Skulls, Poetry, and Crystal Balls: Who Is a Seer in “Crimes of Grindelwald”?
Although the plot of the Harry Potter series is based upon a prophecy that names Harry as the one to defeat Voldemort, most characters generally treat divination as a joke. Therefore, I was surprised that in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, divination of various kinds, many of which we’ve never seen before, plays an enormous role and is given a lot of credibility. We are introduced to three, maybe even four, genuine Seers, and most of the wizarding world seems to believe what they say without question.
First, a quick recap of the use of divination in Crimes of Grindelwald. Most wizards seem to have read The Predictions of Tycho Dodonus, a book of poetry that many believe makes a prophecy about Credence. Next, we have Grindelwald’s skull-hookah, which he uses to impressive effect during his rally to show visions of World War II. Both of these types of divination do not seem to be taught in Hogwarts classes (to be fair, Trelawney may enjoy death predictions, but she’s not dark enough to have students breathe out of skulls), but using skulls and poetry for predictions does have a long history in many different cultures. Third, we have Nicolas Flamel’s crystal ball, through which he gets a vision of death and destruction at the rally. Last, and most controversially, we might even get a prediction from Dumbledore. He says to Theseus, “If Grindelwald calls a rally, don’t try and break it up. Don’t let Travers send you in there” (CoG 145). Later, after Flamel sees his vision in the crystal ball, he says that what is happening is “Exactly what he said would happen. Grindelwald rallies tonight at the cemetery, and there will be death!” (CoG 193). I can only assume that the “he” in this sentence refers to Dumbledore, and it’s possible that Dumbledore predicted the events that unfold at Grindelwald’s rally.
All of these prophecies leave me with a myriad of questions. J.K. Rowling has confirmed that Grindelwald is in fact a Seer, but I wonder if he is able to See without the aid of his skull-hookah. Leta Lestrange sacrifices herself in order to destroy the skull-hookah, which suggests that Grindelwald may rely on the skull in order to make prophecies. It does seem in keeping with Grindelwald’s personality to collect powerful magical objects, like he does with the Elder Wand. However, it is also entirely possible that he always has the power to See the future but the skull allows him to share that vision with others, which makes it easier for him to manipulate them. If Grindelwald has always been a Seer, then he could have convinced young Dumbledore that he had visions of the two of them ruling together and being masters of death, and Dumbledore may have believed his lies.
Nicolas Flamel being a Seer also provides us with important insight. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I always thought it was a huge coincidence that Hagrid removes the stone on the same day that Quirrell tries to rob Gringotts. However, if Flamel is a Seer, then he may have predicted that someone would try to steal the stone on that day and that the stone would be safer at Hogwarts. He may even have Seen Harry’s involvement in saving the stone, which might explain why Dumbledore is so lax about the stone’s security.
My biggest question coming out of Crimes of Grindelwald is about Dumbledore’s view on divination. As I mentioned earlier in this article, it is possible that Dumbledore himself is a Seer of sorts, which would explain how he always seems to know everything that’s going on. However, it is also possible that Dumbledore simply understands Grindelwald well enough to know that he will manipulate the crowd to create death and chaos if the Aurors come to the rally. I personally like the idea that Dumbledore’s superior intellect and his skill at Legilimency allow him to “predict” the future, rather than any gift with prophecy. At the moment, we don’t have enough information to say either way.
The question I find more interesting at the moment is what Dumbledore’s attitude on divination is and how it has changed. Dumbledore tells Harry that “It was against my inclination to allow the subject of Divination to continue at all” (OotP 840). When I originally read this, I thought that it meant that Dumbledore, like Hermione, thought Divination to be a “very wooly” subject (PoA 111). After watching Crimes of Grindelwald, however, I realized that there probably was another explanation for why Dumbledore doesn’t want Divination to be a subject at Hogwarts. After his experiences with Grindelwald, he may have realized the danger of prophecies in the wrong hands, either from people lying or using their visions to manipulate others. Intriguingly, it’s also possible that Credence will show Dumbledore that prophecies depend on people’s choices, that people can choose to turn their backs on a prophecy. No matter what, I’m excited to see how the events of the next couple of movies cause Dumbledore to be wary of divination.