“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Friday, March 5, 2010

Voldemort’s Rebirthing Party: A Black Mass

In his book Finding God in Harry Potter (a good read for understanding the Christian symbolism in Harry Potter, although I wonder if he stretches it a little too far at times), John Granger describes the Christian, or rather, anti-Christian nature of what may well be the darkest scene in all seven books. At the end of The Goblet of Fire, Voldemort uses “an old piece of Dark Magic” (GoF 656) to regain bodily form. “Bone of the father, unknowingly given, you will renew your son…flesh of the servant, willingly given, you will revive your master…blood of the enemy, forcibly taken, you will resurrect your foe” (641-42), narrates Wormtail as he puts into a cauldron Voldemort’s father’s bone, his own sliced-off hand, and Harry Potter’s blood in order to brew the potion that would resurrect the Dark Lord.

Granger describes this “rebirthing party” as Voldemort calls it as a Black Mass: “A Black Mass is the demonic mockery of traditional Christian liturgy and sacramental worship. A Black Mass inverts everything that is sacred; death and darkness trump life and light” (Granger 152). Let’s take a look at the main elements of this perversion or twisting of all that is true and sacred:

  • Christ’s death and resurrection are mocked in Voldemort’s dark resurrection. Whereas Christ gave his life to save others and conquer death, Voldemort forces others to suffer so that he may regain a body, in order to conquer death.
  • “The Eucharist, or life-giving body and blood of [Christ], are mocked in the potion’s requirements of the blood of an enemy, flesh of the servant, and bone of the father” (Granger 152). Instead of body and blood given out of love to save others (see 1 Corinthians 11:24-26), they are taken by Voldemort for his own gain.
  • “The baptismal font and immersion in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are turned qualitatively inside out in the Voldemort baby’s immersion in the cauldron with three magical, physical ingredients (and the “old man” rather than the “new man” or “babe in Christ” rising from the font)” (Granger 152).
  • As the Death Eaters gather to follow their Lord’s commands, Voldemort functions as a sort of priest or minister. He delivers a sermon of sorts to his followers, “rewards” Wormtail with a new hand, promises good things to those who follow him like his “faithful servant,” and promises punishment to those who disobey.
  • Worship is mocked: “Then one of the Death Eaters fell to his knees, crawled toward Voldemort, and kissed the hem of his black robes” (GoF 647).
  • “The mystery of Christian burial is turned on its head by the graveyard of the church becoming a birthplace of devils rather than a resting place for those hopeful for an authentic resurrection from the dead” (Granger 153).
Everything here is a perversion of truth, a twisting of something deeper and older, more original and foundational. The structure of events in the graveyard parallels symbols and metaphors in Christianity just as darkness and shadow is defined by light. Stay tuned for my next two posts if you are looking for more uplifting Christian imagery in Harry Potter.

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