Laws of Magic (The Dresden Files)

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The Laws of Magic are a set of rules governing the use of magic by wizards in the fictional world of The Dresden Files series of novels.[1] Developed and enforced by the White Council, a fictional co-operative of magic Practitioners, the Laws of Magic are primarily intended to guard against the misuse of magic by wizards against humans. The White Council openly apply the Seven Laws on any person capable of doing magic, despite admitting only the most powerful practitioners to their ranks.


In the Dresdenverse, the use of magic in a way which causes harm can be a corrupting influence. Practitioners who regularly cause harm through magic become twisted by the experience, gradually growing more power-hungry and insane, until there is no spark of humanity left in them. Wizards who do so are termed Warlocks. Violating any of the Laws carries the death penalty, most often administered by a Warden of the White Council as decapitation by sword. Wardens are the enforcement arm of the Council, tasked with patrolling and protecting the wizard world.[1]

The Doom of Damocles[edit]

In some instances a form of probation, the Doom of Damocles, is rendered instead.[1] Under the Doom, a wizard is openly under the suspicion and scrutiny of the White Council and any further infractions will automatically warrant execution. A wizard under the Doom may be assigned to the custody of another wizard; in the case of another infraction, both wizards are killed.[2] It is stated on a number of occasions throughout the series that the Doom of Damocles is rarely invoked, with most Warlocks being quickly executed after a brief trial and guilty verdict.

The Blackstaff[edit]

The Blackstaff is a member of the White Council who has the discretion of being able to break the Laws as he or she sees fit in order to prevent them from becoming a liability against the White Council.[3] The existence of this position, and the power it carries, are not commonly known pieces of information. The person holding the title has the right to violate any of the Laws of Magic, if he deems it to be necessary. The office comes with an artifact, the titular Blackstaff, which is implied in the books to absorb the negative effects of breaking the Laws, allowing the wielder to remain sane despite his or her use of black magic.

The Laws of Magic[edit]

The baseline laws are listed (not in order) in a conversation between the characters Ebenezar McCoy and Harry Dresden in the novel Blood Rites when McCoy discusses his title and position of Blackstaff to Harry.[3] They are:

The First Law of Magic[edit]

The first law prohibits the killing of humans with magic. A plea of self-defense is allowed in mitigation, though it seems to work only rarely. Wardens often wield swords when detaining and executing warlocks to avoid a technical infraction of this Law. At several points in the series, however, Wardens have used lethal magic against human wizards; the Wardens are given some latitude. The use of magic to kill non-human beings, on the other hand, is lawful; a wizard may, for example, use magic to kill a ghoul, a vampire or any being of the Nevernever without breaking this Law.

The Second Law of Magic[edit]

This law prohibits the shape shifting of other beings. See also shapechangers.

The Third Law of Magic[edit]

This law prohibits the forcible violation of a mortal [human]'s mind. This includes everything from mind reading to mental rape. During an attempt on his mind (by the Corpsetaker, in Dead Beat), Harry makes the comment that because of its outlaw status, training to resist such invasions is very basic because of a lack of people with skill in this area to train against. Sending mental messages is not in itself a violation of this.

The Fourth Law of Magic[edit]

This law prohibits the magical domination of another being's mind. Enthrallment is the term used in the books for this. The difference between the third and fourth law can be subtle. The fourth law forbids altering desires and emotions in ways that will change what people want, rather than what they think is true (which would be a violation of the third law to accomplish a similar result). In the first book, Storm Front, it is stated twice that this law applies to the binding of non-humans as well (in contrast to the other laws). This is contradicted in Turn Coat, when the hit man Binder is introduced; Binder is somewhat notorious for his ability to summon a tribe of beings that he has bound to his will, but it is also stated that the "he is careful not to break any of the laws."

The Fifth Law of Magic[edit]

This Law prohibits both research into and the practice of necromancy, described as the summoning, binding and exploitation of the unwilling dead. The Law applies specifically to human necromancy, but the Wardens (and, by implication, the rest of the Council) still frown upon any form of the practice. Communicating with spirits of the dead who are willing to do so is stated not to be a violation of this law.

The Sixth Law of Magic[edit]

This law prohibits any attempt to "swim against the currents of time"; any attempt to change the past through temporal manipulation for fear of paradoxes. Even magical prediction is stated in the books to be frowned upon except in the vaguest, most general forms. It is noted however, that some beings in the Dresdenverse exist in the past, present, and future at once, and that such beings can be dangerous for this reason. It is also stated that paradox is "an overrated threat" due to a property of temporal inertia that gives events a strong tendency to occur the way they already have once, regardless of interference.

The Seventh Law of Magic[edit]

This law prohibits wizards from researching or dealing with Outsiders, beings from beyond the boundaries of the known universe.


The seven laws as a whole have been mentioned in every novel in the series so far, however not all of the laws have been expounded upon or explained in detail. Numerous incidents involving them have occurred throughout the run of the series.

In a number of the books, it is discussed how Harry was accused of breaking the first law when he killed Justin DuMorne, his former teacher, in self-defense. This is the incident that resulted in Harry being placed under the Doom of Damocles, as explained in Storm Front.

In Dead Beat, Harry's narration reveals that members of the White Council are poorly prepared to defend themselves against psychic assaults as a result of the third law. This would later become a plot point in Turn Coat

Molly Carpenter was charged with breaking the fourth law in Proven Guilty. She accepts to appear before the Council and is placed under the Doom of Damocles under Dresden's guidance; much like Dresden was placed under Ebenezer McCoy's guidance.

According to a conversation between Elaine and Harry in Summer Knight, DuMorne had enthralled Elaine completely, and was planning on enthralling Harry, as well. In Storm Front, Harry is (briefly and flippantly) accused by Morgan of violating the fourth law after Dresden used a magic circle to trap and blackmail a faerie into giving him information he needed to solve the case. Dresden points out that the law was not broken, as the faerie always had the option of refusing and remaining trapped in the circle, later, he frees a demon from enthrallment without establishing control of his own, specifically because it would be against the fourth law to do so. This is noteworthy because the Laws Of Magic are stated in Dead Beat, to exclusively be for the protection of mortals.

Information gleaned from Bob in Dead Beat recounts the death of Kemmler, a powerful necromancer who had engineered both world wars in order to provide himself with a fresh supply of human corpses. According to the book, the entire White Council (not just the Wardens) banded together to hunt him down and kill him, twice. Harry notes that Black Court vampires are vulnerable to necromancy in an unspecified fashion, though it is not explained in the books if such use would constitute a breaking of the Law. Harry exploits a loophole in the fifth law in order to defeat a group of necromancers in Dead Beat.

The sixth law is mentioned a number of times, but not much is explained about it. It is stated that predicting the future is frowned upon, except for the most vague and nebulous of predictions.

In Cold Days, Harry Dresden visits the Outer Gates with Mother Summer, where it is revealed that the Outer Gates are literally a pair of gates located on a wall that spans the outer boundaries of the Winter Court's territory in the faerie realm. They are implied to be the furthest limit of the universe, and bar the Outsiders from entering this universe. They are defended by millions, possibly billions of Unseelie Fae who wage constant war against the Outsiders. They are aided by some Seelie Fae medics, and the Gatekeeper, who helps protect the Gates from breaches from this universe by enforcing the Seventh Law, and he coordinates efforts with other trusted factions. The Dresden Files RPG has expanded upon this law in its publications, establishing that is illegal to attempt to even learn anything about what lies beyond the Outer Gates, though it acknowledges that there is obviously some grey area here or the Wardens wouldn't know what to look for. In Summer Knight, Harry is introduced to The Gatekeeper, one of the Senior Council. The Gatekeeper's job is to aid the forces of the Winter Fae in defending the universe from the Outsiders, and it is often suggested that this law does not apply to him to the same extent as it does to other wizards. It is stated in Ghost Story that DuMorne had broken the seventh law when he summoned one of the Outsiders to kill Harry.


  1. ^ a b c Butcher, Jim (2000). Storm Front. Westminster, UK: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0-451-45781-1.
  2. ^ Butcher, Jim (2006). Proven Guilty. New York, NY: Roc Hardcover. ISBN 0-451-46085-5.
  3. ^ a b Butcher, Jim (2004). Blood Rites. New York, NY: Roc Paperback. p. 296. ISBN 0-451-45987-3.