Taboo and the Theory of Voldemort

The wizarding world, in the first few books of the Harry Potter series, faces a similar dilemma. Lord Voldemort and his crew of miscreants are slowly wreaking havoc, killing off muggles, half-bloods, and wizards who support a diverse world of magic. James and Lily Potter are amongst hundreds of victims throughout the series.

Except in the first few books, Voldemort is not yet known as Voldemort; rather “He Who Shall Not Be Named” or “You Know Who”. Voldemort’s namelessness adds to his mystique, his power, and the intimidation surrounding his name. The fear of He Who Shall Not Be Named becomes as crippling to the wizarding community as any of his dark magic.

Only a few are able to break this curse. Albus Dumbledore, tells Harry in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, “Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper names for people. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.” Voldemort avoids Dumbledore for the most part; Dumbledore uses his actual name, Tom Riddle, to boldly speak to the vulnerability and humanity of Voldemort.

Initially, students and faculty at Hogwarts freak out when Harry says the name “Voldemort” rather than the pseudonym “He Who Shall Not Be Named”. However, by the time we get to The Deathly Hallows (book seven), Harry and other members of the order regularly refer to Voldemort by his name, in spite of the taboo curse Voldemort places on his own name.


We all have antagonists in our stories. Naysayers. The other woman (or man). Perpetrators of abuse.

We notice that these antagonists very seldom have names; rather, they’re referred to as “him”, “her”, “that woman/man”, “the babysitter” (or other qualifying descriptor). I ask clients the names of these antagonistic characters, and often face resistance to get an actual name.

Euphemisms (either for people or processes) give the actual names and their associated connotations more power and invoke more paralysis and fear. Euphemisms perpetuate taboo and family secrets.

Which leads us to the Theory of Voldemort. At South Shore Family, we want to help you tell your story with more confidence, identify resilience and healing, and take ownership of the next chapter of your life.

Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself. 

However, when we begin identifying antagonists, anxious processes, and abusers by their actual names, we find ourselves taking power away from those people and horrifying experiences.

If you’re interested in taking back the power of your voice through individual, couple, or family therapy, please give us a call at 617-750-0183 or schedule an appointment online.