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JK Rowling's Harry Potter series, analysis, interpretation and religious reactions: do the books teach children how to become witches, do they lead the young into the occult, and just how do you make a Horcrux?
'Either Must Die at the Hand of the Other'
Religious Reactions to Harry Potter
by Dr Leo Ruickbie
(The Sociology of Harry Potter, forthcoming)
A man stood by the window, arms folded, a dark silhouette against the light. In front of him, a girl with eyes reddened and puffy from crying.
“Tell me, Samantha,” he began, “how did you and Holly get into the craft?”
The girl looked up at him. “Through the Harry Potter books! We wanted his powers, so we called for spirit guides. Then they came into us.” She sank onto the sofa, the man standing over her. “They led us into stuff we found in the Harry Potter books – Tarot cards, Ouija boards, crystal balls...”
The man interrupted her, “Samantha, the Potter books open a doorway that will put untold millions of kids into hell.”
This scene never took place. It comes from a comic strip by Jack T. Chick called ‘The Nervous Witch’ (2002). It does, however, reflect the real concerns of many Christians, despite the fact that there were no Tarot cards or Ouija boards in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and crystal balls were presented in nothing but the poorest light. That in itself tells us much about the Christian Fundamentalist reaction to Harry Potter. Why was the religious reaction to Rowling’s Harry Potter series so strong? Why did it seem like we were again about to relive the witch hunts of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?
Intended as an innocent and educative tale for children (and adults), Harry Potter clearly became a battleground for certain expressions of religiosity that re-ignited pre-established antagonisms towards paganism and magic. Rowling’s liberal messages of equality and the necessity of fighting tyranny, were supplanted by a focus on magic, a magic that was the root of all evil. What is shocking is how much force this backlash could assume in our supposedly globalised, multicultural world.
Nor is it simply a question of Christianity’s reaction to Harry Potter. Perceptions of the multimedia series have become a nexus of competing conflicts ranging from Islam to atheism to Wicca. Then we have a shift in some religious reactions that seemed to bear out the old adage that ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’. Harry Potter was suddenly being co-opted and resold as a Christian message. How could that come about and is it sustainable? Is this assimilation, by its distortion of the original material, yet another form of persecution?
Is it the case that in the conflict between certain elements of current religiosity and Harry Potter that ‘either must die at the hand of the other’? Are these same elements positioning themselves as Voldemort – the man who died – against Harry Potter – the boy who lived?
This is a pre-publication version of a chapter in a forthcoming book, for that reason we can only print part of it here. Read the rest in Leo Ruickbie, '"Either Must Die at the Hand of the Other": Religious Reactions to Harry Potter', in: Jennifer Patricia Sims (ed.), The Sociology of Harry Potter (Zossima, forthcoming).
Cite this article as:
Leo Ruickbie, '"Either Must Die at the Hand of the Other": Religious Reactions to Harry Potter', in: Jennifer Patricia Sims (ed.), The Sociology of Harry Potter (Zossima, forthcoming). http://www.witchology.com/contents/harrypotter/eithermustdie.php, accessed .
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