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Harry Potter and The Hanged Man: Part 3 Its Meaning in Rowling’s Written Work

This is third in a series of three posts about J. K. Rowling’s use of the tarot card ‘The Hanged Man.’ Part one was ‘Harry Potter and The Hanged Man: Part 1 Rowling’s Most Loaded Tarot Reference‘ in which I discussed the many times Rowling included images of characters hanging, playing hangman, or hanging upside down, as well as her one reference to ‘The Hanged Man’ per se. In Part two, ‘Harry Potter and The Hanged Man: Part 2 The Historical and Occult Interpretations,‘ I laid out the several meanings assigned to this specific tarot card, to include the A. E. Waite interpretation Rowling was probably most familiar with.

In this concluding piece I will offer for your consideration three ideas of why Rowling used ‘The Hanged Man’ and has so many images of and references to upside down people, gallows victims, and hangman games in her work.

(1) It’s A Number and Ring Thing: The hanged man references begin in Philosopher’s Stone but really take-off in Goblet of Fire with Frank Bryce being ostracized by the gossips at ‘The Hanged Man’ pub who try and convict him from their bar stools for the murder of the Riddle family. Harry sees the Muggles tortured at the Wizard World Cup by being hung upside down and is turned upside down himself twice in the third TriWizard task. What is it about Goblet that would make it a match with ‘The Hanged Man’ tarot card?

The Hanged Man’s legs as more than one tarot guide points out take the shape of an inverted number four. Goblet is the fourth Harry Potter novel. More to the point, The Hanged Man is card number 12 in a 21 or 22 card Major Arcanum sub-deck and this card’s figure resembles both The Fool, the ‘zero’ card of that series not usually counted, and The World, the last card of the sub-deck. The card means in this regard that we have come to number four, the middle of the series, and its involution reflects our making a story turn to a glorious end, hence The Hanged Man’s nimbus and serene look.

It’s an inside joke, in other words, for Rowling’s target audience of “obsessives” who work to solve all her structural and symbol puzzles.

(2) It’s an Alchemical Reference, Kind Of: All the occult and historical interpretations I found except for The Traitor origins for the image include references to transformation and revelation, especially those of a spiritual kind. The characters who are hung upside-down, most notably Harry, Snape, Neville, and Ron, are the ones destined for a great trial, whose real qualities, powers, and loyalties lie hidden, and whose end is heroic, sacrificial, even glorious. Think of Waite’s conclusion in Pictorial Guide to the Tarot, Rowling’s most likely first reference for the card:

He who can understand that the story of his higher nature is imbedded in this symbolism will receive intimations concerning a great awakening that is possible, and will know that after the sacred Mystery of Death there is a glorious Mystery of Resurrection.

(3) It’s about Social Justice: And Frank Bryce? Mrs Norris? The Muggles suspended mid air by the Death Eaters at the World Cup fairgrounds? Not to mention the gallows and its victims in the fourth book of the Cormoran Strike series, Lethal White? These hangings in Rowling’s work are a fairly straight forward condemnation of capital punishment as a great injustice, the continued crime against humanity of the powerful punishing the weak because they can and feel they should.

That Rowling puts this reference to The Hanged Man at the center of both the Hogwarts Saga and I assume the Cormoran Strike series I think points to the two meanings for the card in a reading according to the instant Waite guide, for the card right side up and reversed:

12: THE HANGED MAN — Wisdom, trials circumspection, discernment, sacrifice, divination, prophecy. ReversedSelfishness, the crowd, body politic.

The card right side up, the character then being upside down, is about transformation and sacrifice and, reversed, it is a hanged man, a victim of mob justice however sophisticated and ornate the governmental trappings given the affair.

Or so I think! I offer these possibilities as jumping off points for your consideration and correction. Let me know what you think by clicking on ‘Leave a Comment’ up by this post’s headline and typing in your interpretations of The Hanged Man, the hangman games, and all the upside down and right side up hanged characters in Rowling’s work.

Harry Potter and The Hanged Man: Part 2 The Historical and Occult Interpretations

Last month I started a series of posts about the significance of The Hanged Man tarot card for serious readers of J. K. Rowling with a listing of the characters, from Neville Longbottom and Mrs. Norris to Harry Potter and Severus Snape, who are hung, right side up or upside down, in the Hogwarts Saga. It’s quite a remarkable list, frankly, and it highlights Rowling’s naming the pub in Little Hangleton ‘The Hanged Man.’

Why do we care? As noted in that first post, Rowling’s friends at the Wyedean Comprehensive have said that Rowling used to read tarot cards and their palms to entertain them. Beatice Groves, in a post at The Leaky Cauldron, shared a 1999 interview with Jo Rowling sans make-up, not to mention cosmetic surgery, in which The Woman Not Yet The Presence admits that:

I know a lot about foretelling the future, without, unfortunately, I have to tell you, believing in it, which sometimes disappoints people…. I find it fascinating and I find it fun and I could read your cards for you now and I would hope we’d both find it amusing but I wouldn’t want either of us to walk away believing in it.

Her skill with the cards, then, was not just a childhood game she played in the cafeteria but something she maintained she was still capable of exercising at the time she was writing the Potter novels. It is more than reasonable to think that the hanged men, women, in cats may be a reference to the meaning of the tarot card, ‘The Hanged Man.’

Today let’s look at three interpretations of that card, from the historical to the occult and the standard understanding that young Rowling was most likely to have learned in the West Country as a young woman. After the jump! [Read more…]

Harry Potter and The Hanged Man: Part 1 Rowling’s Most Loaded Tarot Reference

I began the discussion of Rowling’s use of tarot card imagery in her Harry Potter novels and post-Hogwarts efforts with posts about her interview and twitter comments through the years about correspondences between the Four Houses, the Four Humors, and the four playing card suits (‘Rowling: Elements, Houses, Card Suits). That conversation continued with an exploration of the likelihood that Rowling embedded a comic image of herself, the quirky, all-seeing author with a taste for the occult and divinatory arts, inside Harry’s adventures as Professor Sybill Trelawney (‘Is Sybill Trelawney Really J. K. Rowling? The Case for an Embedded Author‘). Both these posts were inspired by what Eglantine Pillet found in a Rowling biography aside, namely, that The Presence as a Comprehensive School student used to entertain her friends by doing tarot card readings.

Today I’d like to invite serious readers of the Hogwarts Saga and the Cormoran Strike books to consider one tarot card image in particular, the Major Arcana card called ‘The Hanged Man,’ and its possible importance in understanding Rowling’s work, its artistry and meaning.

I’m going to do this in three parts: first, a listing of ‘Hanged Man’ appearances in Harry Potter and Cormoran Strike, second, a survey of cartomancer opinions about the meaning of the card in itself and in card spreads, and, third and last, some speculation about how and why Rowling has chosen to make this card such a prominent image in her writing.

‘The Hanged Man’ as a tarot card is not named explicitly by Trelawney as is ‘The Tower’ (“The Lightning Struck Tower”). It does, however, appear both in name and as an image in Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix, and Half-Blood Prince and most recently in the fourth Cormoran Strike novel, Lethal White. Join me after the jump for a review of the places in text we encounter the image or name of ‘The Hanged Man.’ [Read more…]

Alchemy and the Tarot: Hanged Man on the Struck Tower

Some wild and crazy thinking over at the “Waiting for Harry” Book Club this month! My favorite is a Tarot and Alchemy connection being forged by a reader calling himself/herself “BNMC2007.” S/he starts with the “hanged man motif” we’re seeing of late:

1) When J.K. Rowling announced the Title of Deathly Hallows, visitors of her website could play a game of Hanged Man to get the name.

2) We see a magical game of Hanged Man in the Weasley twins Magic shop.

3) The Hand of Glory that Draco uses – is a Hanged Man’s hand.

4) We see images of the Hanged Man anytime someone uses the Levicorpus Spell- in particular Snape in his Worst Memory. He simulates the Tarot’s card for a Hanged Man (Hung upside down by his ankles.)

From there, s/he explores a possible link between Deathly Hallows and “gallows,” The Fool, the Tower, and Temperance, the so-called “Alchemy Card” in the Tarot deck most people are familiar with.

If this link to the thread doesn’t work, please go to wwwBN.com, click on the Book Clubs tab (upper right corner of home page), sign in, and go to the Waiting for Harry discussion group (and say, “Hi, John!”). Here are my first thoughts on bnmc2007’s efforts: [Read more…]

Fantastic Beasts: ‘Original Screenplay’ Compared to Actual Film – What the Movie Makers Changed or Left Out

A Team Effort Guest Post by Kelly Loomis and myself! At my urging, knowing her skills as a literary detective, Kelly watched the Fantastic Beasts DVD with the ‘Original Screenplay’ in hand. She noted any differences between published text and released movie. We already knew that the ‘Original Screenplay’ was actually not the shooting script, which included at least fifteen scenes, props, and plot points that didn’t make it to us in the theaters. Kelly’s check of ‘Original Screenplay’ with the actual movie reveals that there are even major differences between the film and what seemed like just a transcript with enter-and-exit stage notes and descriptions. Enjoy her findings and our shared thoughts on their meaning!

When I heard that JK Rowling would be writing the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, my Potterhead self was excited and gratified. “Now,” I thought, “the film wouldn’t be missing the important details she weaves into her writing!”

I have been disappointed again.

First, as we’ve seen from John’s Fantastic Beasts posts about the shooting script and deleted scenes, the final film product is very different from the initial story Rowling approved for filming. The many cut scenes disappointed serious Rowling Readers as they were crucial to what we felt were key elements of the story. I’ve put a Round-Up of John’s posts below about the grand canyon separating the shooting script and the movie released last November and even the DVD we have now.

Second, incredibly, even the published ‘Original Screenplay’ doesn’t match up with the movie. Having compared the one with the other, scene by scene, I‘ve found that even the final printed screenplay is different in some areas than the film. Prompted by John, I’ve put these into writing for you all to ponder.

The good news? The “original” in ‘Original Screenplay’ used to seem ironic if not flat-out dishonest. What I’ve learned from comparing the published text, however, has shown me that this book is not just a transcript. It’s another window into the shooting script that Rowling wrote and approved for filming.

I list after the jump all of what I found. All citations are from the first edition of The Original Screenplay of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. All opinions are subject to 180 degree shifts consequent to your corrections! [Read more…]