Is J. K. Rowling a Satanist? Really?

In the last month, three readers have left comments on two HogwartsProfessor threads in which notes they accuse Rowling of being a Satanist.

‘YouveBeenDUped’ wrote about Rowling’s Solve et Coagula tattoo that “The words on her wrist are the same words on the baphomet of the Church of Satan….YUP”.

Clayton MacDonald said much the same thing after I wrote about the meaning of Solve et Coagula. He said, “You realize she’s paying homage to the baphomet. It’s the same tattoo the baphomet has written on it’s arms. The baphomet is the devil that satanists worship. Fact check me and tell me I’m wrong.”

Michael Todd and Erin Barr echoed this after the same post albeit with an ad hominem zinger: “She’s a satanist, don’t believe me? Check out what’s tattooed on the baphtomet (sic), the satanist goat god. But you will still follow her, because you don’t believe.”

What are they going on about? What is a baphomet? What does it have to do with Rowling’s tattoo and with Satanism?

I wrote Nick Jeffry, my go-to HogPro All-Pro on research questions, with these head scratchers. He responded:

JK makes a most unlikely satanist.

Baphomet originates from a mediaeval French corruption of Muhammed from the crusades. It was most famously used in the trials of the Templars, but was there described only as the idol of a head or skull.

The depiction you attach [the goat god statue] was created by Eliphas Levi in 1856 in a work called Dogma and Ritual of the Art of Magic. He was a sort of 19th century [Aleister] Crowley. Levi seems to have grafted the Hermetic idea of Solve et Coagula on to the Baphomet myth, and because of the goat-like image this has been adopted by the modern church of Satan.

Here, then, is the connection these three anti-occult Christian cultists are making.

(1) The goat-god statue used by the Church of Satan has the alchemical maxim Solve et Coagula, ‘Solve’ on the statue’s inside right arm and ‘Coagula’ on its inside left arm.

(2) J. K. Rowling had the same words tattooed on her right inside wrist. [We don’t know if it is still there; Rowling and this tattoo have only been seen in pictures taken at the HBO documentary opening in NYC last month (i.e., the ink might be water soluble rather than indelible).]

(3) Ergo, J. K. Rowling is a Satanist. She must be; her tattoo binds her to the Satanist baphomet.

If you doubt this logical demonstration, a sign perhaps of the weakness of your Christian faith, there is even more evidence.

Rowling was asked point blank about Christian objections to her Hogwarts novels during a BBC program (story and transcript here). It was recorded last summer and aired the week of Western Christmas. Read her testimony for Satan and weep:

BBC: You get some flack in the States, I think, because people say it’s Satanic…

JKR: Well, it is, John, it is Satanic and I think that now is the night to say it. Thank you for enabling me to say that at last. It’s a great relief and a liberation. I have to say I have a PR person here with me tonight. She’s sitting with her head in her hands at the moment.

Now Rowling’s defenders, “non-believing followers” in Erin Barr speech, will be obliged to say that Rowling said this sarcastically. They are obliged to assert that her laughter while blurting out this confession that Harry Potter is “satanic” and the crowd’s amusement along with the panel, something like hilarity, proves she was only joking. Rowling’s follow-up comment about the panicked “PR person” is a cue, from this view, that Rowling knows that the Harry Haters will twist this joking aside into a testimony of faith in Satan.

Oddly enough, though, the Harry Haters haven’t responded to this, or, at least, they haven’t written me any ‘I told you so’s about this. All I’m getting is the repeated revelation that Rowling is a Satanist, because, y’know, the baphomet. I suspect when they do become aware of this explicit confession, it will be because I published the BBC program transcript.

Mr. Jeffry points out that Rowling “makes a most unlikely Satanist.” Why? It’s not just that the alchemical maxim predates the goat statue in question by centuries and that Jungian psychologists understand ‘Solve et Coagula‘ as short-hand for the working action of talking therapies. And it’s not that the appearance of the tattoo is an interior text that largely explains the Trans Tweet of 19 December rather than a token of her conversion to Satanism.

Rowling “makes an unlikely Satanist” because her life and work and personal testimony are all witnesses to her faith in Christ. If you don’t get that, read my How Harry Cast His Spell or Beatrice Groves’ Literary Allusion in Harry Potter.

I’ll allow that Rowling is not a public Christian, meaning she doesn’t mention her faith without being asked about it (which makes her typical of UK Christians in my experience). She isn’t a devotional, evangelical, or a Social Gospel Christian, either. She isn’t even a conventional Christian in the Church of Scotland, the Kirk, but a member of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, the Anglican Communion faith up north.

  • She was married in that faith community, though, and has had her children baptized.
  • She has written novels that are suffused with traditional Christian symbolism and esoteric meaning after the fashion of English hermetic writers from Chaucer and Shakespeare to Marvell, Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams.
  • Rowling has also given millions of pounds sterling to charitable causes, most especially the Volant Trust and Lumos, charities created in her name and with her generous funding to fight the good fight for those affected by crippling neurological disorders or by being placed as children in an institution rather than growing up in a family.

Any one of these three behaviors as Mr Jeffrey points out makes for “a most unlikely Satanist.”

Reading the new ‘Satanist Tattoo’ proof of Rowling’s apostacy and paganism, I confess to feeling myself once again back in the day of The Controversy, the years during which it was understood as something of a commonplace that Rowling was a witch and her books were “a gateway to the occult.” The mob is once again chanting something outrageous about her — this year’s groove is “Transphobe!” and TERF!” instead of ‘Witch!’ — because of an intentionally malignant or follow-the-herd reactionary interpretation of something she wrote.

This time, of course, the mob is not a group of Church Ladies and Culture Warriors but many of those who identify as LGBTQ+ and their supporters. It seems natural and appropriate somehow, though, that the Old School Harry Haters show up during this open season on Rowling to accuse her of Satanism – and to say anyone not agreeing with them is not a Christian believer.

An Orthodox Christian priest, one who had grown up in a Bible Believing sect, explained to me during the heyday of Harry Hating that the challenge facing a pastor in these communities is to create a sufficient number of touchstones or litmus strip tests so that believers in the cult would always have tools at hand when in contact with outsiders to be sure they were safely on the inside and ‘saved.’ These tests created a secret language, a collection of references that amounted to a code and purity test, to which he or any member could refer to obliquely and the meaning of which would still be evident in its fullness.

Reading Harry Potter became just this kind of inside/outside test for these groups, tiny one-church sects and whole communities within the Catholic, Orthodox, and mainline churches. The Satanist baphomet must be another litmus strip gauge, especially if it can linked to the author of Harry Potter. As true as this touchstone magic marker tokenism may be of religious cults, it has its equivalents in secular political parties as well, especially when it comes to policing speech about protected classes of people. Fundamentalism is no longer just a religious thing, if it ever was.

Russian formalist critics believed that the great purpose of art and letters was to ‘defamiliarize’ or ‘enstrange,’ to blow up the rote and reactionary thinking that no longer sees but only reacts to stimulus according to pattern.  The great writers are the great liberators. Rowling, frankly, is the master of this craft. It should be no surprise, then, that the secular and sacred sectarians whose bread and butter are mechanical believers who spurn others and embrace their brethren at the showing of an image or secret word must turn on Rowling. They recognize her intuitively as an enemy of their peace of mind.

Or so I think. I look forward to your comment and correction.

{June, 2021: This post’s comment thread has become the site’s ‘nutter bin.’ None of the comment writers calling out Rowling as a Satanist used their given names or a real email address; their comments have been deleted and the post closed for further comments.}


  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    It’s worth noting that A.E. Waite’s translation of Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie [Dogma and Ritual of the Art of Magic] as Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual is variously scanned in the Internet Archive, as is the French original in various editions, as well as other works by Alphonse Louis Constant (‘Éliphas Lévi’) and Waitean (and others’) translations.

    It is perhaps also worth reading what Williams says about alchemists in Witchcraft (1941), available in transcription at faded page.

    Might we say, without prejudicing the discussion, that we are involved with numerous ‘spectra’ – of authors using imagery, of self-described alchemists, even of self-described Satanists? (Williams imagines a striking variety of cooperating but distinct Satanists – and a further cooperating but further distinct creepy knighted academic – in War in Heaven.)

    I joined a joyful celebration of Christmas earlier this week in a parish under the Patriarch of Moscow, but have the impression that there are Orthodox who do not recognize my baptism – or those of Mrs. Murray’s children – including some who might well toss around suggestions of association with Satan respecting those not in communion with themselves/their Patriarchate, etc.

  2. Melissa Aaron (Moonyprof) says

    She was kidding, and secure enough in her faith to know that no one would take her being a Satanist seriously. For what it is worth, Episcopalians,* on the whole, are not known for wearing faith on our sleeves. As one of God’s Frozen People and proud of it, I was very glad when the Decade of Evangelism was over. This has nothing to do with not taking it seriously. I’ve always seen it as obeying the injunction to pray in private rather than on the street corner. As you’ve observed, her faith is in works. She has nothing to prove.

    *ECUSA is a descendant of the Scottish Episcopal Church. This is because no English bishop would ordain an American bishop. Americans could only be confirmed if they were wealthy enough to travel to Britain. Samuel Seabury was ordained by three non-juring Scottish bishops on the condition that the American church would use the Scottish BCP.