The Cruciatus Curse, also known as the Torture curse, was one of the three Unforgivable Curses as decided by the Ministry of Magic. The other two were the Imperius Curse and the Killing Curse, also known as Avada Kedavra because of their eponymous incantation. Casting any of these curses on a fellow human being would reward its caster for being given a life sentence in Azkaban prison. The Cruciatus Curse was said to inflict excruciating pain on anyone it was cast upon, and prolonged exposure to this curse could cause permanent damage to the person, even causing insanity. It was mostly used by practitioners of Dark Magic.
During the reign of Voldemort, it was used extensively by the Death Eaters and Lord Voldemort himself, especially during a duel with Aurors. The incantation for the Cruciatus Curse was Crucio, and no light came out of the wand when this curse was cast, unlike the Killing Curse, which emitted a green hue. Despite being banned both by the Wizards’ Council and the Ministry of Magic after it, the curse had been used constantly by dark wizards and dark witches alike for centuries.
History Of The Cruciatus Curse
The Cruciatus Curse is believed to have been created by dark wizards in the early middle ages as a form of torture or to extract information from someone who is not willing to give it away easily. It is believed that this curse was once a very popular curse. In the year 1717, this curse was made illegal for use by the Ministry of Magic along with the two other Unforgivable Curses.
During the First Wizarding War, this curse was made legal by the then Head in charge of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Barty Crouch. He believed that since Lord Voldemort’s Death Eaters used these curses without remorse, the Aurors should have a fighting chance against them and therefore decided to overturn the ban on the three curses.
Interestingly, these curses were also legalized during the Second Wizarding War when Voldemort came into power in the Ministry and was extensively used on Muggles and Muggle-born witches and wizards. However, the new Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, once again decided to ban these three curses in a last-ditch effort to prevent the use of certain kinds of magic forever.
According to Harry, who had experienced this curse a few times, the effect of the curse was worse than that of “one thousand white-hot knives boring into the skin”. It is believed that the person undergoing this curse would experience excruciating pain. Prolonged exposure to this curse would cause insanity. Such permanent effects were seldom treatable, as in the case of Frank and Alice Longbottom. Interestingly, the Cruciatus Curse could be used to great effect if one wanted to unlock a memory charm placed on a person. Lord Voldemort used the Cruciatus Curse on Bertha Jorkins to break the memory charm that Barty Crouch had used on her to prevent her from revealing that Barty Crouch Jr. had escaped from Azkaban and was still alive.
However, it is believed that this curse had minimal to no effect on an inanimate object except possibly shattering it if it were a solid object. The Cruciatus Curse could cause serious damage to the nerves, and there was sufficient evidence to indicate that depending on the level of exposure, the end results could range from just a memory of the incident to permanent brain damage.
Appearance in the Harry Potter Universe
The Cruciatus Curse first appeared in the Harry Potter universe when Barty Crouch Jr., disguised as Mad-Eye Moody, made use of the curse on a spider in his first Defense Against the Dark Arts class for the fourth-year students. He also demonstrated the other two Unforgivable Curses, but when he used this curse, Hermione Granger noticed that it caused great unease to Neville Longbottom, which is why she told ‘Mad-Eye Moody’ to stop. In the third task of the Triwizard Tournament, Viktor Krum used the Cruciatus Curse on Cedric Diggory. However, Viktor was under the influence of the Imperius Curse and was being controlled by Barty Crouch Jr to do the same.
Lord Voldemort extensively used the curse on Harry Potter in the Little Hangleton graveyard, where he came back to life. He also used it on Avery, Wormtail (Peter Pettigrew). Voldemort also used this curse on Garrick Ollivander to obtain the current location of the Elder Wand. Voldemort possibly used this curse on Bellatrix Lestrange and Lucius Malfoy to punish them. Finally, Voldemort also used the curse on Harry’s supposed corpse to humiliate him after the Battle of Hogwarts in the Forbidden Forest. However, this curse had no effect on Harry as the wand used by Voldemort was the Elder Wand, and it refused to harm its true master, Harry.
Bellatrix Lestrange used the Cruciatus Curse on Neville Longbottom during the Battle of the Department of Mysteries. She also used the curse on Hermione Granger as she was the interrogator questioning Hermione about the Sword of Gryffindor in the Malfoy Manor. These were the two major cases of her using this curse, excluding the case of the aforementioned Longbottoms.
Draco Malfoy was forced to use this curse by Voldemort on Thorfinn Rowle and Antonin Dolohov, two Death Eaters who let Harry, Ron, and Hermione escape on Tottenham Court Road.
Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle, and the Carrows together used the Cruciatus Curse on several of their fellow students, including Neville Longbottom, Seamus Finnigan, and other members of the Dumbledore’s Army, as punishment for disobedience. It was also used as a punishment during detention. It is also believed that some Death Eaters may have used the curse on Luna Lovegood as she was kept captive in the Malfoy Manor.
Who Used The Cruciatus Curse
Considering the timeline of events that are mentioned or take place in the Harry Potter series, the first-ever use of this curse is made by a young Gellert Grindelwald on a young Abeforth Dumbledore when a disagreement erupts between the two. Later, Grindelwald also uses the curse on Jacob Kowalski for supposedly “trying to assassinate him” at the German Ministry of Magic. The curse was also used by several Death Eaters and Aurors when Barty Crouch legalized them during the First Wizarding War.
The four Death Eaters, Bellatrix Lestrange, Rodolphus Lestrange, Rabastan Lestrange, and Barty Crouch Jr, used this curse in 1981 on Frank and Alice Longbottom to extract information regarding the whereabouts of Lord Voldemort. Barty Crouch Jr. disguised as Alastor Moody, used this curse on a spider in his DADA fourth-year classes. Although the Unforgivable Curses weren’t a part of the curriculum of dark arts, the demonstration of the curses was probably devoid of legal consequences as it was used on a spider, and there was no law against the use of the Unforgivable Curses on arachnids. Later, in the same year, Voldemort used this curse on Harry Potter in the Riddle Graveyard immediately after the final task of the Triwizard Tournament.
In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry had a vision of Lord Voldemort using this spell on his godfather Sirius Black. Later, headmistress Dolores Umbridge was about to use this spell on Harry Potter but was outwitted by the lies of Hermione. Tighter restrictions placed by her throughout the school year would eventually come to an end after Hermione’s plan. Harry Potter tried to use this spell on Bellatrix Lestrange after the latter killed Sirius Black. However, Harry was not able to use it because he did not have sufficient intent to cause her harm. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, this curse was used by Draco Malfoy on Harry Potter, which caused him a brief moment of pain.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, this curse was used by Amycus Carrow and Alecto Carrow as a means to torture students as he was the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. Interestingly, Harry Potter only ever used this curse once successfully, and that was on Amycus Carrow after he spat on the face of Professor McGonagall. This feat was criticized by fans of the Harry Potter universe as this was a particularly intense curse for Harry to use, but J. K. Rowling put an end to such criticism and justified this by claiming that Harry had never been a saint, to begin with.
Harry also tried using this curse on Bellatrix Lestrange after she had killed Sirius Black and on Severus Snape after he had killed Albus Dumbledore at the end of the Battle of the Astronomy Tower, but both these attempts were unsuccessful. Harry’s curse didn’t work on Bellatrix Lestrange, despite his deep desire to cause the victim pain because he cursed her due to righteous anger and didn’t actually mean it.
In the movie adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, a ball of red light erupts from Harry’s wand, probably because it is triggered by righteous anger. Bellatrix is still thrown off due to the force of the spell. The curse didn’t work on Snape because Snape was able to anticipate the curse and block it using Occlumency.
Electrocution and the Cruciatus Curse
There is a strong chance that the Cruciatus Curse was the magical world’s equivalent of electrocution. Most of the effects of the curse are on par with that of electrocution, which was once a commonly used punishment in the Muggle world for death sentences. ‘Crucio’ is a Latin word meaning ‘I torture,’ which is very much what electrocution does. Unlike the gallows, guillotines, or death by firing squad, electrocution is a punishment that extends into a longer duration to cause maximum torture. As electrocution is banned in several countries now, it comes as no surprise that the Cruciatus Curse would be banned from usage too.
Why was Neville bothered by the Crucio curse?
Neville was extremely bothered by Barty Crouch Jr disguised as Mad-Eye Moody using the Cruciatus Curse on a spider during class. This was mainly because Neville’s parents were tortured by Death Eaters using this very curse, and seeing it being used in front of him must have caused trauma. Interestingly, Barty Crouch Jr, who was disguised as Mad-Eye Moody during this class, was one of the four Death Eaters who used this curse on Neville’s parents.
Can you survive the Cruciatus Curse?
Yes, it is almost always possible to survive the Cruciatus Curse. Unlike the Killing Curse, which immediately kills its victim, the Cruciatus Curse only tortures its victim continuously, causing them unbearable pain without killing them. However, prolonged exposure to the curse could cause them significant mental and physical damage, as in the case of Frank and Alice Longbottom.
Did Voldemort use Crucio on Harry?
Yes, Voldemort has used the Cruciatus Curse twice on Harry. The first time he used this curse on Harry was when he returned after a long period of exile from his bodily form in the Little Hangleton graveyard where his father was buried. The second time he used this curse on Harry was when Harry was considered to be dead. This was to insult Harry’s legacy. However, this curse did nothing to Harry as it was cast by the Elder Wand, whose allegiance lay on Harry at that time.