Culture //

Harry Potter As Religious Experience

Swetha Das reports on a pilgrimmage to Hogwarts.

I have visited hundreds of temples over my lifetime, but nothing could come close to Harry Potter World—truly the most spectacular shrine dedicated to the world’s greatest holy texts.

The Harry Potter series, like for most of my generation, was an integral part of my childhood. During my adolescence, I was fortunate to have either a book or movie release on my birthday. For a long time, my annual present would be a hardcover edition or tickets to the midnight screening of the film. My devotion to the series was set in stone after my visit to this magical portion of Universal Studios.

In order to travel around Harry Potter World, we had to take the Hogwarts Express. We queued, like monks waiting silently in line. After an hour, we entered King’s Cross.

The entire journey lasted only a couple of minutes, but out of the ‘window’ I spied English scenery and an owl fluttering by. The door showed the outline of a Dementor closing in on my carriage. I felt a pang in my chest, my eyes stinging, as I thought of Harry being inside the same train, excited to finally go to Hogwarts, his only home. I confided this to my mother.

“Wait, isn’t Hogwarts a school?”

Walking through Diagon Alley, a cloud of prayers followed me. Dressed in Hogwarts garb, groups of children stood, chanting spells and flicking their wands in unison. At the waterfall, water suddenly spouted from the stone frog’s mouth.

Was this place truly as magical as it felt?

I pretended not to notice the motion sensor at the top of the waterfall that sensed their wand movements, as again I felt the same sting in my eyes.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen my mother look as worried for me as she did that day. Her bemusement gradually became concern, and she shot me a particularly bewildered glance when I stared at the body of a chocolate frog and morosely whispered “Fred” in the middle of the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes joke shop.

Gingerly clutching my time turner keyring and butterbeer souvenir cup, I looked back at the glorious world of Harry Potter with deep veneration. It only took a $147 entrance fee and wand motion sensors for me to find my second home.