In the Dresden Files a Wizard can cast a Death Curse; a final, vengeful burst of magic that feeds off their life energy. This was established before the energy/soul distinction, so which one Harry was referring to is unclear to me. First question: what exactly is the energy that a wizard draws their death curse from? The description sounds an awful lot like that of Soulfire, but I didn't think that was available to every single wizard.

Once that's established, if a Wizard comes incredibly close to dying without actually dying,* what happens if they cast a Death Curse then? Does their body come back without their soul? Does the soul never leave, but the spell render their body comatose? Do they get very tired, just as if they'd cast any large spell? Could their healer jumpstart their system by giving them energy?

This question is an even-more specific sibling of this scifi.se question.

*Imagine for argument's sake that their throat is cut and then repaired by magic. They would definitely die without interference.

2 Answers 2


There's no indication that death curses are powered by the soul. The soul in Dresden Files is a source of energy, true, but it's also considered to be generally immortal. Wizards and other supernaturally-powered mortals (explicitly including the Knights of the Blackened Denarius and the Knights of the Cross) anticipate that their deaths will result in their souls traveling to an expected afterlife.

When he describes magic and how it works, Dresden describes it in ways similar to the Force - magic is created by life. Magic is within every person, and is an integral part of the difference between a living person and a dead one. Wizards, sorcerers, kinetomancers, ectomancers, *-mancers, etc draw upon their own internal reserves of magic as well as the magic around them.

Harry had a notable experience with this while he was contained in an enormous, Hellfire-charged pentagram that cut off access to outside magic. He pulled as much power as he could into his internal reserves and used it as efficiently as he could. Once that charge and the magic that had already been in the area were gone, he was unable to use magic.

Hellfire, which Harry gained access to for a while, is an external power source. It could be used to supercharge his spells, primarily those which were destructive.

Soulfire is different. Soulfire allows Harry to use the energy which makes up his immortal soul to make his magic more than it was. His magical constructs are more real, his fire spells burn truer, links between Play Dough and pieces broken off of the can are stronger and more lasting, etc. Soulfire, however, is fueled by Harry's soul. The implication is that if he pours too much into spells, he will exhaust his soul.

This is an important, huge difference between Soulfire and a Death Curse. Wizards need a moment to prepare their Death Curse. They need to know they will die, and make a conscious decision to expend every bit of magic they have (leaving none to sustain their bodies). They also know or anticipate that their souls will not be destroyed by this process - they still anticipate an afterlife.

On the other side, Harry has repeatedly stated that he has to be careful with Soulfire because he could accidentally kill himself with it. He also anticipates that, should he do so, his soul will simply be gone. No ghost, no afterlife, just a cessation of existence.

Thus, in your hypothetical situation, a wizard in a near-death experience who used his Death Curse would die. He would die despite anything healing his physical wounds. In Dresden Files, magic is portrayed as the source of life, and the Death Curse expends it all. You could fix the wounds, but it wouldn't transform the wizard's body into a living one.

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    You're right, they're separate. I was rereading Turn Coat, and in the climactic battle Harry wonders what a Death Curse backed by Soulfire could do.
    – rsegal
    Jun 21, 2014 at 1:36

Casting a Death Curse kills the Wizard and probably its target

From the wikia:

A death curse utilizes all the power a wizard can access, including the energy it takes to stay alive, and so it is called a Death Curse because the wizard casting it will die by casting it.

The curse's target is often the wizard's killer, but it can apparently be directed at anyone, regardless of the target's involvement or nearby physical presence.

It's probably best not to overthink the Death Curse, tbh. A wizard can be a conduit of energy. Harry talks frequently about how there is huge power to precision ratio - to be really powerful AND really precise is extremely difficult on the wizard unless they are using some kind of focus (Dresden's staff and wands).

Basically, since the wizard thinks they are about to die anyway - they don't care. They're going to use all their remaining power to kill one target. So in your scenario, and any scenario involving the casting of the curse - the wizard dies. Pretty much part of the bargain. Harry frequently uses this to point out that killing him outright is a bad idea.

There is no indication that Hellfire or Soulfire is involved. Harry talks about th Death Curse as early as Storm Front, before such concepts were even introduced to the series. The big difference between the Death Curse and most of Harry's spells is that it doesn't require a huge explosion of actual energy. It isn't like a fireball. You're basically cursing someone to die. But while the casting wizard dying is part of the bargain, the target dying is not guaranteed:

In Dead Beat, the former Denarian, Quintus Cassius, killed by Mouse on Harry Dresden's orders, hit Harry with his Death Curse. He wanted his curse to kill Harry, but he was too weak to manage that and so settled with cursing Harry to "die alone".

(same source)

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