Harry Potter: A Shaman On A Hero's Journey?
As the final Harry Potter movie hits the theaters this week it is a great time to look back at the amazing story. Over the last few weeks I've watched the previous 7 movies (I read the books a few years ago also), and it made me appreciate more Harry's growing process and how the lessons he learned played out in a certain pattern; that of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey. This article on MovieOutline gives a great summary of the steps of the Hero's Journey.
MuggleNet looks at the 3 major steps of the Hero's Journey (departure, initiation, and return) that Harry embarked on and shows the substeps in each. Here's a look they took at the first 4 steps of the departure stage:
1) The Call to Adventure -- the first sign the hero has that his/her life is going to change.
Example from PS: Harry gets his "Letter from No One."
In Harry's overall Journey: The first Prophecy
2) Refusal of the Call -- for some reason the hero is compelled to hold back from his/her adventure.
Example from PS: Harry tells Hagrid "I think you must have made a mistake. I don't think I can be a wizard." (47)
In Harry's overall Journey: The Potters go into hiding.
3) Supernatural Aid -- when the hero commits to the adventure his/her guide or magical helper appears or becomes known.
Example from PS: Dumbledore (who often works through different people, like Hagrid).
In Harry's overall Journey: Lily's sacrifice (or love in general, both continue to protect Harry throughout his Quest).
4) Crossing the First Threshold -- the hero leaves the world he/she is used to and enters the "field of adventure" - a new, unknown and dangerous world.
Example from PS: Harry enters Diagon Alley for the first time, or crosses through the ticket barrier onto Platform 9 3/4.
In Harry's overall Journey: The first time Harry chooses to meet the threat of Voldemort head-on. He chooses adventure, thus he enters the "field of adventure".
MythicNet has some great stuff on the mythology of the story including this piece on Harry Vs. He Who Shoul Not Be Named:
What separates Harry from Voldemort? And what brings them together? Doesn’t Harry think that evil originates from himself in the Order of the Phoenix? These thoughts are inside his brain. And he truly has difficulty with his own darker nature in the Phoenix episode. We now know that his life is inextricably linked to Voldemort – and his choice is positioned as destroy or be destroyed. But there is a third choice – far less satisfying for many entrenched in the Good Conquers Evil motif. But for those ready to be Peacemakers, Harry’s potential to redeem Voldemort would be the greatest victory of all. After all, what created the hatred in Tom Riddle (Voldemort’s true identity) to start with? Why can’t he accept who he really is? Even in this characterization of overwhelming evil, there is an opening. Tom has been overcome by the Ultimate in selfish behavior. He sees himself as Supreme over all others and is justified in his own actions. In essence, the rebirth of Tom Riddle is the death of Voldemort and the end of Harry’s obligation to the world.
And... was Harry a Shaman? Maybe so... says The Harry Potter Network:
In more traditional forms of shamanism the shaman does not choose his path. It is either hereditary or the spirits choose the shaman through marking him in some way. This marking was usually an animal attack or an illness which brought the shaman to death's door. The thought is that by tasting death and returning back, the shaman would return with knowledge and powers from the spirit world. It was a blessing for the spirits to bring a person to their very doors to give them this power.
Once on the path, the shaman must work with the powers they are given in this world and the spirit world. Their sacred duty is to venture back and forth as a messenger to both sides. For this men go to them for advice, for this the spirits give them wisdom and come to their aid. The understanding of life and death and the importance of both predator and prey is integral to being a shaman.
Harry seems to fit this role of a shaman by having been marked by Voldemort. A spell for which all intents and purposes would have killed him merely marked him and left him with gifts and powers and a means of tuning into the source from which he gained those powers.
Let's face it... we all hope to tap into the Magick that Harry was able to work with quite well. But there's also the dark side which Harry was in a constant battle with. His demons drove him to conquer his internal fears that were reflected in the outside world he saw. I only hope that I can be as brave as he was on his journey.
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