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Muggles Strike Back

by Rabbi Rami ShapiroOctober 07, 2019
Wizard looking into the future with a crystal ball.

Studio-Annika/Getty Images

“What to do with all these evil books? Expelliarmus!”

St. Edward Catholic School in Nashville has banned the Harry Potter books. Good for them!

As Rev. Dan Reehil, a faculty member at the school, warned in an email, “The curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text. I have consulted several exorcists, both in the United State and in Rome, and they have recommended removing the books from circulation.”

Real curses and spells? Riddikulus!

Rev. Reehil goes on to say that the Harry Potter books “glorify acts of divination; of conjuring the dead, of casting spells among other acts that are an offense to the virtue of religion—to the love and respect we owe to God alone. Many reading these books could be persuaded to believe these acts are perfectly fine, even good or spiritually healthy.”

Damn. I was one of those persuaded readers. I feel so foolish. I can’t tell you how many times I waved a pencil and used the Accio spell to bring my television remote control closer to me rather than have to get out of my chair and retrieve it. I had no idea these were real spells. Especially since I still had to get out of my chair and pick up the remote no matter how many times I shouted Accio!

Now I see the light (Lumos!). I’m with Rev. Reehil: books that “glorify acts of divination; of conjuring the dead, of casting spells among other acts that are an offense to the virtue of religion.” That’s why I urge St. Edward’s to ban the Bible as well (see 1 Samuel 14:41 and 1 Samuel 28:3-25 for example). And as for casting spells, if the Church has any copies of the Talmud left over from their Talmud Burnings in the Middle Ages, they should burn them now.

Talmud Tractate Shabbat 67, for example, is filled with magical acts and incantations and seems to give explicit sanction to the use of magic if it is done for the purposes of healing. One example is the spell for removing blindness (shabriri): The blind person is to repeat the phrase “My mother warned me against shabriri.” With each repetition the speaker should reduce one letter from the word shabriri: shabriri, shabrir, shabri, shabr,shab, sha…” When the word is no longer spoken the blind are no longer blind.

What to do with all these evil books? Expelliarmus!

Then again, if the spells are real, maybe the evil they fight is real as well. I’m thinking of He Who Shall Not Be Named (no, not Y-H-V-H, but V-ld-m-rt). After all, how else are we to defeat Him?

Or take Dementors for example. According to Gryffindor’s Remus Lupin, “Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. ... Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself ... soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.”

The only way to protect yourself against a Dementor is with the spell Expecto patronum! If we aren’t allowed to learn this spell, how can we defend ourselves against such evil?

One thing we can do, I guess, is call on Saints. Take St. Edward himself for example. St. Edward is the patron saint of difficult marriages. How many of us have discovered after some years of marriage that our partner is in fact a Dementor? If I were a Catholic priest, I would gift every couple I married with a St. Edward’s candle and St. Edward’s medals. And then I would warn them that if they have children not to let them read the Harry Potter books—Wingardium leviosa

This Spell to Stop Worrying garnered a lot of discussion on our social media feeds. Have you read it yet? 

Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. His spiritual advice column, “Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler,” addresses reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more. His latest book is Surrendered—The Sacred Art: Shattering the Illusion of Control and Falling into Grace with Twelve-Step Spirituality.

He has this to say about religion: “To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of human origin; each language reflects and shapes the mindset of the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say or cannot say as well in another; and the more languages you know, the more nuanced your understanding of life. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multi-lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence.”

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