Harry Potter Is Not a Gateway to the Occult

Harry Potter Is Not a Gateway to the Occult May 7, 2018

I’m a faithful Catholic who also loves the Harry Potter series of books (heck, I met my husband in a web club called Harry Potter for Grown Ups), and as such I get rather annoyed when I see other Catholics insist that Harry Potter is a gateway to the occult — meaning that people who enjoy the books and/or the movies are starting on a path that ends in full-fledged devil worship.

I actually converted to Catholicism while obsessively re-reading the first four books. I had my first date with my husband on the day “Goblet of Fire” came out in 2000 (we went to a release party on our date), and we jointly converted one month before “Order of the Phoenix” was released in 2003.

harry potter wedding picture

We even had a Harry Potter-themed wedding dance.

I’ve been Catholic and reading Harry Potter ever since, and so far, no devil worship.

I’d like to address some of the more preposterous claims I’ve seen about the Harry Potter books and movies, which are usually made by people who haven’t bothered to actually read or watch them.

The fictional magic in Harry Potter is not the same as the occult.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states,

2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity.

In the Harry Potter world, magic is not an “attempt to tame occult powers.” It is an inborn, inherent genetic ability. A person has no choice as to if they are a witch or a wizard — they are either born with magical power, or they are not. No characters in the series, even the most evil of them, “have recourse to the intervention of demons.”

Do the evil characters misuse their magic gifts? Yes, they do, and that is clearly condemned by the protagonists of the series — and the evil characters are very clearly breaking Wizard law by committing evil actions.

No, there is not a “satanic worship book” featured in one of the Harry Potter movies.

I spent nearly an hour on Google trying to track down more information about this claim. I even sent a private Facebook message to the person I heard it from. She did respond and said she would get me the information, but as of publication time (over 48 hours later), she hasn’t yet provided it to me. If she does, or if someone else knows where this claim originates and posts that info in the combox, I’ll update this post accordingly.

This claim isn’t even included in the Wikipedia article “Religious debates about the Harry Potter series,” which is a very thorough overview of various accusations of that type.

No, there aren’t “real names of demons” in the Harry Potter series.

I found this particular claim here:

“Harry also learns a new vocabulary, including such words as Azkaban, Circe, Dracho, Erised, Hermes, Slytherin, all of which are names of real devils or demons. These are no characters of fiction.”

J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, has been quite transparent about how she came up with the various names in the books.

Azkaban, a prison for evil wizards, is a combination of the words “Alcatraz” and “Abbadon.” Per J.K. Rowling herself,

The name ‘Azkaban’ derives from a mixture of the prison ‘Alcatraz’, which is its closest Muggle equivalent, being set on an island, and ‘Abaddon’, which is a Hebrew word meaning ‘place of destruction’ or ‘depths of hell’.

Circe is a name from of a goddess in Greek mythology.

Draco” (not “Dracho”) is after the constellation of the same name.

Erised” is “Desire” spelled backwards. In the books, the Mirror of Erised is inscribed with this words “erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi,” which, spelled backwards, says, “I show not your face but your heart’s desire.” Accordingly, it is a magical mirror that shows one’s deepest desire. When Harry looks into the mirror, he does not see himself as a high priest in the Church of Satan — he seems himself reunited with his dead parents. So demonic, eh?

Hermes” is another name of a god in Greek mythology.

Slytherin” is “basically ‘slithering’ minus the ‘g,’ and the snake is the symbol for Slytherin house.”

I hate snakes, personally, but I don’t think they are demons. (The very first snake in the garden of Eden notwithstanding.)

Additionally, I can find no record of these “demon or devil names” that predate the HP series (that is, I can’t find the source that J.K. Rowling would have used to name her characters if this claim was accurate).

It seems more likely that demons or devils took their names *from* the HP series in order to mislead fallible exorcists, which would hardly be J.K. Rowling’s fault. If a demon chose to name itself Gandalf or Aslan, would that mean that the Lord of the Rings or Narnia books are inherently evil?

No, the spells in Harry Potter are not “real spells.”

I also keep hearing that the spells featured in the Harry Potter books are “real spells,” by which I understand to mean that people who practice Wicca and/or Satanism actually use the incantations found in the book to perform occultic acts.

That isn’t true. The spells in the book are modified Latin words.

For example, the Summoning Charm, which is used to summon objects (not demons!) to the caster, uses the word “Accio.” Accio is an actual Latin word that means “I call” or “I summon.”

The Flying Charm, which is used to make objects levitate, uses the words “Wingardium Leviosa.”

Per the Harry Potter Wiki,

“Wingardium” almost certainly contains English wing, meaning “fly,” and Latin arduus, meaning “high.”

“Leviosa” probably originates from Latin levis, meaning “light.”

If simply saying Latin words constituted a “real spell,” then the entirety of the Latin Mass would be nothing but spellwork.

It’s no different than a child waving a stick and saying, “Abracadabra!” Or standing in front of a door and saying the Elvish word for friend. Or trying to get to Narnia through a wardrobe.

There is no evidence that Satanism among children or even adults has risen due to the popularity of the Harry Potter books.

This claim seems to have come from two articles, one from The Onion (a satire site) and another from a satirical column in the National Post.

J.K. Rowling (who is a Christian herself) has stated that not one child has ever told her that he or she became a practicing witch as a direct result of reading the Harry Potter books.

Many years ago (around the same time the Harry Potter books became popular), my mother worked as a librarian in a small elementary school. The family of one of her students asked her to remove the Harry Potter books from the library for religious reasons. You see, this family practiced witchcraft as their religion, and they didn’t want children getting the wrong idea about witchcraft from the books! Apparently they felt the books misrepresented their religion.

I solemnly swear that I am not making this up.

My mother declined their request, but this same family demanded that the school not celebrate Halloween for the same reason, and as a result the school had a “Harvest Festival” celebration instead.

Have you heard any other dubious claims about Harry Potter that you’d like me to debunk? Let me know in the comments!

Featured image credit: By Oxyman [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5], from Wikimedia Commons

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  • Rebecca Fuentes

    I see Fr. Gabriel Amorth brought up a lot in Catholic arguments against HP.

  • Dave Armstrong
  • Yep. The same Fr. Amorth who claimed to have performed so many exorcisms in a ten-year period that he would have had to do nine per day every day (Sundays included) to make his claim truthful. Me, I’m skeptical.

  • Ruth Curcuru

    Here is a review of a book that not only doesn’t say that HP is Satanic, it actually says it is strongly Christian. http://rannthisthat.blogspot.com/2008/10/my-review-how-harry-potter-cast-his.html

  • James

    HP is the same kind of young adult fantasy as the works of Lewis and Tolkien.

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    Likewise (and now there’s a movie). Also, he seems popular in the same circles that put a lot of focus on Mejagourie.

  • Jenna

    Fr Gabriel Amorth is a fantastic priest, he knows what he is talking about. I would never touch Harry Potter, and if I had
    kids they would not touch those books either. What does the Bible say about Magic? Sorcerers?
    Revelation 21:8
    “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.“

  • Jenna

    Fr Gabriel Amorth is a great priest, he knows what he is talking about. I would never touch Harry Potter, and if I had
    kids they would not touch those books either. What does the Bible say about Magic? Sorcerers?
    Revelation 21:8
    “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.“

  • Jenna

    What does the Bible say about Magic? Sorcerers?
    Revelation 21:8
    “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.“

  • Mike Wagner

    The author seems to ignore the fact that in the right of exorcism that is used by the priest to cast out the demon includes a requirement that the demons reveals their actual name. Upon learning the name of the demon the priest is granted more power over the demon, to the point of being able to expel in the name of God. If a fake name is given it would become fairly obvious very quickly.

  • Chris Piotrowski

    Any Catholic who has anything to do with Harry Potter is putting their immotal soul in danger. A warning from Fr Chad Ripperger a highly experienced Exorcist. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGNaruEYOE0

  • That is Fr. Rippinger’s opinion, not the teaching of the Church. He also believes that women who work outside the home commit mortal sin, so I can’t say I consider his opinions very credible.

  • Chris Piotrowski

    What exactly is Fr Ripperger’s “opinion” ? Can you show me where he says anything that conradicts Church teaching?

    Also” women who work outside the home commit mortal sin” Can you show me where he has said that.

    This is his field as an recognised expert in the demonic and as he has said, the names in the HP books of the demons and the spells are real.I don’t think you can see what danger you are in here JoAnna. The Harry Porter books are evil.

  • Chris Piotrowski

    I trust Fr Amorth over the anti-Catholic, pro homosexual, pro abortion, occultist and most likely acual witch, JK Rowling.


  • T Vos

    I am frustrated with this article. First, the author, while I am sure well-intended, is speaking with an authority she does not possess. While doing so, she could be leading many astray in defense of books she enjoys reading. Second, she alludes that exorcists who speak against this are ill-informed and fallible. While they are fallible, so is she. And who has more credibility and authority to speak on the matter? A consecrated priest and experienced exorcist (both Fr. Amorth and Fr. Chad Ripperger), or a dedicated HP fan whose research could have been very tainted by her desired outcome. In other words, she is not an impartial judge. I’ve read works by occult experts who said that some of the spells were direct quotes of their incantations. The exorcists mentioned above have delivered people from the very demons who possessed J.K. Rowling (Fr. Chad Ripperger). Additionally, Fr. Amorth was not just an exorcist who was misinformed, he was the Vatican’s chief exorcist. He is credible. I mean no offense, but I would sooner listen to a consecrated priest who has stared in the face of evil countless times than the author of this article.

  • I have the authority to provide facts and witness to the truth, as do we all. What have I said that isn’t true?

    The occult experts you speak of are either lying or mistaken. They cannot provide evidence to support their assertions (for example, recordings of the exorcisms in question). Also, demons lie. Exorcists are not supposed to trust what they say or report it as truth.

    Fr. Ripperger is unreliable, as is Fr. Amorth. Exorcists are fallible men. They can be wrong or mistaken.

    You’ve yet to demonstrate how any of the info I have provided is incorrect.

  • aimer

    I’m not sure why there is so much time, effort and energy being expended by Catholic parents to defend and support this book series. The fact that it has such a hold on people would give me pause.

  • horseradish

    You are unreliable

  • Sophia the Sophisticated

    An exorcist might not lie, but he might be mistaken. Fr. Ripperger, for example, makes several claims about Harry Potter that are blatantly false, and have no evidence to back them up. There are no demon names in Harry Potter. No one has proven that. JK Rowling didn’t go to witch school. Nobody has ever said that.

    One exorcist said that demons lie. They’re liars and deceivers. But then that same exorcist said that a demon told him that Harry Potter was bad, so there you go. I think the demon said that, not because Harry Potter is so good, but because the demon wanted to cause confusion and create division among Catholics. And it has.

    Anything can potentially harm one’s relationship with God. But Harry Potter has converted a lot of people to Christianity and strengthened the faith of some Catholics.

  • Sophia the Sophisticated

    He doesn’t contradict Church teaching. He just says things about Harry Potter and Rowling that are false and provides no proof to back up his claims. Rowling didn’t go to witch school. There are no demon names in Harry Potter. The woman who burned her house down, burned it down because she put a bunch of flammable ingredients into a potion she was cooking. It didn’t have anything to do with the Harry Potter spell. The spells in Harry Potter are not real since they involve no summoning of spirits of any kind. Many ex-witches have said the spells are not real.

  • Sophia the Sophisticated

    Horseradish, she is not unreliable when it comes to Harry Potter because unlike most Harry Potter haters, she has actually read the books. The spells in them are not real and there are no demons in them at all. Every Harry Potter hater makes these outrageous claims and provides no proof to back them up.

  • Sophia the Sophisticated

    Because we are sick of Harry Potter haters calling us demon-worshippers and saying that we’re in grave danger because of a harmless children’s book series. The division among Catholics on this topic was created by the Harry Potter haters who still fail to give any evidence to back up their claims.

  • Sophia the Sophisticated

    I’m sure all the Harry Potter characters will burn in a lake of fire….even though they don’t exist, so what’s your point?

  • Sophia the Sophisticated

    So you condemn CS Lewis, Tolkien, and fairy tales?

  • horseradish

    You sound like the Hater

  • Sophia the Sophisticated

    Can you provide any proof for that? Or for any of your claims?

  • Kale Mikael

    Judging from what you subscribe to, I’d say someone’s in need of a mirror.

  • John-Michael Mustchin

    JK Rowling, while not entirely sound in her beliefs, is a practicing Christian who has openly stated that she incorporated Christian themes into the novels (more obvious in the last one, Deathly Hallows). She is not an occultist and she is not a witch, despite what you personally think of the novels/movies that you’ve probably never read.

  • John-Michael Mustchin

    As a Christian Harry Potter fan, I quite agree with you.