J. K. Rowling and the perceived omissions

1966

Out of the Broomcloset

By the time that you are reading this, dear friends, I expect that vast swaths of the population will be parsing J.K. Rowling’s latest edition to the Harry Potter canon, it being the script for the stage production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, taking place 15 years on from the events in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

While there may be Witches and Wizards galore contained within there will be no Wiccans or Pagans attending Hogwarts. Ms. Rowling is on record regarding the religious affiliations of her innumerable characters, and they are, in the main, from the expected Judeo-Christian spectrum encountered in most Western countries, with a few following Vedic practices. Seemingly, no God and Goddess worshipers need apply (expecting Hinduism).

Some may take “umbrage” (Dolores or otherwise) at this intentional avoidance. It shouldn’t be any secret that many of “us” are just as tickled by portrayals of magical practitioners in fiction as are the more general public. While it would be wonderful to be included in a series which has brought delight to so many, perhaps this is not the time or place to raise a hue and cry about perceived omissions.

First, I would be disinclined to harass an author about what is not contained in their particular vision, what they may or not explore (unless one is an editor, they being so close to divinity as to require obeisance). More importantly, it is good to remember that this is a work of fiction, not a documentary. Finally, despite this exclusion, it has opened us the eyes of countless readers, young and old, to the possibilities of magick, though the author has also stated that “that” (i.e. the supplication and invocation of spiritual forces) is not how magic works in her particular sub-creation. In this argument, she shares with many subtle minds in Western culture the struggle to, not only define magic, but to also separate acceptable from unacceptable forms.

From the rise of Greek philosophical inquiry, through the most notable theological speculations in the Judaeo/Christian/Islamic schools of thought, through the Renaissance and onward, defining the agency by which magic “works” has been a thorny one, as is the question of whether it may be employed at all. Simply (and baldly put), magic either requires the active engagement of some outside, rational being, or is this part of the innate qualities of things. Are we engaging with spiritual forces with their own agenda (who are occasionally humoring us), or are we competent observers of nature, tapping into them in the same way that we do electricity or some other phenomena?

In less secular times, these were not idle speculations; depending on which side of this argument one fell on, one was either in the employ of princes or tortured in a cell before being turned into a human torch. The goalposts for what was acceptable experimentation were in a continuous state of flux. Astrology was taught at university; however, one’s calculations might only suggest influences but still allow for free will, rather than suggest that destiny is immutable. Particular stones or herbs had certain associations which held inherent magical qualities, but was it forbidden magic, usurping the prerogatives of Deity, if you drew certain symbols on the former, or burned the latter as incense at a certain time or day?

So, it would seem that J.K. Rowling has, in her fictional creation, found a happy middle path where her characters may engage in magical acts, without running afoul of the theological guardians of the gates, and good for her!