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Harry Potter's Invitation to the World

by Vickie Ewell


Chapter 25 – The Sorting Hat
(HP Chapter 7)

The Great Hall was lit with thousands of candles floating in the air. A candle flame represents the Alchemical process of turning darkness into light, selfishness into love, and iron into gold. It also symbolizes the illumination available to the students who choose to seek after it.

The candles floated over the top of four long tables that separated each house’s students from the other houses. The tables called to mind how we separate ourselves into various groups, and how those groups further separate themselves from other groups. Separation is often an attempt to make ourselves appear different from others, but the independence eventually grows into an attitude, belief, or demand that others should think, believe, or be different from what they are.

The tables were set with golden plates and goblets, reminding us that if we want to become gold ourselves, what we put into our mind and belly matters. The eye in our hearts needs constant reminding that the goal is to take upon ourselves the glory of God.

At the top of the hall was another long table where the teachers were sitting. This made me visualize four crosses connected at the top with a long, horizontal teacher’s table. Professor McGonagall led the first year students up to the table where they stood in a line facing the other students. The teachers were sitting behind them. Although the students began their journey as one, Hogwarts was now going to separate them into family groups. This is how love begins. We learn to love those within our families before we learn to love others. .

Harry could see ghosts dotted among the pale-faced students, and when he looked up to avoid their staring faces, the ceiling was velvety black and dotted with stars. Hermione whispered that the ceiling had been bewitched to make it look like the sky outside – she’d read that in one of her books. To Harry, it looked real. In fact, he found it difficult to believe there was a ceiling there.

This seemed to be a caution against jumping to conclusions and judging too harshly. Harry was unable to see the ceiling, yet we know it is there. There will be other things that Harry believes, which are not what they appear to be either.

Professor McGonagall placed a four-legged stool in front of the students. The legs of the stool represent the four Hogwarts’ houses. On top of the stool, she placed a patched, frayed, and dirty Wizard’s hat. Harry tells us that Aunt Petunia wouldn’t have let a hat like that in the house. Although Harry was grateful to be at Hogwarts, he’s having trouble separating himself from the Dursleys.

The separation into houses and the adoption of a new step family calls to mind the need for us to leave behind the attitudes, beliefs, and suggestions we have received from our own families.

Harry noticed that everyone in the hall was staring at the hat, so he stared too. Often, in the beginning of our journey, we do a lot of following. Harry gave the hat his undivided attention. During this intense focus, there was complete silence. This collective attention brought the hat to life. It twitched, opened its mouth, and began to sing.

He told the students they shouldn’t judge according to what they see, and neither should we. The students will place him on their heads. He will look inside their mind and tell them where they ought to be. It also explained the criteria he will use for judgment.

Griffindore’s bravery, daring, nerve, and chivalry set them apart from the other houses. This was what characterized King Arthur’s knights.

Hufflepuff students were just, loyal, patient, true, and not afraid of work. They are the ones who believe you get ahead by working hard, rather than faith.

Ravenclaws have a ready mind, are witty, and love learning. They put their faith in earthly knowledge and act accordingly.

Slytherins are said to be cunning individuals who will use any means to achieve their goals. While this is true, what the hat doesn’t tell us is that a Slytherin’s heart focuses on family ties and bloodlines.

Ron suddenly realized that putting on the hat was all they have to do. “I’ll kill Fred, he was going on about wrestling a troll.” Fred’s comments are not as far off as Ron believes. So far, he has experienced discomfort, and the students do have to deal with a troll – just not during the sorting process.

Harry was glad he didn’t have to cast a spell, but he still felt uncomfortable that the sorting took place with everyone watching. Harry’s insecurities interfere with his guess as to where the hat might place him. He doesn’t see any of the traits that belong to the four houses within himself. His Shadow was causing him serious pain. While our Shadow holds all of the dark parts of ourselves that we are not ready to face, it also holds our greatest light.

Professor McGonagall began calling names. As the hat sorted the students, those from the chosen house cheered and clapped. The whole thing reminded Harry of his previous school and what he felt like when team members were picked during gym class. He had always been the last one chosen. He also noticed that sometimes the hat choose quickly, but sometimes it took a while to decide. That had him worried. .

As the hat assigned Hermione and Neville to Griffindore and Draco to Slytherin, Harry couldn’t help but wonder if the hat would even be able to place him. He imagined the possibility of sitting there with the hat on his head, and the hat saying nothing. He imagined Professor McGonagall removing the hat and telling him there had been a mistake. He would have to go back to the Dursleys. His shadow side was working overtime to keep his strongest positive traits hidden beneath the mountains of self-doubt and insecurity.

When his time finally came, the hat dropped completely over Harry’s eyes. It seemed to magnify his blindness because all Harry could see was darkness, the absence of light. Silently, he waited for his doom.

Then suddenly he heard a small audible voice speak into his ear. “Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind either. There’s talent, oh my goodness, yes – and a thirst to prove yourself, now that’s interesting…. So where shall I put you?”

We learn that the long pauses we saw from outside the hat experience was not wordless pauses for the student being sorted. When wearing the hat, the student can audibly hear what the hat was saying.

The sorting hat didn’t reveal what was interesting about Harry, because Harry makes a choice: “Not Slytherin, not Slytherin.” The hat wasn’t surprised. Undoubtedly, he saw Slytherin traits inside of Harry. In fact, Slytherin was where the hat was thinking of placing Harry when Harry interrupted him. Harry does have a streak of cunning that will cause him to break the rules to achieve his goals of Liberation. He does desire a family above all else.

So the hat asked Harry if he was sure. “You could be great, you know, it’s all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that –“ But Harry didn’t change his mind. He does not want to join the Slytherin family. He rejected the hat’s judgment of him, and stood firm. “No?” the hat asked. “Well, if you’re sure – better be Gryffindor!” The hat respected Harry’s choice above his own.

Harry walked to the Gryffindor table. He was so relieved that the hat hadn’t subjected him to Slytherin that he didn’t notice he was getting the loudest cheers above everyone else

Percy stood up and shook his hand vigorously, the Weasley twins started yelling: “We’ve got Potter,” and Hagrid at the High Table gave the “thumbs up” sign. Dumbledore was also sitting at the High Table in a large gold chair, his silver hair shining as brightly as the ghosts. There was no one else in the room that shone as brightly as Dumbledore did – not even Hagrid.