Deathly Hallows Discussion: Five More Points!

Five More Deathly Hallows HogPro Discussion Points!

26. Struggling To Believe: The Dateline/Today Interviews
27. The Bloomsbury Chat
28. Opening and Closing Chapters
29. Arthuriana
30. Best Links for Deathly Hallows Commentary

The First Twenty-Five Deathly Hallows HogPro Discussion Points:

1. The Covers
2. The Opening Quotations from Aeschylus and Penn
3. The Christian Ending
4. Stoppered Death
5. Narrative Misdirection
6. The Hero’s Journey
7. The Rubedo
8. Postmodern Themes
9. Traditional Symbolism
10. Beheadings
11. Unrequited Love
12. Horcrux Hunting
13. Ron’s Departure and Return
14. Transformations
15. Nazi Echoes
16. The Name Taboo
17. Phallic Phantasy?
18. Fairy Tales
19. The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore
20. Disappointed?
21. Philosopher Stone Echoes
22. Comparative Battle Scenes
23. Smuggling the Gospel Fallout
24. Three Controversial Points
25. John Granger at Prophecy 2007 and in Deathly Hallows?!

One more time, “Point, click, wax loquacious!”


  1. I’m not sure where I should ask this…
    I love the Potter books and am always mocked when I maintain that they are christian books. My husband (who also loves them) and I were discussing the books with some christians who didn’t like them and (though I didn’t think there objections were a cause to throw out the books by any means) I would like to know your thoughts…
    The main one, and it’s an old argument, was that “even if the stories have christian elements the main thing that children will get from the books is that magic is a cool thing and that they will want to look into it themselves.” But the Bible teaches that witchcraft is evil, Rowling purposfully put christian elements into a questionable place ect, ect…

    Another point made was that the alegory wasn’t acurate because Harry wasn’t a perfect sacrifice (as an unspotted lamb) because he had the mark of Valdemort on his forhead (the person emphesizing “mark on forhead” part.)
    I’d apreciate any thoughts about these questions. 🙂

  2. HallowsFan says

    Well, LilysMom… you came to the right place to find insight into the Christian meanings in Harry Potter!

    Mr. Granger is, to my mind, the foremost expert in this area (as well as being well-versed in both the alchemical and post-modern themes also found the Harry Potter series.)

    And most posters here are equally brilliant and insightful.

    Myself being a newbie (to posting…long-time reader, new poster) and also lacking the cleverness of most here, I am unfit to truly help you out… but I can offer one or two thoughts to you (to answer your friends’ criticisms:

    The first being about Harry not being a “perfect sacrifice” which renders the Allegory status of the story inaccurate. The simple answer is: “Exactly”. The Harry Potter series are not Allegories. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, while not always an exact “one-to-one” match, are much more the textbook definition of “Christian Allegory”. This is clear in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Aslan the Lion is clearly the Christ-figure who is sacrificed for the atonment (and salvation) of another and then is later resurrected. The “Aslan/Jesus” connection is illustrated elsewhere in the series… such as in the first book where Aslan creates Narnia by singing it into existence (Creator, Breath of Life, etc… you get the picture?).

    So, if Harry Potter is not a Narnia-style Allegory…what is it?

    I believe Mr. Granger terms it a “Christian Symbolist work, in the post-modern tradition”. In that sense, it’s a little more Lord of the Rings than Narnia… but all three series have clear “Christian” content, meaning, sybols, themes, etc.

    Harry does not represent Christ… neither did Dumbledore. But the nature of both of their sacrifices was “Christ-like”. Few passages in Literature are as moving as Harry’s “Moment of Truth” in the woods, just before he confronts Voldemort. Harry’s “Gethsemane” reminds a Christian of the nature and depth of Christ’s sacrifice and serves to bring us closer to our Lord and Savior.

    Many other passages throughout the series are chock-full of Christian imagery and symbolism–and purposefully so (!)– and the only logical conclusion is that J.K. Rowling is indeed the (post?-)modern heir to the Inkling tradition.

  3. These same christians that I was talking to also maintained that the magic in the books was real. I didn’t have a chance to talk more with them about that as everyone had to leave, but I wanted to ask what they ment. He said that Hogworts wasn’t real, but I can’t imagine that they’d think wand use, transforming teacups, and levetating people is real. I think they ment the spiritual aspects of good and evil are real and that there are witches and wizards out there and so forth. My understanding (from a friend who became a christian after being wiccan) is that real witches and wizards in the wiccan religeon use “magic” or “spells” that are more similar to prayers not at all like Harry Potter. Christians also see miricals in their lives after prayer (of a different sort) and christians are given miraculous gifts by the Holy Spirit as seen in the new testament church.
    I wonder then that perhaps the reason so many christians have a problem with the books is simply the names she calls them by. Witches are evil, therefore a book cannot be good if some witches or wizards are good?
    What would have happened if they were called something more “acceptable”?

  4. Arabella Figg says

    Hi LilysMom,

    You ask a lot of good questions. Regarding your last question, one could say the books would certainly have been less controversial!

    However, most Christians I know (and who reject Harry Potter) have no problem with the good witch Glenda in The Wizard of Oz or stories like that. In the Narnia books, Lewis uses many mythological beings. He invites Bacchus (that jolly old reprobate), satyrs and incubuses(!) to the feast in the first book. He has river gods, wood nymphs, etc. I’ve been kind of stunned, rereading the Narnia books, at stuff that’s in there, but Christians embrace them without problem.

    In Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament, look up “witch or witchcraft” and it refers you to “sorcery” which is the Greek word pharmakia, from which we get our English word pharmacy. This word “primarily signified ‘the use of medicine, drugs, spells’; then ‘poisoning’; then ‘sorcery.’ In ‘sorcery,’ the use of drugs, whether simple or potent, was generally accompanied by incantations and appeals to occult powers, with the provision of various charms, amulets, etc, professedly designed to keep the applicant or patient from the attention and power of demons, but actually to impress the applicant with the mysterious resources and powers of the sorcerer.”

    I worked with Wycliffe Bible Translators (publications) and I assure you that the shamanistic power among indigenous peoples is real and Satanic, and is used to control and terrorize. There is a world of difference between such sorcerer/shamans and the mechanical or technological “magic” in Harry Potter. There is no sorcery, occultism nor incantational magic in the Potter books (the first is actually called HP and the Philospher’s Stone, but American publishers changed it).

    I suggest you read “Looking for God in Harry Potter” by John Granger; it will answer your questions in a reassuring manner. Plus, many Christian pastors and scholars, including Tolkein and Lewis societies embrace and endorse the books.

    Your friends may never be able to accept your enjoyment of the Harry Potter books, especially if they can’t approach them with genuinely curious, open minds. I have a very biblically-educated friend who reads a lot of fantasy (some of which surprises me) and she still can’t accept Potter, because she has a resistant mindset. However, you can always offer that most powerful “deep magic” of love and acceptance to your friends–such “magic” is always well-received.

    The magic in the books isn’t real, because if I could learn to “Accio!” it would be easier to find my glasses and car keys!

    Arabella and kitties

  5. LilysMom, I think you hit the nail on the head when you say perhaps the reason some have a problem with the books is the names JKR chooses to call them by. She lifts terminology, though not actual practices, from the world of witchcraft (which she says she doesn’t believe is real). She feels free to do this as a literary device and most Christians who understand the nature of fiction have no problem with it. Some though, just can’t get past the terminology. Unfortunate for them.

  6. Arabella Figg says

    Since I can’t think of another place to put this, I’ll put it here where it’s unlikely anyone will read it but, oh well.

    I wonder if Rowling used the terms witchcraft and wizardry, as she has used others, to lift the rock that reveals our prejudices lurking beneath. Let’s face it, “wizards” are the stuff of popular fantasy and most Christians don’t seem to have much trouble with it, that I’ve heard. (Perhaps if she’d referred to all magical folk as wizards or wizards and wizardesses, the problem would have been negligible.)

    It’s those hot-button words “witch” and “witchcraft” that stir the cauldron. I find that really interesting. For one thing, it’s the feminine word that is abhorred. And it was mostly innocent women accused of “witchcraft” in the bad old days.

    I use the term in quotes, because what exactly were witches? What defined the term? In the West they were mostly were lone, (menopausal?) middle-aged or elderly women. Some were herbalists; some were possibly nasty people ripe for revenge; some likely told fortunes or made harmless love potions; some possibly had dementia. But these accused people weren’t, at least in Western countries, practicing the shamanism I described above. And, cruelly, most witch tests demanded proof of innocence which resulted in death, such as the drowning test. The hysteria surrounding the accusations is telling.

    Several years ago I read Robin Cook’s novel Acceptable Risk, which gives an intriguing explanation for witchcraft “outbreaks.” In the back he had a bibliography of books he used on the subject. I realized I didn’t know much about it and read the books. What a treasure-trove of information–I highly recommend reading them.

    Much of the witchcraft accusations arose from sociological/economic/political/geographical hostilities. Also, one author’s book posited, based on scrupulous statistical studies, that mold in grain crops due to years of heavy precipitation was responsible, toxicity resulting in bizarre behavior (what Cook used).

    Not only people exhibited strange behavior, but so did the animals. Now how could an animal be a witch?

    Anyway, back to controversial name, perhaps Rowling didn’t know what she was getting herself into and used the term quite innocently. Or perhaps, it was another turning things upside down thing, exposing our prejudices.

    It’s certainly true that there are genuine Satanists, but their number is few. And I find “converted” mediums, etc., who tell unverifiable hair-raising stories rather suspect. There were several of those books that came out in the ’70s.

    I’d like to know what you think, John (especially in light of the information I gave above). Perhaps you could start a thread on it.

    Luscious Badboy wants a ride on the broom; off we go!

  7. Arabella, I think you are accurate in your observations of the negative reaction some conservative Christians have had to the term “witch” and also to the fact of Rowling’s writing “turning over of the rock” and exposing simplistic thinking on these matters.

    But I doubt that the end result you describe was a conscious motive of Rowling’s, any more than it was a conscious motive of Madeleine L’Engle when she innocently used “The Happy Medium” and “Mrs. Which” in her “Wrinkle in Time” series and caught heck from the same types of people for similar prejudiced, simplistic reasons.

    As far as the feminine term being found more offensive, I think there’s a different explanation. The folks objecting to witchcraft in JKR’s books are primarily if not exclusively Biblical literalists, and the word “wizard” doesn’t appear in the Bible. If pressed, they will say that yes, they don’t think wizards are good either. But it is the use by JKR of words like “witch” and “witchcraft” that do appear in scripture and are there attached to actual, prohibited practices, that really gets them exercised.

  8. Arabella Figg says

    After my last night’s post on the terms witch and witchcraft, I continued to ruminate on the subject and it occurred to me to reiterate that true witchcraft is supernatural in nature. Therefore I would consider communing (or attempts to commune) with the dead, juju, voodoo, spiritism, and any occult, paranormal stuff to qualify under witchcraft, especially using it to control people through fear of supernatural retribution. I would also add serious astrology involvement to the danger zone, although I wouldn’t necessarily qualify it as witchcraft.

    Psychic/clairvoyance stuff has me somewhat perplexed. I’ve read articles and testimonials about/by people who seem to have these abilities from childhood and are initially quite frightened of them until they make a sort of peace; some claim their abilities are from God (I can’t judge the truth of that). They aren’t Satanists and many use their “gift” to aid police in solving crimes, for example. I don’t know where this comes from. Is it one of those things that is neutral in itself and can be used for good or ill, kind of like having a radio frequency unavailable to most of us?

    But the historical “witchcraft” incidents were certainly whipped up out of human foible, perhaps grain toxicity, evil intent toward the “witch” and desire for attention. There’s no indication of historical Western “witches” using what we consider “witchcraft” today and I’m not sure why we use the term. (Some slaves brought from the Caribbean certainly used Third World indigenous juju and voodoo, the shamanistic, evil-eye stuff. I learned while working with Wycliffe, that this stuff is very powerful in indigenous peoples. A shaman tells someone they’re going to die, and they do. The fear is overwhelming.)

    We moderns seem to have this physical mentality of Western “witches” displayed in Halloweeen costumes (and Harry Potter)–pointed hats, black clothes, brooms, familiars. Is there historical evidence or is this the stuff of spooky legend perpetuated around winter hearths, perhaps, to make children behave?

    Also, back to the women accused of witchcraft–most menopausal or postmenopausal, most widows living alone, perhaps with a pet to keep them company; perhaps doing a little fortunetelling, harmless charms, potions or actual herbal treatment. There was little a single woman could do in those days to support herself. It’s typical that the “righteous” would persecute the helpless, who they, as Christians, should have been caring for.

    Oh, well, got to end the meanderings. Certainly the Potter world witchcraft is not the traditional understanding of the word, although Rowling uses some of the traditional trappings–brooms, pointed hats, spells, etc. I kind of wish she’d just stuck to the word wizard/ess, instead of the loaded “witchcraft.” But, then again, back to lifting that rock of prejudice…

    Please forgive the bunny trail I’ve taken.

    Flitquick is getting all too familiar at the moment, he must want more kibbles…

  9. Actually, I always considered her to be making a fairly simple classification. In literature, the traditional male magic-user is identified as a wizard (Merlin, mostly) while the traditional female magic user is a witch. That’s part of why I always thought the claims that she was a “white witch” or encouraging the occult were ridiculous: the main terms for magic users shared only the literary connection, not a worldview one (like witch/warlock) or word form (sorcerer/ess.) To pick either of these two might also have generated a gender role debate (which is superior, male or female); picking the prototype for each sex implies an equality that got lost in the “witchcraft” rigamarole.

    (Like Karl, I also think the “witch” connection got more traction simply because that term appears in the Bible where “wizard” does not. To some folks, that was enough; explaining that Hermione is far closer to Glenda the Good than the Witch of Endor falls on deaf ears.)

  10. It’s a sad and tragic fact of church history that (alas!) the Church invented the concept of selling one’s soul to the devil in exchange for magic powers (as practiced by so-called “Satanists”) and developed the understanding of witchcraft as inherently evil. This is a historical development, not a Biblical one … but many moderns do not wish to hear it.

    To aid in the detection (and subsequent prosecution) of witches, a couple of monks were assigned to research the matter and develop a guidebook. The end product was called “Malleus Malefactorum” (translated as “hammer against works – or workers – of evil”). During the “witch craze” era in Europe and America (by the end of that period) a copy was on the desk of every judge where Christendom held sway.

    What the monks discovered and documented were almost certainly folk remedies for various illnesses, superstitious sorts of customs for planting and harvest, fertility and birthing “charms,” and things like that. None of it was inherently evil of itself, just long-standing practices with old, old roots that probably went back to pagan times. However, the monks embroidered on their findings to make them evil and suspect – including the claim that witches signed a contract with the devil so that these “magical spells” would work. As far as can be determined, no one thought of trying to make a pact with the devil until these monks suggested that such a thing could be done.

    And now far too many people today try to do this very thing … the fault lies with the Church as a whole, as does the guilt from countless murders of women who were a little odd, a little different, a little inconvenient but who were nevertheless faithful daughters of the church.

    Kyrie eleison; Lord, have mercy!

  11. Arabella Figg says

    Karl, thank you for your thoughtful and insightful comments. Discovering L’Engle in my mid-20s, I do recall hearing such reactionary words, which I thought silly. It’s sad that Christians focus on words (the surface) and refuse to see the nuance of their use.

    I wrote my second expanding comment before yours appeared, or I wouldn’t have written it. I simply got intrigued over the whole witch thing, spurred on by LilysMom’s question.

    You have an excellent point about “wizard” not being a biblical term. And men were also accused of witchcraft, but it was mostly women, a powerless gender at the time. Witchcraft accusations died around the turn of the 19th century, as I recall from the grain mold historian, when better grain storage methods came about; certainly a support for her thesis.

    I appreciate your responding, Karl. I truly thought no one would read this.

    The kitties think you’re wizard!

  12. The interesting thing about a fantasy story is that you have to take the “magic” seriously or it just won’t work. Rowling is such a masterful storyteller that everyone does just that – they take it seriously. But, step back and think about it for a minute. Does it really matter how much you flick your wrist as you wave around a stick of wood yelling out Latin words? Can you really avoid a curse by ducking behind a sofa? Would any self-respecting “witch” spend time making up “All Flavor Beans?” HAH HAH. Step back from the story for a minute and you’ll see just how silly the magic really is. It’s Monty Python does Alchemy. On one level at least, Rowling has created an extended parody of folklore, legend, myth and literary tradition. Her genius is that she gets people to buy into it such that you accept the danger to the hero without question. Even her detractors have taken it very seriously, just like in the Middle Ages.

    On another level, I think Rowling as done something spectacular: Just as a science fiction writer will project the current level of technology forward in time to ask what the future might look like, Rowling steps back in time and projects medieval attitudes forward into the twentieth century. If the ancient world view continued along its same path without branching off into empirical science, what would such a society look like today? It sets up an interesting contrast between the medieval approach to knowledge and the modern “empirical” approach.

  13. Karl, the only reason words like Witch and Witchcraft apear in the Bible is because that is what the Greek/Hebrew was translated into. Without delving and finding out what the full meaning of the original words were, it is difficult to say whether they match the concept of a western witch (but I doubt it!). There is a definite Wizard-type in Acts 8. the GNB calls him a magician and the NIV calls him a sorcerer but the description of his activities falls short of the ‘w’ word; which I suspect the translators would have used had it been a woman. I notice that Hogwarts is a school of witchcraft AND wizardry; probably because some stuff is better/uniquely performed by females or vice versa. Wizardry, however, always seems to get a better press than witchcraft. Thanks, Ms Figg, for raising this point – most interesting!

  14. Rearda, I am only explaining the mindset of the fundamentalists who are anti-Rowling, not agreeing with or justifying it. Most of the knee jerk negative reaction to HP comes from Biblical literalists who aren’t going to know about or be interested in the nuances of Greek/Hebrew translation or whether the practices of the witch of Endor or Simon the sorcerer had anything to do with western concepts of witchcraft. They are simply going to see the word “witch” wherever it appears and link it to the biblical prohibitions against witchcraft, and be certain that ends the matter. “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18) is what jumps to their minds. While they would also upon reflection say that any male claiming to do magic or calling himself a wizard is equally in the wrong, the words”magic” and “wizard” don’t conjur up the instant knee-jerk alarm and condemnation that the words “witch” and “witchcraft” do. It doesn’t make sense, it isn’t logical, but it’s how those people react (I hesitate to say it’s how they “think” because I don’t think there’s much thinking going on). That reaction though, has much more to do with wooden biblical literalism and failure to properly exercise critical thinking skills than it does with latent misogyny, IMO.

  15. I should add though that I agree with Arabella’s suggestion, that the witch hunting in the middle ages through the 18th century did have a lot to do with misogyny coupled with superstition and misunderstanding, often aided and abetted by petty jealousies and vendettas (once you’ve accused your neighbor of being a witch there’s precious little she can do to save herself, and after she’s been hanged she won’t be around for your husband to ogle anymore, etc.)

  16. Arabella Figg says

    Oh, I love this discussion and am glad I provoked it (with the transliteration information beforehand). I haven’t seen the idea of the term “witch” seriously discussed/debated, other than, as Karl puts it, in emotional knee-jerk “my brain Teflons it” reaction. I hope the discussion continues.

    Thanks, Trudy K, for the monk historical info (I probably read it in the books and forgot) and Phuego–Monty Python Does Alchemy, hilarious!

    Monty Python would have a ball with the kitties…

  17. Arabella Figg says

    I’d like to add something to my comments about people who seem to be born with some psychic abilities (as in the prevalent “second sight” amongst the Scots).

    In no way do I mean the kind of thing discussed in this article, , those who engage in spiritualism and make money off the gullible.

    Although, interestingly enough, modern spiritualism began in the church.

    The kitties foresee a treat coming…

  18. says

    You have made some interesting points. Since I know a number of biblical literalists who are also Harry Potter fans, I think the key factor is your second one: a “failure to properly exercise critical thinking skills”.

    The same Hebrew root, KShPh, is used in the feminine form in Ex.22:17, but in the masculine form in Ex.7:11 (Pharaoh’s sorcerers). Does that mean that male sorcerers are OK?
    I think not. A more likely explanation is that generic frameworks are used (much as we use doctor/he and nurse/she, even though there are many female doctors and male nurses). Of course, a biblical literalist might disagree. 🙂
    The root meaning is “to pray during worship”, and in scripture only applies to idols and other non-Yahweh gods. This supports the contention that the “witches” and “witchcraft” of the Harry Potter world, being non-incantational, is of a different kind than the prohibition of Ex.22:17.
    Aside. Doing this bit of research reminded me how much Hebrew and Arabic are alike. The Hebrew root /KShPh/ (prayer to idol) is prefixed with the /m/ sound, which means “one who”, and pluralized with /im/, becoming mkashephim [sorcerers], used in Ex.7:11. This is like the Arabic jihad being prefixed with the /m/ sound and adding the plural suffix /in/ to become mujihadeen.

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