Harry Potter Promotes Wicca
J.K. Rowling has denied that she is using the Harry Potter books to promote witchcraft, but she says that she doesn’t believe in witchcraft “in the sense” that critics complain about and that she doesn’t “believe in magic in the way” she describes it in her books. This leaves open the possibility that she does believe in witchcraft and magic in some other sense. Her ex-husband has stated that Rowling’s plan to write 7 books is based upon her belief that the number 7 has magical associations.
J.K. Rowling has also said that she has engaged in extensive research into mythology, folklore, and occult beliefs in order to provide material for her books. She has said in an interview that a third of the creatures or spells in the Harry Potter books “are things that people genuinely used to believe in Britain.”
The mixing of reality and fantasy in Rowling’s books is dangerous. Other literature certainly uses witches and wizards as characters but they are either “evil” characters, they clearly exist in an un-real world, and/or they aren’t human beings. The world of Harry Potter, however, is supposed to be the same as our world. Witches and wizards are mostly good, positive characters, and they are all human beings.
The Pagan Federation in Britain has reportedly appointed a special youth officer to deal with the flood of inquiries from children who love the Harry Potter books. Children have more trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy than adults; because the Harry Potter books appear so rooted in real life, many may believe that the magic in the books is real and will therefore explore witchcraft, Wicca, and paganism. Even if J.K. Rowling didn’t set out to deliberately promote witchcraft, she certainly sympathizes with it and those sympathies have led to her create a dangerous series of books that imperil the youth of today, threatening to lead them into satanic, evil practices.
Harry Potter is not Wiccan
It is difficult to connect anything in the Harry Potter books with actual religious practices followed by people today or with witchcraft as it has been actually practiced in the past. J.K. Rowling has done a lot of research on what people used to believe, but not all of those beliefs were held by the same people at the same place and at the same time — in other words, many of the beliefs are disparate components of different systems and mythologies.
Unfortunately, Christians have a habit of misrepresenting this as if Rowling were describing real beliefs of people today. A good example of this is Richard Abanes who, in his book Harry Potter and the Bible, starts out by citing the quote that a third of the creatures and spells “are things that people genuinely used to believe in Britain.”
Later he goes references it again, but in his own words: “approximately one-third of what she has written is based on actual occultism” and later a third time, “up to one-third of the occultism in her series parallels information Rowling uncovered during her personal studies of witchcraft/magick.”
This transformation of Rowling’s actual words into something radically different seems to be characteristic of how the Christian Right approaches the issue: take a small, harmless truth and twist it until it’s unrecognizable, but now supports your position. There’s a tremendous difference between studying things people “used to believe” and engaging in “personal studies of witchcraft/magick.” Abanes himself notes that “magick” is an exclusively religious word and, therefore, shouldn’t imply that it relates to ancient beliefs in centaurs or love potions.
I don’t think that this tactic can be regarded as fair or honest, thus rendering the entire Christian case against Harry Potter little more than rhetorical sleight-of-hand. If the Harry Potter books are not promoting what actual witches do and believe, either today or in the past, then how can they promote “witchcraft”?
In one interview, J.K. Rowling said, “People tend to find in books what they want to find.” That certainly seems to be the case with her own Harry Potter series of books: people who are looking for something dangerous easily identify material that threatens their religious beliefs; people looking for entertaining children’s literature find engaging and fascinating stories. Who is right? Are both right?
The case made by the Christian Right against the Harry Potter books only appears reasonable when they successfully twist words or superimpose new meanings on the language of the books which is not warranted by the text itself. Conservative evangelicals, for example, treat the character Dobby the house-elf as a demon because of their own personal definitions of an “elf” that is “impish.” This reading requires them to ignore what the text actually says about Dobby, though, which doesn’t describe him as demonic in the least.
The Harry Potter books “promote” a fantasy world where witches and wizards exist alongside regular, “real” people. This fantasy world includes aspects of the world we all live in, aspects of ancient folklore and mythology, and ideas of witchcraft that J.K. Rowling herself has created. One of the ultimate achievements in fiction is to create a fantasy world that feels real to readers, and that’s just what J.K. Rowling has managed to do.
This fantasy world does not “promote” witchcraft any more than it promotes going to centaurs for astrological readings, using three-headed dogs to guard your basement, or delivering mail to friends via pet owls. Similarly, Tolkein’s books don’t promote combat with trolls or stealing carrots from a local farmer. Such events are merely the fabric of a fantasy world through which entirely different things are being promoted — things that will be missed by people who are so obsessed with the fabric used that they fail to see the images being woven in it.