Reading Through, "Being a Stranger": Diagon Alley (Book 1, Chapter 5)

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This week’s episode is an analysis of Chapter 5, Diagon alley, in which Harry has his first visit into the wizarding world. 

Casper and Vanessa explore the chapter through the theme of being a stranger. They discuss how Harry’s introduction to the wizarding world is done almost entirely through commerce, and is made easier by the fact that Harry, in this new world, is wealthy. They also wonder at ways in which they can make the world less strange to others, by discussing mentorship and breaking bread with others. 

Vanessa tells a story about Machu Piccu (and not quite making it there) and Casper tries to catch up in the 30 second recap votes! He's still struggling... 

The Letters From No One: Bonus Content!

In the opening anecdote of our third episode, The Letters from No One, Vanessa tells her own story about a letter. It was a letter she wrote as a first year English teacher, almost 10 years ago, and it was meant to impress and intimidate her new high school students. The letter is briefly quoted in the podcast, but we thought you might be interested in reading the whole thing. For your pleasure, it is included below. 

The Letters From No One (Book 1, Chapter 3)

In this week’s episode we read chapter 3 , “The Letters to No One”, in which Harry begins to get mysterious, magical letters which follow the Dursley’s and Harry through Vernon’s mad attempts to evade the post all across England.

Casper and Vanessa analyze the chapter through the theme of fear. They discuss various details from the chapter, varying from the Smeltings stick (which Dudley’s new boarding school arms him with as part of his uniform), Vernon's illusion of control, and their own fear around climate change. Casper reflects on the adage: "Good things come to those who wait", while Vanessa addresses Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous quotation: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." 


  Here is a photo of what Eton boys in the uniforms  , to give you a sense of the style that can be found in England boarding schools.

Here is a photo of what Eton boys in the uniforms, to give you a sense of the style that can be found in England boarding schools.

Be sure to vote for who you think has done the best 30 second recap! (Vanessa is in the lead thus far!)

Also, remember: Casper loves getting email! So, email him at and tell him what you think he should get Vanessa at the end of book one to celebrate her vast lead in the 30 second recap challenge!


  A photo from Ariana's most recent trip to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

A photo from Ariana's most recent trip to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

The Vanishing Glass (Book 1, Chapter 2)

In Chapter Two of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the Dursley's celebrate Dudley's birthday with a trip to the zoo. However, not everything goes as planned when the glass in front of a snake tank vanishes and a boa constrictor comes slithering out. Somehow birthdays never seem to go quite as planned! 

In this episode of the podcast, Casper and Vanessa reflect on their own birthdays, past and present, and explore the theme of loneliness. For our sacred practice this week, we return to Lectio Divina, a Christian close-reading technique.

Give it a listen! And if you enjoy the show, please consider subscribing

Bonus Content: 

  • In the show, Casper cites a statistic that 25% of Americans have no one to confide in. You can read more about the associated study in this article from the Washington Post.
  • Below are two birthday photos of Vanessa and Casper from when they were adorable. Don't you just want to pinch their little cheeks? 
  • Who did a better 30-second recap this week? Vote in our own little 'house-cup' competition at the bottom of the page. 


There’s some amazing family photos where the birthday boy or birthday girl is so happy and wearing a birthday crown, and their chair is decorated, and the other kids are looking with just full on envy.
— Casper
I remember as a kid...birthdays felt very futile to me. People would come out and celebrate and give me gifts and I was like ‘I did nothing to deserve this. All I did was exist.’
— Vanessa

Welcome to Harry Potter and the Sacred Text!

Dear friends,

Welcome to our first episode of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text! We're so grateful that you're here. 

It is fitting that we start our journeys with the Dursleys in the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's/Philosopher's Stone. When this project was just an idea, Vanessa and Casper pondered on the question, What do we do with the Dursleys? It has opened a whole of realm of empathetic questioning and close-reading that you can read about in our methodology

For now, download, sit back and relax and enjoy the first ever episode of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text!

If you enjoy the show, consider giving us a review and subscribing on iTunes

Bonus Content: 

The town that Vanessa talks about is called, Le Chambon, and you can read about their remarkable story in the great book: Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There