merlinism as a religion in the wizarding world
okay so i have a lot of ideas about merlin in the harry potter universe and how that developed into a belief system so here u go friends
okay i tried to organize this once it started getting rly long but it’s still pretty lumped together. i linked all my sources throughout the post and also at the end in case you wanted to easily access them. since not all of you may have access to the links on pottermore, i have included an external link to the same information at the bottom of the post.
keep in mind that most of this is purely speculation based on a very small amount of information provided in canon (books & pottermore) and the contents are by no means true in any sense unless they are pulled from outside sources.
i would say that there is something of a belief system (not quite a religion, but then again, it’s hard to draw the line between the two) centered around merlin. i’d imagine that this belief system would mostly be followed by purebloods for many reasons, one of which being that it would have been passed down in families of magical ancestry and not so much so in those of muggle ancestry for obvious reasons. i would think that some half-blood wizards would be aware of this belief system as well, but half-blood and muggle-born followers would make up a very small percentage of believers.
we frequently see wizards (usually ron, a pureblood) use merlin’s name in place of “god” or as a general intensifier - “oh merlin”, “merlin’s pants” - which suggests that merlin has some sort of influence on the general wizarding consciousness. this influence in my eyes would be something along the lines of the following:
- merlin as the original wizard (but not the “inventor” of magic)
- magic as being an omnipresent force throughout all things, biotic or abiotic; accessible magic versus natural magic
- purebloods as direct descendants of merlin, with half-bloods and muggle-borns as those with a more “contaminated” lineage
- devotion to this belief system
I. merlin as the original wizard
i believe that in the harry potter universe merlin was a historical figure - (he’s on a chocolate frog card, an honor which is generally reserved for real people) - who existed much, much earlier than he does in the traditional king arthur stories (to where merlin is most popularly attributed; however, similar figures existed outside of these stories as well), and was in every sense the “first wizard” (not only is he on a chocolate frog card, he’s number one).
the placement of merlin in the 5th / 6th century is problematic because we have wizards logged in canon as being from ancient greece and rome, for one thing; we can assume that merlin preceded those wizards by a large stretch of time.
i like to think that merlin laid the foundation for things like using external objects (like staffs or, later on, wands) and words to channel magic. he also would have discovered the distinction between natural magic and accessible magic (this is entirely my own creation and not canon by any means just so you know), which i will discuss later on in this section. we can also safely assume that he wrote down what he discovered, creating what would have been the first texts relating to magic and its uses.
we can assume that a wizard does not necessarily need an external object to perform acts of magic (as we see in OP1 where harry lights his wand without touching it, as well as with dumbledore using this tactic periodically throughout the books). this, i assume, comes from the fact that wizards are vessels of accessible magic (as opposed to natural magic, which will be discussed later) and can pull it from within themselves to perform certain acts. i doubt that it is as strong as it would be if it had something to channel it (we see a similar situation in that it’s much more difficult to perform a nonverbal spell than it is a verbal one. it seems that there’s a positive correlation between the easiness of a spell’s performance and the number of channels that are used to perform it. the level of power probably looks something like this: nonverbal + no channel = weakest / verbal + no channel = weak / nonverbal + channel = strong / verbal + channel = strongest).
i think this practice of channeling magic through external objects would have been very primitive in Merlin’s time because, for one thing, he was the only one developing things (or who had ever developed things) relating to magic at all; another indicator is that the creation of wands as we see them in the harry potter universe appears to have been a very involved, lengthy process that would have had to evolve and been reworked a lot over time. the wands we see in the books are form-fitted to each wizard, going so far as to actually being enough of a vessel of natural magic to be able to choose the wizard that fits them best, and their design is obviously a product of thousands of years of work. also, the variation in wands around the world is worth mentioning here; the wandwood varies quite a bit from each wand to the next, and the core and overall design of the wand also varies depending on wandmaker, region, etc.
this all proves what an extensive process it must have taken to get wands to their current state that we see in canon, which leads me to believe that the objects used to channel magic in merlin’s time (if there were any at all, and i like to think there were some) were probably not the most efficient of devices.
II. magic as an omnipresent force
i like to think that there is magic in everything, from a rock to a leaf to a human being, wizard or not. we can divide “magic” up into two categories: accessible and natural (inaccessible) magic.
accessible vs. natural magic
the kind of magic which permeates every (a)biotic thing on earth and in the cosmos is what i’ll call natural magic. this kind of magic is not what spells are formed with, nor is it what makes the difference between a wizard or a muggle. this kind of magic is simply there and is of no practical use as far as i can imagine. side note: i think ghosts would be technically classified as natural magic, even though they were once alive and were people who had accessible magic within them. other than that, i don’t think the presence natural magic would be very important to daily life besides simply acknowledging it and recognizing that you are a part of that. i’m sure there’s a purist wizard cult out there somewhere who are self-sufficient forest-dwellers whose goal is for their internal accessible magic to become one with natural magic, but that’s beside the point.
the opposite of natural magic would be accessible magic. this kind of magic is the stuff of spells, potions, magical beasts, and even the internal magic of a wizard. this is what separates, in my eyes, a wizard from a muggle: while all (a)biotic things possess some quantity of natural magic, only some of those things can become aware of this magic and use it for practical purposes. those things are wizards, who are vessels of a different kind of magic (or at least they are capable of harnessing a branch of natural magic that comes from within themselves).
III. purebloods as direct descendants of merlin
here i’ll propose a theory that purebloods consider themselves the direct descendants of merlin, and that half-bloods and muggle-borns are of a more “contaminated” lineage.
by introducing a belief system upheld by wizards (especially those of “pure blood”) such as merlinism, it allows for a rationalization by the purebloods of their idea of blood supremacy and, by extension, their institutionalized oppression of all non-pureblood groups. there is often a place for corruption in religion and this is it for merlinism.
because of the headcanons i have presented about natural versus accessible magic and the presence of that in different types of wizards, i’m inclined to believe that some purebloods would use that distinction as “proof” that they are direct ancestors of merlin. they would acknowledge, of course, that all wizards / squibs would have had to be related somehow in order to get that mutated gene or whatever it is (possibly just an extra piece of the DNA strand that gets turned on, much like the process by which other genes get expressed phenotypically), but that purebloods are the most direct ancestors with the strongest strains of magic and the ability to channel it more accurately than someone whose family line’s magic has been watered down through interbreeding with muggles, etc.
i don’t think all purebloods would have thought this, and this may be a tier of the belief system that is optional. however, for those of whom it benefited, i’m sure they took to it rather readily.
i’ll address some of the “evidence” they could use to support their belief.
levels of magical power by blood status
based on the information we got from pottermore about the purebloods’ relationship with non-purebloods prior to the institution of the statute of secrecy, i don’t believe there is any difference between the magical abilities of a pureblood versus a muggle-born or anyone in between; however, merlinism potentially allows for purebloods to place themselves on a pedestal, and i don’t think families like the blacks, malfoys, etc. would pass up an opportunity to do that.
i’ll discuss what i’ll imagine as one of the most popular theories backing this, which, like any other theories set to prove pureblood supremacy, would be fabricated by pureblood believers and would have no solid backing other than texts they themselves have written.
-the differing range of magical ability on an individual level-
magical ability could be compared to the iq range of a person; someone’s iq can range between two static numbers on the spectrum (for example, 115 and 135). depending on their level of mental stimulation (if they go to a school that challenges them versus a school that practically gives out good grades for hardly any work, or if they spend their free time working puzzles versus watching television), their iq can be anywhere in that range of 115-135 at any given time, and it is not static; it can change over the lifetime of a person depending on several factors.
we can apply this to the nonsensical theory that muggle-borns are naturally less inclined towards powerful magic; for instance, purebloods who believe this theory might argue that, say, hermione may have made up for her lesser amount of natural ability through careful study and practice, while ron chucked his greater amount of natural ability out the window with his lack of study and practice.
merlinism would require a meditational form of devotion (as opposed to one centered around ritual action) since so much of its pillars deal with the presence of magic within oneself and how it relates to the magic in everything else.
there would be no temples, churches, meeting-places, or anything of that sort in the modern sects of merlinism. there would be a few ruins of places of devotion from centuries upon centuries ago, and a few relics such as statues of merlin, etc., but modern followers would contain their devotion to the home, in private.
it would be a very personal sort of devotion that, in order to perfect it, would require reading certain texts penned by merlin and later followers, all of which would be common household books kept in places that allowed for easy access. children would hear stories from these texts as part of their formative years, to help them gain a foundation for their use of magic later on. devotees might keep small statues of merlin around their houses, or may wear a symbol similar to a cross or the deathly hallows symbol around their necks as a sign of devotion.
the privacy of this form of devotion would be based in the overall need for secrecy in the wizarding community after the institution of the statute of secrecy; large temples and gathering-places would be far too visible to muggle eyes, especially if wizards were to congregate there on a specific day of the week / month / year. from what i can infer, most wizarding buildings (such as the leaky cauldron) are kept out of the muggle eye through the use of the fidelius charm, but religious centers would need to serve a much higher percentage of the population that would a small pub in london, for instance, and so the fidelius charm would not be practical to use on one.
instruction on this belief system would be handled mostly by parents, or, for those who could afford it, masters of merlinic texts who would do house-calls. this would allow for a lot of flexibility in the teachings to the point where the only common factor between two separate sects of merlinism would be the idea that merlin is the original wizard, or else that magic, in essence, is everywhere.
general harry potter canon (books 1-7, the prequel, pottermore, interviews with jkr, etc.)
merlin’s chocolate frog card [image]
traditional king arthur stories (i used four of the most well-known and inclusive ones) [historia regum britanniae] [le morte d’arthur] [the once and future king] [the acts of king arthur and his noble knights]
the relationship between purebloods and muggles [pottermore]