Occlumency was the magical art of preventing one’s mind from being open to interpretation through Legilimency. It was very difficult to master and required several years of practice to become an expert.

The Definitive Glossary for Harry Potter

Occlumency was a rare and ancient art practiced since medieval times and was used as an efficient deterrent to Legilimency. There were records of its usage by early wizards and witches. It was one of the rare forms of magic which depended heavily on the mind and its abilities to control itself. It prevents one’s mind from any form of external penetration. In the Harry Potter series, Severus Snape, who is a skilled Occlumens as well as a skilled Legilimens was assigned by Albus Dumbledore to train Harry in the art of Occlumency after they became aware of a connection between Harry’s and Lord Voldemort’s minds. This was the first time Occlumency was mentioned in the Harry Potter series. 

Occlumency was an obscure branch of magic that dealt with the magical defence of the mind and was therefore not commonly taught in schools like Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

What Is Occlumency?

Occlumency was the art of closing the mind to being interpreted by a practitioner of Legilimency. However, the art of Occlumency dealt with several techniques to achieve this. The first set of techniques was to rid the mind of any emotion, thought, or idea, so as to make it less susceptible to a legilimens. The second set of techniques was more advanced and dealt with creating a ‘faux’ memory or thought while completely shutting down the actual thought, thereby creating an illusion for any legilimens who tried to read the mind of the person practising Occlumency.


Occlumens is derived from the Latin Occludere, which means “to shut up” and mens which is Latin for the mind. It is similar in origin to its counterpart Legilimens.

The Best Way To Protect Your Thoughts

The advanced skills used by an occlumens, that is, creating a layer of ‘faux’ thoughts to deceive a legilimens into thinking that these were the original thoughts, was the best way to protect one’s thoughts. It required immense willpower, similar to the amount required to resist other strong magical means like Veritaserum and the Imperius Curse, which were also used to inflict control on a person’s mind. 

Hermione Granger exhibited this willpower when she was tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange by not telling the truth about the Sword of Gryffindor. Harry Potter, too, exhibited this willpower when he was subjected to the Imperius curse by Barty Crouch Jr disguised as Mad-Eye Moody during class. Weak people, or more precisely, people who were unable to channel their ability to keep their thoughts, sad memories, and emotions at bay, were penetrable by legilimens even in their first attempt with absurd ease. 

Appearances in the Harry Potter Universe

The term Occlumency was first introduced in the Harry Potter universe in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenixin the school year 1995-96, when Albus Dumbledore asked Severus Snape to give Occlumency lessons to Harry after he realised there was a connection between Harry and Lord Voldemort’s Mind. Although this connection helped prevent the death of Mr Weasley after he was attacked by Nagini in the Department of Mysteries, as Harry could sense the snake’s thoughts all the way from Hogwarts, it was deemed highly dangerous and risky by Dumbledore. 

However, Harry was unsuccessful in using Occlumency to block his mind from Voldemort, mostly due to Snape’s demeaning attitude towards Harry during the classes and the chaotic events that surrounded Harry’s life at that time. Therefore, Harry’s connection with Voldemort’s mind would remain till the day Voldemort died, although, Voldemort consciously blocked his thoughts from being accessed by Harry, possibly from fear of his secrets about the Horcruxes being discovered. 

There are several instances of Occlumency in the Harry Potter series before the aforementioned one, although they were not explicitly stated as Occlumency. Barty Crouch Jr, who disguised himself as Mad-Eye Moody throughout Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, was an accomplished Occlumens as he was capable of preventing Headmaster Dumbledore and Professor Snape from discovering his true identity.

Gellert Grindelwald also used Occlumency to prevent Queenie Goldstein, one of the most accomplished Legilimens from the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them series, from using any magical intrusion to read his mind of thought. He continued to display his ability of Occlumency till the end of Harry Potter as Voldemort was unable to pervade his mind to locate the Elder Wand.

In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Draco Malfoy learned Occlumency from his aunt Bellatrix Lestrange as a means to keep his mission of killing Albus Dumbledore a secret. 

Since Snape’s job as a double agent could risk blowing his cover with Voldemort, Snape employed Occlumency to prevent being discovered as being allegiant to Dumbledore. Snape was very accomplished in severing all emotional ties from his head. Harry’s ability to master Occlumency was probably not that weak, but constant reminders from Snape about Harry being a weak person with no will and constant demeaning by Snape of Harry’s father James, and his godfather Sirius Black made it very difficult for Harry to concentrate and master the skill.

Horace Slughorn was also an accomplished Occlumens which is why Dumbledore used Harry to lure him into Hogwarts. Harry was assigned the task of collecting a memory of Slughorn, which he intended to inspect in Dumbledore’s Pensieve. Slughorn would eventually concede this memory after looking at Harry’s eyes reminded him of Lily, Harry’s mother, and Slughorn’s favourite student.

Mentalism and Misdirection

One of the closest disciplines to Occlumency in the Muggle world is Mentalism, more specifically Misdirection, which is used very often while exhibiting magic tricks. While the person in question is no wizard or witch but a mere Muggle, he or she is highly skilled in performing a series of tricks that seem to mimic magic. Their aptitude for misdirection is immense, and they can make things appear out of thin air in front of an audience. 

Misdirection is a lot like several advanced techniques of Occlumency where the practitioner draws the attention of the audience to another part of the trick while they do the magic and ‘fools’ the audience in front of their very eyes as they do so, thereby amusing them. Sometimes, they take the help of a device to achieve these means, but otherwise, it is just mere skill in action. Some tricks that use misdirection include pulling a long cloth out of one’s sleeve, cutting off a human being without a scar, and pulling out a rabbit from a hat. Most childhoods in the Muggle world are incomplete without seeing a magic show.


Who did Draco Malfoy learn Occlumency from?

Draco Malfoy learnt Occlumency from his aunt Bellatrix Lestrange. Bellatrix Lestrange (née Black) was the elder sister of Draco’s mother Narcissa Malfoy (née Black). Since Draco was on a mission to kill Albus Dumbledore on the orders of Lord Voldemort, Bellatrix thought it would be helpful for Draco to hide his intentions through Occlumency if he were ever questioned by a Legilimens at Hogwarts.

Where does the word Occlumency come from?

Occlumency is derived from the Latin words Occludere and mens. Occludere means “to shut up” and mens is the Latin word for mind. Hence, Occlumency would mean the skill for shutting up one’s mind. Its counterpart Legilimency also has similar origins.

Why was Harry not good at Occlumency?

While it is not proven that Harry was really bad at Occlumency, it is implied that Harry was unable to employ Occlumency efficiently, as was evident from his failure to block his mind from Snape when the latter taught him. It is possible that Harry was going through a lot emotionally during this time. Also, Snape was very insulting and demeaning when he taught Occlumency to Harry, which made it very difficult for Harry to pick up his lessons.

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