Welcome to this guest series on Harry Potter written by my colleague, Dr. Priscilla Hobbs. In this series, Priscilla explores each of the twelve archetypes identified in the PMAI®. She illuminates the ways these archetypal energies find narrative form in Potter-verse characters. Keep a watchful eye out for a perspective that offers a balance between archetypal analysis and strong cultural critique. We hope you enjoy this collaboration. Please get in touch with any questions or feedback. Let’s conjure a magical conversation.
By Priscilla Hobbs, Ph.D.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Magician factors heavily throughout the Potter series. Harry discovers that he is a wizard when he is invited to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he learns alongside other young witches and wizards everything from simple charms to how to transfigure objects to how to defend oneself against magical attacks. Magic becomes the archetypal vehicle that carries all of the others throughout the series.
Arguably, the connection with magic is precisely what fans of the series grasp onto. The possibility of magic invites the imagination to consider alternatives to life’s problems in ways that seem tangible, albeit mystical. Because the series is told through the eyes of Harry Potter, the reader has the chance to become Harry and his journey becomes our journey, his heroic path becomes ours.
At the core of the Magician archetype is the idea of transformation, ideally into a better state. Behind this transformation is the awakening of one’s power—one’s magical abilities—to affect and influence the world around them. Carol Pearson describes the Magician’s attributes as “naturally intuitive, insightful, and inspiring” (“The Magician”), and these are the characters, creatures, and experiences that are the most rewarded within the books.
Characters who transform for the greater good are positioned as clear heroes to look up to or identify with, while characters who use their magical abilities for selfish or self-serving purposes are marked as Dark Wizards, often with other exclusionary characteristics such as manifest racism and classism against Muggles (non-magical folks) and “Mudbloods” (or magical people who have Muggle heritage). Indeed, the negative aspect of the Magician archetype is their manipulation and use of their magic knowingly to do harm.
These witches and wizards are commonly associated with Salazar Slytherin, one of the four founders of Hogwarts, who valued magical purity above all else. His position ultimately fractured the four founders but resonates with the existential duality between the Wizarding World’s desire to leverage their power over the non-magical and the equal desire for self-preservation in the shadow of Witch Hunts.
Dark magic, however, becomes a metaphor for the shadow, as explored in Jungian psychology. While some Dark Witches and Wizards are key social and political figures within Wizarding society, their connection to the Dark Arts is often hidden below their polished exterior. For instance, those wishing to deal in dark magic artifacts visit Knockturn Alley, a hidden street branching off of the main thoroughfare, Diagon Alley. These dark artifacts can include the cursed jewelry or severed body parts specifically designed to harm, make, or kill. Dark Wizards are proficient in the three Unforgiveable Curses that manipulate (the Imperius curse), torture (the Cruciatus curse), and kill (the Avada Kedavra).
The primary magicians within the series are Harry and his mentor, Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore, juxtaposed against Harry’s nemesis, Draco Malfoy, and the Wizarding World’s arch-nemesis, Voldemort. Dumbledore’s name literally means white, taken from the alchemical albedo stage, and Voldemort’s name invokes death (“mort”).
Malfoy eventually bears the Dark Mark, Voldemort’s magical calling sign picturing a skull with a snake coming out of its mouth, whereas Harry insists, unfailingly, to be a force for good, even leading Dumbledore’s Army, an extracurricular activity to practice defending against the dark arts when the Ministry otherwise restricted its study. Harry takes his skill with humility—he had to develop potent defense strategies because his life in the magical world has always involved some kind of attack from Voldemort.
Voldemort embodies all of the negative aspects of this archetype, and one element that sets him apart from all other Dark Witches and Wizards is his mission to cheat death. He is one of the first wizards to master the Horcrux, a vessel that holds a piece of the spell caster’s soul. As long as the artifact is intact, the Witch or Wizard is essentially invincible. The Horcrux can be destroyed only by a short list of techniques, so it’s a logical means for cheating death. Voldemort goes one step further, however. In fact, he goes six steps further: Voldemort creates seven Horcruxes, one of which is Harry.
Harry’s most profound transformation comes at the end of the series, when he faces his alchemical death. In the richly symbolic chapter in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, “King’s Cross,” Harry sits at a spiritual crossroads and questions his existential future. He weighs the impact of his death, realizing that there is more value in his life. When he makes this decision he becomes the catalyst for change that the Magician archetype empowers. The entire fate of the Wizarding World, tightly intertwined with Voldemort’s life, rests in his decision to free himself from the connection to Voldemort.
Harry’s transformation becomes the moment the Wizarding World can finally heal from the intergenerational trauma that Harry and his peers inherited. It is no accident that Harry’s transformation seeped into the Muggle world. In the years since the series concluded, the need to release trauma has gained traction through social media movements such as #metoo to social justice activism to give everyone the opportunity to live a sustainable future in a rapidly decaying social order. The Western world is in a paradigm shift that places its identity under scrutiny—and those for whom this lived experience has defined their own identities are finding the confidence to fight against the flawed system.
Regardless of how one connects with the series, Harry’s story embodies hope while giving permission for the little synchronicities of life to have authentic meaning rather than being passed off as mere coincidence.
Dr. Priscilla Hobbs is a senior associate dean at Southern New Hampshire University. She the author of Harry Potter and the Myth of Millennials: Identity, Reception, and Politics. Her work takes an interdisciplinary view of Harry Potter, as a series and as a phenomenon, to uncover how the appeal of Harry became a lifestyle, a moral compass, and a guiding light in an era fraught with turbulence and disharmony. She argues that this prepared an entire generation for the chaotic present marked by the 2016 election and 2020 pandemic by shaping the political attitudes of its readers, many of whom were developing their political identities alongside Harry. Her analysis focuses on both the novels themselves and the ways in which fans connect globally through the Internet to discuss the books, commiserate about the events swirling around them, and answer calls to action through Harry Potter inspired activism. In short, the book examines how Harry Potter became a generation’s defining mythology of love, unity, and transformation. Her recent TEDx talk focuses on transformation and the American Dream.
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January 2023 Newsletter