World of ‘Harry Potter’ examined

Sabrina Magliocco, an anthropology professor from CSUN, gave a lecture on the ancestors of Harry Potter and the history of witchcraft and folklore during a presentation on campus in the Whitsett Room in Sierra Hall Monday. Photo Credit: Katie Chavarin / Staff Photographer
Sabrina Magliocco, an anthropology professor from CSUN, gave a lecture on the ancestors of Harry Potter and the history of witchcraft and folklore during a presentation on campus in the Whitsett Room in Sierra Hall Monday. Photo Credit: Katie Chavarin / Staff Photographer

The “Harry Potter” book series was discussed as more than just a world of witches and witchcraft Monday night in a lecture given by Sabina Magliocco, chair and professor of anthropology.

The idea of the series ultimately being a life lesson for young adults was one of the main topics of the discussion.

“All young people need to find within ourselves what we can do best in order to have a fulfilling life, that’s what ‘Harry Potter’ is about,” Magliocco said.

During the lecture, Magliocco argued that certain groups and mainly parents are opposed to the book series because of its dark themes, but in reality, the book’s message is the opposite of that, she explained.

“The books are not about really practicing witchcraft, but about larger things in life,” Magliocco said. “With the values in the books you will see deep Christian values in there.”

There are stories on loyalty, self-sacrifice, helping your friends, putting their needs in front of yours and many other moral themes, she said.

Many who attended the lecture agreed with Magliocco and applied the books to their own personal lives.

“The books are relevant to real life,” said Masha Grigoryan, an English major who attended the lecture. “I looked at the whole thing (the books) in a different view. There is so much you can get out for yourself from those books.”

One of the ideas that Grigoryan takes from the books are the words that Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore tells Harry Potter – the decisions that someone makes are what makes them good or evil.

For Nathan Childress, an anthropology major and one of Magliocco’s students, the lecture was very different from class lectures.

“This was more important to modern times. It talked about ‘Harry Potter’ and how it ties into given belief systems of witchcraft,” Childress said.

For many, the world of Harry Potter is filled with abilities we all desire, and J.K. Rowling, the author of the book series, makes that magic come alive for us, Magliocco said.

Magliocco continued to discuss the idea of the series teaching life lessons by referring to Dumbledore warning Harry Potter not to stay stuck in fantasies. People need to start living in the real world and not fantasies which is a false world, she said.

So as much as people get caught up in the series, Magliocco wants to remind people the dangers of confusing fantasy and reality.

When Magliocco began reading the series, she read with a critical perspective that she said allowed her to critically analyze the themes rather than just understanding the plot.

“It is really clear that the books are more than just about a magical story and a children’s story. It seemed to me that there was a lot of depth to them,” Magliocco said.

Magliocco began the lecture by discussing the background of folklore and how J.K. Rowling used a lot of it in the “Harry Potter” books.

She also discussed the Mirror of Erised – a mirror in which a viewer sees what he or she desires the most – which is featured in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” when Harry Potter looks into it and sees his parents. Magliocco said the mirror could be looked at as a metaphor where the world of witches is a mirror for our deepest wishes and fears.

“The world of Harry Potter itself is a Mirror of Erised, as a world we wish,” Magliocco said.

The Mirror of Raef is a theme that Magliocco came up with while studying the Potter books.

“The Mirror of Raef is a reflection of people’s fears,” she said.

Magliocco quoted Dumbledore saying, “This mirror will give us neither knowledge or truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible.”