Beatrice Groves – The Running Grave: Strike 7, the I Ching and the Yarrow Stalks

New information is coming thick and fast for Book 7, which we now know is called The Running Grave! Are you, like me, confused about ancient Chinese divination? Do you know your yarrow stalks from your divination coins? What on earth can this have to do with Norfolk? Help is at hand: Beatrice Groves, Research Lecturer and tutor at Trinity College, Oxford, and author of  Literary Allusion in Harry Potter, has written a Hogwarts Professor Guest Post: The Running Grave: Strike 7, the I Ching and the Yarrow Stalks.

The Running Grave: Strike 7, the I Ching and the Yarrow Stalks

On January 12th JK Rowling revealed the title of Strike 7 with a cryptic crossword clue on Twitter: if you ‘disentangle’ the letters of ‘the hanging venturer’ you get the answer The Running Grave. This return to playing games with fans on Twitter seems to be part of Rowling’s New Year writing roll, which she tweeted about on 3 January 2023:

I know I should be out in the fresh air and the beautiful snowy landscape, but is there anything better than bashing out thousands of words – not all of which are crap – in a single sitting because your brain’s on fire and you’ve got to get the story down fast? No, there isn’t. Days like this, where writing’s a pure rush, make up for all those where you’re rewriting and revising and trying to make gold out of what you fear might be lead (and sometimes is). Of course, I’ll have to revise everything I’ve done in the last seven hours, but who cares?

Those of us who have written about alchemy in Harry Potter were delighted with this instinctive turn to alchemical metaphors for her writing (John – the magus on this subject! – has kindly put together a list of what I’ve written on this topic here) and it provided a twist on her sense of her process as ‘the Lake and the Shed’– kitting up what had previously seemed a rather low-tech shed with the medieval hardware of an alchemical laboratory!

Part and parcel of what Rowling called her writing ‘euphoria’ is engaging with Strike fans on Twitter and she responded to @CormStrikeFan’s request for a ‘Strikey’ header on New Year’s Day with a new image of Cromer pier. As header-watchers know, Rowling has chosen Cromer Pier as a header before; but it is also the case that we’ve seen her reposting similar header images before. There was a slew of white horses before Lethal White and the repeated headers of Highgate Cemetery before Ink Black Heart. So, while in one sense this new header didn’t provide that much information, in another sense it might hold a big clue. Given what happened with the last two locations given multiple header postings, it seems a worthwhile guess that the murder/discovery of the body will occur on/under Cromer Pier. If this is correct, this means that Norfolk could be the location of the next case, as well as The Running Grave seeing Strike ruminating on memories of his childhood trauma in Norfolk.

Two days after the Cromer pier image Rowling then updated her header to an image of the I Ching (or Yijing) – an ancient Chinese wisdom text used for divination, which is usually translated in English as The Book of Changes. Richard J. Smith explains its origins in his helpful scholarly guide:

The Changes first took shape about three thousand years ago as a divination manual, consisting of sixty-four six-line symbols known as hexagrams. Each hexagram was uniquely constructed, distinguished from all the others by its combination of solid (——) and/or broken (— —) lines. The first two hexagrams in the conventional order are Qian [all solid lines] and Kun [all broken lines]; the remaining sixty-two hexagrams represent permutations of these two paradigmatic symbols. At some point in the Zhou dynasty (ca. 1045–256 BCE), no later than the ninth or eighth century, each hexagram acquired a name, a brief description known as a “judgment,” and a short explanatory text for each of its six lines called a “line statement.” This highly compact document, less than 4,200 characters in length and probably first inscribed on strips of bamboo, became known as the basic text of the Yijing.” [1]

Rowling tweeted about her new header: ‘I realised I’d done that one [Cromer pier] before (or very similar), so thought @CormStrikeFan deserved something NEW!’ Given how rarely Rowling has changed her header in response to fan requests, and the link between writing-joy and fan engagement, it seems likely to me that her writing roll was in full swing on January 1 when she first responded to @CormStrikeFan – suggesting that Norfolk and the I Ching are connected. This idea is also supported by the emojis she used in her title-confirmation tweet: The gravestone is obviously a reference to the title, and the Chinese lantern to China/the I Ching but the wave could relate to Cromer pier (or perhaps something else watery alluded to by the ‘Running’ of the title)?

This idea of connecting the Norfolk commune of Strike’s childhood and the I Ching also makes sense given what we know of Leda. We know, for example, of Leda’s love of astrology, and Strike dreams of ‘Leda, laying out her tarot cards in the Norfolk commune of long ago’ in Troubled Blood, (chap 44).  Leda would certainly have been a fan of I Ching had she known of it – for, born in the mid-1950s, she was the right age to have been caught up in the countercultural enthusiasm for the I Ching in the 1960s and 70s, stemming from a new translation in English bearing Carl Jung’s imprimatur: ‘in 1924 the missionary-scholar Richard Wilhelm (1873–1930) published a German translation of the Changes titled I Ging, Das Buch der Wandlungen, which became a global sensation when it was translated into English by one of Carl Jung’s students, Cary Baynes, and published in 1950 as I Ching, The Book of Changes… In 1961, after about a decade on the American scene as a rather cumbersome two-volume set, a handy one-volume edition of Richard Wilhelm’s The I Ching or Book of Changes, with Carl Jung’s original foreword appeared.’[2]

This header is, in fact, the second reference to the I Ching Rowling has given us – for, as spotted by Lindsay’s (@LindsayMLand) sharp eyes and confirmed by Rowling I Ching divination coins (used by those who can’t get the hang of the yarrow stalk ritual) have been visible on Rowling’s website since 9 September 2021. I discussed the Easter Eggs in this website here and I think that the presence of the coins there tells us that she already knew in 2021 what part the I Ching would be playing in The Running Grave, which increases the chance that it takes an important role.

Following Rowling’s reveal of the I Ching header, she joined in fan discussion but exclusively in relation to one aspect of the I Ching: the use of yarrow stalks:

They’re complicated, full stop! Took me a while to get the hang of them x

7:43 PM · Jan 6, 2023

Yarrow stalks are the proper way to do it. Coins are for amateurs

12:03 AM · Jan 6, 2023

Those are indeed the coins people can use, but you haven’t done it properly until you’ve learned to use the yarrow stalks!

12:07 AM · Jan 6, 2023

Yarrow stalks are the traditional method for casting the hexagrams of the I Ching, and – according to Fritjof Capra (the author of The Tao of Physics [1975], an important book in bringing the ideas of the I Ching to a Western audience) – yarrow stalks were very much part of the material culture of Leda’s community at that time:

The radical questioning of authority and the expansion of social and transpersonal consciousness gave rise to a whole new culture — a “counterculture” — that defined itself in opposition to the dominant “straight” culture by embracing a different set of values. The members of this alternative culture, who were called “hippies” by outsiders but rarely used that term themselves, were held together by a strong sense of community. To distinguish ourselves from the crew cuts and polyester suits of that era’s business executives, we wore long hair, colorful and individualistic clothes, flowers, beads, and other jewelry… It had its own rituals, music, poetry, and literature; a common fascination with spirituality and the occult; and the shared vision of a peaceful and beautiful society. Rock music and psychedelic drugs were powerful bonds that strongly influenced the art and lifestyle of the hippie culture. In addition, the closeness, peacefulness, and trust of the hippie communities were expressed in casual communal nudity and freely shared sexuality. In our homes we would frequently burn incense and keep little altars with eclectic collections of statues of Indian gods and goddesses, meditating Buddhas, yarrow stalks or coins for consulting the I Ching, and various personal “sacred” objects.

Capra’s description is of a mindset which is very much akin to Leda’s as she lays out the cards, has her son’s natal horoscope cast (‘She loved all that shit’ [Troubled Blood, chap 21]) and urges her son ‘from the middle of a blue haze of cannabis smoke’ not to become a soldier and ‘trying, without success, to persuade him to learn the guitar or, at the very least, to let his hair grow’ (Troubled Blood, Chap 17). Leda would have loved the I Ching and it seems highly likely that there would have been yarrow stalks lying around in at least some of the places where she lived ‘in a fug of incense, dirt and mysticism’ (Troubled Blood, Chap 35).

This last description is also interesting as it come from the first time that Jung was mentioned in Strike. Jung’s famous preface to the I Ching makes it likely that the I Ching may also appear in The Running Grave via Prudence, Strikes’ Jungian therapist half-sister. Robin tells Strike (as they are discussing astrology):

Jung says it was man’s first attempt at psychology, did you know that?… Folklore and superstition haven’t gone away. They’ll never go away. People need them,” she said, taking a sip of coffee. “I think a purely scientific world would be a cold place. Jung also talked about the collective unconscious, you know. The archetypes lurking in all of us. (Troubled Blood, Chap 35)

My guess is that Prudence – influenced by Jung’s preface to the I Ching – will say something that will trigger yarrow-stalk memories from Strike’s childhood (bringing the Beatles-echo of Prudence’s name full circle). Interestingly (and ominously) another westerner famously influenced by the I Ching was Aleister Crowley, who plays an important part in the occult background to Troubled Blood (as I discussed here). Whittaker (Leda’s husband at the time of her death) was into – ‘the Satanic Bible, Aleister Crowley, all that crap’ (Career of Evil, Chap 22) – as Strike puts it. An interest in the I Ching could connect the new (and as far as we can guess, entirely positive) familial relationship Strike is forming with Prudence with aspects of his past he’d most like to forget.

Jung’s introduction creates an obvious link with Prudence’s work, and it is also the most famous part of the I Ching for English readers. Jung writes:

I of course am thoroughly convinced of the value of self-knowledge, but is there any use in recommending such insight, when the wisest of men throughout the ages have preached the need of it without success? Even to the most biased eye it is obvious that this book represents one long admonition to careful scrutiny of one’s own character, attitude, and motives. This attitude appeals to me. https://www.iging.com/intro/foreword.htm

This fits well, of course, with the startling insight each of our heroes has gained into their own true hearts in Ink Black Heart. It also segues neatly with the general theme of ‘practical self-improvement following self-scrutiny’ that we know awaits Strike in Ink Black Heart. He started vaping in Ink Black Heart (my successful Ink Black Heart prediction!) – and it looks like there will be no cigarettes and much less cake in The Running Grave. I don’t think Strike will go to therapy, though presumably it is Prudence who suggests that he should: ‘Somebody (not Robin) does suggest therapy to him in the next book!’. I expect, however, that he will have some insightful conversations with Prudence which will take his thinking in new directions. And, certainly, the idea of change which is at the heart of The Book of Changes – both the inherent flux of life but also the capacity for altering outcomes by shifting one’s own response – is something of a keyword in Rowling’s thinking about Strike right now:

He reaches a crisis in this book [Ink Black Heart] and is forced up against some hard facts: change your lifestyle, or your career’s over. And his health crisis mirrors his emotional crisis. He’s voluntarily lived in denial about his feelings for Robin and change is forced upon him there, too.

Richard J. Smith describes the I Ching (or Yijing)’s appeal to Jung as lying in Jung’s reading of it as exploring ‘creative self-understanding.’ Smith notes that it has been used clinically

The notion of creative self-understanding proved to be extremely appealing not only to laypersons but also to clinical practitioners, leading in time to a branch of Jungian psychology that increasingly used the Yijing as a therapeutic device. An early example can be found in Jolande Jacobi’s essay in Jung’s Man and His Symbols (1964), in which Jacobi’s patient, “Henry,” on his therapist’s advice, uses the Changes to interpret a dream. Uncannily (or not), the symbolism of the two primary trigrams of the chosen hexagram, Meng (number 4, “Youthful Folly” in Wilhelm’s rendering), coincided precisely with the symbols that had emerged in Henry’s recent dreams, provoking a breakthrough in his therapy.[3]

If Prudence were to suggest a therapeutic use of the I Ching we can anticipate Strike’s response, but Jung anticipates it likewise:

Any person of clever and versatile mind can turn the whole thing around and show how I have projected my subjective contents into the symbolism of the hexagrams. Such a critique, though catastrophic from the standpoint of Western rationality, does no harm to the function of the I Ching. On the contrary, the Chinese sage would smilingly tell me: “Don’t you see how useful the I Ching is in making you project your hitherto unrealized thoughts into its abstruse symbolism?”

Yarrow Stalks and Firenze

I’ll be learning – and blogging! – more about the I Ching as we approach publication day, but for now I’ll conclude with a surprising connection between the I Ching and divination in Harry Potter. As mentioned above, yarrow stalks are the ancient ritual method for casting the I Ching and Rowling tweeted three times about them (eschewing coins as ‘for amateurs’) after revealing her new header. Richard Wilhelm’s introduction to the I Ching notes that the use of yarrow stalks is meant to root the practice in nature (just as each of the eight fundamental trigrams – the three-line building blocks which are combined to form the 64 [8×8] hexagrams) are all named after natural phenomena. We’ve seen nature-based divination in Harry Potter too:

‘Centaurs may attempt to divine by the burning of certain herbs and leaves, by the observation of fume and flame …’

It was the most unusual lesson Harry had ever attended. They did indeed burn sage and mallowsweet there on the classroom floor, and Firenze told them to look for certain shapes and symbols in the pungent fumes, but he seemed perfectly unconcerned that not one of them could see any of the signs he described, telling them that humans were hardly ever good at this, that it took centaurs years and years to become competent, and finished by telling them that it was foolish to put too much faith in such things, anyway, because even centaurs sometimes read them wrongly. He was nothing like any human teacher Harry had ever had. His priority did not seem to be to teach them what he knew, but rather to impress upon them that nothing, not even centaurs’ knowledge, was foolproof.

(Order of the Phoenix, chap 27)

Firenze’s divination methods are much closer to the I Ching than Trelawney’s, and the fumes and scented smoke that are central to his divination practice are part of the classic yarrow stalk method of the I Ching: ‘burn incense to “show reverence.” Then, taking the bundle of milfoil [yarrow] stalks from a container located to the north of the divining board, the person consulting the Changes holds the stalks with both hands and passes them through the smoke rising from the incense burner.’[4]  And although Firenze uses the (punningly wise?!) sage rather than yarrow, his character does, in fact, have a connection with that flower.

Firenze is based on the centaur Chiron who (according to Homer) passed on the knowledge of healing herbs to mankind. In the Homeric account of Patroclus tending Eurypylus’ wound (Iliad, Book 11.804-848), Eurypylus’ asks Patroclus to ‘sprinkle soothing herbs with power to heal on my wound, whose use men say you learned from Achilles, whom the noble Centaur, Cheiron, taught’ (translation by A.S. Kline). While other classical centaurs – like the other centaurs in Harry Potter – are generally antagonist to mankind, the generous and gifted Chiron became a tutor to heroes such as Achilles. Chiron, therefore, is the clear model for Firenze: the only Hogwarts centaur that thinks it worthwhile to tutor the hero.

In Harry Potter centaur-wisdom is more about divination than herbs, but it is herbal wisdom nonetheless. Firenze, in his forest classroom, burns magical herbs and flowers – mallowsweet is a magical herb created as a portmanteau of two English flowers: mallow and meadowsweet. Firenze also seems to have the kind of attitude of which the I Ching would approve – not seeking solid answers but nonetheless taking personal responsibility (in opposition to Bane who thinks they must not interfere with what is foretold):

“Do you not see that unicorn?” Firenze bellowed at Bane. “Do you not understand why it was killed? Or have the planets not let you in on that secret? I set myself against what is lurking in this Forest, Bane”’

(Philosopher’s Stone, chap 15).

Although Firenze does not (as far as we know) burn yarrow stalks in his divination, the story of Chiron teaching Achilles his wisdom – the story behind Firenze’s character – is inscribed on the yarrow flower. For the Latin name of yarrow is Achillea millefolium – it is named as Achilles’s herb as a reminder of the herbal wisdom he learnt from Chiron. And translations of the I Ching regularly refer to the herb as milfoil – from the second half of the plant’s Latin name: ‘countless leaves’ (from the Greek ‘myrios’ [countless] and ‘phyllon’ [leaf]). Take, for example, this description of how to use the yarrow stalks for divination from Smith’s biography:

The major model for orthodox milfoil divination in late imperial times, and especially the Qing period, was Zhu Xi’s famous essay “Milfoil Etiquette,” first published at the end of his Fundamental Meaning of the Zhou Changes and subsequently appended to a great many other works on the Yijing… taking the bundle of milfoil stalks from a container located to the north of the divining board, the person consulting the Changes holds the stalks with both hands and passes them through the smoke rising from the incense burner, located to the south of the container, below the board. The diviner then addresses the stalks: “Availing of you, great milfoil with constancy [i.e., reliability], I, official so-and-so, because of thus-and-such affair, wonder if I may express my doubts and concerns to the spiritual powers. Whether the news is auspicious or inauspicious, involves a gain or a loss, remorse or humiliation, sorrow or anxiety, you alone with your divine intelligence can provide clear information [about the situation].”[5]

The idea of yarrow belonging to divination – an idea at the heart of the practice of the I Ching – has come full circle in Harry Potter, in which the centaur with true wisdom in divination is modelled on Chiron, the centaur after whose herbal wisdom yarrow is named.

It might mean that Rowling knew about the I Ching before she invented Firenze (thus subconsciously connecting yarrow with centaurs and therefore centaurs with divination). It is also precisely the kind of circle of which Strike would not approve – but Jung just might.

[1] Richard J. Smith, The I Ching: A Biography (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), p.2.

[2] Smith, The I Ching, chapter 5.

[3] Smith, The I Ching, p. 50.

[4] Smith, The I Ching, p.71-2.

[5] Smith, The I Ching, p.71-2.

All of Dr Groves’ on line Rowling scholarship can be found in the Beatrice Groves Pillar Post.

Comments

  1. As comprehensive as it thorough. Thank you, Beatrice! I hadn’t considered that we might not see Strike fully embrace therapy in The Running Grave but of course you must be right. My favorite part is your guess that Pru will trigger a yarrow-stalk memory for Strike. I have one serious question and one unimportant comment/question: wrt the former, does the “I Ching” feature any lion imagery or symbols? I’m thinking of Rokeby here whose middle name is Leonard (I think) and about whom fans have noted leonine associations? As for my idle question: I didn’t see where you were headed with Chiron & the centaurs only to be amazed by the etymological connection with yarrow! The plant is native to Eurasian and I wonder aloud whether it came west along the Silk Road? Last but not least, your whole post put me in mind of my favorite passage from Troubled Blood: “Bluey’s cleverer’n Billy Bob” (Ch. 38) which I’ve interpreted on Twitter as Strike making smarter use of the Tarot than Bill Talbot. Perhaps in The Running Grave he’ll make clever use of the “I Ching” for the purposes of self-scrutiny as well as to uncover the mystery of Leda’s death. Thanks again for your many insights.

  2. Thank you Kurt! Really glad you enjoyed it – and what interesting questions! I’m not aware of any lion symbolism (its not one of the hexagrams), but will keep my eyes out in further reading. Really pleased you liked the yarrow circle. There is a delightful idea that it was Achilles’s knowledge of the curative properties of yarrow that were the real secret behind that invulnerable heel… ! And yarrow has, I fear, been in Europe for much longer than the silk road – it has, fascinatingly been found in neanderthal graves in Spain. And yes, re: “Bluey’s cleverer’n Billy Bob”! It would be a lot of fun if Strike were to hit on something via the I Ching despite himself. My doubts from it playing that kind of role, I suppose, stem from the importance of both tarot & astrology to the plot of Troubled Blood – I think she’d think it too much of a repeat to have the I Ching playing a related role in Running Grave – so I don’t think Strike will work out anything about the case via it, but that it might be included in the case and he might have a memory/work out something about himself via it.

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    Very interesting – thank you!

    Puns somehow spring to mind – improbably, or…? ‘Grave’ as a musical term, and not one would immediately think of in connexion with ‘running’? Yarrow as place name (or even as result of non-native mispronunciation: Jarrow)? Or pop musician (Peter)?

    Is there any way someone could malevolently interpret an I Ching result to the peril or detriment of the inquirer? (Might that even be some sort of topos?)

  4. Beatrice, another flower allusion, yarrow! So I shouldn’t be throwing my yarrow stalks in the yard waste?! Also after passing them through the smoke do I drop them or…? Now I’m curious.. Also how did I miss the Achilles in achillea?? Right under my ever living nose *sigh Yarrow is absolutely one of the most fernlike full sun flowers (which is not normal for real ferns), so soft and lacy. It’s not a showstopper but I love it.

  5. Thanks very much both! And yes, David – you could interpret an I Ching negatively although not in the cut & dried way of the fortune teller who told Joan she’d never have children, I think.

    Sandy – the full info on what to do with your yarrow stalks can be found on the wikipedia page. You need 50 – so quite a good crop – and those from your garden are considered most suitable! ‘ When genuine Achillea is used, varieties local to the diviner are considered the best, as they would contain qi closer to, and more in tune with, the diviner’. I too am a long-time fan of the flower, which I always thought was rather overlooked. So pleased to hear it has taken such a starring role for so long!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Ching_divination

  6. Beatrice, thank you again! For me, reading the Wikipedia article was so complicated I got lost and so I watched a half dozen videos, and they were all different!! But I came away with a couple thoughts. One person suggested it didn’t matter if yarrow was used, that using local, especially backyard, sticks from a tree or flowering plant was preferred. On the other hand, another person said yarrow was hollow and acted like an antenna! So find a nearby hollow plant stem…collect 50 of them…

    One common denominator: it’s a lengthy process, at least 20 minutes, the value of which is meditative. It has a repetitive aspect which a person must settle into for it to have value. Heaven and earth can be repeated symbols, reminding the person to ask their question more than once and to feel being grounded, both practices trauma certified coaches employ. And that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

    Not once did I see any of the instructors pass the stalks through incense smoke, but one person did suggest either burning incense or even lighting a candle for the duration of the process. Not sure what to make of that because the burning has a sensory value of smell, which can enhance the whole meditative process.

    This has made me think about how I do yoga, which also takes time, and can be used to help victims of trauma move from having a disregulated nervous system to a regulated one in which they are safe to feel again or mentally stable enough to make better choices. In other words, a holistic life doesn’t just come from talk (mine or someone else’s), but from somatic habits, those which get the body and all 5 senses involved. I wonder what that would look like for Strike and Robin?

  7. Sandy,

    Fascinating insights. Something tells me that while Robin might be comfortable with the normal methods of either Yoga and/or I Ching, for Strike, I almost want to say the safest bet would be to turn him over to St. Ignatius of Loyola. There are several reasons for this. To start with, before he became first a priest, and later founder of the Jesuit Order, Ignatius was a soldier with the same kind of hang ups as Mr. Blue. This would have guaranteed a way in for Strike, who might have been able to take one look at St. Iggy, and realize he was in the company of someone else who had been “forged in the fire”.

    The basic idea here is that being among “brothers in arms” might have been one surefire way to get Strike to lower his defenses, and actually listen to an outside the box way of thinking. It would be as if one of CBS’s old Red Cap mates had discovered a vocation for the priesthood after his army career went into the dumpster. That would add another layer of shared experience between them, and it would allow Strike to grant an ear to someone whom he would automatically lend a kind of deference towards.

    The second reason for giving Strike over to Ignatius was that Loyal was also the builder of a meditative practice. Like of Medieval and Renaissance Christians, Loyola’s tradition leans more into the Western Contemplative tradition, yet it shares a lot in common with the one’s found in both Hinduism and Buddhism. It would involve focusing on events from either the Gospel, or real life that are able to cut away all the emotional baggage that people allow to accumulate to themselves without even thinking about it, and hence not knowing when to put up a fight. Something tells me St. Ignatius’s background as both a soldier and contemplative would have helped Strike in dealing with challenges such as his mom and dad, and especially someone as troublesome as Charlotte Campbell.

  8. Chris, what a wonderful thought! St Iggy indeed!

    I think if Prudence could talk to him about about the value of a somatic practice that he could do while exploring what he senses while doing it would be helpful. It wouldn’t have to be yoga. It could be swimming and maybe floating for a bit while taking in sensory things like feeling the buoyancy as a kind of grounding, where he’s connected to earth. Idk. But I’m so so curious.

  9. Thank you both!
    Chris – we know Rowling is interested by St Ignatius: she gives Percy his name as a middle name to tell us he will switch sides, I think!
    And Sandy, yes, I am sure that yarrow sticks are in part the ‘proper’ method because they are more meditative: more process than answer so likely to yield a more thought through response. I still can’t see Strike doing anything meditative though (we’ll see!).

  10. Just to say that I think Rowling has changed her header again this evening (21st January) – creating another Norfolk connection – this time Aylmerton round tower church.

    These round towered churches are distinctively East Anglian – and this one is on the A148 Cromer to Holt Road – so another Cromer connection! Here’s some info:

    Aylmerton, St John the Baptist
    On the high ground to the north of the village and south of A148 Cromer to Holt Road. The tower is circular to its full height.

    Probably late C13 addition to an earlier church with narrower nave (remains in west wall). Y tracery in belfry. Faced with cobbly flint rubble. Top part rebuilt in 1912. External door in tower south wall uses Barnack stone, possibly an earlier entrance to the tower. Nave rebuilt in late C14. Chancel earlier, east window c 1362. Ruined north chapel. Aylmerton by Stephen Hart https://www.roundtowers.org.uk/appleton-st-marys/

  11. Prof. Groves,

    Thank You, ma’am, for reminding everyone of the Hogwarts Ignatian connection. Also,double thanks for this new Header update.

  12. Thank you Chris! I recognised the round tower immediately as East Anglian from having seen them in Suffolk – so that felt like a nice connection. And am delighted the header clues have restarted…. 🙂

  13. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    I have probably not been paying enough attention, but – East Anglia – any possible Nine Tailors dimension, here?

  14. D.L. Dodds,

    Good grief, that totally slipped my mind! Then again, it’s been a while since I’ve gone through that story. Perhaps it’s best to just hope that the Church Twitter image means we might at least be able to look forward to a nod at what a lot of critics think of as a good entry point into Sayers’ “Wimsey” series. Well spotted!

  15. D.L. Dodds,

    A bit of further searching online seems to have yielded up yet another treasure trove. It turns out Sayers references Dylan Thomas on three occasions in the three volumes of her Dante scholarship: “Introductory Papers on Dante”, “Further Papers on Dante”, along with “The Poetry of Search and the Poetry of Statement”.

    In the first volume, Sayers notes in passing how certain lines within Dante’s poetic technique anticipate the literary modernism of T.S. Eliot, or the early Beat stylization of Thomas, as much as they precursor the Elizabethan Allegorical method of Edmund Spenser. And yes, for the record, she manages to pack in and reference at least two (maybe even as much as three, counting TSE) Rowling sources within the scope of just two pages of critical commentary (pgs. 36 – 37). The literary line of descent, according to DLS is as follows: Dante – Spenser – Eliot – and Thomas. The fact that she sees them all as writing within a continuous literary tradition ought to say something about Rowling’s choice of the poet and his imagery for both a certifiable title, and possibly even chapter heading quotations. In fact, if we apply Sayers’ insight to the Strike series, then not just the connections, yet also what might be termed the over-arching sense of the direction her epigraphs are headed in begin to make a bit more sense.

    In addition to all of this, the other two times Sayers mentions Thomas are also interesting for their insights. In “Further Papers on Dante”, she makes this interesting observation on the poet, and a medieval philosopher theologian with whom he shares a namesake. She writes: “When I look at the works of our own younger poets, I could find it in my heart to wish that – for example – Mr. Dylan Thomas had been a fervent Thomist and had condescended to furnish us with an analysis saying plainly what his poems are about, and what they say, and at what point they begin to say it (41)”.

    Sayers brings up Dylan Thomas for the last, and most intriguing time within the pages of “The Poetry of Search”. It is here that she places DT’s name in connection with not just Dante, but also that of Charles Williams, and then proceeds to deepen the line literary descent. It’s a passage worth quoting in full.

    “But it is only Williams who, in discussing Dante’s poetic theme and treatment, will readily and as it were casually bring in Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Bernard Shaw, Coventry Patmore, George Fox, Sir Thomas Browne, Spenser, Keats, Kierkegaard, Raymond Lully, and Christopher Marlowe, to exchange ideas with him as though they were all democratic citizens of one and the same poetic Athens…In conversation, Williams was equally ready to illuminate any passage in Dante from Browning, Tennyson, or Gerard Manly Hopkins, and for aught I know he would have been prepared to illustrate him from Kafka, James Joyce, or Dylan Thomas, or them from Dante, had the occasion arisen (80)”.

    DLS uses the metaphor of Williams, Thomas, and a host of other Rowling sources (i.e., Spenser, Coleridge, etc) as belonging to a kind of literary Athens. Another way of putting it would be to say that it makes sense to view those names as the past alumni of Hogwarts, with their living portraits decorating the halls, offices, and classrooms of that famous edifice. Indeed, it’s even possible to claim that the list Sayers elucidates is probably the closest thing we’ll ever get to the type of school of magical arts that Joanne Murray talks about. The real point here, however, is that Sayers has given us a series of ties linking DT to the other names in JKR’s compost heap, well, or lake. In doing so, I’d argue that she gives perhaps an idea of exactly where a lot of Rowling’s choices for epigraphical commentary and allusion in the Strike series are coming from. To me, it just strengthens the conclusion that Dotty Sayers and her own lake/shed sources are acting as the primary inspiration to the Denmark Street Mysteries. Not even the works of an author like P.D. James has managed to take us this far into the depth of the lake.

    So perhaps Mrs. Murray’s most recent twitter header, with its oblique reference to “The Nine Tailors” might just prove to be more of a hint at the contents of what’s in the lake than has been previously guessed up to now. I’d have to say that the way Sayers’ own essays from years past are able to draw in and demonstrate the connections between a series of authors that Rowling has publicly cited in her past detective novels makes it likely that she’s familiar with both the artistry and scholarship of the Golden Age Gumshoe creator of Lord Peter Wimsey. Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprised if she winds up drawing from Sayers, just as much as she will from Dylan Thomas in the upcoming seventh book case.

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