Petrificus Totalus

Petrificus Totalus, or the Full-Body Binding Curse, is a spell that is used to neutralise its victims, making it impossible for them to move. This spell causes temporary paralysis.

Petrificus Totalus

The Definitive Glossary for Harry Potter


Petrificus Totalus or the Full-Body Bind Curse is a spell used to immobilize an object or a living being. It is a relatively harmless spell used mostly by amateur wizards and witches. It completely immobilizes the victim preventing them from any form of motion. It can also be used on inanimate objects but is almost useless unless it is a moving object.

Spell Profile

  • Incantation: Petrificus Totalus
  • Also known as: The Full-Body Binding Curse
  • Function: Renders an object or person immobile
  • Effect: Causes temporary paralysis
  • Counter-curses: Episkey, Finite Incantatem, Reparifors
  • Light Colour: Purple or White
  • Hand Movement: The shape of a ‘5’ tilted to 90 degrees clockwise
  • Similar Spells: Locomotor Mortis (leg-locker curse), Immobulus (Freezing Charm), Statue curse


Etymology

Petrificus Totalus or the Full Body-Bind Curse gets its root words from ancient Latin. “Petra” means rock in Latin, “ficus” refers to the act of making or doing, and “totus” means whole or entire. Together, these terms loosely translate to make the entirety of something or someone as still as a rock. “Petrify” has the same root word, and Petrificus Totalus can therefore be simplified to mean wholly petrify.

Effects of the Spell

The spell completely binds the body and limbs of the person it is cast on and prevents any form of movement. Although the person can still hear, see, sense and think, they are paralysed completely till the spell is lifted. The spell is usually lifted when a suitable countercurse is used or in extreme cases when the caster of the spell dies. Countercurses for the Full-Body Binding Curse include Episkey, Finite Incantatem, and the Reparifors spell. The Anti-Paralysis Potion could also be used to cure someone who this curse has hit.

Trivia And Notes On The Spell

One very interesting observation is that this spell is almost always used by beginner witches and wizards, especially not by Dark Magic practitioners or Death Eaters. This speaks volumes about how careful Harry and his friends are with magic while Voldemort and the Death Eaters seem to just use the Imperius Curse (Imperio), the Cruciatus Curse and the killing curse, very carelessly. Most of the uses of this spell are by Harry, Hermione and Neville throughout the book. Harry is also particularly known to use Expelliarmus a lot, and Lumos and Nox too.

Appearance in the Harry Potter Series

This spell first appeared in the Harry Potter series in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s StoneHermione uses this spell on Neville when he threatens to report Harry, Ron and Hermione for sneaking out of bed. Hermione, Ron and Harry sneak out of bed to try to protect the Philosopher’s Stone which they believe Snape is attempting to rob. They have lost house points before trying to do similar antics, and therefore Neville tries to stop them. Despite Neville being their friend, Hermione has no choice but to stop him. Dumbledore awards Neville five points at the end of the book, during the school feast which ensures the victory of Gryffindor in the House Cup.

Neville himself uses this spell to great effect during the Battle at the Department of Mysteries in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix against a Death Eater. Harry too uses this spell several times in the Battle at the Department of Mysteries twice against the Death Eater Antonin Dolohov and once against Jugson. 

Through Snape’s memories, it is also shown that Sirius Black once used this spell on Snape after their OWL exams to bully him. He also uses the levitation charm (Wingardium Leviosa) before going for Petrificus Totalus.

Draco Malfoy used this curse in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at Harry after he sensed Harry hiding under the Invisibility Cloak and eavesdropping on the Slytherin students’ conversation due to having doubts about Malfoy being a death eater. Malfoy also kicks Harry’s nose, thereby breaking it, which is later repaired by Tonks using the healing spell Episkey, which is also a counter spell for the Full-Body Binding Curse. This feud comes full circle when they later duel in the Girls’ Washroom, only to stop after Harry uses the new spell Sectumsempra on Malfoy. 

Harry casts this spell on one of the Inferi in the cave where he and Dumbledore go to find the Horcrux. Harry again uses this spell on Corban Yaxley and Fenrir Greyback after he escapes the Astronomy Tower immediately after Dumbledore’s death.

Albus Dumbledore non-verbally cast this spell on Harry who was under the Invisibility Cloak atop the Astronomy Tower when he saw Draco Malfoy. Malfoy, unaware of this, immediately casts the Expelliarmus spell on Dumbledore. Eventually, several Death Eaters, and later Snape, come to the tower and Snape eventually casts the Avada Kedavra spell on Dumbledore, instantly killing him which lifts the spell off of Harry as the caster of the spell dies.

In Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsHermione uses the spell on Antonin Dolohov in the Luchino Caffe when a duel ensues after the latter follows the trio to London. Parvati Patil uses the spell to protect Dean Thomas in the Battle of Hogwarts, and Voldemort uses this spell to humiliate Neville during the Battle of Hogwarts.

Reimagining the Spell in the Real-World 

Petrificus Totalus is one of the jinxes that neutralize an attacker for a while, completely without causing them any harm. This spell has great real-world applications, especially in the field of self-defence and police work. If this spell were easily castable in our world, it would be of great help in sending warnings to muggers, attackers or any such criminals.

One of the best real-world substitutes to Petrificus Totalus available currently is Taser technology. Tasers do have the same effect as this spell and are very effective in immobilizing a person for a while. This is one area where we probably do not need magic to solve our real-world problems. However, advances and upgrades in Taser technology can probably enhance the effect it has.

FAQs

What is the difference between Petrificus Totalus and Stupefy?

Petrificus Totalus is a spell used to temporarily paralyze someone but may go on forever if no countermeasures are taken. The victim’s body remains immovable until this curse is lifted or reversed. However, Stupefy is a spell used to suddenly stun someone, thereby sending them temporarily into a state of shock. This curse easily wears off and is only used to render its victim momentarily inactive.

Does Petrificus Totalus wear off?

No, Petrificus Totalus or the Full-Body Binding Curse does not wear off on its own. It can only be lifted by using countercurses like Episkey and Reparifors or using Finite Incantatem to prevent the curse from hitting the victim. Another option is to use the Anti-Paralysis potion. Finally, the only time the curse lifts off on its own is when the caster of this curse dies. This happens when Dumbledore dies as Harry is freed from the curse that Dumbledore cast on him to protect him from the Death Eaters atop the Astronomy Tower.

What is the Reparifors spell?

Reparifors was the incantation used to repair small damages caused by spells that were meant to paralyse or poison the victim. It worked as an efficient way to reverse the effects of spells like Petrificus Totalus and was therefore used to bring back people from being paralysed or poisoned.

Petrificus Totalus
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