There are few cozier activities on a cold day than curling up with a hot cup of coffee, a warm blanket, and a great book. While reading a new story for the first time has the potential to become a thrilling adventure, sometimes it’s the books we’ve read again and again that create a comfortable retreat from our busy schedules. The Harry Potter series is a great example of books like this; they’re familiar enough for most of us remember from our childhood, and still relevant enough to enjoy today. If you’re having J.K. Rowling withdrawals after seeing “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” or are about to plow through the series for the first or thirtieth time this winter, consider listening to the “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text” podcast along with your reading.
Hosted by Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile, and produced by Ariana Nedelman, “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text” takes one chapter a week (starting with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) and delves into it, determined to treat Rowling’s work with respect and reverence that is not frequently employed in a casual reading. According to the podcast’s website, the hosts view a sacred reading as one that incorporates trusting the text, approaching it with rigor and ritual, and reading it in community. By reading Harry Potter as a sacred text, they’re not viewing it as religious doctrine; they’re endeavoring to learn as much as possible from the ideas presented within its pages. This practice of delving into a piece of literature with such enthusiasm brings new enlightenment to the famous book series.
After Vanessa and Casper give a synopsis of the week’s chapter with their hilarious 30 second recap competition, they look at the week’s reading to find a specific, pre-chosen theme, such as “vulnerability” or “curiosity.” By choosing a theme for each chapter, they discover elements of the text that could easily go overlooked. Perhaps the most intriguing part of their show is their habit of taking different religious practices of examining texts and applying them to the chosen chapter. A common practice they use is Lectio Divina, a four-step process that begins with choosing a short passage. Their spin on this process begins with examining the chosen section of the book for its literal meaning. The second step looks for different meanings within the passage that could relate to other parts of the story. After uncovering any hidden metaphors, Casper and Vanessa explore any parallels between the passage and their own lives. This allows them and their listeners to give the text real-life meaning. The final step of their practice of Lectio Divina includes the hosts choosing specific actions they are going to take to incorporate the theme of the text into their lives. The next section of the podcast consists of them blessing a particular character. Not only do their blessings acknowledge popular characters’ achievements, they celebrate overlooked characters’ qualities. To end the show, the hosts play voicemails from their eager listeners, giving them a chance to share their own thoughts and experiences with the text.
Because of Vanessa and Casper’s intentional reading of Harry Potter, they are able to uncover themes of the story that are often overlooked by the casual reader. Their dedication to peering deeper into the books provides an opportunity to apply values from the story to real life, and allows readers to learn as much as they can from Rowling’s famous work. The hosts make sure that listeners understand that this practice isn’t only to be relegated to Harry Potter, and that great insight and comfort can be found by looking a bit deeper into cherished texts of all kinds.
Before you jump into reading (or re-reading) Harry Potter, check out “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.” The podcast is set up so that listeners can easily follow Vanessa and Casper’s reading schedule and dissect the chapter along with the hosts. Even if you’re not a die-hard Harry Potter fan, this practice of treasuring great literature can be appreciated by any book lover.
Download the podcast, grab your earbuds and Harry Potter book, and be prepared to discover even more magic in the adored book series.