Wednesday, July 22, 2009

THE SORTING HAT

I’ve started reading Harry Potter to my 8 year old, and having finished the first book, he is now reading it on his own, which isn’t his usual style unless a book has pictures. Those critics who praise Harry Potter say that the books get kids reading. But they leave it at that, implying that as literature they don’t rate it. I can see what they mean, but I don’t think the volume that I have read is badly written. It’s OK. Lots of originality and invention and making fun of narrow-mindedness, in the form of Muggles. Lack of poetry in her words, though not in her ideas. But unnecessary clich├ęs, like wizards having to have pointy hats and grey beards and half moon glasses. She could make the magic stronger by not being quite so obvious and literal about it, and so bring the reader closer to how magic actually works: its connection to the mind and to intention, in all its complexity, and the lack of predictable, cause and effect relationship: you feel something has to some extent come about through your intention, but you could never prove it or probably want to, and you could never have foreseen the way it came about.

Now Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, that is something else.

I don’t know why so many Christians are anti-Potter (though the Pope has softened his stance in recent years), because if prayer isn’t an attempt to work magic, then I don’t know what is. In both cases you are vocalising something you feel strongly about in the hope of creating a favourable outcome. Maybe there are Christians who want a monopoly on their agent of magic, God. The difference with non-God magic is that you know you’re going to get a result: you can feel the power of your own emotion and desire heading out into the universe, and how could that not produce results? It may take years sometimes, depending on other things, but you know it’ll happen. With God – well maybe he will, and maybe he won’t, and you’d better pray he’s in a good mood.

Anyway, soon after Harry Potter arrives at Hogwarts School for Wizards, the new kids are told what House they will be in. These four Houses are in competition with one another. The House they will be in is chosen by the Sorting Hat, which is put on their head, and it then makes its choice.

As it says:

Oh, you may not think I’m pretty,
But don’t judge on what you see,
I’ll eat myself if you can find
A smarter hat than me.
You can keep your bowlers black,
Your top hats sleek and tall,
For I’m the Hogwarts Sorting Hat
And I can cap them all.
There’s nothing hidden in your head
The Sorting Hat can’t see.
So try me on and I will tell you
Where you ought to be.


The Sorting Hat then characterises the 4 Houses:

You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve and chivalry,
Set Gryffindors apart;


Astrologically, that sounds like the Fire Element to me.

You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil;


This seems like the Earth Element.

Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
If you’ve a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;


This is Air.

Or perhaps in Slytherin
You’ll make your real friends,
Those folk use any means
To achieve their ends.


Even the name Slytherin is Watery.

I doubt JK Rowling used astrology when she invented these Houses: it more points to the truth of astrology, that it uses patterns or archetypes that are universal, that are inherent in us, and that anybody creating from that level of the mind will reproduce those same patterns. Even the order in which JK Rowling puts the Houses corresponds to the order in which we find the Elements in astrology: Fire, Earth, Air then Water. (If you think about the first 4 zodiac signs and their elements, you’ll see what I mean.)

These Elements come before the signs, they are a more basic category into which people can be grouped. The zodiac signs corresponding to an element are the 3 different ways in which that element can express itself. And then within each sign there are 3 decanates of 10 degrees each, giving us 3 different types of each sign, but perhaps I’ll leave it there!

Harry Potter himself is a Leo, his birthday being on either 30 or 31st July, so it is appropriate that he should be in fiery Gryffindor. JK Rowling’s birthday is 31st July, so she is deeply identified with her creation, he is an expression of her own unique imagination.

It is well known that Leos often have a father who is in some way absent or wounded. Liz Greene goes into this in The Astrology of Fate, where she relates Leos to the myth of Parsifal and the Holy Grail. It is as if, being Leos, they have something special and unique in themselves to uncover, and the presence of the guiding father archetype would hinder this. The absence of the father is at once a loss of soul, and at the same time a challenge to repair that loss.

Bill Clinton’s father died before he was born, and Barack Obama’s father cleared off when he was very young. Both are Leos, and both have brought their own hard-won and unique values to the Presidency of the USA. (Clinton, Obama’s Democratic predecessor, was interestingly known as the first black President, though not in the way Toni Morrison intended when she said it.)

JK Rowling’s mother developed multiple sclerosis when Rowling was 15, and died when Rowling was 25. I think for women Leos we need to look for absent/wounded mothers. Though Rowling wasn’t that young when her mother became ill, she was still relatively so. From Wiki: Rowling commented, "I was writing Harry Potter at the moment my mother died. I had never told her about Harry Potter.” Rowling said this death heavily affected her writing and that she introduced much more detail about Harry's loss in the first book, because she knew about how it felt.

Both Harry Potter’s parents, of course, were killed by Voldemort when he was very young, so in making Harry a Leo JK Rowling is again expressing an astrological truth. Even Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry Potter in the films, is a Leo, though I don’t know what his father is like.

As I put in a post on Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, Tolkien had them both aged 50/51 when they set off on their great adventure. This is the time of the Chiron Return, and Chiron was the educator of heroes. This doesn’t make Tolkien an astrologer, as Chiron hadn’t even been discovered when he was writing. But it does kind of suggest there is a universality to astrology.

Harry’s enemy, Malfoy, is played by Tom Felton, whose birthday is 22 September, the same as Bilbo and Frodo. But I don’t think that means an awful lot!


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