Of the various insights into the diversity of Hogwarts culture JK Rowling has been sharing on Twitter lately, one in particular caught my eye. It wasn’t the revelation, reported by the Guardian, that the school had Jewish wizards. (So what?) Nor was it that Hogwarts probably had a few poofs in it. (We knew that already, didn’t we?)
No: what tickled me was her remark that the only group she never envisaged in the achingly multi-culti Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was Wiccans, those faux-druidic attention-seekers and drop-outs obsessed with black candles, lesbianism and velvet gowns.
Wiccans and those oddballs who dress up in bizarro costumes, redolent of cheap seasonal medieval re-enactment camps, who believe in magic (or, as they hilariously insist on spelling it, “magick”) and the mystical forces of mother nature.
Harrowing news for lovers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to be sure. But smirk-inducing for the rest of us, who have been reading earnest, finger-wagging blog posts from self-described “witches” and “wizards” about how Wicca should be recognised as a “valid religion.” not to mention the risible annual nonsense played out at Stonehenge.
Wicca is religion’s answer to the Liberal Democrats, and indeed there is significant statistical overlap, and not just in sartorial matters such as open-toed sandals and hemp shopping bags, between the two constituencies. Invented by a retired civil servant called Gerald in the 1950s, Wicca has developed into a nebulous, splintered, egoist’s creed, where anything is true “if it’s true for you.”
In that respect it’s a bit like Oprah’s book club, just with less cash and a fondness for tacky pentagram necklaces and with about a tenth of the membership. (Depressingly, there are 800,000 people in the world demented enough to describe themselves as Wiccans.)
But, sadly for devotees of the Moon Goddess and Horned God, it seems as though the Potterverse has no space for their kind. Rowling expressed her disapproval diplomatically on Twitter: “It’s a different concept of magic to the one laid out in the books, so I don’t really see how they can co-exist,” she wrote.
What most fans will have taken from that, I’m guessing, is: “Come off it, even by the standards of my totally invented fantasy-land full of mystical creatures, boy wizards and horcruxes, those people are off their trolleys.”
You can tell rather a lot about those respective newspapers by which details they chose to lead their reports with. The Guardian, with its creepy Jewish obsession, leapt on Rowling’s confirmation that Anthony Goldstein of Ravenclaw was semitic, while the Independent ran with her statement that “of course” Hogwarts would have been an LGBT-friendly place to learn how to magic up enchanted water.
What neither of them saw fit to give due prominence to, though, was the fact that Wiccans, hilariously, are the only group in the Harry Potter universe incapable of performing magic. You’d need a heart of stone not to laugh.