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Some of the comments and responses from this question: Was Salazar Slytherin a Dark Wizard? suggest that because there is no evidence Salazar performed the unforgivable curses, he shouldn't be considered a Dark Wizard.

It is merely the act of using "dark" magic that gives someone the label (which would mean Harry Potter is a Dark Wizard, for using the Cruciatus Curse and the Imperius Curse), or is it their actions and general attitudes which are the deciding factor? For instance, Sirius Black was considered a Dark Wizard, despite no evidence that he had used dark magic, he was a Dark Wizard because of his perceived association with Voldemort and his supposed betrayal of the Potters.

It seems to me that Salazar's attitude that magic should only be taught to pure-bloods, and that the Basilisk could be used as an instrument to purge those of impure status, makes him an evil person, even if he never indulged in dark magic. His behavior was sinister, and dark.

  • There was evidence of Sirius using Dark magic. He was sent to Azkaban for killing thirteen people with a single curse. There were witnesses. (Of course, we later learned that he had been framed; but prior to that, we had plenty of evidence to consider him a Dark wizard.) – Joe White Jan 18 '12 at 1:56
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    Why not just say a Dark Wizard is somebody who uses magic to intentionally harm somebody? That definition does not depend on whether somebody uses an Unforgiveable Curse. If somebody uses a Bat Bogey Hex or a Love Potion to harm somebody, that person is using magic for evil. Or even if somebody uses non-hex magic but a harmful way, (like if someone uses the Marauder's Map to sneak up behind somebody and Accio their wallet), that person has committed a crime using magic. Hence, a Dark Wizard. – RichS Nov 22 '18 at 19:47
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I would agree that Salazar Slytherin's antics with the Basilisk place him firmly in the territory of Dark Wizard. When given a choice between ousting Muggleborns and killing them, Slytherin chose to kill them via the Basilisk.

I think that what constitutes a Dark Wizard is complex and not easily explained. But I do think, if I were to summarize it in one sentence, I would have to defer to Albus Dumbledore who says to Harry in Chamber of Secrets, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." (CoS - Page 333 - US Hardcover)

I may have some off-the-wall views of canon, but there are some wizards I see as dark, who are not presented as Death Eaters. For example, Gilderoy Lockhart took credit for others' heroic accomplishments and performed memory charms on the people he stole his stories from. That's pretty abhorrent, in my view. Barty Crouch Sr. helped his Death Eater son escape from Azkaban, yet put Barty Crouch Jr into another kind of prison: perpetually hidden underneath an invisibility cloak under the Imperius Curse. Barty Crouch Sr. was completely unethical and put his own needs before those of his community, knowing all the while that his son was dangerous and a Death Eater. He left his wife to die in Azkaban and to be buried there without any remembrance or ceremony.

There are the obvious baddies who seek power, control, superiority, and the desire to crush others they see as less than: Voldemort; Grindelwald; Dolores Umbridge; Lucius Malfoy (who one might argue had a bit of redemption at the end, when his concern for Draco trumped his desire to serve as Voldemort's right-hand man); the Death Eaters. These individuals all show sadistic, cruel, and racist attitudes.

But what about Dumbledore, who at one point in his life craved power so keenly that he partnered up with the very dark Grindelwald and dabbled in anti-Muggle rhetoric and sought to see the Wizarding community control the Muggle community "for the greater good"? Yet, Dumbledore's views change; his priorities shift when he is affected so deeply by the death of his sister Ariana. Some might argue that Dumbledore had his dark side.

I think one has to look at the motivation behind a wizard's actions before labeling them dark or evil. Yes, Harry uses two of the Unforgivable Curses, Cruciatus and Imperius, but the circumstances surrounding his employment of those curses (following Sirius's and Dumbledore's deaths respectively; searching for the Hufflepuff cup in Gringotts) differs drastically from the motivations of the Death Eaters who tortured Muggles at the Quidditch World Cup, murdered Muggle families for no apparent reason other than they were Muggles, and supported the subjugation of the majority of their community.

As Bellatrix Lestrange says in Order of the Phoenix, "You have to really mean it," in regard to wanting to hurt, kill, or devalue other human beings. I think that is wherein the line lies. It's not so much about throwing the occasional Unforgivable Curse (and I note here that Harry was unable to successfully cast Cruciatus on either Bellatrix or Snape), than it is embracing and living a deeply flawed, self-serving, and cruel life.

Yet I don't think we can ignore what goes into a person's character, to make them attracted to the dark side. For example, Snape grew up as a half-blood, neglected, in a domestically violent, alcoholic home -- of course his soul would be shadowed by that. And apparently he immersed himself in the Dark Arts as a means of escape and self-preservation (let's not forget that Snape was bullied at Hogwarts by James Potter and Sirius Black). J.K. Rowling has said a motivating factor for Snape becoming a Death Eater was his desire to belong, to be part of a group that accepted him.

And there's Bellatrix, Narcissa, Andromeda, Sirius, and Regulus Black, who were all raised in prejudiced families and were undoubtedly indoctrinated with racism and superiority all their lives; their families supported Voldemort's agenda. Although Andromeda Black and Sirius Black did not share their parents' beliefs, it is not unusual for children to grow up sharing their parents'/family's views by default, for they are not exposed to alternative beliefs and ideals. Once something like racism becomes ingrained, it is incredibly difficult to undo those beliefs; some embrace sadism, prejudice, and superiority because it is inherent to their personality (think Bellatrix -- she's way too bat* * * * to have not had the predisposition toward violence, cruelty, and control). Such wizards, I would think, would lean toward the dark side. And like attracts like, so they find each other, band together, and suddenly there's a dark force to be reckoned with.

So, yes, I think there are several things that influence a wizard to become dark or to follow the path of light: personality; belief systems; family background; the predisposition toward violence, prejudice, subjugation, and entitlement; good intentions gone astray; whether a witch or wizard is a follower rather than a leader; individual psychology; natural magical abilities; and the tendency to choose what is easy rather than what is right (as Dumbledore also said).

I don't think that being a Dark Wizard boils down to just the Unforgivables. It's far more complex than that.

ETA: I wanted to say that this is a great question!

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I think "dark wizard" is/should be applied to anyone wizard who is evil.

Of course this begs the question of what "evil" is. How do you characterize anyone as evil? I think it does have a lot to do with general attitudes and actions. Voldemort was clearly evil, wanting to eliminate the jews muggle-borns. Salazar Slytherin clearly wanted to do the same, otherwise why would he put the basilisk and chamber of secrets there? It's not his opposition to teaching pure-bloods here, it's his ... forceful manner of dealing with them. I think Harry's use of Crucio against (which?) one of the Carrows was at best borderline unacceptable, but that one action doesn't negate his clear mindset of doing "good," fighting "evil," in particular to prevent Voldemort from perpetrating atrocities. McGonagal's use of the Imperius curse is, I think, quite acceptable.

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A Dark Wizard is someone who practices Magic that the Ministry of Magic has decreed "Dark Magic", unless used by those under the employ of the Ministry of Magic or their allies in times of war.

Atrocities are not only committed by "Dark Wizards" (even outside of war), so it is not the evilness of the act that makes a Wizard or Witch "Dark", but the actions taken against the Ministry of Magic.

Examples:

Harry Potter gets away with casting Cruciatus on a Death Eater despite being able to incapacitate him with other means. The Cruciatus is a Torture Curse that serves no further purpose than revenge in this instance.

The Ministry itself can be very inhumane with acts committed against Creatures/Beings and Dark Wizards that can only be described as 'Unvorgivable'. One of those being the employment of Dementors and the legislation of discrimination, cruelty and enslavement of various non-human, sentient beings and magical creatures. Even their treatment of Muggles is often inconsiderate and at times violates their basic human rights.

The labelling of Werewolves as "Dark Creatures" despite them being normal humans for most of the year and the discrimination they face are enforced by law. This discrimination is supported by those in the Ministry and the populace, the majority of whom are not secretly Dark Wizards. A werewolf is a human victim of an infection and perfectly harmless since the invention of Wolfsbane. The reason for their label as "Dark Creature" is not that they cast Dark Magic or committed any other crimes, but the Ministry's fear.

In Conclusion:

"Dark" is anything that the Ministry fears. "Creature" is the label they put on sentient beings they wish to suppress and Muggle is used to 'Other' non-magical human beings. Squib, Half-/Pureblood and Muggleborn being the other shoe of this.

The labels "Dark Wizard" and "Dark Magic" is the Ministry's way to suppress certain brands of magic and/or control them, a way to label someone as a criminal and moral justification all in one. "They" are evil/dangerous so to defend/protect/for justice the Minsitry is justified to take measures which are at best morally ambiguous.

Being a Dark Wizard/Witch is a political statement in the Harry Potter books which puts them at odds with the Ministry.

  • I would not agree that calling werewolves "Dark Creatures" isn't legit. Being a werewolf means being infected with Dark Magic that turns you into a savage murderer from time to time. While you may be a nice person in general, your werewolf form is still a Dark Creature for sure. – Shana Tar Nov 22 '18 at 8:21
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I'd say practicing Dark Magic on a casual basis makes you a Dark Wizard.

If Dark Arts are your expertise - you are one. You may or may not (and that's an important part) be evil per se. But as Bellatrix said to Harry: you need to really want to harm a person to use Cruciatus. Meaning you may have used Cruciatus once or twice (as Harry did) in special circumstances, but to practice Dark Magic on a daily basis you probably should have this cruel touch in you all the time. That's why most of Dark Wizards are evil, mean and cruel. But they do not always have to be.

So that's how I see Dark Wizards in the books:

Voldemort, Grindelwald, Death Eaters are Dark Wizards, but not because they are evil. Because they practice Dark Arts. Say, Snape or Draco are Dark wizards, but they are not actually that evil, right? Maybe just twisted a bit, but who isn't? :)

Lochart is a bad guy, but not Dark. He probably even don't know how to use Dark Magic.

Is Umbrige a Dark witch? Probably not. Though she apparently knows some Dark spells she doesn't seem to use them easily. Though she could have turned Dark when Dark Arts became allowed in the Ministry.

Harry, McGonagall etc are not Dark wizards. And not because they are kind and nice. But only because they don't use Dark Magic casually. It's not their expertise.

It's getting more complicated with Barty Crouch and his Aurors who were allowed to use Dark spells to fight Death Eaters. Does using Dark Magic on an everyday basis make you a Dark wizard? Especially if the Magic requires specific emotional state to perform. I would say it does. Imagine a guy who goes to work every day to torture people and to do it he have to "really mean it". Ouch.

All in all, I see Dark Arts as any other arts. You are a musician if you practice music in general and is an expert to some extend. Learning how to play one song and perform it occasionally does not make you a musician. You may work hard and get some musical expertise without special inner abilities (that's how to go Dark without being evil) etc. Being a Dark Wizard is something similar.

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