The Potterverse (was; DWJ in Israeli newspaper)

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Sat Feb 21 18:43:21 EST 2004


Charlie wrote:

>I've been wondering off and on all day about the Potter-religion thing, and
>it has finally sent me into one of my periodic taxonomic spasms - apologies
>in advance. It seems to me that there are three major ways of orientating
>witchcraft to religion:

>1) Witches are servants of the devil - the official Christian line for most
>of Christianity's history (not so sure about now!)

Less than half of Christianity's history, I suspect.  Is there any mention
before 1000AD of *witchcraft* as opposed to heresy of one sort or another?
Robyn?

>2) Witches are practitioners of a pre-Christian 'Old Religion' - the theory
>associated with Margaret Murray and latterly taken over within Wicca.

"Oh, dem golden sickles, oh, dem golden sickles, golden sickles the druids
use to cut the mistletoe..."  How much of it does anyone suppose was not
made up out of the whole cloth post-Leland (probably Murray's source), with
a Gardner garnish?

>3) The word 'witch' (or 'wizard') simply describes a certain innate ability
>to do magic - like being double-jointed, and has nothing to do with belief
>or affiliation at all.

The first two are more usual in Real Life (OMT) and the last in fantasy,
aren't they.

>Now, if the Potterverse followed lines 1 or 2, it would be quite incongruous
>for Hogwarts to have Christmas, hymns, etc. But from what I understand it is
>much closer to 3. This makes for less of a difficulty, theologically
>speaking.

Less theologically and more pragmatically, I would expect some (not many,
but a few at least) of the children in even a magical school to have
parents who were devout members of one religion or another, and to have to
have special "prayers" at different times or on different days because
otherwise their parents kicked up a fuss, as in English schools yea even as
far back as the 1950s.  This would make a difficulty for the writer.

>On the other hand, I'd expect there to be continual discussions
>about the causes of magic - how exactly does it work? Just as there
>would be if we discovered that a significant part of the population was able
>to practise telepathy, say. Are there such discussions in HP?

If there are, who is having them?

The impression I have from the stuff that has floated past me about these
books is that the ability to use magic is hereditary and a magic-user who
doesn't have magic-using parents is rare and rather a second-class-citizen
to the other magical children -- but presumably the non-magic-using
(muggle) parents of that magical child notice what their child is doing, or
nobody would know the child was magical and it wouldn't end up in the
magic-using school.  At the same time, magic is something that is meant to
be kept a secret, and you get into all sorts of trouble if you allow
yourself to be seen using magic in front of a muggle, and the muggle's
memory gets taken away.  If a large point is made that the majority of the
population, the muggles, aren't meant to know at all that magic exists and
works, how is the secret kept when a magical ten-year-old starts to
manifest as such in front of muggle parents and siblings?  Taking away a
memory of an incident is one thing, taking away everyone's memory of an
entire child is something else again: would the Social Services not ask
questions like "Where is your ten-year-old, have you finally murdered him?"

As I have understood it, Potter has muggle Wicked Step-Parents and
sibling(s).  I have also gathered that they are deeply ashamed because he
is a magic-user.  If nobody knows about magic except the magic-users, how
does that work?  "Nobody knows that magic-users exist but to have a
magic-user in the family is a source of shame" doesn't seem a very
reasonable position.

How is the school (and its associated lake full of mer-folk, as I found out
by reading those four or five pages the other week) concealed from local
muggle poachers/villagers/hang-gliders/what-have-you?  Does nobody notice
that there are gaps in the maps (and who delivers the milk)?  Or is it just
that the magic-users spend their entire time mind-wiping the muggles on a
day-to-day basis?  If they have to do that, I can't see how they have time
to do anything else!  What's more, for all of me they can be as noble and
heroic as they like, they are utterly Wrong, because interfering with
people's minds, as I may have mentioned in discussion about Susan Cooper
and the Light in her books making people forget things, is to me a simple
wrongness I am never comfortable with.

After reading Ika's comments, and having noticed these basic things even
without reading the books, I feel more and more that I don't have any
particular need-to-read.  Life is too short, and the *complete* works of
Chaucer in the Riverside edition paperback is the same size as Potter book
5 hardback (and weighs twelve ounces more, the Potter is evidently
lightweight in more ways than one).

Minnow


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