Howler: A History

Luvenia Gilcrest was a witch from Okmulgee, Oklahoma who moved her children to Chicago, Illinois after her husband was killed in an act of violence that was either caused by anti-magical or anti-Black sentiment (Luvenia maintained it was both). A single mother in the 1950’s, Luvenia worked hard to provide for her three children; Thomas, a handsome and popular boy; Maya, a quiet and bookish girl; and finally Jonathan, her youngest who showed no magical ability, though the neighborhood knew to call him a Squib at their peril, as Luvenia was a tough woman who had a particular way with words.

In order to maintain her household, Luvenia worked as a cook in a small restaurant frequented by the southside of Chicago’s magical people of color. When her son Thomas was accepted to Ilvermorny, Luvenia was not eager for him to go, as she received her magical education in a more diverse school in the Louisiana bayou. Thomas, however, was eager to go to Ilvermorny with his other magical friends and prove himself. In order to allow for this Luvenia took on a second job as a housekeeper for a white Muggle family. Though adept at housekeeping spells she had to be very careful taking magical shortcuts as she was under the close watch of the wife of the family.

By Thomas’ fourth year at Ilvermorny, he continued to be very popular but struggled to deal with many of the microaggressions and subtle racism of his mostly white classmates, many of whom were jealous of his athletic abilities and talent in Transfiguration and Charms. One day Thomas found himself in a confrontation with a white classmate and was subsequently accused of using a hex, though in reality, he was defending himself from one. His punishment was a week of detention. When alerted, Luvenia was incensed as she was working so hard to allow Thomas to go to the school, while Maya was attending a local Muggle school and learning spellwork at home. Luvenia wrote to Thomas and told him that though he was right to defend himself, he had better work harder at controlling his ego and temper, and warned that she did not want to hear of another infraction or she would bring him home. Three weeks after his detention, Thomas was again in trouble when he was found to be running a broom racing circuit and taking bets.

Luvenia was so angered at Thomas’ recklessness that as she sat down to write him a letter she found herself getting more and more upset. Maya, who had a great ability to read people, especially her mother, asked what was wrong and Luvenia began to yell about Thomas’ behavior and complete disregard for the sacrifices the family was making. Her anger exploded through her quill and infused into the parchment, turning it red. This letter was the first of what would become known as a Howler. After seeing her mother accidentally create this unique and interesting bit of magic, Maya developed the Howler quill and parchment set, which became a global phenomenon as a novelty gift, though magical parents worldwide continued to use them in the spirit of Luvenia Gilcrest.

Maya’s success allowed for her mother to retire and provided generational wealth while Thomas graduated Ilvermorny and spent the majority of his career in a mid-level position in the Department of Magical Sports and Games at MACUSA.