Daily Archives: July 25, 2011

Using the “A” Word: Is Harry Potter more dangerous than Scooby Doo?

A few weeks ago, the neighbor’s grandson was visiting and asked my kids, “Do you like _Bakugan_?” They said, “We’re not allowed to watch it”. Now, they’re not specifically *disallowed*; it just falls under the category of “They’re only allowed to watch something that’s pre-approved, and I see no point in bothering with new untested stuff when they’ve got more than enough to watch as it is”.
Anyway, as this pattern had come up in previous conversations, he said, “Are you guys allowed to watch *anything*??”

My kids are more sheltered than most kids, though Mary and I are quite liberal by the standards of a lot of homeschoolers and traditionalists. My approach is to teach them about how to think critically and recognize dangers in the culture (how many 4-9 year olds have received dinner table lessons on postmodernism, Gnosticism, freemasonry, etc.?)

Other than perhaps seeing a few minutes of one of the movies at their grandparents’ house or “peeking downstairs” when they were supposed to be in bed, they’ve never watched a _Harry Potter_ movie or read/been read one of the books. My wife and I fully agree with those (including J.K. Rowling herself) who would say they’re not age appropriate. Nevertheless, it struck me the other day that Allie was not quite 4 years old when I took her to see _The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe_. I kept asking her if she was scared, and she kept saying she wasn’t. I practically jumped into *her* lap a couple times. I immediately began reading all of them _The Magician’s Nephew_ after we saw the first film. They’ve seen every film adaptation of LWW, the entire “Wonderworks” _Chronicles of Narnia_ series and all the Walden Pictures versions. I’ve read them some of the books.

The other morning, Joe, age 5, said, “Abracadabra, make X appear!” I didn’t catch what he was talking about. I think one of us adults wasn’t acting quickly enough to get him something, so he jokingly suggested he’d use magic. I’m not sure where he picked up the idea–probably from _Scooby Doo_, since he’s a huge “Scooby Doo” fan.

However, it struck me that most of those who vociferously condemn the _Harry Potter_ books *probably* see no problem in _Scooby Doo_ (at least the older stuff), Loooney Tunes or other “classic” cartoons. They may object to *some*, but most probably see certain cartoons as “OK”, and I know for certain that some of the people I know who dislike HP have talked favorably of “older” cartoons. However, just about any cartoon series you can name has dealt at some level with sorcery, often depicting it as positive, harmless, comic, etc.

We all have heard Bugs Bunny or Scooby Doo or Mickey Mouse say “hocus pocus,” even though every Catholic should take deep offense at that old anti-Catholic term. “Hocus pocus” is a Protestant mockery of “hoc est corpus Meum”, used in suggesting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is black magic (i.e., “all that hocus pocus stuff”). We’ve heard the same characters use the expression “abracadabra.”

Now, I don’t know if “hocus pocus” is used in the Harry Potter books–the only reference a brief Google search turns up is that in one of the early books, Harry uses “hocus pocus” in teasing his bully of a cousin. So it’s apparently not a “real” spell in any of the books, but Rowling doesn’t debunk it, either.

However, in the Potter books, abracadabra–or “Avada Kedavra,” as Rowling renders it’s “original” form, is one of the three “unforgivable curses,” the Killing Curse. In the “real world,” the “abracadabra” spell came from Aramaic words meaning “Create as I say,” and was recommended by ancient “physicians” as a spell to cure certain diseases. Rowling, in a 2004 interview, said she understood the original word to mean “let the thing be destroyed,” where “the thing” was disease (see this article).

“Does anyone know where avada kedavra came from? It is an ancient spell in Aramaic, and it is the original of abracadabra, which means ‘let the thing be destroyed.’ Originally, it was used to cure illness and the ‘thing’ was the illness, but I decided to make it the ‘thing’ as in the person standing in front of me. I take a lot of liberties with things like that. I twist them round and make them mine.” (“J. K. Rowling at the Edinburgh Book Festival”)

That’s kind of interesting. We hear a lot from anti-HP people about how Rowling uses “real spells”, and apparently she uses “real terms” used in “real” witchcraft, but by her own admission she only does a little bit of research and makes up the rest, repurposing things.

So, in this case, she’s taken a word that many today consider “harmless” and made it the most harmful spell one can utter. She’s taken a “spell” that in its use in “real” magic was meant as a “white magic” healing spell and made it the epitome of “black magic.” Interesting, huh?

Oh, and the evil spell Avara Kedavara can only be resisted by self-sacrificial love. Interesting.

And so, my son, who’s been exposed to all the “harmless” cartoon characters but not to the “harmful” Harry Potter,” might thought better of casually saying “abracadabra” as a joke if he did know about Harry Potter. . . . . Interesting.