As I noted in the previous post, while considering a post I had read on the card “the lightning struck tower” which appears in book 6 (Professor Trelawney read the card) it occured to me that this is card number 16 from the major arcana of the Tarot. Turning this over in my mind, I wondered what other tarot cards might have appeared in the series. A post in another blog drew my attention to the appearance of “the hanged man” card number 12. I cannot recall what lead me to connecting Harry’s age with the cards, but once I did, I mapped out cards 11-17 and felt I had found a sort of strong connection between the books and these cards.
Expanding on these thoughts further, I wondered whether there might be some sort of tie-in between the cards whose numbers match the volume number of the series, which also matches Harry’s year in Hogwarts. I’ve been re-reading the series to see how well these connections hold up.
Re-reading and recalling the books, I find that for my own purposes, the strand matching Harry’s age with the cards yields a connection so strong that I feel almost certain that they are a part of the underlying symbolic structure of the work, taken as a whole. Now my reasoning is not exactly objective here – I’ve come up with a theory and I find such compelling evidence that I believe it? Hardly making a great case for anyone else. The connection between cards 1-6 and their respective volumes is also fairly strong, but not nearly as strong, in my mind as the connections with cards 11-16.
Then I wandered farther out on the limb – if part of the basis for the storyline is to be found in the cards, could, perhaps, Ms. Rowling be using the books to teach the Tarot and fundamentals of other branches of “magical” knowledge. In addition to the Tarot, we have, quite possibly, a primer to the elements. I’m only a casual tarot reader, but finding these connections, I see that I have a much better grasp of this subset of cards from the larger deck. If it was her intent to teach this bit of divination, then I owe Ms. Rowling my thanks yet again – after all the thanks I owe her for a highly entertaining and enthralling story – these most recent thanks for expanding my knowledge of cards which I already used from time to time as a tool for meditation.
As in the previous post – here are those cards, with their number and overly brief descriptions of their meanings. Those of you who really do understad the Tarot please forgive my simplistic understanding of them. To see cards you may consider acquiring a deck (I have returned to a deck I used long ago, the Tarot of the Witches and a Polish deck Tarot Magow) or you may find the user submitted designs on aeclectic.net to be useful.
1: The Magician – Skill, Magic
2: The High Priestess: Wisdom, Learning
3: The Empress: Feminine Progress, Action
4: The Emperor: Accomplishment, Leadership
5: The Hierophant: Mercy, Humility, Kindness
6: The Lovers: Love, Beauty
7: The Chariot: Turmoil, Vengeance, Trouble and Adversity
11: Strength: Strength, Courage
12: The Hanged Man: Life in Suspension
13: Death: Transformation, Unexpected Change
14: Temperance: Moderation, Compromise, Patience
15: The Devil: Ravage, Bondage, Malevolence
16: The Lighning Struck Tower: Sudden, complete change, Calamity
17: The Star: Hope, Bright Prospects
If my theory holds, then I should be able to demonstrate strong connections. Let’s begin with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone for UK readers). Since, as you may already have figured out from my previous rambling essays, I am already convinced (self deluded?) that writing according to her own interpretation of a classic formula, JKR lays down the foundation and predictor of each book in its opening section. In book 1 she begins before the beginning. On this latest re-reading, I wondered if that gave me some clue to look at card 0 – the Fool. As I read I found plenty of evidence to let me connect several characters to this card, and not wanting to hold anything back I linked Vernon and Dudley Dursley, and as I continued to read, Peeves and (in the next book) Cornelius Fudge. The link between Vernon and Cornelius Fudge seems particularly strong. But I did not dwell on what OTHER cards she may have plugged into the books, I was looking for the Magician an for Strength. Soon enough, in the first section we are exposed to Dumbledore (the Magician) and Hagrid (Strength). It seems to me that the lower number cards are first shown to us as a force which begins outside of Harry, something to which he is exposed, and which, in the course of the book he must become – or grow into. Thus, we are given to understand what magic and skill are through Dumbledore’s demonstration, and over the course of the volume, we see Harry grow into. Thus, while identifying the Magician with Dumbledore, the themes of magic and skill aren’t strictly confined to him.
If Dumbledore illustrates magic and skill, Hagrid embodies strength. He even looks sort of like the strong man on the Strength card in my Tarot of the Witches deck. Where – with the lower numbered card I see the characters that Harry needs to grow into through the volume, with the higher numbered card matching his age, I see the major theme of the book. While we see him exhibiting some athletic strength as he becomes a quidditch player, we see more a theme of courage and bravery – even to the point of recklessness – fairly permeating the challenge/duel meeting with Draco, the facing of the troll, the detention in the Forbidden Forest, and the facing of the 7 challenges culminating in facing Quirrel/Voldemort. I link these challenges to the 7 tasks of Hercules – is that JKR’s intent – probably a stretch but it fits into my interpretation that this volume is themed Strength.
Still, one could argue convincingly that courage is what we see from Harry throughout the series and it would be hard for me to argue against that notion with much conviction.
As for the elemental connection of volume one I see as being associated wsith fire. If it were, we would expect to see fire reflected in the work and indeed we see it in Hermione’s portable fire, a lot of fiery themes associated with Hagrid’s dragon, both its incubatin and after hatching, in the black and purple flame in the final trials (potion test). But the case for the first volume being a “fire” theme is not terribly strong. Fire’s association is power – so we might expect to see the “power” part of the story and indeed we see Harry’s allies demonstrate power (Firenze drives away voldemort at the unicorn’s corpse, Ron strikes down the troll) and Harry shows power strong enough to defeat Voldemort again.
Here I begin to look for cards 2 (the High Priestess) and card 12 (the Hanged Man). The element I associate with volume 2 is Water. Now clearly my thinking on the lower series of cards is in trouble. If the high priestess is associated with a character – it seems like it ought to be McGonnegal. But she doesn’t figure in the first part of the book as I would have expected. If it is someone who figures in the first part of the book – it seems like it almost has to be Gilderoy – but that doesn’t seem right at all. I’ll hold onto the McGonnegal thought – she is the one who appears at crucial moments. Rescuing Ron and Harry from Snape, one of the first to turn up when Mrs Norris is found and again when Justing and Nick are found petrified. Now it may be that this number relates to a different character that I haven’t divined. O Professor Trelawney where are you when I need you?
The Hanged Man is, however, so strongly related that I think I really am on to something with this card. I use Dobby as my emblem – his life is suspended by the slavery that binds him – but could anything be more emblematic of life in suspension than the petrified students, cats and ghosts? Doesn’t life in suspsension say just about everything there is to say about the existence of the piece of Voldemort’s soul hidden in the diary?
This is also Ron’s book – and by that I mean that he is given mor eemphasis than Hermione. Right from his rescuing Harry in the flying car rescuing Harry, then flying it to Hogwarts, being the one to turn into slytherins with the polyjuice potion, the trip to Aragog’s lair and then right through the outer gate of the Chamber of Secrets.
And if water were associated with this book, that should also be reflected – and we find it so with the freqent flooded hallways and Myrtle’s bathroom. We would also expect to see the love part of the story prominently displayed. Taken for its part in the whole series it does so, laying the groundwork for the love story growing between Ginny and Harry, not to mention the “family” that forms around Harry enclosing him in its love (and constrasted with his “real” family).
As book 2 was, in my opinion a Ron book, so book 3 is (again, in my opinion) the Hermione focused book. The long lead up to the disclosure she has the time turner, her pivotal role in the ending through the use of the time turner, and as with Ron in book 2 – she is the one with Harry Potter almost to the end of his “book ending climactic battle.” I peg book 3 as having an elemental association of air. Before I go further – I should say that all the elements play in every book, but they have, a cycle to them – a symetry eminating from the middle of the series with all elements heavily displayed in the 1st and 4th volumes, and resumably in book 7, which I guess, owing to the symmetry I believe I detect, will be a “fire” volume once again. The cards I associate with this volume – number 3: the Empress and Number 13: Death.
If you have not practiced Tarot reading, you probably carry with you the results of long media obsession with the Death card as a death omen. And indeed, Professor Trelawney tells us early on of this horrible death omen – the Grim. However, Tarot readers are aware that you can’t have a big death event as often as card number 13 turns up and its normal meaning has to do with great, unexpected changes. If I wseren’t going to assign Sirius as the character embodying this card at the start of the novel I would consider him for the feminine progress figure, since he stands in for Lily – but I’m probably wrong on this count, especially seeing how well he fits one of the most commonly accepted meanings for the card – and indeed if you were using the novels, as I postulate, as a primer for learning these things – Sirius wonderfully embodies the sudden unexpeted change. Really, I think he stands in for James.
And as a theme for the book – sudden unexpected changes fairly well defines it throughout. The change of scabbers from a non-entity pet to the dangerous Peter Pettigrew/Wormtail, Wormtail’s change from a friend of James to the villain, Harry’s saving the villain instead of taking revenge, Lupin’s exposure as a werewolf, Sirius’ transformatin from villain to persecuted hero. Then there is Professor Trelawney repeatedly pronouncing death and doom, as if to remind what the point of this primer is, with her own sudden change from “a right old fraud” to a real oracle, if only briefly (actually, I think JK uses her to give us accurate predictions – a side note – see how she demonstrates how to read tea leaves, how diviners use a crystal ball – another part of my notion this is a primer in addition to an epic story).
This time, there is a strong candidate for card 3 – the Empress, from early in the book as I expected, although not as early as I originally imagined. In this case I find myself extending the beginning of the book up until the arrival at Hogwarts so that I can confidently (well, nevermind) name Lupin as the embodiment of the card and as the stand in for Lily. The word action is exemplified and displayed by Remus Lupin, although asleep when the trio finds him, he is the one who springs into action when the dementors come aboard the train, takes remedial action immedately (feeding the kids chocolate to the later approval of Madam Pompfrey) and has an active practical lesson as his first defense against the dark arts class for Harry and the 3rd year Gryffendors. Could we say there is something of a feminine style in his teaching Harry the patronus charm? As it plays out in the book, do we see feminine progress represented in the mercy Harry shows to Wormtail? I could try to pitch the notion of “action” coming to a clmination in the end of the book – but that would be true of each volume.
As Chamber of Secrets was (imho) Ron’s book – Prisoner is Hermione’s. From the beginning when she buys Crookshanks, through the book as we see Ron protecting Scabbers (turns out to be the bad choice) and Hermione sticking up for her cat (the right choice in the end isn’t it?) Especially in the end, when Ron is incapacitated and Hermione contiues with Harry almost till the very climax of the whole complex double timed story.
As for elements, if this was an air focused segment, what would we expect to see? Flying on hippogrifs? The pre-eminence of wisdom? Flying on and saving Buckbeak seem to combine these two notions although there are plenty of pointers to other elements in the work. Still, between floating dementors, exceedingly great attention to quidditch, the gift of a Firebolt, the “flight” of the fat lady, repeated flying on Buckbeak and the outro on the astronomy tower – it does satisfy me that I may have hit upon the elemental symmetry of the series.
Now we have set a pattern, when we consider the Emperor (card 4), Temperance (card 14) and earth influences my case will fit what we’ve seen before with one rather glaring exception. Major Arcana card 4 – the Emperor – signifies accomplishment and leadership, card 14 – Temperance – moderation, compromise and patience. Earth is associated with wealth. See if these associations make sense to you.
The Emperor, card 4 – according to the way I’ve built my understanding of the lower series card’s place in organizing the work, will have serving as an emblem a character we meet early – and here I find myself drawn to the notion that it is Moody, although I might also have guessed it to be Viktor Krum. In either case, it is a quality(qualities) that I expect to see Harry internalize, as indeed I see accomplishment and leadership abounding. Moody is the highly accomplished Auror and all the people whose judgement we are led to trust in the series acknowledge his high level of accomplishment. Viktor Krum shows the same type of accomplishment as do the other champions – Fleur and Cedric.
Temperance – card 14 – I read the given meanings, patience, (self-)moderation but what keeps coming to mind is the tempering of steel. It is repeatedly put to the heat and then cooled again, and in the process becomes stronger and stronger – and this appears to my mind to be exactly what Harry is going through in the Goblet of Fire, while the trials “test” him he becomes stronger, becomes a better wizard. Patience? It doesn’t seem like Harry does it? The interesting thing is that in my deck, the card features two goblets, calling to mind the Goblet of Fire.
Speaking of which – you might reasonably ask how I can possibly identify a book with Fire in its title as being the earth focused book and you would be on to something because I beleive that while it shows signs of earthiness, this volume at the very middle of the series features not only earth, but all the elements in a series of element focused “waves of themes.” But first, the simple earth focus. If the work is earth focused, we might expect to see coin, pentacle, money and wealth themes. These themes come into play early and stay with us right till the end. Insinuation of great wealth required for Quidditch World Cup tickets, The Weasley twins’ wagers, the leprauchans showering gold on the world cup audience, the thousand galleon prize for the Tri-Wizard tournament. Ludo Bagman seems especially emblematic of the earth focus, wearing what we are told is the Wasps’ colors but which elsewhere we associate with Hufflepuff (yellow and black – and of course Hufflepuff, with its badger symbol, is the earth house at Hogwarts), his wagering – shall we call it an obsession? – and frequent appearances with goblins – who we’ve been trained to associate with wealth – the wealth of Gringotts. If it weren’t for the four Tri-Wizard tournament trials with their changing elemental focus I’d feel on very solid ground but as it is, even here – we conclude with earth.
The tournament leads off with the “impartial” selector – the Goblet of Fire – so here we do see the element properly associated. Next task: dragons and Harry turns it into a feat of flying (air). Next, Harry has to take the egg into a tub of water (where he encounters Monaing Myrtle – who as we know lives in a u bend under a toilet – a very watery ghost she is) in order to be able to enter the lake for the rescue from the merpeople – how watery can you get? Finally, we end up in the maze – so earthy with its plants sinking their roots into the ground, so much earthier with a prize (the trophy) and winnings (wealth) waiting at the center for the winner. So I emphasize again that the four elemental trials – the trials tempering Harry’s elemental strengths – end with earth. The coming together of the elements in volume four seem to me to presage a similar series to be seen in the last volume – since we are led to believe there are four horcruxes left to be found and they seem likely to fit nicely into an elemental profile. I’ve already made elemental predictions in earlier posts and won’t revisit them here – check them out through the categories selections.
So, while I see Goblet of Fire as being an earth focused “primer” its place in the middle of the series force all the elements through its “center” – the center of the whole series as it were, echoing similar “all element” series in book one and presumably to come in book 7. Let’s ust leave it there and proceed.
Continuing a theme I’ve already overworked we find outselves facing as theoretical suppliers of theme elements for the Order of the Phoenix – major arcana card 5, the Hierophant (mercy, humility, kindness), card 15, the Devil (ravage, bondage, malevolence) and a return to air element – in my imagining of the series elemental themes I’ve laid them out in symmetry from the middle.
We meet a few new characters early in book 5 who might, according to the principles of my search, be candidates to serve as the early emblem of card 5 – the Hierophant. I’m inclined towards Tonks, but Luna Lovegood may be a better choice. Continuing on my fanatical focus on symmetry, her own kindness is revisited upon her in the end by Harry who may show he has learned this character strength – the part of what is necessary for his learnign to face Voldemort. As with book 2, however, it seems a lot less clear. this may be owing to my abysmally poor understanding of the cards, or perhaps because I’m completely on the wrong track. Harry does have to exercise patience, learn humility as he becomes teacher to his fellows in DA- and his lack of patience leads him and his friends into danger. However, as all the other emblems thus far have been teachers, I’m inclined to think that this time around it may be Firenze. He makes his appearance late, but lacks pride (as Ronan and Bane pointed out in Sorcerer’s Stone). Perhaps, if it must be a teacher, it is Dumbledore himself – modestly leaving Hogwarts rather than showing his full power.
Card 15 however, continues the strain of cards 11-14 – in being very strongly related to the overall theme of the book and finding an emblem early on. Dolores Umbridge is the very devil to Harry and to everyone who is concerned with fighting against Voldemort – of standing up to evil. She appears to enjoy nothing more than tormenting Harry – of tormenting anyone within her power. And as the volume progresses, voldemort is building a trap of malevolence into which he draws Harry. Sirius faces his ow devils in the isolation at Grimmauld Place and the restrictions dumbledore puts him under and as always there is Snape’s malevolence towards Harry (and Sirius).
Air? Again we find many airy themes throughout – the flight to London from Privet Drive, the thestrals, quidditch, the locking away of Harry’s broom, the second flight to London on the thestrals. Another aspect of air is wisdom – which Harry alternately exhibits the possession and the lack of. Sometimes this wisdom is alternately described as “skill” and certainly Harry demonstrates skill and imparts it to his friends in DA.
What to make of the love interest storyline and Cho Chang. She is a Ravenclaw – to be sure the air element house but otherwise I haven’t yet sorted out ust how she might fit in all this unless it is that the elements are the basis of the minor arcana of the tarot and I may have missed a whole assortment of minor arcana lessons as I focus on the “big picture” of the major arana cards and the main elemental focus of the books.
The card for the first series – 6 – the Lovers (Love, Beauty), is easier to hang a hook on at this juncture. The Lightning Struck Tower (card 16 – sudden, complete change, calamity) is so obvious – it is postively introduced by Professor Trelawney, defined for us – that it is what put me on to the second series of cards in the first place. I started from that point, realized it was also Harry’s age and worked my way out, only connecting the lower numbered series with the volume number later. I perceive many watery connections as well.
Which lovers could I narrow my search down to for my emblem? Harry and Ginny? Ron and Hermione? Lupin and Tonks? Bill and Fleur? Perhpas the thematic display of lovers is simply that and I should focus on a teacher – in which case my atention turns to Horace Slughorn. His own love of Lily (not romantic, but real) is key the advancing the plot. I’m more inclined to think he is part and parcel of the water focus of the book as I’ll go on about below – so let Harry/Ginny be my abiding emblem for the lovers.
The Tower – card 16 sums up the outcome of the book – Dumbledore dies. What greater calamity could befall all the characters we have been led to love, that the loss of their best true protector? His early calamity – the wounding and shriveling of his hand foreshadows the ultimate calamity of his death. The place where he is killed – the tower really makes it even more obvious. I sort of feel like th dog who has to have his nose rubbed in the scent before he comprenhends he is supposed to follow it.
The water element focus of the book is most obvious n the ocean/lake scene where Harry and Dumbledore overcome the obstacles to getting the (false) horcrux. Other watery associations – the emphasis on potions, and the playing out of love in its primacy. Recall that Water is – as best I can tell – Slytherin’s element – and water’s big association – at least in tarot (cups) is Love. Up till volume 6 we see little of love in slytherins, but with the introduction of Slughorn we see that it can indeed be found there and probably even belongs as central focus. We see love between Narcissa and Bellatrix, Draco for his family.
Where does this leave us for Volume 7 – the Deathly Hallows? I will be looking for card 7 (The Chariot: Turmoil, Vengeance, Trouble and Adversity) as a character and a characteristic which Harry needs to grow into, card 17 (The Star: Hope, Bright Prospects) as the environmental setting for the book with its emblem as a person, and a fire focused book but with trials in all four elements.
The only other thing I can really do at this juncture is to thank JKR for helping me internalize lessons about cards I’ve casually read for years and for an excellent primer in divination and all things (neo)pagan. Was this on purpose – to be a primer for folks like me on the Tarot? Was it more of an organizational tool for building the series? Or am I just wrong? Comment away you readers.