Harry Potter and the Savior King

by Michelle B.

The Savior King is known by many names: the sun god, the Sun King, the Son of God, the Savior, the Messiah, the Good Shepard, the Sacrificial Lamb, the Divine King (1), etc. Those of you who think you are unfamiliar with this mythological character are mistaken. This basic story line has been common to so many famous personages it is ubiquitous. Examples include King Amenhotep III of Egypt (1538-1501 BCE), Egyptian god Horus, Greek god Dionysius, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus Christ, and King Arthur. The particulars of the story sometimes vary, but the Harry Potter story contains enough of them for this to be beyond coincidence. Along with the plot elements, Rowling reinforces the importance of this archetype in the series with character names and other symbols.

In many cases, as with Harry Potter, the story can be said to begin with a prophecy. This prophecy told of a child that was to be born that was so powerful that it would be the only one who could rid the world of the Evil which had come to power. As an infant he is recognized by powerful mages to be The One (couldn’’t the meeting of Dumbledore, McGonagall and Hagrid be seen as reflective of the Three Magi?). In response to this threat, Evil sets out to destroy the child through some variant of the “Slaughter of the Innocents.” He is saved through magical protection, in this case through his mother’’s blood sacrifice. The child Messiah must be protected, so he is sent away to be brought up in safety and secret until he is of age. In Harry’s case, “of age” is eleven years old, and the number 11 is one with important numerological significance. He is then presented to the scholars to be educated and is found to be exceptionally gifted. Small and seemingly common though he is, he repeatedly faces great foes and is inevitably victorious. In the end, he must either conquer the Evil force or be sacrificed for his people.

This is the classic plot of the archetypal story of the Saviour King. The line between goddess/god and Queen/King is hard to interpret when looking at ancient history; every political leader would be said to be acting as a deity, were often called by the names of the goddess/god, which they were considered to embody. In the cultures of Europe and Asia of ancient times, prior to the laws of primogeniture, Kingship was not patrilineal. It was granted based on symbolic marriage to the Queen as goddess, through the hieros gamos, translated “holy matrimony.” Only by displaying worth and virility through either victory in battle or success in a symbolic trial would he be chosen by the Queen. In order to become King, the Prince first had to slay some dragons. In some cases the “dragons” were real physical enemies, in other cases these were thinly veiled sexual metaphors. This is why so many fairy tales involve princes setting out to “find their fortunes” in the guise of far-off Princesses instead of simply marrying some girl of their own kingdom. The word “fortune” here connotes the Roman triple goddess of Fate. She had many titles prefixed “Fortuna” including Fortuna Augusti, the “foundation of the Emperor’’s right to rule” (2). However, the King was the physical manifestation of the sun god and thus his rule must end in sacrifice — physical or symbolic. In the pagan European world, the sun god was sacrificed at the end of summer to be reborn every spring, saving the people from an endless deadly winter. The period of his rule was thus often annual; the month of March was a common end, which is why the Ides of March was a dangerous time for Kings (3). In any case, it was only through death and subsequent rebirth that the King truly became a god.

The surname Potter may well have been chosen for it’s commonality as is claimed. However, there is a recurring theme in many cultures of god/goddess as a Potter, having made human beings out of clay. In the ancient world, pottery was a craft of high importance, as everything from vessels keeping and transporting food and water to sacred idols were made of clay. The first man in Hebrew mythology is called Adam, from adamah meaning “female clay” or “female earth,” a euphemism for menstrual blood. The Sumero-Babylonian goddess Aruru/Ishtar/Inanna (etc.) was called the Potter based on the same clay creation story. The Indian goddess Kali made the first man out of clay so her people were called Aryans, meaning “people of clay.” This word was falsely appropriated by white-supremacists along with the swastika, an ancient symbol of fire and, indeed, the lightening bolt.

The lightening bolt scar that would “mark him as (Voldemort’’s) equal” is another part of the story fundamentalists like to point out. This is not the “mark of the Devil,” but a long-time symbol of male virility and power. The fact that it has been associated with Lucifer is only because “Lucifer” was also a “god” before he was a devil. Lucifer means “‘Light-bringer,’ Latin title for the Morning Star god who announced the daily birth of the sun” (4). The lightening-bolt was also held by the Greek gods Zeus and Dionysius, the Roman Jupiter, the Vedic god Agni (Kali’s consort), the Celtic god Lanceor (who became Sir Lancelot), and the Viking god Thor. The “Lance,” the spear, and the lightning bolt were interchangeable, explicitly phallic symbols in these stories.

Harry’’s mother’s name, we find out, was Lily Evans. Among other things, the lily represents tenderness, purity, love and motherhood. The Greek goddess Hera created lilies when she breastfed her son and caused milk to fall from the sky. Earlier associated with virginity and Lilith (the Sumero-Babylonian goddess of creation and Biblical Apocrypha bad girl), it came to be seen as representing the Virgin Birth. It is thus often found in images of the Virgin Mary. The Mary(s) of Christianity are believed by many to be the representations of the goddess, the female deity in a form that could be worshipped without persecution by the Church. As in ancient traditions of kingship the king is selected by the goddess, she gives birth to the hero (5) and also bestows on him magical power. Thetis dips Achilles in the river Styx to give him his powers, the Lady of the Lake gave Arthur Excalibur, Lily Evans gives her son Harry magical protection and part of Voldemort’’s powers through her incredibly powerful love for him.

Albus Dumbledore is the powerful mage who, like Merlin, becomes a Father/god figure for Harry. The name Albus is said to be associated with “whiteness,” and therefore goodness, a dualism which is in my opinion one of the most unfortunate themes in the series. As the word El is a Semitic term for any god or divinity, so is its variant Al, such as in the Moslem Allah. The Christian St. Alban is probably appropriated from one of the names of the British goddess, Albion or “White Moon.”

(1, 2, 4) All mythological references taken from Barbara G. Walker, The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.

(3) As in Shakespeare’’s Julius Caesar.

(5) The very word “hero” is derived from the Greek term for a man who was sacrificed to the goddess Hera, another ancient example of the divine savior king. (see 1)