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Latin/The connection between latin and witchcraft?


Dear Maria,

Hi! I am a student from Taiwan. And as a cultural outsider, I am curious about the latin language that appears in the Harry Potter series(sorry...) As your previous suggestion, I read "The Blackwell History of the Latin Language", it is really a detailed book, I love the part when the author explained the development of latin language as an evolution. So, after the collapse of Roman Empire, latin continued to act as a elite language. And my question is, since Latin has the connotation and implication of Christianity, why would J.K. Rowling still choose Latin as her major spell source? (And she is not the only one, tons and tons of supernatural, magical, fantasy writers use the latin language as a source of spells. As if Latin is the only "true and original" language, as if you say things in latin then it will come true.)

That is my question. I sincerely hope that this question make sense to you.
Thank you again.

Dear Johnnie,

first of all I have to point out that it is not correct to say that Latin "has the connotation and implication of Christianity", since Latin began to be used as the language of  the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church only after the 4th century AD, when it began to be called  “Ecclesiastical Latin” as well as “Church Latin” or “Medieval Latin.

Ecclesiastical Latin has been used continuously by the Catholic Church as her primary language to the present day, but Classical Latin, spoken in Rome from  753 BC onwards and then in all Italy and later in the whole Roman Empire,  was the language that the ancient Roman citizens used in everyday life and thus it was also the language of politics, religion, poetry, history,  philosophy, literature, as well as of mythology with its supernatural, fantastic myths and divination.

So, J.K. Rowling  has chosen Latin as her major spell source first because Latin  has continued to act as an elite language, second because such a noble and ancient language had been used in the Roman oracles, i.e.  mysterious advice from a god that a priest gave people, as for example in the Sibylline Books,a collection of oracular utterances of the Cumæan Sibyl, i.e. the priestess presiding over the Apollo’s oracle at Cumae, a city located near Naples, Italy.
Hope this can help you understand the reason why J.K. Rowling  has chosen Latin as her major spell source.

Lastly, with regard to the maxim “Quidquid Latine dictum sit, altum sonatur” (Whatever is said in Latin sounds profound”) also known as “Quidquid Latine dictum sit, altum videtur” (“Whatever is said in Latin seems  profound”), to which it seems that you are referring  when saying “As if Latin is the only 'true and original' language, as if you say things in Latin then it will come true”, please note that such a maxim is nothing but a popular saying which wants to emphasize the prestige of an ancient language whose literature, history, poetry and spread make it the symbol of a great culture in Western Civilization where many modern languages derive from it (such as Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian) or have words
whose origin is Latin, as for example the English adjective "obsolete" (from Latin "obsoletus")and many other English terms.

Best regards,



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