Are you curious about divination and magick? Want to provide your kids with some magickal “home schooling” while they are off school where both you and they can learn about magick and divination and see some “exhibits” at the same time? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then head to the Harry Potter: A History of Magic website.
The website, created by Google Arts & Culture in collaboration with the British Museum, is legacy content from the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition held at the British Library in London in 2017.
The online site provides articles, information and images featuring centuries-old British Library treasures, including the oldest items in their collection, a Greek handbook for magic dating from the 4th century; a preparatory sketch of a mandrake made by the illustrator Jim Kay for the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; Chinese oracle bones; a Thai horoscope manual from the 19th century; an illustration of an Ethiopian dragon by Ulisse Aldrovandi dated from 1572; and a 13th-century bestiary featuring a phoenix rising from the ashes, among others.
Central to the story of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the art of alchemy, which is essentially the process of transformation. Alchemy has been practised worldwide and dates back to ancient times and was prolific around the time of the ancient Egyptians. In Harry and the Philosopher’s Stone, Nicolas Flamel was the only known maker of the Stone in question and, aged 665, was living quietly with his wife in Devon.
The British Library holds many books and manuscripts relating to Alchemy. One of them is an illustrated manuscript known as the Splendor Solis (Latin for Splendour of the Sun), which was made in Germany in 1582. On one of its opening pages is an image of an alchemist holding a flask filled with a golden liquid, out of which emerges a scroll bearing a mystical inscription, ‘Eamus quesitum quatuor elementorum naturas’ (‘Let us ask the four elements of nature”).
The Harry Potter: A History of Magic website also features images from The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic’s collection of artefacts pertaining to divination including a black moon crystal ball, a tea cup used for fortune telling, and an exploded cauldron.
In addition, the Google Arts & Culture project site haslessons on potions, herbology, charms, and how to protect against evil forces.
Whether you come at it from a Harry Potter angle, a keen interest in divination, or a yearning to know about magick, the Harry Potter: A History of Magic project site is a great resource for kids and adults to learn about magick, witchcraft, mythical beasts and creatures in a fun and engaging way, making for some fun learning opportunities while indoors with the kids.