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.

Witchcraft Wins Super Bowl — Again

Tom Brady says his wife Giselle Bunchen is a “good witch” and that she tells him the magical sayings and practices he must say and heed in those seasons she senses he is destined to once again win a Super Bowl Championship.

I’m not sure whether to file this under ‘Shared Text’ or ‘Faustian Deals You Don’t Want to Make.’ It isn’t a ‘shared text’ story per se because it doesn’t include any explicit references to Harry Potter. I suspect, though, that the idea of a beautiful “good witch” gets no little support from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts film franchises.

And the idea of Tom Brady having sold his soul to the Devil to continue winning in a Dorian Gray like fashion? I’ll leave that for more serious football fans and heresy hunters than I am.

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…