Harry Potter's Broomstick Brouhaha
In a Reuters article from the news service's London bureau, a U.K. resident claims to be wishing ill to the upcoming movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone until the filmmakers admit that the film's portrayal of flying by broomstick is inaccurate. Kevin Carlyon, who identified himself to Reuters as the high priest of British White Witches, a coven in Sussex (Southern England), says that scenes from the movie's trailer showing Harry flying a broomstick with the handle in front and the brush in back are inaccurate and that he is wishing for the film to do badly until the studio admits its mistake.
"Warner Bros claims the film is an accurate portrayal of things that happen in witchcraft, yet woodcuts from the 16th and 17th centuries show broomsticks being ridden with the brush part in the front," Carlyon told Reuters. "It's a common mistake — even the sixties TV series Bewitched showed broomsticks being ridden backwards, but this is not correct."
However, Carlyon appears to either be having fun with the news service, which is unwittingly taking him seriously, or he is simply a publicity seeker latching onto what is sure to be popular film, as evidenced by his further comments that he knows the proper manner in which to fly a broom because he's done it in the past, though he's currently grounded.
"The CAA (Britain's Civil Aviation Authority) won't give me permission to fly," Carlyon explained to Reuters.
The first problem with Carlyon's claims is that neither Warner Bros., makers of the film, nor J.K. Rowling, creator of Harry Potter, nor any of Harry Potter's book publishers have ever claimed that the film depicts authentic witchcraft in any form. In fact, Rowling has gone out of her way to state that the stories are simply flights of fancy (pardon the pun) in much the same way the Wizard of Oz series was.
"I meet people at book signings who whisper to me, 'We are trying the spells' " Rowling told CNN. "And I think: Well, don't bother, because I know I just made them up. They don't work."
Rowling added that some of the supernatural elements in the books, such as the Hand of Glory and flying on broomsticks, were derived from legend and folklore.
In fact, in light of regular protests from religiously conservative groups claiming that the books urge children to dabble in the occult, all parties involved in the books and the movies have been very clear that the supernatural elements in the story are pure fiction and have no resemblance to the Wiccan religion. The accusations that the stories are a bad influence on children especially rankle Rowling.
"What it deals with is good and evil, like a lot of classic children's literature ... So my feeling is that their objection is utterly unfounded. I mean, occasionally, I wonder: Have they read the books? I think they're very moral books," Rowling told CNN. ""If we're going to object to depicting magic in books, then we are going to have to reject C.S. Lewis. We're going to have to get rid of The Wizard of Oz. ... A lot of classic children's literature is not going to be allowed to survive."
Carlyon's claims of historical accuracy are also suspect since this reporter, who is also an ardent history buff, has seen numerous woodcuts from the 16th and 17th centuries depicting witches flying on broomstick and making potions. All of them showed the brush in the back. Lastly, if Carlyon is indeed a modern-day witch, let alone the high priest of a coven, he should be wishing that the filmmakers achieve enlightenment rather than wish them ill since the Wiccan Rede (the Pagan equivalent of the Ten Commandments) instructs "harm ye none" and that whatever is done will return to the person threefold. This reporter could not confirm the existence of Carlyon's group, which is hardly surprising since many witches are very private for fear of religious persecution, nor track him down for further questions, but the accusations appear to be much ado about nothing...except getting publicity.