Season One: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

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Harry Potter and the Sacred Text Teaser

What if we read the books we love as if they were sacred texts? What would we learn? How might they change us? Harry Potter and the Sacred Text is a new podcast reading Harry Potter, the best-selling series of all time, as if it was a sacred text. Just as Christians read the Bible, Jews the Torah and Muslims read the Quran, we will embark on a 199-episode journey (one chapter an episode, to be released weekly) to glean what wisdom and meaning J.K. Rowling’s beloved novels have for us today. We will read Harry Potter, not just as novels, but as instructive and inspirational texts that will teach us about our own lives.

Commitment: The Boy Who Lived (Book 1, Chapter 1)

In the premiere episode of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, Casper and Vanessa talk about why they are starting this project and analyze the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone through the theme of commitment. 

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Loneliness: The Vanishing Glass (Book 1, Chapter 2)

Vanessa and Casper explore the theme of loneliness in chapter two of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They discuss the Dursleys' parenting choices, the significance of numbers, and the birthday blues. 

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

Vanessa and Casper explore the theme of fear in chapter three of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They discuss Vernon Dursley's illusion of control, the psychology of bullies, and climate change. 

Generosity: The Keeper of the Keys (Book 1, Chapter 4)

Vanessa and Casper explore the theme of generosity in chapter four of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Casper demonstrates his excellent Hagrid impression and Vanessa addresses whether we can or should empathize with the Dursleys. 

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

Vanessa and Casper explore the theme of expectations in chapter six of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They discuss Harry and Ron's budding friendship, the unusual bravery of Scabbers the rat, and how our bodily practices relate to our spiritual experience. 

Expectations: The Journey From Platform Nine and Three Quarters (Book 1, Chapter 6)

Vanessa and Casper explore the theme of expectations in chapter six of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They discuss Harry and Ron's budding friendship, the unusual bravery of Scabbers the rat, and how our bodily practices relate to our spiritual experience. 

Vulnerability: The Sorting Hat (Book 1, Chapter 7)

Vanessa and Casper explore the theme of vulnerability in chapter seven of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They discuss how Harry’s experience with the sorting hat teaches us to reclaim our own narratives after trauma, and extend blessings both to know-it-all Hermione and know-nothing Neville. 

Promises: The Potions Master (Book 1, Chapter 8)

Vanessa and Casper explore the theme of promises in chapter eight of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They discuss tropes in bad 80s tv shows, Harry's reaction to his own fame, and Hermione's destiny to smash the patriarchy. 

Betrayal: The Midnight Duel (Book 1, Chapter 9)

Vanessa and Casper explore the theme of betrayal in chapter nine of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They discuss bullying, Brexit, and why Professor mcGonagall might be a worse teacher than you think. 

Friendship: Halloween (Book 1, Chapter 10)

Vanessa and Casper explore the theme of friendship in chapter ten of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They discuss Hermione's confrontation with mortality, give an allegorical reading of Quidditch, and offer a possible redemption for McGonagall after last week's criticism. 

Goals: Quidditch (Book 1, Chapter 11)

Vanessa and Casper explore the theme of goals in chapter eleven of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They discuss Voldemort's questionable judgment in this chapter, whether our intentions are as important as our actions, and Vanessa's lasting admiration for Whoopi Goldberg. 

White Privilege: The Mirror of Erised (Book 1, Chapter 12)

Vanessa and Casper explore the theme of white privilege in chapter twelve of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They discuss Molly Weasley's continued generosity, explore the topic of invisibility both literally and metaphorically, and begin a new spiritual exercise: the Jewish practice of Havruta. 

Hope: Nicolas Flamel (Book 1, Chapter 13)

Vanessa and Casper explore the theme of hope in chapter thirteen of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They discuss Neville's brawl with the Slytherins, the sacred space of quidditch, and whether a rhetoric of hope can be exploitative.

Rebellion: Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback (Book 1, Chapter 14)

Vanessa and Casper explore the theme of rebellion in chapter fourteen of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They discuss Casper's high school antics, Hagrid's lack of self-care, and whether the ends justify the means when Hermione manipulates Hagrid to gain information about the Sorcerer's Stone. 

Special Edition: Catching Up on the Owl Post

Vanessa recounts how she came to read literature as sacred and, in Casper’s absence, uses voicemails from the audience as her conversation partners this week. Together, they touch on a new theology of horcruxes, the difficulty of transitions, and why Hermione wasn't sorted into Ravenclaw. We’re back to your regularly scheduled programming next week!

Regret: The Forbidden Forest (Book 1, Chapter 15)

Vanessa and Casper explore the theme of regret in chapter fifteen of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They discuss the eccentric behavior of centaurs, celebrate Neville's burgeoning bravery, and try to justify Filch's ongoing sadism in this chapter. Throughout the episode they return to the question: why do we regret things that are out of our control? This week's voicemail is thanks to Kevin Bianchi. 

Destiny: Through the Trapdoor (Book 1, Chapter 16)

Vanessa and Casper explore the theme of destiny in chapter sixteen, the penultimate chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They discuss why Neville is excluded from the trio's adventure, where Hermione's strengths and weaknesses come from, and the possible symbolism of chess pieces. Throughout the episode they look at the question: are our choices part of our destiny? This week's voicemail is thanks to Micah Herstand. 

Love: The Man With Two Faces (Book 1, Chapter 17)

Vanessa and Casper explore the theme of love in the final chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They debate whether Quirrell loves Voldemort, celebrate the Weasley twins, and take a closer look at the title of the chapter. Throughout the episode they consider the question: Is sacrifice necessary for love? 

Wrap Up: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

In the final episode of season one, Vanessa and Casper pull out a few key insights from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They finally get around to talking about Harry himself, revisit the kindness of the Weasley twins, and think about the thematic relevance of food in the book. Throughout the episode they come back to ideas about vulnerability, friendship, and love.

Special Edition: Owl Post and Professor Stephanie Paulsell

In our last episode of season one, we hear from a few more listeners and have a meta-conversation about the podcast itself. Vanessa and Casper also have the opportunity to chat with Professor Stephanie Paulsell, with whom they developed this project at Harvard Divinity School. We’re back with season two in a few weeks! Note: This is our last week of particularly bad audio quality. Hurray!