Contents of this document:
The Harry Potter series of books tells the tales of Harry's trek
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. With the incredible success
of these books their content has gone under a great deal of scrutiny.
Some groups have raised
concerns that the Harry Potter novels may not be suitible for children
because of the major theme of witchcraft in the books. Further,
they draw on the author's use of numbers in the book to further prove
that books are indeed evil.
With this in mind, I have divided this document in two two sections. The first, Numerology in Harry Potter, looks at the supposed evil symbols. The second, Witchcraft in Harry Potter, looks at how the domain of mystics is portrayed.
Finally, I sum everything up Afterwards to look at what this may mean for a parent or guardian who is debating if they should bring Harry Potter and his friends to their children.
Harry Potter lives with his aunt and uncle, who live on 4 Privy Dr.
4 is a satanic
number, and as such is believed by some to be cause for concern. I
cannot explain why the author choose four for
house number, but I do doubt that is was to promote these so-called
evil numbers. The only thing that I would mention is that in the
does everything possible to escape his uncaring, almost Cinderella
adoptive family, and their house hold. In his time spent living on 4
Privy Dr. he was neglected, malnurist, and suffered several human
rights violations. Thus, perhaps she choose the
with care and decided to have Harry to to escape the 'fourness' (read:
of this house. It is very possible, however, that the number 4 was
chosen almost randomly. However, it should also be pointed out
about every number is considered by some group to be an 'evil' number.
As a math student, let me also say that, according to the theory of probability, the number 4 has just as much of a chance as any 'good' number has of showing up. It has also been noted that there are many 'good' uses of fours: 4 seasons, 4 quarters make a dollar, the 4th of July, plus it normally appears between 3 and 5 when numbering anything.
Harry Potter gets his acceptance to the Hogwarts school of
and Wizardry when he turns eleven years old. Was this number chosen for
its evil significance? It turns out that in the UK there are three
sectors of education: school education, further
education, and higher education. 'School
education' goes from ages 4 or 5 to 16. However, 'School Education' is
further divided, in the UK, between
Primary and Secondary education. As it turns out Secondary school
the age 11 in the UK. Since the author, J. K. Rowling, lives in
the UK and the books are based on characters who live in the UK, it
only makes sense that she would follow this schooling system. Clearly,
Harry begins his secondary schooling at Hogwarts at the appropriate age.
This number has obvious biblical references to the evil 'Number of the Beast' from Revelations 13:18. In the book/movie The Philosopher's Stone [or the Sorcer's Stone in the USA] Nicolas Flamel, who we never meet, has a special stone that allows him to live forever, so long as he uses it to create the elixir of life. Nicholas Flamel, it turns out, was an alchemist, who, in their time, were seen as almost religious men who basically attempted to turn metals into gold. Gold was considered to be the purest substance at this time, hence, the relation between alchemy and being 'religious': The process was mirrored by attempts to reach spiritual purity. The myth of the Philosopher's Stone is also linked to this, which is something Flamel was believed to have worked on for much of his life. Needless to say, there was a mystic view that people held about alchemists. By the end of the movie Nicolas Flamel had agreed to destroy the stone, because it could be misuse it. He dies at the age of 666. Is this an obvious jab at Christianity? Or is this proof of their being evil in Harry Potter? It turns out that Nicholas Flamel was born around the year 1330. While J.K. Rowling was working on her first book, in 1996, Nicolas Flamel was born six hundred and sixty six years before. Further, the author was aware that some people may take offence to this number, so instead of saying that he will die at the age of 666 she says that when he is 665 it will be he last year.
Witchcraft is the tool most religious fundementalists use to condemn
Harry Potter books. However, Harry Potter is not based on the religion
witchcraft in any
shape, or form. Flying on brooms, using magical wands to cast spells,
and turning people in to mice? It is
a mainstream pop culture product. Any resemblence between
witchcraft and Harry Potter is as superficial as any simularity between
Christianity and Harry Potter. Influences, such as Christmas, are just
superficially added in to the story. In the same way, riding
on broomsticks and casting spells with wands is not a tradition of
This series of books is indeed a product of its times. In the
'western world' Christianity is the predominate religion. The
unmistakeable heritage of Christianity is unmiskable in these
novels. These injections of Christiantiy in the novels are as
superficial as they are at the department stores. The reason
the books catch the imagination of so many young and old is because of
the use of magic. J. K. Rowling used witchcraft to bring magic to
Harry's world. It is also easy to see that sufficent research has been
done to bring in modern paganism and newage spirituality elements in to
the story line. However, again, these elements are only skin deep.
It's a fun little set of books and a funny
movie. If you banned every thing that had anything to do with magic,
and unexplainable special talents, you'd have to ban everything from
of the Rings (which is considered a 'Christian Book') to Star Trek
is not seen as Christian at all), along with all Christian holidays
from Christmas (Yule) to Easter (Eostar).
Just how deep are the arguements that Harry Potter has profound elements of witchcraft in it? Some have suggested that the required readings of Harry Potter as actual books of witchcraft. I decided to list the books that Harry Potter is told are required reading (incomplete):
Most of these book titles where chosen for comedic value: notice the use of alliterations on the titles? (Break with a Banshee... Travels with Trolls, etc.) Or the choice of the name of the book and the author's name? (One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi, By Plyllida Spore.) Others, however, may give some to be concerned, such as 'The Standard Book of Spells', but when your consider that they are going to a school of witchcraft and wizardry, that is to be expected, and indeed, the use of the word 'standard' to describe spells is humourous. Some people have noted concerns with all of them. For example, 'Holidays with Hags' has been followed by the argument that "God forbids His people from contacting a witch, a sorceress, and a demon, under the penalty of the Death Penalty!" This argument, however, is too fundamentalist for me to really consider: if you are going to take such a hard line approach to a funny book, then you can stop early on by saying that 'witchcraft is bad, so you shouldn't read the book.' But the book, as noted before this section, is mainly secular in nature.
Other books make their way in to the Harry Potter novel which are
that are used in the lore and history of witchcraft. They may be real
books. However, putting in historically accurate information helps to
immersive feel to story. All the great story tellers have always done
this. Books that have done this are the likes of The Lord of the
Rings and The Mists of Avalon (which tells of
the life of King Aurthur). If you do research in this area it is always
funny to hear a mention of something that really does exist, and that
is the total value of putting in any information that may be accurate.
(For example, see the bit about Nicholas Flamel.)
However, apparently some of the titles are actual books of
witchcraft. I assume this is based on books in the new age movement. In
recent times, such as since the release of Harry Potter books, these
witchcraft books have been selling more and more. But it is important
separate correlation (two things that happen together) with cause and
(one causing the other). The new age movement has been gaining ground
the last 40 years. I doubt that Harry Potter has very much to
do with that. The target audience for Harry Potter, those over 10 years
old, are not running out and buying real books about 'witchcraft'.
Up until now this document has been concerned primarily with 'evils'
within the pages of Harry Potter. In order to give full coverage to
issue, which is basically about whether or not Harry Potter is good for
children, this next section is, I believe, important for parents to
over. What is discussed here is if Harry Potter promotes good
lessons for children.
One founded criticism about this book is the fact that in just about ever adventure Harry Potter embarks on his friends and he, himself, usually end up lying to their professors and the head of the school. I, personally, believe this brings a bad message to the children viewing the movies, because Harry and his friends rarely are punished for these lies. In fact, they are usually not found out.
However, I believe that this could be turned in to a valuable lesson for youngsters, since they will almost inevitably lie at some point in their life, and they themselves may not be found out. After a close analysis and plot dissections of the stories I have come to the conclusion that if the trio of characters had told the truth to their professors almost always no trouble would have befallen them: In fact, had they told the truth, they may very well of made their lives easier on themselves. Consider the following scenarios.
In The Philosopher's Stone Harmonie's feelings are badly hurt, and she runs to the girls washroom to cry (adolescent boys can be very mean). When Harry and Ron discover that a troll is loose in that area, they immediate run to get her. Between the three of them they manage to defeat the troll on sheer stupid luck. Course of events: Harmonie is innocently in the washroom, Ron and Harry come to get her away from danger. Harmonie, however, lies, telling her professors that she went to 'take on the troll' herself, and Ron and Harry rescued her. I honestly don't see the difference between these two stories. One gets her in trouble.
In The Chamber of Secrets Harry told Professor Dumbledore, who has the up most respect for Harry and has proven to be a friend, that he had no idea what was going on, or who was responsible. Had he trusted Dumbledore, they may have succeeded in capturing the creature who was on the lose in the school.
If you read these books with your children, or watch the movies with them, and point out these facts, and discuss it, you will find that it will probably have twice the effect of helping, rather than having any normal bad effect.
It should also be noted, however, that all kid's movies tend to
lying, any many times they are not found out. This is by no means
specific to Harry Potter.
The Harry Potter books have been said to show friendship and loyalty as
one of the many fine points about the series. Though this is true,
is one point about friendship that links up with the above lying
section. As mentioned, Hermione lies to keep everyone--but herself--out
of trouble. Until she did this she was an outcast and not a
particularily close friend. If we accept this, there is an effect that
cannot be there friend until she lies to her teacher. This seems to me
to be a poor way of choosing friends.
The books also encourage disobedience. Harry is always trying to get away with some scheme forbidden by his guardians, or teachers. He spends a lot of time figuring out how to do something that he is not supposed to do instead of, say, finding another way to the same end.
I read and enjoyed all of them. They are like Nancy Drew, or the Hardy Boys, but with magic. (Not that I ever read Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys, but you know the type.) Mystery. Humour. Examples of bravery, loyalty, and boyish (or girlish) fun. The examples that anti-Potter advocates cite are there, but are handled wonderfully. Basically, yes, they are books that are loosely in a world of witchcraft, but they are written for a secular audience and there is no evil injected in to the page of the book.
In conclusion, it seems that these books and movies are no better or worse than any other set of books or movies for children. In fact, they are not as bad as many 'kids' movies that I have been seeing lately. I would recommend these books to anybody with two conditions:
The Anti-Potter crowed has some valid points, but over all I find that they tend to be over dramatizing the effect it may have on children. Nothing is a substitute to working with your children through all the influences in their lives. To end off this issue I want to leave you with a joke I got in my email once. I think it illustrates why I am not too concerned about the Harry Potter phenomena.
I know that there was that one incident in Chicago, where a boy turned his teacher in to a toad after watching the Harry Potter movie. The police chief said, on the condition that his head be changed back to its normal size, that it was an isolated incident, and that "The boy did nothing wrong, and it's all just a misunderstanding." The boy was released soon after.