Education takes place in many forms. Today we can Google or YouTube just about anything we are interested in learning more about. I have done several religious studies taking me to Europe and Asia, but I’ve never quite been able to apply the practices I observed to my life. I went in search of some ways that sacred texts are looked at through diverse lenses and what I found would be beyond anything I could imagine. Some Harvard Alumni had gotten together to look at the Harry Potter series as a sacred text and created a podcast that looked at different sections of the books through diverse religious practices. I wanted to take a moment and spotlight what the folks from Harry Potter and the Sacred Text are doing as an example of the diverse work Harvard Alumni are doing.
Vanessa Zoltan, a Co-Host, wrote to us about the project.
“Since I graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 2015 I have been working on treating the Harry Potter series as a sacred text. First, my co-host, Casper ter Kuile and I gathered people on Wednesday nights for a class. It ran like a bible study. Only we weren't using the bible; we were using a book almost as popular; Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone. After going through all seven books, using Judeo-Christian spiritual practices, blessing characters and inviting people in our class to give sermons about a boy-wizard, we launched a podcast. Harry Potter & the Sacred Text launched in May of 2016. We now have about a million downloads a month and 27 groups meet all over the world to treat the Harry Potter books as if they were sacred.
This whole project is based on the idea that the most important part of treating a text as sacred is the community. You need people who show up and say, 'yes, I also think that this is sacred." You need a gym buddy, who you go to class for because you don't want to disappoint them. You need someone who will hold your hand when you start crying, because Harry's mom coming back from the dead makes you realize how much you miss your mom.
These groups have nearly nothing to do with us. Some meet weekly, others monthly. They are started by fans of the Harry Potter series who feel as though they have been given a vocabulary to do something that they were already doing with midnight release parties, traditions of rereading certain books on certain anniversaries and tattooing, "lumos", onto their bodies.
The Harry Potter books are both uniquely qualified to speak to the searching parts of us and are in no way necessary for the work that we are doing. Our new project will be about treating Romance novels as if they are sacred. But also, "Hufflepuff" is a beautiful sort of Shibboleth in this time of separation. “
If you are interested in finding out more about about this Harvard Divinity School Alumna's work check out their website at http://harrypottersacredtext.com/ or if you are interested in joining them on an adventure, they have some pilgrimages through the lens of different texts (Jane Eyre and Pride & Prejudice) which you can read about at https://www.readingandwalkingwith.com/