World’s Favorite Harry Potter Spell Reflects The Human Condition

“Harry Potter Book Night” took place in libraries across Kent as book clubs and fans of the seven-part magical series celebrated their fondest memories. Preceding the event, organizers performed a survey to determine favorite spells from the stories. The results announced during the book night were as follows.

  1. Expecto Patronum (also called the Patronus Charm)– to summon a Patronus that will protect you from Dementors and darkness
  2. Accio – to call an object to you
  3. Wingardium Leviosa – to levitate objects
  4. Expelliarmus –to disarm your opponent
  5. Lumos– to ignite one’s wand-tip to provide light
  6. Alohomora – to open locked windows and doors
  7. Avada Kedavra – to bring about instant death
  8. Sectumsempra – incantation for one of the Half-Blood Prince’s spells
  9. Obliviate – to make the subject forget
  10. Riddikulus to make a Boggart take on a comical personification of your greatest fear and eventually explode

Expecto Patronum, which Harry Potter learned about in the third book when he discovered his fear of Dementors (demon-like creatures that guard the wizard prison), earned more than 2,700 votes – winning the favorite position by a landslide.

By the end of the fifth book, most of the characters in Harry Potter have perfected the Patronus charm, each of which takes on a specific animal form reflective of the caster. For Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) it's a stag, for Ron (Rupert Grint) a dog, and for Hermione (Emma Watson) an otter. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

For those who might have forgotten about the Patronus charm and what it does for the caster, here’s an explanation from Professor Lupin in the third book of the series.

“The Patronus is a kind of positive force, a projection of the very things that the Dementor feeds upon – hope, happiness, the desire to survive – but it cannot feel despair, as real humans can, so the Dementors can’t hurt it. But I must warn you, Harry, that the Charm might be too advanced for you. Many qualified wizards have difficulty with it.”

This spell played a vital role throughout the entire series. It came up often when Potter and his friends were in need of help or protection, and it reflected something very dear to the caster. The fact that the world voted for Expecto Patronum as the favorite spell was actually quite telling of the human condition, namely that we crave protection from what we fear most.

Fear is a ubiquitous, albeit inexplicable, part of human nature. There is always something to fear, whether it’s a creature or public speaking.

It’s a vital response to physical and emotional danger that triggers a reaction to protect ourselves from legitimate threats. However, we often feel it much more often than when there is an imminent threat. Trauma and bad experiences can often trigger a fear response, but sometimes there’s no explainable reason for why fear is holding you back.

There is one thing that most psychologists agree on: facing your personal demons is the best way to overcome them. Through this exercise, human beings are able to slowly become less sensitive to their fears and more capable in front of them.

This is what happened with Harry Potter when he learned the Patronus charm. He was terrified by Dementors, the creatures the charm was made to protect against. In order to face his fears, he learned the charm and faced the Dementors over and over again. By the end of the seventh book, Potter was hardly afraid of the creatures. He knew he could perform the spell and his fear would disappear.

Harry Potter learns the world's favorite spell in the third installment of the books. The film 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' was filmed in 2004. (Photo by Steve Finn/Getty Images)

Harry’s journey to overcome his fears is something everyone can relate to, albeit in a slightly different way. We can’t cast spells and banish our fears, of course, but we can go through a difficult journey in which we learn coping mechanisms and techniques to help us overcome our fears. It’s a long road, but we all hope we can come out victorious in the end – like Harry.

As neuroscientist Philippe Goldin says, “Exposure is hands down the most successful way to deal with phobias, anxiety disorders, and everyday fears of any sort.”

It’s simple psychology, and it was no surprise the results showed that Expecto Patronum was the favorite spell for fans. It speaks of a promise that, like Harry Potter, we can face our fears and come out even stronger.

[Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images]