Rowling Returns to Twitter – Maybe?

Rowling Returns to Twitter – Maybe?

There are two re-tweets this morning and a pinned note that links to Rowling’s website and her answers on the linked to page to frequently asked questions about writing. This is the first activity since 12 January, a silence of just over two months. The page header and cameo remain the same pictures that went up on 7 January.

Three notes:

(1) Is she still alive? Maybe. Maybe Not. The pinned link from 7 January is generic though written in her voice and is not new. The two re-tweets tell us nothing except that someone has the password and access to her Twitter account. I’ll feel confident she is among the visibly living when we have a confirmed sighting or post in her inimitable voice. Or just some explanation of where she has been? 14.6 million followers want to know.

(2) Ironic Re-tweet. Rowling re-tweets a comment from Oz Katerji who calls out YouTube for not sufficiently purifying its platform in the name of combatting “f-ing Nazis.” Americans differ from Brits, of course, in our conviction that silencing free speech even of deplorables and terrorists is one of the telling symptoms of fascism. Still, not a proof that Rowling is back and well. Everyone is reeling from the Christchurch murders.

(3) Signature Re-tweet. The other re-tweet is a call for the Daily Mail  to pull a murder video off its website because it represents “a new low in clickbait.” Now that sounds like a particularly Rowling-esque concern, i.e., disdain for the insensitivities of the news media in the name of profit and gaining readers. Of course, throwing the f-bomb and calling people whom she despises “Nazis” is something she has done, too. Maybe she really is back!

If true, so much for the idea that she had decided in the New Year not to be a Progressive Firebrand and Lightning Rod on her twitter feed. We’ll know for sure she’s back, though, and given up on this resolution only when or if she returns to the Brexit Follies currently running on the UK political stage without intermissions or restroom breaks. Today’s reappearance may be only an understandable outburst from her hermitage consequent to the tragedy in New Zealand.

“Paul is Dead” — Where is J K Rowling?

Those of us of a certain age (“very old”) remember the rumors that shook the US and the UK about the supposed death of Paul McCartney, then of The Beatles, in 1969. ‘Paul is Dead’ became more than a meme, believe me, and I was only slightly surprised that the story survives today as a conspiracy theory. “Only Ringo survives…” (I am increasingly prone, by the way, to believe anything tagged a “conspiracy theory,” the latest Orwellian phrase to enforce a self-inflicted conformity to media orthodoxy.)

I bring this up because J. K. Rowling last tweeted on 12 January 2019. Before her departure, she had been twittering so often that she had become the butt of jokes online. News stories last week about the split in the Labour Party included references to her because one of the meetings of the conspirators (!) was held in the office of Tony, um, Neil Blair, her literary and movie agent cum legal gopher. One article said she was not present, another piece, citing the original as its source, said she was. I have been unable to find any references to her existence or evidence that she is still among the corporeal living dated post that last tweet in January.

I learned today both that the ‘Paul is Dead’ fake-news meme of fifty years ago (1) was started by a college newspaper reporter in Ames, Iowa, and (2) it’s rapid spread into all corners of the globe resulted in LIFE magazine hunting down McCartney at his farm in Scotland and coercing him into some pictures and a brief interview (actually, Sir Paul flew into a rage, dumped a bucket of water over photographer and reporter, and he only agreed to congenial pictures and a comment in exchange for the roll of film with pictures capturing him as an ogre). Hence this post.

We have speculated that Rowling is on vacation, that she is re-writing Fantastic Beasts 3, that she has retired from public life and political commentary, even that she is working on the fifth Cormoran Strike novel (one can only hope). All this is to neglect the obvious possibilities we would suspect if one of our friends or family members disappeared suddenly and for weeks on end — that she is very ill, that she is dead, or that one of her family members is in crisis of some kind and she neglects public comment because her priorities are right-side up (which ordered considerations do not include sharing with us what is no one’s business but her own…).

Let the rumors begin, however, a la the Drake College newspaper report in 1969 that Paul McCartney was no more. Here’s the version I send out for Aeolus and the internet to spread to the global four corners (Tasmania!) in the virtual winds, call it ‘The Three Blairs’:

Tony and Neil Blair, not to mention the 115 year old not-really-dead-yet Eric Blair, are plotting how to keep Rowling, Inc., rolling without her — as well as how to keep the public from finding out she’s gone (hence, “Let’s take down the Labour Party!”). The Blair Trio are interviewing ghost writers for the screenplays (no problem here; the David Warner Brothers didn’t use her scripts anyway…) and scrambling to find look-alikes for the requisite red carpet appearances every other year.

She has recently told us that she cannot separate her “writing life” from her life as such; now that she has stopped writing in the public eye, might we not safely assume that she has separated from life altogether? No, we can’t. But maybe we can hope for an update soon.

Our best wishes for a speedy recovery if The Presence or one of her loved ones are not well. Condolensces all around, too, of course, if there really has been a death.

And please do send in your proofs that this ‘conspiracy theory’ is as unfounded as ‘Paul is Dead.’


‘Here Be Dragons (and Phoenixes)’

Happy St Valentine’s Day, ye serious readers! I do not have flowers, chocolates, or even a card with cloying sentiment to mark the day but I offer instead something I suspect you will enjoy much more, namely, a work of scholarship and insight about J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts film franchise that will challenge and stretch your understanding of what The Presence is up to in her five part movie series. Lana Whited, editor of Harry Potter and the Ivory Tower, a landmark work in the history of Potter Punditry, as well as Critical Insights: The Harry Potter Series, has written an essay that has been posted in two parts at MuggleNet which explores both the traditional symbols of dragons and phoenixes in myth and folklore as well as how Rowling is using them in Fantastic Beasts on the screen.

It would be hard to overstate the importance of these pieces. I was privileged to read them as drafts and begged Professor Whited to publish them at as large a fandom platform as possible; as I told her then, I think she has solved the mystery of the frequency with which Rowling, Yates, and Heyman have mentioned that the more important beasts in Fantastic Beasts are the “beasts within.” I am confident that her discussion and explanation of how Grindelwald is a dragon and Dumbledore a phoenix, natures “closer than brothers” but in diametric opposition, will be referenced in discussion of the films from this point forward, agree or disagree.

Professor Whited spoke last month with Katy McDaniel, me, Megan Kelly of ‘Speak Beasty, and Elizabeth Baird-Hardy at MuggleNet’s Reading, Writing, Rowling podcast about this theory, a discussion that you’ll enjoy when it is posted, I’m sure, but only after your having already read ‘Here Be Dragons (and Phoenixes), Part 1 and Part 2.’ From Beowulf to literary alchemy to Chinese folklore and western mythology, this is comprehensive, wonderful work I know you’ll enjoy — and a delightful way to spend a spare moment this Valentine’s Day. Enjoy!

How Did We Not Know About This?

How Did We Not Know About This?

J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels and Cormoran Strike mysteries and screenwriter for the Fantastic Beasts film franchise, at the time she was writing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was, in all her free time, casting astrological charts, interpreting them in involved, long, single-spaced typed efforts, and illustrating covers in creative water colors for the package. We know of three of these charts, have seen the covers for two, and one of them is available for close reading online at The RowlingLibrary. If you have a spare $75,000, you can purchase the two available via Paul Fraser Collectibles online here and here.

I will be discussing how this discovery re-fashions our understanding of Rowling as a writer, especially with respect to the alchemical qualities of her Hogwarts Saga and post-Potter efforts, in the next two parts of this three part series. In this piece, I will focus on the natural question to ask when something so outlandish appears without explanation, namely, ‘Why has it taken so long for these astrological charts and interpretations by the world’s best selling author to surface?’ Three thoughts come immediately to mind.

(1) Laziness and Incompetence: As I mentioned in my post about Rowling’s uses of Professor Trelawney as an embedded author figure, it’s not as if Rowling’s interest in astrology was unknown. First, there was Rowling’s admission in 2007 that she “did a lot of research into astrology for [Trelawney]. I found it all highly amusing, but I don’t believe in it.” We know, though, that she was entertaining friends with these astrological skills in 1994, too. Not enough to inspire research? Her 2012 profile in The New Yorker, Mugglemarch,’ tells us that “Rowling did write a long, illustrated astrological birth chart for the newborn son of a friend.” Bingo. There it is, the very charts available at TheRowlingLibrary.

(2) Editorial ‘Hiding in Plain Sight’ I found the article with astrological chart and interpretation at TheRowlingLibrary a year ago this week while perusing the site which was new to me. I had been corresponding with an editor there, Patricio Tarantino, and he had published some things I had written in this online journal. Surfing the articles listed, I clicked on one with the curious headline, ‘Exclusive: J.K. Rowling’s text from 1994 (Pre Potter-era).’ And there it was — posted in April, 2015, a story about the horoscopes cast and interpreted by Rowling in 1994 and which became public knowledge in 2010 when they appeared on the ‘Antiques Roadshow’ teevee series in the UK. One reason we missed this information beyond the absence of a determined search to find it after the mention in The New Yorker piece is that the story appeared in a non-major (at least in 2015) Potter fan site, a story that was not picked up by the two heavyweights, MuggleNet and Leaky Cauldron, and the headline the non-native speakers of English gave the piece says nothing about astrology or horoscopes.

(3) Wikipedia’s Decision to Kill the Story As mentioned, the astrological charts and interpretation became news in 2010 after the owner brought them to the collectibles experts on ‘Antique Roadshow’ for an appraisal. Why didn’t this merit a mention on J. K. Rowling’s wikipedia page? Because the know-better editors there decided that just because the author cast a few horoscopes and interpreted them doesn’t amount to a serious argument that she knew a lot about astrology. The writing includes humor, for instance; to the wiki-gatekeepers that had to mean it was a joke. An editor named Terry argues in vain for including some mention of this on Rowling’s page with two self-important know-nothings. Special marks here to ‘Serendipodous’ who offers as his clinching proof that the astrology story can be squashed because he was in a play once but is not an actor; Rowling’s one known set of astrological charts therefore do not ipso facto make her an astrologer…

Here is the whole exchange from the Wikipedia archives, ‘Rowlings (sic) An Astrologer?‘:

I have just finished wathching (sic) an episode of Antiques Roadshow (British TV series) and a lady brought two horoscopes of her own children that she claims JK Rowlings provided to her in a typed format and hand illustrated the cover around the same time as Rowlings was writing her first Harry Potter book. She was a friend of Rowlings and lived nearby. This may suggest that Rowlings was or is an astrologer. I notice no mention of it here at this topic. Does anyone know if Rowlings studied astrology? Terry Macro (talk) 07:47, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

see Terry Macro (talk) 08:05, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

Given the undisguised contempt with which she treats astrologers in her novels, I seriously doubt she has more than a passing interest in it. Serendipodous 09:04, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

It is not for us to do original research and make decisions independent of reliable published sources. Rowling was able to write astrologicalinterpretations of two children’s horoscopes – this is not a passing interest, Rowling definitely practiced astrology because only a competent astrologer can do a horoscope interpretation. The reason she did the two specific horoscopes in question is that it was for a friend and Rowling was too poor to buy presents, and did horoscopes instead. Some commentators claim that clues to Rowlings’ future writings in the Harry Potter series can be discerned in her horoscope interpretations. This information rightly belongs in this topic – but not overly emphasized. Terry Macro (talk) 23:29, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

It is also OR [original research] to draw any inferences from that article beyond what it actually says. All we have from that article is that Rowling cast horoscopes on that one occasion. Whether she habitually cast horoscopes is not mentioned.Serendipodous 01:32, 13 August 2010 (UTC)

I am not claiming that Rowling was a ‘habitual’ astrologer, nor that she was a professional astrologer or charged clients to do horoscopes. The article clearly indicates that Rowling could interpret a horoscope which means she had at some time studied astrology, either privately or formally. I am rather surprised you want to hide Rowling’s knowledge of astrology as most people in the world do not find astrology offensive. I know I was rather astonished to discover this fact while watching TV, and it seems curious that an encyclopedia would not want some small reference to this fact – especially as it has now come to light in the public domain. Terry Macro (talk) 02:00, 14 August 2010 (UTC)

The question isn’t whether she studied astrology at all. The question is whether this one mention of her using astrology is worth including. Does it have a bearing on her career or her biography? The answer, as far as I can see, is no. In my life I have acted once. Does that make me an actor? No. In the same way, one mention of Rowling casting a horoscope does not make her “an astrologer”. Serendipodous 07:08, 14 August 2010 (UTC)

I would question whether the cited article establishes that she genuinely cast or interpreted horoscopes – it makes that assertion, but that appears to rest on her use of the word “cusp”. The rest of the quoted material is humourous. Is a Pisces really fated to drink like a fish? – Ian Dalziel (talk) 10:53, 14 August 2010 (UTC)

I have read at least as many anti-Wikipedia phillipics as you have, how it is undependable, how it is biased, how it can repeat fake news and not be corrected for ages if ever. I think the criticisms are valid as far as they go but neglect what a remarkable resource Wikipedia can be, especially I have to add for Potter Pundits, The wiki-pages dealing with Rowling’s novels are well edited and include online referencing as well as text citations. I’ll leave for another day discussion of how much these pages were lifted from The Harry Potter Lexicon in their infancy; as they stand, they are great jumping off points and easy fact checking stations.

But now we know another back to the front of depending on Wikipedia to share information on any subject in the public domain. Trusting wikipedia to be comprehensive when clear sighted editors like ‘Terry’ can be stifled by all-seeing decision makers with the judgment of ‘Serendipodous’ means you will miss important stories like this one.

Which brings us back to Pundit ‘Laziness and Incompetence.’ As I said, I have known about this story for a year; I haven’t written about it because I was doing the research necessary to begin the conversation without going off half-cocked. In Part 2 of this series, I’ll share what I’ve learned about Rowling’s cited sources for her chart interpretation and whether she is an amateur with only Trelawney type skills or something of an adept. I’ll conclude in Part 3 with a look back at the Potter novels to see what knowing “a lot about astrology” means in possible interpretations of the Hogwarts Saga.

Your assignment tonight is to head on over to The RowlingLibrary and to read the horoscope Rowling cast for a young family as a gift. And then to let everyone here know what you think by writing up your thoughts in the comment boxes below!

What is Rowling Doing? Post Twitter, She is Starting a New Political Party

What is Rowling Doing? Post Twitter, She is Starting a New Political Party

Today is the one month mark since J. K. Rowling has tweeted or re-tweeted from her bully pulpit of a Twitter platform, a venue offering her access to the minds of 14.6 million followers, by far the largest of any author or screenwriter. So what has she been up to?

The best guesses we have heard or thought of ourselves in the HogwartsProfessor faculty lounge are that she is vacationing after the tumultuous 2018, that she is hard at work re-writing Fantastic Beasts 3 in light of Crimes of Grindelwald’s disappointing box office and film reviews, that she is taking a break from politics because she has realized the vanity and absurdity of yelling into the gale of principle-free opinions with her own bon mots, and, by far the wish fulfillment option, that she is working day and night on finishing the fifth Cormoran Strike novel.

Yesterday morning The National, a newspaper in Scotland, reported that Rowling is part of a push to start a third political party in the UK, a left of center alternative to the anti-Semitism of Labour and the Brexit convictions of the Conservative party. A meeting was held in London at the offices of Neil Blair, Rowling’s right hand in all things legal and Machiavellian, and the crowd gathered was said to be enthusiastic (surprise!) about the idea of The Presence being the celebrity face of this as-yet-unnamed political faction. Jonathan Powell, an advisor to Tony Blair the former Prime Minister, supposedly was in attendance at this exploratory meeting to offer his guidance.

See other story write-ups at The Daily, and The Daily Express, two of which say Rowling was there, one citing the story that does not say she was present as its source; caveat lector. Rowling still has a degree of deniability but Neil Blair, despite having almost seventy clients in The Blair Partnership in addition to Rowling and Galbraith, is famous only because of his work for The Presence and holding the meeting at his offices inevitably involved her name and the media ‘hook.’ 

A Potter Pundit who will not be named assures me that ‘Dumbledore’s Army’ is a natural tag for this new party. My best guess for a name would be ‘Order of the Phoenix’ to avoid the Children’s Crusade jokes — and can’t you see Rowling in a Carolina (Brussells?) Blue cap with the words ‘Make Britain France Again’ emblazoned on it? Go, Jo, go!

Jo-king aside, I hope the several Blairs and party planners go with the name ‘Fabian Socialists,’ because, as Travis Prinzi and other Potter Pundits have pointed out through the years, this has been the Dumbledore-esque political theme of Rowling’s writings from the start, i.e., slow-but-steady growth of government control of every aspect of human life “for the greater good.” Gradualism, not revolution, is the road to societal utopia…

So what do you think? If a reality show host can be President, why or why not the best selling author of the age as Prime Minister or at least Minister for Culture? Let me know what you think of the Phoenix Party in the comment boxes below.

Part 3 Its Meaning in Rowling’s Written Work

Part 2 The Historical and Occult Interpretations

This is third in a series of three posts about J. K. Rowling’s use of the tarot card ‘The Hanged Man.’ Part one was ‘Harry Potter and The Hanged Man: Part 1 Rowling’s Most Loaded Tarot Reference‘ in which I discussed the many times Rowling included images of characters hanging, playing hangman, or hanging upside down, as well as her one reference to ‘The Hanged Man’ per se. In Part two, ‘Harry Potter and The Hanged Man: Part 2 The Historical and Occult Interpretations,‘ I laid out the several meanings assigned to this specific tarot card, to include the A. E. Waite interpretation Rowling was probably most familiar with.

In this concluding piece I will offer for your consideration three ideas of why Rowling used ‘The Hanged Man’ and has so many images of and references to upside down people, gallows victims, and hangman games in her work.

(1) It’s A Number and Ring Thing: The hanged man references begin in Philosopher’s Stone but really take-off in Goblet of Fire with Frank Bryce being ostracized by the gossips at ‘The Hanged Man’ pub who try and convict him from their bar stools for the murder of the Riddle family. Harry sees the Muggles tortured at the Wizard World Cup by being hung upside down and is turned upside down himself twice in the third TriWizard task. What is it about Goblet that would make it a match with ‘The Hanged Man’ tarot card?

The Hanged Man’s legs as more than one tarot guide points out take the shape of an inverted number four. Goblet is the fourth Harry Potter novel. More to the point, The Hanged Man is card number 12 in a 21 or 22 card Major Arcanum sub-deck and this card’s figure resembles both The Fool, the ‘zero’ card of that series not usually counted, and The World, the last card of the sub-deck. The card means in this regard that we have come to number four, the middle of the series, and its involution reflects our making a story turn to a glorious end, hence The Hanged Man’s nimbus and serene look.

It’s an inside joke, in other words, for Rowling’s target audience of “obsessives” who work to solve all her structural and symbol puzzles.

(2) It’s an Alchemical Reference, Kind Of: All the occult and historical interpretations I found except for The Traitor origins for the image include references to transformation and revelation, especially those of a spiritual kind. The characters who are hung upside-down, most notably Harry, Snape, Neville, and Ron, are the ones destined for a great trial, whose real qualities, powers, and loyalties lie hidden, and whose end is heroic, sacrificial, even glorious. Think of Waite’s conclusion in Pictorial Guide to the Tarot, Rowling’s most likely first reference for the card:

He who can understand that the story of his higher nature is imbedded in this symbolism will receive intimations concerning a great awakening that is possible, and will know that after the sacred Mystery of Death there is a glorious Mystery of Resurrection.

(3) It’s about Social Justice: And Frank Bryce? Mrs Norris? The Muggles suspended mid air by the Death Eaters at the World Cup fairgrounds? Not to mention the gallows and its victims in the fourth book of the Cormoran Strike series, Lethal White? These hangings in Rowling’s work are a fairly straight forward condemnation of capital punishment as a great injustice, the continued crime against humanity of the powerful punishing the weak because they can and feel they should.

That Rowling puts this reference to The Hanged Man at the center of both the Hogwarts Saga and I assume the Cormoran Strike series I think points to the two meanings for the card in a reading according to the instant Waite guide, for the card right side up and reversed:

12: THE HANGED MAN — Wisdom, trials circumspection, discernment, sacrifice, divination, prophecy. ReversedSelfishness, the crowd, body politic.

The card right side up, the character then being upside down, is about transformation and sacrifice and, reversed, it is a hanged man, a victim of mob justice however sophisticated and ornate the governmental trappings given the affair.

Or so I think! I offer these possibilities as jumping off points for your consideration and correction. Let me know what you think by clicking on ‘Leave a Comment’ up by this post’s headline and typing in your interpretations of The Hanged Man, the hangman games, and all the upside down and right side up hanged characters in Rowling’s work.

Rowling’s “Endless Updates” to Potter Canon Become Internet Meme

The Washington Post has a feature these days called ‘Internet Culture’ in which they explore trends or ‘memes’ springing up on the world wide web with a special focus on twitter fads. This week the Post story under this rubric was ‘How J. K. Rowling’s Endless Updates to Harry Potter Became a Meme.’ In said article readers learn that Potter philes around the world have tired of The Presence’s additions to canon via PotterMore or tweets, e.g. that Hogwarts didn’t always have indoor plumbing so wizards of old used to just vanish away their excretions and that Ron’s Patronus was a Jack Russell, not to mention the back story of Nagini. Their response? Create their own Rowling-esque revelations, things-we-weren’t-told-about-our-favorite-characters, in the form of unsolicited tweets to an incredulous fandom.

Some of them, forgive me, are quite funny. Many involve sexual acts. Some gently chastize Rowling for being too political, politically correct, or for trending conservative in her posts and stories.

You get the idea. For more tweets along these lines not in the Post article, including many ‘not safe for work,’ see stories on this subject here, here, and here. I’m wondering if this sign that Rowling has somehow “jumped the shark” by being much too available and forthcoming with her fans has led to this backlash — and that she prudently has decided to take some time away from tweeting to give the meme a chance to die a natural death.

Just sayin’! Let me know what you think in the comment boxes below — and please keep any memes you might want to share PG 13…

Part 2 The Historical and Occult Interpretations

Part 2 The Historical and Occult Interpretations

Last month I started a series of posts about the significance of The Hanged Man tarot card for serious readers of J. K. Rowling with a listing of the characters, from Neville Longbottom and Mrs. Norris to Harry Potter and Severus Snape, who are hung, right side up or upside down, in the Hogwarts Saga. It’s quite a remarkable list, frankly, and it highlights Rowling’s naming the pub in Little Hangleton ‘The Hanged Man.’

Why do we care? As noted in that first post, Rowling’s friends at the Wyedean Comprehensive have said that Rowling used to read tarot cards and their palms to entertain them. Beatice Groves, in a post at The Leaky Cauldron, shared a 1999 interview with Jo Rowling sans make-up, not to mention cosmetic surgery, in which The Woman Not Yet The Presence admits that:

I know a lot about foretelling the future, without, unfortunately, I have to tell you, believing in it, which sometimes disappoints people…. I find it fascinating and I find it fun and I could read your cards for you now and I would hope we’d both find it amusing but I wouldn’t want either of us to walk away believing in it.

Her skill with the cards, then, was not just a childhood game she played in the cafeteria but something she maintained she was still capable of exercising at the time she was writing the Potter novels. It is more than reasonable to think that the hanged men, women, in cats may be a reference to the meaning of the tarot card, ‘The Hanged Man.’

Today let’s look at three interpretations of that card, from the historical to the occult and the standard understanding that young Rowling was most likely to have learned in the West Country as a young woman. After the jump!

(1) ‘The Traitor’

My guide for more than a decade in all things Medieval and supposedly Medieval has been Sandra Miesel. When I asked her questions about the tarot cards way back in 2007, she urged me to read A Wicked Pack of Cards: The Origins of the Ocult Tarot by Decker, Depaulis, and Dummett for the necessary historical background. I read it. To be as brief and clear as possible, the so-called twenty two Major Arcana cards were invented in Italy for a specific card game, something like Bridge without trumps, that was played with the four suits of playing cards very much like the ones we know today.

They were not of ancient Egyptian origin but, at the earliest the fifteenth century; they have no connection with the Cabbalah per se except as invented by late eighteenth-century French charlatans and sophists; the images reflect commonplaces of the time rather than an alchemical sequence of transfiguation.

‘The Hanged Man’ was originally known as ‘The Traitor’ because being hung upside down by the foot was the fate and punishment of traitors from scoundrels of the Middle Ages to modern men such as Mussolini.

(2) The Occult Meaning

 Here’s just a taste of what the adepts think tarot cards mean. From The Tarot by Mouni Sadhu:

Who is the hanged Man? What did he do? His feet are uppermost and his head is directed earthwards. This means, that his best elements serve the Earth, his attention is paid to the Earth. At the top there is only the fulcrum. 

Heis the messenger, from above to below, of the higher MENTAL to the LOWER physical plane. He bears in himself the end of the process connected with the involutionary triangle, as he sends a higher principle into Matter for the regeneration and subtilizing of that same matter. But his involutionary triangle is crowned with the cross of the Hermetic virtues, which showed him the way to that evolution, to that SACRIFICE. The number of twelve knots, being the symbol of the finite, again suggests the idea of the finite character of the evolutionary process: this means that the Absolute, the Unmanifested, is beyond forms and manifestation.

To conclude, we may say, that in the Twelfth Arcanum everything breathes the idea of service: the High to the Low.  (p 277; it continues in this vein for twelve more pages)

Robert M. Place in The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination summarizes occult views of the twelfth card this way:

Modern occultists interpret this card as representing a sacrifice that is made willingly for the purpose of spiritual gain and this interpretation is not out of step with how the Hanged Man is originally presented [i.e., as a traitor]. The Hanged Man is positioned after Hercules or a woman who symbolizes his heroic virtue. Several times in Greek mythology Hercules was found guilty of a crime and as a result was enslaved or pledged to complete a task as penance, thereby suffering an ordeal and a loss of position. The hero’s journey is not without pitfalls. Instead of rewarding Socrates for his wisdom, the Athenians declared him a traitor and forced him to drink hemlock. The crucifix is a reminder to every Christian that even Christ was executed as a traitor to the state. And, as we see, Death [Major Arcanum card XIII] follows the Traitor in the Tarot also (p 149; for a much, much longer Christian interpretation of The Hanged Man, see Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism. pp 304-337).

All very interesting, but how does the adept interpret the card inside a reading of Tarot cards? Rachel Pollack in Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom: A Book of Tarot writes:

In readings, the Hanged Man bears the message of independence. Like the Fool, which signified doing what you sensed was best, even if others thought it foolish, the Hanged Man indicates being who you are, even if others think you have everything backwards. It symbolizes the feeling of being deeply connected to life and can mean a peace that comes after some difficult trial.

The trump reversed indicates an inability to get free of social pressure. Rather than listen to our inner selves we do what others expect or demand of us. Our awareness of life always remains second-hand, never a direct experience but only a series of stereotypes, like the person who models his or her behaviour on the orders of parents and the actions of movie stars (p 100).

We’ll come back to this in the concluding post of this Hanged Man series when looking at what Rowling might have meant by the hanged men, women, and cat (!) in the Hogwarts Saga. I want to close this post with a look at the most probable source or reference for Rowling’s study in Wyedean and later, namely, the Rider-Waite tarot deck and A. E. Waite’s interpretations of same. 

(3) The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Like it or not, odds are that the first tarot deck of cards an amateur reader stumbles on and uses is the so-called ‘Rider-Waite‘ deck. It was published originally in 1909 by the Rider Trading Card company and it features seventy eight cards, twenty-two Major Arcanum, fifty-six Minor Arcanum (four suits of fourteen cards each), all with illustrations by Pamela Coleman Smith and drawn from the instructions of A. E. Waite. This deck remains the most popular currently in use and its images are the prevalent standard for readings and interpretations (all illustrations for this post are Rider Waite images). It comes with a small pamphlet with interpretations for each card.

This pamphlet and Waite’s Pictorial Key to the Tarot were more likely than not Rowling’s first references in her study of the Tarot as a Comprehensice School student, and, as such, deserve a look for their exegesis of The Hanged Man card.

The pamphlet entry for Major Arcanum Card XII reads:

12: THE HANGED MAN — Wisdom, trials circumspection, discernment, sacrificice, divination, prophecy. Reversed: Selfishness, the crowd, body politic.

The Pictorial Key to the Tarot tells us:

The gallows from which he is suspended forms a Tau cross, while the figure – from the position of the legs – forms afylfot cross. There is a nimbus about the head of the seeming martyr. It should be noted (1) that the tree of sacrifice is living wood, with leaves thereon; (2) that the face expresses deep entrancement, not suffering; (3) that the figure, as a whole, suggests life in suspension, but life and not death. It is a card of profound significance, but all the significance is veiled.

One of his editors suggests thatEliphas Levidid not know the meaning, which is unquestionable – nor did the editor himself. It has been called falsely a card of martyrdom, a card of prudence, a card of the Great Work, a card of duty; but we may exhaust all published interpretations and find only vanity. I will say very simply on my part that it expresses the relation, in one of its aspects, between the Divine and the Universe.

He who can understand that the story of his higher nature is imbedded in this symbolism will receive intimations concerning a great awakening that is possible, and will know that after the sacred Mystery of Death there is a glorious Mystery of Resurrection.

In the concluding post of this series, I’ll take a stab at guessing what Rowling meant in her use of hanged man imagery built on these ideas of The Traitor, of the occult interpretations, and on the prevalent Waite theories. More anon!

JKR Twitter: Three Weeks of Silence

JKR Twitter: Three Weeks of Silence

Today makes it three weeks that J. K. Rowling has not tweeted from her platform with close to 15 million followers. We follow her twittering pretty closely because, between what she writes about her books there and the changes in the page headers, it is our best source for what she is thinking and planning.

The fandom mind about the silence — those millions of people who “follow” her daily remarks and retweets — seem to fall into two general categories. The first school is that “We are unworthy of her sharing so generously her thoughts and commentary.” This tweet from a fandom site is representative:

The second school is, as you’d expect, that “She is unworthy of us; good riddance.”

My own thoughts? I’m told by a source I trust that The Presence took almost a month off in the New Year two years ago for a retreat to her estate in Tasmania. 2018 was a crazy busy year for JKR; in addition to her Lumos and Volant charity responsibilities, she published Lethal White, participated in the roll-out of Crimes of Grindelwald, and opened the Broadway edition of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. She was active on Twitter throughout 2018, not only promoting all things Rowling, Inc., was celebrating and selling that week, but participating in the ugly push-and-shove of UK politics especially surrounding Brexit not to mention the various controversies with the Social Justice wing of Harry Potter fandom.

The safest bet, I think, is that Rowling is just taking some time off to gather her energies, creative and disputative, for the coming year. She might also, of course, be involved in a re-writing of the Fantastic Beasts 3 screenplay so we once again do not have her story and the agreed upon shooting script butchered in the director’s cut. Or maybe she has just made a resolution not to feel obliged to police the world’s conscience, politics today being a fool’s game.

Your thoughts? Any guesses if or when she’ll return? Let me know in the comment boxes below by clicking on ‘Leave a Comment’ up by the post’s headline.

La Gazette du Sorcier: French Potter Site

La Gazette du Sorcier: French Potter Site

Cory Faniel wrote me last week about some Potter fandom inside-baseball in France that I was unaware of. He wrote lest I (continue to) embarass myself by not doing the right thing. It was a polite and very friendly letter and he won me over about the issue in question, about which, being no Franco-phone or -phile (Grangers are Normans, not French), I had not the slightest idea.

He reminded me that we had met at the St Andrews Harry Potter Conference years ago and shared, after I asked for more information, the following paragraphs about the French Harry Potter fan site with a twist. Not only is it in French (duh) and about current interpretations and insights as well as the fake stuff out of Rowling, Inc., but it is written as a French ‘Daily Prophet,’ that is, as if wizards and witches were reporting on events in the magical community.

I asked him to explain:

La Gazette du Sorcier is the oldest Harry Potter French fansite still active. The name comes from the official French translation of “The Daily Prophet”, an appropriation that is tolerated by the French editing house, Gallimard Jeunesse. It was created in July 2000 and its editorial line, at start, was to report informations about the Harry Potter franchise from a wizarding world point of view. Therefore, the books were called “biographies” and the movies were “biopics”; Rowling was “the biograph”, etc… This has slowly been abandoned for a more traditional style of reporting, more suited to contemporary readership; however we still publish “wizarding news“, made up articles with a “wizard twist”, sometimes based on a real situation (for example, this article on “wand restrictions” in the wizarding world, inspired by the debate on guns restrictions in the US; or the Purple Robes protesting on Paris Hidden Place, during the “Gilet Jaune” movement) sometimes entirely baseless and fun. It also used to be linked to the biggest French HP forum, but the evolution of the internet has led to most conversations migrating to Facebook and the forum emptying slowly but surely.

I joined the editorial team in 2011 and was made Chief Editor soon after. Since then, I have handed that title to another editor, but remain Head of Publication. I’ve built a new team, a new editorial approach, developed relationships with international websites, press contacts, etc… and built with my friends a team that now also branches out to offering  animations in small festivals in France, but also presenting conferences and in various conventions (for example on HP Translations, Illustrations, or the parallel between quididtch and the Deathly Hallows at LeakyCon).



Makes me almost wish I had gone to Leaky Con last summer. For those of you who read French or who saw the La Gazette team in Dallas, check out the website and let me know what you think! I hope Cory will consider one of La Gazette’s international websites with whom he has a good relationship — and that he’ll share with me news and articles the serious readers here might enjoy.