HARRY POTTER: A JOURNEY TO POWER

By Marcia Montenegro (page 3 of 4)

Written October, 2001

THEMES OF DARKNESS, DISOBEDIENCE, AND OCCULTISM IN BOOKS TWO, THREE AND FOUR

Book Four: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., 2000)

The 734-page fourth book in the series takes the reader more deeply into dark imagery and practices that are at times repulsive. In order to track immoral behavior, bizarre and grotesque images and actions, and occult references, I had to make, for all the books, various lists titled "Scary, Grotesque," "Occult," "Lying, Deception," "The Dark Side," "Cruelty," "Bad Behavior," and "Death." Often these categories overlapped, making it difficult to know where to list something. The titles of these lists, all with several page numbers itemized beneath them, should indicate a major problem with these books as children's books, or even as books for young teens.

Please keep in mind that I am only providing a few examples of the total picture presented in the book.

The Grotesque, the Cruel, and Death

The book starts with a very scary scene ? the scene of a murder, and continues in this vein, describing the gruesome murder of Frank Bryce as psychically seen by Harry in a dream. So a psychic vision or dream is combined along with a murder scene.

At the World Cup game, several wizards "play" with Muggles (non-wizards) by throwing them in the air, the Muggles "being contorted into grotesque shapes," (119). One such action is described in an almost obscene way: "...her nightdress fell down to reveal voluminous drawers and she struggled to cover herself up as the crowd below her screeched and hooted with glee," (120).

Sirius describes at length how people die at Azkaban, usually of madness because they lose the will to live. "You could always tell when death was coming, because the dementors could sense it, they got excited," (329). The ghost, Moaning Myrtle, morbidly describes how someone found her body: "And then she saw my body. . . ooooh, she didn't forget it until her dying day, I made sure of that. . . followed her around and reminded her, I did," (465).

The villain Voldemort, who has not had a body, has been possessing various bodies (he possessed the body of Prof. Quirell in book one) until he can perform the ritual to give himself a body, which is done at the end of the book (this is discussed under the section on occult practices below). One person whose body Voldemort used apparently died when Voldemort left this person's body (654). Bertha Jorkins, killed by Voldemort, had a body weakened by Voldemort's techniques in getting information out of her, a body too weakened for Voldemort to possess, which is why he killed her (655).

The dementors, ""sightless, soul-sucking fiends," (23) pop up often in the story. Their effect is gruesome: ". . . that was the terrible power of the dementors: to force their victims to relive the worst memories of their lives, and drown, powerless, in their own despair," (217). Harry sees a dementor "gliding" toward him, "its face hidden by its hood, its rotting, scabbed hands outstretched [. . .] sensing its way blindly toward him. Harry could hear its rattling breath..." (622-23). Not exactly the stuff for pleasant dreams!

There are many references to death: the killing "curse" (215); Harry pictures the death of his parents "over and over again" (216); the book starts with murder and has the murder of classmate Cedric DIggory towards the end (638); Sirius talks about the murder of Muggles (527); Barty Crouch tells how he killed his father (690); and the death of previous champions competing in the Triwizard Tournament is discussed (187, 203-4, 305). In fact, Dumbledore tells Hermione, Harry, and Ron that in previous years, the death toll of Triwizard competitors rose so high, that the competition was eliminated (187).

The most grotesque event is Voldemort's ritual for acquiring a body, which will be discussed later.

Disobedience and Deception

It is not surprising that a book for and about children or young people would contain acts of disobedience and deception. What is disturbing is that these acts often go unpunished or are even rewarded, when performed by Harry. What is equally disturbing is that often the adults in a position of authority go along with this, or even participate themselves.

The Weasley's, the family of Harry's friend, Ron, send a note to Harry inviting him to attend the World Cup, and let him know they will come and get him even if the Dursley's, Harry's guardians and relatives, say no (36).

Although using magic on Muggles is prohibited (79), it is done by adults with relish at the World Cup (77, 81, 93, 95). The Ministry of Magic, in charge of enforcing this rule, simply gives up: [ ]. . . "the Ministry seemed to have bowed to the inevitable and stopped fighting the signs of blatant magic now breaking out everywhere," (93).

Fred and George Weasley disobey their father and gamble, betting on the outcome of the game. However, does Mr. Weasley punish them? No, instead he instructs them to hide the gambling from their mother, (117). In addition, Mr. Weasley does not want to know what their "plans" are for their winnings, since he suspects this will entail further disobedience (117).

The Hogwarts students are taught certain curses that are supposedly not allowed to be taught (213-15). Harry and Ron wonder whether their professor and Dumbledore, the headmaster, would get in trouble with the Ministry for this. Ron says that they probably would, but "Dumbledore's always done things his way, hasn't he. . ." (220). This statement is reminiscent of Snape's statement about Harry in the third book, that Harry is a "law unto himself," (284).

Harry is helped illegally on his tasks for the Triwizard Tournament by Hagrid (328), Cedric (431), Moaning Myrtle (497), Ron and Hermione (486-7), and Dobby (491). Both Prof. Mooday and Ludo Bagman offer to help Harry cheat, although it is discovered later that this Moody is not the real Moody, but was actually Barty Crouch, Jr., doing a Moody double.

Harry uses the invisibility cloak to sneak out at night at Hagrid's suggestions, and so discovers what the first task will involve (323, 328). Harry lies about the second Task loudly so that a judge hears him (504); Harry lies to Prof. Snape (516 ? "'I don't know what you're talking about,' Harry lied coldly"), to Prof. Trelawney, when she asks if Harry had a premonition after Harry has had a psychic vision in her class (577), and to Fudge (581). Harry doesn't restrict his lying to authority figures; he includes his friends. One could call Harry an equal opportunity liar. He lies to Sirius (228), Hermione (443), and Hagrid (456). Lying to Hermione gives Harry's insides "a guilty squirm, but he ignored them," (443).

Harry uses magic off the grounds of Hogwarts, breaking the rules (729-30). Breaking the rules comes naturally to Harry as we see when Harry takes the Marauder's Map, "which, next to the cloak, was the most useful aid to rule-breaking Harry owned," (458).Naturally, Harry gets away with these acts of disobedience (478.)

Immoral and Objectionable Behavior

There are references to gambling by Fred and George, and their father does not punish them for this though he objects to it (88), and he even tells them to hide it from their mother (117).

The phrase, "to give a damn," is used on pages 62 and 470. It is totally unnecessary. Ron makes an obscene play on words in talking to Lavender: "Can I have a look at Uranus, too, Lavender?" (201)

The Ministry of Magic did not investigate the disappearance of someone believed to be a victim of Voldemort because the person was a Muggle (601).

Harry and the Weasley children laugh at a cruel trick perpetrated on Dudley (51, 53). Harry, Hermione, and Ron laugh when Malfoy is turned into a ferret and bounced up and down (206-7); it's made clear in the text that Malfoy is in pain (206). After cursing Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle into unconsciousness, Ron, Harry, and George "kicked, rolled, and pushed" them into a corridor, where they left them (730). Well, some would say, so what? Dudley, Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle are mean to Harry; they're the bad guys. The response: Is it okay to teach our children to seek revenge, and to be cruel to others because they are cruel to us? What about Jesus' command to forgive others and to love those who persecute us? Should Christians make exceptions for Harry, especially when our children are reading these books? What are they learning from this?

Lying and deception, also considered immoral behavior, have their own section above this one. The point here is that Harry rarely feels remorse for lying and deception, and if he does, he ignores it; he often seems to enjoy being deceptive; he rarely suffers the consequences; and the authority figures themselves sometimes reward him despite this behavior.

References to the Occult

The first article mentions that casting spells and divination are taught at Hogwarts. Naturally, Harry and the other students continue these studies through Book 4, getting more skilled in their use of magick. Hermione is "immersed" in her Book of Spells (152); Hermione explains that Hogwarts is hidden to Muggles because it is "bewitched" so that it appears to be something else (166); a "Summoning Charm" is part of a lesson (167); part of the Triwizard Tournament is to test the "magical prowess" of the competitors (255); Ron seems to have practiced a form of magick when Harry finds a small figure resembling a Quidditch player with its arm broken off (444); and Harry has psychic dreams and visions (17, 576). These events are merely a drop in the bucket compared to other instances in the book.

One of the curses taught to the students at Hogwarts is called the Avada Kedavra. This is taught as one of the three "Unforgivable Curses," (214-17).This may be more familiar to some as Abracadabra, thought to be a hoaky chant made up by magicians pulling rabbits out of hats. However, there is an actual occult connection to this term.

According to Gonzalez-Wippler, abracadabra is thought to be derived from Abraxas, the name of a demon (293). Whitcomb considers Abraxas to the name of a gnostic deity of time, with "the arms and torso of a man, the head of a cock, and serpents for legs," (401). Gonzalez-Wippler describes him this way as well, though she says he has the head of a hawk (293). The earliest record of the magical use of Abracadabra is found in a Roman poem on medicine written in AD 208 (293). The word must be written from top to bottom in pyramid form, dropping a letter in each line until the last line at the bottom contains only the first letter, "A," (294).

This formula was put on parchment, tied up, and worn as an amulet around the patient's neck, "worn for nine days, then thrown over the shoulder into a stream that runs eastward," the idea being that the illness would shrink just as the word was shown to shrink in writing (294-95).

Those who would laugh this off should recall that the Avada Kedavra curse is called the "killing curse" in The Goblet of Fire and is used effectively by Voldemort to murder Cedric Diggory (638) and used by Voldemort in an attempt to kill Harry later (663). Thus, the book endorses the idea that there is power in this phrase. I have also seen instructions on using Abracadabra as a spell in a witchcraft book I happened to be glancing through at Barnes & Noble.

Harry, in this story, as he learned to do in the third book, summons his Patronus, his guardian spirit (623). Harry uses spells and sorcery in his fight with Voldemort.

The darkest and most grisly part of all four books appears here in chapters 32, 33, and 34. Chapter 32, "Flesh, Blood, and Bone," includes the death of classmate Cedric Diggory, and Harry's capture by Voldemort's servant, Wormtail. Harry, tied up to the gravestone of Voldemort's father, watches a ritual performed by Wormtail to create a body for the etheric Voldemort who appears in repulsive form as "hairless and scaly-looking, a dark, raw, reddish black" with a face that is "flat and snakelike, with gleaming red eyes," (640).

Voldemort is placed in a cauldron while Wormtail raises his wand and performs the ritual. Ground-up bone from Voldemort's dead father is put in the cauldron; then Wormtail cuts off part of his arm for the cauldron to provide the flesh; and, in the final step, blood from Harry's arm is drawn by Wormtail and put in a glass vial, then poured into the cauldron (641-42). Thus, "bone, flesh, and blood," the ingredients for this grisly ritual, are gathered by Wormtail and put in the cauldron with the not-quite-human Voldemort. The result is that Voldemort acquires a body: "Lord Voldemort had risen again," (643).

Voldemort tells Harry that this ritual is a "old piece of Dark Magic," (656) and reveals that he has been searching for immortality: "I, who have gone further than anybody along the path that leads to immortality. You know my goal ? to conquer death," (653). Interestingly, this was also the goal of alchemist Nicolas Flamel (a real French alchemist) in the first Harry Potter book. Flamel was mentioned as Dumbledore's partner. Therefore, Dumbledore and Flamel must have had the same goal as all alchemists, immortality ? the elixir of life found in the sorcerer's stone ? which Flamel did find (according to The Sorcerer's Stone and according to legend that sprung up around the actual Flamel). So now we see that Voldemort's goal is the same as alchemist Flamel and, by implication, his partner, Dumbledore. [For more on alchemy, see the first CANA article on Harry Potter].

In the occult, power is neutral; it is only how one uses it as to whether one is on the dark or the light side. Therefore, Voldemort is on the dark side because of his methods and intentions. To desire and seek immortality through sorcery is alright if one's methods follow the "good" or "light" side of the occult. That is why, I believe, the Potter books use the term "dark side" more than they use the term "evil," which is used very infrequently. Indeed, Dumbledore "invoked an ancient magic" to protect Harry (657). Voldemort and Dumbledore both use sorcery (magick), but Dumbledore is considered good because of his intentions. This is the belief that endorses the practice of "white" magick. If one accepts this premise and believes that Harry is the hero and Dumbledore is the "good guy," then one has accepted a tenet of the occult. [See CANA document, "The Dark Side"].

The ritual performed by Wormtail, using bone from a corpse, flesh, and blood is somewhat similar to rituals associated with Palo Mayombe, the black magick of Santeria, a religion that resulted in a combination of the African Yoruba religion with certain elements of Catholicism. The chief instrument for the practitioner (the mayembero) is a cauldron containing the "head, fingers, toes, and tibia of a human corpse," as well as other grisly ingredients such as insects; this cauldron is called a nganga or prendo (Gonzalez-Wippler, 324; Drake, 79, 136; Guiley, 302). A corpse is used because the mayembero makes a pact, through a ritual, with the spirit of the corpse to do his bidding (Drake, 79, 136; Guiley, 302). The mayembero must know the identity of the corpse, and it is preferable that the corpse is the body of someone who has lived a bad or criminal life (Drake, 136; Guiley, 302). The mayembero also spills some of his blood into the cauldron after he has sealed a pact wit the spirit of the corpse (Guiley, 302). In a further ritual, the mayembero becomes possessed by the spirit of the corpse (Guiley, 302). The nganga is used for good or for bad; the mayombero "can cure and he can kill with it," (Gonzalez-Wippler, 324; Guiley, 302). The followers of Santeria fear the ngangas so much that they will only speak of them in whispers (Guiley, 302, citing Gonzalez-Wippler, Santeria: African Magic in Latin America; New York: Original Products, 1981).

Keeping this information in mind, let us look at Voldemort's ritual. He uses bone from a known corpse, the corpse of his father. The serpent who serves him is named Nagini, which is slightly reminiscent of nganga. Whether this name is intentional or not on the part of Rowling is not the point; I am simply making observations. Voldemort refers to this ritual as an "old piece of Dark Magic;" Palo Mayombe is also considered dark magick. Rather than summon a spirit or being possessed by the spirit of the corpse, Voldemort's ritual is done for his own rebirth. He uses bone, flesh, and blood, similar to ingredients used by the mayembero for the nganga. Voldemort states that while awaiting his "rebirth," he gave instructions to Wormtail for "a spell or two of my own invention. . . a little help from my dear Nagini..[...]..a potion concocted from unicorn blood, and the snake venom Nagini provided," (656). As Santeros mention the nganga only in whispers, so too do those in the Harry Potter stories fear mentioning Voldemort's name. The parallel of the mayembero and his nganga with Voldemort and the ritual for his rebirth may not be intentional but also should be noted.

When Harry and Voldemort duel with their wands, so to speak, the spirits of those slain by Voldemort come out of his wand (666-668). These are presented as actual spirits, not hallucinations or dreamlike visions, since each one speaks encouragingly to Harry. Harry's mother even gives him instructions on how to return to Hogwarts (667). Once again, the Harry Potter books endorse the idea that spirit contact is possible and that it can be a good thing.

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