PDay Minus Four — Prediction #4: Through the Veil

I have written at some length about the likelihood of Harry Passing through the Veil in the Department of Mysteries and expanded on the Christian Symbolism of the Veil even more recently.

In brief, Ms. Rowling has repeatedly had Harry go underground in his annual Hero’s Journey, which epic heroes do, as a rule, to visit the dead. That link and its constancy through six books points to a trip underground to see the dead in the finale.

Ms. Rowling’s comments about the seventh book (a) revealing her faith and (b) revealing how near we can get “to the dead” also point to an afterlife experience that has “shades” (ouch) of a Christian cosmology.

Let’s go to the “high spots” from my post on the Aeneid and Harry’s possible trip through the Veil…

Six Reasons for believing Harry will Pass Through the Veil

Here are six reasons taken from the top of my head for thinking Harry may go through the Veil in Deathly Hallows:

(1) In every novel so far, Ms. Rowling has had Harry descend before the climactic battle either underground quite literally or to a place of the dead. We can take this as something of a fetish, a coincidence, or a pointer to the last book when Harry will, at last, “do an Odysseus/Aeneas/Dante” and head into the real land of the dead. All previous descents would then be understood, not as mechanical check-list satisfaction for her hero’s journey formula, but as dramatic perumbration of one of the most memorable events in the story’s closing book.

(2) Ms. Rowling is by training a classicist. If she majored in French at the University of Exeter, she read Latin and Greek in secondary school and at Exeter and read enough to have done well in her testing at Wyedean School and College, where she was something like Hermione. Speaking as someone who studied Latin for too many years and has taught it for as many, I can assure you that Latin study is all aimed at “getting to” Virgil’s Aeneid and reading as much of the first six books as you can. Ms. Rowling, whose Latin still is enough a part of her thinking that the greater part of Hogwarts spellwork is in in this language, undoubtedly has read the Aeneid in the original and, I’m betting, through Book 6.

(3) When Harry sees the Veil in the Department of Mysteries, he “thought the archway had a kind of beauty about it, old that it was. The gently rippling veil intrigued him; he felt a very strong inclination to climb up on the dais and walk through it” (Phoenix, Chapter 34, p. 774). We learn in the next chapter, “Beyond the Veil,” that the archway is a door into death. When Sirius is blasted by Bellatrix, he falls through the Veil and is not seen again. Harry’s “very strong inclination to climb up on the dais and walk through it” is either a reflection of his suppressed desire for death, consequently, or an excellent “set-up” as Janet Batchler might say for Harry to make this walk in Deathly Hallows.

(4) The over-arching theme of the series is “love’s victory over death.” My assumption (with everyone else?) has been that this message would be delivered in the finale via Harry’s conquest over Voldemort with his “power that the Dark Lord knows not.” A trip through the Veil as a living person and his return would be another way of “instructing while delighting” on the love theme, especially if the trip is made for information necessary to rescue someone Harry loves.

(5) Harry Potter mavens I respect, if I rarely agree with wholeheartedly (alas, the failings of pride on my part), for reasons that are different but all cogent, think that a trip through the Veil is a strong possibility. You’ve read Lisa’s thoughts, you can read Hans Andrea’s at Harry Potter for Seekers, and Travis Prinzi and gang are discussing this over at Sword of Gryffindor, what I think of as HogPro’s sister site (our big sister!). And, most important perhaps,…

(6) The suggestion by Ms. Rowling in year 2000 interviews that Deathly Hallows will answer all questions about her Christian faith….

If Harry willingly “dies” by passing through the Veil on another seek-and-retrieve mission (a la Odysseus, Aeneas, and Dante looking for information and enlightenment), we have a dramatic ending to the hero’s journey formula we’ve seen in every book from Stone to Prince. A trip through the Veil and his return from the land of the dead would be not only Harry’s annual descent, literal and figurative, it will also be his “death” and “resurrection” that he has experienced every year.

This would be a “wow” because this death/resurrection would be a departure from Ms. Rowling’s previous “near death experiences” and “rising from the dead.” In every other book of the series Harry has done this in the presence of a symbol of Christ, from the Philosopher’s Stone to Fawkes the Phoenix. If Harry passes through the Veil and survives the return, his resurrection won’t be “in the presence” of a symbol of Christ but as a symbol of Christ….

In the Book of Acts (2:22-31), which at least one thoughtful reader believes is structured by St. Luke on the model of Virgil’s Aeneid, St. Peter says to a crowd in Jerusalem that King David spoke of Christ in the Psalms (16:9-10) when he said “I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover my flesh shall rest in hope: Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Acts 2:25-27, KJV). Peter’s conclusion? King David “being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption” (Acts 2:30-31, KJV). St. Peter also says in his First Epistle that the gospel was “preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Peter 4:6, KJV).

It was the understanding of the Apostles and their disciples — Tertullian, Hippolytus, and Ambrose, among others — in the first centuries of the Christian Era (“Annis Domini”) that Christ died on the Cross and “descended into hell,” which could not hold Him. This “harrowing” or “raid” into the Inferno completed Christ’s victory over death won on the Cross and crowned in the Resurrection. The descent, consequently, is a key part of the Apostle’s Creed:

The original Greek wording in the Apostles’ Creed is κατελθόντα εἰς τὰ κατώτατα, (“katelthonta eis ta katôtata”), and in Latin “descendit ad inferos.” The Greek τὰ κατώτατα (“the lowest”) and the Latin “inferos” (“those below”) may also be translated as “underworld”, “netherworld”, or as “abode of the dead”. Thus, sometimes this phrase is translated as “descended to the dead.” The first use of the English “harrowing” in this context is in homilies of Aelfric, ca.1000. Harrow is a by-form of harry, a military term meaning to “make predatory raids or incursions”[2]. The term “Harrowing of Hell” refers not merely to the idea that Christ descended into Hell, as in the Creed, but to the rich tradition that developed later, asserting that he triumphed over “inferos,” releasing Hell’s captives, particularly Adam and Eve, and the righteous men and women whose stories are recorded in the Septuagint.

The harrowing of hell is richly represented in Orthodox iconography and liturgical celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection or Pascha.

A traditional Christian reads Book 6 of the Aeneid, consequently, and, if s/he is not immunized against the idea that the Roman Poet is also a Prophet, s/he sees quite clearly a prefiguring of Christ’s victory over death in Aeneas’ descent with the Golden Bough and safe return to the living and eventual conquest of the world. [Frazer title’s his book on myth The Golden Bough to make the same connection albeit on its head, namely, to suggest pointedly that the Harrowing of Hell was mythological formula followed by Christian writers not a historical event.]

With that in mind, let’s review at Accio Quotes two other comments Ms. Rowling made in the year 2000:

E: When you talk about dealing with death and loss in the books, does this come out of your own – you’ve had loss with the loss of your mother – did it come out of a personal spirituality? I mean, are you are religious person? Does your spirituality come from a certain place?

JK: I do believe in God. That seems to offend the South Carolinians more than almost anything else. I think they would find it…well that is my limited experience, that they have more of a problem with me believing in God than they would have if I was an unrepentant atheist.

E: You do believe in God.

JK: Yeah. Yeah.

E: In magic and…

JK: Magic in the sense in which it happens in my books, no, I don’t believe. I don’t believe in that. No. No. This is so frustrating. Again, there is so much I would like to say, and come back when I’ve written book seven. But then maybe you won’t need to even say it ’cause you’ll have found it out anyway. You’ll have read it.

Harry, of course, is able to battle supernatural evil with supernatural forces of his own, and Rowling is quite clear that she doesn’t personally believe in that kind of magic — ”not at all.” Is she a Christian?

Yes, I am,” she says. ”Which seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought there was no God. Every time I’ve been asked if I believe in God, I’ve said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books.”

Couple these with what you know of the Aeneid and the Harrowing (Harrying?) of Hell and take another look at Ms. Rowling’s comment to Ms. Johnstone also in 2000 about the events in Deathly Hallows:

One of her fundamentals is that you can’t reverse death: “That’s a given. Without it the plot would fall apart, though in Book Seven you’ll see just how close you can get to the dead. You can be brought back from being petrified and from injuries that in the real world are mortal, depending on the degree of skill that a particular wizard possesses. You can’t go to any wizard and say ‘Will you cure my terminally ill relative?’ It’s a mirror image of the real world in that sense.”

This last quotation, of course, about getting “close to the dead” can mean just how near to being dead an individual human being can come and still be resuscitated. Her following statements seem to suggest that a lead character will come very close to dying and be revived semi-miraculously in Deathly Hallows. A common place in predictions about the finale, consequently, is that Harry will seem to die but actually be feigning his death (which would satisfy story formula).

If Ms. Rowling slipped here, though, and meant quite literally that we’ll see “how close we can get to the dead” in the sense of proximity to those who have died and passed beyond the Veil, I’ll gladly see my pet key-illustration theories go down in forgettable flames (will any of us remember any of the Interlibrum speculation in August?). Because if Harry does a Harrowing of Hell number and returns from his trip to the land beyond the Veil, my Looking for God in Harry Potter thesis that Ms. Rowling is writing edifying fiction in the literary stream of the Inklings, albeit as a postmodern, will have been given all the confirmation possible. The Veil will be the veil rent at the Crucifixion in the Temple and the archway the horn and ivory gates through which Anchises guides Aeneas and the Sibyl.

Ms. Rowling has said that Deathly Hallows will end her frustration in not being able to answer questions about her faith because the story we’ll read there will demonstrate her Christian beliefs. A trip through the Veil by Harrowing Harry, heir of the Potter, Christian “Everyman,” would do just that.

I look forward to reading your comments and corrections.


  1. Not sure if this helps, but I was thinking while reading HBP that as Harry took on more leadership roles, that he wouldn’t be completely killed because he would end up a neccessary leader of the wizarding world, sort of like the new dumbledore. In which case the previous books would have foreshadowed that.


  2. Travis Prinzi says

    I’m still inclined against a journey through the veil for literary reasons I’ve already expressed, and yet…the idea intrigues me, as evidenced by my own speculations about Dumbledore having gone through in his stoppered death state. While I think this unlikely now, a thought did strike me tonight:

    I know there’s been discussion about Book 7 paralleling Book 3, but I’ve always been more inclined to think Book 7 will parallel Book 1 (with 3 & 5, 2 & 6 being the other parallels). If I’m right about this – could the veil figure into the final battle and defeat of Voldemort? When Harry descended into the Underworld to defeat Quirrelmort, he blacked out for 3 days before coming back, the victory won due to Dumbledore’s timely rescue.

    What if book 7’s climax is a battle in the death room in which Harry and Voldemort both fall through the veil together (Harry forcing him there deliberately)? Harry would then return (after 3 days?), having defeated Voldemort in death and returning to the world of the living, victory in hand, having conquered death and the Dark Lord in “hell.”

    Now that would settle the question of the Christian content once and for all.

    Oh, look – I just went and read the Mugglenet editorial before posting this and realized that this is exactly what’s being argued. Hate it when I have an independent idea and find it’s already been taken!

    In any case, this scenario is unlikely, since, as John and I discussed over at SoG, Harry is most likely not a direct Christ-allegory.

  3. In my Veil post, I wrote that, if Harry goes through the Veil and returns, he upsets the usual “resurrection-in-the-presense-of-a-symbol-of-Christ” formula of the other books to act “as a symbol of Christ.” As bad as the MuggleNet editorial is (very bad — a point to point Bible allegory? Sheesh…), it may have had one nugget in it that Christians have been wondering about since the Vancouver interview.

  4. ExpectoBeagle says

    I’m not nearly as well-versed in HP as the regular posters here, but this article triggered a memory of JKR’s comment about the title and “two consonants and a vowel.” I guess there has been limitless speculation on what she meant, but I offer the following suggestion.

    Could the word she was changing be “harrow/hallow/hollow”? She has mentioned that there is a graveyard at Hogwarts. I believe Hallows has been used as a term for graveyard. Also, Godric Hollow could be a Hallow, meaning the gravesite of Godric Gryffindor. Perhaps Godric Hollow is really Godric’s Hallow, his grave and the site of the final battle between HP and LV?

  5. That’s the best guess I’ve read so far on the two consonants and a vowel! Harrow to hollow… neat.

  6. trainerjen4 says

    I have SO much to say. I plan to come back and read through tomorrow after Church.


    I have a lot to say. I really do. Trust me, I’m a wordy so and so. LOL. I’ve been following this site for years, and just signed up now. Not sure why, but yeah. LOL

    I’m VERY well versed in HP. I’m also very well versed in the Bible. I’m looking forward to some wonderful discussion, where people aren’t going to tell me I’m damned to hell. 😛

  7. trainerjen4 says

    Sorry. John. I never can get that right.

    I wanted to say, that I sent the Zossima press article “Harry Potter and the Baptism of the Imagination” to my brother (who up until a few weeks ago has been a staunch “Harry Hater”. I’ve tried using my own words, and even your books, but NOTHING convinced him like that article did. The sun rises and falls in CS Lewis’s eyes for Dan, and for him to realize that HP may be one of the stories to keep the “sleeping dragons” asleep, well, he’s intrigued. He is just finishing POA, and is already telling me how much Christian symbolism he’s finding.

    I thank you Mr. Granger, for this. It’s truely been a miracle and a blessing in our lives.

    God Bless.

    If this isn’t the proper place for this, I apologize. Feel free to move or delete it. I’m having trouble navigating, even though I’ve come to this site for awhile. There’s been a lot of upgrades (LOOKS GREAT!). Forgive me.

    Thanks so much, and please don’t be annoyed by the newbie. 😀

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