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.


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

  1. Before Catholics raised a stink, the English version of The Alchemist’s Stone ( the original name of the first book) included a transubstantiation spell- for what, if one knows one’s occult terminology and a bit of Latin, was really transmorgification. Also- in Scooby Doo, and Chronicles of Narnia, and even in JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings; magic is a dangerous thing, something that is as corrupting as the power of wealth in America today. Not so in Harry Potter, otherwise Lord Voldemort would be a lesser demon and Albus Dumbledore would not have turned out good (he messed with dark magic as a teenager).

    • Interesting. Never heard that one, Ted. I just made the point in the FB thread on this post that Rowling *is* a Presbyterian, so we shouldn’t be surprised to find that the books are _Protestant_ allegories, any more than the _Chronicles of Narnia_ are also Protestant allegories (Tolkein said as much, and it was one of the reasons he didn’t like them).
      As for Scooby, “good magic” is a frequent element of modern Scooby Doo movies and series, which many parents would probably not realize (Velma has gone from being skeptical scientist to Wiccan).
      I really have a hard time seeing how the “magic” in HP is dealt with differently than LOTR or Narnia. Aslan practices “deeper magic” than the White Witch, but it’s still referred to as Magic. The White Witch is herself a witch, not a “lesser demon.” Tash is the only demon in the Narnia books. So Jadis is actually quite comparable to Voldemort.
      If anything, of course, the worldview in HP is closest to Star Wars, and I more than acknowledge there are flaws/errors in both–so long as the person condemning HP is consistent. I also realize that both can be manipulated in a positive way. When I was a kid, before I understood this stuff, _Star Wars_ helped me to fall in love with the Church. Watching _Harry Potter_ today reminds me of what it was like to “fall in love with the Church” at about the same age Harry started attending Hogwarts and what it was like attending Catholic high school.
      And as for LOTR, Lewis and Tolkein both believed that “white Magic” was OK before the coming of Christ because that was the only way to combat the Devil. They put great emphasis on the Arthurian conflict of Merlin’s era giving way to the Christian era as symbolic of how magic’s usefulness ended with the rise of the Sacraments.
      Though, at the same time, you’re right that in Tolkein’s background material, it’s pretty clear that the “wizards” and various creatures (Balrog, Sauron,etc.) are all angels and demons of some sort

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