When I first heard the name of the wizarding school in America (Ilvermorny), I was unimpressed. When I heard the names of the houses, I was disappointed. Sure, Thunderbird and Horned Serpent are pretty cool, but Wampus? Pukwudgie?? Get serious. So I did what we all do when life isn’t treating us right: I complained on social media. More than one person pointed out that Hogwarts is a pretty awful name, and that’s when I realized what was happening: I hated the names because they didn’t mean anything to me.
How many of us giggled or even rolled our eyes when we first read about Hogwarts? Who in their right mind would name their school after bumps on a pig? None of the images that went with the name were pleasant. But over time, we got used to it. Not only did we get used to it, we came to love it. If you asked me where I wish I had gone to school, Hogwarts is the answer — the very same Hogwarts I reviled when I first heard of it.
Why are we okay with the name Hogwarts? Because of association. I don’t see a bumpy pig, I see a magical castle full of interesting professors and wizarding students. Everything Harry Potter and his friends have done there are associated with the name, as are the characters of Dumbledore, Remus Lupin, Minerva McGonagall, and more. The name now has meaning for me that goes far beyond the words in front of my eyes. Instead of thinking it’s a stupid name, I love it, because I love the story that goes with it.
This realization made me look up Ilvermorny on Pottermore and read about the founding of the school. I think J.K. Rowling has another book here, but she’s made it into a compelling short story. I found out what a Pukwudgie is, as well as Wampus. And as soon as I had read the article, I realized the words look different to me now, sound different. I don’t find them as awkward or weird as I did when I first met them. Now I associate them with things (the story of Isolt Sayre and the founding of a magical school in America) and I like them better because of it.
All of this has reminded me of one of my favorite quotes:
…there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. — Hamlet, Act 2 Sc. 2
For me, this has been a great lesson in remembering that how I feel about something is all about experience and association. Good and bad are judgments and having nothing to do with what is. That thing is just a thing. How I think about it depends on how I feel about what I’ve experienced in association with it. It’s that simple.
How about you? Do you find that association can change your perception of something?