Spinner’s End: Horcruxes and the Tarot
Immediately upon reading HBP, I noticed something that hadn’t really leapt out at me in the previous HP books: references to the Tarot. I am not an expert on the Tarot, but I have explored it a bit. I think that there are definite connections between some Tarot images and some of the clues and ideas in HBP – especially the Horcruxes. This article will provide a simplified synopsis of the Tarot (any useful look at Tarot is a complex analysis), and some hypotheses about how the imagery may be used in HBP.
The Tarot Deck
The Tarot is a pictorial system of communication and exploration of the human condition. There are 22 cards which make up the Major Arcana; these represent cosmic forces that affect human development and spiritual awakening. The Minor Arcana represent human conditions on the level of life challenges, attitudes and situations. There are 56 cards in the Minor Arcana, and they correspond to the four suits of cards in a modern playing deck: Pentacles (Diamonds), Cups (Hearts), Swords (Spades) and Wands (Clubs). Like many tools that involve esoteric and cosmic thought, Tarot has been corrupted by misuse and misunderstanding until much of what we think we know about it today is barely recognizable as being related to its probable origins.
We don’t know much about its history, but it is said that Tarot was brought to Europe by bands of gypsies traveling from the mysterious East. Before that, many theories abound about its origins as a great teaching from Atlantis, Ancient Egypt and other great civilizations.
It is often used as a means of “Fortune Telling” (picture Sybil Trelawney at her flamboyant best), much to the annoyance of those who see it as a far more universal and spiritual pursuit (insert a disdainful Firenze here).
The suits of the Minor Arcana can be described as follows:
Pentacles: the physical plane and our material concerns; human survival and manifestation of ideas; the tangible things in our lives.
Cups: the emotional plane and our internal reactions to life’s adventures; the human heart and our Divine potential.
Swords: the mental plane and our thought processes; how we handle challenges and difficulties; taking action; our attitudes about strife.
Wands: the spiritual plane and its application to our lives; our desire to grow and develop; our spark of creativity.
Tarot & Trelawney: Hints About Horcruxes?
This article will not attempt to explore or dispute whether or not Dumbledore’s assumptions about the Horcruxes were correct. We will assume for these purposes that they are, since many others have already given this much consideration. Let us assume that the Horcruxes are:
1. The Diary
2. The Ring
3. The Cup
4. The Locket
6. Voldemort Himself
7. The Mystery Horcrux (Ravenclaw’s or Gryffindor’s)
HBP makes several references that could easily be associated with the Tarot. Professor Trelawney is the one who sprinkles the idea throughout the book. I’ll grant you, Professor Trelawney is hardly the most reliable source of information we have. I think that may be part of the device. We are trained to dismiss her ramblings as readily as Harry does. Much of the time, this is the best possible course we could take. However, there have been exceptions, and her mutterings over cartomancy may be another.
In HBP she wanders through the castle with a deck of cards (and bottles of sherry…). I believe that this is not an ordinary playing deck, but a Tarot deck. She mentions several cards from the suit of Spades (Swords) and then the Lightning-Struck Tower. The Spades could be any deck of cards, but the presence of the Tower indicates a Tarot deck.
The Lightning Struck Tower
The Tower in the Tarot has special significance. It is the sixteenth card of the Major Arcana. Interesting, since Harry is sixteen at the time that it comes into play in the books. In virtually all the decks, The Tower is depicted very much like the high, astronomy tower in the HP books: A tall, castle-like structure with parapets and high windows. It is being struck by lightning and set to fire. It is in the process of destruction. The Tower indicates an abrupt change, usually seen as catastrophic. It can be a severed relationship (Severus and Dumbledore? Harry and Dumbledore, through Dumbledore’s death?). The lightning and fire, though, is celestial fire – much like Phoenix fire. It is the kind of fire that creates transformation and regeneration: some necessary catastrophe in order to achieve something greater. The Tower means that something must be lost or destroyed in order to achieve the next level of enlightenment.
I would hope that Dumbledore’s death will have this sort of purpose. There are certainly regeneration symbols associated with Dumbledore, most especially the Phoenix. Whatever the reason for it, I believe that the fact that it took place in the Tower is significant, and suggests a rebirth of some kind for Harry.
Four Suits – Four Houses – Four Elements – Three Horcruxes?
The three Horcruxes that intrigue me most are the possible Founders’ artifacts.
In her recent interview with Emerson and Melissa, JKR said that she had the four elements in mind when she created the houses: Gryffindor/Fire; Ravenclaw/Air; Hufflepuff/Earth; and Slytherin/Water. The four suits of Tarot also correspond to the four elements: Wands/Fire; Swords/Air; Cups/Water; Pentacles/Earth. Here is where my theory falls apart a bit. If we look at the Horcruxes as representing suits of the Tarot, they don’t correlate in the way that Jo set up the four Hogwarts houses. Gryffindor and Ravenclaw are reversed, and Hufflepuff and Slytherin are reversed. So, I may be completely out to sea, but I think it’s worth exploring.
The obvious Sword in the HP series is Gryffindor’s sword, which Harry uses to kill the Basilisk in CoS. As Gryffindor’s, it would most likely not represent Air, as Swords do in Tarot, but Fire. However, it is significant in that it seems to be the only existing possession of Gryffindor’s (except the Sorting Hat) and Voldemort does not seem to have been successful in turning it into a Horcrux. It acts decisively and clearly, appearing to Harry when he has need and accomplishing the action at hand. It arrives as a powerful force in a valiant struggle – a time of great difficulty and strife. It is motivated by valor, to come where great Love and great Hatred are present and offer assured success. In short, it behaves like the Ace of Swords. I think that Voldemort really wanted Gryffindor’s sword for a Horcrux. I can imagine how angry and thwarted he felt when he had to leave without it. It was instrumental in helping Harry to destroy the first Horcrux, and I believe that it will come into play again.
There is a very straightforward example of a cup in HBP: Helga Hufflepuff’s Cup. Cups correspond to the element of Water in Tarot. Again, not what JKR has assigned to the House of Hufflepuff. Cups represent the emotional side of our nature, and our relationships with each other and our environment. The Ace of Cups represents abundance, contentment, renewal, productivity, beginnings and harmony. These qualities feel very “Hufflepuff” to me. Helga Hufflepuff seems to have been a woman I would like to have known. She seems far less concerned than most of us with outward appearance and what others will think. Loyalty is an integral part of relationships, and it is a quality exemplified by the House of Hufflepuff.
We know that at some point Voldemort stole Hufflepuff’s Cup, and we will assume, for now, that he made it into a Horcrux. So where is it?
I was shocked at the beginning of HBP when we heard in passing that Amelia Bones had been murdered. I had her pegged for some growing role in the story and felt more sadness at her loss than her brief appearance in the series probably warranted. Now, I look back and wonder if she might have had more significance than it now appears. Why was she targeted? Granted, she was a Ministry official, and Head of Magical Law Enforcement, so she was probably not popular with DE’s. I do wonder if there is more to it. Amelia’s niece and Harry’s classmate, Susan, is a Hufflepuff. We know that, often, House affiliations run in families. Amelia may well have been a Hufflepuff. The one subjective comment that we hear from someone who knows her comes from Tonks, who describes her as “Fair.” A central quality of a Hufflepuff. Could Amelia have somehow gotten possession of the Cup? Many of the Bones family seem to have been targets for Voldemort. Did one of them manage to get the Hufflepuff cup? It’s interesting that Fudge seems to think that Voldemort actually killed Amelia himself. Voldemort hasn’t come out of hiding for anything except trying to get to Harry and the Prophesy in OotP. Amelia must have been VERY important to him, if he did, indeed, attack her personally. What could be more important to Voldemort at the moment than protecting the scattered bits of his soul?
The Pentacle Horcrux is, I believe, the Locket. It is a Slytherin artifact. Pentacles represent Earth, and JKR says Slytherin represents Water, so, again, not an exact match. However, it fits for Pentacles to be represented by something gold, a piece of jewelry that signifies wealth (there is even an ornate S on the Locket, which looks a lot like a $). In Tarot the Pentacles are about the physical world and material plane of existence. They are about human survival, which is paramount to Voldemort. The Ace of Pentacles represents material and spiritual prosperity, abundance and wealth, and good fortune.
The best guess we have is that the Locket was stolen by Regulus and now resides somewhere in Number 12 Grimmauld Place. I think that even though it’s an obvious connection (to those of us who know the books practically by heart!), it is a logical place to start. Finding it rather easily might be necessary for Harry, so that he can make a start on what will be a very long quest. Besides, finding it isn’t the same as destroying it. No one at Grimmauld place was able to open the Locket before. It will be interesting to learn how it can be destroyed, how difficult it will prove to be and what Harry will learn along the way.
The final suit in the Tarot deck is Wands. Interesting – Wands… the single most essential tool for all witches and wizards. The suit of Wands corresponds with Fire in Tarot, and as such, should be the province of Gryffindor. However, if the Sword was the Gryffindor article of significance to the story, the missing artifact should come from the House of Ravenclaw. The Ace of Wands represents spiritual strength, a new enterprise, a journey, growth of understanding and creativity.
Could the missing artifact be Rowena Ravenclaw’s wand? I cannot think of a more appropriate object to represent the suit of Wands than a wand. And if it belonged to Rowena Ravenclaw (or, for that matter, to Godric Gryffindor), Voldemort would be salivating to get his hands on it. But where is it now?
I was saddened to hear of Ollivander’s disappearance in HBP. If anyone would know the whereabouts of a famous wand, one would think it would be the greatest wand maker in the wizarding world. Could his disappearance be Horcrux-related?
The other major murder we hear about is that of Emmeline Vance (which Snape very disturbingly takes credit for in the second chapter of HBP). We know nothing about Emmeline’s affiliations or background, so far as I remember. She is described as wearing an emerald green shawl, which is a Slytherin color, but McGonagall (an uber-Gryffindor) wears green all the time, so that probably isn’t significant. As far as I recall, she didn’t have relatives who have been mentioned. She could have been a Ravenclaw or a Gryffindor, in possession of the founder’s wand, could have been captured and murdered for it, but we have no way to know.
Any theories about that mystery Horcrux are based on little to no evidence and pure speculation. The murders and disappearances exposed at the beginning of HBP could be nothing more than a laying of groundwork to illustrate the dangerousness of the situation in the wizard world. However, I think that the presence of a Sword and a Cup, along with a very probable Pentacle, makes it a worthwhile quest to seek a significant Wand.
The Other Horcruxes
Nagini and Voldemort himself are the probable foes that Harry will have to meet after finding the other Horcruxes. Nagini is a daunting prospect, as she is very bonded to Voldemort and seems to take all direction and orders from him, even sustaining him with her milk before he regenerated a body for himself. However, if anyone in the Wizard World has a shot at it, it’s Harry. We are about to see more of Harry’s gift for Parseltongue, I believe, and I think it will aid him in his quest.
As to how to finally defeat Voldemort, I have no suggestions for our brave young hero at this point. I don’t begin to know what Jo has up her sleeve, and I don’t know that I want to. Whatever the ending, I am not of the camp that believes that Harry will have to die. Perhaps I’m a stubborn or sentimental fool, but I believe that the entire point of Harry’s journey is to overcome his enemies, within and without, and embrace the life and family that he so richly deserves. Though he has lost many loved ones and will probably lose more, I believe that he will have those left who love him, and whom he loves. I think Ginny will be among them. And together they will pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives, as human beings are meant to do.
Final Tarot Musings
The Seventh Card – The Chariot
Since there are seven books in the series, and seven is the number of completion, perhaps the seventh card in the Major Arcana might give us some clues as to what to expect in the next book. I am not suggesting that the entire series is based on the Tarot deck or that each book has a specific, numeric corollary, but I do find the definition for The Chariot card interesting and hopeful.
The Chariot represents the understanding and harmonizing of opposing forces to bring about an end to strife and difficulty. (Four Hogwarts Houses? Harry and Voldemort?) Personal effort and perseverance are keys to creating triumphant resolution to problems. (Quest? Horcruxes? The final battle?) Interestingly, it also can represent the integration of body and soul. (Voldemort and his Horcruxes? Scary thought…)
Though I don’t see Harry and Voldemort becoming mates (horror!), I do think that much of what Harry saw in Dumbledore’s pensieve in HBP created a spark of understanding in him about who Tom Riddle was, what he held dear, and how Lord Voldemort came to be. His ability to connect with Tom’s feelings and experiences in himself, as uncomfortable as it was for him, may go a long ways towards vanquishing the Dark Lord. I hope that the positive and triumphant implications of The Chariot card bode well for Harry’s success, survival and well-earned happiness.