ITHACA, NY — Defensive spells and dueling practice are all in a day’s work for a member of Dumbledore’s Army.

Joah Bierkamper, a Library Page, and Sarah Zaslavsky, a library volunteer, will head the practical Defense Against the Dark Arts session in Tompkins County Public Library’s very own Room of Requirement, the Borg Warner Room, for 11 – 18 year olds at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, October 28.

The idea of Hogwarts students teaching other students defensive spells in secret was fascinating to Zaslavsky. And when you work with the library, Bierkamper agreed, “you’re always a student.”

“The library is a world classroom,” he said. “There’s never a day when you don’t learn anything.”

The program will begin with wand selection, with the wands choosing their wizards. (Those with wands are welcome, of course, to bring their own.)

Students at this session will learn both the motions and incantations for a variety of spells, based on both martial arts and mythology.
“We’ll do the stances, and the patterns, and how to actually pronounce the words, “ Bierkamper said, who has experience in Tae Kwon Do and Chung Do Kwon.

Some spells, like Expelliarmus, may already be familiar to young witches and wizards. But the DA team at TCPL has also cooked up a unique arsenal of charms and counter-curses for potential duelists to work through, complete with special effects.

“They’re going to get a sneak preview for Sunday, when the wizard dueling starts,” Bierkamper said, referencing the Defense Against the Dark Arts: Self-Defense class to be presented by The Advocacy Center.

Bierkamper also runs a weekly youth and teen gaming program called Game On, geared towards teaching kids how to tell a story and write through games similar to Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. Following Wizarding Weekend, Game On will be Hogwarts and Diagon Alley-themed for the next three-month session.

“I love the mythology Rowling uses,” Bierkamper said. “She leaves it open for people to guess where she’s drawing her idea of how magic works. Just adapting my knowledge of the mythical world and using martial arts to communicate that to people is really fascinating to me.”

Feature photo by Jeff Lower

Jennifer Wholey is a feature writer and Head of Dining Partnerships for the Ithaca Voice. Contact her at