Editor’s note: Though one part of this editorial warrants its placement on Madam Puddifoot’s delicious menu, it was placed here due to a majority of non-romantic ingredients. Enjoy!
“The Holy Grail is arguably the most sought-after treasure in human history. The Grail has spawned legends, wars and lifelong quests. Does it make sense that it is merely a cup? If so, then certainly other relics should generate similar or greater interest — The Crown of Thorns, the True Cross of the Crucifixion, the Titulus — and yet they do not. Throughout history, the Holy Grail has been the most special.” Langdon grinned. “Now you know why.”
Faukman was still shaking his head. “But with all these books written about it, why isn’t this theory more widely known?”
“These books can’t possibly compete with centuries of established history, especially when that history is endorsed by the ultimate bestseller of all time.”
Faukman’s eyes went wide. “Don’t tell me Harry Potter is actually about the Holy Grail.”
“I was referring to the Bible.”
Faukman cringed. “I knew that.”
– The Da Vinci Code, pg.164, Hardcover edition
It’s enlightening to see this elaborate joke aimed at a book entirely written with double entendres and subtle hidden meanings. Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, often called a genius due to his historical and well-researched novels, gives a new flavor to the Grail theories that saw light since the 1980s with the book, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. And by doing so, Brown also provides a very subtle key to understanding one prominent layer of the Harry Potter series.
Keep up with me in this more or less short description of Brown’s story, which will finally reveal what we might call The Potter Code (1).
The Order of Sion
Both the book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and Brown’s latest bestseller, The Da Vinci Code, base their evidences on the Secret Dossiers found at the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris in 1967. According to them, The Order of Sion (later known as the Priory of Sion) was a secret group founded around 1090 and whose mission supposedly was to protect the Holy Grail, which was in their possession. The Order allegedly had, through history, grand masters such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Botticelli, Debussy, and, particularly pertaining to this analysis, our very own Nicolas Flamel.
The Priory of Sion created a military arm of knights called the Order of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, better known as the Knights Templar, which found the Grail and the secret that could have damaged the Church. By means of blackmail these knights obtained power and wealth while keeping hidden what many men lusted after (an interesting oddity here: their highest rank authority received the title of “Prince”).
The Order of Templars was pronounced heretic by King Philippe IV and was almost completely wiped out by means of torture and murder, except for a few survivors who went into hiding and rebuilt it as a secret society.
The Holy Grail or San Greal
A quick etymology lesson: Holy Grail comes from the French San Greal or Sang Real, meaning royal blood.
To refresh everybody’s memory, the Holy Grail was widely known in medieval Arthurian romances like Percival or Le Conte del Graal as the cup used by Jesus during the Last Supper and also the story where Joseph of Arimathea received the Holy Blood from His side during Crucifixion, and which has magical properties such as to give immortality or fulfill wishes, but causing adverse effects on the unworthy. Nonetheless, Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, a middle-age romance, describes instead the San Greal as a royal family bloodline that has to be protected. The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail goes further and indicates that this bloodline is directly from Jesus Christ (a supposed result of His espousal with Mary Magdalene, an idea also based on a dubious translation of the apologetic Dead Sea Scrolls found in the 1950s). Following Jesus’ Resurrection, the scrolls said that His earthly family was carefully hidden and protected from being killed by interested, powerful cycles in a religious government eager to conceal the feared secret.
The Sacred Feminine
It seems that with these terms of reference, the Holy Grail would be only an allegory and the goblet or chalice would represent the feminine, or the mythological and antique divinity of the sacred feminine.
The sacred feminine is, in a few words, the oldest religion of the world, one that considers earth and nature as feminine, the origin of life, and the deepest mystery of all, reverencing it as godly. From here comes the notion of the goddess Venus (known also as Astarte and very relevant to this analysis, the goddess and the planet are one and the same for early Greeks), and an even older notion of Goddess Athenea, who originally was the most powerful and wisest among the gods in the pantheon.
These archaic myths teach that women are the keepers of wisdom and the miracle of life. The myth holds that the man is incomplete until he finds union with the sacred feminine (the union being the ultimate level of spirituality).
These old notions are best represented by the modern concept of Ying-Yang, the balance of feminine and masculine which creates perfection.
The theme of the sacred feminine associated with the Holy Grail is visually shown in the most famous fresco of all time, The Last Supper,” where a flaming, red-haired Mary Magdalene is portrayed at Jesus’ right side (or so say the specialists). (Note that the depiction has no goblet there at all, but 13 glasses instead). Mary Magdalene becomes for Da Vinci the literal receptacle of Jesus’ blood by which Da Vinci trys to tie the old concept of feminine goddess to the Christian dogma.
In poetic lines, the Crusades were not really after the cup that gives immortality but the quest for the sacred feminine, the deep mystical union of man and woman, which makes man complete and allows him to see God.
Reading the Potter Code
Now let us analyze the exciting parallels we find in these myths with the Harry Potter story as a whole.
1) Nicolas Flamel, inventor of the Philosopher’s Stone, is, in an indirect way, the protagonist of the first book of the Harry Potter series. As shown by the secret dossiers, Flamel was a Grand Master of the very Order of Sion mentioned earlier (from 1398-1418), and the man responsible for keeping the Holy Grail from evil hands during these years. According to PS/SS, he was born in 1360, and by the time we are told he has decided to stop drinking the potion to make him immortal, he has turned 666 years old. This number, very well known for its Christian meaning, already gives us a clue that the series has a religious connotation to it.
2) Voldemort is a representation of an incomplete man, looking for things in his desperate search for balance: power and immortality above all. (–>A misguided quest for the Holy Grail).
3) During this search Lily Potter — also a woman of flaming, red hair like Mary Magdalene as portrayed in “The Last Supper” — and her child are targeted by Voldemort as his last obstacle to power and immortality. Lily becomes here the sacred feminine, the Grail and the mother of an offspring marked before birth. She ends up giving the gift of life to her child again and backfires onto unworthy Voldemort with an ancient magic (–> The Holy grail backfires on unworthy hands).
4)Harry, being in fact the allegory for Jesus Himself, is targeted by an evil, powerful man who is advised of his birth by prophetic means (–> As in Jesus’ birth in the Gospels).
5) The Order of Sion (Order of the Phoenix) was created to protect the San Greal or family bloodline, i.e. Harry. Here let us remember that the phoenix is indeed a symbol of Christ. The original Order of the Phoenix, like that of the Templars, is practically destroyed by means of torture and murder, only to reappear later in scrictist secret.
6) If love is indeed the main topic of the series, as it has been often argued, the search of completeness is what moves Harry and Voldemort, aka Tom Riddle. Tom means the twin and provides more evidence proving the duality of the Harry-Voldemort connection. It is what will balance them and make them complete, much like sacred love in the sacred feminine, a romantic union being the final climax of this epic story (–> the search for the Grail continues).
Here, we already have the figure of the sacred feminine intended for Harry in Hermione, the growing heroine representing the oldest concept of feminine essence (–> the keeper and source of wisdom and loving capacity).
7) A rather abundantly used symbol in the Potterverse, owls, are known to be a chthonic (2), or symbols of wisdom related to earth and the feminine. Receiving an O.W.L. is a mark of academic merit in the wizarding world.
8) The Goblet of Fire introduces a version of the original Holy Grail. Though the magical object could have taken any form, it takes the form of a goblet, like the Grail.
9) The Half-Blood Prince is again a reference to a bloodline, the main theme of the Holy Grail. Jesus is also known as the Prince of Peace.
10) An important piece of foreshadowing concerning Harrys Astronomy O.W.L. has been often spotted by fans and perfectly fits into this allegorical puzzle: Harry is looking for the sacred feminine, represented by the planet Venus. He fails over and over again in his endeavor and finally mislabeling it as Mars.
11) Also pointed out by many fans, the Ying-Yang, or feminine and masculine balance, is clearly an important element at the end of Order of The Phoenix where three boys and three girls join to fight the enemy.
12) Where did the name Lily come from? What could be its hidden meaning? Lily is in fact the English name for the French word Fleur de Lis, the flower which is used as the Order of Sions official devise and logo.
13) Why Harry Potter? Potter, as we all know, is a profession related to earth, another tie that joins him to the sacred feminine.
There are quite a few shocking parallels that can be found between the Holy Grail imagery and tradition and the Harry Potter series. Undoubtedly, the blood tie between Lily Potter and Harry is the main theme of this resemblance, in conjunction with Harry’s destiny: to find the sacred feminine as the means to succeed in the war with the dark shadow represented by Lord Voldemort.
If this is true, we can expect that romantic love will indeed be the turning point to the epic resolution of this ongoing saga. And the ultimate key to the sacred feminine, the keeper of the wisdom, would be none other than the wise and loving Hermione Granger.
I stayed true to what I wanted to write. This is my Holy Grail: that when I finish writing book seven, I can say — hand on heart — I didn’t change a thing.
–J.K. Rowling, January Magazine, October 2000
(1) This beautiful semblance and literary figure obviously does not support by any means any heretic views of the Holy Grail, even if J.K. Rowling took some elements from it (nor do I, being myself a traditional Catholic). It should be seen only as a layer of mythology in the series and taken with a grain of salt aside from the richness of symbolism it provides.
(2) In mythology, refers to the Underworld.