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Alison Siggard: This is Episode 210 of Alohomora! for January 7, 2017.
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Alison: Hello, listeners. Welcome to another episode of Alohomora! as we delve into topics relating to the Harry Potter series. And Happy New Year, everybody!
Rosie Morris: Happy New Year!
Alison: I’m Alison Siggard.
Rosie: I’m Rosie Morris.
Nicole Rivera: I’m Nicole Rivera.
Alison: And Nicole is doing double duty today. She’s a host and also our guest. Our guest, unfortunately, couldn’t make it. So welcome, Nicole!
[Alison and Nicole laugh]
Alison: Tell us a little bit about yourself. I don’t think you’ve been here for a while.
Nicole: Yeah, well, I work for MuggleNet [on] the Creative Team. I’m a manager. I’ve been working for MuggleNet since the beginning of 2014, I think. [laughs] Or 2015. I can’t quite remember. And I love Harry Potter. I’ve loved Harry Potter since it first came out when I was in… well, since the third book came out when I was in high school. And I love to write and to read the series over and over again, and I particularly love relating and figuring out how Harry Potter and the Bible relate to each other and just finding different parallels and symbols and things between the two.
Rosie: Which is why Nicole makes the perfect guest for our topic this week.
Rosie: Because – very nicely there – our topic is actually religion and fate, and we are looking at all the different ways that the Harry Potter books relate [not only] to Christianity […] but also to other religions around the world and throughout history and looking at those different parallels and all those different kinds of things. Yeah. [laughs]
Alison: Before we dive into that, though, we want to let you know that this episode is sponsored by Ian Wagner on Patreon. Yay! Thank you!
Rosie: Thank you, Ian!
Alison: We always clap. You too, listeners, can become a sponsor for as little as $1 a month. And we are always so, so grateful for all that you guys do. You are the reason we’re still here and we’re still discussing. So we do continue to release exclusive tidbits for our sponsors. We have a new perk, remember, that Michael will read to you, which is exciting. So head on over to patreon.com/alohomora or alohomora.mugglenet.com and check that out.
Rosie: So obviously, when we’re dealing with religion, there are sensitivities, and there’s a lot of information out there about whether or not people should read fantasy and books that include magic when they are practicing certain religions. And we will be touching on that a little bit later on, but we wanted to start off by giving a little bit of background about our personal views and also our particular interests when it comes to this topic, just like we do every week. So personally, myself, I am atheist/agnostic (somewhere in between), so I don’t have a particular religious view when it comes to the books. I know, girls, you guys are slightly different.
Alison: Yes. I’m Christian. I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons or LDS, and I’ve been a member my whole life, so that’s my viewpoint.
Nicole: I didn’t really… Well, I grew up… It’s interesting. Okay.
Nicole: So I was baptized Lutheran because my grandparents… One was Catholic, the other one was Baptist, and it was like a compromise.
[Alison and Rosie laugh]
Nicole: But I didn’t really go to Church or anything, and then in high school, because of the Columbine thing that happened when I was in middle school, my parents put me in Catholic school. But I didn’t know anything about it, so I was just thrust in, and when we’d go to service and stuff, I had no idea what I was doing. I was that awkward kid who…
Nicole: … was like, “Hey, what’s the next thing that I have to say? And I don’t know what I’m doing at all.” And then when I got out of school, I was atheist/agnostic. I really didn’t – I don’t know – have a particular belief. And then when I was 19 or so, then I learned more about what Christianity was and… Because I always grew up celebrating Christmas and stuff, but it was more of a Santa Claus thing. I really didn’t know anything about Jesus or anything. And so when I got into my 20s and I learned about that, then I became a Christian. And that’s when I realized the different correlations and relations between Harry Potter and the Bible. And that was helped by my deep interest in everything John Granger writes.
[Nicole and Rosie laugh]
Alison: So we have all got different views, which will be good for this discussion. But we’ve all also got different things we’re looking at. Rosie do you want to start with yours on this particular discussion?
Rosie: Sure. So I’ve talked before about my interest in medieval history, and part of that also comes into classical literature and things as well. So I’ve got a particular interest in pre-Christian religions. So things like Greek and Roman mythology, Norse mythology, ancient Sumerian mythology – which if you happen to know nothing about it, it’s really interesting. Go […] check it out – and how the same stories seem to recreate themselves throughout history and throughout different religions. And there [are] definitely aspects of that in Harry Potter, which will be really interesting to discuss a little bit later on. Which I think ties into your viewpoint slightly, Alison?
Alison: Yeah. So I am looking at that pattern of storytelling as well that’s come from mythology and religion and things like that. Because if you study other major world religions as well, there’s a lot of interesting similarities between them, and we see some of those patterns popping up in Harry Potter as well.
Rosie: And one of the first things, to dive straight in there, one of the patterns that always keep coming up throughout many different religions, is the idea of prophecy and fate and whether or not something has a set way for us to live, is controlling how our life will pan out. And obviously, if anyone’s read the books you, can see that there is a definite element of fate that is focusing all the way through Harry’s story, whether or not he has to do certain things because of a preset plan or whether he has the choices within his own life to affect that. So what do you guys think? Is Harry’s life completely controlled by fate or does he have some control over what he actually ends up doing?
Nicole: I mean, if we’re relating it back to a biblical thing, there [are] two wrestling but [parallel] things where God – and it talks about it in Psalm 139, which is one of my [favorites] – knows what we’re going to do beforehand. He almost has a “prewritten plan” for us. But at the same time, there’s a biblical theme [that] we have choice. He gave us free will and free choice, which… That choice enables us to actually be able to love and for love to exist. So I think it’s a combination. Yeah, the prophecy is there for Harry, but there’s also that because over and over again, Dumbledore tells him, “Yes, the prophecy’s there, but the only reason it’s happening is because Voldemort chose to make it happen.” And Harry is choosing to take Voldemort down. So I think it’s very blurry, but I think there [are] both fate or whatever you want to call it – destiny, prophecy – and choice going on at the same time.
Alison: Yeah, and I think that that paradox is what makes the prophecy in Harry Potter that sets everything off more interesting than I think a lot of other fantasy series delve into because a lot of times, if there’s a chosen one prophecy, everyone just accepts that it’s inevitable to some extent. But I think that it’s interesting, and Nicole, you mentioned that conversation Dumbledore has with Harry of… Nothing would have happened if Voldemort hadn’t made a choice. But then Voldemort made a choice, and so now Harry has to make a choice, and only when they make those choices will this prophecy actually come true. So it’s kind of this paradox, but it also is bringing those two things together in a way that I think works and that I think comes to… I don’t want to say “be more realistic,” but that’s the only thing I can think of of how to say that, is to be more complex, the way life is, I guess.
Nicole: Yeah. Well, it’s like [how] Rowling came from a more Christian background, so she was writing it from that perspective. And I mean, even in the Bible, Satan makes certain choices, and Christ, even though he is prophesied to make this choice, to make this sacrifice, he still has a choice in it because he could have chosen not to go through with it. And we see that when he’s in the garden, praying to God, and he’s praying for him to take this burden from him, but then he also chooses, “Not my will but your will be done,” so it’s the same interplay. And don’t know if that’s where she got it from; I’m assuming that she’s basing this on her faith and an exploration of her faith, that that’s where she might have gotten it from, because there is that complex paradox between the two. You’re destined to this and you have to almost robot mentality and choice. And without the two of them working together, it doesn’t really work. I don’t know; it’s hard to explain and understand fully. But yeah, I totally get what you’re saying.
Rosie: Yeah, and I think there’s a theme that has been running throughout literature throughout history as well. There’s plenty of Greek myths where the people are warned not to do a certain thing because a bad thing will happen and then still make the choice to do it. Or they’re told some element of their future, in terms of prophecy, and they do everything that they can to avoid that and yet somehow still end up achieving it. There are all of these elements as to whether or not our choices are actually free choices or whether or not they are just different roots on the same path that will end up in the same place. And I do think a lot of what Dumbledore is saying – like you were saying just a second ago – suggests that there is a certain amount of free choice, and there is a certain amount of control we have over our lives, or these characters have over theirs, that will affect the future. But even with the prophecy that Voldemort makes the choice, he really had only three options once he had heard that prophecy: Either he ignores it and thinks he’s all-powerful and goes on with everything, and essentially none of this story would have happened. Or he believes it and chooses Harry and marks him as his equal. Or he [chooses] Neville. And from a scientific philosophy/parallel universe standpoint, that would be a choice that would then split into the three different versions in a multiverse. So if you believe in multiple universes, there would be a universe where each one of those choices has happened, and therefore, there are three different stories that are happening. And it’s interesting to see how this particular story plays out, this particular choice affects the future. And that is really where the idea of prophecy and fate splits because you’re following along one line, and whether or not you are swapping in between… If anyone has been watching The Flash recently, you can see flashpoint and multiverses and all that kind of thing. That is where predestination and fate [break] down and where people can really make a difference in their own lives rather than having to end up in one particular point. And I think, from a narrative standpoint, it’s interesting to see books like Prisoner of Azkaban, where the idea of predestination and these choices starts to waiver slightly, because we think that we are changing things, and we have those three different choices that Voldemort made, but if we’ve got elements of time travel and we’ve got elements of some things that happened [that] always had to happen – Harry saving them at the lake, for example, because he already saw himself there, becomes a fixed point – how, then, do elements of religion work into that and was there always a plan that Harry would have been there at that moment and seen that and therefore realize that he had to save the day? And if so, what other influences were making sure he got there? It’s all very complicated. This is going to be a very long, circular episode.
[Alison and Nicole laugh]
Rosie: I feel like I was talking for a very long time there, and I’m not entirely sure I made sense. So please stay with us, listeners. I’m sorry about that!
Rosie: Hopefully, some of that made sense.
[Alison and Rosie laugh]
Alison: Well, I think it almost has to do with the unknown. And I mean, that works into both religion and magic in a lot of ways. There are things that just aren’t known that we can’t comprehend, and so you get these tricky, circular things where it’s like, “All right. Who knows how it’s actually working? It just works sometimes.”
Alison: Which is the next point, that there’s this idea of magic as religion in the series. Rosie, I think, was that you’re point?
Nicole: The main point of magic versus religion was just there. I just added “magic as religion/Christianity in the series.” That’s what I see it as, even though I know a lot of people don’t see it that way. [laughs]
Alison: Because that’s interesting because didn’t Jo on Twitter say that there is religion in the wizarding world? I think she mentioned something about Anthony Goldstein being Jewish, right? So there’s that hint that there could be religion, and it seems like that would almost come from Muggle-borns, then, more than anything, in a lot of ways. It would come from Muggle-borns maybe who were raised in Muggle society and have religion or are religious themselves and then come to Hogwarts and have a different viewpoint there. Which is interesting because I feel like we usually compare magic to science.
Nicole: For this one, I saw it as…. I don’t know. When I was reading it, not knowing all the extra information on everything… She’s showing what it’s like… Sometimes if you grow up in a particular religion or Christianity, you feel almost… or in… I have friends [who] are Jewish, so some of them are Orthodox, so you’re growing up away from society but part of society because I mean, you’re going to different schools, you have a different type of culture and lifestyle that’s… I live in South Florida, so I’m in… Every type of person is here, but at the same time, there’s this very close-knit, sometimes often either misunderstood or segregated life that plays to your particular religion. In my case, that would be Christianity, but I have friends [who] are Jewish, and they went to Jewish schools, and they have completely different customs and ways they… Their Sabbath is on Saturday versus ours. We celebrate on Sunday. And they have different ways to go about that. Different types of clothing that identif[y] them. My family lives in Amish Country, and they separate themselves from the world while they’re still living in the world, so to me, going to Hogwarts and everything like that was always “Okay, this is the place that you’re going to learn about your faith, to be around other people your age [who] are learning, growing up in your faith,” and then you come back into the Muggle world, and you’re interacting with others, but you feel a little different because you have this other culture and perspective going on in your life too. That’s how I thought.
Rosie: That’s really interesting. Because I definitely agree with the idea of it being where you would learn about a culture, and this is where you would learn with other people of the same culture and all that kind of thing. But I don’t necessarily see that culture as necessarily having to be a religious aspect, and I think Hogwarts itself doesn’t necessarily have to be everyone believing the same thing in the way that, like you were saying, you would have a Christian community or a Jewish community, and those communities don’t always crossover or bleed into each other, whereas I think at Hogwarts it could definitely be a melting pot of different religious beliefs. There’s nothing that’s saying that all the different people who are in Gryffindor House have to believe in the same religion or they have to believe in the same thing, and I think there’s a really interesting thing where we’re saying Anthony Goldstein might be Jewish, and we’ve seen characters with Indian backgrounds, African backgrounds, and various different cultural backgrounds. You go to Hogwarts or go to other magical schools around the world, and there’s nothing to say that those people can’t be practicing their own private religions or religions with their families or the religions in their own cultures. And then they all come together in Hogwarts, and there’s nothing dividing them; there’s nothing keeping them separate. They can have their own personal beliefs and also have magic. Personally…
Nicole: Which I completely agree with. I was just meaning not that Hogwarts is specifically one religion. Their “faith” is magic or being wizards or whatever that they share within their different communities. So I wasn’t really referring to each religion in the school.
Rosie: No, of course not.
Nicole: More of just the magic being the faith aspect, whatever that faith aspect is to whomever, that’s that… I don’t know. I guess if you’re growing up with faith – I don’t know – it makes you feel like, “Oh, you have a Hogwarts to go to” or you have a… I don’t know if I’m making any sense. [laughs]
Rosie: No, yeah, so faith is a way of seeing and understanding the world, and for some people, science is that as well, but they wouldn’t necessarily call science a religion or a faith; they see it as a set way of understanding the world, and historically, “real magic” was a way of understanding the world. It was a practice of a specific kind of sciences that had a set amount of rules and therefore could explain certain things that happened in the world whether it was the influence of gods or fates or things like the Wheel of Fortune was considered a real thing right up until the medieval period, and it bled into Christianity and has now been forgotten about in terms of a real force in the world, but it was a certain belief at the time. So definitely where magic is a way of understanding powers in the world and shaping and controlling elements of the world, it can definitely be seen as a religious or a faith-based idea there. So our next topic of discussion is interesting because it deals with the fact that Harry Potter is blurring a fictional and a real world. Hogwarts, as we were saying, is a place that you can’t go to, but it exists as an aspect of Scotland and an aspect of the United Kingdom and an aspect of our world. It takes place in our current timeline but just beyond the Muggle viewpoint. So when there is a question of “Is there a wizard god or wizard gods?” it’s interesting to think about whether or not there is a fictional religion within this world that J.K. Rowling has created or whether or not it relies heavily on the existing religions of our Earth. Do you guys think that there would be separate gods for the magical communities around the world that they would believe in separate [from] the ones that the Muggles believe in?
Nicole: I thought it was the blending of the two. I thought it was that it’s not a separate religion to be a wizard. I think they just have whatever their faith base is, is their viewpoint, because Harry’s family celebrates Christmas, and they do all that stuff, so they don’t have another faith.
Alison: Yeah. I think because she’s knit this wizarding world so tightly with our world, where it’s there but it’s hidden, and it’s been a part of the fabric of British history and society… I mean, she’s tied those things together. I’m inclined to say no, that it’s almost like having a secret club to be a wizard, almost in a way.
Alison: Where it’s like we have a secret club, but we’re still here in the normal world, and we interact with other people and do other things, so despite what StarKid said…
[Alison and Rosie laugh]
Alison: … I’m inclined to say, “No, they don’t have their own separate deity.”
Rosie: Yeah, I would agree. There’s so much evidence in some of the established holidays and things that we see that are too close to the existing world to require another religion or anything like that. Things like the fact that when we go to Godric’s Hollow, there’s a church there, and there’s a graveyard outside, and that would be heavily relying on Christian religion as its focus. Whether or not that church was to [the] Christian God or to a wizard god is not discussed.
[Alison and Rosie laugh]
Rosie: So it’s something we can’t definitely say yes or no to, and it’s interesting to think about whether or not there would be another aspect, or maybe it’s a separate form of Christianity that splits off in the same way that Christianity splits into Catholicism, Protestantism, all of the other different types. There’s nothing to say there isn’t a particular branch of Christianity that is more focused on wizards and the acceptance of magic as a force given by God, perhaps. But it’s interesting that that church does exist in a village that is specifically meant to be a wizarding village as well.
Alison: Yeah. That is an interesting thing. How would…? Ever since she’s talked about that tweet, I’ve wondered, how do these kids, and then therefore as they grow to be adults, reconcile these two things? How do they reconcile having magic and being a wizard and if they’re religious, being religious? And I think it’s interesting to think that maybe a lot of them do see it as a gift or some sort of blessing, in a way, that’s been given to them for some reason. It’s interesting.
Rosie: Definitely. I think the real world parallel that we can find there would obviously be certain religious teachings on things like sexuality and the fact that if you’re born gay and your religion is teaching you that that is a sin, how do you reconcile that difference of opinion? And I think a lot of people take on their personal faith and then what the established religion is telling them and say, “Well, actually, those don’t necessarily match. Maybe it’s not my faith that’s the problem, but the established teachings of a certain religion, and therefore, things change.” Or they adapt their own thinking about themselves and that kind of thing to suit, and I don’t think having a gift like magic would be much more different than that. These are the facts of your life. How do you reconcile that with the teachings that are around you? Do you match with that belief or do you change it based on what you believe are the facts? And hopefully, the wizarding world would be nice and accepting [laughs] and a much more comfortable place than sometimes our real world can be for people who have similar dilemmas.
Nicole: Yeah, I think that it all goes back to every denomination or every person interprets things differently, and I think that people believe that the Bible says different things, but we’re all reading an interpretation of a text that’s thousands of years old, so there is room for different errors. But I also feel like, as far as just to segue a little bit into or to relate to the whole stigma, which is actually still a stigma even though it’s not, of being a Christian who reads Harry Potter or why would you read a book that has wizardry or sorcery when the Bible says that that’s wrong… Well, okay, let’s go back to the Bible. What are they actually talking about that was wrong back then versus what’s actually happening in Harry Potter? And John Granger talks a lot about this and distinguishes the two. Just because the Bible uses the word in the English translation of the Hebrew or of the Greek does not mean that this wizardry that we’re talking about here in Harry Potter is the same thing that God is talking about in the Bible. And it was used to control and hurt people. It was used for dark things, to take people’s personal will away from them, which is not a good thing. And we can see in the Harry Potter books, that’s not a good thing. It’s almost like the Imperius Curse; it’s not a good thing. So it’s about… Okay, we’ve used this word to describe a concept from thousands of years ago, maybe more than that, and we’ve stigmatized this entire culture. I mean, Harry Potter is a culture now; I mean, it has so affected our world. Something that’s so good we’ve stigmatized just because of an interpretation. And so to me – trying to get back to what my point was [laughs] originally — we’ve stigmatized it so it’s not even like, “Okay, if you’re a wizard, you can’t be…” For the sake of what we’re talking about, about the church and the graveyard, you can’t be a Christian and a wizard because the wizard that Harry Potter is, is not necessarily what the Bible is even talking about. So yeah, so it’s like some people are going to stigmatize them, because in our current world, I mean, I get looks when I tell people what I love and what the books [are] that I’m reading and everything like that because people still are under this false impression from back when books were published about how Harry Potter is all about the occult and all this other stuff, so I still get stuff like people saying, “What are you dong?” Because I wrote a Harry Potter devotional, so they’re like, “How can you possibly do that?” I’m like, “Have you ever read Harry Potter? No.”
Nicole: “Did you know there'[re] two Bible verses in it?” “[gasps] No!” “Well, maybe you should read it.” That’s my response.
Alison: And I think that’s the thing. I think that kind of interpretation taking it almost more literally ignores this pattern that’s been going [on] throughout human history, a pattern that we see in religion of self-sacrifice, of love, of good versus evil, of all of these different patterns and motifs and themes that keep going through and that are so, so prevalent in Harry Potter. So if you’re just looking at “it’s about kids who go to wizard school,” then you’re ignoring all of the big things, the reasons that people are religious and the reasons that people find hope and comfort in religion that we see coming up in Harry Potter.
Rosie: The entire storyline is based on morality. It’s based on whether or not good conquers over evil and whether or not the choices and the actions we do are for the best. And yes, it’s incredibly complex, and we’ve got elements of the Grindelwald story that’s coming out now, throughout Fantastic Beasts and will be throughout the next few films as well, and the concept of the greater good and whether or not that will be explored in the same way as Harry’s dealings with morality, will be actually really interesting because Grindelwald turned into this ultimate Dark wizard before Voldemort, obviously, but he set out to try [to] do things for a concept of good, which comes out throughout history, throughout Christianity, throughout various different religions, and it’s incredibly relevant, obviously, in our cultures today and all of the wars that are happening based on religion or based on some people’s interpretations of religion, and they’re seeking to do their understanding of what is good in the world. And like we were saying, it’s all down to interpretation and whether or not we are reading certain texts in a way that is influencing our view [of] the world. And to be perfectly honest, I think Harry Potter is a perfect text to read if you want to understand morality and understand good in the world because he deals with situations that are very realistic to students and children growing up in our modern world today but does so in ways that touch on issues that have been issues throughout human history, and the teachings of Christianity are very clear in the books, so for those [who] haven’t read it and are blindly ignoring it because of the elements of magic and the elements of sorcery, they are missing out on a huge deal of ways of applying morality and Christian teachings and other teachings to our modern world just because of an element of something that they’re not quite understanding. And it’s sad to see things that have been misunderstandings since medieval times, since before that. Like you were saying, the understanding of sorcery, the idea that people claim that there are Wiccan teachings in this book because of the elements of witchcraft and wizardry, but even the concept of modern Wicca and modern paganism is not necessarily the same as historical paganism. It’s not the same as historical magic. So we can’t really claim that these are the things that are happening because all of these different things are interpretations, and they’re not necessarily the same.
Alison: I think you make an interesting point about interpretations and the idea of people who have done terrible things in the name of religion throughout history. If we’re thinking of magic as a parallel to religion or Christianity, you could almost make a parallel to people who, like the Death Eaters or even the Blacks, think that people who are magic should be better than or have control over Muggles or people who are different versus the people who say, “No, magic and Muggles. We can get along. We can coexist together.” So that’s an interesting thing of you have these people who might share this common ground, but they’re interpreting it very, very differently. And you can’t really judge someone based [on] just that one thing. You have to know where they are in that scheme, what… not what “faction” – that’s not the word I’m looking for – but what route they’re taking as an individual rather than judging someone as a whole group.
Nicole: It’s like what Dumbledore said about “it’s your choices that define who you are and not what you’re born.” It’s not being born whatever religion you are; it’s what choices do you make? And that’s who you are. So because it’s the only religion I know – Christianity – being born a Christian doesn’t define me. I could use that for evil; I could use it for good. But it’s my choice, and that choice will define whether [I] as a person [am] good or evil and things like that because you can use anything for evil, and you can use that same thing for good. But it’s what you choose to do with it that defines whether it’s evil or good.
Rosie: Definitely. And that’s why it’s so important to recognize that distinction in our world today when there is all of these terrorist attacks and things that are happening that are said to be in the name of a religion. It is definitely not in the name of that religion. It is in the name of extremists who believe a certain very, very extreme version of a religion, perhaps, if that is even what they believe. But it does not represent the religion as a whole, and it mainly goes against the entire teachings of these various religions, whether it’s Islam or Christianity or all of these different things. The majority of world religions preach peace; they preach looking after each other, they preach tolerance, and they ask us to love thy neighbor, all of that kind of thing. Appreciating our differences and work together to create peace rather than to claim that our religion is better than another and create friction in that way. Some of the terminology that’s used in Harry Potter is really interesting in terms of parallels, just to move us on to another topic.
Rosie: When we think of… I mentioned paganism earlier on as the modern understanding of that term [that] has to do do with elements of Wicca or elements of magic; however, the original meaning of the word “pagan” was “non-Christian.” It’s a description of everyone who is not Christian, whether they are a Muslim or whether they are practicing a religion pre-Christianity or the religions that happened in the UK. Well, it wasn’t the UK back then, [laughs] but in our country before Christianity came to us. They are largely forgotten in today’s world, but they are considered to be pagan because they were pre-Christian. And it’s interesting the duality between the idea of paganism and the idea of Muggles, nonwizarding folk. Anyone who doesn’t have magic is considered a Muggle, whereas anyone who didn’t have Christianity would be considered a pagan. So it’s interesting that even within this fictional world that Jo is creating, we are creating these divisions in society as well that often happen when we are classifying each other by religion or by having or not having a certain aspect of life. [laughs] There are elements of that that come through things like wandlore and come through the Hallows and Hogwarts and all that kind of thing as well. But that’s where things like the Sorting Hat become really interesting, which, again, as I was just saying before, says, “House unity was the way that we’re going to succeed and beat the darkness from outside of Hogwarts. We will have to work together and appreciate our differences to actually succeed in having a peaceful and successful life.” So when we’re going around, calling people Muggles for not believing in our Harry Potter ways, we should appreciate them and try [to] convince them that there are good things in the books and that they should believe. [laughs] Or just that we should accept that they don’t want to read it, and that’s fine too.
Nicole: Disagree but still love them.
[Alison and Rosie laugh]
Nicole: Yeah, you can disagree with somebody and still love them.
Alison: Yes, going from the bigger topics of the books in general and major themes, let’s dive into some more specifics, specific parallels, specific things that have happened. And one of the ones – the big ones – that we’ve mentioned is resurrection, which, obviously, is a big deal in Christianity.
Rosie: [laughs] But also in other religions as well.
Alison: Yes, and in other religions.
Rosie: There'[re] resurrections in Norse mythology. There'[re] resurrections in Greek mythology. There'[re] resurrections throughout history. So although we are going to heavily look at the Christian idea of resurrection, please do note that it is multi-religions as well.
[Alison and Rosie laugh]
Alison: Yes. So first we come to talk about Voldemort and his strange… You could call it… I mean, I guess the best word for it is a resurrection. And we actually had a couple of really good listener comments from our last episode where we talked about Horcruxes, and you listeners came up with some great ideas of how Horcruxes tie into a twisting of Christian symbols or ceremonies that show just how this is evil. So our first one comes from DoraNympha, who says,
“I took a class about British literature at the turn of the century, and so that meant quite a lot of talk about immortality in fiction, whether it’s magic like in She or in Dorian Gray or good old vampirism, and the thing that stuck in my head the most about it because of its connection with how we interpret Harry Potter is that these gothic, grotesque kinds of rebirth or immortality such as vampirism are so uncanny because they subvert the Biblical story of the resurrection of Jesus, and that becomes quite interesting to analyse if we remember that Harry is supposed to be the self-sacrificing martyr in the whole story, the character who dies for everyone else, and he then comes back to life, aka he is kind of a Jesus-figure, whereas his polar opposite, Voldemort, is the one who subverts/perverts the act of resurrection, so we have a Christ-[a]ntichrist opposition even in the theme of immortality/rebirth/resurrection when it comes to the two of them.”
And connected to this, we have one from SpinnersEnd, who says,
“For creating a Horcrux, the idea of cannibalism, of drinking the blood or eating the flesh of the victim, is a strange perversion of the Catholic Mass (I’m Catholic, so this is my reference point […], but a lot of Christian derivatives use the same symbolism.). During the Mass, people eat and drink the literal body and blood of Christ. We do this in part to be saved.
“I really like the idea of turning that completely on its head. In this case, the consumption of flesh and blood is destructive. If that is indeed part of the ritual of making a Horcrux, I think it would be a very deliberate reflection of the accepted use of ritual cannibalism.”
Nicole: Those are very interesting points.
Rosie: Definitely. I think the idea of blood magic has always been something that is particularly worried about, especially when put in parallel with Catholicism and the uncertainty as to whether or not we can say that the idea of the wine as the blood of Christ is this idea of taking in some element of the spiritual and the religion or whether or not it is a corruption of that religion. And that is the whole basis of the historical split between Catholicism and Protestantism, the idea of idols, the idea of using something to represent a deity, and whether or not that would be acceptable. So for people [who] do believe in this idea of idols and the idea that it is literally the body and blood of Christ, to see then blood and things being used in such a negative way becomes even more horrific. And while I don’t think that is the necessary viewpoint to see within this story or within things like vampirism, it definitely does hype up the uncanniness, as DoraNympha was saying. The idea that it is adding to that opposition makes it more effective. So although it’s not necessary, it is definitely an element that can affect your reading and therefore becomes a more personal interpretation and again, more horrific because it is such a personal element to the story.
Alison: I think it’s interesting, too, this parallel, too, between the idea of Voldemort and Harry being an antichrist/Christ parallel as well, especially if you consider the fact that after Harry dies and comes back, there’s this idea that everyone is protected from Voldemort because Harry has died for them. Which, I mean, we’ve talked about how that gets complicated with Lily’s sacrifice and how all that works together. But yeah, no, I think it’s almost back to that interpretation of… Well, in some ways it’s almost a parallel as well to the Bible when it talks about Satan. Satan was an angel that fell. And that idea of there was light, there was something light and good that was twisted into something, the personification of evil, which I’ve always gotten the feeling that that’s almost what Horcruxes are, is there’s the… This is the ultimate evil right here if you do this. [laughs] And Voldemort went beyond the even normal ultimate evil to do that. So there’s a lot of… You can find the different parallels, I guess. I mean, they almost don’t seem overt, but at the same time, it’s like, wow. They’re right there in the middle of your face.
[Alison and Rosie laugh]
Nicole: Yeah, I thought it was particularly interesting, the same point of Voldemort as the whole resurrections being different and everything because it’s like in the Bible where it says everybody will be resurrected, some to life and some to death. And when you see Voldemort’s resurrection, yeah, he’s resurrected, but does anybody really want to end up like that? His way to save his life was the opposite of Harry. It was born out of selfishness and not love, whereas [with] Harry’s loving sacrifice, there’s a concept in the Bible talking about the way to save your life is to lose it for others. Which is what Christ does; he “saves” himself and everybody by the most selfless of acts, just giving his life up for others, for others [who] were the people who were actually nailing him to the cross. He even did it for them. And then Voldemort over here would do anything, kill anyone, even Snape, who was his “righthand man,” or so he thought. He would do anything and kill anyone. He would kill everyone, doesn’t matter if they’re a child or anything, just to save his own life. So it’s the ultimate evil, the ultimate anti-love, which is why he ends up resurrecting but as what he resurrects as.
Rosie: Yeah. And I think it’s interesting to see the difference in how they resurrect. For Harry, it was a gift. He literally dies, but he doesn’t need any ritual; he doesn’t need anything to come back. He just needs to make that choice as to whether or not he wants to board the train, go to the light, whatever, or return. He is given that choice by Dumbledore, who in that scene becomes, I guess, the St. Peter. He becomes the figure at the gates who is the one [who]’s either admitting you on to an afterlife or sending you elsewhere or returning you to life. Whereas for Voldemort, he needs the entire ritual. He needs to have blood of the father, blood of the enemy. He needs all of these things that are considered Dark magic throughout history, all of these potions and very corrupt and negative elements in order to return to some form of life. And even then, he’s not happy with that. Even then, he has to have the completion of his mission in order to feel like he’s fully returned to life, and he never achieves that. We see the further loss of sanity in his obsession with Harry throughout the three books that he then survives after his resurrection. But yeah, he never really achieves a full resurrection. He never returns to a full life because of the way that he does return. In order for resurrection to be this good idea, it needs to be selfless. It needs to be something for other people rather than selfish. And that is, as we’re saying, this Christ/antichrist idea that we see in Harry Potter. But following on in this idea of blood protection, we see this in the resurrection and in how Harry dies, but we also see it in the idea of Lily’s protection and dying to save someone else and that being alive in their blood. Nicole, did you want to say something more about…?
Nicole: Well, first of all, Lily is kind of a symbol of Christ, so th at kind of goes back to that, but yeah, so we saw that Lily did not have to die. Voldemort gave her a way out. She chose to die, knowing that her death was going to protect her son. She could have just stepped out of the way and she would have lived. I mean, unless Voldemort was like, “You know what? Two for one,” and took her out.
[Nicole and Rosie laugh]
Nicole: But she could have chose[n] to live. She could have chose[n] the selfish route of live and then possibly – I don’t know – rekindle things with Snape. That would be the extreme, selfish decision for her to make. And then, if we compare that to Harry’s death, [it’s] that his blood protects everybody he died for, and nothing Voldemort does has a sticking, lasting effect on them because they’re protected by Harry’s sacrifice for them, and it goes back to the concept of the blood of Christ, but Christ died for all. This was taught. And so his blood then protects those [whom] he died for because he didn’t… None of these people had to die. They chose to die so that others could live, and that’s the whole blood protection theme that runs through. And it’s the greatest form of magic that Dumbledore talks about. And if you look at it, Dumbledore also chose to die. He chose to die. One way was to protect Draco. He chose the way he died to protect Draco from splitting his soul, to protect Draco and Draco’s family from anything that Voldemort would do to them. Dumbledore knew. He could have Snape try more things, but he was like, “No, we’re not going to ruin this innocent child who could…” as we saw in Cursed Child – if Cursed Child is really part of the canon – that Draco does have this transformation, so to me, Dumbledore is dying for Draco, who couldn’t be more of his enemy at the moment because Draco has been trying to kill him [laughs] for a year, unsuccessfully, but he does it anyway, and so he demonstrates this love to Harry to… I mean, Snape already knows what’s going on but to anybody, to Draco, before Harry even faces that or before Draco eventually grows up and becomes an adult and changes and everything. So it’s not just Lily and Harry.
Rosie: Yeah, that’s a really interesting idea that I don’t think I’ve really heard explored much, the idea… We constantly look at this idea of dying to protect our family, dying to protect our friends, whatever, and that is an ultimate sacrifice, and it’s an idea that’s pure and all of this kind of thing that has so much goodness in it. And yet here we have Dumbledore dying to protect his enemy, almost, or someone who considers himself to be an enemy. And that is so much more powerful, I think, that it should be recognized more, that it’s just…
Nicole: I wonder how much that played into Draco’s story that we don’t even know about.
Rosie: Yeah! And the idea that Draco and his whole family do survive. Is it partly because of that influence? That someone died for them, [which] kept them safe?
Alison: It’s that idea of atonement. It’s that idea of a sweeping sacrifice. I mean, it’s almost… When you were saying that, it reminded me of in the Bible when Christ is on the cross and he says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” and there’s almost that idea of… If we’re talking about Dumbledore and Draco, it’s almost like Dumbledore saying he doesn’t know what the ramifications of what he’s doing are in the bigger scheme of things, so he’s going to try [to] protect him. He’s going to try [to] offer him forgiveness, offer him a way out, and that’s the thing that saves Draco, is he comes to understand just how awful it all would have been, and so he changes. He finds that he can change, that he can make himself better. He can’t get away from his past, but he can move forward into the future, somehow better.
Rosie: And that definitely is explored in Cursed Child, the idea that he can’t escape from this rumor and this history that is known about him. He can’t escape from the infamy, but he is trying to be good, he is trying to atone for it, he is trying to live his life in the way that he wants without having this dark shadow hanging over him.
Alison: And his name gets redemption through his son. I mean, Scorpius offers that family that name, that legacy redemption, and a new future.
Rosie: And we can see that clearly in the alternate worlds within Cursed Child as well, where he hasn’t made that change and he is still the dark figure because of the lack of people making those choices and helping him feel that atonement. So it’s interesting that definitely when Draco learns those morality issues or considers his own actions in a different light, he definitely does become a better person. Influence of, perhaps, culture and life rather than being born in a certain way. Again, back to our choices. What should we talk about next, guys? We’ve got so many different ideas.
Rosie: Sorry, listeners, that this is a bit of a bitty episode. But I think you can appreciate how intricate these different ideas are, and we don’t want to be making too many sweeping statements. We just want to begin this discussion. It doesn’t end with us. We’re not saying that these are the one, true idea about this idea. This is just our thoughts on these different topics. Hopefully, it’s interesting for you guys as well. [laughs] So the next thing on our…
Alison: Well, I think there’s just so much that we can talk a little bit about a lot of different things that are all over the board.
[Alison and Rosie laugh]
Rosie: Do we want to do seekers or trinities?
Alison: Where are you going with the seekers thing? I’m actually interested [in] that.
Nicole: The Seekers thing? I was just talking because… So Quidditch has a lot of parallels throughout the Harry Potter series, but it also has parallels in faith. And so if you’re a seeker, you’re seeking that elusive… Jesus said, “If you seek, you’ll find.” Ask, seek, knock, and everything. Keep looking, keep striving to find truth, and I feel like the Seekers in Quidditch are… Harry is a Seeker of faith, and you’re trying to understand and find that elusive Golden Snitch of truth, and it’s not something you just want and find. It’s something you’re constantly seeking because even in the Bible, it says not all is revealed to us. So if we seek, we will find, so we need to keep seeking. It’s a constant process. There’s no end destination to it. It’s a way of life, being a seeker. Harry is a Seeker. He finds the Snitch. Then he plays another game [and] has to get another Snitch. It’s a constant way of life. That was where I was going with that. [laughs]
Rosie: It’s interesting!
Alison: That was cool! I’ve never thought of that! [laughs]
Nicole: That’s why… Because I’m pregnant now, and so we’re not finding out if it’s a boy or a girl, and so we just nicknamed the baby Seeker because we’re all about connecting Harry Potter and the Bible together, so we thought that was appropriate.
Nicole: So that’s what we were going for.
Alison: No, that’s cute! [laughs]
Nicole: And I didn’t want to call the baby “it” for nine months, so…
[Nicole and Rosie laugh]
Rosie: Seeker. There’s some definite religious imagery in the actual Quidditch balls as well. So the idea of the Snitch being a golden item with white wings is quite interesting. We’ve got the Bludgers, which are constantly seeking to harm us and that we can deflect away from us to protect us and that kind of thing. But yeah, that’s going back into a bit more Noah territory of [laughs] reading what we want to after, perhaps, some more simpler items, but it definitely can be seen.
Nicole: Well, one interesting thing… I read the Fantastic Beasts script along with watching the movie, and I found it very interesting that when – oh my goodness, I’m having a… [laughs] – Newt first interacts with the Second Salemers and Mary was there. She asks him if he’s a seeker of truth. And he responds, “No, I’m a Chaser.” So that’s another Quidditch position. I’m like, “Oh my goodness!” [laughs] Was it actually a Chaser? I don’t know. But yeah, so he’s a chaser of truth, and I think he was just responding to her because he knew the truth that she was preaching is not actually the truth, so I think… I don’t know if that was a way of him getting around it a bit. I also was like, “Is this Rowling’s hint that maybe Newt was actually a Chaser when he was in school?” How cool would that be? [laughs]
Rosie: I think he was! I think it was a fun play on words and play on… He was saying that Quidditch term, so I think he probably was a Chaser at school! [laughs]
Nicole: That would be awesome.
Rosie: Before he was kicked out, of course.
Alison: Well, even if we, I mean, take this religious parallel/tangent of Seeker versus Chaser, it’s almost like he’s… Seeker almost seems more passive to me, at least, whereas Chaser seems more like he’s bent on actually finding the real truth. He’s going to dig into the real truth until he finds it, and then he’ll hold onto that. Which I think is interesting, and I mean, even if we’re looking at it with… This is totally off the rails, probably, but…
Alison: If we’re looking at it with Quidditch positions, too, Chasers work together, whereas Seekers are more individual. That’s their position. So maybe to find the complete truth, you have to work with other people in order to get to the goal. But that was probably…
Rosie: Which would be interesting, because Newt doesn’t really do that.
[Alison and Rosie laugh]
Rosie: He likes to go off on his own thing.
Alison: Well, but I mean, he finds more hope and more… He gets further because…
Rosie: Yeah, when he starts working with other people.
Alison: … he works with Tina and Jacob and Queenie. I mean, if you think about the Occamy, I mean, there’s no way he could have gotten him back by [him]self. He had to use all three of them working together, so… But that was way off topic, I think.
[Alison and Rosie laugh]
Nicole: It’s interesting how he’s aggressively chasing, and not only is he chasing, [but] he’s [also] trying to share this to change other people’s views to a more loving view of all these creatures, because right now they’re in a world where they’re just like, “Oh, kill them all, kill them all.” And Newt is like, “No, no, no!”
Rosie: Definitely. He’s trying to protect them.
Rosie: “Stop! What are you doing! Let’s look at this through a different lens. Let’s love these creatures and appreciate them for what they are.” And so he’s not only trying to chase, [but] he’s also trying to pass that Quaffle on so other people can chase.
Rosie: On a bit more of a literal standpoint as well – although still quite symbolic [laughs] – the idea of fantastic beasts is quite religious as well. So some of the creatures that we do come across in the magical world have crossed over with Christianity. Things like the unicorn, historically in Christian art, was a symbol of purity and virginity and was normally seen with a virgin maiden. Whenever you see a unicorn in a medieval illustration or tapestry, it’s generally connected to a figure of Mary or a figure of a virgin in terms of purity. And that we then see within the Harry Potter series in terms of the idea that the unicorns tend to trust the girls more or their blood is seen to be [from] the purest creature, and to kill a unicorn is seen as the ultimate evil act, although we obviously see many more ultimate evil acts throughout the series after that statement is made. Other creatures that we see, the idea of the phoenix comes back to the idea of resurrection. We see some of the creatures that Hagrid or that Newt is actually looking for himself have parallels in medieval bestiaries that, again, have elements of mythology or religion within them. So it would be interesting to see how many of these different creatures come up throughout the feature films and whether or not their symbolism matches historical religion. To look at other creatures, to skip over into Judas and Pettigrew, the idea of snakes and rats, we can discuss that a bit more. [laughs]
Nicole: Okay, yeah. One of the things is, growing up, I grew up on a reptile farm, so I know a little bit more about snakes and rats than I probably should.
Nicole: So one of the things is, if you’re going to feed a snake a rat, if the snake is not hungry, the snake is not going [to eat]. They’re going to live in peace with each other until that snake is hungry, which has happened before with my dad feeding one of his snakes. The snake just wasn’t hungry. A week later, the mouse was gone.
Nicole: But the mouse lived in there for a week. So yeah, they can live peacefully until the snake needs that rat to be gone. So we find Voldemort is obviously a snake. We see that in symbols all around him, from him being Slytherin’s heir to just Nagini and everything, and then obviously Pettigrew is a rat. So the moment that Pettigrew betrayed Voldemort [and] showed remorse, Voldemort no longer needed him. So Voldemort – because that’s the hand that Voldemort gave him – strangles Pettigrew and kills him. And another interesting fact: Snakes kill rats by strangulation, so they strangle them before eating them. So that’s what happens there, and then that also goes back to the Bible because Satan is depicted as a snake, and then you have Judas, who ratted out Jesus, and Judas… It talks about, in at least one of the Gospels, that Satan enters Judas, and then Judas goes and betrays Jesus, and then after the betrayal and after Jesus is taken away, Judas feels remorse, and then he hangs himself, so the idea of strangulation again. So it’s interesting how all of those elements play together, and it makes you wonder how much J.K. Rowling might know about this. Because she didn’t know that snakes didn’t have eyelids…
[Alison and Rosie laugh]
Nicole: … so I don’t know how much she knew about it or if it was just coincidental. Yeah.
Alison: Well, it’s interesting you bring up a Judas and Pettigrew parallel because there’s another one, if you think that Judas was paid 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus, and Pettigrew’s reward for giving up Harry is a silver hand that ends up turning on him too.
Nicole: Yeah, because Judas returns the silver to the Pharisees, and the Pharisees are like, “We can’t even use this money because it’s blood money,” and everything. So it’s interesting how Peter… In that moment, if he could return that hand, I’m pretty sure he would have, knowing that it was about ready to strangle him. So that’s also interesting.
Rosie: And to go back to the Marauder era, of course, the most obvious Judas and Pettigrew betrayal idea is the fact that he is betraying his friends in the first place. Which obviously…
Nicole: For the sake of his own gain.
Rosie: Yeah. So if we are thinking about friendships and we’re thinking about these groups of people and these parallels between our characters and characters from religion, there are several holy trinities that we could compare from Christianity [with] our story. So obviously, the most famous one would be our Holy Trinity, our golden trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. They have different aspects of personality [that] work together to create an ultimate force for good, in the same way that Christianity has different elements of the God, [which] are seen through the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They all have different elements and different aspects of religion and different focuses within their teachings, but they work together to create this ultimate idea of the God. Are there any more specific things that you guys know about that would link into our trio? Any elements that are directly relevant to the Trinity itself? I don’t know. [laughs]
Alison: It’s almost interesting to think who would be who, then. If we’re talking about the golden trio, obviously, it seems Harry is going to be the Christ parallel.
Rosie: Yeah. The ultimate Son.
Alison: Which makes me… But I’m split because I feel like Hermione would be the Holy Ghost one, the conscience, the…
Rosie: The guidance, yeah.
Alison: Yeah. The moral compass, the guidance. But that puts Ron as…
[Alison and Rosie laugh]
Alison: Which… Maybe that makes sense.
Rosie: I could see that.
Alison: Because he is the one who understands the world the most.
Rosie: If we think about imagery that is around Ron, we see him… Weasley is our king. We have our King of kings in terms of God. We see God as the figure who will act – or at least the Old Testament God acted a lot more than New Testament God – but Ron is the one who takes on the figure of the knight and acts in the chess game, and he’s generally a bit more action-y in terms of getting stuck in a battle and that kind of thing. He definitely has the family element. He is the brother, but he has also got that strong family viewpoint, thanks to his parents and thanks to the Weasleys working as such a tight-knit unit, which we could see in the idea of the Father. So I could see him being God-like in some ways.
[Nicole and Rosie laugh]
Alison: I can also see Ron and Hermione flipped, though. Because you could say Hermione is the source of knowledge, the source of wisdom. And then Ron is the comfort. He’s the best friend; he’s the one who’s always by your side. That’s who he is. So yeah, I think they could work either way, which is interesting to think about. [laughs]
Rosie: Definitely. [laughs] So we’ve come across the idea of trinities and trilogies and trios – three being a magic number throughout lots of our discussions – throughout the years on Alohomora! Some others that we’ve come up with: the similarities between Harry, Snape, and Voldemort and them having very similar and some major differences as well that show three faces as the same character. Another one that we’ve got listed here is Dumbledore, Lily, and Harry. Nicole, did you want to expand on that one?
Nicole: Yeah, that was just plucking it out of my brain. Because Dumbledore often portrays the God figure, and then Lily exists in Harry’s heart, so that’s the Holy Spirit illusion. And then you’ve got Harry, the Christ figure, who’s going through this protected by Lily’s blood and guided by Dumbledore’s wisdom, and he has to go up to Dumbledore’s office like Jesus would go up to the top of a mountain and pray to get his wisdom and talk to God and then go back down and fulfill whatever his mission was, and the Spirit came down on him, so for me, that’s Lily when she sacrificed [herself], and now she is within Harry, and she is Harry’s protection until the ultimate end, and she walks that last walk with him until he fulfills his purpose.
Alison: Well, that’s good. [laughs]
Nicole: They’re not a typical trio, but they’re… I don’t know. To me, I see them as a trio.
Rosie: Yeah, definitely. I think there'[re] so many interesting trios that we could put together, whether we perhaps see the Marauders without Pettigrew as a trio as well. We’ve got James, who becomes the Harry-like character, who[m] we can either see as the Father because he is the father of Harry or as the Christ because he’s the one [who] seems to be the ringleader of the trio. We’ve got Sirius, who, again, is a bit more actiony, and we’ve got Lupin, who’s a bit more intellectual and planning in the same way that we were saying that Hermione was the guidance earlier on. So we could see those three as an interesting trio. We’ve got the side trio of Neville, Luna, and Ginny…
Rosie: … which would be quite interesting to consider as three elements as well. But again, we’re reading what we want to into these characters, so whether or not these parallels exist is up to interpretation. But the idea of three is definitely a strong theme throughout Harry Potter.
Nicole: Then you have the anti-trinity of Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle because they’re bonded not by love but by convenience, so to say.
Nicole: Yeah, and they carry out evil together instead of good.
Rosie: [laughs] And I think that idea of mirrors and reflection is quite important as well. And again, we’re going back to that whole Christ, antichrist, the idea that… In science, every action has to have an equal and opposite reaction. Again, these are ways of looking at the world. Everything has to have a reflection. In order for us to understand what good is, evil must exist. And therefore, that’s… We see our trio as being ultimately good because we have this other trio who is creating evil, so to speak, throughout their time at Hogwarts. Another idea that we’ve got listed or that we’ve got to talk about is remorse and repentance as a part of salvation. The idea that some things that we can redeem ourselves from… As we were talking about with Draco earlier on, he starts to change his personality, to change his viewpoint and his ideas, to repent [of] his actions in Book 7 and beyond. But there are other acts of ultimate evil that perhaps are more difficult to gain repentance from and whether or not it is actually possible at all for Voldemort, perhaps, to seek any goodness in his life after everything that he’s done.
Nicole: I think it’s possible, but like Hermione says in the book, it could destroy him. And Voldemort… The reason he is where he is, is [that] he is not willing to do anything selfless. Everything he does is selfish, so it is not even in him to even think that he could possibly turn it around and feel for the first time love for another or love enough to destroy himself for the sake of others. So I think it’s both possible and impossible because Ron even says it’s not going to happen, it’s impossible. But it goes back to choice versus fate, almost, because does Voldemort have the choice to save himself through remorse? Yes. Is it his fate or destiny? According to Ron and from what it looks like, no. It does not seem like that is possible for Voldemort to do. It’s not in his wheelhouse of skills, so to say. [laughs]
Rosie: And I think that comes into the faith idea as well, the fact that Voldemort would never seek the salvation, going back to our seeker’s idea, and therefore will never achieve it. So in order for us to feel remorse or to want to repent, we must turn back to the light and accept our acts as evil and therefore something that we need to recover from. Which is against Voldemort’s personality.
Nicole: Which is reflected in Snape because he does choose the remorse/repentance route, and we see how it changes him. Yes, he’s not the most cuddly, loving, kind person ever, but he changes the entire way he lives, and what he’s living for changes, and that’s what ultimately, I believe, saves Snape, is that even though he wasn’t kind to Harry, even though he’s not the greatest person in the world, he could have continued to just live for this ideal that he had lived for before, but he felt so bad. It so changed his heart that he… I mean, in parts, he saved Hermione, he saved Flitwick, he saved as many people as he possibly could, which would have been something he would have never thought to do except for Lily, which in the beginning was a very selfish love he had for her. Never would have done for somebody before. He didn’t even sacrifice his beliefs or his way of life for Lily when she was alive, so I mean, I think Snape is the closest thing we see to a Voldemort-like repentance story. Because he was completely sold out to this evil way of life that took other lives, and it was born in almost a self-hatred of one’s parents thing, which Voldemort has going on too. So yeah, I think that Snape is what happens to Voldemort if Voldemort chooses remorse.
Rosie: And the ultimate sign of that repentance would then be Harry forgiving him and Harry naming his son after him and that kind of thing.
Rosie: Because that then becomes the Christ forgiveness.
Nicole: And Snape, in many ways, died for Harry. Because he could have, in that moment, been like, “No, no, no, Voldemort. You don’t have to kill me. I’m going to tell you how it is.” But he died to keep that secret to save Harry so Harry can end everything, so there’s another dying for your enemy thing going on because Harry was definitely his enemy. [laughs]
Rosie: So to round off our discussion of Christianity, we’ve got some various ideas of the treatment of death in Harry Potter, including ideas of the afterlife. And ghosts are obviously quite a key crossover figure between this idea of magic and being able to see spirits and obviously a more accepted idea of our Christian afterlife and that kind of thing. So for characters like the Fat Friar, for the Gray Lady, for the Bloody Baron, for Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, and all of our lovely ghosts at Hogwarts, it’s interested with the Fat Friar in particular that he was a friar. He was a religious character. He was a brother within a monastery. So for him to be a friar and a ghost crosses over this line, again, of whether or not Christianity exists in this wizarding world. So showing him as a friar and a ghost within Hogwarts links this idea of the afterlife, and perhaps this friar was doubting his religion, but the magic allowed him to stay [at] Hogwarts and in our world instead. It would be interesting to know why the friar made that choice to return rather than go on.
Alison: Was that not on Pottermore?
Rosie: I think it was a little bit, but let me look. It says,
“Hufflepuff House is haunted by the Fat Friar, who was executed because senior churchmen grew suspicious of his ability to cure the pox merely by poking peasants with a stick, and his ill-advised habit of pulling rabbits out of the communion cup. Though a genial character in general, the Fat Friar still resents the fact that he was never made a cardinal.”
So it doesn’t say why he returned, but it is an interesting idea of this duality between magic and religion. He would have been religious and wanted to use his magical gifts to heal, and yet medieval distrust of magic is what sadly caused his demise.
Nicole: I think it’s interesting that she makes a ghost a friar, especially with what we learn about ghosts and about how Dumbledore would never be a ghost. Sirius would never be a ghost. They would have gone on, and so even though he’s religious, there was something he just didn’t fully understand that kept him fearful of going on, that he would rather stay than experience this afterlife that everybody else feels completely comfortable embracing. Like Dumbledore says, he… I forgot the exact quote about not being afraid of death anymore. Anyway. In the Bible, it talks about how perfect love gets rid of your fears. If you completely understand love, you know there’s nothing to be afraid of. And I feel like maybe the Fat Friar just… Because Jesus also dealt with a lot of religious people, and he’s like, “You’re so religious, but you don’t get…” They were persecuting people. They just didn’t get the concept of love necessarily. Even though that they knew all the rules, they knew all the verses, they knew everything, and they were the elite of the elite, they just didn’t understand that one essential concept that people like a tax collector [who] was seen as evil understood about love. And I’m not saying the Fat Friar was evil at all because he seems like [laughs] a really funny guy and a really caring guy, based on his backstory, but it’s just interesting that Rowling chose to make a religious figure like that a ghost.
Alison: Well, I wonder, too, if there’s something about… It said he always resented he was never made a cardinal. I wonder if there'[re] not necessarily other ways to become a ghost because Nick says that you have to be afraid and choose to stay, but I wonder if it’s almost like that lingering desire or regret can influence you [into] staying behind as a ghost still, or almost like that resentment that he didn’t achieve this thing he wanted in his life, and so because of that, he wasn’t able to move on.
Rosie: An unfinished business idea.
Alison: Yeah, yeah. Whereas Harry says, “Okay, it’s time to move on.” In a way, he’s ready to go to his death. And I mean, that could be interesting, then, if you think about Sirius. Would Sirius have felt complete enough leaving Harry behind that he got some time with him and going on to what was ahead of him – which was his friends, who[m] he hadn’t seen for so long that he felt like he needed to apologize to – that that was the business he was more concerned about taking care of rather than “Oh, I need to choose to stay behind to take care of Harry, to spend more time with him. We haven’t finished that yet”?
Nicole: It’d be really interesting to find out. If Rowling could just write the rest of his story [laughs] so we could figure out why she made him a ghost, that would be interesting.
Rosie: [laughs] There are so many different little elements on Pottermore now. It’s not all in one place.
Rosie: It doesn’t say any more about his death, unfortunately, but it definitely would be interesting to know. So Jo, you’ve answered a lot of our questions over the years. Here’s another one for you.
Rosie: But considering our discussion of this treatment of death, we’ve seen this character who seems to have a Christian background and yet doesn’t fully embrace the idea of a Christian afterlife and therefore has returned, but we have other elements of Christian teachings within the treatment of death as well. So as mentioned earlier, we’ve got this churchyard in Godric’s Hollow. They seem to bury their dead in a similar way to Christians, at least within that particular wizarding village. When Harry recovers Moody’s eye from the Ministry of Magic, he buries it and marks the tree with a cross, which I thought was quite an interesting feature. But perhaps, again, that might be due to Harry’s Muggle upbringing and having elements of Christian teachings embedded within our society. That’s his idea of what we would do to mark the grave of a figure. We also see him bury Dobby and give him an almost Christian burial, a proper grave, treating him with respect in his treatment of the dead. But we also see Dumbledore’s burial, which, although he’s given a tomb, and it’s a white tomb idea of death and purity again, it’s perhaps the least Christian influenced because obviously, tombs exist throughout history and throughout different religions as well, not necessarily just Christianity. So the lack of idolatry in this tomb, the fact that it is just pure-white marble, is quite significant, perhaps, to Dumbledore’s own beliefs.
Alison: Well, it’s interesting, too, to think about how that’s almost a universal thing: proper burial is important. I mean, you have things like the Greeks or the Egyptians, lots of ancient societies who believed if you didn’t have the correct things included when you were buried, then you wouldn’t be able to make it to the next life. So that’s interesting to think of, too, if you think of…
Rosie: Being buried with a wand.
Alison: Yeah, like Dumbledore buried with his wand and then Voldemort breaking into the tomb to steal that wand, where he’s almost stealing the sanctity of Dumbledore’s ability to go to the afterlife by stealing the relic that he’s buried with.
Rosie: Yeah. That’s interesting. We also see elements of prolonging life, in terms of the Philosopher’s Stone, which again crosses these lines of science and religion throughout history. The idea that it has the power to continue life and take that moment of death away from that predestined moment has been a point of contention throughout the myth of the philosopher’s stone through history. Which is then an interesting recreation in Book 7 with the Resurrection Stone and how that, again, never fully resurrects its creations into full life; they are only shadowy reflections of who they once were. So the idea that death should be final and you can’t ultimately beat death – it has to be either a full death or you are resurrected only to a certain extent – do we see that in any other religions, do we think? Or any other mythologies that we can remember?
Alison: It reminds me of The Odyssey, where Odysseus goes to the Underworld and calls up the spirits of these different heroes of the Trojan War, but they’re not entirely there. They’re again these imprints of who they used to be, and I think [those are] similar kinds of ideas. They’re not entirely themselves. They’re just imprints.
Rosie: Yeah. I think that is the main idea, that once you have experienced death, you never fully return from it. Which is interesting when it comes to Harry, and the only reason why he can return from death is perhaps that either he never fully died in the first place or that he is this almost Jesus-like figure, the one [who] does have the pure resurrection, the God-given resurrection, I guess, rather than some magical element trying to control it. Other treatments of death: We see, obviously, the veil in the Department of Mysteries that ultimately takes Sirius’s life. This seems to be almost a portal between worlds. It is the moment where our current world and perhaps the veil to the other side meet. So whether or not that’s an afterlife or whether it is a parallel world or whether it is a gateway to above or below – whatever you might believe – it seems to be some kind of gateway into death.
Alison: I think the interesting thing about the veil, too, is the fact that Harry and Luna hear whispering coming from it, which is interesting. And it entrances them; it makes them think that they should know something, [and] they should be able to access that. Which is an interesting thought, because there’s a thought in Christianity that when you’re born, you forget the life before. You forget living before you’re born, your spirit living before you’re born. At least, now I’m wondering if that’s mainstream Christianity or Mormonism…
Alison: Sorry, [I’m] forgetting. [laughs]
Rosie: But there’[re] elements of that with ideas of reincarnation throughout lots of different religions also.
Alison: Yeah. And you’re cut off from that, but you come to a point where you start to think, “Maybe I should remember something.” Something triggers there, which is what I’ve always thought of when I’ve read that scene of Harry and Luna staring at it, wondering why they feel this connection. Or you could even go the other way too. These are the people who have lost someone close to them who may be behind that veil.
Rosie: Yeah. That’s the way I’ve always seen it, because they’re the two who are able to see Thestrals as well. It seems to be this duality that they’ve lost someone, so perhaps it is those people [who] are calling to them from the other side of the veil.
Nicole: Yeah. That’s what I thought too.
Rosie: The idea of there being an actual archway into death is quite interesting, an actual door. And I think that is an element that comes through various mythologies, the idea that perhaps death is something that you can enter to seek something. Obviously, Sirius enters through that veil and never comes out the other side. Whether or not the Department of Mysteries is able to study it and use that veil as a gateway or whether it’s only a one-way door, we don’t know. But it would be quite interesting to see what the Department of Mysteries’ notes on the veil would be.
[Nicole and Rosie laugh]
Rosie: Again, Jo, Pottermore… Interesting!
Rosie: To continue this parallel with other religions, there is so much classical mythology that comes through the creatures in particular. We see Fluffy being a three-headed dog, like Cerberus, who is guarding the secrets of an underworld. They literally have to fall down flights – or however many stories they fall – to reach this basement and go through several challenges in order to finally get to the Philosopher’s Stone in Book 1. We see them entering underworlds several times throughout the novels with the Chamber of Secrets as well. Interestingly, that underworld is guarded by a giant serpent. You can definitely see Satan metaphors and underworld in terms of Christianity there. In particular with [the] Chamber of Secrets, not only is Harry entering an underworld, but he’s doing so to seek and save his future wife.
Rosie: So we’ve got interesting mythology. I’ve forgotten which particular myth I’m talking about.
Rosie: Thank you very much.
[Alison and Rosie laugh]
Alison: Except for Harry’s not singing.
Rosie: Thankfully, Harry doesn’t look back over his shoulder and leave Ginny down there and manages to save her. But we’ve got all of these different elements coming through as well.
Alison: You’ve almost got, too, in Half-Blood Prince – since we’re talking about Greek – the idea of being ferried across water to an island and this death place, where you’ve got the Greek myth of souls being ferried across by Charon to the underworld.
Rosie: Yeah, to Hades.
Alison: And you have to go across the rivers and stuff.
Rosie: And the water itself being the home of the dead, where the Inferi obviously come from. And the idea that you shouldn’t touch the water because you might be lost is definitely a Greek idea as well. One thing I find interesting is, perhaps, a lack of Norse mythology, other than the themes that do cross over. We have, obviously, dragons, but then they are not treated in a particularly Norse way. They are just more medieval dragons that are fought against by knights. There'[re] no real elements of the Tree of Life or any of these kind[s] of elements within Harry Potter, but that might just be, again, down to Jo’s teaching and interest in classical stories rather than other mythologies. I don’t know.
Alison: Yeah, maybe this is just me, but I feel like Greek and Roman is more…
Rosie: Accepted. Yeah. [laughs]
Alison: … prevalent and more recognizable than Norse?
Rosie: Mainly because they’re actually written down more and easier to read. [laughs]
Alison: Yeah. Though I feel like Norse is also very violent [laughs]
and brutal, in ways that I think don’t quite serve the story she was trying to tell with Harry Potter the way some of these other mythologies would. I also had an interesting thought of… It just popped into my head, and I’m not by any means an expert on this religion, but I feel like you could make an argument that in Deathly Hallows there’s that moment where Harry decides not to act after he sees Voldemort breaking into Dumbledore’s tomb. He decides not to act; he decides to stay put and let it happen in some ways and trust that it’s all going to work out. It reminds me a bit of – at least what I remember – the story of Buddha and how he achieved nirvana. Like I said, not an expert at all. [laughs] But that idea of when he decided to just meditate [and] let things happen, he came to peace with the world and what was happening and with… Shoot, I am not doing very well at this.
Rosie: [laughs] That’s okay.
Alison: Listeners, some of you probably know this, I’m sure, so fill me in, because it’s been a while. But that just popped into my head, that idea of the way to achieve what you need to achieve is sometimes through peace and waiting and not necessarily jumping into action.
Rosie: Yeah, thought and meditation and making sure that what is happening should happen rather than just simply acting on impulse. Yeah. So this has been a varied and detailed discussion on mainly the Christian influences in Harry Potter. Obviously, there are many other religions in the world, and we haven’t really touched on too much more than the classical mythologies and current Christian ideas. As always with our topics, this is just the beginning of an idea. So if, perhaps, you are of another faith and can see your own religion within Harry Potter and we haven’t touched on that at all, or there are some other parallels or something that we have missed simply for the lack of knowledge that we possess, we’re very sorry about that and we would definitely encourage you to contact us. Share your ideas, share your thoughts, share your discussion, and perhaps we could do another episode on other religions in Harry Potter, which would be fascinating, and I would definitely love to know if there are other ways of interpreting our beloved stories that I have yet to be able to consider. So please do let us know if there is anything more that we should be discussing in terms of religion in Harry Potter. But I think we’ve done quite a good job at seeing some of these different parallels, and hopefully, we haven’t said anything offensive. If so, we’re sorry! It’s just our scholarly interest in these different parallels in these different worlds. The next topic – which has, perhaps, some interesting parallels – will actually be on wandlore and how wands are created in the magical universe. So please do tune in for that in the future.
Alison: And we just want to, again, thank Nicole for joining us today. Thank you so much for jumping in and bringing your expertise.
Nicole: Definitely, thank you.
[Alison and Nicole laugh]
Nicole: Thanks for inviting me.
Alison: And listeners, if you want to be on the show, make sure you go to our topic submit page on our main site at alohomora.mugglenet.com and that you’re suggesting things you want to be on. Let us know what you want to talk about and [what] you want to come talk to us about because as you can see, there’s a lot.
Alison: And we like lots of different perspectives.
Rosie: We do.
Alison: So if you have just a basic set of headphones with a microphone, you are all set. You don’t need anything fancy – just those headphones and a recording program and that’s all.
Rosie: And if you, perhaps, don’t want to be on the show itself, but you want to have your comments or your ideas heard, you can contact us on Twitter at @AlohomoraMN [or] on Facebook [at] facebook.com/openthedumbledore; our website, as you’ve heard before, is alohomora.mugglenet.com, and you can send us an owl on audioBoom as well. There’s actually a little widget there on our alohomora.mugglenet.com site where you can just click the “Record” button and send us your thoughts. Just keep it under 60 seconds, please, so that we can include it on the show.
Alison: And if you’re not sick of our voices [laughs] or our crazy ideas – whatever we’re coming from – go ahead and check us out on Patreon. You can sponsor us at patreon.com/alohomora, and that way, we can keep going and we can keep talking. Sponsors start as low as $1 a month, and we want to thank Ian again for sponsoring this episode. Yay! [claps] Well, I guess that’s it from us, then. This has been a great discussion, and we hope you have all enjoyed it.
[Show music begins]
Alison: I am Alison Siggard.
Nicole: I’m Nicole Rivera.
Rosie: And I’m Rosie Morris. Thank you for listening to Episode 210 of Alohomora!
Alison: Open the Dumbledore’s tomb!
[Show music continues]
Alison: Sorry, I… Sorry.
Rosie: That’s okay.
Alison: I got slightly distracted. Sorry. My bedroom window faces the apartment manager’s house, and they have a really cute puppy that they keep bringing out…
[Nicole and Rosie laugh]
Alison: … and it’s snowing, and so the puppy’s being cute in the snow.
Alison: Anyway… [laughs] Sorry, I should not be getting distracted.