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The magical spells we first learned in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

From Wingardium Leviosa to Petrificus Totalus, Philosopher’s Stone introduced us to some of our favourite ever spells. Even after all this time, these ones are iconic.

Flitwick standing on a stack of books
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Sure, Harry knows some far more advanced magical methods these days, but who could forget these classics from first year? And let’s not forget how important these spells would be later on in his life.

Transfiguration

We never hear an incantation for the act of Transfiguration – changing something into something else – but it’s one of the first pieces of magic we witness in Philosopher’s Stone.

Professor McGonagall’s appearance as a cat is an act of Transfiguration, in a sense. Being an Animagus – having the ability to turn yourself into an animal – involves a lot of hard work, so while it’s not a spell in the wand-waving sense, it’s a powerful piece of transformative magic. We saw some proper Transfiguration magic when Hagrid gave Dudley a pig’s tail. Again it’s non-verbal, although it is accompanied by some help from Hagrid's mysteriously magical umbrella.

Ron is the first person we see attempting a verbal Transfiguration spell, when he tries to turn Scabbers' fur yellow. Unfortunately, we suspect Fred and George, who ‘taught’ Ron the spell, might’ve been joking.

As she’s Transfiguration teacher, it’s fitting that McGonagall shows us how it’s really done. During Harry’s first lesson, she turns her desk into an actual pig and back again – again, without any particular words.

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Wingardium Leviosa

This is the spell that nearly ended Hermione and Ron’s relationship way before it began, when Hermione went full know-it-all:

‘It’s Wing-gar-dium Levi-o-sa, make the “gar” nice and long.’

This spell is taught to first years in Professor Flitwick’s Charms class. When accompanied by the right wand movement, it causes objects to levitate. Obviously Hermione got it straight away, and Ron mercilessly mocked her for being a teacher's pet. However, when Hermione overheard Ron's cruel words and ran to the girl's bathroom for a little cry, Ron ended up using Wingardium Leviosa to save Hermione's life from a giant troll, who just so happened to be in the bathroom at the same time. What goes around comes around.

It’s also particularly handy when there are Death Eaters about, including:

  • During the battle at the Department of Mysteries, when Harry uses it as he’s about to be attacked by brains
  • When Harry uses it to keep the sidecar he’s travelling in in the air during Deathly Hallows’ battle of the seven Potters
  • When Ron uses it to open the Whomping Willow as he, Harry and Hermione make their way to the Shrieking Shack in Deathly Hallows

Seamus sets fire to his feather whilst attempting Wingardium Leviosa
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Alohomora

The first time we hear this spell is when Hermione unlocks the third-floor corridor in a bid to avoid being caught out of bed.

Presumably Hermione learns Alohomora, otherwise known as the ‘thief’s friend’, in Charms. It certainly comes in useful – there are seven other instances of it being cast, including:

  • By Hermione, unsuccessfully, in the flying-key room in Philosopher’s Stone
  • By Hermione, to open the window of the tower Sirius is held in, in Prisoner of Azkaban
  • By a healer, to open a door to Lockhart’s ward in St Mungo’s Hospital
  • By Hermione, unsuccessfully, during the battle at the Department of Mysteries
  • By the Death Eaters who have followed Harry and co. to the Department of Mysteries
  • By Harry, when he tries – unsuccessfully – to unlock the Hogwarts gates in Half-Blood Prince
  • By Hermione, again, when she opens Regulus’ room in Deathly Hallows

The forbidden corridor with a closed door
© JKR/Pottermore Ltd. ™ Warner Bros.

Locomotor Mortis

Also known as the Leg-Locker Curse, this spell is used on Neville by Malfoy, although we don’t know the incantation until Hermione whispers it to Ron. They plan to use it on Professor Snape if he attempts anything against Harry during a Quidditch match, but as it turns out, they don’t need to.

Locomotor Mortis doesn’t seem particularly popular, as the only other time it’s mentioned is when Harry uses it against Malfoy during a fight in Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom in Half-Blood Prince. The full Body-Bind, Petrificus Totalus, is probably more preferable, but more on that in a moment.

Petrificus Totalus

Poor Neville. He tries to do the right thing and stop Harry, Ron and Hermione leaving the common room at night, but all he gets is Hermione and the Petrificus Totalus spell, which leaves his entire body momentarily paralysed.

Hermione’s not the only one to try a Body-Bind Curse every now and then, though.

  • Sirius used Petrificus Totalus against Snape, encouraged by James, in an episode Harry watches in Snape’s Pensieve
  • Harry uses it against two Death Eaters during the battle at the Department of Mysteries
  • In Half-Blood Prince, Malfoy uses it against Harry in a particularly malicious way, breaking his nose, and then hiding him with the Invisibility Cloak.
  • Dumbledore uses a Body-Bind spell on Harry as Death Eaters surround them in Half-Blood Prince
  • Hermione uses it on a Death Eater who has followed them to London from Bill and Fleur’s wedding
  • There are also a few Body-Bind curses in the Battle of Hogwarts, but the most significant is Voldemort performing it on Neville before forcing the Sorting Hat on to his head

Neville falls victim to Hermione's Petrificus Totalus spell
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Hermione’s bluebell flames

This spell becomes one of Hermione’s trademarks. We don’t hear the incantation for it in Philosopher’s Stone, but it could be a variation on Incendio.

Hermione first uses it against Snape when she and Ron think he is cursing Harry’s broom in his first Quidditch match. Her bright blue flames set Snape’s robes alight, before Hermione scoops them up and puts them into a jar.

This ingenious spell comes in very useful – in Philosopher’s Stone Hermione uses it to free Harry and Ron from Devil’s Snare, and much later it is an integral part of their Deathly Hallows travels.

Hermione Granger illustrated by Jim Kay
Illustration by Jim Kay © Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 2015, taken from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - Illustrated Edition

Honorary mentions

Other spells introduced in Philosopher’s Stone include:

  • The vanishing spell Harry unwittingly casts when he frees the boa constrictor, possibly ‘Evanesco'
  • The Curse of the Bogies, a spell apparently taught by Professor Quirrell to his first years
  • The Anti-Cheating spells used on exam papers

And as the books unfolded, there would be plenty more where those came from.