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Alohamora: Ritual Keys in Harry Potter's Wizarding World

Clothing choices become even more important when a Witch dresses for ritual. As Amber and Azrael K write, “Costume for ritual . . . allows us to leave mundane, ordinary reality and enter . . . a place where magick works and we can be transformed” (273). The clothing becomes a ritual key, allowing each person “entrance” into a particular state of mind. In a similar way, Hogwarts students change into their “school robes” while traveling to Hogwarts on the train, preparing for their entrance into the magical school. The school uniform, like most British boarding school uniforms, consists of pants or skirt, a white collared shirt, and tie, but over this Hogwarts students wear sweeping black robes reminiscent of Witches’ robes. In describing apparel for ritual, Scott Cunningham explains, “Robes range from simple bath-type designs to fully hooded and lined monkish creations, complete with bell sleeves guaranteed to go up in flames if waved too close to candles” (50). While the styles of robes vary greatly (and some do not wear robes at all), wearing robes can be an important ritual key, helping groups form solidarity of mind.

Hats act as immediate identifiers for folkloric witches and wizards, though few Witches wear pointed hats as part of their ritual attire. More often ritual leaders (and sometimes participants) wear “crowns,” headdresses, or circlets representing the God and/or Goddess. See Amber and Azrael K’s extensive list of possible ritual headwear in RitualCraft (277). They include “pointed ‘witches’ hats’ on their list, though crowns and horns are much more common. Throughout the films, the Hogwarts students rarely wear hats. The adults wear hats specific to their gender. Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) often wears hats in the traditional witch hat shape, though several are uniquely designed for her, including a witch hat made of a Scottish plaid tartan. Headmaster Dumbledore wears tall conical hats in the first two films, but when Michael Gambon assumed the role after Richard Harris’s death for the third film, costume designer Jany Temime replaced it with a cap. McGonagall and Dumbledore are the most significant authority figures in the films, and they are also most-often pictured wearing hats specific to their gender, much like the priest and priestess are the most likely to wear ritual headpieces specific to their gender.

In the first film, Professor McGonagall introduces another important hat, the Sorting Hat, which sorts the students into “houses.” J.K. Rowling purposefully connected the four houses to the elements of earth (Hufflepuff), fire (Griffindor), water (Slytherin), and air (Ravenclaw). As she explains, “It is the tradition to have four houses, but in this case, I wanted them to correspond roughly to the four elements. . . . it was this idea of harmony and balance, that you had four very necessary components and by integrating them you would make a very strong place” (Anelli and Sparz). Each house has its own color-correspondences, animal mascot, and magical properties. In the films, the house correspondences show most clearly through the students’ uniforms. After Hogwarts students are sorted, their robes and ties indicate which “house” they are in by their colors. The main characters of Harry (Daniel Radcliff), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) are all in Griffindor house, with robes accented with a red lining, a patch showing a lion, a red tie with gold stripes, and a red and gold scarf. Their rival, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), is sorted into Slytherin, and he wears robes with green accents, ties of green striped with silver, a snake patch, and a green and silver scarf. Hufflepuff robes are not seen clearly until the fourth film, when the character Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson) wears gold-lined robes, a gold tie with blue stripes, a badger crest, and a gold and blue striped scarf. The only Ravenclaws we see clearly in the films are Cho Chang (Katie Leung) and Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch), both who are primarily seen in The Order of the Phoenix wearing blue-lined robes, navy blue tie with blue stripes, raven crest, and blue-striped scarf. The wearing of colors associated with the elements reminded me immediately of the elemental color correspondences used by Witches.

The clothing chosen by costume designers in bringing Harry Potter’s wizarding world to the screen reflects the costumes chosen by many Witches in expressing personal and group identity, particularly when dressing for ritual. While Harry Potter is fully capable of performing magic while dressed in muggle clothing, dressing in “magical” attire helps him and his friends gain entrance to the magical community of Hogwarts. Most Witches choose specific clothing to perform their magical identity and change their mental reality.

11/19/2010 5:00:00 AM