Spoiler-Free Harry Potter Roundup!

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The massive avalanche of Harry Potter purchases start at midnight tonight. While many of us in the Pagan community have tried to distance ourselves from the idea that Harry Potter = Paganism, that hasn’t stopped the press, editorialists, and assorted pundits (religious and secular) from throwing in their two cents about the “occult” and “pagan” themes within the books.

“I absolutely did not start writing these books to encourage any child into witchcraft. I’m laughing slightly because to me, the idea is absurd. I have met thousands of children and not even one time has a child come up to me and said, ‘Ms Rowling, I’m so glad I’ve read these books because now I want to be a witch'”J.K. Rowling

So here is a quick round-up of articles that are wild about Harry (or more accurately, wild about the theological implications of Harry) that mention Pagans, the occult, and the religious “message” of the books (plus: Wizard Rock interludes!).

“He is part of the milieu that makes interests like Wicca or paganism more acceptable, but I doubt the books have made much difference … What is likely to happen is that any window to that type of thing that was opened by reading Harry Potter diminishes as children get older. They may reawaken to the spiritual dimension for other reasons at a later date but that will be because of things that have a stronger influence than movies. I don’t think there will be any long-term effect.”Trevor Jordan, applied ethics senior lecturer, Queensland University of Technology

[The Hungarian Horntails]

“Like I said, I have only seen the movies, and there is no mention of the Wicca religion. In the book series, the magic that the characters do is not a religion at all, but what seems to be a preordained way of life. A similar defense is what the board attorney had stated and the case was dropped. Not to mention that if they had to take away any books containing witches, then Cinderella and Macbeth would be out the door as well.”Vanessa Legatt, St. Cloud Times

[Draco and the Malfoys]

“Star reporter Jen Gerson will be reading right along and blogging as she goes, starting at midnight tonight. Having missed the charms of Harry Potter in high school, she first read the series in second-year university when, penniless, she moved into a pagan commune in North Toronto to take advantage of the friendly offer of a free room with a chicken-wire door. Though the pagans felt that the books offered an unrealistic portrayal of their religion, they nonetheless lent her the first few books. Jen, having no money for movies, discovered the series offered hours of free entertainment to distract her from the horrors of, well, second-year university.”The Star, “Blog along with the new Potter”

[The Parselmouths]

“Certain elements in the books and movies ring true for members of the Wicca community who practise magic, says the president of the Pagan Awareness Network, David Garland. Spells used by the characters reflect real-life rituals. “They quote Hermione – she’s the brainy one – talking about herbs and their properties,” Mr Garland said. “What she says is correct. The characters use a wand and so do some of us, but they’re not as powerful or impressive as they are in the book.” Wands and swords, known as athame, were used to direct energy as “an extension of the will”. “I put my cape on maybe once or twice a year,” Mr Garland said. “People do wear robes and that’s the common aspect of what we do.” Mr Garland said many pagans in Australia were Harry Potter fans, though he had read only one book and seen the first movie.”Caroline Marcus, The Sydney Morning Herald

[DJ Luna Lovegood]

“More fundamentally, reactions to Harry Potter highlight the worldwide character of clashes between various forms of traditionalism and modernism. To many religious conservatives, Harry Potter represents yet another assault by the mass media, public institutions, and other manifestations of secular culture against their traditional values. In the United States, Russia, Thailand, and Australia, some Christian conservatives have condemned the books for, among other things, promoting occultism and Satanism. Harry Potter and his friends, after all, use magic and witchcraft, not only as part of their everyday lives, but also as part of their struggle against the forces of evil. Christian critics of Harry Potter argue that the Bible makes clear that all magic stems from demonic sources. By teaching children that witchcraft is acceptable and by encouraging them to play with wands and cauldrons, Harry Potter risks seducing them away from Christianity and into occult practices. It may even, the argument goes, bring them into contact with the very real demons that haunt our world.”Daniel Nexon, The New Republic

[The Moaning Myrtles]

“Is it possible Harry Potter is fostering anti-Christian bigotry in our youth? … next time you hear your kids dish out scorn for Christians and /or Christian beliefs, maybe it’s time to take an inventory of their favorite books and movies … Rowling could decide to have Harry repent of his open rebellion against God through sorcery. Maybe she will cease dishonoring traditional “non-magic” beliefs. And, pigs could also start flying. Until this happens, Christian families need to protect their kids from Harry Potter’s clever seduction.”Linda Harvey, WorldNetDaily

[The Remus Lupins]

“Old Sour Kraut himself, Pope Benny, is the most obvious example of a crank who thinks that the books “introduce children to the dangers of neo-paganism”, while the American Evangelical movement has ruled that “The problem is, witchcraft is not fantasy; it is a sinful reality in our world.,But, sadly, it seems that some religious types are now trying to co-opt Harry into their own beliefs and the Church Of England is even releasing a book Mixing It Up With Harry Potter which aims to use Potter to spread the Christian message. God dammit – do the Churches have to ruin everything?”Ian O’Doherty, The Independent (Ireland)

[The Whomping Willows]

“I had one letter from a vicar in England — this is the difference — saying would I please not put Christmas trees at Hogwarts as it was clearly a pagan society. Meanwhile, I’m having death threats when I’m on tour in America.”J.K. Rowling, The Associated Press

[The Marauders]

“Many religious Jews are not keen Harry Potter fans. They have tried to prevent their children from reading the books because
of what they call its “pagan” content. But still, the market there is big enough to prompt salesmen to take the risk of being fined and open her shop on Saturday. Harry Potter has been a global sensation for years and this is the final chapter for the young wizard. Millions of copies of the final Harry Potter book have been shipped to all corners of the world. But in Israel, the world’s most famous boy wizard is going to need a little more than magic to pacify the country’s leading rabbis.”
Russia Today

[The Hermione Crookshanks Experience]

“Yet some fearful parents still seek to repress Harry Potter in the belief that these stories have power to lead children to evil. “I was told by some leaders that we were going to have to train 1,000 exorcists, so many children were going to become demon-possessed by Harry Potter,” said Connie Neal, a member of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, and author of the book “What’s a Christian to do with Harry Potter?” “I hope they kept their day jobs,” Neal said, laughing.Mark Hughes Cobb, Tuscaloosa News

[Harry and The Potters]

That is all I have for now. For those Harry Potter fans out there I hope you have a nice time at the various release parties. My own (spoiler-free) prediction? I think there is a very good chance Rowling will reveal the series to be a Christian parable of sorts after the climatic ending of last book. Won’t that confuse the Laura Mallory’s of the world!