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View Full Version : How Pagan or Wiccan is Harry, really?



Shwebb
07-23-2007, 08:57 PM
*Sigh* I know. Another Harry Potter thread. But I really want to know, straight from the folks, here, who know.

My best friend says she heard that some Wiccans were concerned when the books first started coming out--they wanted to warn people that the spells were too realistic for children to be reading them; that JKR did her research too well and the books could be dangerous to those who wanted to dabble.

Were there really Wiccans who feel this way or felt this way? Are there Pagans or Wiccans who don't like what Harry Potter books have done for/against the religion, itself?

BTW, I know how lame this question might sound. But I'm really that clueless.

I've certainly heard a lot of opinions on it from Christians (many of whom haven't read the books). I'd really like to hear some opinions from a different perspective, if y'all don't mind.

PattiTheWicked
07-23-2007, 10:35 PM
It's a perfectly legitimate question. I'll be the first to say that JKR's spellwork is creatively done. However -- as to whether it can actually work the way it's presented, I'd say that's a non-issue. Furthermore, any Wiccan who thinks that pointing a wand and saying "Expelliarmus" is effective spellwork should probably do a bit more reading on magical theory.

Now, that having been said -- do I think that one could incorporate the spell designs in HP in Actual Magic (tm)? Absolutely. They're simply incomplete. JKR did a phenomenal amount of research and much of what she included is based in actual occult and mythological writings. I've got an illustrated edition of Frazer's The Golden Bough, and there's a drawing in there of mandrake roots -- complete with kicking feet and squalling face, just like in HP&COS. Much of what students at Hogwarts learn is material that's useful to any student of magic or the occult -- planetary correspondences, the history of magic, potions, spells, divination, charms, and herbalism. Heck, the entire plot of HP&SS is rooted in the science of alchemy.

If you accept the concept of witchcraft or sorcery as a skill set, rather than (or in addition to) a belief system or religion, there's absolutely no reason why you couldn't use JKR's ideas as the basis of a spell -- you'd just have to do a lot more to it.

You can also use the spells from Dungeons and Dragons or LOTR as the root of a working -- it just involves finishing off the product. If you're interested in more on that, I'll find my notes on the Thaumaturgy Project and post some of that info.

If nothing else, the HP series is a great read, and has done something that most books haven't done -- it's taught kids that you CAN believe in magic. Entire generations have been taught that it's all make-believe nonsense, and by presenting it in an almost academic way, JKR has managed to open up imaginations again.

Johanna
07-23-2007, 10:38 PM
My best friend says she heard that some Wiccans were concerned when the books first started coming out--they wanted to warn people that the spells were too realistic for children to be reading them; that JKR did her research too well and the books could be dangerous to those who wanted to dabble.

I have yet to encounter a single Pagan/Wiccan/Heathen/Whatever in their right mind who thinks "Expelliarmus!" or "Accio Firebolt!" any of the stuff in the HP books, from Horcruxes to Hallows to potions, is in any way similar to anything within paganism. Harry Potter is a wonderful series of books, but the magic within is very much made up, and bears absolutely no similarities to anything I've encountered in any form of paganism.

There are certainly some parts of the books that mirror some pits of pagan lore/symbolism, but the books are also very heavy on Christian symbolism and alchemy, so I rather thing it evens out.

PattiTheWicked
07-23-2007, 11:10 PM
Harry Potter is a wonderful series of books, but the magic within is very much made up, and bears absolutely no similarities to anything I've encountered in any form of paganism.


I think if you read early esoteric writings, such as those of Agrippa or St. Germain, there's a better case for the idea of HP magic being rooted in legitimate occult philosophy. You're right in that there's probably no current form of neopaganism that uses anything similar to JKR's ideas; however, there are some definite links within hermetic and ceremonial magic .

Shwebb
07-24-2007, 12:06 AM
Thanks, you guys, for your very thoughtful answers. Very much appreciated!

MMcC
07-24-2007, 01:46 AM
I'm a witch. I was born a witch, brought up a witch, and come from many, many generations of witches.

I feel more of a Christian tone in the books. All references to witchcraft/wicca would fall under the umbrella of fantasy magic for me, even though she uses some very good sources. I think Jo would agree.

veinglory
07-24-2007, 04:00 AM
I haven't read HP but see nothing pagan or Wiccan--just magic. Magic appears in a lot of beliefs and myths not just the neopagan ones....

Medievalist
07-24-2007, 05:23 AM
Harry Potter is very much Ceremonial stuff, very like late classical early medieval treatises on magic practice and ritual, and some alchemy influence.

Sarita
07-24-2007, 06:07 AM
Sources, I need sources. And a larger book shelf. All this is so unbelievably interesting!

My sister and I were discussing the Christian undertones of the book tonight. All of the House objects were totally Christian based: The cup, the diadem, the sword, the snake... The book of Revelation.

Medievalist
07-24-2007, 06:20 AM
Sources, I need sources. And a larger book shelf. All this is so unbelievably interesting!

My sister and I were discussing the Christian undertones of the book tonight. All of the House objects were totally Christian based: The cup, the diadem, the sword, the snake... The book of Revelation.

Or the tarot .. .

MMcC
07-24-2007, 07:19 AM
They also follow the suits of tarot... and many people who are not Christian are fine with Christian symbols blending with non-Christian symbols.

Johanna
07-24-2007, 03:57 PM
I think if you read early esoteric writings, such as those of Agrippa or St. Germain, there's a better case for the idea of HP magic being rooted in legitimate occult philosophy. You're right in that there's probably no current form of neopaganism that uses anything similar to JKR's ideas; however, there are some definite links within hermetic and ceremonial magic .

This I will definately agree with.

I just think that on the basic "Children who read Harry Potter will have a practical gateway into the occult" is sort of like saying "The cookbooks of Jamie Oliver is a herbalists guide to occult cooking". :ROFL:

I'm actually a little surprised at how vehement some of the Potter-will-turn-our-kids-into-witches movement is, when books from people like Diana Wynne Jones and Neil Gaiman are a lot closer to "reality", you know? But I guess since Rowling's stuff is so popular, it's inevitably the first thing people bump into when they're looking for something to get all worked up over.

PattiTheWicked
07-24-2007, 05:55 PM
Sources, I need sources. And a larger book shelf. All this is so unbelievably interesting!

Read some of these:

Heinrich Agrippa's Three Books on Occult Philosophy, which you can probably find online at sacredtexts of hermetics.org (I just wrote a bit about him on my About.com page);

St. Germain On Alchemy;

pretty much anything by John Dee;

Reginald Scot's Discovery of Witchcraft;

and even though it gives some people an icky feeling, a lot of Crowley's early work delves into mysticism and such based on the writings of Renaissance-era philosophers.


]My sister and I were discussing the Christian undertones of the book tonight. All of the House objects were totally Christian based: The cup, the diadem, the sword, the snake... The book of Revelation.

Like some of the other folks here, I immediately thought of the Tarot -- I have no Christian upbringing, so (says she a bit embarrased) I've never even made a connection to Christian parallels in any of the stories.

Monkey
07-24-2007, 06:41 PM
The big uproar over HP doesn't really seem to be over the accuracy of the spells learned; it seems to be over the fact that a very popular children's book has good people using occult magics.

No matter how big a fan of HP these kids become, not one of them (that I know of) has managed to make a broomstick fly with "Wingardium Leviosa". I bet the media would be all over it if they did :) I know I would be.

My ex gave my little boy several books, aimed at young children, that were extremely occult. In a manner that could make occult-fearing parents feel that this was all make-believe and perfectly fine, these books taught about the zodiac, the basis of magic, the history of alchemy, ritual symbology, and more. They showed how to decorate your bedsheets with protective star and moon paterns...the stars just happened to be surrounded by a circle. These books didn't get ANY media attention, and were no big deal. No one got all worked up. So why did they get upset about HP?

The answer, in my mind, is that 1) HP was *very* popular. Christian parents couldn't just ignore the HP phenomenon; their kids WERE going to ask for the books. And 2) the characters in the book who use magic are much more sympathetic, and overall better people, than those who do not..."muggles" like Harry's adoptive family. People who practice the occult are "supposed" to be evil, ugly witches, as in Hansel and Gretal, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, or The Emperor's New Groove, or else they are supposed to be evil sorcerors, like in the Bible, The Road to El Dorado, or Alladin. No one that I know of sites these as "pagan", "occult", or "leading our children down an improper path".

So do I think that the spells are accurate? Heck no. Do I think the books are pagan? No way. Do I think that they could, just maybe, if you really over-analyze, get kids to think about paganism in a positive light? Yeah. I guess. But come on, people, unless incredibly sheltered, and I mean in a brain-hampering you-ain't-never-gonna-leave-this-house kind of way, children *will* eventually get exposed to (gasp) people who believe differently than their parents. These people will very rarely, if ever, be old, green, ugly witches who want to eat their flesh or powerful sorcerers bent on world domination. They will probably be fairly normal, perfectly acceptable human beings. If parents are scared that their kids will be exposed to nice people who are into the occult by reading the HP series, just wait until they find out what their kid's teacher or scout leader is in to :D

Shwebb
07-24-2007, 07:41 PM
Oh, yeah--believe me, there are some Christians and some "Christians" I find to be more of a threat to my kids.

I do think that some of the issue might be that the HP books were targeted toward kids. I mean LOTR isn't, even though it also has some of the same issues, I guess.

On the other hand, many people do hold up Chronicles of Narnia as an allegory, but it's also very much a story on its own. And it's full of magic, itself.

But my friend's assertion was that there were some people in the occult who found the books dangerous, if people took it upon themselves to build upon whatever is in the books without knowing what they are doing.

So, I guess here's another question--is there a dangerous side to the wiccan or pagan belief system? I always thought it was based on keeping a balance.

PattiTheWicked
07-24-2007, 09:55 PM
But my friend's assertion was that there were some people in the occult who found the books dangerous, if people took it upon themselves to build upon whatever is in the books without knowing what they are doing.

And that's the key thing right there, really, those last few words. For someone who really had no clue what they were doing, the most likely result is absolutely nothing. To get any sort of result magically, one really has to have a basic idea of magical theory. It's highly unlikely for an unskilled, uneducated individual to accidentally manifest magical results of any sort, whether good or bad. However, there are exceptions to this which I'll address further on down in this post.


So, I guess here's another question--is there a dangerous side to the wiccan or pagan belief system? I always thought it was based on keeping a balance.

This is where it gets really interesting, and I'll probably have to cut myself off in a few paragraphs before this turns a dissertation.

Your question as related to Wicca and paganism can be answered in a couple of different ways, so I'll try to address them all. To clarify my answers, understand that I am (a) a pagan who follows a tradition based on but not limited to Celtic legend and mythology, (b) a member of a Wiccan coven whose magic is rooted in the worship of a goddess, and (c) someone who has some knowledge of ceremonial magic.

Which brings me to this: I can't really say there is danger in a belief system, but I could see some possible inherent dangers in certain magical activities. There are two different kinds of magic. The first is practical magic - this is what you normally are talking about when you're talking about neopaganism, many Wiccan paths, and all the spell books you see in the New Age section at B&N. Practical magic is magic that "makes stuff happen" -- manifesting prosperity, love spells, healing rituals, a working that causes one's ex-boyfriend to suffer from impotence. This is practical magic, and it's based in the natural world.

Anyone can learn practical magic. If it's performed by someone who doesnt' know what they're doing, the only real danger is that if things are not worded properly or their stated intent is outweighed by their subconscious desires, they may end up with a result they don't like. Another possibility (and one that's more common) is that nothing at all will happen and they'll decide magic doesn't work and they wash their hands of the whole thing rather than try to figure out where the spell went wrong.

The second kind of magic is high magic (also called goetic magic or ceremonial magic). This is a broad spectrum of magical practice, and involves much deeper occult theory and ritual. It includes communication with spirits, in some cases the invoking of entities, and even the manifestation and controlling of spirits, demons, or angels.

In high magic, a significant amount of study is involved, sometimes years of training before the mage even considered conjuring up something. Usually, when someone reaches the level of discipline necessary to perform goetic workings, they've also achieved the level of knowledge to keep themselves safe from whatever they manage to manifest. However, you occasionally run into people who are all "Oooh, I'm a ceremonial mage, I'm so spooky, I'm gonna conjure up [insert entity's name here]." And then when they get it, they don't know what to do with it or how to control it, and that can present a danger. This is usually a matter of arrogance and inpetuousness rather than a lack of education.

So to kind of answer your question -- no, I don't believe there's any inherent danger in Wiccan or pagan belief. However, I can see how there could be some dangers to an untrained or immature individual who decides they're going to start practicing ceremonial magic. The real danger lies, as in most things, with people who bite off far more than they're ready to chew.

Some time ago, Diana Hignutt started an excellent thread on magic, and for the life of me I can't remember where it went. There's a lot of discussion in there about ceremonial magic.

reenkam
07-24-2007, 11:14 PM
Everyone keeps citing the strong connection of Harry Potter magic to ceremonial magic and alchemy, but I'm just not seeing it. I agree that there are some general connections (sorcerer's stone) but ceremonial magic would be a lot more involved than a single word and a wand...no where in Harry Potter does someone start drawing sigils on the floor.

And since Wicca itself is a religion...and the stuff in Harry Potter was magic as a science, I'd say there isn't a connection, anyway. Lots of Wiccans practice magic, yes, but Wicca itself is a religion so I don't think it's really affecting anything...

I think kids would be much more likely to get "involved in the occult" after watching certain movies and shows...typing lumos into google isn't going to get you anything occult-related, that I know of...

Sarita
07-25-2007, 12:10 AM
Some time ago, Diana Hignutt started an excellent thread on magic, and for the life of me I can't remember where it went. There's a lot of discussion in there about ceremonial magic.
Diana's Magick Thread (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=18583)

PattiTheWicked
07-25-2007, 12:13 AM
Everyone keeps citing the strong connection of Harry Potter magic to ceremonial magic and alchemy, but I'm just not seeing it. I agree that there are some general connections (sorcerer's stone) but ceremonial magic would be a lot more involved than a single word and a wand...no where in Harry Potter does someone start drawing sigils on the floor.


Agreed. My point above is that one could take what the students at Hogwarts do, expand upon those things, and create an actual spell working.

And you're correct, the magic in the HP books exists as a science, (although to the Muggles in HP's world, it's something strange and foreign). This is why in theory it's more similar to alchemy and CM than the practical magic so often found in many Wiccan and neopagan paths. In practice, however, the magic in HP *is* practical magic, it's simply fictional practical magic -- point a wand, shout Expelliarmus, and disarm one's opponent.

Monkey
07-28-2007, 10:20 AM
Shweb: Pretty much all the books/movies I cited were aimed towards kids. The reason I didn't cite LOTR is because it wasn't. I don't think that people were honestly scared that kids were going to learn magic from the books; I think the real problem was that the books were so popular and they featured the magic users as the good guys.


I have no fear whatsoever that kids will learn dangerous magics from the HP series. For magic to have consequences, negative or positive, it has to have oomph. To have oomph, you have to do *something* right. The Harry Potter series sometimes uses the correct terminology for things, but that's just not enough. Not to mention that the magic in the HP series isn't even replicable in the real world. You aren't going to go flying on a broomstick anytime soon, and messing up your levitation spell won't burn off your eyebrows. If kids try to replicate the Potter spells (either by mimicking the motions/words used or by trying to get the HP results through other methods), they aren't likely to get any result at all, much less a "dangerous" one. An argument could be made that HP could be used to turn kids *away* from magic by representing it in a way that absolutely will not work in the real world.

PattiTheWicked
07-30-2007, 04:47 AM
This was such a great thread I turned it into an FAQ, with Shwebb's permission, on my About.com page. Thanks to all of you for adding to the discussion.

How Wiccan Is Harry Potter? (http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/faq/f/HP_Magic.htm)

Christine N.
08-01-2007, 02:32 AM
Yeah, ya want some real occult magic, go read the Bartimaeus trilogy...

Those books are very into sigils on the floor and summoning spirits and such. Still mostly make-believe, but I think closer than Harry.

sassandgroove
08-02-2007, 08:33 PM
I don't have anything to add...I appreciate this discussion.

yanallefish
08-03-2007, 06:47 AM
I agree with many of the sentiments here, and slightly disagree with some -- heh, since ceremonial magic isn't my kind, I couldn't and won't say anything there:) However, coming from a more Earthy-Celtic-based view, to me HP isn't at all like it. I like the books and movies a lot, but the magic within them has nothing to do with my stuff -- hah, unless you counted Professor Sprout's workings. She's closest to me.

I think in the end, whether or not the HP stuff really applies depends on the witch; everyone's different! This is actually the conclusion my best friend and I came up with when we pondered the same question a couple years ago, and I've heard it echoed over time.

Pat~
08-03-2007, 08:58 PM
Interesting thread!

I posted this also in the Christian Forum's HP thread--here's an article that might interest some of you, with quotes from JKRowling and various others about HP:

http://www.abpnews.com/2682.article

Tirjasdyn
08-04-2007, 12:19 AM
Since ceremonialism, alchemy and tarot all have a basis in Catholicism...

well I'd say that Harry Potter deal more with the myth of Britain than anything which is very Christian.

Very good stuff though.

Southern_girl29
08-04-2007, 11:08 PM
This thread shows me how little I know about paganism and Wicca. It also shows me how much I would be interested in it. I must do some reading.

MMcC
08-05-2007, 12:41 AM
Was talking about this with my hubby baby today. He doesn't practice any formal religion, though he was raised Yezidi.

As an outside observer he said he thought Half Blood Prince was the "most witchy" of the books. I hadn't thought about it much, but he pointed out how it focused a lot on how Harry used the changed formulas in the potions book, and even remarked on a scene where he uses the flat edge of his blade to crush an herb rather than chop it... Ahmed said "I've seen you do things like that, and it made me think of you when I read it."

Total surprise, but it shouldn't have been when I thought about it. I love getting somebody else's view of something familiar to me. :)

reenkam
08-05-2007, 12:58 AM
That's true. HBP was definitely the most witchy. All the combining of spells and potion making and such...I should read it again.