Running Grave: The Literary Alchemy

Running Grave Placeholder Post, Number Six! The Alchemical Artistry of Strike7 —

It’s something of a Publication Week tradition here at HogwartsProfessor to provide an online space for Serious Strikers to share their discoveries as they find them, an alocal place for specific topics we have explored here in the past. It’s a community gathering place — and it creates a record of findings for topics that otherwise become hopelessly jumbled in the threads of various posts. The seven I am posting for Running Grave are:

I have been writing about Rowling’s alchemical coloring and symbolism since 2002 (see my Hidden Key to Harry Potter if you’re into literary archeology or How Harry Cast His Spell for the post-Hallows update). Back in the day, the idea that Rowling, single mother on the dole, was crafting stories using hermetic sequences a la Shakespeare, Dickens, and Joyce, was the butt of jokes in the critical community. We have arrived, though, because the pile of evidence has grown so high to the stage where books are devoted to the subject, at the point of consensus, per Walker Percy, where “everyone has always known that” and the initial eye-rolling and scoffing has been forgotten. See the Literary Alchemy Pillar Post if this is the first time you’re encountering the idea; almost every one of the many links there will take you to an introduction to the subject.

What alchemical points are Serious Strikers looking for in Running Grave? I think there are at least three.

The first is the structure of the book in hand; do we see a nigredo breakdown at the beginning followed by an albedo cleansing or purging of character that ends in a rubedo climax of revelation, confrontation, resolution, and transformation with the attendant colors and symbols of these stages?

The second is its place in the series; is it a rubedo book that closes a story cycle as did Deathly Hallowsin the Hogwarts Saga?

The third is an alternate view of its series role; is it the last of the three albedo books per Evan Willis’ Tetractys Theory?

I suppose I am obliged to include a fourth possibility, namely, ‘Is there little to no evidence of alchemical symbolism in Strike7?’

Let me know what you found in the comment boxes below!


  1. Nichole Boyd says

    We get a direct mention of alchemy in chapter 28, pg. 234.
    “Strike chose not to respond to this comment. He knew, of course, that alchemical changes of personality were possible under a strong influence, especially in those whose characters weren’t fully formed.”

    I felt like this was an overt nod to what Rowling is doing through her books and to what is discussed here at Hogwarts Professor.

  2. I’d like to understand more about the significance of the red and gold colors throughout the book. As Dr Louise points out, Charlotte’s neutral pallet is replaced with dresses of red and gold. The temple and farm house are decorated with red and gold, and golden lanterns are everywhere on the farm. Any thoughts on the significance?

  3. There were a few strong visual images of black, white and red. Particularly memorable were the hot black coffee on white blouse assault, Prudence drooling red wine as her numb lips let precious secrets slip, and Robin had wine spilt on her too… Although I can’t remember at what point that was.

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