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18 /36 TO BHMA The Greek Australian VEMA SEPTEMBER 2007

HARRY POTTER – A STORM IN TEA CUP?


A personal reflection by Mario Baghos
It seems that magic is in the air once worldwide in a mere twenty six days and damentalist groups in the United States, have with the occult as a direct result of having read
again with the recent release of the seventh and developing notoriety for it’s darker tone in argued that the subject matter, which includes, the books.
final instalment of the Harry Potter series of comparison with the former films, which were however disjointedly, certain occult concepts, There are a few important factors
fantasy novels written by renowned author J. evidently geared towards a younger audience. can be subversive to young minds which are that must be taken into consideration before
K. Rowling, entitled Harry Potter and the Harry Potter fever has indeed affect- highly susceptible to influence. Although most addressing this controversial issue. A common
Deathly Hallows. This article will firstly give a ed both young and old; it is a more subtle phe- of these critics believe that the Potter series can perspective held amongst the Potter series’
brief outline of the Harry Potter series before nomenon amongst adults, who can sometimes facilitate the imitation of occult rituals, some critics is that after reading the books, children
addressing the important issue of whether or be heard drawing analogies between situations have gone as far to assert (somewhat absurdly) will become exposed to and eventually
not the occult references in the Harry Potter from the fictional stories and real life circum- that the books can encourage demonic posses- research occult practices. One may question if
novels and films can have an adverse effect on stances. The effect it has had on children, how- sion and, to quote a source whose name I will there really is a problem with this, and I would
young children. ever, has been profound. If one were to flick not divulge, “will put untold millions of kids be inclined to affirm that if, hypothetically, the
For those who aren’t familiar with through the television channels around the into hell.” No doubt, these people seldom, if Harry Potter series did glamorise such nega-
the exploits of the diligent young hero, here’s a same time as the release of the Deathly ever, represent the official position of their reli- tive subject matter, then a serious problem
short summary: the world of Harry Potter is Hallows one would see hundreds of children gious denomination or tradition and the unfor- would indeed exist. However, and as is proba-
analogous to our own, although in the former dressed as one of their beloved characters, tunate misconception that most Christians sub- bly implicit throughout the article thus far, I am
magic is a reality which can be harnessed by wielding broomsticks while insatiably assail- scribe to this fanatically negative view of the not entirely convinced that the Harry Potter
those in the population who are inherently wiz- ing the countries’ book stores. Exaggerations books is highly exaggerated and unjust. I’ve books do advocate the occult. Therefore, we
ards and witches. Against this back-drop, the aside, kids love it, so much so that the recep- always found reassurance in the fact that fun- must firstly outline reasons as to why the
orphaned Potter and his two close friends, Ron tion of this series, despite its unprecedented damentalism is almost always comprised of an occult is intrinsically subversive and, secondly,
and Hermoine, are enrolled at the prestigious and overwhelming success, has varied signifi- aloof minority, and this case is no exception. we must inquire into whether or not the Harry
school of Hogwarts where they learn to master cantly. Experts have praised it, stating that it The sort of vehement opposition to Potter series does in fact glamorise this phe-
the magic arts and overcome many trials, has encouraged children to read more often fantasy trends in pop culture reflected by these nomena. It is only after addressing these issues
tribulations and evils which arise in the midst and as such it is conducive to the improvement critics isn’t a novelty. It has certainly happened that we can legitimately assess whether or not
of undertaking personal growth and forming of literacy skills. Moreover, many of the in the past and for all sorts of reasons: The the books have a negative impact on young
new and often volatile relationships. books’ exponents have exclaimed that it ranks Lord of the Rings was once erroneously criti- minds.
Without giving too much away, the amongst Lord of the Rings and Star Wars as a cized for depicting racism in its portrayal of The term occult derives from the
Deathly Hallows outlines the events which breakthrough fictional tale which will be her- light-skinned protagonists and dark-skinned Latin word occultus which can be defined as
lead to the final confrontation between Potter alded as a cultural phenomenon for years to antagonists, and that wholesome television meaning ‘the hidden’. It encompasses many
and his arch-nemesis - the evil wizard named come. series from our parents’generation, Bewitched, spiritual practices such as magic, divination
Lord Voldemort - and has proved to be a huge Critical reception amongst religious was also accused of promulgating witchcraft. and spiritualism and is linked with both
success amongst its increasingly growing fan groups, however, has been mixed. Some of its Harry Potter, therefore, is only the latest fanta- ancient and modern forms of witchcraft and
base, making millions of dollars within weeks Christian – even Orthodox – exponents, have sy series to inadvertently leave itself open to paganism. Ever since the advent of traditional
of its worldwide release. The recent film enti- stated that the books obviously advocate posi- such incessant public scrutiny, and, as men- Judeo-Christian religions these spiritual move-
tled Harry Potter and the Order of the tive themes such as love, courage, and justice tioned earlier, the main focus of the argument ments have been viewed pejoratively. Why?
Phoenix, based on the fifth novel in the series and that one can draw parallels between the seems to be whether or not the Potter series can Well, to put it very simply and without illus-
and released to coincide with the publication fantasy realm of Harry Potter and traditional have an adverse effect on children, although trating an entire metaphysical scheme, the gen-
of the Deathly Hallows, has also been a huge fairy-tales and mythology. Its critics, on the there doesn’t seem to be any documented evi- eral Christian perspective held by most
success, grossing a total of $771 million other hand, particularly those belonging to fun- dence of any children developing an obsession
SEPTEMBER 2007 The Greek Australian VEMA TO BHMA 19 /37
Cont. from previous page

Churches is that occult movements


advocate an esoteric spirituality which is not
bestowed by God, who is the source of all life,
goodness and being, and therefore their spiritu-
ality must be associated with malevolent enti-
ties, namely the devil and his demons. These
movements are foreign to the spirituality and
mindset of, for example, the Orthodox Church,
and espouse beliefs which not only contradict
the fundamental beliefs of Christianity, but
which are, for the most part, immoral from the
Church’s perspective. How so? For the sake of
brevity, it will suffice to state that many occult
or pagan sects encourage the propitiation of
morally ambivalent spiritual entities or powers
in order to suit mostly selfish purposes. This
can be particularly dangerous if, hypothetical-
ly speaking, one were to become involved in
one or more of the darker, inimical cults such
as those which espouse debauchery and licen-
tiousness and are in fact replete with inherent-
ly evil themes and imagery. The occult, there-
fore, is antithetical to religions such as to occult themes at all, no matter how ‘watered
Christianity, particularly Orthodox Christiani- down’ or ‘mythologised’ they may be.
ty, which espouses virtues such as love, peace, Personally, I can’t blame parents who take
justice and humility. such a hard line. Although I enjoyed the Potter
Whether or not any of these cults are films myself, if I had children I would be reluc-
actually legitimate or the result of years of ABOVE:
tant, for example, to expose them to the latest Hundreds of kids
speculation and hearsay (and many of them film in the series which, as mentioned above,
are) is beside the point. For even if one were anxiously await-
has a darker atmosphere than the earlier ing for the
not to subscribe to the traditional religious or movies and can at times be quite frightening
Christian disposition towards these move- release of the
for youngsters. new Harry Potter
ments, one cannot deny the fact that their dark There are, however, many parents book (right),
subject matter, which a child can be exposed to who may take a more moderate view, and who millions of copies
simply by browsing the internet or going to the can blame them? They have probably realized of which have
local bookstore, can be potentially damaging that if they were to prohibit children from read- been sold world-
on a psychological level. ing the Harry Potter series of novels then wide
Now that we have assessed, however where would they draw the line? If parents
briefly, the dangerous nature of occult phe- were to prevent their children from reading the The Harry Potter series is therefore can have a potentially damaging effect, readers
nomena, we must inquire as to whether or not Harry Potter novels or watching the movies, not so different from any other fictional fanta- should enjoy Harry Potter for what it is – a fic-
the Harry Potter series advocates these prac- then they might as well prohibit them from sy series that has been released in recent years. tional tale created to entertain. I would suggest
tices. Although the books do in fact include reading classic fantasy tales such as the afore- Certainly, it may contain occult terminology, that parents use discernment with regards to
many concepts which can be found in ancient, mentioned The Lord of the Rings, The but as demonstrated above, this doesn’t seem allowing their children to read these books. If
medieval or even contemporary occult move- Chronicles of Narnia, or even from watching to pose any inherent danger. Unfortunately, they believe that the themes presented in the
ments, the ritualistic nature of this sort of the Star Wars films, all of which share in com- some people can read whatever they want into series to be too mature for the intended audi-
magic with its links to actual occult move- mon the fact that their writers have appropriat- almost anything and as such the danger is man- ence, perhaps it will be necessary for them to
ments is not emphasised. The framework of ed many elements from ancient mysticism, ifested in the way people receive and interpret reassure their children that the Harry Potter
these magical concepts, therefore, is not paganism and the occult and have transformed the books: the fanatical opposition to them is series is merely fiction and that the magic
explicitly associated with any real forms of them into mythical realities within the overar- probably far more threatening to a child’s well- spells enacted by the Potter gang should not be
witchcraft or paganism. Rowling, working ching framework of the immanent and ongo- being than the book itself. Instead of deriving imitated.
within the framework of the fantasy genre, has ing struggle of good against evil. erroneous inferences from the books which
only employed occult themes in an abstract
way, depriving them of their explicitly danger-
ous association with any real magic and ritual
by ‘mythologising’ them. The content often
remains the same: divination, which consti-
tutes the ancient pagan practice of prophesy,
has precisely the same definition in the Potter
universe. But the occult context within which
these concepts can be found is replaced by a
fantasy world akin to that of Middle Earth or
Narnia, therefore posing very little risk of
being imitated.
It is humble opinion, therefore, that
there is very little evidence to support the
hypothesis that the references to the occult in
the fantasy realm of Harry Potter necessarily
have a negative effect on children. This, how-
ever, may be of little consolation to parents
who do not want their children to be exposed

The Greek Australian


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