Harry Potter Spells in the Real World of Withcraft
The Boy Who Lived
It has now been more than 10 years since the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling which was followed over the years by six additional books telling the story of "the boy who lived". In the summer of this year, Harry Potter and the Death Hallows Part 2 was released on the silver screen (being preceded by 7 movies based on the books) and with that Harry's story comes to an end. Between these moments, there has been both praise and controversy. The author herself has gone from rags to riches, and children all over the world have discovered the love of reading.
I was in my mid-twenties when I first heard of Harry Potter. Both my magickal and my non-magickal friends recommended Sorcerer's Stone to me. However, I saw the book labeled "young-adult" and thought that it was, frankly, a children's story and therefore beneath me. For this reason, I had very little interest in anything Harry Potter and as such never read any of the books and only saw a handful of the movies.
However, within the past month I collected all seven books in the series and read them one by one. I found the first book rather boring as it did feel like a children's book and the fact that I had seen the movie demystified the central plot of the story for me. However, I persevered and found myself being drawn into the universe of Harry Potter with each successive entry into the series. Like so many other fans, I have my favorites (Half-Blood Prince) and those I didn't like so much (Order of the Phoenix). I can see how Rowling grew as a writer over the course of the series. It is very evident that she puts a great deal of thought into her books with regard to foreshadowing, naming of characters, and the writing of her spells, which brings me to the point of this blog.
Readers of this blog will recall that I have an ongoing series of posts titled Magic in Popular Culture (MIPC) in which I take a spell, ritual, belief, etc... from a work of fiction such as movies or books and analyze them for efficacy in the real world of magic and witchcraft. As part of my ongoing experiments in adapting such fictional spells to real world witchcraft I have studied the magick of Harry Potter and observed the following results.
Overview: Intent + Energy = Magic ?
Let me begin by saying that, very simply stated, magick equals energy plus intent. What does this mean? Every spell begins with a purpose or a need which forms the basis of your intent. As witches, we frame our intent in several ways including, but not limited to, the following:
- Spoken Words: These may take the form of a rhyming incantation, a phrase in a foreign language, or simply a prayer. The words used will usually include a brief description of the problem or situation and state what is needed or wanted by the caster in order to address the problem. Consider this spell to stop gossip, for example:
Gossip directed at (N's) name,
no longer serves to defame;
those nasty words now shrink away
til they're as gone as yesterday.
- Visualization: Visualization is the ability to "see" with the mind's eye that which is not physically present. It is one of, if not the most important, tools available to the witch. I have likened Visualization to a form of Sympathetic Magick. However, instead of creating physical images of one's goal, you make mental ones! Visualization is how we communicate our desires to the Universe. From casting circle, calling the quarters, cleansing objects, casting spells, performing divination, and even healing, visualization is an essential part of every magickal act. Therefore it is the wise witch who hones his or her powers of visualization.
- Symbols: In the practice of magick, symbols are often symbolic of our desires. They are found on Tarot Cards, Astrological Charts, and Talismans to name a few. In addition they can be carved onto candles, written on paper, draw in dirt, or even in the air! Symbols also appear in our dreams, and it has often been said that the Universe speaks to us in the language of symbols. It is the wise witch who takes every opportunity to learn to "converse" in this language.
- Gathering Correspondences: Correspondences are the relationships that can be used for magickal workings. They make use of the connectedness of things. It is helpful to think of correspondences as a list of possible ingredients from which you can make selections. There are three types of correspondences, they are:
- Astrological Correspondences- This term refers to the energies of the Moon Phases, Days of the Week, Hours of the Day, and the position of the Moon in the Zodiac, as they pertain to the timing of casting your spells.
- Natural Correspondences- This term refers to those things occurring in nature which relate to our goals in a direct manner. These correspondences include color, shape, sound, numbers, herbs, incense, gems, elements, animal energies, deity energy, the energy of the cardinal points, the winds, etc….
- Personal Correspondences- This term refers to those correspondences which resonate with us on a deeply personal level, and which empowers us more than any other correspondence.
- Enacting Rituals: Sympathetic Magick works on the principle that ‘invisible bonds connect all things’. Sympathetic Magick can be divided into two categories, Homeopathic Magick and Contagious Magick. The Scottish anthropologist Sir James G. Frazer first described these types in his book The Golden Bough (1890).
- Homeopathic Magick holds that “like attracts like.” A classic example of this type of magick is the melting of a waxen image of an enemy resulting in his or her death. Visualization is a form of sympathetic magick, instead of creating a physical image of your goal, you are create a mental one. Many taboos come from homeopathic magic. People avoid certain harmless things because they resemble various harmful things. Among the Inuit (Eskimos), for example, parents have traditionally warned their sons against playing a string game, such as cat's cradle, in which children loop string around their fingers. They feared that playing such games might cause the children's fingers to become tangled in the harpoon lines they will use as adults.
- Contagious Magick holds that “things once in contact with one another continue to exert an influence on one another after they have been separated.” An example of Contagious Magick from a folk magick remedy to cure a wound would be to rub some medicine on the object which caused the wound in the first place. People who believe in contagious magic fear that an enemy can gain power over them by obtaining parts of their body. Therefore, they carefully dispose of their nails, hair, teeth, and even their body wastes.
Potter's Standard Book of Spells
As we have seen above, one of the ways in which witches frame their intent is through the use of words (either verbal or non-verbal). Similarly the spells in the Harry Potter series, more often than not, take the form of short phrases in either...
- One or more foreign Languages (Accio)
- A bastardization of said language (Cistem Apero)
- Made-Up Words (Muggletum)
- Any combination of the above (Repello Muggletum)
With an understanding of what these words are supposed to mean, I believe, the working witch can successfully adapt these basic spells to real word applications.
Description: This spell is used in the Harry Potter series to call an object to the caster. It is usually cast by saying Accio followed by the name of the object of desire. For example Accio Spoon!
Etymology: The Latin word accio means "I call" or "I summon".
Real World Application: Try Accio when looking for lost objects.
Description: This spell is used to open and/or unlock doors.
Etymology: Alohomora is derived from the West African Sidiki dialect used in geomancy meaning: Friendly to thieves as stated by J.K. Rowling.
Real Word Application: This spell may be used to break through the protective wards of another witch.
Aparecium [ AH-par-EE-see-um]
Description: This spell makes invisible objects visible
Etymology: Latin apparere, "to appear"; -ium and -cium are common Latin noun endings.
Real World Application: Use this spell to see the unseen (i.e. spirits, fairies, ghosts, etc...)
Bombarda [bom-bar-dah ]
Description: Used to create an explosion
Etymology: Derived from "bombard"
Real Word Application: Again this spell can be used to break through another witch's protective wards, to break through obstacles, and ope the way.
Cave Inimicum [Kah-way ih-nih-mih-kum]
Description: Used to warn of an approaching enemy.
Etymology: a Latin phrase which translates to "beware of the enemy".
Real World Application: Used to charm objects (such as bells) near your front door to warn of enemies, intruders, or thieves.
Description: This spell is used to magickally lock a door.
Etymology: Perhaps a portmanteau of the Latin words colligere ("gather" or "collect") and porta ("gate"). The Greek root kolla also means "glue" and becomes collo- in many English words. Notably, the spell causes a door to seal itself "with an odd squelching noise". It may also be derived from portcullis, which was used in medieval times as a barricade or last line of defence.
Real World Application: This incantation can be used to ward door/windows to your home, or car as well as the doors to safes and hidden compartments to prevent the entrance of thieves.
Description: Used to confuse enemies.
Etymology: The word "confundus" appears to be derived from the Latin confundere, meaning "to confuse; to perplex", whereas confundo means "I confuse". Similarly, it may also derive from the English word "confound".
Real Word Application: Much like the book version, this spell can be used to temporarily confuse another person though I would recommend saying the incantation while with tracing the Rune Jera as inconspicuously as possible.
Depulso [ De-pul-soh ]
Description: Used in the Harry Potter series to drive away an enemy.
Etymology: rom the Latin “depulsio”, meaning “driving away”. Also is similar to repulse meaning "drive away with force".
Real World Application: This incantation (along with the Mano Cornuto) can be used to banish someone "in your face", low-level spirits, or negative energy.
Episkey [ eh-PIS-key ]
Description: Used to heal minor wounds
Etymology: The word comes from the Greek "episkeui" ("επισκευή"), which means "repair".
Real World Application: Just like in the book, this magick word can be used to heal minor wounds and blemishes by tracing a counter-clockwise circle around the affected area.
Expecto Patronum [ ecks-PEK-toh pah-TRO-num]
Description: A defensive spell used to conjure an incarnation of the Witch's or Wizard's innermost positive emotions to act as a protector against dementors.
Etymology: Patronus means "protector" or "guardian" in Latin, reflecting the role the Patronus Charm plays. The Latin word exspecto or expecto means "I watch for" or "I await", thus the charm's incantation roughly translates into "I await a protector".
Real World Application: This spell can be used, along with strong visualization, to summon an invisible protector in times of danger or fear. The form of the protector will depend on your visualization. I suggest your totem animal, or a figure that inspires protection such as an Angel.
Finite Incantatum [ fi-NEE-tay in-can-TAH-tem]
Description: Used to negate spells or their effects.
Etymology: Latin finire, "to finish": "finite" is the plural imperative form, so it translates to the command, "[all of you] end". Incantatem is apparently intended to recall "incantation"; the Latin verb form incantatum would mean "someone or something enspelled".
Real World Application: Use this incantation (with Hagal or Mano Cornuto) to break minor spells.
Protego Totalum [ prah-TEH-go toh-TAH-lum]
Description: Used in the Harry Potter series to create an impenetrable shield in a given area.
Etymology: Latin protego meaning "to protect" and Latin totus meaning "as a whole"
Real World Application: Used this incantation to cast a circle of protection around yourself, set up a protective ward by drawing a pentagram or Rune (such as Algiz) in the air or on the object to be protected.
Reducto [e-DUK-toh ]
Description: Breaks objects.
Etymology: English reduce, "to bring down;destroy"
Real World Applications: This incantation has several possible uses including penetrating the protective wards of another witch (try drawing the Rune Hagal while invoking the spell), reducing eruptions such as boils and blisters, as well as cursing machinery to break down.
Salvio Hexia [ SAL-vee-oh HECKS-ee-ah]
Description: one of several spells that were used to help strengthen Harry's camp-site, and had no seen effects. Possibly deflects minor hexes aimed at an object (the tent)
Etymology: Possibly derived from the Latin "salveo," meaning "to be in good health," and used as a form of greeting and farewell, and a pseudo-Latin derivative of the English word "hex"—hence, "Farewell, hexes!"
Real World Application: Use these power-words to deflect or destroy minor curses.
Vulnera Sanentur [vul-nur-ah sahn-en-tur ]
Description: Used to heal major wounds.
Etymology: Vulnera Sanentur derives from the Latin vulnus, "wound," and sanare, "to heal"; it is translated "may the wounds be healed.
Real World Application: Use this incantation to heal minor wounds (especially scraps and cuts) as well as to speed up the healing process in regards to major wounds such as broken bones, deep cuts, and cuts associated with surgery.
As you can see the wizarding world of Harry Potter is rife with magic spawned by the imagination of a very clever writer and empowered by the childlike belief of millions of fans all over the world. These are just a few of the ways in which you can harness this power for better living through the magick of Harry Potter!
- Harry Potter Wiki (Spells)