Harry Potter, Mythology, and the Bible

The Symbolism of Harry Potter, the Bible, and Mythology

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Myths are either alive or dead. Western culture lost its ability to create myth, especially myth connected to sacred words and sacred space upon the arrival of the Enlightenment.  However, centuries of cultural memories of sacred space and sacred words are alive and thriving in modern Western culture. Images of the sacred can be found throughout modern literature and modern films.

J.k. Rowling’s the Harry Potter series has sold millions of copies in multiple languages and The Harry Potter movies have made billions of dollars at box offices worldwide.

In the film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Dumbledore stated, “Happiness can be found, in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Dumbledore’s statement was connected to the appearance of light as a symbol of the sacred in the creation myths found in the Book of Genesis. In the first creation myth found in the Book of Genesis light was the first thing God created, “ ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.”

Again in the first creation myth, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night…and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” In the second creation myth, “In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,” while the writer did not use the word light, the use of the word “heavens” connoted light for the ancient people.

Rowling also used water as a symbol of the sacred. For the following example it is important to note that symbols of the sacred can have negative connotations.  In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry and Dumbledore attempted to destroy a horocrux. After Dumbledore drank the potion that was protecting the locket he asked Harry for water. Harry, however, could not produce water for Dumbledore. This example from the Harry Potter series is directly tied to water as a symbol of the sacred in in the creation myths found in the Book of Genesis.

In the first creation myth water was present before God spoke creation into being, “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” In the same creation myth, “ And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures,’” in this part of the narrative water was directly linked to creation.

Perhaps the Harry Potter series is one of the most popular book and film series of the modern period because of the use of ancient images of the sacred. Western culture no longer creates myth, but the human race is surrounded by thousands of years of cultural memories of the sacred dating back to the ancient writers who wrote the Book of Genesis, and even further back in history to the ancients who orally passed the narratives in the Book of Genesis to their descendants. 

References

1. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic, 2000. , Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. New York: Scholastic, 2007.

2. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic, 2002.

3. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Price. New York: Scholastic, 2006.

4. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter nd the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic, 2004.

5. Rowling, J.K Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic, 2000.

6. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic, 1999.

7.  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Dir. Alfonso Cuaron. Warner Brothers, 2007. 3 Ibid.

8. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Price. New York: Scholastic, 2006. Pg 555-5748

9. Genesis 1.3-4 (New Revised Standard Version)5 1.14-15 (NRSV)6 2.4 (NRSV)7

10. Genesis 1.2 (NRSV)9 1.20 (NRSV)