“Paul is Dead” — Where is J K Rowling?

Those of us of a certain age (“very old”) remember the rumors that shook the US and the UK about the supposed death of Paul McCartney, then of The Beatles, in 1969. ‘Paul is Dead’ became more than a meme, believe me, and I was only slightly surprised that the story survives today as a conspiracy theory. “Only Ringo survives…” (I am increasingly prone, by the way, to believe anything tagged a “conspiracy theory,” the latest Orwellian phrase to enforce a self-inflicted conformity to media orthodoxy.)

I bring this up because J. K. Rowling last tweeted on 12 January 2019. Before her departure, she had been twittering so often that she had become the butt of jokes online. News stories last week about the split in the Labour Party included references to her because one of the meetings of the conspirators (!) was held in the office of Tony, um, Neil Blair, her literary and movie agent cum legal gopher. One article said she was not present, another piece, citing the original as its source, said she was. I have been unable to find any references to her existence or evidence that she is still among the corporeal living dated post that last tweet in January.

I learned today both that the ‘Paul is Dead’ fake-news meme of fifty years ago (1) was started by a college newspaper reporter in Ames, Iowa, and (2) it’s rapid spread into all corners of the globe resulted in LIFE magazine hunting down McCartney at his farm in Scotland and coercing him into some pictures and a brief interview (actually, Sir Paul flew into a rage, dumped a bucket of water over photographer and reporter, and he only agreed to congenial pictures and a comment in exchange for the roll of film with pictures capturing him as an ogre). Hence this post.

We have speculated that Rowling is on vacation, that she is re-writing Fantastic Beasts 3, that she has retired from public life and political commentary, even that she is working on the fifth Cormoran Strike novel (one can only hope). All this is to neglect the obvious possibilities we would suspect if one of our friends or family members disappeared suddenly and for weeks on end — that she is very ill, that she is dead, or that one of her family members is in crisis of some kind and she neglects public comment because her priorities are right-side up (which ordered considerations do not include sharing with us what is no one’s business but her own…).

Let the rumors begin, however, a la the Drake College newspaper report in 1969 that Paul McCartney was no more. Here’s the version I send out for Aeolus and the internet to spread to the global four corners (Tasmania!) in the virtual winds, call it ‘The Three Blairs’: [Read more…]

The ‘Beasts Within’ of Fantastic Beasts: ‘Here Be Dragons (and Phoenixes)’

Happy St Valentine’s Day, ye serious readers! I do not have flowers, chocolates, or even a card with cloying sentiment to mark the day but I offer instead something I suspect you will enjoy much more, namely, a work of scholarship and insight about J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts film franchise that will challenge and stretch your understanding of what The Presence is up to in her five part movie series. Lana Whited, editor of Harry Potter and the Ivory Tower, a landmark work in the history of Potter Punditry, as well as Critical Insights: The Harry Potter Series, has written an essay that has been posted in two parts at MuggleNet which explores both the traditional symbols of dragons and phoenixes in myth and folklore as well as how Rowling is using them in Fantastic Beasts on the screen.

It would be hard to overstate the importance of these pieces. I was privileged to read them as drafts and begged Professor Whited to publish them at as large a fandom platform as possible; as I told her then, I think she has solved the mystery of the frequency with which Rowling, Yates, and Heyman have mentioned that the more important beasts in Fantastic Beasts are the “beasts within.” I am confident that her discussion and explanation of how Grindelwald is a dragon and Dumbledore a phoenix, natures “closer than brothers” but in diametric opposition, will be referenced in discussion of the films from this point forward, agree or disagree.

Professor Whited spoke last month with Katy McDaniel, me, Megan Kelly of ‘Speak Beasty, and Elizabeth Baird-Hardy at MuggleNet’s Reading, Writing, Rowling podcast about this theory, a discussion that you’ll enjoy when it is posted, I’m sure, but only after your having already read ‘Here Be Dragons (and Phoenixes), Part 1 and Part 2.’ From Beowulf to literary alchemy to Chinese folklore and western mythology, this is comprehensive, wonderful work I know you’ll enjoy — and a delightful way to spend a spare moment this Valentine’s Day. Enjoy!

J. K. Rowling, Author-Astrologer, Pt 1: How Did We Not Know About This?

J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels and Cormoran Strike mysteries and screenwriter for the Fantastic Beasts film franchise, at the time she was writing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was, in all her free time, casting astrological charts, interpreting them in involved, long, single-spaced typed efforts, and illustrating covers in creative water colors for the package. We know of three of these charts, have seen the covers for two, and one of them is available for close reading online at The RowlingLibrary. If you have a spare $75,000, you can purchase the two available via Paul Fraser Collectibles online here and here.

I will be discussing how this discovery re-fashions our understanding of Rowling as a writer, especially with respect to the alchemical qualities of her Hogwarts Saga and post-Potter efforts, in the next two parts of this three part series. In this piece, I will focus on the natural question to ask when something so outlandish appears without explanation, namely, ‘Why has it taken so long for these astrological charts and interpretations by the world’s best selling author to surface?’ Three thoughts come immediately to mind.

(1) Laziness and Incompetence: As I mentioned in my post about Rowling’s uses of Professor Trelawney as an embedded author figure, it’s not as if Rowling’s interest in astrology was unknown. First, there was Rowling’s admission in 2007 that she “did a lot of research into astrology for [Trelawney]. I found it all highly amusing, but I don’t believe in it.” We knew, though, that she was entertaining friends with these astrological skills in 1994, too. Not enough to inspire research? Her 2012 profile in The New Yorker, Mugglemarch,’ tells us that “Rowling did write a long, illustrated astrological birth chart for the newborn son of a friend.” Bingo. There it is, the very charts available at TheRowlingLibrary. If we had looked, we’d have found them years ago.

(2) Editorial ‘Hiding in Plain Sight’ I found the article with astrological chart and interpretation at TheRowlingLibrary a year ago this week while perusing the site which was new to me. I had been corresponding with an editor there, Patricio Tarantino, and he had published some things I had written in this online journal. Surfing the articles listed, I clicked on one with the curious headline, ‘Exclusive: J.K. Rowling’s text from 1994 (Pre Potter-era).’ And there it was — posted in April, 2015, a story about the horoscopes cast and interpreted by Rowling in 1994 and which became public knowledge in 2010 when they appeared on the ‘Antiques Roadshow’ teevee series in the UK. One reason we missed this information beyond the absence of a determined search to find it after the mention in The New Yorker piece is that the story appeared in a non-major (at least in 2015) Potter fan site, a story that was not picked up by the two heavyweights, MuggleNet and Leaky Cauldron, and the headline the non-native speakers of English gave the piece says nothing about astrology or horoscopes.

(3) Wikipedia’s Decision to Kill the Story As mentioned, the astrological charts and interpretation became news in 2010 after the owner brought them to the collectibles experts on ‘Antique Roadshow’ for an appraisal. Why didn’t this merit a mention on J. K. Rowling’s wikipedia page? Because the know-better editors there decided that just because the author cast a few horoscopes and interpreted them doesn’t amount to a serious argument that she knew a lot about astrology. The writing includes humor, for instance; to the wiki-gatekeepers that had to mean it was a joke. An editor named Terry argues in vain for including some mention of this on Rowling’s page with two self-important know-nothings. Special marks here to ‘Serendipodous’ who offers as his clinching proof that the astrology story can be squashed because he was in a play once but is not an actor; Rowling’s one known set of astrological charts therefore do not ipso facto make her an astrologer…

Here is the whole exchange from the Wikipedia archives, ‘Rowlings (sic) An Astrologer?‘:

[Read more…]

What is Rowling Doing? Post Twitter, She is Starting a New Political Party

Today is the one month mark since J. K. Rowling has tweeted or re-tweeted from her bully pulpit of a Twitter platform, a venue offering her access to the minds of 14.6 million followers, by far the largest of any author or screenwriter. So what has she been up to?

The best guesses we have heard or thought of ourselves in the HogwartsProfessor faculty lounge are that she is vacationing after the tumultuous 2018, that she is hard at work re-writing Fantastic Beasts 3 in light of Crimes of Grindelwald’s disappointing box office and film reviews, that she is taking a break from politics because she has realized the vanity and absurdity of yelling into the gale of principle-free opinions with her own bon mots, and, by far the wish fulfillment option, that she is working day and night on finishing the fifth Cormoran Strike novel.

Yesterday morning The National, a newspaper in Scotland, reported that Rowling is part of a push to start a third political party in the UK, a left of center alternative to the anti-Semitism of Labour and the Brexit convictions of the Conservative party. A meeting was held in London at the offices of Neil Blair, Rowling’s right hand in all things legal and Machiavellian, and the crowd gathered was said to be enthusiastic (surprise!) about the idea of The Presence being the celebrity face of this as-yet-unnamed political faction. Jonathan Powell, an advisor to Tony Blair the former Prime Minister, supposedly was in attendance at this exploratory meeting to offer his guidance.

See other story write-ups at The Daily MailRT.com, and The Daily Express, two of which say Rowling was there, one citing the story that does not say she was present as its source; caveat lector. Rowling still has a degree of deniability but Neil Blair, despite having almost seventy clients in The Blair Partnership in addition to Rowling and Galbraith, is famous only because of his work for The Presence and holding the meeting at his offices inevitably involved her name and the media ‘hook.’ 

A Potter Pundit who will not be named assures me that ‘Dumbledore’s Army’ is a natural tag for this new party. My best guess for a name would be ‘Order of the Phoenix’ to avoid the Children’s Crusade jokes — and can’t you see Rowling in a Carolina (Brussells?) Blue cap with the words ‘Make Britain France Again’ emblazoned on it? Go, Jo, go!

Jo-king aside, I hope the several Blairs and party planners go with the name ‘Fabian Socialists,’ because, as Travis Prinzi and other Potter Pundits have pointed out through the years, this has been the Dumbledore-esque political theme of Rowling’s writings from the start, i.e., slow-but-steady growth of government control of every aspect of human life “for the greater good.” Gradualism, not revolution, is the road to societal utopia…

So what do you think? If a reality show host can be President, why or why not the best selling author of the age as Prime Minister or at least Minister for Culture? Let me know what you think of the Phoenix Party in the comment boxes below.

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.