Character Symbols in Harry Potter
Personification is the way to turn highly abstract forces, influences and aspects of the process of liberation into understandable concrete characters that we can identify with and love.
Harry Potter uses the same symbols and personification as all the old stories given to humanity by the Masters of Compassion. There is hardly anything new in Harry Potter as far as symbolism and personification goes.
Please also keep in mind the precept from "The Emerald Tablet" of Hermes Trismegistus: "As above, so below". The human microcosm has the same basic structure as the cosmos around us, i.e. the world. The Great Trilogy applies both to our own life as well as the life of humanity in general.
By clicking on the name of the symbols below you can read a summary of their alchemical interpretation. Each summary shows links to a
fuller explanation in the
Yahoo discussion group.
- Harry & Sirius
- Lucius & Narcissa Malfoy
- Draco Malfoy
- Crabbe & Goyle
- Dolores Umbridge
- Gilderoy Lockhart
- Olympe Maxime
- Regulus Black
The lily, the lotus and the rose symbolise the immortal, divine and perfect human being asleep in the heart of every seeker. Lily Potter lives in Godric's Hollow. That is God's Hollow Place: the heart. Every seeker has the potential to transfigure from a mortal, imperfect human being who is a mixture of good and evil, to a Master of Compassion, a Child of the Potter of the Universe, an Only Begotten Son of the Father, living eternally in the original universe where time and space do not exist.
James is an animagus who can transform into a stag. The stag symbolises the seeker's longing for liberation from the universe of time and space and for the return to humanity's original home: the Kingdom of Heaven, or Nirvana. James and Lily unite to give birth to a child who has been promised to those who surrender to God's call for the return of His lost children. Harry Potter is the new immortal soul born to the seeker who is willing to give up all that is earthly and finite, including his mortal self.
Voldemort is Lucifer, the God of this fallen universe. From a human point of view he is neither good not evil; he is interested only in power. Every human being also has his personal Voldemort. This is the force that carries our whole character, our talents and faults, our phobias and our philias. It is immortal in the sense that it lives on when the mortal personality dies. Upon a new incarnation it gives the new personality all that it has received from the last one. But when Harry is born, it becomes the enemy: Satan. It tries to kill the new soul, but cannot do so and is considerably weakened by it.
Harry is the Seed of the Lily and the Stag. He symbolises a new soul force in the seeker who wants to go the Path of Alchemical Transformation resulting in total liberation. Harry will break all seven chains tying the seeker to the universe of time and space, and he will defeat the root-force of the fallen universe that dwells within the seeker: the basilisk, i.e. the kundalini, representing the seeker's entire past, consisting of good and bad karma.
Sirius is the bright new morning star that shines for the seeker whose new soul has been born. He symbolises the divine plan that comes to life in the junior alchemist's aura. At first the seeker's ego (Peter) imprisons Sirius with egocentric ambitions, but Sirius will eventually break free and drive the ego out. The indwelling divine plan will be the mentor, guide and God-Father for the new soul. At a certain stage of development he will precede the new soul to the Kingdom of Heaven by going through the Gate of Saturn.
This was inspired by the experience of recognition of Jo Rowling's use of the symbol of Sirius Black. It is set to the tune of 'Hogwarts' Hymn' from the fourth Harry Potter movie
Once I was lost, felt alone,
Didn't know which way to turn.
Then a voice started calling to me:
The voice of Sirius Black
When I'm afraid, in the dark
And don't know which step to take
There's a light that is shining clearly:
Bright star Sirius Black
Reckless and courageous in facing Voldemort,
Loyal and loving, fighting with Harry's foes
Till finally he fell through the veil:
No goodbyes for Sirius Black
Dementors glide when I seek
To escape this grim old place,
But there's someone who escaped before me:
Prisoner Sirius Black
We both were imprisoned a long, long way from home
But his veiled escape left a crack in the firmament
Where God comes shining through.
No goodbyes! I'm following Sirius Black
« Hide poem about Sirius Black.
Harry & Sirius
Harry and Sirius essentially belong together. They are two halves of the Child of God who has returned as the prodigal son to the arms of the Father. In the New Testament Harry is Jesus, Sirius is Christ. Sirius grows from a bright but distant star to a sun that provides life-giving light, energy and love.
When the New Soul is born in a human being, he comes to live in a hostile environment. The New Soul originates from another universe; a magical world with totally different natural laws. The "muggles" of this world cannot understand the New Soul, and reject its values. In the Old Testament the Jews, on their way to the Promised Land, wander through the desert for 40 years. In the New Testament Jesus wanders around for 40 days. Harry's life with the Dursleys is like living in a desert to him. They live at No. FOUR Privet Drive and try to deprive him of everything he needs, apart from the most basic ones. Every character in Harry Potter is an aspect of our own being, and so the Dursleys live inside every seeker, too.
Every seeker has a traitor inside him: the ego. Until the new soul is born the ego is necessary for survival. As soon as the new soul is born in the alchemist, he needs to ignore the ego as much as possible and eventually get rid of it. Peter Pettigrew is an animagus who can transform into a rat, warmly snuggled up on Ron's body. He symbolises the ego, part of the old mortal personality. Until Harry is born he is a friend of James, Sirius and Lupin, but as the new soul means his eventual death he betrays them to Voldemort.
Hagrid symbolises the alchemist who is so filled with compassion that he gives up his own progress towards immortality in order to help others enter the "magical world" and so reach liberation. He is the one who introduces Harry to the magical world and ferries him, like the ferryman on the Styx, to Hogwarts. Hagrid loves dragons, a symbolic way of saying he loves fallen human beings. He is "Keeper of the Keys", a symbol for gatekeeper.
Ron symbolises the mortal soul of the seeker for liberation. He accepts Harry, the new soul, as his leader and is willing to sacrifice himself for him, as is shown in the chess game in book 1. In the New Testament he is symbolised by John the Baptist, who "prepares the way for the (inner) Lord".
Hermione personifies the renewed mind of the seeker for alchemical transfiguration. In alchemy she is traditionally indicated as Mercury, the Roman equivalent of Hermes. Hermione is the female form of Hermes. Just as Hermione constantly advises and guides Harry in his quests, so the freed mind of a seeker with a new soul becomes an intuitive faculty that leads him directly towards his goal.
Snape personifies the "evil" past of the seeker. He always wears black and can be compared to the black king in The Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosycross. He hates James, Sirius and Lupin, and especially Harry, as they are the opposite of what he stands for. He hates James because he personifies the longing for God, Sirius because he personifies the Living Plan of God, Lupin because he personifies the voice of goodness, and Harry because he is the New Divine Soul who does not listen to the voice of evil but does what his divine nature tells him to do.
It is Snape's duty in the alchemical process to cause the "death" of the Holy, Sanctifying Spirit, personified by Dumbledore. In The New Testament this role is given to Judas, and in story of King Arthur to Mordred.
Remus John Lupin personifies the "good" side of the human being. He is often described as being "grey", symbolising both his rapid aging and his opposition to black (Snape) in a world where there are only shades of grey and black. His goodness is flawed and so in the Septology he is afflicted with a horrible disease: he is a werewolf. In The Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosycross he is the equivalent of the grey king who sacrifices himself for the young king and queen, symbolising the resurrected original child of God.
It is Lupin who gives Harry a tool that saves his life and that of others several times: the Patronus. It is the "good" in man that makes him long for God "as a hart longs for flowing streams" as Psalm 42 puts it (See James).
Dumbledore personifies the healing, sanctifying spirit, the force which leads the alchemist through the great alchemical transfiguration, changing the seeker's lead into gold and giving him the elixir of life. In The Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosycross he is the ancient man living in the Tower of Olympus.
He symbolises a force from another universe, the universe of God, the Sixth Cosmic Plane, where God's Plan is carried out fully. This Spirit is able to descend into our fallen universe only temporarily, as a divine force cannot manifest itself in a universe which does not vibrate in harmony with the Divine Plan. However it does so as a sacrifice, which results in its voluntary death. This is not a real death in the sense that we know it, but a symbolic death which means a total surrender to the forces of this universe and being "buried" in it as it were, resulting in the glorious resurrection of the original, divine human being. This is foreshadowed by the phoenix which arises from the flames of Dumbledore's cremation. In "The Alchemical Wedding" there is also a funeral with a phoenix present.
Just as Christ is "betrayed" by Judas and Arthur by Mordred, so Dumbledore is "betrayed" by Snape. However this is not a real betrayal but a necessary step in the Alchemical Wedding of Spirit, Soul and personality (or bodily system).
Minerva symbolises the divine force that conducts the process of transfiguring the mortal imperfect human being into a perfect child of God. This is why she is in charge of the subject of transfiguration at Hogwarts. In The Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosycross she is called the virgin "Alchimia". Just as Minerva McGonagall conducts the sorting ceremony, so Alchimia conducts a ceremony weighing the guest of the alchemical wedding to see how virtuous they are. In both stories she works closely with "the old man in the tower", and at the end the two of them conduct the resurrection of the King and the Queen, the immortal soul and the divine spirit.
Dobby personifies the etheric body of the alchemist. In the earthly human being the etheric body is a "slave" of the physical body and is always attached to it. At a certain stage of the alchemical process, the etheric body is detached from the physical body and becomes a wondrous vesture that serves the new soul in the process of transfiguration. Dobby is freed by Harry in book 2, and ever since, Dobby is very helpful to Harry. He helps Harry in his second trial in book 4, and shows Harry where to find the Room of Requirement.
Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy
The Malfoy couple personify the physical body of the alchemist. They were once the owners of Dobby, the etheric body. The name Narcissa refers to the Greek legend of Narcissus, a young man who fell in love with his own image. This is basically the story of the Fall of humanity: when the original human life wave arrived in the "Garden of the Gods" it began to love the physical world and so forgot its true home in the Kingdom of Heaven. In Harry Potter, the Malfoys are vassals of Voldemort.
Draco personifies the "tree of life" in the human body. This is the spine and the fiery astral force that flows in it: the "serpent-fire". Draco is Latin for serpent (or dragon). This force connects the brain with the plexus sacralis (the chamber of secrets) at the bottom of the spine. It is part of the mortal soul and must be replaced by the new immortal soul: Harry.
Crabbe & Goyle
On each side of the spinal cord there is a long thin nerve called the sympathetic nervous string. These two strings are symbolised by Crabbe and Goyle. They are controlled by the autonomic nervous system and so in Harry Potter they are given very weak, sycophantic characters. In alchemy, the new soul-force (Harry) descends down the right string, kills the ancient karmic serpent, and ascends back along the left string. It eventually reaches the crown charka, which is connected to the pineal gland. At that moment an omniscient consciousness is born. The alchemist has become a Son of God and can see Him. In "Chamber of Secrets" Harry's relationship to the two sympathetic strings was symbolised by him and Ron drinking polyjuice potion and changing into Crabbe & Goyle.
The human body is a temple in which the Original Spirit should live. This temple has become degenerated and ruined, and has to be destroyed and built up again in three days (stages). All the major organs play a role in the process of rebuilding. One of the most important organs is the medulla oblongata, part of the brain stem. It controls the heart and lungs and so controls what forces can enter the heart. Neville Longbottom personifies this "gate keeper" role. The medulla opened the heart to the Divine Light causing the birth of the new soul. This is why Neville and Harry were born at the same time. In the final stage of liberation the medulla opens to the Holy Spirit, which completes the alchemical wedding of soul and spirit. Neville therefore plays a key role in Harry's last adventure, making Harry's victory possible.
Umbridge symbolises the type of seeker who is not willing to give up the ego to go the Path of Liberation. She joins the religious authorities which rule religious life on earth. These authorities are symbolised by the Ministry of Magic. She sends dementors to suck out Harry's soul, i.e. to kill the new soul in the seeker for liberation. When she fails because of Harry's thirst for liberation (the stag patronus) she comes to Hogwarts as Inquisitor to try to hinder the liberating work there. She tortures Harry and stops the force of liberation (Dumbledore) from doing its work of sanctifying and healing.
Gilderoy Lockhart symbolises the type of person who wants to go the Path of Alchemy to see what he can gain for himself. He has no longing for liberation but wants to impress everyone with his prowess, which is non existant. He is symbolised in The Alchemical Wedding by kings and lords who make outrageous claims. This is why his name is Gilderoy - a King covered in gold leaf. The name Lockhart symbolises the hart or stag which is locked up. This is the exact opposite to Harry, who can invoke the hart with his Patronus.
In The Alchemical Wedding these people are given a draught of oblivion. In Harry Potter Lockhart shouts obliviate with Ron's broken wand, and this backfires on Lockhart who loses his memory.
In the ancient Greek legends Mt Olympus was the place where the immortal gods lived. A mountain is a wonderful symbol for a spiritual place because its height draws our mind upwards to where we're raised above our mundane, every day life, and the view makes us feel like we own the world. Hence it's a symbol for raising ourselves to spiritual heights. Moses met God on Mt Horeb (Sina�) and the Greeks symbolised immortality by Mt Olympus. In both Harry Potter and The Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosycross the word Olympus (or its feminine form: Olympe) occurs. In the latter it's used to indicate the immortality which the candidates for the Alchemical Wedding gain after climbing the tower. The resurrection of the King and Queen takes place on the 8th floor, under the roof. The number 8 is a symbol for the Gate of Saturn, the gate to immortality.
In Harry Potter Olympe Maxime is a towering woman who accompanies Hagrid on his journey to see the giants. When Hagrid gives them ever-burning fire she is standing next to him. This refers to the Greek legend where Prometheus stole fire from Mt Olympus to give fire to humanity.
In real life Regulus ("Little King") is the brightest star in the constellation Leo. In Harry Potter he personifies a powerful force in the microcosm of the seeker for alchemical liberation: the idea of the kingship of the ego. As long as a human being thinks he is the king of his life he will remain a mortal, biological creature subject to death and misery. However as soon as a seeker realises that he is a fallen angel who must kneel before God in the realisation that he needs Him to be the king of his life, Regulus, who is a servant of Voldemort, will die, and the New Soul, Harry, can be born. This is why Regulus died in the year Harry was born.
Before Regulus dies he steals a Horcrux from its hiding place: a cave, symbolising the heart. The Horcrux symbolises the seeker's emotional consciousness, or "emotional I", situated in the heart. We can understand that when the seeker abdicates his throne as king of his own microcosm, and bows down humbly before the Divine Spirit, his heart is immediately purified. A fragment of Voldemort's soul is removed from the seeker's heart as it were.
Kreacher personifies that part of the etheric body of the seeker, which stays behind to look after the health of the old physical body when the rest of the etheric body has been set free from the physical body.
During the process of Alchemy, the etheric body is purified and filled with light. There comes a moment when it is freed from and made independent of the physical body. The new, pure, liberated etheric body is personified by Dobby, who was set free by Harry, the New Soul. But if there were no etheric body in the physical body at all, the latter would die, and so after the pure new etheric body is set free, part of the old etheric body remains behind to serve the old physical body, which is part of 12, Grimmauld Place.