Archives For Harry Potter

TWH – Muggle. Ravenclaw. Azkaban. These are familiar words to the millions of Harry Potter fans around the world. With more than 450 million books in print in over 200 countries, the Harry Potter franchise, including films and other marketing tie-ins, make it one of the most successful in history. This success has not subsided, as shown by the recent buzz surrounding the London opening of the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which is set 19 years after the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The play premiered July 30 and a print version of the story was released July 31, a date that also marks both J.K. Rowling’s and Harry Potter’s birthdays.

2180px-Harry_Potter_wordmark.svgOver the past 19 years, the Harry Potter stories and their expansive pop culture mythos have drawn a significant amount of attention to the possibility of world filled with magic. Rowling asks, “What if…” and proceeds to answer the question with the Harry Potter world.

Due to the magnitude of the franchise’s influence, a natural intersection has formed between its fantasy exhibition of magic and the reality of modern Witchcraft practice. This cultural intersection, which does in fact exist with other pop culture witch products, is sometimes an amusement for real practitioners, many of whom are loyal Potter fans. But, in other cases, the intersection is ignored or shrugged off as silly.  In other cases still, this cultural intersection between real magic and fantasy play can cause a real-life problem.

That is just what happened recently to small business owners and eclectic spiritualists Richard Carter and Jackie Restall. In April, Restall opened Mystical Moments, a metaphysical shop located on Britannia Road in Slaithwaite, England. She and Carter had been previously traveling around selling their craft works, crystals, and other items at local Pagan festivals and events. The store was the next step, and they used much of their remaining life savings to make it happen.

In an interview, Carter told The Wild Hunt, “Although we are a business, one of our main aims is to sell spiritual goods at a price that people can afford.” The couple sees their work as a service to other magical and spiritual workers. Mystical Moments offers healing services, as well as selling items such as “incense, crystals, sage, Angels, Buddhas, [their] own handmade ringed love goblets, runes, and wands.”


Richard Carter [Courtesy Photo]

While Restall focuses on crystal work and healing, Carter makes the wands, which he considers “a spiritual calling.” He said, “I received an urge to craft wood […] I still can’t explain it, having never had worked with wood in my life.” In 2012, Restall gave Carter a lathe, after he had suffered a heart attack and was unable to return to work.

Carter went on to say, “The first time I used [the lathe] it was like I was being guided on how to use the chisels and how the wands turn out.” Four year later, wand making is now his passion. He said, “I make wands from oak, yew, mahogany, cherry, walnut, sycamore, sweet chestnut, and sometimes a combination of woods.”

In July, the new store’s presence attracted the attention of local reporter Chloe Glover, who writes for The Huddersfield Daily Examiner. After meeting with Restall and Carter, she wrote an article titled “From Slytherin to Slaithwaite – magic wand shop opens in the village,”  which was was not-so-coincidentally published July 30 – the opening day of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

While Glover’s article does provide an objective overview of the store itself, she focused predominantly on Carter’s wand making and injects language from the Potter world. Glover wrote, “Richard Carter may sound like a character out of a Harry Potter book, but his curious real-life skill is gaining nationwide fans amongst those with a spiritualist leaning.”

Despite the article’s level tone, it became the catalyst for a controversy of the magical kind. Carter explained, “The day after [Glover’s] article appeared I received a call from a freelance journalist asking if he could also do a piece on the wands. During the conversation it became apparent that he was interested in Harry Potter.”

Wands in Olivander's at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter [Pixabay]

Wands in Olivander’s at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter [Public Domain]

During that second interview, Carter said that the journalist asked him if he “would sell one of [his] wands to a Harry Potter fan.” It was Carter’s quoted response that captured international attention: “If I had someone come in wanting a wand just because they liked Harry Potter I would not sell them one, no matter how much they were offering.”

On Aug. 6, the Sunday Express published that quote along with a short article titled, “Real-life wandmaker bans Harry Potter fans from his shop.” Within 48 hours, both British and international media had picked up on this click-bait story:

Man who runs magic wand shop in Huddersfield BANS Harry Potter fans for not taking magic seriously” – The Sun
Harry Potter fans banned from wand shop for not being real wizards” – The Independent
Witchcraft shop refuses to serve Harry Potter fans because it sells ‘spiritual tools’ not toys for young Muggles” – The Telegraph
Expelliarmus! British Wand Shop Bans ‘Harry Potter’ Fans“- The Hollywood Reporter
UK wand-maker bans Harry Potter fans from ‘real magic shop’ ” – The Indian Express
Magic Shop bans Harry Potter fans” – New Zealand Herald

Without fail, each of these articles reports that Carter stated that he would not sell a wand to a Harry Potter fan. They also report that Carter can tell fans from a real magical practitioners by their auras.

However, according to Carter, much of what is being reported is inaccurate. He said, “We have never banned anyone from our shop.” In fact, Restall herself is a Harry Potter fan. The aura comment was in reference to helping customers choose the proper wood for their wands.

So what did Carter really say and mean? Both Carter and Restall “believe [their] wands are spiritual tools and not toys for Harry Potter fans to play with.” In other words, their wands are not intended to be used for cosplay, Halloween parties, or other types of pretend play. Carter’s wands are real.

He explained, “The point that I tried to make, but was misunderstood or more like misquoted, was that the wands, which I am guided to make, are for other like-minded people to partner with.” He added that they are made “to help [practitioners] with spells, to use during an healing, or to sit with in meditation. They are not toys.”

Carter believes that if Harry Potter fans want a play wand, they should “look on eBay and buy a mass produced toy, not something that has been made as a spiritual tool.”


Mystical Moments hand-crafted wands [Courtesy Photo]

American wand maker Gypsey Teague agrees with Carter to some extent. Her wands, like Carter’s, are handmade as spiritual tools, and are not toys. In fact, Teague won’t even sell them over the internet for that very reason. She said, “No one should buy a wand over the internet. You have to match your energy to the wand.”

She added that other craft people, and even buyers, are shocked and put off by her policy. She said, “Other sellers have said, ‘How dare you not sell over the internet?’ I respond, ‘How dare you sell over the internet, as if they are toys?'”

Like Carter, Teague places a emphasis on the importance of the wood matching the user’s energy and magical needs, and, she would know. Along with being a Georgian elder, Teague has a master’s degree in landscape architecture and has been worked with hundreds of species of wood for over 35 years. She sells her wands at events and said that, in some cases, people take hours looking for the right wand match. In other cases, a customer can walk clear across a crowded field or vendor room and pick the right wand in seconds.

Teague added, “J.K. Rowling got a few things right,” one of which is the concept that the wand picks the witch. Like Restall, she is a Harry Potter fan. In fact, in her book The Witch’s Guide to Wands, Teague included a short chapter called, “The Wands of J.K. Rowling.” It begins, “Yes, I know. J.K. Rowling probably doesn’t have wands. However, her most famous protagonist does, and so do his friends and enemies.”

In the subsequent six pages, Teague analyzes the woods described as being used by several of the Potter characters, including Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Rubeus Hagrid and more. “It is not surprising that the holly was the wand of choice for Harry Potter. Harry embodies all that is good and strong in the magical world,” she wrote.

When asked if she would sell a wand to a Potter fan, Teague said, “Yes, as long as it is in person.” Unlike Carter, she doesn’t mind if they want to own a real magical wand. However, she did note that her wands don’t look like the movie wands, and most fans want replicas, which are typically mass-produced toys.

As far as she knows, she has never had anyone buy a wand specifically because they were a Potter fan. With that said, she has undoubtedly sold to Potter fans, because many real Witches and Pagans, like herself, are in fact also fans.

Wand make Gypsey Teague [Courtesy Photo]

Wand maker Gypsey Teague [Courtesy Photo]

Carter agrees with Teague. He was quoted as saying that “J.K. Rowling has obviously done her research” with respect to wands and woods. And he himself has enjoyed the movies.

Fortunately for Carter and the store, there has been no direct backlash. Most of the negative commentary has been contained within internet-based public comment areas. In the Telegraph articlefantasy author GP Taylor was quoted as saying, “I think this is terrible. Harry Potter fans should be served. They are going crazy over the Cursed Child and need their wands. It is discrimination against Potter fans. They should go to court for justice.” Several Twitter users called for a protest outside of the store, but nothing ever manifested.

Carter said, “We have had Bento magazine in Germany, Marie Claire magazine, Dublin radio and the BBC contact us but at least that gave me the opportunity to put the facts across on what I had actually said.” Journalist Chloe Glover, whose local article about the store started the media frenzy, also did a follow-up article that shares Carter’s reaction.

But it didn’t end there. On July 14, the entire fiasco caught the attention of J.K. Rowling. She tweeted:

Her tweet launched another round of international articles about Carter and his wand making:

Harry Potter author JK Rowling defends fans ‘banned’ from wand shop – ABC Online
Spells trouble: JK Rowling joins row over Harry Potter fans’ right to ‘real wands’ – The Guardian
J.K. Rowling responds to store owner’s ban on Harry Potter fans – New York Daily News

On Twitter itself, Rowling’s comment garnered many responses, many of which supported her words and ridiculed the controversy or Carter himself. However, other tweets came in from Pagans, looking to correct her seemingly irreverent statement.

“Really? Mocking a man over his religion, and not selling his religions tools to just anyone?” – @Acadia Jules

“They’re hand-crafted religious objects. They deserve to be treated with respect.” – @Laina

“He’s selling to Wiccans, a proper religion. It’s like someone taking a cross from a church to go hunt vampires.” – @MystBornWoW

When asked if he had responded to Rowling’s statement, Carter said, “No […] mainly because I am not on Twitter and a bit of a technophobe.” He went on to say that if he was to respond it would be to say simply: ‘Each to their own, but like us try not to be judgmental of other people.’

Carter will continue making his wands and selling them in the new store, letting his customers choose their woods as guided by their own energy. At this time, Mystical Moments does not have a website or online presence with the exception of its Facebook fan page. Carter added, “We would like to thank all the people globally who have shown their support and respected our right to keep our tools sacred.”

There are many articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, more than our team can write about in-depth in any given week. Therefore, The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

At this time of the year, perhaps more than any other, it becomes very apparent that we live in a multi faith world. Whether the shows of diversity are in public displays leading to debates on religious freedom or the variety of holiday wishes and celebratory rituals, December brings a very visible demonstration of the breadth of religious belief in the U.S. and, even, worldwide. With that spirit, we have collected a number of religious news stories that have been making headlines over the past few weeks.

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[Public Domain]

[Public Domain]

At a Dec. 11 meeting at the United Way of Greater Cleveland, the Ohio Department of Education hosted an information session on the state’s new Community Connectors program. Established by a legislative vote in the spring and then signed into law by Gov. John Kasich (R), the program aims to bring together community organizations and businesses with school systems in order to assist at-risk children and strengthen districts with high poverty and dropout rates. The underlying belief is that direct community involvement and mentorship will help children succeed in school and in life.

However, directly after the United Way meeting, the program drew criticism because of its alleged new focus on faith-based organizations. According to The Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Buddy Harris, a senior policy analyst for the Ohio Department of Education, told the gathering of church and non-profit representatives that each application must include a school district (or charter school) plus a business and a place of worship or faith-based organization in its partnership.

The original legislative bill, HB 483, did not include this requirement. According to the state’s website, the law reads, “Eligible school districts shall partner with members of the business community, civic organizations, or the faith-based community to provide sustainable career advising and mentoring services.”  To date, the program’s promotional material also doesn’t suggest any religious requirement. However, according to news reports and Americans United (AU) the Governor only recently changed this detail.

If the news reports are correct and this new policy is in place, then, as noted by AU, “this is a flagrant violation of the First Amendment.”  The organization goes on to suggest, ” … if he really wants to improve the lives of Ohio’s students, he can start by respecting their right to an educational environment free of religious coercion. ”

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As reported by The New York Times, the U.S. Senate approved, in a 62-35 vote, the appointment of Rabbi David Saperstein as Ambassador-at-Large, or head of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom. When Saperstein was nominated in July, Secretery of State John Kerry said, “Religious Freedom is human freedom. … When it comes to the work of protecting religious freedom, it is safe to say that David Saperstein represents the gold standard.”

Why is this particular appointment significant? Rabbi Saperstein is the first non-Christian to hold that particular office. His initial nomination happened during the buildup of tension and violence in Gaza. This suggests that the choice may have been a calculated political message or move. However, the Senate’s approval, which came Dec. 12, may also demonstrate something more significant about the U.S. cultural landscape. Judaism may be a monotheistic faith; but it is still a minority religion. How will having a member of a minority religion in a prominent position change U.S. religious freedom policy both nationally and internationally? Time will tell.

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Mt. Soledad [Photo Credit: Kathleen Gorby [Public domain], via Wikimedia]

Mt. Soledad [Photo Credit: Kathleen Gorby [Public domain], via Wikimedia]

In another religious freedom battle, U.S. Senate approved a “defense policy bill” that may allow a large cross to remain at the top of the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial in San Diego, California. According to the L.A. Times, the legal battle over this cross has been on-going since 2006. Proponents claim that the bill will end the conversation because the Senate approved the sale of the property to private investors. Once sold, the cross can no longer be considered a “church-state violation.” However, opponents don’t agree and promise to continue the fight.

For Pagans and Heathens, religious freedom in the Military has always been a major concern. This month, AU released a response document called “Clear and Present Falsehoods: The Real State of Religious Freedom in the Military.” This publication mentions a number of religious freedom cases, including one in which a cross was “placed inside the Wiccan circle used by Wiccan cadets.”

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As this is a holiday season roundup, it would not be complete without a few stories on religious displays in the public square. Each year this particular conversation is reborn, ironically, with the erection of nativity scenes, menorahs, Fesivas poles, gigantic illuminated letter As and the like.

As is typical, Atheist organizations have been sponsoring billboards around the country to counter overt religiosity. For example, in Arkansas, American Atheists sponsored a billboard that reads “You KNOW it’s a Myth. This Season, Celebrate REASON.”

As we reported last week, The Satanic Temple takes part in this holiday tradition. Along with its Florida display, the organization is preparing one for the Michigan capitol. To be erected on Dec. 21, this particular holiday presentation is called a “Snaketivity Scene” and will contain a snake, a book and sign that reads “The greatest gift is knowledge.”

While most of this activity centers around conflict and debate, the Wisconsin legislature has chosen to take another more positive approach to holiday displays. Since 1998, it hosts a yearly “Interfaith Awareness Week,” during which representatives of organizations can sponsor an informational holiday display in its capitol’s rotunda. Circle Sanctuary has been part of this tradition for 16 years. This year was no exception.

[Courtesy Photo]

[Courtesy Photo]

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Do dogs go to heaven? After a Dec. 11  New York Times article, many Catholics believed that the long theological debate was finally settled. Dogs do go to heaven. However, The Times and other media outlets have since corrected their original articles saying that the Pope never made any statements about seeing our pets in eternity. In its correction, The Times admitted that it had not verified the quotes with the Vatican before publication.

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Replica of Hogwarts at Universal Studios Orlando [Photo Credit:  Rstoplabe14 en.wikipedia]

Replica of Hogwarts at Universal Studios Orlando [Photo Credit: Rstoplabe14 en.wikipedia]

While that particular theological question may still be unanswered, another, far less theological one has been definitely cleared up. There are no Wiccans at Hogwarts. When a Harry Potter fan asked via Twitter if there were Jewish characters in the popular series, author J.K. Rowling tweeted back, “Anthony Goldstein, Ravenclaw, Jewish wizard.”

Apparently, this set off a discussion on the religious views represented by students at the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In response to that debate, Rowling tweeted:

To everyone asking whether their religion/belief/non-belief system is represented at Hogwarts: the only people I never imagined there are Wiccans.*

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Finally, last night was the first night of Hanukah. Many Pagans, Polytheists and Heathens with Jewish heritage enjoy celebrating the Festival of Lights or simply spending time with their Jewish families. May those readers enjoy the warmth and light of the holiday.


* UPDATE 1:50pm EST: Rowling defended her tweets about Wicca. The Independent quoted her as saying, “It’s a different concept of magic to the one laid out in the books, so I don’t really see how they can co-exist.”

Top Story: The CNN Belief Blog has a story about Hinduism in America, and how some younger Hindus are trying to “forge a distinctly American Hindu identity that’s more tightly woven into the national fabric.”

The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Houston

“Our parents had to build everything from scratch to make a united Hindu community in this country,” said Tejas N. Dave, 17, a high school junior who volunteers with a project bringing yoga to unprivileged Americans. “Now we’re trying to reintegrate it back into society,” he said, “to make people realize that Hinduism is a religion and a way of life and a philosophy that’s not too different from what a lot of others believe. We’re all trying to make a better society.” Some young Hindus are envious of the attention that American Muslims and Mormons have received in recent years – even if not all of the attention has been positive – and are trying to raise Hinduism’s national profile.

The article mentions the Hindu American Foundation and its work, an advocacy group that has done outreach to the Pagan community in recent years, and profiles younger Hindus who want to take their faith “outside officially Hindu spaces.”

Yet [Kavita] Pallod, 23, has spent a good deal of time thinking about how to apply her faith to her life. “I believe that karma is the principal that guides the universe,” she said, referring to the Hindu concept of cosmic justice. “It’s one of the reasons I joined Teach for America.”

In my recent interview with historian Kevin M. Schultz, he mentioned that Catholics and Jews in the early 20th century worked to “present a positive and forceful image of what it meant to be an American” using the “languages of good Americanism to show they belong.” This article makes it quite clear that this process is well underway for American Hindus. That said, despite Hinduism’s many successes in building infrastructure and mainstreaming some of their practices, there still remains a lot of distrust and hostility, as evidenced by the comments section of the CNN profile. American Hindu organizations will also have to decide, ultimately, how they are going to present themselves to other faiths. Hinduism’s theological diversity has allowed proponents to engage with Pagans, noting their common ground, while also (sometimes vociferously) portraying themselves as monotheists. It’s a complex subject, but American politics hates complex subjects, and the process of “Americanizing” a diverse decentralized umbrella faith may present roadblocks in the future.

In Other News:

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

This Sunday, I have updates on some previously reported stories.

Sacred Paths Center’s Fiscal Crisis: As I reported on FridaySacred Paths Center, a Pagan community center serving the Minneapolis-St. Paul area (aka “Paganistan”), sent out a message that they were in dire fiscal straits and needed over 7000 dollars immediately if they were to avoid closure. Now one of the SPC’s board members, CJ Stone, has been interviewed by PNC-Minnesota about the situation.

“We were working from a membership model. A Pagan Community Center has been the dream of several Twin Cities groups, working for the past thirteen years. You would think if the idea of a Pagan Community Center, supported by members, was possible, it would have happened by now. Thirteen years is a long time. When Teisha (Center Executive Director) said , “We have a problem, we have to solve it”, we finally asked, “Are we even using the right model?”

The answer is NO. We have already gotten the members we are likely to get. Even with a tremendous response, say 500 members, it would be barely enough. We just can’t do it. We made the mistake thinking the members would support it. We learned you can’t support a Pagan Community Center just on membership, at least not without years of work to build it up. We just have a month. We need some big donations now, to get off the membership model as a primary source of income, and continue. Then we can get on to better retail, more targeted retail, better service to our teachers and students. Finding a community that needs what we have got, and then serving it clearly and directly.”

The SPC board has estimated that they have to raise $7,500 immediately, and $12,000 by the end of July to remain open and viable for the longer term. So far 20% of their goal has been raised, this includes matching funds from an anonymous donor. We’ll keep you posted on this story as it develops.

James Arthur Ray Aftermath: After the negligent homicide convictions for New Age guru James Arthur Ray, Mitch Horowitz, author of “Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation,” ponders whether we should regulate retreats and rituals. While Horowitz acknowledges that Ray-inspired regulations “could be valuable,” he ultimately opposes government intervention.

The public should be alert to such situations—but not at the expense of the free exercise of spiritual experiment that has long characterized our religious culture. When considering crackdowns on ersatz sweat lodges or extreme rites, Americans ought to take guidance from what Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson wrote in 1944: “The price of freedom of religion . . . is that we must put up with, and even pay for, a good deal of rubbish.”

Horowitz endorses better education, something the new not-for-profit organization, SEEK, (Self-help Empowerment through Education and Knowledge), endeavors to do. Meanwhile, the story of Ray’s deadly sweat lodge ritual doesn’t seem to be going away, the Guardian just did a lengthy write-up about Ray, anti-Ray activists (and cult observers) are not letting him slip out of the spotlight, and you can bet there will be appeals once he’s been sentenced.

Winnemem Wintu Postpone Coming of Age Ceremony: Back in April I mentioned that the Winnemem Wintu Tribe in Northern California was coordinating a petition drive to close a small section of the McCloud River so they can hold their coming-of-age ceremony in peace. In previous years a “voluntary closure” was ignored by local power-boaters who shouted racist and threatening epithets at the Tribe. Now, the Winnemem Wintu have decided to postpone this year’s coming of age ceremony because the US Forest Service refuses to enforce a mandatory closure.

“For more than five years, we’ve asked the Forest Service to enforce a mandatory river closure for the ceremony’s four days in order to give us the peace and privacy we need for a good ceremony. They have continually refused to honor this request, even though it is within their power to close the river. Because Marisa is the young woman training to be the next leader, our Chief decided the risk was too great and the indignity of holding a ceremony without complete privacy could no longer be tolerated.”

The Winnemem are planning to try again for a mandatory closure next year, and are considering filing a complaint with the United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. You can keep up with this story by following the tribe’s Facebook page, and their blog dedicated to this issue.

Harry Potter and Witchcraft: Over the years I’ve looked at conservative Christian responses to the ever-popular Harry Potter books and movies. How they “glamorize the power of evil,” inspiring opposition that bordered on parody. Even the Bush administration worried over the demonic powers of Harry. But it looks like the great battles over Harry Potter seducing children into the practice of Witchcraft have finally burnt out, with former critics starting to admit they might have overreacted a bit.

“William Brown, president of Cedarville University, an evangelical college east of Dayton in Greene County, agreed that Christians’ opinions of Harry Potter have changed. “The world did not come apart and children did not immediately become witches and warlocks because of Harry Potter,” he said.”

That’s a big admission from an evangelical heavyweight. It really shows how the oxygen has gone out of this issue (author JK Rowling essentially admitting it’s a Christian allegory probably helped). Not that there won’t continue to be those who find it evil, but the Harry Potter culture war may finally be ending.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

As George W. Bush’s administration fades away into history more details about its character are starting to see the light of day, perhaps some of the most revealing so-far come from former Bush speech-writer Matt Latimer’s new book “Speech-less: Tales of a White House Survivor”. Filled with embarrassing quips from George W. Bush and other top administration officials, it also seems to confirm a sneaking suspicion among modern Pagans that Bush and his administration had a unique obsession with Witchcraft and the occult.

Latimer writes that administration officials objected to giving author J.K. Rowling the Presidential Medal of Freedom because her writing “encouraged witchcraft” (p. 201): “This was the same sort of narrow thinking that led people in the White House to actually object to giving the author J.K. Rowling a presidential medal because the Harry Potter books encouraged withcraft.”

This newly-revealed “Harry Potter encourages witchcraft” attitude, along with Jim Towey’s misguided comments, the VA interpreting old anti-Wicca Bush quotes in order to make policy, and the snubbing of a Wiccan military widow (that Bush later apologized for) seems to confirm at the very least that Bush’s people (like the VA) either broadly interpreted his past anti-Witchcraft comments, or that conservative Christian attitudes towards minority faiths were pervasive.

Considering the newly hyper-partisan anger among conservative “values voters”, it could certainly be read as a movement in turmoil over being removed from the access to the executive power they felt was their right. Looking at the preferred candidates of conservative Christians over the years, we see a certain evolution (if you’ll pardon the term) in preference. From Ronald Reagan (who now looks moderate by comparison) and George W. Bush to Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee. Conservative Christian activists are increasingly demanding adherence to troubling strain of charismatic Christianity that isn’t afraid to engage in a little malefic prayer-warring to get the job done. If Bush’s mild (by comparison) anti-Wiccan comments and subsequent reliance on folks like James Dobson were enough to color the executive branch as it did, imagine if someone the “values voters” really love got into the president’s chair.

It seems I’m somewhat out of the loop concerning what’s hot in the post-Harry Potter world of young adult fantasy fiction, because producer/director Chris Columbus (who directed the first two Harry Potter movies) is bringing a new series to the big screen, and this one seems more explicitly mythical (and dare I say “pagan”) than the “Potterverse” ever was. “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief” follows the adventures of Percy (Perseus) Jackson, a son of Poseidon, who, along with some fellow demigods, goes on a series of adventures.

“Directed by Harry Potter veteran Chris Columbus, the film is a fantasy based on the first book in Rick Riordan’s popular series. In the story, a young modern-day boy named Percy Jackson learns that he’s the half-human/half-god son of Poseidon and embarks on a journey of adventure and self-discovery that also involves warring gods.”

You can see the official film web site, here. It is scheduled for release February 12, 2010. Can a film tied so deeply to the pre-Christian Greek mythos find the kind of mega-success that Potter did? One thing’s for certain, if you thought certain Christians went nuts over a bunch of English boarding-school kids casting spells, wait till their kids want to see a film about the children of pagan gods.

Harry Potter Haters

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 27, 2008 — 4 Comments

MTV reports on the upcoming documentary about Harry Potter fan culture “We Are Wizards”. Among the threads in this interesting-looking film is the opposition to Harry Potter by Christian conservatives, and the film features far-right conspiracy theorist Carol Matriciana as their voice.

“The fans’ fight not just with Warner Bros. but also the religious right is also included, via occult researcher Carol Matriciana, who had made an anti-Potter film called “Witchcraft Repackaged.” “Her work has inspired a lot of Christian activists,” Koury said. “If doesn’t help anyone’s case if you’re going to show someone who rants and raves on either side, so I wanted her because she can make a sound argument.””

If Matriciana is the “reasonable” voice of Christian opposition to Harry Potter, then it just shows you how far out of the mainstream these people are*. You see, her documentary “Witchcraft Repackaged” is sold by hate-literature mavens Chick Publications!

“This video explains how Scholastic Inc., the largest publisher of children’s books in the world, is supplying Harry Potter materials to millions of schoolchildren. Scholastic Inc. is using its unrivaled position in the educational system to flood classrooms and libraries with wizardry, repackaged as ‘children’s fantasy literature.'”

In addition to falsely equating fantasy depictions of magic with the religious practice of modern Pagans, Matriciana also takes time out to spread slurs about Hinduism as well and is apparently a “ex-New-Ager” turned to Jesus.

“But years ago Chuck Smith and Carol Matriciana who had been in new age for years did a video on Hinduism, and in that exposure of an ashram up in Washington or Northwest somewhere, you saw people chanting demon names, then getting possessed, and writhing on the floor as demons entered them.”

Sadly, people like Matriciana aren’t some fringe element, but merely the “dark” side of anti-Harry Potter arguments by Christians. The flip side of a coin. Even “nice” Christians seem to lose their cool when discussing the boy wizard and his successful books.

“There were a few things in the book that I found problematic – the authors start on a tirade about the Harry Potter series… and while I do hold issue with the Harry Potter series, I do not think its the singular cause of the rise in Wicca in our country. First of all, it was on the rise well before the series came out and second of …well even the book goes into more details as to the rise of Wicca, but at first the book feels like its a condemnation of all things Potter… and they never quite make a conclusion, which is bothersome…”

The fact is that, despite attempts by some elements to ban Harry Potter, it has become a cultural phenomenon that will resonate for generations to come. Not a phenomenon of occult recruitment, but one of a shared story, a unifying world of fantasy and possibility that has united people across cultural, economic, and racial lines. I think the real problem for Christians is that Harry Potter, despite being written by a Christian, espouses a secular-based harmony at odds with the “safe” Biblical allegory (or “supposals”) of C.S. Lewis. It isn’t that Harry Potter makes Pagans, its that Harry Potter doesn’t exclude or demonize Pagans, allowing them to fully insert themselves into the story alongside the Christian readers.

“We Are Wizards,” opens in New York on November 14.

* Check out “Hogwarts Professor” for a pro-Harry Christian perspective.

Some of you may remember our old friends on the Brunswick County School Board of North Carolina. Back in 2006 they tried to allow Christian groups to hand out religious literature on school campuses, a plan that was scuttled when Pagan publisher Llewellyn Worldwide told the board they would provide free books for local Pagans to hand out in schools.

Brunswick County Board of Education considering Pagan books.

“Board member Shirley Babson says she’s not afraid of potential lawsuits. She’s afraid of giving the appearance that the board approves of the literature groups would show the kids. “If I put something like this on the table, kids are going to say ‘Mrs. Babson thinks that’s alright. Mrs. Babson thinks that’s fine,’ ” Babson said.”

Then, in 2007, the Brunswick Board petulantly threatened to ban Harry Potter books from their libraries in seeming retaliation against the Witches.

“Brunswick County school officials will consider a procedure for students’ parents to challenge books available at school libraries … Board member Shirley Babson said some parents have expressed that books such as the Harry Potter series represent witchcraft and promote the practice of Wicca. Board member Jimmy Hobbs said he sees the importance of reviewing the policy. ‘The issue is a valid issue,’ Hobbs said. ‘I’m not attacking Harry Potter. When the issue of Bibles in schools came up last year, the ones that raised the most opposition was the group known as Wicca. Does this policy give them a free pass to get their materials into the schools? When distributing materials, we should be careful by not being biased. Is Wicca being allowed, in other ways, to the exclusion of Christian literature?'”

Now our old pals are back again, and this time they want to “teach the controversy” by introducing creationism into their curriculum.

“Articles in the Wilmington, North Carolina Star News on Tuesday and Wednesday report that the Brunswick County (NC) School Board is looking for a way to teach creationism in the schools. The issue was raised at Tuesday’s board meeting by parent Joel Fanti who told the board that it was unfair for evolution to be taught as a fact. Fanti said: ‘I wasn’t here 2 million years ago. If evolution is so slow, why don’t we see anything evolving now?’ School board member Jimmy Hobbs responded: ‘It’s really a disgrace for the state school board to impose evolution on our students without teaching creationism. The law says we can’t have Bibles in schools, but we can have evolution, of the atheists.'”

Sadly, while their hearts want to teach children that people were hanging out with dinosaurs, state law prevents them from teaching religious dogma in science classes.

“But neither creationism nor the related “intelligent design,” which says life forms are so complex only a higher power could have created them, may be taught as a required course of study, Edd Dunlap, science section chief for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, said Wednesday. These are considered religious teachings and may not be taught in science class or as fact, although they may be included as part of an elective, such as a course on religion or philosophy, he said.”

Looks like the Brunswick Board has been foiled again! You know, maybe they should turn their attention to actually improving the schools they oversee instead of constantly hatching plots to insert Christian religion into the school district. If they truly feel that the only good education is a Christian education, maybe they should move into the private sector.

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

The recent arrest of Bosnian Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic, who was posing as a New Age guru named “Dragan David Dabic”, has sparked some eager pundits to form a link between the New Age movement and mass murder!

“The New Age Dr Karadzic was not a disguise; it was a peep at what could have been, an alternative history. If Pol Pot had come to Britain, he might have opened a respectable stall at the Stoke Newington farmers’ market. If Dr Karadzic had moved to Camden market he could have become a quiet and harmless guru. As it was, he butchered half a country. The lesson is: keep an eye on those health stores.”

Igor Toronyi-Lalic’s correlations become ever-more perilous, performing mental acrobatics to link organic farming to murder because Pol Pot liked it, and claiming that New Age stores readily carry copies of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. If this extended Reductio ad Hitlerum points to any conspiracy theorist, it must be the author himself.

Speaking of conspiracy theorists, want to dig up the “Harry Potter leads children to the occult” argument again? No? Too bad! Joe Max e-mailed me a link to a dazzlingly tunnel-visioned editorial from 2003 entitled “Heresy in the Hood II: Witchcraft among Children and Teens in America”. Heresy in the hood! Gods that tickles me. That should be the title of a movie.

“Any Web–savvy child can be indoctrinated into a pagan worldview and start casting spells before a parent catches on to this new interest.”

And they are probably downloading their records for free! Truly Satan is powerful! But why am I mocking an article from five years ago? Because the Christian anti-abortion hub LifeSiteNews references it extensively in a recent editorial by Hilary White.

“As of June 2008, the seven book Potter series has sold more than 400 million copies and the books have been translated into 67 languages. The phenomenal success of the books has made their British author, J.K. Rowling, the highest-earning novelist in history. Three years after Harry Potter, Harvey writes, a review of television programs, major children’s book publishers, and popular youth websites, ‘should more than confirm our initial warnings.'”

Blah, blah, blah, Harry Potter, blah, blah, Buffy, blah, blah, Satan, blah blah. Really I can’t even muster the energy to debate this stuff any more. Especially if they don’t even go to the trouble of writing a new piece, instead of simply paraphrasing one from five years ago. Perhaps both sides are stricken with Harry Potter outrage fatigue?

The Richmond Times Dispatch features a column from A. Barton Hinkle that looks at a recent decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding non-sectarian prayer in the town of Fredericksburg (it was challenged by a Christian pastor who wanted to say the “J-word”). Hinkle explains how the ACLU could press for non-sectarian prayer in this instance, yet fight for the inclusion of Wiccan Cynthia Simpson in a different public prayer case.

“There is a defensible rationale for the stance the ACLU has taken, and it goes like this: Governmental bodies should not allow invocations, period. But given the fact that Chesterfield had done so, then it was obliged to treat all religions equally by allowing prayers from other faiths: Buddhist, Shinto, Wiccan, or Spaghetti Monster. Having opened the door to Abrahamic faiths, it couldn’t slam the door on non-Abrahamic ones. In the Fredericksburg case, the ACLU doesn’t want the door opened at all.”

In other words, if you want sectarian prayer, you have to invite the Pagans.

Paging Llewellyn! Remember your hilarious moral victory in North Carolina? Well, you just might get your chance to repeat it in Arizona.

“Alliance Defense Fund yesterday announced that it had filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Arizona on behalf of the First Baptist Church of Maricopa and its pastor, Jim Johnson, challenging Maricopa County school district’s policy on distribution of literature by nonprofit groups … School policy permits nonprofit groups to have their literature promoting various events and activities made available to students in schools. However the policy excludes literature from any sectarian organization or literature that promotes a particular religious belief or participation in religion.”

Network with some Arizona groups now, contact the local media and tell them that if First Baptist Church of Maricopa wins, you’ll be happy to distribute Pagan books and flyers to the kids. As I mentioned earlier, if you include sectarian religious content, you have to let everyone in!

In a final note, Technoccult points to an amazing in-depth look at the relationship of Throbbing Gristle/Psychic-TV founder Genesis P-Orridge, and Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge, who tragically passed away last year due to an undiagnosed heart condition.

“If we can be with this woman as lovers, as partners, for the rest of our lives, thought the front man of the legendary bands Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, who’d easily piled up enough experiences and enough identities to justify that royal “we”—it’s all we’ll ever want in the universe.”

A true tale of magick, love, gender, music, and the art of becoming one being.

That is all I have for now, have a great day!

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, on a book tour, expands on her previous claims that the hugely popular series contained Christian themes.

“Author J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books have always, in fact, dealt explicitly with religious themes and questions, but until “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” they had never quoted any specific religion. That was the plan from the start, Rowling told reporters during a press conference at the beginning of her Open Book Tour on Monday. It wasn’t because she was afraid of inserting religion into a children’s story. Rather, she was afraid that introducing religion (specifically Christianity) would give too much away to fans who might then see the parallels. ‘To me [the religious parallels have] always been obvious,’ she said. ‘But I never wanted to talk too openly about it because I thought it might show people who just wanted the story where we were going.'”

But for those Pagans who still want to imagine themselves at Hogwarts, not to worry, Rowling insists that the fictional school is “multifaith”. But if Potter kneels to pray, it will most likely be at Rowling’s Church of Scotland. Further commentary on Rowling’s latest statements can be found at “Get Religion”, and “Hogwarts Professor”. Perhaps we can finally convince certain over-zealous Christians that they aren’t banning a “pagan” book when they attack “Harry Potter”.