Should We Be Mixing With Harry Potter?

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The latest Harry Potter film is opening this week, and the last Harry Potter book is coming out later this month, so once again the press is looking for new angles in which to report on this cultural phenomenon. Some are counting down the top cinematic Wizards (and Witches), others are interviewing the stars of the film, and some are digging up possible spoilers from Harry Potter “hackers”.

“Harry Potter hackers say they have discovered the secrets behind the last book in the series, but the fact they disagree with each other casts doubt on their claims … One hacker-theory has Harry Potter deciding to end his life in order to kill his evil enemy Voldemort and also that Ron and Hermione will both die, after which the trio are reunited in the Deathly Hallows – the Ghost World – along with Harry’s late parents, Sirius Black and Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore. However, a hacker calling himself Gabriel claims Ron and Hermione are attacked by Lord Voldemort and Hermione sacrifices her life to save Ron.”

One might think that many modern Pagans would be eager to ride this press bandwagon, but due to the hostile reactions from some Christian communities, most modern Pagans have taken pains to explain that Harry Potter isn’t some sort of recruitment tool for the occult arts, and have avoiding equating themselves with the popular series. But others in the wider Pagan community aren’t so scrupulous, and have bent over backwards to insert themselves into Pottermania.

“If you’ve ever wondered whether you’re more Griffyndor than Slytherin or ever doubted whether you really are just a muggle? Then put down you Harry Potter book and meet Oberon Zell-Ravenheart. He’s regarded as the inspiration for the fictional professor in the Harry Potter series[No he isn’t. – ed]. Oberon has just set up the first real “Hogworts” style school, The Grey School of Wizardry. He’s also the founder of the Church of all Worlds … The junior wizard school resembles Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series. It has the exact four houses described in the book. Oberon says these “elemental houses” are named after the “elemental creatures”: Sylphs, Salamanders, Undines and Gnomes.”

Yes, Oberon “living unicorn” Zell-Ravenheart, co-founder of the Church of All Worlds, has been plugging away for some time now on his online “Grey School of Wizardry” that offers to teach the “secular” science of Wizardry to Harry Potter obsessed kids and adults (mostly adults, really). Two recent press releases try very hard to tie the school in with the latest film. The first does everything in its power to convince us of Oberon’s essential “Dumbledore-ness”.

“When J.K. Rowling first conceived of the idea of Harry Potter, it is unlikely she had ever heard of Oberon Zell-Ravenheart. Yet as the Harry Potter legend took flight, more and more people began turning to this wise old Wizard in recognition. Oberon Zell-Ravenheart is the cover story in the Summer, 2007 issue of PanGaia magazine. His Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard will be featured in all Barnes & Noble Bookstores from July 12 through August 8 (coinciding with the release of the next Harry Potter movie and the final book in the series.) … This esteemed Wizard is referenced or quoted in over 80 books, and he has inspired, enthralled, and enlightened many a curious mind, both young and old. In all his calm yet commanding power, in his gentle yet absolute wisdom, Oberon Zell-Ravenheart is truly the real Albus Dumbledore.”

The second touts the “real” Hogwarts that is Ravenheart-Zell’s Grey School of Wizardry.

“The fourth Harry Potter movie takes us back to J.K. Rowling’s fictional “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” made famous as the setting for seven novels and four previous movies. These books and films have become the most popular literary phenomenon of all time. Millions of readers and viewers would love to board the “Hogwarts Express” and travel to a remote academy that teaches real magick, Witchcraft, and Wizardry. Well, as so often happens, fiction has become reality. A major online school has been established to meet these needs.”

Despite how “secular” one claims the online school to be, anyone can see that the vast bulk of its instructors are modern Pagans of one stripe or another. One also would question the editorial decisions of PanGaia to tout Oberon and his school when the magazine’s managing editor is also the Grey school’s “Dean of Studies”. But the larger question is, should we be intentionally mixing with Harry Potter? Isn’t using the books and films as a recruitment tool for a Pagan-run organization exactly what intolerant Christians blast J.K. Rowling for all the time? Isn’t it a bit unseemly to hijack an author’s work in order to make money for your own organization?