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Wingardium leviosa! A Harry Potter-inspired day at the University of York

Posted on 11 May 2018

Potions, Parseltongue, divination and mythical creatures; the University of York is to celebrate all things magical with a Harry Potter-inspired day as part of the York Festival of Ideas 2018.

The Basilisk can be killed by the weasel. Image credit: Aberdeen Bestiary via Wikimedia Commons.

Muggles and would-be witches and wizards can join the free day of interactive workshops and talks taking place on Sunday 10 June. 


Francis Nolan, designer of the serpent language Parseltongue for the Harry Potter films, will explain how he used scientific knowledge of real human languages and imaginative reasoning about how snakes might speak to create the language.

University academics from the Department of English and Related Literature and the Centre for Medieval Studies will explore the magical beasts and curious monsters that pop up in medieval art and literature.  

Dr Aneurin Kennerley from the Department of Chemistry will discuss how neuroscientists are decoding our brains and reading our thoughts.


Dr Lydia Zeldenrust, from the Department of English said: "Medieval art and literature reveal a fascination with hybrids, monsters, and other fantastical beings. Many magical creatures are a mix of different types of real animals, that we would recognise in our natural environment today. Medieval bestiaries - or books of beasts - also list fantastical creatures alongside more familiar animals like the horse or the lion.

"We can wonder whether such examples tell us that medieval people believed fantastical creatures really existed – after all, most of them would have never seen a lion, which might make it just as a real as a unicorn. Most of all, though, medieval stories of magical creatures reveal a timeless interest in imagining the impossible - an interest we certainly still share today. 

"We invite visitors to discover the medieval origins of some of their favourite impossible beasts – and to learn about some strange creatures they’ve never heard of before!"


Attendees will also have the opportunity to try their hand at potion and wand making.

The award-winning York Festival of Ideas will run from 5-17 June 2018 with a programme of over 200 mostly-free events on the theme of “Imagining the Impossible”.

The Festival was established and is coordinated by the University of York. It has grown to become one of the largest free festivals in the UK, last year attracting over 32,000 people.

To see the full festival programme visit:

“Witchcraft and Wizardry” takes place from 10am until 4pm in the Ron Cooke Hub, University of York. Tickets for the family-friendly event are available via:

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