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.

WaPo: Rowling’s “Endless Updates” to Potter Canon Become Internet Meme

The Washington Post has a feature these days called ‘Internet Culture’ in which they explore trends or ‘memes’ springing up on the world wide web with a special focus on twitter fads. This week the Post story under this rubric was ‘How J. K. Rowling’s Endless Updates to Harry Potter Became a Meme.’ In said article readers learn that Potter philes around the world have tired of The Presence’s additions to canon via PotterMore or tweets, e.g. that Hogwarts didn’t always have indoor plumbing so wizards of old used to just vanish away their excretions and that Ron’s Patronus was a Jack Russell, not to mention the back story of Nagini. Their response? Create their own Rowling-esque revelations, things-we-weren’t-told-about-our-favorite-characters, in the form of unsolicited tweets to an incredulous fandom.

Some of them, forgive me, are quite funny. Many involve sexual acts. Some gently chastize Rowling for being too political, politically correct, or for trending conservative in her posts and stories.

You get the idea. For more tweets along these lines not in the Post article, including many ‘not safe for work,’ see stories on this subject here, here, and here. I’m wondering if this sign that Rowling has somehow “jumped the shark” by being much too available and forthcoming with her fans has led to this backlash — and that she prudently has decided to take some time away from tweeting to give the meme a chance to die a natural death.

Just sayin’! Let me know what you think in the comment boxes below — and please keep any memes you might want to share PG 13…

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…]

JKR Twitter: Three Weeks of Silence

Today makes it three weeks that J. K. Rowling has not tweeted from her platform with close to 15 million followers. We follow her twittering pretty closely because, between what she writes about her books there and the changes in the page headers, it is our best source for what she is thinking and planning.

The fandom mind about the silence — those millions of people who “follow” her daily remarks and retweets — seem to fall into two general categories. The first school is that “We are unworthy of her sharing so generously her thoughts and commentary.” This tweet from a fandom site is representative:

The second school is, as you’d expect, that “She is unworthy of us; good riddance.”

My own thoughts? I’m told by a source I trust that The Presence took almost a month off in the New Year two years ago for a retreat to her estate in Tasmania. [Update: there is no “estate in Tasmania” (see comment thread); insert “island resort hide-away”] 2018 was a crazy busy year for JKR; in addition to her Lumos and Volant charity responsibilities, she published Lethal White, participated in the roll-out of Crimes of Grindelwald, and opened the Broadway edition of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. She was active on Twitter throughout 2018, not only promoting all things which Rowling, Inc., was celebrating and selling that week, but participating in the ugly push-and-shove of UK politics especially surrounding Brexit not to mention the various controversies with the Social Justice wing of Harry Potter fandom.

The safest bet, I think, is that Rowling is just taking some time off to gather her energies, creative and disputative, for the coming year. She might also, of course, be involved in a re-writing of the Fantastic Beasts 3 screenplay so we once again do not have her story and the agreed upon shooting script butchered in the director’s cut. Or maybe she has just made a resolution not to feel obliged to police the world’s conscience, politics today being a fool’s game.

Your thoughts? Any guesses if or when she’ll return? Let me know in the comment boxes below by clicking on ‘Leave a Comment’ up by the post’s headline.

La Gazette du Sorcier: French Potter Site

Cory Faniel wrote me last week about some Potter fandom inside-baseball in France that I was unaware of. He wrote lest I (continue to) embarass myself by not doing the right thing. It was a polite and very friendly letter and he won me over about the issue in question, about which, being no Franco-phone or -phile (Grangers are Normans, not French), I had not the slightest idea.

He reminded me that we had met at the St Andrews Harry Potter Conference years ago and shared, after I asked for more information, the following paragraphs about the French Harry Potter fan site with a twist. Not only is it in French (duh) and about current interpretations and insights as well as the fake stuff out of Rowling, Inc., but it is written as a French ‘Daily Prophet,’ that is, as if wizards and witches were reporting on events in the magical community.

I asked him to explain:

La Gazette du Sorcier is the oldest Harry Potter French fansite still active. The name comes from the official French translation of “The Daily Prophet”, an appropriation that is tolerated by the French editing house, Gallimard Jeunesse. It was created in July 2000 and its editorial line, at start, was to report informations about the Harry Potter franchise from a wizarding world point of view. Therefore, the books were called “biographies” and the movies were “biopics”; Rowling was “the biograph”, etc… This has slowly been abandoned for a more traditional style of reporting, more suited to contemporary readership; however we still publish “wizarding news“, made up articles with a “wizard twist”, sometimes based on a real situation (for example, this article on “wand restrictions” in the wizarding world, inspired by the debate on guns restrictions in the US; or the Purple Robes protesting on Paris Hidden Place, during the “Gilet Jaune” movement) sometimes entirely baseless and fun. It also used to be linked to the biggest French HP forum, but the evolution of the internet has led to most conversations migrating to Facebook and the forum emptying slowly but surely.

I joined the editorial team in 2011 and was made Chief Editor soon after. Since then, I have handed that title to another editor, but remain Head of Publication. I’ve built a new team, a new editorial approach, developed relationships with international websites, press contacts, etc… and built with my friends a team that now also branches out to offering  animations in small festivals in France, but also presenting conferences and in various conventions (for example on HP Translations, Illustrations, or the parallel between quididtch and the Deathly Hallows at LeakyCon).

Best, 
Cory
PS : as a fun “memory”, here is the article I wrote after the St Andrews academic conference, you’ll find a link to your website in there. 🙂
Makes me almost wish I had gone to Leaky Con last summer. For those of you who read French or who saw the La Gazette team in Dallas, check out the website and let me know what you think! I hope Cory will consider HogwartsProfessor.com one of La Gazette’s international websites with whom he has a good relationship — and that he’ll share with me news and articles the serious readers here might enjoy.