Wanna-be Wizards and Witches Flock to Austria’s Real Life Hogwarts

Thanks to the hype created by the release of the final Harry Potter movie, an Austrian school for wizards and witches is expanding its range of courses and student base.

When IT expert Andreas Starchel decided to jeopardize his job, change his name to Grand Wizard Dakaneth and open the International School for Wizards and Witches, in 2003, most people laughed and probably called him crazy, but he proved them all wrong after students from all around the world joined his school and made him a rich and famous man. Now, with the recent release of the last Harry Potter movie, Starchel and his partner Sonja Kulmitzer are expanding the school’s range of courses and attracting new waves of aspiring wizards and witches.

Instead of mastering impossible spells and learning to fly on brooms, students at of the International School for Wizards and Witches study subjects like astronomy, potion-making, history of magic, botany, herbology, channeling of magical energy, fortune telling and so on. The two founders have managed to put a modern twist on witchcraft, which basically requires looking at basic sciences from a different perspective and perceiving information that is filtered out by most people. “I’ve learned that everything is explainable” Andreas Starchel says, “and magic is magic only until it is explained. If you understand the psychological aspects behind it, the magic disappears”.

Starchel and Kulmitzer first started offering organized courses on witchcraft in 1998, as a three-year program that consisted of monthly seminars for those able to travel to Klagenfurt, 220 miles southwest of Vienna, where the school is based. Unfortunately most of their students lived very far away and few ever showed up for seminars, so the program was reorganized as a seven-module correspondence course. Students have to pass a test at the end of each module and write a thesis on the studied subject in order to obtain a Certificate of Venefica, a documented invented by Andreas Starchel and Sonja Kulmitzer. Venefica is Latin for witch.

When seminars are organized at the International School for Wizards and Witches, on Magdalen Mountain, in Austria’s Carinthia region, students join their masters on the surrounding meadows to find special herbs, learn to distill them into potions, look for places of power, learn the meaning of runes and even get witch and wizard names, in a special ritual.

Although Andreas Starchel’s school has faced lots of criticism over the years, mostly from religious people who believe witchcraft is the work of the devil, he claims the practices he teaches are more in tune with nature than with the devil. He believes witches and druids have always been perceived as evil because of the church and praises movies like Harry Potter for changing people’s perception of wizardry.

via Martin Betz, LA Times

Photos via MartinBetz.at