Green-Eyed Beatrice and Lily: Gauging the Depth of the Dante Influence in the Harry Potter Novels (A, B, & C)

A Rainbow of Gold, Black, White, and Red: The Alchemical Artistry of ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ (A)

A revised and much expanded version of this post is now Chapter 3 of The Deathly Hallows Lectures.

Tale of Two Cities: Why We Should Expect a Beheading in Deathly Hallows

A week or so ago, my computer mailbox filled up with e-owls from friends everywhere about an article that had appeared on the MSN network. Called “Death of Harry Potter Makes Mythological Sense,” it argued that Harry’s death was not only possible, it was likely because of mythic and classic precedent. [Read more…]

Snape as Vitriol: The Green Lion alchemical catalyst?

I promised more than a week ago to post something about the place of Severus Snape in the alchemical drama of the Harry Potter novels. I’m still very much of two minds about this; I had hoped to post something definite but I cannot do that now. I don’t think that I’ll be sure enough of what Snape does and does not represent to say “I’m sure” until I can talk to Ms. Rowling about it.

As I don’t think I’m on her A-list for tea invitations, I will jump the gun of academic prudence instead and share with you (1) the Fandom research which has brought this to my attention, (2) my enthusiasm for this work (that is very different from what I have done or have seen elsewhere), and (3) my equally strong misgivings about it.

Let’s start with Severus Snape and my frustration in trying to see him in light of the Great Work taking place in the seven book alembic.

I have been asked several times at conventions, book stores, and on campuses when talking about the alchemy of the series what part the oily Potions Master plays. It’s a natural question, especially after I’ve detailed Ron, Hermione, and Harry’s roles and the meaning of Sirius’, Albus’, and Rubeus’ names in the black-white-red spectrum of the laboratory.

I’ve never given an answer that really satisfied me, if my interlocutors usually have been polite enough not to insist I come up with something better. Talking about Severus as both Dumbledore’s apprentice and his mirror image as an alchemist, the Gryffindor/Slytherin androgyn that is “slytherin-side-out,” is fascinating, even important (if true!), but it lacks the connect-the-dots transparency of Hermione as alchemical mercury or Sirius as the embodiment of the nigredo. I am eager to read anything that suggests something more easily understood about the character of Snape in the light of alchemy. [Read more…]

Alchemy: Jung, Burckhart, or McLean?

I was invited by a reader here to post on her alchemy thread over at the Leaky Cauldron’s Leaky Lounge. Actually, I was so intrigued when she told me about it that I asked to be invited, but I guess it comes to the same thing. After reading through pages of posts and fascinating links on my first trip there, I made the following post. If anyone asks, I’ll go into greater detail about the difference between the psychological and authentically spiritual interpretations of alchemy and what makes me think Rowling has read Burckhardt and Lings. Until then, here are my notes to the alchemical mavens and wanna-be alchemists at the Leaky Lounge:

Hi! My name is John Granger. I am very grateful for being allowed to participate in this discussion, if I’m a little embarrassed about being introduced as an expert on the subject. No doubt readers here will be disappointed if they have high expectations about my contributions.

Because many of the people posting on these threads are new to alchemy as a subject unto itself and to thinking about how Ms. Rowling is using alchemic symbols and formula in the Harry Potter novels, I would note two things as a starter.

First, there are three schools of thought about alchemy itself and what it means: Jung’s psychological interpretations, Burckhardt’s traditionalist ideas, and Adam McLean’s encyclopedic and, if he is to be believed, empirical knowledge of the subject. I suspect Ms. Rowling is familiar with all three and the books reflect what she has picked up from the “ridiculous amount” she read on the subject before writing.

*For Jung himself, there are collections of his thoughts on the subject (“Jung on Alchemy,” etc.) and there is his Mysterium Conjunctionis. To take a Jungian trip through the Harry Potter novels, Dr. Gail Grynbaum’s 2003 essay is an excellent introduction. [Read more…]