Our Wizard’s Council convenes this week to consider the question of the hour: What is your favorite spell?
Welcome to the Wizard’s Council. Back in olden days, before the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy in 1692, the Wizarding world was governed by the Wizard’s Council. This was the longest serving ruling body over the Wizarding World in history, and though it was disbanded in 1707 with the founding of the Ministry of Magic, it was still considering one of the wisest and august bodies to ever rule the UK and Irish Wizarding Worlds. (Sadly, the same cannot be said for the Ministry, which seems to only be as good as it’s current Minister.) Here at Wizards and Whatnot, we come together once again as this august body to think deeply on the issues of our time.
Philosophical Question of the Hour: What is your favorite spell and why?
ANI: At the end of last week, for Harry Potter Book Night, Bloomsbury held a contest where Potter fans of all ages voted for their favorite spell. The winner was “Expecto Patronum.” Now, this is a powerful spell–one of the most powerful we see in the series, other than Avada Kedavra. But what does our council think? Is this the one thaey would vote for? After all, just because a spell is powerful does not mean it is a wise spell to use. (The aforementioned Avada Kedavra is a perfect example of this.) After all, sometimes the smallest ant can move the largest rock. perhaps a small spell, one that would make a butterfly’s wing flap, is the one that can cause the most change.
KATIE: I have to go with the crowd here and say that “Expecto Patronum” is my favorite spell—considering it’s what I landed on for my Harry Potter tattoo, I don’t have much wiggle room on that front. It comes as absolute zero surprise to me that the Patronus Charm beat out every other spell, jinx, and curse in the Potterverse.
When we consider the fact that dementors are a sort of physical manifestation of depression, that means that the Patronus Charm, by extension, is the treatment. The charm is all about battling your inner demons with your own innate goodness and turning on your light to combat your darkness; it’s about facing the worst of your life and overcoming it. Not only does that beautifully encompass a major theme of the Harry Potter series, it’s also universally relatable. We all have a worst moment, a downtrodden period that we have to get past in order to move on, and I think that J.K. Rowling’s acknowledgement of this fact made so many people feel validated.
Mental illness is still majorly stigmatized—whether it’s being mocked, misunderstood, or dismissed entirely—and Rowling’s admission of her own battle with depression humanized her so that she wasn’t just a billion-dollar celebrity, but just as much a person as any of her fans. This woman who had brought magic to so many of our lives was suddenly “just like us,” and her public image raised awareness of something that affects scores of people. Is Rowling the first person to speak publicly about her depression? No, but every person who does so helps others who live with the same.
If you ask me, that’s what makes the Patronus Charm so popular. We stood by Harry while he overcame his demons, and he taught us that—with a little faith, a few laughs, and the support of people who love you—we could do the same.
TARA: Oh gosh, I totally get why Expecto Patronum is the favorite, but for my part I have to choose Expelliarmus. Maybe it’s because I’m sad I’ll never truly know what my Patronus would be, or maybe it’s just because I like the idea of being able to disarm someone who is attacking me. But I have to admit that I also just like the word. Say it with me. EXPELLIARMUS! Plus it was great how a spell that the wizarding world deemed fairly insignificant (well, at least Voldemort and his Death Eaters) turned out to be one of the most important spells in terms of defeating Voldemort. (In Harry’s case, obviously.)
DAN: I, too, understand why Expecto Patronum won the day, and really enjoyed Katie’s explanation of its emotional and metaphorical underpinnings. In the interest of diversity, I’ll bring up a spell that didn’t make Bloomsbury’s Top Ten List: Imperio, The Imperius Curse, the one that allows a wizard complete control over the mind of of another. Man, how creepy is that? This is the spell that allowed Voldemort and his followers to infiltrate the Ministry of Magic. During his reign(s) of terror, no one could be sure if anybody else was under the control of this curse, leading to an atmosphere of suspicion and paranoia. I imagine there were posters going around of the “Loose Lips Sink Ships” variety during these periods. Maybe something like, “CAREFUL! You never know who’s under the IMPERIOUS CURSE!” with a picture of a witch and wizard chatting pleasantly, but one of their shadows is in the shape of Voldemort. Someone photoshop that.
Anyway, the curse was a very clever invention of Rowling’s. Every story needs tension, and this provided plenty.
And now for the question everyone’s been waiting for: what would my Patronus be? Like most people, I’d like to say it’s something cool, like a wolf or a dragon, but it’s probably a pigeon or a mosquito or some such.
KELLY:Well, first of all, I’m very surprised none of my fellow Wizard Council members have mentioned “Accio” aka the Summoning charm, but maybe that’s because I’m the laziest one of the bunch!? Accio is by far the most useful spell in everyday life. For example, as I sit here writing this, I could say ACCIO WINE! And a large glass of red would come flying into my hand. Or chocolate. Or whatever I want. Therefore, if I’m taking the practical, lazy approach to this, Accio is the winner. But if I’m going to take the deep, intellectual approach to this, obviously Expecto Patronum wins.
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Everything Katie said above I second. Expecto patronum has such a beautiful meaning behind it that can be applied to many real-life situations. It is all about having faith in yourself that you can overcome the darkest times in your life, battle your inner demons, and make it out alive.
However, I cannot decide which approach I want to take, so instead we have a tie between the two.Too bad there is not a spell to make me more decisive…
I also second Dan in that I like to think my Patronus is something cool like a dragon or wolf, but is probably something lame. I still don’t understand how it is determined, but GOOD NEWS… I recently read at the very bottom of the Pottermore FAQ page that JKR and the team are hard at work creating a quiz that will OFFICIALLY tell us what our Patronus is. So, basically, all of you should tweet at Rowling and Pottermore so they pick up the pace on that because I needed to know my Patronus like yesterday… *ACCIO PATRONUS QUIZ!*
MARNI: The appeal of Expecto Patronum is undeniable, and I had never before realized the psychological underpinnings of this spell, so thank you, Katie! But for all the brawn and glory of a full-bodied Patronus (especially as visualized by the films), my favorite is a much quieter spell. Actually it’s kind of a cheat, because it’s a spell combo: Avis, the spell that conjures a flock of birds, and Oppugno, the spell to make them attack.
These spells aren’t particularly flashy or powerful. They are only seen once in the film series, in Half-Blood Prince, wielded by Hermione against Ron. Summoning such delicate charms as Avis makes me think of Professor Slughorn’s description: “beautiful magic, wondrous to behold.” And then in the next moment, with Oppugno, the seemingly innocuous spell becomes a defensive force. It’s the simple elegance of something as innocent as sparrows transforming into a dive-bombing threat that really impresses me.
The other reason I love these spells is because it’s Hermione who casts them. Logical, level-headed Hermione, who rarely loses control. Her frustration, sadness, and feelings of rejection as Ron flits about with Lavender boil over in the form of attack birdies. It’s another reminder of how emotion drives magic. It also speaks to how human it is to lash out in response to pain, and how easy it is to use power against the ones you love.
Now as to my Patronus? Either a cat, or a Thestral.
ANI: These are all fantastic answers. (Avis! I’d forgotten about that one completely!) My favorite? Accio is pretty damn useful for someone who continuously loses her keys and glasses. But I think if I had to vote, I’d take Alohomora, the opening spell. It not only solves the problem of lost keys, it deals with the problem of not having them in the first place. It gets you in wherever you need to go. If it’s raining and you need a place to stay dry? Alohomora. If you locked your keys in the car? Alohomora. If you need to leave a place very quickly? Alohomora. If you want to know what’s inside that safe and you don’t have the code? Alohomora.
Oh look, there’s quite a few Galleons inside that safe. Excuse me while I evanesco right out of here…..