New Amazon Reviews of ‘Unlocking Harry Potter’

I’m buried in school and family obligations and still recovering from the feast of feasts; please forgive my tardiness in posting on the various ways of understanding the alchemy in Harry Potter and what The Little White Horse has to tell us about the end of the series. After proctoring some standardized tests this weekend, I hope to get to these projects.

Just to keep my hand in the blog-o-sphere until then, here are the latest reviews of Unlocking Harry Potter on All have been five star reviews. If you’ve read the book, I welcome your comments and hope to read your review at the world’s biggest online bookstore. If you haven’t read it, I hope you’ll buy it today and let me know what you think!

Fantastic, Engaging Work on the Meaning of Potter, April 11, 2007
Reviewer: Johnny Chavez – See all my reviews

John Granger is not known to provide superficial readings of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series ?† la Harold Bloom or A.S. Byatt. Instead he gazes deeper into the rich tapestry of JKR’s creation, seeing what most Harry Potter readers (or even non readers) miss, namely the spiritual overtones of the series. [Read more…]

Kalo Pascha! Christos Anesti! Coming Attractions!

I have taken Holy Week off from the blogosphere (with the exception of this note), if, I must admit, I have probably been thinking about our favorite boy wizard and schoolwork more than I like or is reasonable. I hope to write three pieces for HogPro next week. One on Ms. Rowling’s choices in the sources and meaning she gave the alchemy in her stories — literary/traditionalist, Jungian, or Theosophical/New Age — and why I think the first makes the most sense, another on The Little White Horse and why the ending of the author’s favorite children’s book is both alchemical and a strong pointer away from Harry’s death in Deathly Hallows, and a last one of various notes and thoughts that have come my way the the last three weeks (with a special offer from Zossima Press!).

Stay tuned… and, if you have read Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader, please do take a moment to write a rave on What more thoughtful Pascha gift could you give your friend, the Hogwarts Professor? I can’t think of anything I’d like better, except for a polka-dotted bow tie from BeauxTies and my children have that covered.

In anticipation, Christos Anesti!

“One Last Memory:” A Godric’s Hollow Mind-blower

Everything I am sent about literary alchemy I read. Can you blame me? I am, of course, especially interested in thoughts on how alchemical images are used in Ms. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. Later this week I will review one of the better things I’ve read on this subject, from a Jungian analyst’s perspective quite different than my own. Today, though, I want to share something I found while looking for alchemical thoughts to share here.

I can thank Professor Mum (thank you, Wendy!) for mentioning S. P. Sipal’s notes about the new covers, all of which were references to alchemy and processes in the Great Work. Following the urls Professor Mum sent, I learned that S.P. Sipal had written an essay on the alchemy in the series for a Galadriel Waters book called The Plot Thickens and, more recently, had posted an editorial on called One Last Memory.

The alchemical points in this mugglenet essay are disappointing. S.P. Sipal does not understand what a Quintessence is, for instance, and what images and explanations s/he brought into play from Egyptian mythology and magic (a bunch!) I thought distracted from rather than supported her remarkable ideas about what really happened in Godric’s Hollow. These ideas are so good, though, that I look forward to reading the other alchemical things S.P. Sipal has written; the conclusions s/he comes to are so compelling it seems clear s/he just had a bad day with respect to the alchemy in One Last Memory.

I suspect that more than one English Literature Ph.D. has already been drafted on the subject of memory in Harry Potter. The subject begs serious treatment, especially with respect to Hermetic memory systems and Renaissance beliefs about memory in Florence and Northern Italy when magic was largely about memory (see Frances Yates’ The Art of Memory for more on this). S.P. Sipal does not begin this work or review even superficially the role of memory in the books — but, wow, what s/he comes up with in Sherlock Holmes fashion by revisiting the seemingly unnecessary trip the trio make to the fourth floor of St. Mungo’s in Phoenix. [Read more…]

John Gets a Thank You Letter from Scholastic

I send a copy of the Harry Potter related books I write or edit to Ms. Rowling through her publishers as a courtesy. I have never expected a response and I have never been disappointed. It’s just something that seems right to do.

This practice explains why I sent Ms. Rowling one of the reviewer’s copies of Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader that I got from Zossima Press before we kicked the first big kinks out of it. Her website instructs those wanting to contact her by post to send letters to Bloomsbury if you live in the UK and to Scholastic if you live in the US. I wrote a grateful note on the title page of Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader, consequently, and shipped it off to Scholastic, as instructed.

I forgot about it. After my daily run late one night last week, though, I found a letter in our mailbox from Scholastic. It had first class postage (meaning it wasn’t junk mail).

Uh-oh. [Read more…]

Deathly Hallows Cover Comments: Fire Away!

I think I hear Joyce Odell, the Red Hen, saying, ‚ÄúThe covers of the first six books have never told us anything we could understand until we had read those books; why should this time be any different?‚Äù The explosion of comment about the covers across Fandom, not unlike what happened at the release of the seventh book’s title is more a gauge of how high the interest is in the reading world about the final Harry Potter installment than a revelation of any events or meaning. This is snipe hunting, right?

But, yes, just like everyone else, I was looking hard at the covers today to see if anything could be found. The four things that struck me were:

(a) the house-elf piggy-backing Harry with sword (UK – are the trio in dress robes? making a stop at Gringotts on their way to the alchemical wedding?);
(b) the Hogwarts(?) ice-castle (UK back);
(c) the absence of wands (US and UK); and
(d) the skewed chopping block under broken platform (US).

Professor Mum and her friend SP Spial have found two neat alchemical links. Mum wrote me these notes this afternoon that I have italicized here:

On the back of the UK Kid’s cover, there is a globe, seemingly with 3 snakes or a 3 headed snake or a tri colored snake. SP Spial points out that it looks suspiciously like this alchemical picture...with the same 3 colors present.

I don’t know the source for this description of the picture but she included it, in red:

The above links to an alchemical plate in the work of Salomon Trismosin (Splendor Solis, 1535) the reputed mentor of Paracelsus. It depicts three birds in an alembic (alchemist glass still): one red, one black, and one white. The birds represent the three essential elements of alchemy: sulfur, salt, and mercury. Black, white, and red also represent the three stages of the alchemical process in creating the Philospher’s Stone.

As interesting was the Circle and Triangle image on the spine of the UK books. Professor Mum explains:

Look again at the UK’s cover. The spine has a triangle with a circle inside of it. In the past, the British kid’s cover has always had some sort of symbol on it: DD, Hedwig, the Peverill ring.

This particular LAST series symbol is reminiscient of the Eye of Horus that SP Sipal discussed in her Mugglenet essay, but it also has a place in John’s alchemy lore… and, wouldn’t you know, a link with Mr. FLAMEL….which explains the sulphur (red) and gold (orange) colorings to the covers.


About the alchemical symbolism, while I have admired the detective work Wendy and SP Sipal have done, I know that we won’t know what the triangle and circle or Snakey Globe mean until July 21. Establishing an alchemical parallel is exciting (believe me, as the supposed alchemical guy, I’m all over it) but what can we do with the connection(s) they have found? New Yorkers will remind you that the three dimensional sphere and triangle were the symbols of the 1939 World’s Fair….

More obvious is the color of the lettering chosen for the title and Ms. Rowling’s name on the US cover. If we had any doubt, we are certainly in the rubedo now.

One of my favorite Potter Pals and frequent poster on this site, Rumor, has written that Harry on the US cover is in a Christ-on-the-Cross posture. Her art studies trump anything I can say on this subject, certainly. Unable to resist the chance to say this, though, before I read it somewhere else, the US cover, I think, is Harry and LV, wandless, looking at Severus in the final confrontation when he reveals his true colors.

No? Isn‚Äôt that what we‚Äôre all waiting for? My off the wall fun guess is that Harry was about to be decapitated (hence the chopping block), sacrificially, when Severus (or LV?) intervenes. The artist hasn’t chosen scenes of climax from previous books, but I imagine, if this is the BIG SCENE in Deathly Hallows, she couldn’t resist.

Certainly she hasn’t given away much!

I look forward to reading your thoughts about the three covers released today.