Harry Potter


"Wiccans are not all that wild about Harry Potter"

by Jan Glidewell ("St. Petersburg Times," November 16, 2001)

One of the most hilarious things about the Harry Potter flap (and, yes, I consider people getting their underwear in a bunch over Harry Potter to be hilarious) is that most of the hysteria is antiwitch, and witches don't like Harry Potter books any more than most of the Christian right.
The last time I made the mistake of referring to the Harry Potter series of books as pro-Wiccan, somebody posted it on a Wiccan bulletin board, and I got deluged with e-mails from all over the country from witches ranging from disappointed to furious that I had done so.
It's not that they minded the books as literature; in fact, some of them like them and defend them publicly, but many are unhappy that others believe the books have anything to do with the realities of their religion. They said, correctly, that Harry's flying brooms and transformational spells have about as much to do with Wicca (the religion of those called witches) as flying carpets have to do with Sufism, Easter bunnies with Christianity, or living in Miami Beach with Judaism.
I have spent a considerable portion of my life in the company of Wiccans, have several Wiccan friends, have attended numerous Wiccan ceremonies and have a better-than-average familiarity with what witches do and believe.
Wicca is pagan, a nature-based religion that is usually goddess centered and, in most cases, bases its beliefs on the "Wiccan Rede," which states, in various forms, "And it harm none, do what you will."
Wiccans are not exclusive of other religions. Many consider themselves as Christian and Jewish, and see no conflict. In fact, they point out correctly, symbols like Easter bunnies, Easter eggs and Christmas trees have their basis in pagan ceremonies of renewal and rebirth and the pagan Yule holiday rather than in Judeo-Christian heritage.
But there can be no doubt that the idea of witchcraft angers, scares and upsets a lot of people who are convinced that only one faith, theirs, is valid, and that all others, by definition, are evil.
They sometimes forget to mention that the same Scriptures they cite also sanction slavery and putting people to death who work on the Sabbath and forbid eating shellfish or approaching an altar with defective eyesight. Also forbidden are trimming hair, planting different crops in the same field and wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread.
Seems to me like some prohibitions get more attention than others.
And, let's face it, nobody likes being stereotyped.
It is almost impossible to see a performance of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice anywhere today because of the Jewish stereotype set forth in Shylock, the title role, and because of the strong anti-Semitic cant of some of the language. Rather than use it as a teaching tool to explain why stereotypes are unfair and to show how things have changed in the last 400-plus years, most educators and theater groups just ignore it.
Many Christians complained regularly about the Dana Carvey Saturday Night Live character, Church Lady, seeing it as the same type of unpleasant stereotype.
And witches are getting tired of being shown with green warty faces, riding around on brooms and cackling "Double, double, toil and trouble" while dancing around a cauldron full of weird substances.
Some folks see evil witchcraft lurking everywhere -- for instance, in the magic beans of Jack and the Beanstalk and the magic crystals in James and the Giant Peach.
Some Buddhists didn't like the portrayal of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha in the movie The Little Buddha; it's for darn sure that a lot of Muslims were offended by Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, although I am amazed that anyone was able to make enough sense out of it to be offended; and as I remember it, The Last Temptation of Christ made a lot of Christians angry enough to vandalize movie screens. (I saw it under armed guard.) Come on, folks, relax.
Harry Potter is fiction.
It's fun.
And it's optional. If you are really that bothered by it, nobody is making you or your kids read the books or watch the movies.