–verb (used with object)
to subject to magical influence;
to delight or captivate utterly; fascinate; charm;
to impart a magic quality or effect to;
“Enchantment produces a Secondary World into which both designer and spectator can enter, to the satisfaction of their sense while they are inside.”
–J.R.R Tolkien, ‘On Fairy Stories’
“[The Secondary World] is a place in which transformation can occur; a transformation that does not fade upon reentry into the Primary World, but significantly, casts a new light upon the Primary World. It is, in a sense, a medium of revelation.”
–Kristin Johnson, ‘Tolkien’s Mythopoesis,” Tree of Tales
It is less than two months since I took a fantasy vacation to DisneyWorld and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was a fantasy trip because of the magical, un-looked for generosity that made the trip possible, and now even moreso, because of the enduring enchantment that has continued since my return. I’ve never been a “Disney” person per se, but something deeper and truer than mouse-ears and tween-geared marketing has begun to permeate my world. What was a whimsical trip to a theme park has taken on new meaning in 2011. I’ve become a resident of the Magic Kingdom: not the Magic Kingdom of Orlando—the Magic Kingdom of the Soul.
My ability to take up residence in the Magic Kingdom definitely started in late 2009, when in order to survive the harrowing depths of my final year of graduate school, I became reliant on potent metaphors in order to persevere through impossible tasks and writing of painful words. I was no longer just an MDiv student, I was Hermoine Granger learning with and battling alongside Ginny, Luna, Neville, Ron, Cedric and Hagrid (yes, these are the correlating character identities of my fellow 2010 MHGS MDiv graduates. No one was Harry because we ALL are Harry). I was part of the Fellowship: limping, heavy-laden toward Mordor. I was a Narnian, expectantly awaiting the return of Aslan to bring life where all was cold and dark. These metaphors were not ways of avoiding reality–they were the power to move into difficult and terrifying places, with narrative meaning and life-giving hope. After a year of writing/researching/teaching about the theology of Charlotte Brontë’s fiction and the spiritual power of Mythopoeia, it’s no suprise that my week spent in two physically-constructed fantasy kingdoms would leave me marked with real magic.
Two other enchantment-encouraging factors were that within weeks of my return, I learned that Ian was doing his dramaturgy thesis on audiences’ experience in the narrative environments of Disney rides, and that the three Spiro sisters were spending 2011 watching every single Disney animated feature in chronological order: a Magic Marathon. I was immediately immersed in conversation about the worlds Disney has created, and how we inhabit them. The Disney being talked about was not that of Radio–Disney or 1990’s embroidered Tigger shirts, but the Disney that could take ink and an orchard, and transform the world of imagination forever.
Since coming home, I’ve had a voracious hunger for all things fairy, firefly, castle, starlight and magic. I literally carry a wand in my purse at all times. I’m living proof that a true Secondary World does not fade upon return to the Primary, but instead, transforms everyday life.
What struck me further after watching a documentary on Walt Disney, was that he not only created Secondary Worlds through the myth of his animated fairy tales and stories, but Walt Disney actually BUILT his Secondary Worlds. Tolkien may have written more than three-hundred ages of Middle Earth, but Walt Disney made it possible for us to actually dine in Cinderella’s Castle and fly to Never Neverland. Apparently, Walt would often spend mornings driving the old-fashioned firetruck around Disneyland before opening. He was “playing with his toys,” as his employees would say. He had imagined and created a world he could actually particiapte in: one that we too could enter. It’s a real Secondary World.
And now all of us who have imagined ourselves as Hogwarts students, can now wander through Hogsmeade, wands-at-the-ready, buying candy at Honeydukes on our winter break. (I literally did this!) i know the enchantment is real because my journey into DisneyWorld and Hogsmeade has contiued to grow as I remember and reminisce. When I was there, I kept thinking how sad I would be to leave, but instead, I’ve been able to visit these places in my heart and mind. Here are some of the magical moments and places from my trip now inhabiting my inner landscape:
What is the Magic Kingdom of the Soul? It’s the capacity to be awestruck with wonder, to watch fireworks with tears in your eyes, to marvel at the early-blooming flowers in your backyard, to be stopped by the sight of the Milky Way as you walk home at night, to be easily surprised and frequently silly. It’s the ability to say YES, PLEASE! to mystery and to allow the knowledge that we are truly made of star-matter to affect our sense of identity.
True enchantment is perhaps this: to be utterly captivated and breath-taken by reality. I love living here.