Tuesday, August 16, 2016

J. K. Rowling on Wands

Today the Guardian is reporting that J. K. Rowling has commented on an article from the Independent that claimed Richard Carter, the owner of a shop that sells wands for use in real magical rituals, said that he would refuse to sell wands to Harry Potter fans because his wands were not toys. Her response suggests that although she's made a fortune writing about magick, she doesn't have much respect for real magical spirituality.

As I mentioned in my post on the original article, I think it's a bit extreme to ban fans of certain books from your shop. But the thing is, that's apparently not what Carter said. He was misquoted, and was explaining that there's a difference between wands meant for magical practice and toys, and if a child wanted a toy, that's what he or she should buy.

On the other hand, it sounds like Rowling doesn't see the difference, because I guess she thinks magick - a discipline that I have dedicated the last thirty years of my life to practicing - is all made up.

The novelist tweeted a link to a story in the Independent about Richard Carter, owner of the shop Mystical Moments in Huddersfield. Carter, who supplies handmade wands, was quoted as saying that “Harry Potter is for children”, and that “if I had someone come in wanting a wand just because they liked Harry Potter I would not sell them one, no matter how much they were offering”.

“You wouldn’t believe how many real witches and wizards there are knocking about. You would be amazed,” he said. “They know they can come here and reveal themselves without people thinking they’re mental. I don’t have customers who have been Harry Potterfied.”

Rowling tweeted in response on Sunday: “Oh yeah? Well, I don’t think they’re real wands.” Her comment was liked by more than 15,000 people, but some criticised her on Twitter for making fun of pagan religions.

— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling)
August 14, 2016

Oh yeah? Well, I don't think they're real wands. https://t.co/CkiavJyDLu

The Sun reported he had banned Potter fans from his shop, but Carter told the Huddersfield Daily Examiner that his comments had been taken out of context.

“I said that if Harry Potter fans wanted a wand they should go on eBay because what they’re basically after is a toy. But I have not banned them from the shop,” he told the local paper. “I have nothing against Harry Potter and actually liked the films. The wands I make, though, whether you believe it or not, are real and spiritual. If a Harry Potter fan came to the shop, whether they would be able to buy a wand would depend on why they want one. If for a toy, then no, but if they had watched Harry Potter and been inspired to start their own spiritual journey, then yes.”

In reference to the quoted article, I should point out that it's not just pagans who use "real wands." Ritual/ceremonial magicians like me do as well, and most of the Medieval grimoires employ Christian or Judeo-Christian symbolism.

Anyway, I suppose it's no surprise that the most famous author of magical tales in the world doesn't believe there's any such thing in the real world, but it is rather sad. For all Rowling's books present a sort of cartoon version of magick, she clearly has done enough research to understand that this is a spiritual tradition that has been practiced and taken very seriously for thousands of years.

At the same time, it's also no surprise that the British press misquoted Carter. I remember all the nonsense that they reported when the OTO was in the news a few years ago. Most of it was pure sensationalism that had nothing to do with the real organization. Seeing the revised quote, I actually agree with Carter. There is a difference between a toy and a real spiritual tool, whether or not J.K. Rowling believes it. A kid who wants a toy should buy a toy instead.

And just as a point, if you're looking for a novel about magick by a real practicing magician, I published one back in 2009. It's called Arcana, and it's available from Amazon and other online retailers. It's not as popular as Harry Potter (by far), but it is far more authentic.

UPDATE: So I was curious as to where this is coming from and did a little research on Rowling. I was wondering if she might be one of those "new atheists" who are down on religion in general, but it's a lot more boring than that. She's an ordinary univalent Christian who thinks her religion is real and all of the others are fake.

So I suppose that's why she feels that she can appropriate whatever she wants from Western Esotericism (fake!), Paganism (fake!), and Native American spirituality (fake!), for which she was recently criticized and which I didn't even touch on in the original post. But those are all real religions that people practice, regardless of what Rowling thinks.

I'm not going to turn into one of those idiots ranting about boycotting Harry Potter or anything like that. I like the series in general and I think Rowling is a good writer. I just think it's sad to see someone who obviously has such an amazing imagination being so closed-minded about people who don't share her spiritual beliefs.

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