinion, that doesn’t make total sense. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the diary only became the proof because it was made into a Horcrux.
The diary shows up in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets after Lucius Malfoy slips it into Ginny Weasley’s cauldron when they meet in Diagon Alley. It’s suggested that Malfoy doesn’t actually realize the significance of the diary beyond that it contains some form of dark magic. You’d like to think that even he wouldn’t knowingly have allowed an 11-year-old girl to be possessed by Voldemort.
Ginny opens the Chamber of Secrets with Voldemort controlling her. She nearly dies when he attempts to steal her life force, but Harry saves her just in time before destroying the Horcrux for good.
Salazar Slytherin’s Locket
Destroyed by: Ron Weasley
Using: The Sword of Gryffindor
As Voldemort himself was a Slytherin, it’s likely this was one of his most prized Horcruxes. It was a gorgeously ornate locket that used to belong to Salazar Slytherin himself. Green stones on the front were inlaid in the shape of an ‘S’ directly into the gold exterior of the locket. When the locket was open, you could see Tom Riddle’s eyes on either side.
Voldemort’s grandfather, Marvolo Gaunt, initially owned the locket after it had been passed down through the generations of his family. However, Voldemort’s mother, Merope Gaunt, stole the locket and sold it to the co-owner of Borgin and Burkes, where it was put up for sale and bought by the rich Hepzibah Smith.
Tom Riddle used to work at the shop, and Smith had shown him the locket, which is presumably when he became interested in it. He stole the locket after he killed her. After that, he murdered a homeless muggle to split his soul and turn the locket into a Horcrux.
Voldemort hid the locket in a cave where he had once tortured two children from the orphanage he grew up in. However, Regulus Black stole the locket. Although he wasn’t able to destroy it, the locket ended up in the Black family house at 12 Grimmauld Place. It’s actually casually mentioned in the book of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when they’re cleaning up, even though the concept of Horcruxes is not yet known to them or the reader. Mundungus Fletcher stole it but was then caught by the Ministry of Magic. The locket fell into the possession of Dolores Umbridge.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione embarked on a dangerous (but successful) mission to steal it from her, but then it took them a while to figure out how to destroy it. They took turns wearing it around their neck during that time, and it lowered their mood. Eventually, it corrupted Ron to the extent that he left them. It was finally destroyed after Ron came back, and he used the Sword of Gryffindor as the means of destruction.
Helga Hufflepuff’s Cup
Destroyed by: Hermione Granger
Using: A basilisk fang
This was another item that was originally owned by Hepzibah Smith, so was a nice 2-in-1 snatch and grab for Tom Riddle alongside Slytherin’s locket. After he stole the items, he murdered Hepzibah Smith (pinning the blame on her house-elf Hokey and implanting a false memory to make Hokey confess). This murder was used to split his soul and turn Helga Hufflepuff’s Cup into a Horcrux.
The cup itself was initially created by the Hufflepuff house founder, Helga Hufflepuff. It was a beautifully ornate gold cup with a badger engraved into it, and it had two delicate handles on the sides. Aside from the magnificence of its beauty, Voldemort desired it for its historical significance. Even though he’d turned evil, he still felt very fondly towards Hogwarts (he even tried to be a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher there), so owning an item from the founders meant a lot to him.
Voldemort eventually entrusted the cup to his loyal follower, Bellatrix Lestrange. She sealed the cup safely in her vault at Gringotts and took great pride in protecting it. The vault was protected by a multiplication spell, whereby any item that was touched by someone other than the vault owner would replicate itself.
Despite this, the trio was able to break into her vault and steal the cup with the assistance of Griphook. They intended to destroy it with Gryffindor’s sword, but Griphook betrayed them and stole it. Hermione ended up destroying it with one of the basilisk fangs from inside the Chamber of Secrets once they were back at Hogwarts.
Rowena Ravenclaw’s Diadem
Destroyed by: Vincent Crabbe (book version)/ Gregory Goyle (movie version)
A diadem is a fancy tiara, and this one belonged to the founder of Ravenclaw house, Rowena Ravenclaw. There is one Horcrux for each of the four houses, except for Gryffindor. Although Slytherin and Gryffindor have a rivalry, it’s likely that Voldemort would have wanted to make a Horcrux from an object owned by Godric Gryffindor. However, the only known relic was the Sword of Gryffindor, which could only be claimed by a worthy Gryffindor, which meant Voldemort had no way of accessing it. As such, he had to make do with only having three out of the four houses.
Voldemort coaxed the location of the diadem out of the Ravenclaw house ghost, Helena Ravenclaw, aka the Grey Lady. He then went to Albania, where it was hidden. He murdered an Albanian peasant to create the Horcrux before returning it to Hogwarts, where it had originated. He hid it in the Room of Requirement, perhaps thinking he’d been the only one to discover the mysterious entrance. It was placed in the Room of Hidden Things, which was used by many students over the years.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry speaks to Helena Ravenclaw. He convinces her to tell him where Voldemort hid the diadem. He goes to find it but is intercepted by Malfoy and his goons. In an attempt to thwart the heroes, Crabbe (Goyle in the movie version) casts a spell to create Fiendfyre. Ron and Hermione are able to rescue Goyle, and Harry rescues Draco, but Crabbe ends up dying in the flames.
Fiendfyre is one of the ways to destroy a Horcrux, and it incinerates the diadem. Although this obviously wasn’t Crabbe’s intention, he was still accidentally the one to destroy this Horcrux.
Marvolo Gaunt’s Ring
Destroyed by: Albus Dumbledore
Using: The Sword of Gryffindor
As we discover in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Voldemort comes from the bloodline of the Gaunt family. His mother, Merope Gaunt, fell in love with a muggle, Tom Riddle Sr. She used a love potion on him. He got her pregnant, which resulted in the birth of Tom Riddle, aka Voldemort.
As Voldemort hated his muggle heritage, he clung to the wizarding side of his family. He identified more strongly with the Gaunt side, which is why Marvolo Gaunt’s Ring was of vital significance to him. The ring itself had a golden band set with a black stone, which was actually the Resurrection Stone, one of the three Deathly Hallows.
Tom Riddle stole the ring from his uncle, Morfin Gaunt, and murdered his own father, Tom Riddle Sr, to turn the ring into a Horcrux. Just like he’d done with Hokey, he framed Morfin for the death of the entire Riddle family. However, Voldemort didn’t complete the Horcrux-making process right away and wore the ring at Hogwarts for a while before turning it into a Horcrux.
Albus Dumbledore was the one to track down Marvolo Gaunt’s Ring, having figured out what it was, and he used the Sword of Gryffindor to destroy it. He had been clued into the existence of Horcruxes after Harry had told him about what happened with Tom Riddle’s Diary in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. However, the ring cursed him, and although Severus Snape could slow the effects of the curse, Dumbledore still only had a year to live.
During this year, he taught Harry about Horcruxes and sent Harry on his quest to seek and destroy all of them. Dumbledore hid the Resurrection Stone that had been in the ring inside the Golden Snitch from Harry’s first Quidditch match.
Destroyed by: Neville Longbottom
Using: The Sword of Gryffindor
Nagini is the giant snake that Voldemort keeps as a close companion. He’s able to converse with her due to his rare ability to speak parseltongue (snake language), and he trusts her completely. There used to be a fan theory going around that Nagini was the snake that Harry accidentally released from the zoo in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Still, J.K. Rowling has confirmed that this is false.
In fact, in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise, it’s been revealed that Nagini was originally a human woman who became a snake over time due to being something known as a Maledictus.
Voldemort turned Nagini into a Horcrux after realizing that his other Horcruxes were being hunted down and destroyed. She was his seventh and final Horcrux, although he probably thought she was the sixth as turning Harry into a Horcrux had been unintentional.
It was an odd choice to create a Horcrux from a living being rather than an inanimate object. Still, Voldemort trusted Nagini and probably already saw the snake as an extension of himself. He kept her by his side constantly. She was created using the death of the Ministry of Magic employee, Bertha Jorkins.
Neville Longbottom eventually killed Nagini, who beheaded her using the Sword of Gryffindor. Just like she was the final Horcrux created, she was the final Horcrux destroyed. After this, Voldemort had no Horcruxes left, and Harry could defeat him once and for all during their duel.
Destroyed by: Voldemort
Using: The Killing Curse
Since Harry is the eponymous character of the entire series, I’m not going to give details of his life or relevance to the series here. Instead, I’ll talk specifically about him in regards to his being a Horcrux. Or rather, a pseudo-Horcrux, as Voldemort never intended to impart his soul to him, so he did not go through the usual Horcrux-making ritual. Instead, Harry was created accidentally.
On the night that Voldemort killed Harry’s parents, he also attempted to kill Harry using the Killing Curse. However, Lily’s selfless sacrifice had protected Harry using powerful love magic, and Voldemort’s curse backfired. His soul was already weakened by making all those other Horcruxes that it shattered by itself. The separated part of its soul found out the nearest living being to attach itself to – Harry himself.
Dumbledore realizes this relatively early on in the franchise but never reveals it to Harry. Instead, Harry finds out through Severus Snape’s dying memory. Realizing that his own death is the only way to stop Voldemort once and for all, he bravely heads to face Voldemort.
Harry knows he has to die and so doesn’t put up a fight. Voldemort uses the Killing Curse against him, and it appears as though Harry is dead. However, Voldemort has actually just killed the part of his own soul that was residing in Harry. Harry wakes up after a fascinating scene inside his own mind but feigns death until he’s back in the safety of Hogwarts. Eventually, he faces Voldemort in a duel, and this time, Harry is the victorious one.
As you can see, Horcruxes are a fascinating part of the Harry Potter franchise and have rich lore surrounding them. I hope this Horcrux guide was useful to you and that you’ve found everything that you were looking for. Just don’t go using this information to make your own Horcruxes! We must use our magical powers for good. And to any muggles who read this, hopefully, now you have a better understanding of the dark side of magic, so maybe don’t lament too hard that you’re not a part of it.
Answer: The very first Horcrux Voldemort makes is the one we see first on-screen in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. It’s Tom Riddle’s diary, and the Horcrux was made after Voldemort used the basilisk to kill Moaning Myrtle.
Answer: The first person ever to make a Horcrux was the dark wizard Herpo the Foul. Aside from him, Voldemort is the only other person known to have made one; however, it’s suggested that there have been other unnamed dark witches and wizards who have made their own.
Answer: There are only 3 confirmed ways of destroying a Horcrux throughout the series. You can use basilisk venom, Fiendfyre, or the killing curse. It’s unclear whether the killing curse would work on a Horcrux inside an inanimate object rather than a living being.