Podcast Spotlight: Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

I recently jumped on the bandwagon that is the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast. I was in the market for a new show to obsess over and boy, did I find one. The show’s co-hosts, Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile, dig into one chapter at a time, going through the Harry Potter books in order. Not only do they analyze them, they treat them like a sacred text. They are both absed at Harvard Divinity School and bring in different practices to each podcast.

Each episode begins with a 30 second recap of the chapter in question, as well as a discussion on that week’s theme. Then they choose a spiritual practice to use while approaching that chapter, which is where things get interesting. Sometimes they’ll imagine a section of the book and discuss what they’re seeing in their heads. Other times, they’ll select a random line or two and approach it from a literal and allegorical standpoint. At this point, I’m about halfway through the first book with them and I think these are the only two practices they’ve used so far.

I was hesitant to listen to this podcast at first, wondering if treating Harry Potter as a sacred text was almost sacrilegious. But what I’ve found is that the approach allows me to connect with the text more and to see it as more than just an entertaining story. I see so much more depth and complexity, probably far more than J.K. Rowling ever could have intended. We see character motivations in a different light, as well as symbolism and lessons galore.

As someone who has read the books multiple times, I really enjoy this podcast series. I think it would also be really fun to read a chapter, then listen to the podcast episode about it, then continue on like that. Everything is fresh in your mind and you can see if you’re seeing the same things they are. They are very much aware of spoilers (meaning they try really hard to avoid them) so you’re safe there.

They have just recently begun going through the third book in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, so you’ve got plenty of time to catch up, if you want to give it a listen! For more information, check out their website at harrypottersacredtext.com.

What are some podcasts you enjoy listening to? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading (and listening)! – Caitlyn

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August 2016 Wrap Up

Goodbye, summer. Goodbye, months of vacation time. Goodbye, sleeping in. Goodbye, hours a day of reading time. Back to reality!

This month, as my summer ended and my work-life began again, I managed to only read a total of FOUR books!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: -Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

  • Nostalgia. Tears. Questions.
  • My rating: 4 stars

An Honest Heart by Kaye Dacus

  • Sweet romance. Historical fiction. Strong characters.
  • My rating: 4 stars

Nothing But the Truth by Avi

  • Full of irony. Flat. Thought provoking.
  • My rating: 3 stars

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

  • Second read. Interesting superpower plot. Lacked…something. 
  • My rating: 4.25 stars

What books did you read this month? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, J. Tiffany, and J. Thorne

I’ll start with a non-spoiler review, then go into those spoilers that WE MUST DISCUSS. I’ll give you fair warning when I’m switching into spoiler mode! 

“Harry, there is never a perfect answer in this messy, emotional world. Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.”

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Synopsis from GoodreadsIt was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Feelings: I honestly wasn’t sure what I wanted from this story. I was so wrapped up in the excitement of going back to Hogwarts and seeing some old friends again, that I never really thought about the actual plot. I devoured this script. I had to make myself put it down just to prolong the reading experience. But then Part Two happened and I had to finish it in one sitting. The first half of this story is interesting. There’s a lot of action and movement, some funny quips and surprises, as well as what feels like redemption. Then in the second half, the emotion arrives. I cried multiple times, more from nostalgia than anything else. As soon as I closed this book, having finished the entire thing, all I felt was love. I thought this story was a blast and I enjoyed every second of it. Then after a day or so, I really started thinking about the plot…and a lot of elements didn’t make sense to me. I’d love to see this on the stage. I think a lot of things would make more sense if I could see them happening in front of me.

This is my spoiler-free section, so I’ll just leave you with this – if you grew up with Harry and the gang like I did, then read this book. Just going back to Hogwarts is worth it; seeing all the characters I love again was worth it. If I rate this purely on emotion, I’d give it 4.5 stars. If I approach it logically, as a book in a series, it gets more like 4 stars. Even that is generous, I think.


*Enter the spoiler-riddled section at your own risk!*

Issues: The most obvious WTF moment from this story was the whole Voldemort having a child thing. WHAT? The dude spent years trying to gain immortality…he didn’t need an heir! He didn’t need a child. And Bellatrix? As a MOTHER? Where the crap did that come from? This element of the story just made zero sense, honestly. Voldemort had no need for a child, In fact, a child/heir could eventually challenge his dark reign. And the timing is weird. This means that Bellatrix was pregnant between books 6 and 7…how did she manage that?

I thought the time-turner element was great. They were randomly thrown in during book 3, then were never mentioned again. Time travel is a big deal, even in a magical world, so why did they not pop up again later on in the series? The only issue I had with this element was how they worked. In book 3, Hermione had to wrap the chain around both her and Harry’s heads in order for them to travel together, but in this story they just had to touch it? Continuity, people.

When Albus, Scorpius, and Delphi used polyjuice potion to disguise themselves as Harry, Ron, and Hermione I just KNEW they’d get caught. I mean, our friends managed to narrowly pull that off in book 7, so when the signs popped up that something was off, I figured Hemione (AKA the BRIGHEST WITCH OF HER AGE) would pick up on it. She didn’t. Also, how did Delphi randomly have a store of polyjuice potion on her? As we all know from book 2, it takes a month to brew. It’s not something people just have on hand, unless you’re pretending to be Mad-Eye Moody.

Ron. Poor, poor Ron. Just like in the movies, he’s the sidekick once again. Hermione is the brains, Harry is the chosen one, and Ron is…just present and accounted for. In this script, he’s the “I’m gonna get on stage because everyone else is” guy. And the idea that Hemione’s rise to Minister of Magic depended on her marriage to Ron? Granted, maybe it was because he took on a lot of responsibility at home and encouraged and supported her? As long-time readers, some of us wondered whether Hermione and Ron were ever really meant to be together. What I DID like about this book, is that in each reality, they wanted to be together, even if they weren’t willing to admit it at first. That felt like closure to me.

What made this story feel like fan fiction was when we went back to try and save Cedric. CEDRIC. I was like WHAT THE YES THIS IS LIKE A DREAM COME TRUE. Then it all hit the freaking fan. In what possible alternate timeline could Cedric Diggory be a DEATH EATER and KILL NEVILLE?? That would never happen! At least, now I’m questioning everything because I never would have imagined that happening.

Ok, some positive things: SCORPIUS. What a fantastic character. I thought he was so funny and loyal and brave. And I love that he’s a Malfoy, bringing some redemption to his dark family name. I love that Albus was a Slytherin and that his best friend was a Malfoy. I love that Draco and Harry finally have some kind of friendship budding. I’ve been waiting for that. I love that Harry and Hermione have had such successes in their adult lives. I love that they’re all still close to Professor McGonagall, who is my inspiration in all things. I thought that it was so powerful that they all witnessed the deaths of James and Lily Potter, seeing the sacrifice and the love in that moment. I love that the gang had very real struggles, humanizing them. I love that the Battle of Hogwarts depended on Neville, in the end. Sweet, sweet Neville.

Final thoughts: I’m glad that I read this. I”m glad that I got to spend some time getting to know the children of my old friends. To me, the joy of this story isn’t Harry and the gang. It’s about this new generation who are their own people, who break out of the ties of their family names. I had a lot of fun reading this and honestly, I’ll probably read it again soon.

Goodreads rating: 4.05/5

Amazon.com rating: 3.3/5

My rating: 4/5 (…which feels generous…)

Happy reading! – Caitlyn