Alohomora, also known as the Unlocking Charm is a spell that plays a very major role in the Harry Potter series. It is used several times over the span of the books. When Harry, Ron, and Hermione are wandering in the corridors after the staircases confuse them away from the Gryffindor dormitory, they fear being seen by the caretaker Mr. Filch who is very unapologetic to wandering students. So, the trio makes it to the nearest door and Harry tries to unlock it but is unsuccessful. This is when Hermione steps in and unlocks it with the Alohomora spell. This is the first time this spell is used in the Harry Potter books.
Alohomora Spell Profile
- Type of Spell: Charm
- Effect: Used to unlock objects and open doors
- Other names: Unlocking Charm
- Incantation Uttered: Alohomora
- Pronunciation: ah-LOH-ho-MOR-ah
- Similar Spells: Portaberto, Open Sesame
- Counter-Charm: Anti-Alohomora Charm
- Wand Movement: Create a mirror image of the English letter ‘S’
- Colour of Light Emanating from Wand: Purple, Yellow, Blue, sometimes invisible too.
- Creator: An ancient African sorcerer, name not known.
History and Etymology
It is said that the Alohomora charm was first perfected in Africa by an ancient sorcerer. It was called the ‘thief’s friend’, and was later taught by this sorcerer to Eldon Elsrickle, an English thief who was visiting the African continent in the 17th century as he was keen to figure out an efficient spell that opens locks without drawing too much attention. After returning to Britain, Eldon went on to use this charm on several households in London that he looted and created fear amongst the residents of Britain and the entire wizarding world. He is said to have plundered both the houses of wizards and muggles, with no discrimination.
Eventually, the wizard Blagdon Blay created a countercharm for this notorious menace. It was called the Anti-Alohomora charm and was a highly effective countermeasure for the unlocking charm. However, before the death of Eldon Elsrickle, he decided to give away the secrets of the Alohomora charm in exchange for his freedom after being captive for his crimes. Interestingly, Alohomora could also be used as a counter-charm to the locking spell, Colloportus.
The etymology of the word Alohomora is also surprisingly rooted in Africa. J. K. Rowling has claimed that the word Alohomora literally translates to “Friendly to Thieves” in the West African Sikidy figures used in Geomancy practices in Africa.
Miranda Goshawk’s Standard Book of Spells series makes constant references to the Alohomora spell and mentions it in detail in chapter seven of its first volume used by students of Grade 1. Numerous books on spells in the Hogwarts library also mention this charm. Alohomora is also a relatively simple charm and is one of the first ones taught to students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in their first year.
The Unlocking Charm’s Effect
The Unlocking Charm is one of the most effective ways to open a locked door or window with the least hassle. It is widely known as the Thief’s Friend because of how easy it is to open a locked door or window without drawing attention to oneself. Unlike its predecessor charms like Portaberto which splinters the lock away from the door, or Khul Ja Sim Sim (Open Sesame) which rips apart the hinges off the doors breaking them all apart, the Alohomora charm is sophisticated, subtle, and very low-profile.
Most wizards and witches found this charm to be a great improvement over the previous unlocking charms because of how quiet it is. The unlocking charm is mostly used in situations of thievery and espionage which is why this ‘upgrade’ made Alohomora one of the most widely used charms.
How To Cast Alohomora
Like any other spell, casting Alohomora requires a disciplined understanding of its function, purpose, and mechanism. In Hogwarts, the Alohomora spell is taught in three steps. First, the caster of the spell must understand and read extensively, all about the spell, including what locks it can open and what locks are impervious to it. Certain locks protected by the Anti-Alohomora spell cannot be opened by this spell.
The second step is to practice accurately, the pronunciation of Alohomora. Since this word is of African origin, some casters may have a slight difficulty in getting the pronunciation right on the first go. Once this has been perfected, the last step is to learn the exact wand movement required to cast the spell. This might take a while, but with practice, it should become a natural process. Integrating these three steps together and practising them over time will make one an expert caster of the Alohomora spell.
Famous instances of Alohomora being used in the Harry Potter Universe
The first instance of the spell Alohomora being used in the Harry Potter book series is in the novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, when Hermione unlocks a locked door when Harry, Ron, and her end up wandering in a corridor and Mr. Filch is on his way. However, in the Harry Potter movie adaptations, the Alohomora charm is first seen used in a flashback scene where Voldemort enters Harry’s house in Godric’s Hollow before he kills James and Lily Potter. This version of the Alohomora charm is a silent incantation and is therefore not heard.
Hermione uses it again in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when she breaks the lock of Professor Flitwick’s office where Sirius Black is kept captive. She also uses it in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to open Regulus Black’s bedroom door at 12 Grimmauld Place when they are trying to find Slytherin’s Locket which happens to be a Horcrux.
Also, in the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Albus Potter uses the Alohomora spell to let Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Draco, and Scorpius out of the doors of St Jerome Church after Delphini forcibly locks them in when she battles Harry. Scorpius also uses the charm once in the play to open the doors to Hermione’s office at the Ministry of Magic, when he, Albus, and Delphi try to steal the Time-Turner confiscated from Theodore Nott.
It may be pretty straightforward to just mumble an incantation and open a lock theoretically, but the mechanism of the Alohomora charm may not be as simple. The most accurate mechanism for the charm to do its magic, in our opinion, is the subtle yet crafty art of Lockpicking.
Lockpicking, as a discipline is probably as old as locks themselves. Knowing the moving parts of different locks and the mechanism of how a key unlocks it, one can easily ‘pick’ a lock using just a few tools like pins and tweezers. Alohomora probably works by mimicking the mechanism of Lockpicking, by first identifying a lock and its parts, and then changing their configurations one by one to eventually unlock the whole lock.
What is the meaning of Alohomora?
The meaning of the word Alohomora is “friendly to thieves” in the Sidiki Dialect used in West Africa. However, in the Harry Potter universe, Alohomora is the name of the unlocking charm used by wizards to unlock a locked door or to reverse the spell used for locking, Colloportus.
Who says Alohomora?
In the Harry Potter universe, we first hear Hermione Granger say Alohomora when she opens a locked door to escape Mr Filch when she, Ron, and Harry are stuck in the third-floor corridor after hours. It is used several times later in the book series too, with two other instances in which Hermione herself uses it – once, to save Sirius from the Dementors’ Kiss and later again, to open Regulus Black’s bedroom door.
Is Alohomora a real spell?
In the real world, if one stands in front of a locked door and says Alohomora, it is highly unlikely that the lock will open. However, in the Harry Potter universe, Alohomora is a real spell used to open locked doors very easily. It is used by several characters in different instances to open locked doors.