Harry Potter and the Sacred Text is a new podcast reading Harry Potter, the best-selling series of all time, as if it was a sacred text. Just as Christians read the Bible, Jews the Torah and Muslims read the Quran, we will embark on a 199-episode journey (one chapter an episode, to be released weekly) to glean what wisdom and meaning J.K. Rowling’s beloved novels have for us today. We will read Harry Potter, not just as novels, but as instructive and inspirational texts that will teach us about our own lives.
With millions of readers who have fond memories of the experience of reading the Harry Potter novels and a vibrant fan community, there is no better text to invite listeners to re-read in order to explore practices that can help them live more fulfilled and meaningful lives. And with Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them set for release in November 2016, there is no better time to re-engage with the Wizarding World.
Harry Potter and the Sacred Text will be released weekly, with each episode running approximately 25-35 minutes. The show will take on one chapter of Harry Potter per week, and is designed to cover (hopefully) all seven books in the series –199 episodes in total; but if we don't hit a significant number of listeners, we still promise to do at least the entire first book. To get a sense for the show, listen to our audio teaser.
Listeners will not necessarily need to read the books or listen to all of the episodes in order to engage with the show. Though the podcast will follow the books chronologically, each episode can stand alone.
Each week, Casper or Vanessa (our co-hosts) will introduce a handful of themes, grounded in quotes from the text, to explore in conversation. This close reading will consistently reflect the text onto their own lives, inviting listeners to do the same. If we encounter Boggarts in a chapter (a creature that morphs into one’s worst fear), for example, we’d talk about our own fears and worries. When we meet the Dursley’s (the Dickensian, awful foster family to Harry), we’ll explore why they might be so cruel to Harry, and how we might be a little Dursley-ish ourselves now and then.
In the final segment of the show, listener voices will be featured as they share how they’ve made meaning from the text in their own lives.
What do you mean by ‘sacred text’?
This project is not simply a book club or a fan-podcast. By treating Harry Potter as sacred, we mean three things:
Trusting the text: We must believe that the text is capable of more than what we have gotten from it before. We must believe that it is not “just entertainment”, but if taken seriously, can give serious rewards.
Rigor and ritual: By reading the text slowly, repeatedly and practicing close reading, effort becomes a key part of what makes the book sacred. The book is not sacred in and of itself, but only through rigorous engagement.
Reading it in community: Scholars of religion explain that what makes a text sacred is not the text itself, but the community of readers that proclaim it as such. The same applies for us.
We know this works!
Since September 2015, we’ve led an in-person ‘Reading Harry Potter as a Sacred Text’ group at the Harvard Humanist Hub in Cambridge, MA. With weekly attendance ranging between 25-70, we’ve built a committed community of readers aged 11-70, with our strongest demographic being women aged 20-35 and parents coming with their children (the children’s ages ranging from 11-21).
Through careful reading, group discussion and facilitated exercises, members have reflected on their own struggles and opportunities, loves and losses through the prism of the text. We’ve opened deep and difficult conversations by modeling how to let the text speak to our own lives. Now that we’ve perfected the model, it’s time to give it a bigger audience.
This practice addresses a contemporary problem of meaninglessness and cultural malaise with a creative and compelling solution.
Why Harry Potter?
The Harry Potter series is the best-selling series of all time. The books have captured the hearts of a generation of readers - and they have, for many, become an important source of moral guidance and inspiration. Indeed, as we learn in her Harvard Commencement speech, J.K. Rowling's own experience of hardship and work with Amnesty International should mean we're not surprised to learn that Harry Potter is the most requested novel amongst people detained in Guantánamo Bay.
Risks and challenges
We currently have access to a Harvard campus recording studio free of charge (thanks Graham!) and hope that will continue in the months to come. This might change in the future, but we don't expect it to.
We're all committed to staying in the Boston area - but of course one of us may have to move away unexpectedly.
Bottom line - this is a low risk, high reward investment!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (21 days)