Some Pagan perspectives on Harry Potter

What do Pagans think of Harry Potter? I was curious, so I went looking for some perspectives. Searching for “Pagan perspectives on Harry Potter” gets you a sea of mostly-Christian anti-HP writing with just a few Pagan sites bobbing among the waves. But I did find a few thoughts to share with the Potterkreis. I had vague plans to put this into Serious Thoughtful Blog Post Form, but I’m getting sick and time is running out, so I’m just going to throw some links at you all and go watch Elementary.

Please bear in mind that modern Paganism is highly pluralistic not just in practice, but in principle. None of these opinions should be taken as representative of “Pagans in general” or “Wiccan doctrine” or anything like that – there’s no such thing. And, as an outsider, I don’t have much of a basis for choosing these links except that they came up and I was lazy. So, grains of salt all around.

Much like Christians who like Harry Potter, Pagans who like Harry Potter generally view it as a fun fantasy with good moral lessons. I don’t get the impression that  most Wiccans or Pagans would be down on kids getting interested in their religion because of Harry Potter. You can see varying degrees of impatience with noobs here and there, but it’s a small enough community that clueless newbies aren’t really considered a nuisance if their interest is genuine; for the most part, they seem happy to explain.

Here’s a one guy’s brief summary of the difference between Wicca and Pottercraft, and some things they have in common. [Pretty much spoiler-free unless you don’t know anything about mandrake lore]

Zebrine Gray has a longer look at “Ritual Keys in Harry Potter’s Wizarding World,” with a bibliography at the end if you’re interested [Spoilers for later books are dense on P. 5, 6, and 7; less so earlier; the conclusion and bibliography are spoiler-free]

Starhawk hopes that HP will lead some readers to check out RL magical religions by presenting an appealing picture of magic users in connection with valuable moral lessons. [Spoiler-free unless you’ve never read or heard anyone talk about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.]

Other people are more skeptical of attempts to link the two: [moderate movie spoilers only]:

I’m sure that somewhere along the line some teenager went from Harry Potter to “Teen Witch” but those kids were going to find “Teen Witch” at some point anyways. Besides, if you read Potter and then tried to recreate it with modern Wicca you’d be super disappointed. I know Oberon Zell has tried to market himself as Dumbledore, but I don’t think it’s really gotten a whole lot of traction outside of our little community.

“Super disappointed,” because it doesn’t take long to learn that Potter magic and RL magic are two very different practices.  Like newspaper astronomy and the Hubble Space Telescope, they have a distant common ancestor and use some of the same words, but diverge sharply in several important respects.

In her review of the first Harry Potter movies, Peg Aloi at WitchVox, a website tracking Wiccan and Pagan charaters in the media, thought the movie and book had positive lessons for RL magic practitioners. [Very mild film spoilers; this link is probably safe for all y’all]:

I was struck again and again at the myriad magical lessons inherent in this story and their application to modern witchcraft and magical practice. Some of the best scenes and lines that speak to this were unfortunately left out, as when Hermione says, “This isn’t magic, it’s logic. A lot of the greatest wizards haven’t got an ounce of logic.” We see what happens when young wizards and witches don’t study their herblore carefully. We see how easy it is to be fooled by glamour, and how easy it is to want to be fooled indefinitely. We see how foolish it can be to set off boldly in the face of the unknown. We hear the fear and hatred in the voices of muggles when they refer to their own flesh and blood as “freaks.” We see that love is the greatest virtue a magician can have. We see that true magic is not about spells and potions and brooms and amulets, but about friendship and bravery and courage and truth.

Pagan pop-culture blog The Juggler has a good perspective on characterization in HP – [GENUINE SPOILERS IN THIS LINK]:

Real people live real lives.  While mostly good, they sometimes do bad things.  It may be an accident, a misunderstanding, a lack of proper perspective, or a necessity.  It may even be on purpose.  Still, in the real world people are complicated, not one-dimensional do-gooders.  Rowling’s books tapped into this uncertainty and brought her readers characters that were more like themselves than almost any other work of fantasy. . .

The good vs. evil trope is just as much a part of Harry Potter as it is in those other successful works, yet most of the characters exist between the dark and the light along with everyone in the audience.  Despite being magical, the characters are real and we love them because of, not despite their warts.

One potential criticism of the books from a Pagan perspective is that they present the ability to participate in magic as an intrinsic, inherited trait rather than an ability anyone can acquire with practice. I wasn’t able to find a lot of pagans who think this is too bad, though, given that Harry Potter is a fantasy, its version of “magic” is related but distinct, and no one is trying to change teapots into chickens in the Pagan world, anyway. David Liss’ secular take is more critical [Spoilers in comments, but not in the essay], and if I thought about it a little more, mine might be, too. Why did Rowling make magic a genetic trait, anyway?

Miscellany

Here’s a little piece on wandwork, with some RL wands: http://oldways.com/day-92-wands/

Note re: M. and Seth’s previous post on wands: they all seem to have handles? You can see a simple, fairly stubby wand with a substantial handle here.

More wands and some advice on how to make a wand.

Here’s a Pagan counter to the idea that Harry Potter is a “Christian story” [MEGASPOILERS; DO NOT READ; SERIOUSLY, THIS POST IS MAJOR SPOILERS ALL THE WAY DOWN]

And a general reflection on Pagan proselytizing from Jason Mankey at Patheos, with some pretty good conversation in the comments [no Harry Potter content at all, so spoiler-free!]

I Sort Lady Gaga Songs Into Hogwarts Houses For Some Reason

This is one of those Harry Potter posts I mentioned I might start putting up here. I was inspired by Jenna’s link to indefatigable filkists Not Literally‘s pretty adorable House Anthems. They’ve made “Sorted This Way,” “We R Slytheryns,” and “Gryffindor” which I thought was going to be a filk of Katy Perry’s “Firework,” but is actually based on “California Girls,” which turns out to be a better fit for Gryffindor’s jock aesthetic (despite the original video being set in a bizarre Candyland horrorscape).*

I decided to figure out where some of my favorite Lady Gaga songs would be Sorted if they took human form and went to Hogwarts. And I decided to post it here so that I wouldn’t clog up the comments too much.

Anyway, here are a few Gaga Songs, Appropriately Sorted For Your Reference:

Born This Way

Don’t hide yourself in regret, just love yourself and you’re set

Of course “Born This Way” is pure Hufflepuff, despite the invocation of bravery – with its clumsy inclusiveness and anthemic hug-circle affirmation, it’s every Hufflepuff post-game, pre-Habitat for Humanity party in a song.

Bad Romance

I want your Psycho, your Vertigo shtick

Some of the Slytherins think this song should have ended up in their House just because it has “revenge” in it, but its snooty film-theory swagger and flurry of references to mid-century Muggle artifacts like Double Indemnity and From Here to Eternity makes it a perfect fit for the culture-studies geeks at Ravenclaw.

The Edge of Glory

Another shot before we kiss the other side, I’m on the edge of something final we call life

A thrill-seeking dance song with just a dash of existential fatalism – so there was never any doubt that it would end up in GRYFFINDOR!

Poker Face

Love game, intuition, play the cards with spades to start, and after he’s been hooked I’ll play the one that’s on his heart

Unlike basically anyone who ever turns up in Harry Potter, this song represents the not-so-genocidal side of Slytherin – razor-sharp social intelligence, unashamed awareness of its own talents and skills, and a sense of fun coolly contained within an overwhelming will to win – whatever winning entails.

Judas

I’m just a holy fool, oh baby it’s so cruel, but I’m in love with Judas, baby

[SPOOOIIILLLLLLEERRRRSSSSSSSS]

*Oh, I just found out there’s a Ravenclaw one, too, thought it’s not quite as good? Like the Ravenclaws should have more complex insults for the other houses than “lame,” in their House Anthem if not 100% of the time in real life. I do love the one shot of a book with lots of underlining in purple ink, though.

 

That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.

I didn’t put anything here for a while, but then I came back. I might post here about Harry Potter now that my sister is doing a blog discussion group thing. Harry Potter is one of those things where I can go around for months thinking that I don’t care about it very much until someone reminds me that I LOVE IT and have 9 million words of opinion about every detail.

Here is something else I like: a compilation of dash camera videos from Russia.

For some reason, it reminds me a little of this: