Harry Potter and the Tarot Cards

by Isabelle "Fairy Tell"


Minor Arcana

The Tarot’s minor arcana are divided into four different houses: Wands (or Rods), Pentacles (or Coins), Swords and Cups. Each suit contains 14 cards: the Ace, all the numbers from 2 to 10 and the four Court Cards: Page, Knight, Queen and King.

We’ll go into further details later, but the significance of the four houses (linked with Potterverse) can be pictured as follows:

 

House

Wands

Pentacles

Swords

Cups

Traditional

Diamonds

Clubs

Spades

Hearts

Element

Fire

Earth

Air

Water

Compass

South

North

East

West

Season

Summer

Winter

Spring

Autumn

Daytime

Noon

Midnight

Sunrise

Sunset

Zodiac

Aries, Lion, Sagittarius

Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo

Libra, Aquarius, Gemini

Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

Social analogy

Serfs, Peasants

Merchants, Artisans

Warriors, Nobility

Clergy

World Type

Raw energy

Physical and material

Intellect and mind

Emotions and psyche

Key words

Movement, energy, passion, initiation, project, impulse, transcendence, purification, desire, risk taking

Health, home, work, money, material goods, wealth, crafts, savoir-faire, doing, realisation, actualisation

Mind, wisdom, knowledge, curiosity, agility, clarity of mind

Emotions, love, feelings, arts, visions, poetry, music altruism, psychic gifts, sacrifice, influence, joy, happiness, close relationships

Equilibrium

Enthusiasm, initiative, creativity, ambition, courage, indulgence, giving assistance

Generosity, sharing, stability, wise management, forethought, comfort, material well-being, trust, common sense, practical sense

Intelligence, vivacity, cooperation, mutual aid, inventiveness, poetry

Sensitiveness, comprehension, compassion, intuition, imagination, being romantic

Maladjustment

Fanatics, destruction, imprudence, thoughtlessness, rashness

Greed, egotism, despise of poverty, utilitarian, conservatism

Animosity, nervousness, superficiality, arrogance, coldness, distance

Unstable temper, addictions, extreme emotions, emotional blackmail, manipulation, deviance, jealousy

 
Harry Potter

Gryffindor

Hufflepuff

Ravenclaw

Slytherin

Animal

Griffin (Lion)

Badger

Eagle

Snake

Animal Colour

Gold

Black (iron, lead ?)

Copper

Silver (quick-silver ?)

Background

Red (= fire)

Yellow (= earth)

Blue (= air)

Green (= water)

Magic tool

Wand

Galleon

Quill

Cauldron

“Authorized” pet

Cats

Rats

Owls

Toads

Quality requested

Courage

Patience

Intelligence

Pure Blood

Magical creatures (e.g.)

Centaurs

Goblins

Phoenix / Dragons

Merpeople

 

Gryffindor and the Wands

The Wands symbolize enthusiasm and energy, whether it refers to ambition, creativity or new ideas. This suit is less concerned with the purpose of energy than with its source. What matters here is the reason why this particular energy is there or not, and in what quantity.

Indeed, the Wands use the energy of life itself, the energy behind our birth, growth and death. Sometimes seen as sunlight, sometimes seen as atomic energy, life’s primal force is a tremendous shape shifter even though it finally has only one form. This is the reason why fire is traditionally considered to be the closest element to the Prime Principle (whatever belief you choose to put behind these words): it has not yet taken an entirely material form.

Like water, fire is a vector of transfiguration and thus refers to both creation and destruction. A typical “fire initiation” would be to go through different ordeals. These challenges would be here to help us learn what should be destroyed or what would be obsolete in order for new situations to take place. A “baptism by fire” is seldom pleasant but it is always very efficient. Indeed, it’s the quickest way to go through a mental block.

Who in Potterverse is considered quick to act (even rash) and quite capable of handling troubles and hardships? Gryffindors, of course.
Didn’t the Sorting Hat itself say:

“You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart”

It isn’t only Harry or the Trio we are talking about here but the entire House. The Weasleys, the Marauders, the Longbottoms, Minerva McGonagall, Albus Dumbledore… they all fit in. I believe they have all been more or less rash when they were young (those who are still young now obviously still hold that character trait quite dear) and if adulthood has settled them down, they certainly remain resolute, hold on to their principle and are ready to make sure justice is done. (By the way, as opposed to the common sense justice which belongs to the Pentacles (Hufflepuffs), Gryffindor’s sense of justice is attuned to divine justice. Isn’t their Head of House, Minerva McGonagall, named according to the Roman Goddess of War and Reason?)

Gryffindors are perfect at concentrating energy and acting on impulse. And the reason they act is because they believe it’s the right thing to do according to their set of values (just like when Harry set out for Sirius at the Ministry of Magic…). Of course, this chivalrous rashness can sometimes be a mistake. Gryffindor’s ghost Nearly-Headless-Nick would certainly agree that fire is not easily controlled. 

Apart from the psychological characterization of the Gryffindor House, other hints lead us to this Gryffindor-Wands-Fire analogy.

First, the background colour of their shield is red. Red is indeed used to represent fire. It is also the colour of the first chakra, the root chakra. It could be puzzling to see immaterial fire associated with our first link to the earth but, in fact, it is quite logical. Fire needs material to feed on; fire’s power needs material for its expression to be the clearest. Fire can only be aroused in those who feel strongly and passionately alive (or want to feel that way). The Weasleys, Sirius or Harry certainly do seem very alive to me, very passionate. And look at Neville, once he got out of his shell. Fire (in the form of anger) was pushing him beyond his usual limits, beyond his own beliefs about himself.

The second Gryffindor colour is gold. Gold stands for the sun. This is important because where the Moon (attuned to silver) only reflects the light, the sun emits it and indeed creates it. Thus, gold is a masculine, solar and active metal. When we will reach the Slytherin part, we will see that their characterization is almost the exact opposite of Gryffindor. I’m therefore not surprised Salazar and Godric were close friends to begin with: both of them had access to the raw power of this earth, yet in a different and totally complementary way. Being precisely opposite counterparts, they must (or could) have achieved tremendous things together. I wonder what separated them…   

The last hint concerning Gryffindors’ role in a Tarot perspective lies in their animal emblem and in their name. The lion is another solar symbol, even referred to as the King of Animals. Still better is the name of this House. Because fire and energy are non-corporeal, the Hogwarts House of fire is named from a mythical creature: a Griffin, a Golden Griffin actually (in French, Gryffindor can be read as “Gryffon d’or” or Golden Griffin, and it has indeed been translated that way). Finally, a Griffin conveys within itself the concepts of strength, courage, rashness and impetuosity. A Centaur (particularly when it’s a Sagittarius) could also convey the same images of strength, fierceness, quick mobility, beauty and fire. I wonder what other roles they are destined to play in book 7…

Considering all this, which magical tool would be the more appropriate for Gryffindor? Unsurprisingly, a wand. I know, wands are used by all wizards but I still believe Gryffindor is best represented with this particular tool, first of all, and obviously, because the Gryffindors are linked to the Wands suit. But it is not only a matter of semantics. Both in Potterverse and traditionally, a wand is used to focus and amplify raw energy according to one’s will. Without a wand, the energy goes wild and becomes uncontrollable (e.g. wizard children). This is because it acts like an emitting condenser. Without it, it is very difficult to focus and tame the thaumic energy. All this is consistent with what we know about Wands and the Gryffindors.

 

Hufflepuff and the Pentacles

The Pentacles suit is linked to the Earth element. With the Earth comes nature’s growth cycle: a seed planted in autumn will only bear its fruits during the next summer. In between, patience, faith, work and steadiness of mind will be needed.

On a humane level, the Pentacles refer to the sense of comfort, to the pleasure one can take in the mundane reality, to the satisfaction given by the completion of good work and, therefore, to the time necessary for realizing things. This is the suit of health, home, material possessions, money, construction and wealth (whether it be financial, material or linked with savoir-faire).

The “pentacle people” are generally thought of as practical, hard workers, stay-at-home, well off and a bit conservative. Because they need to be reassured concerning their financial security, they usually make very good financial managers, able to make their capital bring rewards without depriving themselves of their daily comfort.

Who is unafraid of toil in Potterverse? The Hufflepuffs, of course. The first Sorting Hat song we know of stated this fact precisely:

“You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil”

We know from the Sorting Hat that the Hufflepuffs are patient and hard-working. We know they stick to their values and that they are motivated by a sense of natural justice. This goes with the sense of a mundane harmony the Pentacles expect in their life. In a way, life should look like a well tilled garden to them. Justice and loyalty are part of this garden.

A few other things make one think of Hufflepuff as the Pentacles suit.

Firstly, their animal is a badger. This is a hard-working animal capable of forcing its way through the soil (this represents the grounding energy the Pentacles bring to this world). This also means he builds relentlessly. And this can also be very badgering of course… I believe this corresponds to the Hufflepuffs too because these loyal and conservative types can also be stubborn sometimes. And stubbornness is another characteristic of the Pentacles. Yet, the fact that the badger creates subterranean tunnels could mean the Hufflepuffs (as a House) understand the meaning of time. Hidden resources can be found in the soil, just as I bet hidden resources can be found in the Hufflepuffs themselves.

Secondly, their Head of House is totally consistent with the Earth element. She’s unsophisticated, seems practical (probably down-to-earth) and teaches… Herbology! In the HBP, we discover that she is named Pomona Sprout. “Sprout” in itself refers both to the vegetal world and to the idea of growing / producing. As for “ Pomona ”, she is the Latin Goddess of fruits. Pomona doesn’t like wild nature so much as a tamed garden. Isn’t this wonderful considering that she teaches in greenhouses?

Even Hufflepuff’s ghost is consistent with the pentacle analogy. As a monk, the Fat Friar had probably promised chastity, obedience and poverty. Yet, he has not lived an ascetic life. I therefore induced that he stands for a practical, honest, kind and down-to-earth (though religious) person.

And thirdly, the colours of Hufflepuff also prove to be interesting: yellow and black. In Asia , yellow (along with ochre and brown) indeed refer to the Earth element. These are the colours the soil can take. As for black, I tend to think it stands for a metal. First I thought of iron because of its significance in mythology and fairy tales. But the more I think of it, the more I’m convinced it’s lead. Talking about hidden resources…

If Hufflepuff stands for the Pentacles, what would then be their emblem, their Ace? Knuts, Sickles and Galleons are used in the material wizarding world. Wizarding money holds the wizarding economy together. It therefore acts as a pentacle. And what better object could symbolize wealth and matter than a coin?

It’s unfortunate for this essay that Helga Hufflepuff was associated with a cup while Salazar Slytherin was associated with a locket. We can always manage by saying that a locket could be seen as an emotional object since it generally contains the photograph (or something similar, depending upon the period of time) of a loved one whereas Helga’s Cup could be seen as a cornucopia. It’s not as satisfactory but, after all, these are only analogies. Where would be the fun if everything matched perfectly? And anyway, Godric’s emblem was a sword…

 

Ravenclaw and the Swords

Traditionally, the Swords represent the intellect and are linked to the Air element. The reason is quite simple: because of its agility and its rapidity, the mind represents the Air element. The mind (like air) can be as soothing as a fresh breeze or as cutting as a metallic sword. Because the Swords generally imply a change in one’s ideas or intellectual concepts, they are commonly seen as a bad omen. This is due to the fact that questioning our beliefs can sometimes be very painful. Yet, it’s necessary and even though the slashing remedy of the Swords can be quite brutal, it’s seldom unconsidered. The Swords are also linked with the air element because of their communication abilities. Air can spread a seed, an odour and all sorts on particles very quickly. Communication, at its best, is indeed light, easy and fast.

Now, which house in the Potterverse relies on intellect, knowledge and rationality to solve a problem? Ravenclaw.

And their Head of House is a shrewd and quick little man (due to his goblin parentage). When the Trio was learning the Accio spell in book 4, he was even pictured zooming in the air…

Their emblem includes a bird of prey, an animal which symbolizes a shrewd mind very well. Their colours, blue and copper, reinforce that fact. Blue refers to the sky itself while copper is a highly conductive metal (this could stand for the way ideas can be spread quickly across a territory or this could simply stand for the brain’s neuro-chemical functioning).

What would therefore be Ravenclaw’s emblem, Ravenclaw’s Ace? A Quill. First of all, a quill is a feather and thus refers to the Air element. Furthermore, a quill is an intellectual tool: it is used to communicate, to write, to learn and to convey knowledge or thoughts. Finally, a quill can be a cutting weapon, whether this is to be intended metaphorically (such as speech can be a weapon) or quite genuinely (Umbridge’s Quill).

 

Slytherin and the Cups

In resonance with the Grail, the Cups are related to the concept of endless love and universal compassion. A cup is made to contain, to receive and to keep until needed. Then it will quench your thirst. The Cups are like the immense reservoir of divine love and forgiveness everybody has access to, provided they ask. Because of the special water they contain (water which nourishes all of Creation) and because love flows from them like a river, the Cups are attuned to the Water element.

And which Hogwarts House do we have left to fill in? Slytherin! Now, this is particularly interesting because until now, Slytherin House has shown no sign whatsoever of compassion, empathy, or love. On the contrary, this House seems to be solely based on negative feelings and negative emotions: jealousy, envy, resentment, search for domination, grudges, sadness, loneliness, disdain, long-lasting hatred, and so on. Yet, in a very twisted way, Slytherin really stands for the Water element. Why? First, of all the Houses of Hogwarts, Slytherin is the one which acts the most on emotions and feelings (ugly feelings, but feelings nonetheless). Gryffindor acts on rashness, instinct and impetuosity. Their motives are portrayed as clear and fiery. Slytherin motives are much more subterranean, much deeper, much more blurred. The shining river Slytherin should be has turned into what Tolkien would refer as the Dead Marshes. Their water stinks, rots and poisons but it’s water nonetheless. This is even consistent with Slytherin’s green colour. In itself, green is a very important colour. Firstly, this colour tells us our plants are alive. It’s the colour of living nature. Secondly, green is the colour linked with the heart chakra, the one through which universal love can flow. Thirdly, green can indeed be the colour of water. Sometimes, green water is perfectly healthy. Sometimes… it’s the warning of a rotten marsh!

What would then be Slytherin’s Ace? The cauldron, of course. Its shape and use reminds us of the Cups. Furthermore, a cauldron can be used to brew potions (liquid) which can cure or injure (poison). And Potions is indeed the accounted expertise of Slytherin’s Head of House: Severus Snape (we will come to him later). What else can we find out about the Cups’ Cauldron? Well, as I have said, the emblem of this suit is linked to the Holy Grail. What does the Holy Grail contain? Blood. Christ’s blood. Pure blood… Does this ring a bell? Slytherin has totally lost touch with the primary significance of this meaning of blood. Yet, it remains important for them because it’s still part of them. The only way to keep it was to take it on the very mundane level of genealogy, depriving it of all its meaning.

The notion of blood even appears in Slytherin’s ghost: the Bloody Baron. Considering the way his temper is described by the other ghosts, I’ve always suspected him to have killed his wife. I do not have any canon evidence for this but it just seems logical somehow. I only know the perversion could not possibly have been greater.

The colours and the animal emblem of Slytherin House appear to be as much twisted as their tool emblem. As a colour, silver represents the counterbalance of gold. Where gold is solar, masculine and acts like an emitter (just as a wand emits energy by focusing it), silver is lunar, feminine and receptive (just as a cauldron receives and allows transformations). I know that some HP-fans consider Potions to be essentially feminine. It is indeed traditionally linked with the imagery of the sorceress (witch).

Silver could also be quicksilver. This liquid metal sounds great for a glistening snake. Being almost totally ignorant of Alchemy, I must confess I would be delighted to know if this could bear a special significance.

As for the green colour, we have seen it previously.

What about the Snake? Well, firstly, the snake we see on the Hogwarts shield is an erect snake: it stands up. It doesn’t sneak, or crawl, or creep. The rising snake is a common spiritual image and has many names: the Kundalini, Hermes’ Caduceus, and the King Cobra protecting Buddha while he was experiencing Enlightenment. All those snakes are very powerful images of spiritual illumination. But it’s true these symbols are not ethereal ones in the sense that with those snakes comes the idea of a controlled primal force. They speak of the delicate achievement consisting of mastering raw energy instead of letting raw energy master you (Dark magic). It’s a path every human being must walk one day or another if he wants to grow. It’s similar to learning the difference between potency and power. The trick is to remain perfectly balanced. Salazar Slytherin clearly failed there.

And lastly, what kind of a person do we have now as the current Head of Slytherin? First of all, we have a man; a man who has been made Head of a feminine house while a woman has been made Head of the opposite masculine house of Gryffindor (and what a woman!) He is a man who dresses in black, likes darkness, and seems to be attuned to the night; someone who considers Potions to be an incredibly refined, delicate and subtle science and who describes DADA in a very sensual and caressing voice. A lover’s voice. He is someone who probably has been emotionally very deprived and who probably hasn’t witnessed many positive feelings of love in his childhood. To the contrary, he broods, survives and keeps his sanity by cultivating negative feelings. His temper runs very deep. This sort of scary type perfectly matches the negative side of the Cups.

Finally, the Head of Slytherin is a man gifted in both Legilimency and Occlumency. Those are a Potterverse version of what would be called psychic abilities in our world. And, as the table above tells us, psychic abilities are indeed a gift of the Cups.

Some think Severus Snape is the equivalent of The Alchemical Wedding’s black king who redeemed himself by sacrificing himself willingly. Well, I’m curious to know what form this redemption will take (I agree with this analogy) and, furthermore, what consequences this will have on Slytherin House. Could it be that Snape’s actions will (even if unintentionally) start to restore Slytherin House to what it should be according to the Tarot’s suits?

 

Post HBP additional:

Odds are very high on Severus Snape right now. We’ve actually seen he is capable of compassion (Draco, possibly Narcissa), we know he has Albus’ trust completely and we were confirmed in our appraisal that he really does have a scary temper. More than ever, I think Severus Snape is a man of emotions. Yet… his role has never been open to interpretation so much. Utmost treachery? Unwavering loyalty? Cowardice? Courage? Lust for power? Extreme sense of duty? I would really love to visit JKR’s mind on this one.

As for the alchemical analogy between the Black King and Severus Snape, I don’t think it’s been ruined by this last piece of canon. He might still (and possibly unwillingly somehow) give his life to save Harry’s. Who knows what has transpired between Albus and him? As for the Black King’s old frail spouse, I’ve suggested once it could be Snape’s mother. Now, I’m not suggesting Snape married his mother, of course. I’m merely saying that his mother might well be old and frail. Considering all she apparently went through with Tobias Snape, it wouldn’t be surprising. She did not appear to have used her magical abilities against her husband, even though (or precisely because) she loved her son. This would be consistent with the pride Severus still takes in being the Half-Blood Prince. Deep down, he relates to his mother’s lineage. Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was still a strong connection between the.

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