Vivienne D'Avalon (viviennedavalon) wrote in enchanted_elms,
Vivienne D'Avalon

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Real Life Adventures in Wizardry -- a personal account of the 2005 Harry Potter Symposium

Real Life Adventures in Wizardry -- a presenter’s personal account of the 2005 Harry Potter Symposium, "The Witching Hour," Salem, MA October 6-10 (© 11/14/05)

Tuesday, October 4, 2005:

9pm-ish: Arrive at Logan with my friend Willa; met by my parents (who both lived in Salem for many, many years… but 50 years ago!)

11pm-ish: After two hours of driving around surrounding towns, we finally complete the “30 minute” drive from Logan to Salem, extended by getting lost – almost obligatory when driving with my Dad. I bought him a compass at one of the souvenir shops later that week and presented it to him on Sunday when he came to see me present my paper. Willa gets a healthy dose of my Mom’s passenger-seat driving, haranguing, etc. Willa later uses it as a weapon against me: “don’t look now, but your mother is showing” she says, as I upbraid my Dad for getting lost coming out of Logan AGAIN! (That’s part of the story of our harrowing journey home…. See below.)

Wednesday, October 5, 2005:

Beautiful warm, sunny day – a totally unexpected and very pleasant surprise for New England in October. Willa is in the habit of rising early, so each morning she would come back with coffee for me just as I was getting up. What did I do to deserve such wonderful friends? Spent a thoroughly enjoyable day souvenir shopping. We never did get to any of the tourist spots, really; not Willa’s thing, and I’ve done them to death. We did get to see the nifty new statue of Elizabeth Montgomery as Bewitched’s Samantha Stevens flying across the crescent moon on her broom (riding side-saddle of course, with her ankles crossed, as any proper lady witch from that period would do….) We got to know Essex Street and Pickering Wharf very, very well over this week. Lots of wonderful witchy shops, even a couple of Goth shops -- seems to be a growing Goth community as well as a Wiccan one now, which I’m very happy to see (though natives like my Mom are less than enthused about both….) Still, after over 300 years diversity and tolerance seem to finally be winning out. Yay! Found a wonderful wine shop on Essex Street selling Chaucer’s Mead – we felt more and more like we were browsing through Hogsmeade every minute! There was an Irish Pub selling hard cider that could have been the Three Brooms; and the oldest candy shop in the country is in Salem, as well as an import shop on Pickering Wharf, either of which could pass for Honeydukes; you get the idea.

Thursday, October 6, 2005:

Morning and afternoon: More shopping, errands, etc., then on to registration. I pick up my registration materials in the basement library of our hotel, the Hawthorne. I take out my badge with the yellow Hufflepuff lanyard, which I have apparently been sorted into. Says the registrar: “ Oh, you’re in Hufflepuff! Oh, you *don’t* look happy…..” I take a cue from a girl we meet later, a thwarted Gryffindor who was also sorted into Hufflepuff, who describes herself as a “Gryffinpuff,” and start referring to myself as a “Slytherpuff.” Spend the whole event wearing various Slytherin-appropriate costumes, my yellow lanyard my only concession to this travesty of justice…. We have to go over to the Waterfront Hotel to get Willa’s stuff; she is sorted into Ravenclaw. We would have traded, as she wanted Hufflepuff and I would have fit in well in Ravenclaw, only they deliberately designed the nametags with pictures of the symbols of the houses as a watermark underneath the names, so people couldn’t just switch lanyards (though some did, anyway).

Evening: Have a thoroughly enjoyable time sitting on a curb just off of Essex Street watching the Halloween parade. Can’t see great from where we’re sitting, but the Montgomery statue is right behind us, and I’m able to get my Mom on my cell phone so I can give her a blow by blow description, and she can ask after the bands and groups she remembered from her childhood parades. Almost as if we were together; still a shared experience…. Then a long hike to the bus stop to wait for the shuttle to the Welcome Feast at the Sheraton, “10 minutes away.” Hah! No one is sure where we’re supposed to wait for the bus. Huge groups of people keep swarming back and forth from the back of the church to the front, and back again, like a bunch of lemmings, no one knowing where we’re going or why, just everyone following the people in front, trying to figure out where we’re supposed to get the bus. We finally succeed in getting on a bus. It takes us in the opposite direction. 40 minutes later we arrive at the huge dining hall of the Sheraton, which is actually 7 miles away in Danvers (the next town over). Still, it was the longest 7 miles I’ve ever traveled, and the bus trip back was no shorter! We decide *not* to bother with any of the events we had planned on attending at the Sheraton. Just too much hassle! Willa and I split up -- since we were sorted into different houses we were at different tables. But the lines for food were so long that I gave up and went to wait in the bar. Met a lovely young girl there who was with a friend who had tickets to the Symposium, but she herself did not, and thus she was waiting out the welcome feast in the bar. We had a nice chat, and just as I was about to leave to check on Willa my phone rang and it was her, letting me know the feast was over. Once back at our hotel room I scarfed down a candy bar, part of the care package my Mom left with us when they dropped us off Tuesday night (and boy, did that care package come in handy! This will tell you something about my Mom: she made my Dad take all the care package stuff out of the grocery bag he was going to put it in, and put it in a Lord & Taylor bag instead – “they’ve got to have *some* class,” she said…. ;) )

Friday October 7, 2005:

Day: First full day of programming. Feeling weak and lightheaded from the lack of dinner the night before, I drink one of the cans of vanilla Ensure that my Mom included in the care package (told you it came in handy); thus I am narrowly saved from fainting from hunger. Go to hear a talk about the Salem Witch trials and some of the similarities between the atmosphere in Salem in the 17th century and Hogwarts and its environs (like the Forbidden Forest). Then attend a wonderful talk given during the Key Note lunch, over a *fabulous* New England meal in the Hawthorne Ball Room (where my Mom has had numerous school functions and/or reunions over the years). Willa almost gets bagged in the dueling game, but I remind her opponent that the rules stated you couldn’t get anyone in a function room or special event. Spend the afternoon trying to dodge this opponent, but she triumphs in the end and gets Willa on Essex Street with the “Ridikulus” spell. I note numerous rule infractions during the day on the part of various dueling participants, none of whom seem to have read (or understood) the rules. (By Saturday, when round two was supposed to start, I had neither been bagged, nor had I successfully bagged my target or even been able to find her at all, and I was pretty fed up, so I gave up and quit the dueling). After Willa was knocked out, we attended a presentation on bullying in the Potterverse and what kind of example it sets for bullies, their victims, and parents and teachers in our world. Also attended a rousing round table discussing Snape that was packed to the gills.

Night: Keynote dinner at the Peabody Essex Museum was also thoroughly enjoyable, though neither the food nor the atmosphere was as good as the Hawthorne. The other members of the Snape panel I was on gathered together during and after dinner to talk about our presentation scheduled for Saturday morning. Prof. S. read us a fabulous essay she wrote summing up the topic of the panel, and our moderator Kavita asked her to close with it. (Available here at Prof. S.’s Live Journal: Outside I noticed Prof. S. was trembling and I asked her if she was alright. She put it down to nerves. By the next morning I knew what she was going through! Willa and I were asked by the gent in the hotel room next to ours as we were returning from the event what we thought of the museum – he was on the board and was curious to know. I said it was lovely but I still remembered the old Peabody museum from when I was a child when it was still in its old, private home location, unchanged from when my mother was a child. I had liked the coziness, nostalgia and atmosphere much better then, just as my Mom did. I don’t think he was pleased.

Saturday, October 8, 2005:

Morning: The big day! Three presentations to participate in; didn’t really have time to watch anyone else’s, because of it. First up was the Snape panel, discussing his ambiguity and how it served the plot and text. I got to the Waterfront hotel with a few minutes to spare, and felt pretty pulled together, until met by the handler outside the door with “THERE you are! We’ve been *waiting* for you!” At which point I got my cloak caught in the wheels of my hand cart; managed to get her papers dumped onto the floor as she tried to ask me how I wanted to be introduced; and almost tripped trying to get by her and through the throng of people to the panel’s table. Thank goodness for Willa, she was invaluable all day long! She helped untangle me, carry the cart over puddles, helped me pack and unpack materials, and generally made my life SO much easier and so much less of a struggle. I can’t thank her enough! Anyway, I get to the table, wanting only to find my seat and start pulling out the source material I plan to refer to during the panel, but everyone wants pictures of Prof. S., and of the whole panel with Prof. S., So I stop for a picture… and suddenly flash bulbs are going off everywhere! Colin Creevey would be proud…. Each time I would think we were done and would start to pull away, I would hear “just one more!” and more bulbs would go off. Finally I got to my seat, with my folder in front of me, only to get my cloak caught on the chair! “I am *not* doing well with either costumes or props, today!” I said. At which point Prof. S. asked me if I was alright, because I was trembling. Nerves, of course. Turn about is fair play. “Now I don’t feel so bad!” she says, bless her! Once the panel got rolling, I felt much better, and we gave a great presentation to a room of about 200 people; I will send the articles about Snape that we used as sources to anyone who wants to email me for them (; I can’t post them because of copyright issues, but they are fascinating, especially the one comparing Snape to Byronesque heroes. There was another Snape-themed panel right afterwards, so Willa and I stayed and I got to catch my breath.

Afternoon: Co-led the Wicca and Harry Potter roundtable with Emily Honey. Before we began, a reporter stopped by with her camera person. Turns out she’s from the local Salem cable access news program. She was covering the symposium, by doing 2 minute interviews with various presenters that she was going to put together. Emily and I consented to be interviewed, the video camera went on, and instantly we were barraged with very professional and to the point questions in quick succession that I think we both answered very well. After the two woman crew left, Emily and I just looked at each other, kind of shell-shocked. “It’s like we just met a really nice Rita Skeeter,” she said, taking the words right out of my mouth. Wow. For the round table I read the first, introductory paragraphs of the 5 page paper I had written on the topic (which I will post at Snape’s Grove and possibly behind a cut at Live Journal); then Emily picked up the discussion of the Triple Goddess by reading the paper she had written (which I will similarly post, if she gives her permission). I closed by reading the rest of my paper, and then we opened the floor for questions for about 10 or 15 minutes, which went very well. Surprisingly, there wasn’t anyone there from Snape’s Grove or Pagan Potterites. There were, however, quite a few people who were neither Wiccan nor Pagan, who said they wanted to learn more about both, having lived in Salem for many years. I hope we did a good job for them. As soon as we were done, though, I had to fly – I had 15 minutes to cover the ground between the Boys and Girls club, where we were, to the House of Seven Gables, where I was assisting with the Tea with Trelawney event (about a 15 minute brisk walk, in the best of weather, and it was raining and cold all day long, forming huge puddles at the crosswalks and treacherously slippery sidewalks). Where’s a Firebolt when you need one??? Meanwhile, the intrepid Quidditch players were rolling around in the mud of Salem Commons, getting thoroughly soaked and filthy; they proceeded to trail mud everywhere they went and on everything they touched, for the rest of the day, like PigPen.

Evening: Had handouts prepared for the Tea with Trelawney event, which I will post to Snape’s Grove and/or Live Journal minus the copyrighted tarot pictures I used (to illustrate the reading Trelawney does in book 6, so Mariella could explain them). I was in excellent company, including our lead, Mariella, head of Pagan Potterites, and Catherine Tosenberger, head of programming for the Symposium. We each said a few words about divination in real life versus its treatment in the books, and then settled down to do some sample readings. Tiring, but it went very well. Again, thank goodness for Willa! I would never have made it in time, and probably would have been a wet and muddy mess, if it weren’t for her, and she gave out the handouts for me so I could catch my breath, and overall was just the bestest assistant I could have been blessed with! On the way back to our hotel we made a brief stop at the Waterfront registration area, where I was awarded 100 points for House Hufflepuff for the outfit I was wearing, a very pleasant surprise and my only contribution to the House Cup contest. Then back to the Hawthorne for a much needed rest before heading out the post-Quidditch pizza party, the washed out Fall Festival (so we just picked up our goodie bags) and over to Victoria Station at Pickering Wharf to meet with Pagan Potterites and Snape’s Grove in a room of requirement. We were quite late, however, so unfortunately most had left, but we did get to spend some more time with Mariella and a couple of others.

Sunday, October 9, 2005:

Day: Had a keynote brunch at the Waterfront, which was disappointing; dry scrambled eggs and sausage hardly compare to the marvelous meal the Hawthorne gave us, and the panel had trouble staying on topic (Sirens and Furies). Then it was back to the Hawthorne to attend one more presentation (on fanfic and resolving Snape to his DeathEater past) and to meet my Dad, except he was amazingly early, so he joined us for the presentation. Not his bag, as I had thought would be the case, but surprisingly he stayed, anyway. Then it was off to the Boys and Girls Club for my presentation (which I will be posting at Snape’s Grove and can email to anyone who requests it:, preceded by “How Dark Is it” and followed by a Hermione as Heroine presentation, both of which impressed my Dad enough for him to tell me proudly that I was put in very good company. He was able to videotape my presentation, plus the one before it and after it, to my pleasure and surprise. When it came time for my presentation, I stopped in the back to thank Prof. S. for coming, and she asked if I was nervous and gave me some much needed reassurance that I would do fine. We had the first slide of my presentation up on screen, showing Holmes on one side and Snape on the other, so Willa suggested I ask Prof. S. if she would be willing to pose in front of the screen with me for a picture. She consented, and so of course I placed her on the Snape side and myself on the Holmes side (if you’ve seen the marvelous Rickman/Snape look she wears, you would understand how perfect this was) and Willa took the picture. This was swiftly followed by what seemed like a million flash bulbs going off, as the rest of the audience took advantage of the perfect photo op, but this time I felt just slightly less like a deer caught in the headlights… Still, it was intense. (Prof. S. has one up at her Live Journal, here: Read my paper, got a great reception, lots of people asked questions. It was fun!!! My Mom even called later that night after having viewed the video to tell me it was “superb,” a word I don’t think I’ve ever heard her use to describe anything! After the presentation immediately after mine we sat for a drink with my Dad at Hawthorne’s Tavern on the Green, until he had to head home. Willa and I went over to the Waterfront to pick up a few HP souvenirs being sold at the registration desk, and then went to dinner. On the way back to the hotel to dress for the ball being held at the Peabody Essex Museum that evening, I found a book sitting out on a stoop. I thought at first someone must have left it behind them, forgotten, but when I picked it up I noticed it had a label on it that said “free book; please take me home.” Now, I have come across books in some interesting ways in Salem, but this was a first for me! (Later, when I got it home and explored it more fully, I found information on the inside about the book tracking project it was part of. I’m supposed to finish the book, go to the website to write a review and document where I picked it up and where I took it, and then pass it on).

Night: We dressed for the ball, in formal muggle attire. Costumes were supposedly verboten at the Museum for security reasons, and yet when we got there we saw some absolutely lovely attire that would nevertheless count as “costume” in anyone’s book, not formal evening wear. Harrumph! I bought a beautiful dress in The Fool’s Mansion, one of the Goth shops, that I would have loved to wear to the ball if I’d known I could get away with it…. Ah, well. I’m not much for public dances; Willa and I just sat on the sidelines, people watching, commenting on this outfit or that. Prof. S. made quite a scene; anytime she got up to dance, a huge circle of admiring fans would surround her, clapping and snapping pictures. Of course, she looked adorable, demurely shaking her tushie in her Snape garb, so who can blame them? And the biggest ruckus came when they all did the “badger dance” together, which I was unable to see through the crowd. Prof. S. does have a picture at her Live Journal, though, again at We stayed through the whole affair, until it wrapped up at midnight; we were tired and extremely sorry to be leaving the next day. I made the comment to Willa, that the last couple of dances reminded me very much of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death.” People in elaborate formal wear, dancing as if their lives depended on it, desperate to hold onto those last few precious moments before the midnight bell tolled the end of our wonderful Symposium…. Sigh.

Monday, October 10, 2005:

Morning: Packed and ready to go in plenty of time for checkout, we went downstairs to check our luggage and have a nice brunch. We called for a cab to meet us at 12, and while we waited in the lobby we met some people coming back from the Leaving Feast at the Sheraton, who reported that House Hufflepuff came from way behind to win the House Cup! Apparently they were awarded a whole bunch of points for the badger dance at the ball…. Still, they managed to beat Gryffindor by less than 100 points, so the 100 I got for my costume apparently came in handy, after all. Of course, when I shrieked in celebration, Willa immediately called me on my “hypocrisy.” “You’ve been saying all Symposium that you wanted to be in Slytherin, and here you are claiming Hufflepuff membership now that they’ve won!” “Well of course it’s opportunistic,” I replied. “But then, that’s what Slytherins do, isn’t it?” ;)

Afternoon: Then the real drama began; we got a cab to the airport, with a lovely, chatty driver who made friends with us and gave us candy. But just as we were arriving, I got a call on my cell phone from my Mom: she had been watching the 12 o’clock news, and just before they signed off, they interrupted with “breaking news”: the radar was down at Logan, and no word yet on what that would mean as far as delays and cancellations. We were already there, though, so we took our chances and went in. When we checked our luggage with the skycaps outside, the flight was still listed as on time. By the time we got through security to the gate and settled in at the sports bar, I called Delta and found out our flight had been delayed from 3 to 5:30. Then someone walking by the departure time listings said it had said 5:30 when he went out, then went back to on time at 3 when he came back. Then we started hearing rumors that it was cancelled entirely. So I called Delta again, only to have our worst fears confirmed: our flight was indeed cancelled, and they couldn’t get us on any flight to Orlando that night. They put us on a flight the next day at the same time. Then Willa and I both had to call our jobs and let them know we weren’t going to be back at work Tuesday as scheduled. This was particularly onerous for us, as I had no vacation time left except for what was allocated for Christmas vacation, and she is a nurse who works in a hospital and was obviously expected back. In any case, we were fortunate that my parents live not far away, so my Dad was able to come pick us up and take us home to stay the night with them, which gave us a little more time to spend together. Unfortunately, we had to wait for him to finish his work day before he could come get us, and then it took him an hour and a half to get to us because he works in the opposite direction from the airport so he had to pass home (where my Mom shanghaied him) and then continue on to Boston. By the time he got there around 6:30 we had spent several uncomfortable hours in the airport. We would have been fine in the sports bar, where food, drink, and comfortable seating was available, but shortly after we made all our phone calls an announcement came over the intercom that we had to pick up our luggage at the carousel – which meant going back out through security to get it, so it wouldn’t be sitting around unattended. Then we couldn’t go back to where we were without going through security again, which would have been a pain in the butt. Unfortunately, all the amenities are on that other side of security, so the only place we had to hang out and get any sustenance was an Au Bon Pain that was out of chocolate croissants, had no alcohol, and had cold and uncomfortable metal seats. I started feeling worse and worse, but thought I was just really tired and run down. Little did I know at the time, I was coming down with the flu.

Evening: My Dad finally picks us up. We get lost trying to get out of Boston *again* – he took another wrong turn. I ask him where the shiny new compass is that I bought him. “At home on the table with the rest of the souvenirs from Sunday” he replies. Oh well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. We stop for directions a few times and finally get back on track. At home I request comfort TV: a Murder She Wrote episode followed by an Abbot and Costello movie, good, happy, no-brainer material for someone feverish and sick.

Tuesday, October 11:

I have heavy duty fever dreams during the early morning but wake capable of getting ready and getting us another cab to the airport. The one from Monday only cost $45; this one cost $90 (with tip)! There are apparently still problems with the radar, but Delta is still saying our flight is on time – right up until we actually get to the skycap counter where we’re told he can’t check us in because the flight was just that moment cancelled. So he gets a cart to take our bags inside for us, and puts us in line for the Delta counter. While in line I call Delta. They’ve put us on a Wednesday flight. I tell them that’s unacceptable, since they already cancelled us the day before and made us both miss one day of work already, and because my traveling companion is a nurse and needs to get back to her hospital, they need to do whatever they have to do to get us back to Orlando that night. They put us on an earlier flight that goes through Atlanta. This requires rushing around trying to get our luggage taken care of and get through security. The skycap won’t come back with the rack, so we have to drag our bags out there, only to be told we can’t check them because the computer is showing that we’ve already checked two bags each, our limit. This is because when Willa used the machine to exchange our tickets, she thought they were asking how many bags we *would* be checking, but apparently it was asking how many were *already* checked, so as far as the computer was concerned we had already checked our limit. We had to schlep everything back inside (after moving my jewelry box from one bag to the other, because it was overweight), fight to get someone to see to our bags without having to wait from the back of the line again (I was practically in tears I was so desperate, but of course I was very feverish as well), and then rush to get to security, and run from the other side of security to get to our gate with five minutes to spare. Didn’t matter though, because the flight hadn’t even landed yet; we didn’t take off until an hour and a half later, and ended up missing our connection in Atlanta; as a result, we were all on standby for the next flight, without seats. We waited on tenterhooks in the bar with some fellow Symposium folk. Fortunately, they finally were able to assign us seats, and we eventually made it home to Orlando, where our friend Gail picked us up at the airport and drove us home. I didn’t get through my door until after 10.


I tried desperately to get to work the next morning, Wednesday, even though I felt like I’d been hit by a Mac truck, because as I said I had no vacation time to spare; but just before I left I took my temperature and it was 103.2, so I had to stay home. It was pretty clear by this point that I had the flu, and I ended up missing the rest of the week at work, and missing the Harvest Rhythm event being held at All World Acres at which I was supposed to teach. Thus, the following week I was working lots of overtime trying to a) get caught up and b) make up time so I would still be able to go home for Christmas. It was hell. Overall had a fabulous time at the Symposium, despite the week of hell afterwards that I had to pay for it. The friends I made were already trying to talk me into going out to Lumos (this July in Las Vegas), but by the time I tried to book the hotel room they were already sold out. Plus, the organizers are apparently seriously considering the possibility of having the next one after Lumos in Britain, and I had already decided that the only way I could match the experience of presenting at an HP Symposium in Salem in October would be to present at a Symposium in Britain itself. So I think I shall focus my attention on that…. While we were packing on Monday I told Willa I had already found the cure for the post Symposium blues: start planning on the next papers I would be writing for presentation at the next Symposium! Now where did I put my notebook and highlighters….
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