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Divination and Harry Potter

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Amanda Allen

on 18 February 2015

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Transcript of Divination and Harry Potter

Greek Backgrounds
Oracles vs Seers
conduits for the gods on earth
their prophecies were understood to be the will of the gods verbatim
not the main source of divination for the ancient Greeks.
not in direct contact with the gods
were interpreters of signs provided by the gods
Divination = considered a pagan practice
Legal Backgrounds:
692 CE: the Quinisext Council passed canons to eliminate pagan and divination practices
by 1572 (Kur-Saxony), capital punishment was used on those predicting the future
laws forbidding divination practice continue to this day
Biblical Backgrounds:
Deuteronomy 18: 9-12: When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do according to the abominations of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you any one who maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or who useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, 11 or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination unto the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.
Divination and Necromancy
Circe's counsel (from the Odyssey)
Witch of Endor (from the Bible)
Some Christian writers later rejected the idea that humans could bring back the spirits of the dead. Instead, they interpreted these spirits as disguised demons (thereby conflating necromancy with demon summoning).
1. Why are Rowling's practitioners of divination seers, not oracles?
2. Does Rowling include the necromantic aspects in her version of divination?
“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”
(Exodus 22:18)
Canon Episcopi = 9th Century compilation originally intended as an aid for bishops in their pastoral work
"encouraged local authorities to search out sorcerers and witches within their scope of responsibility and exile, but also discussed the questions of whether witches, magicians, and diviners truly existed; whether herbs could be used to magically heal humans and animals; and whether love or hate could be induced by use of magic” (Wiedl 96)
15th C: concept of witchcraft underwent profound changes
publication of the Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches’ Hammer, 1486)
=became most popular “handbook” of secular and exxlesiastical witch hunters
included a catalogue of critera that investigators should use to identify a witch
“Babbity fled from the bush, and the Brigade of Witch-Hunters set off in pursuit, unleashing their hounds, who bayed for Babbity’s blood” (Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump, Tales of Beedle the Bard)
Professor Binns: “the four greatest witches and wizards of the age built this castle together, far from prying Muggle eyes, for it was an age when magic was feared by common people, and witches and wizards suffered much persecution” (CoS 149)
Septuagint (ancient translation of the Hebrew Bible and related texts into Greek, around 200 BCE)
the woman is described as a "ventriloquist"

Yalkut Shimoni (compilation of the books of the Hebrew bible, including interpretations and explanations of Biblical passages)
Based upon the witch's claim to have seen something, and Saul having heard a disembodied voice, the Yalkut suggests that necromancers are able to see the spirits of the dead but are unable to hear their speech, while the person for whom the person was summoned hears the voice but fails to see anything.
Medieval glosses to the Bible
suggest that the witch summoned a demon (taking Samuel's shape) rather than the actual ghost of Samuel
also suggests that the figure is an illusion crafted by the witch

Martin Luther
read it as "the Devil's ghost"

John Calvin
read that "it was not the real Samuel, but a spectre"
last of the Hebrew judges and the first of the major prophets who began to prophesy inside the Land of Israel
Saul (~1079-1007 BCE)
first king of the united Kingdom of Israel
anointed by Samuel
fell on his sword to avoid capture in a battle against the Philistines
"Non-magical people (more commonly known as Muggles) were particularly afraid of magic in medieval times, but not very good at recognizing it. On the rare occasion that they did catch a real witch or wizard, burning had no effect whatsoever. The witch or wizard would perform a basic Flame-Freezing Charm and then pretend to shriek with pain while enjoying a gentle, tickling sensation. Indeed, Wendelin the Weird enjoyed being burned so much that she allowed herself to be caught no less than forty-seven times in various disguises." (PoA 2)
BUT how many muggles (who couldn’t perform the flame freezing charm) were wrongly accused of witchcraft?

Binns apparently doesn’t consider this problem important enough to include it in the assignment.
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