|“||We practice ancestral magic. This cemetery is filled with the remains of our witch ancestors. Without access to them, we're powerless. If we run, we're leaving our legacy behind– our home, our family.||”|
— Sophie Deveraux about Ancestral Magic
Ancestral Magic is an extremely powerful form of witchcraft that was commonly practiced among the witches of New Orleans. Similar to Spirit Magic, Ancestral magic drew energy from the power of the Ancestors, the totality of all witches who had been consecrated into New Orleans soil and remained attached to the land as spirits.
However, ancestral magic was limited to the area where the witch's ancestors were buried. Without access to the remains, or to the earth in which they're consecrated, witches who practiced ancestral magic were left without such power and had to seek other forms of magic. As a result, ancestral witches were very committed to their families and their coven, and the bloodlines of the witch families in the community typically went back centuries.
Throughout The Originals Series
Genevieve explained that the Ancestral Plane (the home of all Ancestors), was created to separate the dead witches of New Orleans from the Other Side; a world-wide spiritual purgatory created by an extremely powerful witch called Qetsiyah to trap all supernatural beings at death. This is most likely the origin of Ancestral Magic, and it appears to remain a traditional source of magic for the coven of witches who reside in New Orleans, though it can be assumed that ancestral magic is practiced elsewhere in the world.
Ancestral magic works by the magic of a living witch connecting with the magic of the witches' dead ancestors and allowing it to flow through them via the witches' natural connection to the earth. To keep their ancestral magic flowing, any coven who practices this form of magic must perform a ritual every three hundred years or so that is known as the Harvest.
During the Harvest ritual, four witches are sacrificed, and their deaths result in all of their magical energy being released back into the earth to appease their ancestors. In return, the ancestors resurrect the four sacrificed witches at the Reaping, through another ritual performed by an Elder of the coven.
The resurrection of the four sacrificed witches is the final step in strengthening the coven's connection to their ancestors' magic, giving all of the living witches in the community more power. Additionally, the four Harvest girls also become more powerful after they have been brought back to life as a reward for their sacrifice to their coven. If the Harvest ritual is not completed, the community will first receive a warning in the form of a series of natural disasters, each one more intense than the one preceding it: first earthquakes will shake the city, then incredibly strong windstorms, followed by torrential rain, and then finally, fire will begin to engulf the community. Afterward, the witches in the coven will slowly start to lose their magic until they "cease to be witches altogether" but in actuality cease to have access to Ancestral Magic.
In order to continue their tradition of Ancestral Magic, when a New Orleans witch dies, the coven must consecrate the body of their fellow witch by performing a ritual to ensure that the spirit of the deceased joins their ancestors and that their magic replenishes the earth, allowing the magic of that specific bloodline of witches to continue flowing. This process allows the living descendants/relatives to continue to draw on the deceased witch's magic, even after their death.
Eight months prior to the beginning of The Originals series, the French Quarter Coven attempted to begin the Harvest ritual as they planned, by sacrificing four teenage girls in their coven: Monique Deveraux, Davina Claire, Abigail and Cassie. However, many community members disagreed with the ritual, due to many who believed that the infrequently-performed Harvest ritual was nothing more than a myth akin to Noah's Ark. These skeptics included Sophie Deveraux (Monique's aunt), Father Kieran, and Marcel Gerard, the latter of whom had a personal rule against harming children. At a loss for options, Father Kieran sent Marcel to intervene before the girls could be sacrificed. However, Marcel arrived too late to do as he he was told, and two of the four girls had already been had their throats slit as an offering to their ancestors. He instantly killed Bastianna, the Elder performing the ritual, hoping that her death would put a halt to the event, but Agnes, another Elder, managed to sacrifice Monique before anyone could stop her. Marcel was finally able to save Davina from being sacrificed, but before he could whisk her away, they (along with Sophie) witnessed Monique's magic flowing out of her body and into Davina's through her outstretched hand. Because Davina was the only Harvest girl who wasn't sacrificed in the first attempt to perform the Harvest, the magical power belonging to the three other girls flowed into her, instead of flowing back into the earth to appease their ancestors as intended. This meant that the Harvest ritual was not complete, and until Davina was sacrificed, the final step in the ritual known as the Reaping could not be performed, leaving the three sacrificed girls stuck in limbo in the interim.
When Sophie saw her niece Monique's magic flow into Davina, she realized that the Harvest ritual was real after all. She felt sp guilty for her part in ruining the Harvest that it became her mission to find Davina and kill her to complete the ritual so that the coven could finally perform the Reaping and resurrect Monique. Sophie and her sister, Jane-Anne, who was Monique's mother, were so committed to their plan that Jane-Anne sacrificed her own life in order to ensure that the Harvest ritual would finally be completed.
Nearly a year later, Davina first began having difficulty controlling the immense power she possessed as a result of the Harvest, which was the first sign that something was wrong. Then, Davina completely lost control of her magic, which caused New Orleans to begin experiencing natural disasters. Sophie explained to Marcel and the Original Vampires Klaus, Elijah, and Rebekah Mikaelson that the disasters were a warning to the witches that they were running out of time to complete the Harvest. First, a sequence of earthquakes occurred, which made all of the human and supernatural denizens of New Orleans extremely confused and nervous. Though the Originals and Marcel were skeptical of Sophie's explanation, assuming that she was just trying to scare them into helping her, but when extremely powerful winds started blowing through the city, they realized that Sophie was telling the truth. Klaus, Elijah and Rebekah reluctantly allowed Sophie to consecrate their mother's remains, which allowed Sophie to absorb her power and become an Elder, due to the fact that Elders are the only witches in an ancestral coven who can perform the Harvest ritual, and all of their covens' Elders had been killed. Then, after much debate, Davina eventually agreed to allow Sophie to sacrifice her to complete the Harvest, and Sophie used a ceremonial athame to slit her throat. Afterward, Sophie attempted to complete the Reaping, in which the four girls would all be resurrected, but after several failed tries, it became clear to all in attendance that something had gone wrong, and the four girls were not coming back.
Afterward, it was revealed that Céleste Dubois, a powerful dark witch and a former lover of Elijah (who was revealed to have been inhabiting the body of the witch Sabine Laurent) hijacked the power of the Harvest to resurrect three formerly-deceased witches, all of whom were known to have a grudge against vampires, and Original vampires in particular: Genevieve, (who was killed by Rebekah in 1919), Papa Tunde, (who was killed by Klaus in 1919), and Bastianna (who was killed by Marcel during the first attempt to complete the Harvest). With Marcel no longer in possession of Davina, he had no way to continue to monitor and restrict the use of magic in the Quarter, so the coven quickly began practicing magic again and building up their strength. Céleste, with the help of her newly resurrected friends, began to make moves against the Originals as payback for past slights against them. First, Papa Tunde attempted to use his sacrificial magic to kill all three Originals in order to seek revenge against Klaus for killing him and his twin sons 1919. His plan was also to kill as many vampires as possible to further fuel his sacrificial magic. Once Elijah, Hayley, and Klaus intervened, Papa Tunde fled to the Garden, where he slaughtered all of the desiccated vampires entombed there and channeled all of their magical power into his knife. Then, he met with Céleste, and gave her permission to sacrifice him as their final offering. His magic was also channeled into the blade, which gave it the ability to cause untold torment to anyone who is stabbed with it, whether human or an Original vampire.
Since the resurrected witches' life force was hijacked away from the four sacrificed Harvest girls, Papa Tunde's death resulted in Monique's resurrection, and she woke up in her grave at Lafayette Cemetery. Later, Céleste revealed to Elijah that her intention was to punish him for choosing Klaus and his family over her back in the 1800's. She sought her revenge by torturing Klaus with Papa Tunde's blade, and by torturing Rebekah with memories from her past with Genevieve. Genevieve helped Céleste with her plan by confessing to Klaus that it was Rebekah and Marcel who summoned Mikael to New Orleans in 1919 with the intention of chasimg Klaus out of town. These events caused such a rift between the three siblings that Marcel was exiled from the French Quarter and Rebekah was exiled from New Orleans completely. When Céleste and Bastianna were killed (by Elijah and Marcel, respectively), their life force was redirected back to the Harvest girls, and resulted in both Abigail and Davina's resurrection.
Elijah eventually took over Klaus' post as leader of the Faction, and quickly began reaching out to representatives from the witches (Genevieve) and the vampires (Diego) in order to work out a peace agreement between the supernatural factions. Eventually, much to the witches' and the vampires' dismay, the werewolves were also brought into negotiations, and after an impassioned speech by Hayley, the five factions finally hammered out a peace agreement, signed by Elijah and Klaus (representing the Originals), Genevieve, Diego, Hayley, and Francesca Correa (representing the humans). As a show of solidarity and respect for the peace treaty, the Mikaelsons allowed Genevieve and the coven a party for one of their traditional feast days, La Fête des Bénédictions, where the community offers the witches gifts in exchange for their blessings. Genevieve sought to use the feast as a forum to introduce the three resurrected Harvest girls into New Orleans society. That day, Monique, Abigail, and Davina attempted a spell to communicate with the ancestors, who told them (through Monique) that Genevieve needed to sacrifice herself in order to finally resurrect Cassie and complete the Harvest, giving the coven full access to the Harvest's power during a time of mounting tension between the supernatural factions. Genevieve, who was not ready to die, convinced the coven that she wanted to do more work for the witch community before she fulfilled her duty to their ancestors, and informed them that she planned on stealing Esther's Grimoires so that they could use her powerful spells to empower the witches.
At the feast, Monique confessed her feelings about Davina to Genevieve, and remarked that Davina didn't deserve the honor of being a Harvest girl because she hadn't sacrificed enough for the cause. In order to "teach her a lesson," Genevieve set up the feast so that Davina would not receive any gifts from the other community members. In the end, Klaus, who felt bad that Genevieve and Monique were being so rude to her, gave her a lapis lazuli ring and the daylight ring spell from his mother's grimoire (for her best friend Josh) in apologies for his previous actions against her. The feast was eventually ruined by Marcel, who intended to send a message to the Faction by compelling a group of tribal drummers to slit their wrists in the middle of the party, causing all of the vampires in attendance to become overcome by bloodlust. Though Elijah tried to convince the vampires to relax, the electricity was shut off, and the vampires took advantage of the darkness by violently feeding on the drummers and many of the human party guests. This first breach of the peace treaty ended in the deaths of all the drummers and many of the party guests.
The night of the feast, Genevieve tried and failed to steal Esther's grimoire from the Mikaelson compound, in hopes that obtaining it would earn her enough favor from the ancestors to keep her alive. When she failed, Monique and the rest of the coven confronted her and insisted that she needed to die, because Marcel's attack at the party made clear that the witches needed their full power to fight back. Right before Monique was about to kill her, the ancestors changed their minds at the last moment, and told Monique that Genevieve could continue to live. But, in return, they demanded another sacrifice to take Genevieve's place, specifically, Hayley and Klaus' still-unborn baby. Afterward, Genevieve tried a slow-burn approach to get close to the Mikaelsons in order to get access to Hayley and finally fulfill her obligations. However, Monique wasn't satisfied with her methods, and took matters into her own hands by using a poppet representing Hayley to cast a spell to kill her (and in the process, the baby). However, Genevieve realized what Monique had done and was able to reverse the spell just in time to save them both. Later, Genevieve became angry with Monique, and insisted that because the baby was part-witch, the ancestors need the baby to be born before she can be sacrificed, so the witches to consecrate her remains and her power could fuel the witch community.
Genevieve later made an agreement with Klaus and Elijah to adapt several of the spells from Esther's grimoire to make moonlight rings for Hayley and the Crescent wolves as an excuse to be in the compound and around the family. Unbeknownst to the Mikaelsons, Genevieve had also made a deal with Francesca Correa, who was supplying the black kyanite stones for the rings. The conditions of their deal was as follows; Genevieve would enchant the stones with the spell, using Klaus' blood as a source of energy to power the stones, and would then give them to Francesca and her siblings, who were revealed to be werewolves who had pretended to be humans for decades. In return, Francesca would allow Genevieve to take Hayley, who the witches intended to kill as soon as she had given birth, as well as the baby.
Their plan succeeded with few complications; since the stones were drawing on Klaus' power, it weakened him to the point he couldn't retaliate against the wolves or the witches during the full moon. However, as Hayley tried to fight against her captors, she experienced a placental abruption, which caused her to go into labor early. Genevieve, Monique, and Abigail took Hayley to St. Anne's Church for the birth. Klaus heard Hayley's labored screams from the streets and burst into the church to stop them, but due to the immense strength of Abigail and Monique's combined Harvest power, combined with Klaus' residual weakness from the moonlight rings, he was pinned to the wall and unable to fight back as he watched Hayley gave birth to their child. Once the baby was born, Hayley asked to hold her, and Genevieve allowed her one moment with her child before Monique slit Hayley's throat, either as an additional offering, or just to keep her from retaliating. Klaus threatened them all with violence, but was unable to move until the witches took the baby and left.
Genevieve, Monique, and Abigail took the baby to Lafayette Cemetery, where they planned to complete the offering as soon as the full moon disappeared from the morning sky. Abigail and Monique talked privately in one of the tombs, and each admitted that they hoped that Genevieve would be unable to sacrifice the baby so that they would be allowed to kill her and finally get their friend Cassie, the last Harvest girl, back. Meanwhile, Elijah and Klaus searched the cemetery to find the baby, only to figure that the witches had set up a powerful illusion that led them around in circles so they were unable to find the the ritual site. However, much to everyone's surprise, Hayley awoke at the church in transition, since she died with the baby's blood in her system. The baby's blood was also necessary for Hayley to survive her transition into a hybrid, and as a result, her body could lead her toward her baby as a sort of survival instinct. The three used this ability to find the altar where the three witches were about to sacrifice the baby. Monique and Abigail quickly saw them approaching the altar and linked hands, revealing that they had the full force of the magical power of every witch buried and consecrated in the cemetery. This gave them such immense power that the two were easily able to fight against them. Klaus, Hayley, and Elijah started fighting against the witches' magic, and eventually, Klaus killed Abigail in order to break the link to their ancestors' power. Hayley violently fought against Genevieve to keep her from being able to sacrifice the baby, but while they were fighting, Monique grabbed the knife and prepared to complete the sacrifice herself. Before Monique could kill the baby, Marcel arrived, and broke his cardinal rule of not hurting kids by killing Monique with the Devil's Star, protecting the baby from death.
Elijah and Hayley chained Genevieve up in a tomb in the cemetery and questioned her for answers as to why she did what she did. Genevieve reveals that Esther, who became a New Orleans witch when the Mikaelsons allowed Sophie to consecrate her body on New Orleans soil, was the ancestor who gave the decree to kill Klaus and Hayley's child. She also suggested that Esther is currently the leader of the ancestors, though it has not been confirmed. Genevieve insisted that because Esther decreed it, the New Orleans witches must obey her order, and informed them that as long as the baby is alive, the New Orleans witches will continue to come for her in order to fulfill their obligations. Elijah and Hayley were disgusted by Esther's tactics against her own family, as well as Genevieve actions, and Hayley ultimately killed her by stabbing her in the stomach with the blade she planned to use to sacrifice the baby.
At the end of From a Cradle to a Grave, it is insinuated that Esther has come back from the dead in the body of Cassie, the last remaining Harvest girl. It is also suggested that Finn, her eldest son, and Klaus and Elijah's eldest brother, has also been resurrected to help her, who is possessing the body of a witch named Vincent Griffith.
In Give 'Em Hell Kid, Vincent sought to follow through on his ex-wife's plan of cutting off the Ancestors and their connection to the living. Vincent, with the help of Davina Claire, used a magical object that would absorb all of the Ancestor's power. The plan succeeded and the Ancestors were cut off from the land of the living, cutting off witches' access to Ancestral magic too.
Spells and Rituals
- Main article: Spells and Rituals
- Ancestral Magic is first mentioned by Sophie Deveraux.
- Davina was able to detect when witches use ancestral magic in the French Quarter, likely due to her possessing the full power of the Harvest before it was finally completed.
- It's unknown if practitioners of ancestral magic are generally equally powerful to witches who practice other forms of magic, but many ancestral witches have proven to be notably more powerful than witches who practice other forms of magic.
- As evidenced by the fates of both Sophie and Genevieve, practitioners of ancestral magic are completely subjected to the rule and wrath of their ancestors, despite the great power to which they have access. Disobedience, betrayal, or failure to comply with the ancestors' orders usually results in the witch being injured or sentenced to death.
- Sophie was killed as the result of a decree from the ancestors, due to her lack of faith in the Harvest ritual and ancestral magic in general, as well as her willingness to reject her witch heritage. The ancestors condemned Sophie to death using her brainwashed niece, Monique, who cast a spell on her that caused her to bleed out on the street.
- Though her death was supposed to bring back the fourth sacrificed Harvest girl, Genevieve was told by the ancestors that she could continue to live, so long as she completed the task of sacrificing Klaus and Hayley's daughter to fuel the power of the coven. Although she was visibly disturbed by her task and clearly did not want to kill an innocent child, the ancestors threatened her by violently throwing her around in the cemetery until she relented. When she failed to complete the sacrifice of the baby, she was captured by Hayley and Elijah. The Ancestors began claim her life in a similar to the way they killed Sophie (bleeding out from the eyes, nose, and mouth) but before she could die at their hand, she was stabbed to death by Hayley.
- It has been suggested by Sophie Deveraux that ancestral witches can only practice magic within the boundaries of the city that their ancestors are buried, but it has never been demonstrated in practice.
- In Dance Back from the Grave, Papa Tunde, during his relocation to New Orleans, stated that he practiced Ancestral Magic despite not being native to the territory, meaning Ancestral Magic is practiced outside of New Orleans. Furthermore, Marcel states to Rebekah that he made inquires, for "the most dangerous witch" while he was abroad, meaning that other places in the world practice such magics.
- It can be assumed from Genevieve's comments before her death that Esther is now leading the French Quarter's witch ancestors.
- Since Esther's resurrection and subsequent transformation into a vampire, it is unknown who has taken her place as leader of the ancestors, if anyone.