I’m sure that many Pagans out there, especially those that identify as Witches, have had people who said to them, “You know Harry Potter isn’t real, right?” There are probably a lot of Witches out there who kind of wish that Harry and the gang didn’t exist, because now whenever they mention their identity, people are thinking of the pop culture phenomenon and not of the spirituality and the history behind that word. They think of Bellatrix Lestrange or Hermione (my personal favorite) and they don’t really understand what’s going on in your head.
That being said, I’m not one of those people who is upset about the Harry Potter franchise, because I’m in the broom closet. And, to be honest, I think that Harry Potter has done a lot more good than harm in this world. Because of Harry Potter, the term “witch” isn’t just reserved for the creepy old women in Disney films who try to poison the beautiful main characters. Witches can be powerful, smart, and kick-ass. Most importantly, Witches are, well, people. Hermione is a completely well-rounded character. Being a witch is not the biggest part of her identity. She is a human, who is also a witch.
Additionally, the Harry Potter series got kids (like me) to love reading and writing, and it’s never a bad thing to have a more-educated populace. I will always be a HUGE Harry Potter fan, no matter what people say about it or how much people suggest that it has caused damage to the Pagan community.
Anyway, the reason I’m bring up HP is because the other day, on the Internet, I realized that YOU CAN TAKE ONLINE HARRY POTTER CLASSES, as if Hogwarts was really a school, but you could go online. You actually get graded, do essays and stuff, and really study and do lessons. Seriously, that’s pretty freaking awesome. As soon as I did a little more research into it to make sure it was legit and completely free, I signed up.
Unfortunately, I made a couple of huge mistakes when I signed up. One of them is that for a very brief moment, I imagined that maybe taking these Hogwarts classes would benefit my studies in Paganism. I’m working toward educating myself on Witchcraft and everything (as you can tell by this blog), and I kind of thought, “Well, obviously not everything is going to be accurate, but what if there is actually some good info on here?”
Secondly, I signed up using my Witch name, because I didn’t want to use my real name. The reason these mistakes are problems is because I really shouldn’t have associated this fantasy world of Harry, which is something that really took my whole imagination growing up, with my potential spirituality and religion. By connecting these two things, which are very different, I’m basically guilty of what everyone thinks Witches are, which is believing fantasy to be real. The moment I “enrolled” in my Herbology class and looked at the “syllabus” and first lesson, I immediately recognized how foolish it was to think, even for a moment, that “studying” at “Hogwarts” was going to help me in my spiritual studies. The reality is that these two things are not connected, no matter how deep down I’ve always wanted to be a witch (with a lowercase “w”).
The truth is, since I was a little kid, I’ve wanted to be Hermione, or some witch from the Harry Potter universe. That’s just how my life was, because that book series completely changed me. Coming forward all these years and staring down the face of a new spiritual path, and I have repeatedly had to face the question, “Now, do I want to be a Witch? Or do I want to be a witch?” Being introspective is a part of this path, I know, but…damn, that question sucks. What if all of this is just an illusion I’ve created for myself? What if I’m not looking for religion–what if I’m looking for fantasy?
Time and time again, I’ve had to ask myself this question, and sometimes I’m too frustrated or tired to answer it. But sometimes I really do think about it, and, once in awhile, I do make myself feel better.
Because, really, when I look at what Pagans are doing out in the world, when I talk to my Pagan friends, or when I watch the Pagan Perspective channel on YouTube, I see some people that really hold beliefs I want to understand. I’ve already tried to understand the Christian God, and Jesus Christ, and in the end it just didn’t make sense to me like I wanted it to. Paganism can be baffling and mysterious, of course, but the fact that you don’t have to adhere to one doctrine is pretty refreshing, and the fact that it’s self-empowering is also pretty nice. And really, when I look back at messages I’ve sent to my friends, or when I think about how I feel when I’m in a forest alone, I know there is something there besides wishing I could make stuff levitate. There is a real search for meaning in the Universe, and there are real fundamental beliefs that back this path.
I know that doubt is a natural stage of any process, but sometimes it’s hard. I just have to pick myself back up and remind myself why this Path spoke to me in the first place. And it wasn’t because of Hermione (although I still think that would be a freaking awesome name for my kid one day).
So I’ll probably take a look at that Herbology class, but instead of going at it like I’m Chloe the Witch, I just have to pretend that I’m some witch, and lose myself in the fandom of it, and know, that really, it’s just a fantasy.
And Chloe might be real life.
Bonus: My first Herbology homework assignment. Actually some interesting questions here that I should ask myself on a daily basis.
Quick Answers: Who are you? What is your name? What is your gift? Everyone has a gift; some people are writers, potioneers, some people are excellent at charms, and others are gifted at drawing. (Plants are the same way, aren’t they). Please spend some time thinking about how unique you are, and how you contribute to the environment around you.
What does Herbology mean to you? Include what your expectations for this course are, your current perception of magical plants, and of non-magical plants. Are there any plants you already are knowledgeable in, and are there any plants which you are excited to learn about. Do you have any plants in your home? Why did you decide to take Herbology?