The Traditional Meaning of the Veil

In my essay on Harry Passing through the Veil, I neglected to make a link with an important website called “The Veil: Contemplating Christian Mysteries.” For understanding why Harry’s passage through the Veil has important Christian reference points and profound meaning, this site is a must visit.

Here is a small selection of what can be found there, on an introductory page entitled, “Why the Veil?

The veil, or more specifically its rending, as recorded in all three Synoptic Gospels (note 1) marks a moment in human history, and a turning point in the destiny of mankind. In his essay on Christian initiation, Marco Pallis noted its rending “marks the end of Christ’s human ministry … since all that follows … is of a miraculous order” (note 2). As such, it is most certainly a sign, in that it points to an event, even if its occurrence is instantaneous with that which it signifies. It signals the importance of the event, of that moment, in human history, in light of the purpose which the veil serves (note 3), because mention is made of it specifically, and nothing other. [Read more…]

Snape as Symbol of Christ? Three Reasons Why

Oriflamme wrote:

John, I must thank you. The first time I read one of your articles about Christian Symbolism and heard about your book ‘Looking for God in Harry Potter,’ I was wandering across the net(surfing) for some issue about Snape. I was in a sad mood and this surfing seemed to me an obvious waste of time. Finding Christ in Harry Potter appeared to me like a ‘Sign’ and I do believe in ‘Signs’ in our life. This is a bit ‘pompous’ maybe, but your brilliant analysis helps me to stand the strain.

What about Snape and Christian Symbolism? I like the theory developed by Dave Kopel about Snape as St. Christopher(Reprobus)and I agree that he figures sometimes as a Christ symbol himself (maybe also as a symbol of the Church).

I have a theory about Snape’s childhood. I tried to explain it on the ‘narrative misdirection’ thread (reply 48). My thought is that the young Snape is a victim himself of what could be called a rape of his mind by the Imperius Curse. He walked a long way from wishes of vengeance to the wait of justice with DD(Christ)’s help. But Snape himself, he must help Harry to go further, to forgiveness and mercy(love).

You’re very kind, Oriflamme, and your thoughts and question about Snape are interesting.

I explain in Unlocking Harry Potter that Snape is one of the three Christ figures in the melodramatic scene on the Astronomy Tower and the chase afterwards — and that Snape is a lot more difficult for folks to understand in this role than either Dumbledore or Buckbeak. How is Snape Christ-like?

First, he *is* the Half-Blood Prince. Like it or not, the signature is a pointer to the “Double-Natured King.”

Second, he *saves* Harry’s life from the enormous Death Eater determined to destroy him via the Cruciatus Curse. Only Snape’s invoking the Dark Lord’s instructions causes the near-giant to let Harry loose.

Third, he is much more, perhaps, than those without “eyes to see” can see. Every exchange he has with Harry before being chased off the grounds by the razor claws of Buckbeak/Witherwing are superficially mean-spirited and goading, especially to the child-man who believes Snape has just murdered his mentor. Each exchange, though, on examination is helpful even critical or salutary instruction about what Harry must master in himself and technically in his magic before facing the Dark Lord.

And the whip-like curse that hits Harry in the forehead? Well, if you read Unlocking Harry Potter, you’ll learn why I think Severus is just hitting the switch on Harry’s Horcrux and neutralizing it as a means for Voldemort to monitor Harry’s emotions/perceptions or to survive another destruction of his body. Severus, the master of self-control, doesn’t lose his cool when called a “coward;” he is putting up a show for cover when the Dark Lord explodes about the destroyed Horcrux…

Even if this is way off (as almost all speculation of this sort is bound to be), Severus’ position as the Good Guy surrounded by bad guys who cannot understand who he is until the Evil One is removed — this is a sacrificial part. Snape, taken from afar, is a convincing Christ figure, I think.

I look forward to reading your comments and correction.

“But Obviously Dumbledore is not Jesus:” The Hogwarts Headmaster as Christ Symbol in Half-Blood Prince

I taught Harry Potter classes at Barnes & Noble University and co-moderated Discussion Rooms there before they changed to their new ‘Book Clubs’ format (and I will be joining them there in March for more “moderated discussion”). These electronic classrooms are a fascinating symposium and slice of Harry Potter fandom that includes not only a diversity of nationalities but the spectra of age, beliefs, and vocations not to be rivaled at any bricks-and-mortar school (six continents and four archipelagoes is the best we’ve done but the 400-800 students that post messages always represent an international community of readers). The best discussion room included a Zarusthustran, a Hollywood screenwriter and blogger, and a teacher in the Kanto Plain outside Tokyo.

When we were trying to make sense of the latest Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when it first came out, the questions, themes, and theories we explored were respectably far ranging from the battle raging everywhere then in fandom, is Snape misunderstood or the murderer he seems to scenes-as-subtext questions, “What do the fox that Bellatrix kills, the telescope that punches Hermione, and the gnomes at the burrow mean?” and real puzzlers. I mean, when you’re asked if Horace Slughorn is Lord Voldemort’s agent inside Hogwarts, the man who brewed Malfoy’s Polyjuice Potion and the emerald phosphorescent frosty that tumbled Dumbledore, you’d better be prepared to argue at length about who this guy is and why (or why not) he is good (or EVIL).

There were a few questions that kept coming up in different forms, most having to do with the dearly-departed Dumbledore. Much of fandom was in serious denial and the other parts were trying to reconcile themselves to a Hogwarts without the affable Headmaster. Every Harry Potter reader, including the Harry Haters, were trying to make sense of his last hours and death (a Catholic seminarian from Louisiana sent me an owl a day for a week to convince me that Ms. Rowling was sending disturbing mixed signals to the children of the world about euthanasia and mercy killing with Dumbledore’s death).

The question I heard then from serious readers and now on this weBlog, especially from those who have read my book, Looking for God in Harry Potter (Tyndale, 2004), is about the Christ symbol in this book. Every Harry Potter adventure features a scene in the climactic battle with evil where Harry dies a figurative death and rises from this death in the presence of a traditional symbol of Christ because of love. The question for Half-Blood Prince has been “Is the sixth year’s salvific symbol Albus Dumbledore?” [Read more…]

Dragon’s Blood, Wand-Cores, and 3 of the 5 Keys