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Tantra and Magic

November 27, 2010

Spells, charms and hexes pervade through the entire series of Harry Potter. One cannot read through twenty pages without encountering a spell. One of the first books recommended for the first years is ‘Spellman’s Syllabery’.

When Harry, Ron and Hermione try to open a locked door in the first book, Hermione says: “Alohamora”, which is a spell to open closed doors. The books are full of such spells. To make an object fly there is a spell, ‘Wingardiusm Leviosa’. To bind the tongue, there are spells like ‘Langlock’ and ‘Muffliato’. To repair something there is ‘Reparo’. To illuminate something, there is ‘Lumos’. To summon something there is ‘Accio’. There is also a reverse banishing spell. To disarm enemy there is ‘Expelliarmus’. For making sound louder there is ‘Sonorus’. For swelling something there is ‘Engorgio’.

But the spells are not just about saying them. There is a process to it. The spells will not have any effect if the caster does not say them in the proper way or does not feel the spell. Bellatrix Lestrange, the best and the wickedest supporter of Voldemort gives a little piece of advice to Harry after killing his godfather Sirius. Harry tries to use the torture curse on her but is unable to inflict a lot of pain.

“You need to mean them, Potter! You need to really want to cause pain.”[1]

During the fourth year of Harry at Hogwarts the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Moody tells the class, about the Killing Curse Avada Kedavera,

“Avada Kedavera is a curse that needs a powerful bit of magic behind it – you could all get your wands out now and point them at me and say the words, and I doubt I’d get so much as an nose-bleed. But that doesn’t matter. I’m not here to teach you how to do it.”[2]

Performing Magic and casting spells is not a game for anyone. It is more than that. The art of casting spells has to be learned with heart and with intense concentration. Magic is like science in the wizarding world. In real life there is a complete discipline and methodology to science. In the wizarding world,  magic is not just plain wand-waving. As is expressed in the first book of Harry Potter:

“There was a lot more to magic, as Harry quickly found out, than waving your wand and saying a few funny words.

They had to study the night skies through their telescopes every Wednesday at midnight and learn the names of different stars and the movements of the planets. Three times a week they went out to the greenhouses behind the castle to study Herbology, with a grumpy little witch called Professor Sprout, where they learnt how to take care of all the strange plants and fungi and found out what they were used for.”[3]

This system of casting spells is similar to Tantra in Hinduism. The general image of Tantra in the West is synonymous with sex. But unfortunately, both the sexophobic Church and sexophile modern West have taken from it, only what suited to them.

Tantric is a Shaivic discipline in which an individual tries to attain the Supreme Truth by repeating certain mantras in a certain way. The rhythm of mantras is matched with the inhaling and exhaling of breath and effort is made towards quieting the thoughts down and reaching a stage of thoughtlessness.[4] The root of the word Tantra is ‘tan’, ‘to stretch’. It means that by tantra one tries to attach the individual to the universal consciousness. For this, mantras are recited. Besides, gaining the Supreme truth, Tantra is also practiced for some other ends.[5]

According to Hindu Philosophy, words, letters and sounds have an independent existence. It is said that Sanskrit is not manufactured by man. The syllables, letters and other word combinations in Sanskrit exist in the Universe. Man has just tapped this source and has thus made it easy to connect himself to the Universal Consciousness.[6]

By reciting these mantras in the proper intonation, one can match his frequency to the Universal Consciousness, and thus in the end can attain the Supreme Truth.

There are many other tasks which can be accomplished by the proper recitation of these mantras; but if these mantras are not recited properly, then they may not have any effect, or even have adverse effect.

This is similar to the process of casting spells in Harry Potter. Casting wrong spells can have no or even adverse effect.

In the Half-blood Prince, Professor Twycross describes the method to apparate:

“The important things to remember when Apparating are the three D’s!” said Twycross. “Destination, Determination, Deliberation!

“Step one: Fix your mind firmly upon the desired destination,” said Twycross. “In this case, the interior of your hoop. Kindly concentrate upon that destination now.”

Everybody looked around furtively to check that everyone else was staring into their hoop, then hastily did as they were told. Harry gazed at the circular patch of dusty floor enclosed by his hoop and tried hard to think of nothing else. This proved impossible, as he couldn’t stop puzzling over what Malfoy was doing that needed lookouts.

“Step two,” said Twycross, “focus your determination to occupy the visualized space! Let your yearning to enter it flood from your mind to every particle of your body!”

Harry glanced around surreptitiously. A little way to his left, Ernie Macmillan was contemplating his hoop so hard that his face had turned pink; it looked as though he was straining to lay a Quaffle-sized egg. Harry bit back a laugh and hastily returned his gaze to his own hoop.

“Step three,” called Twycross, “and only when I give the command . . . Turn on the spot, feeling your way into nothingness, moving with deliberation! On my command, now . . . one —”[7]

It almost reads like a description of Yoga. However, if this is not done properly then Splinching occurs.

“Splinching or the separation of random body parts occurs when the mind is insufficiently determined. You must concentrate continuously upon your destination, and move without haste, but with liberation”.[8]

In Tantra, to invoke different deities, different mantras are recited. In the wizarding world, when sunlight is wanted, then the Sun-god is invoked. When light is wanted light-god is invoked and so on… just like Tantra.

This association of spells with a particular aspect of divinity brings Harry Potter nearer not only to Tantra, but to the whole ethos of Hinduism.


[1] Ibid. p. 810.

[2] Rowling, J K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic Inc. 2000. p. 217.

[3] Rowling, J K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic Inc. 1997. p. 133.

[4] Abhisheki, Janaki. Religion as Knowledge. New Delhi: Voice of India. 1998. p. 12-23.

[5] Swarup, Ram. The Word as Revelation: Names of Gods. New Delhi: Voice of India. 1980. p. 24.

[6] Ibid. 35.

[7] Rowling, J K. Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince. New York: Scholastic Inc. 2005. p. 384-385.

[8] Ibid. 385-386.

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