Harry Potter: Seduction of the Occult
November/December 2001 Family Voice
The release of the first Harry Potter movie is pouring gasoline onto a controversy that already has many parents burning. Parents everywhere are grappling with the presence of Harry Potter in their childs book bag, toy box and even their classroom.
Last spring, the childrens series reached a milestone, hitting the 100 million worldwide sales mark in only three years.
The J.K. Rowling series continues to top sales charts internationally. Four of seven titles have been published so farHarry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Each has been translated into 42 different languages, including Zulu and Albanian.
This is an unprecedented publishing achievement anywhere in the worldeither for adult or childrens books, said Rowlings agent Christopher Little. Every time we publish a new Harry Potter book, the first one goes back up to the top of the bestseller list.
Warner Brothers has spent about $150 million on the movie version of the first book, directed by Chris Columbus of Home Alone fame. A sequel is planned for release next year. And when anything is this captivating for children, there is marketing.
Harry Potter-themed school supplies, bed linens and toys are on store shelves waiting for the pandemonium expected from the movies release. Sears, Target and J.C. Penney are heavily marketing Harry Potter toys, bedding and even clothing. Mattel is marketing Harry Potter action figures. Hasbro is producing a trading card game, and video games are also available. Potter will appear in McDonalds Happy Meals this fall, and the boy wizard will also become a new Coca-Cola spokesman.
Even before Pottermania reached this level, parents found keeping children away from the books occult themes an uphill battle.
Beginning last school year, my 6- year-old grandson Jesse was ostracized from the reading class that his teacher conducted everyday, said Verda Unrau of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. Her daughter, Jesses mom, went to the teacher when she learned that the first Harry Potter book was to be read in class.
She was told that Jesse could either sit in with the other kids or go to the office and sit. We assumed this would only be for a week or so, but it turned out to be the whole school year that this teacher dwelt on this book, Unrau added. Jesse and another little boy missed the reading time for their whole first year of school.
That has been the essence of the two-year-old Potter-in-the-classroom debate. Parents who have been told that Christianity must be kept out of schools due to the separation of church and state are now trying to protect their children from classroom discussions about paganism and the occult.
Now, publications by Scholastic and Beachams SourceBooks have upped the ante. Not only are the Potter books featured on school shelves and read aloud in class, some teachers are also incorporating them into lessons. This means the Harry Potter phenomenon requires parents to deal directly with the topic of witchcraft, whether or not they allow their children to read the series or see the movie.
Thats the way with all cultural change, Rev. Robert McGee, co-host of the video Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged, Making Evil Look Innocent told Family Voice. Cultural engineers establish change one small step at a time. Now that Harry Potter is seen as acceptable childrens literature, its not surprising that this series, and other occult themes, are being pushed deeper into the classroom.
Shape Shifting and Druids
Beecham Publishings Exploring Harry Potter is written by Elizabeth Schafer, Ph.D.,* an expert on childrens literature. This immense volume directs teachers and parents on how to incorporate Potter into history, geography, science and English lessons.
|*||Beecham Publishings Exploring Harry Potter is not endorsed by J.K. Rowling or affiliated with Scholastic Publishing, the U. S. publisher of the Potter series.|
The Beecham Sourcebook manual goes so far as to undermine Biblical faith by referencing theologians and mystics who deny the inerrancy of Scripture and the deity of Christ. Further, it covers mythology, witchcraft, and Wiccaa natureworshipping pagan religion. The books suggestions include:
- Make a collage of the habitat and food for an animal you would like to shapeshift into. (Shape shifting is a psychic phenomenon in which a person voluntarily and temporarily thinks he is taking on the form of an animal. In Harry Potter, Harrys dead father appears to him in the form of a stag. Many pagansthose who follow occult religionsbelieve that meditation and concentration can change their form into that of an animal.)
- Write a paper about how efforts to ban the Harry Potter novels because of their themes of evil, sorcery and witchcraft, and to forbid children from wearing witch and devil costumes, resemble historic witch hunts.
- Learn about the role of witchcraft in different cultures. Either make a costume for yourself or a doll, or use paint, crayons, or construction paper to design the attire of witches in a specific geographic area.
The book also provides a bibliography of 28 books on magic, witchcraft and other occult variations that highlight the making of potions, casting spells and communing with the dead. Titles include:
- Miranda J. Greens The World of the Druids, which describes the history, mythology and literature associated with Druids in addition to discussing modern witchcraft and sorcery practices that are Druid-inspired. (Druidism is a pagan religion that attempts to recreate the practices of ancient Celtic peoples, which historically included human sacrifice.)
- Margot Adlers Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today, which describes modern witchcraft practices in the United States.
Further, Exploring Harry Potter includes a large reference list of Web sites, including links to active pagan, Wiccan and Druid groups.
Enter Scholastic Publishing
Scholastic, the American distributors of the Harry Potter series, also offers online teacher discussion guides written by Kylene Beers, assistant professor of reading at the University of Houston, Texas.
The following discussion guide features summaries of the plot, theme, conflict, setting and characterization, as well as a number of questions designed to encourage conversation, writes Beers on the Scholastic Web site.
Discussion questions include comparing various Potter characters to those in ancient mythology. Another asks about similarities between the masked wizards that torment muggles (normal humans) and real group members who have worn hoods when tormenting others.
Still other questions ask students to ponder moral themes, like self-sacrifice, choosing what is right over what is easy, and free will versus preordinationthemes better left to parents, since they will likely lose their value under the morally relativistic constraints of todays public school system.
Christian anti-cult expert Caryl Matrisciana finds this intrusion into classrooms disturbing.
This is a complete indoctrination program in the schools, Matrisciana says in the Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged video. First they interest children in the occult with delightful fantasy literature, then they bring the books into the schools, along with teachers guides to fuel the interest in exploration of the occult. Now with this Beechams Sourcebook, any computer-literate child can access genuine witchcraft training classes right in his home or classroom.
A Dangerous Trend
Many applaud the Potter series as harmless fantasy literature and credit the long tomes for getting children to read. But those familiar with the reality of the occult world arent taking them lightly.
Matrisciana says witchcraft is real, and she adds that elements of the books symbolize pagan deities. J.K. Rowling majored in Mythology at Exeter University in England. She researched the occult in order to present an accurate representation in her books.
Harry Potter is part of a larger trend to bring occult themes to younger children. Just as the seemingly innocent Sabrina the Teenage Witch is followed by darker, teen-themed Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so Potter is followed by darker and more ominous books like the Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman.
But Rev. McGee points out that the Potter craze has a particular danger.
With Harry Potter children are for the first time seeing other children, step by step, learning to access demonic power to get what they want, he said.
Marcia Montenegro, occult expert and founder of the ministry Christian Answers for the New Age, disputes claims that the books center on the theme of good versus evil.
There is no moral center in Harry Potter, said Montenegro. Good and evil are depicted as being two sides of the same coin, which is an occult worldview.
Why is Harry considered good? He breaks the rules, gets away with it, and is even rewarded for it. As one of Harrys professors says in book three, Harry is a law unto himself. From a Christian perspective, this cannot be.
A former astrology professional and occult practitioner, Montenegro now serves as a missionary with Fellowship International Mission of Allentown, Pennsylvania. She is also working on her masters degree in apologetics.
This seeming training ground for occult beliefs comes at a critical time in our culture. The Pagan Federation International claims its numbers have grown tenfold in the past decade. Online pagan networks estimate there are anywhere from 150,000 to 600,000 practicing pagans in the United States aloneand the Internet has provided an easily accessible resource for those seeking deeper occult involvement.
The Internet is fabulous for learning about it, 19-year-old Kes Davidson told the Evening Times of Glasgow, Scotland, where occult practices are flourishing. There are millions of Web sites out there.
Occult influences are also growing rapidly in the United States.
When I first began speaking on the occult in 1995, it was mostly older teens who were experimenting with it. Now you see children as young as 11, 12 and 13 involved, Montenegro said.
The occult is very attractive to kids who are seeking power, affirmation and acceptance, especially those from dysfunctional homes, Montenegro added. Harry Pottertargeted at children in the critical ages of 9 through 13feeds that thirst with practices prohibited by the Bible. I cant understand why Christian parents wouldnt be concerned about it.
Rev. McGee, who founded Rapha, a Christian counseling ministry, agrees with Montenegro about the power of occult influences.
I counseled many with backgrounds in witchcraft and the occult, said McGee. Breaking an addiction to drugs or alcohol is easier than leaving demonic spiritual forces behind. Several of my patients confirmed that many of todays witches, pagans and other occult practitioners continue the practices of the ancients including drug use and ritual sex. he added.
Yet, the American Library Association (ALA) and other liberal groups label parents who oppose the trend of occult fantasy literature as book banners. Last September, the ALA issued its annual report on challenged or banned books. The ALAs Judith Krug, head of the Office of Intellectual Freedom, told The Tennessean that the Potter books now top that list, becoming one of the 100 most frequently challenged books of the decade.
The challenges we have had [to Harry Potter] have been in schools, which means the children are going to be deprived of what appears to be the biggest phenomenon childrens publishing has ever known, Krug said.
Despite the heavy-handed influence on schools of liberal organizations like the ALAand the book industrys attempt to exploit the Harry Potter phenomenon in the classroomRev. McGee says parents cant give up the battle for the hearts and minds of their children.
Parents have to be prepared to look foolish if they plan to stand their ground, said McGee. The media have been feeding us a candy-coated version of what the occult is really like, and kids today have lost the sense that witchcraft is dangerous.
The challenge is also on churches to once again educate parents and children to the realities and dangers of the occult and spiritual warfare, he said.
|How You Can Help|
Pray Ask God to give spiritual discernment to parents who are deciding on Harry Potter for their children. |
Praise God for those who choose reading materials that uphold Godly values.
Act Encourage your young readers to try out classic Christian fantasy, such as C.S. Lewis The Chronicles of Narnia. Order resources to become more fully informed about Harry Potter.
Explain to them why you are concerned. Show your child the Biblical passages condemning the casting of spells and contact with demons, Montenegro said.
Parents neednt be alarmed or fearful. The Holy Spirit is on their side.
Despite the impact her familys opposition to Harry Potter had on her grandson, Verda Unrau says they will hold firm to their convictions.
We are prepared to make the same stand this year, she said. If I have to go wear a placard and picket the school, I will!
Martha Kleder is a writer and policy analyst for CWAs Culture and Family Institute.
More from November/December 2001 Family Voice
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