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Morgoth February 8th, 2007 9:32 am

Shamanism and the HP Connection
This is a new version of the Shamanism thread. Previous version can be found - here

The last thread dipped away from the topic. Obviously if possible it would be good if you all could link your theories with HP as much as possible. Slight deviations are fine if it goes towards emphasising the link to HP, but we have to draw the line where we see family-friendly rule being overlooked. I'll include ALL posts from the last thread, but kindly request that discussion not venture down avenues on female vulva or male phallus and other similar themes.

Here are posts from the earlier thread.

Barmy Codger:    

I can see the guard and Harry flying toward Grimmauld Place with 'Walking in the Air' blasting in their ears from their 'Wickermans', wizard MP3 players no doubt invented by the Weasley twins.

Originally Posted by Sulihawk
In many of the Native American tribes the shaman and medicine women were of one bloodline. ....Also there is allusion to seers running in bloodlines as with Prof. Trelawney.

Excellent points.

Originally Posted by Sulihawk
When Harry's unconscious self takes the journey on the eagle owl to see what Voldemort is up to he takes a shamanistic trip. What causes his trip?

When I suggested that Voldemort's true soul was in Harry, this was one of the things I wanted to examine by rereading the instances of Harry's spirit journeys. I want to consider whether or not they were Voldemort's spirit journeys instead. It's a flight of the spirit or soul. Harry's really strange form of kundalini -I mean the time when the urge rose in him to kill Dumbledore -suggested that something of Voldemort lay within Harry. We were led to think it was from the link formed between them, but I want to see if Harry's dreams can be viewed from the vantage point of Voldemort's soul. (His earliest, the flight on a motorcycle, will be hard to view this way, but I'm optimistic.) We were also told, or led to believe (another thing I want to review) that the visions of the corridor to the Department of Mysteries were planted in Harry's mind. At least one person on the forums once suspected it was Snape who initially planted the dreams in Harry. I feel this constant journey down the corridor came from Voldemort's longing for transformation, or at least symbolises it.

In short, I agree with you about Harry's dreams, and feel that their significance is mostly from their being spirit journeys. My question is whose spirit journeys?

Originally Posted by Sulihawk
The Ministry and Umbridge in particular were trying to prod him into doing thinks they could use to discredit him.

Feeding Harry chemicals sounds a little too clever and subtle for Umbridge and company. Also, I think her symbolic role was in a different direction. I feel her role is similar to an episode with the Queen in 'The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz' and may be similar to the Queen in 'Through the Looking Glass.' Some will remember my postings about these but I'll briefly summarize: In the Chemical Wedding, Rosenkreutz is taken through a long corridor in a castle which ends at a locked door. Beyond it is a sepulchre, beneath which, below the floor is Venus. Rosenkreutz is shown her sleeping. Afterwards Cupid punishes him for this crime by pricking his hand with a dart. Similarly, the Queen pricks her hand and talks to Alice about a crime. I don't understand what this represents but we have the same ideas all in one, book 5. Corridor and forbidden visions beyond, Umbridge and pricked hand. Many esoteric stories include a tryst with a Venus figure, often underground, under a church floor in one case. I can go on and on. But the point is that book 5 and Umbridge are part of a particular symbolic scheme. On the other hand, the use of hallucinogens is found throughout all the books (hope I'm not exaggerating). If any book concentrates on entheogens and hallucinogens I would say it is book six with its preoccupation with potions and the question of induced sensations versus 'reality'. Only fitting that two sided Snape, Mercurius, is central to the book.

In my last post I mentioned taking home from the library the books 'Wondrous Healing' and 'Sacred Mushroom of the Goddess'. I looked into 'Wondrous Healing'. The book begins by telling a hypothetical story of a hominid healing ritual where two children are treated but one is healed while the other dies.

In our story, the homo erectus child who was more suggestible recovered, grew up, and passed on his genes to his children. The child who was not suggestible did not survive. The result was evolution toward modern hypnotic capacities and religious propensities.

The Homo erectus female in our story also revealed a capacity for hypnotic experience. Her brain allowed innovative ideas to bubble forth from her unconscious mind, producing creative visions and other unusual experiences. When Homo sapiens developed language, healing rituals became more therapeutic because the ritual were coupled with suggestion. Because hypnotizability is linked to anomalous experiences such as apparitions, extrasensory perception, and out-of-body experiences, the ritual processes selecting hypnotizability genes also affected the incidence of these episodes. These anomalous perceptions generated and shaped belief in spirits, souls, life after death, and magical abilities, beliefs that provided the foundation for shamanism, the first religious form.

This ritual healing theory explains religion's origin and posits that the processes by which religion began still occur today. The theory is controversial, but it can be evaluated empirically by researchers within the fields of anthropology, folklore studies, ancient history, neurophysiology, medicine, and the sociology and psychology of religion.
I myself am impressed by the number of assumptions the author is willing to make about our ancestors and our genes, but the book is fairly written and looks like it contains a lot of useful ideas about shamanism. I'll read it, and wait until Sulihawk has read it and comments on it, before saying any more.

'Sacred Mushrooms of the Goddess' is very different. The theory in 'Wondrous Healing' does not take into account entheogens, from what I saw. 'Sacred Mushrooms' is solely concerned with them. It's heady reading :barmyface:

Some time ago we discussed the Venus figurines. Here's a new perspective (out of context):

Even more ancient is the vulval display of the well-known Venus of Willendorf, dating from approximately 25,000 BCE. The figurine depicts a grossly pregnant female, with a rounded head devoid of facial features, but covered on its upper surface with knobby excrescences, seven mystical concentric circles of plaited hair, making the over-size head into the mushroom's cap with its characteristic scabs. The figurine's steatopygia personifies the bulbous base. The strangely segmented and handless slender arms, extraordinary in a figure so corpulent, suggest the mushroom's dentate annulus ring, the remnant of the ruptured membrane that covered the gills on the bottom side of the cap, hanging down upon its stipe. The figurine is tinted with red ochre to match the characteristic color of the fly-agaric. Such a figurine merely translates into a solid object the same theme of athropomorphized mushrooms amply preserved in pre-historic petroglyphs.
I mentioned Alice in 'Through the Looking Glass'. Once again out of context from 'Sacred Mushrooms of the Goddess'.

The House ['the Eleusinian House of the Queen Metaneira'] is apparently too small for someone as gigantic as a goddess, for Demeter hits her head on the roof, before she learns to shrink down to the diminutive size of the Eleusinian household.

This is the common theme of the alternating dimensions of the creatures of the otherworld, at once surpassingly tall and then no bigger than a dwarf, the shift in size, as in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, resulting from the oscillating macroscopic and microscopic vision induced by certain psychoactive substances, in particluar the Amanita muscaria mushroom, commonly called the fly-agaric, as the author well knew, either from actual experience or reading, indicating the mushroom's botanical identity in the original drawing he made himself, depicting its psychoactive nature by the caterpillar sitting atop it smoaking a pipe, which Tenneil, in the more familiar illustrations, more explicitly replaced with a hookah of hashish.

The Alice for whom the tale was written was the daughter of the renowned Classicist and ancient Greek lexicographer Liddell, and the adventure was apparently meant to please the father as well, with an obvious re-doing of the Eleusinian journey.
More assumptions by an author but very thought provoking. This book is full of things which I likely won't be able to resist passing on to you.

Reconsider blood. Ms Rowling's preoccupation with blood has bothered me since it seems to give importance to heritage, while at the same time she carries on about free will and choices. One of the hallows in the Grail legend is the bleeding lance. In the book 'Magic Mushrooms in Religion and Alchemy', the author says:

In the mysterious ritual called the Procession of the Grail several objects were paraded. The first was a bleeding lance said to be the lance that pierced Jesus and/or the lance that performed the King's amputation, A lance, even more than a sword, is a phallic symbol, and in this regard it is the perfect weapon to use to cut off a p--is. Blood flowing from the tip of the lance makes it correspond to the fly agaric.
So, I now suspect that Ms. Rowling's blood imagery relates to the magic mushroom. This viewpoint means it is not referring to bloodline/heritage/destiny, not at the symbolic level. The bleeding lance also corresponds to the basilisk fang. Whose blood is on the fang? Who is the Stone? What is the Stone? Get my drift?


Hey Guys!

I'm really looking forward to getting back to the discussion on a more regular basis. In this past week, though, another CoS member, N_H, asked my opinion on instances of death and burial rites in HP. He/she had a number of very interesting questions that took a while to address, so... yes, I've found yet another aledged excuse to keep from going full-bore with our shamanism-related discussion. That, and the other... situation... that occured this past week, have kept me quite busy.

I did tell N_H I'd ask if any of you are familiar with any threads that have discussed those topics. I suggested a search of any related keywords and also mentioned the couple of threads (more?) about religion in HP, or rather the non-canon religion that's assumed/inferred by readers, over in the History of Magic forum. But there might be some discussion that's come up in threads that would seem unrelated on a general level. So, please let me know, here, in an owl, or in an email, if you know of any others.

Also, I found this little gem (and the original article it refers to) over on MNet. It has a very cool connection to... shamanism!... so I think it's probably Kosher for us here. (Can I say "Kosher" figuratively?)


JKR finished 'Deathly Hallows' three weeks ago
According to The Sun, JK Rowling wrote the following message on a marble bust at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh: "JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (652) on 11th Jan 2007." A picture of this message can be seen here.

UPDATE: The BBC reports: "We can confirm JK Rowling did write some of the book at the Balmoral last month and did complete the book at that hotel."
Posted by Ciaran on Feb 2nd | 176 Comments | Submit News | Categories: Book 7

More on Jo's hotel message
New details have emerged surrounding the message Jo scrawled on a marble bust (stating that she had finished Deathly Hallows) in Edinburgh's Balmoral hotel. The hotel said that it has no immediate plans to turn the room into a "tourist shrine," and rather significantly, the bust is believed to be of the Greek god Hermes.

[edit] Also, this hotel is located on Princes Street. A Snape reference - did Jo do this deliberately? Thanks to Hunter for pointing this out.
Posted by Ciaran on Feb 3rd | 51 Comments | Submit News | Categories: JK Rowling, Book 7

Hope to be back at it early this coming week! Have a great weekend, everyone!


  I'm so tired of being an insomniac! Wait, thats like an aximoron.
I finally found the passage I was looking for that lends itself to the theory that Harry might have been slipped something to cause his rash and violent behavior in OotP. Chapter 18 page 383,

Midnight came and went while Harry was reading and rereading a passage about the uses of scurvy-grass, lovage, and sneezewort and not taking in a word of it...
These plantes are moste efficacious in the inflamating of the braine, and are therefore much used in Confusing and Beffuddlement Draughts, where the wzard is desirous of producing hot-headedness and recklessness...
this was from Harry's potions book.

In the very next chapter Harry and George attack Malfoy.

Harry was not aware of releasing George, all he knew was that a second later both of them were sprinting at Malfoy. He had completely forgot that all the teachers were watching: All he wanted to do was cause Malfoy as much pain as possible.
How very unlike Harry in previous books, he has endured the same taunts about his Mother by Malfoy in the past. Leading up to this on page 327,

...Harry felt his temper rise; he wasn't sure why he was feeling so angry.
Page 266,

Harry felt the blood surge to his head a thumping noise in his ears.
Five pages prior to this he had nearly snapped a bowtruckle in half when Malfoy was bad-mouthing Hagrid. Blowing up in class and landing in detention twice at the start of school, the altercation with Seamus where,

...his temper rising so fast he snatched his wand back from the bedside table.
and on page 235,

He walked up the marble staircase two at a time, past the many students hurrying toward lunch. The anger that had just flared so unexpectedly still blazed inside him...
It's the portion from the potions book that really sells the idea and I am in no way advocating the use of drugs to achieve astral projection. I believe the body needs to be sensative and remain focused during projection and drugs may be dangerous causing loss of focus and imparing the spirit's ability to get back to the body.


Feeding Harry chemicals sounds a little too clever and subtle for Umbridge and company.[/
I don't know Barmy, Umbridge tries to slip Harry veritaserum after Dumbledore skips and she sent dementors after him to get him expelled from Hogwarts. But Umbridge isn't the only candidate, Snape could have been making Voldemorts attempts to transmitt the dreams easier by making him receptive first, the anger may be a side effect of the real purpose.


When I suggested that Voldemort's true soul was in Harry, this was one of the things I wanted to examine by rereading the instances of Harry's spirit journeys. I want to consider whether or not they were Voldemort's spirit journeys instead. It's a flight of the spirit or soul. Harry's really strange form of kundalini -I mean the time when the urge rose in him to kill Dumbledore -suggested that something of Voldemort lay within Harry.
As for the shamanistic journeys being the Voldemort soul piece trapped inside Harry's and not his own, I don't know. Oddly enough I am not much of an abstract thinker and may just be misunderstanding your intent. If the soul was able to escape from Harry I don't think it would return to Harry but to Voldemort. Can we see it as the pair with Harry in control of the consciousness of the trip? I think if we can accept the soul residing inside Harry then it is trapped there by the scar or Lily's protections. Now Voldemorts own transitions is a different subject and can be viewed as the journey into a dark stone or false god. In his state of diminished soul, can Voldemort continue to grow in power? A lot of people in the forums are talking about the strength of the soul parts and which is the original piece and seem to think it makes a great deal of difference. The original piece would logically have the most power but we see a lot of power and self preservation from the diary piece. It is conscious of the passage of time, it retains powers to do magic when given a wand, it retains the powers of posession and parceltongue. It seems also to retain it's ability to influence Ginny's memory since she has no conscoius memory of killing the chickens or writting on the wall. The only thing that seemed to be missing was the memories of Voldemort, that information it seems was given by Ginny. What is important is what the memory did with the info obtained from Ginny, Riddle became anxious to meet Harry and changed his plans. Ridding the school of muggles was not the priority, regaining power was.


We were also told, or led to believe (another thing I want to review) that the visions of the corridor to the Department of Mysteries were planted in Harry's mind. At least one person on the forums once suspected it was Snape who initially planted the dreams in Harry. I feel this constant journey down the corridor came from Voldemort's longing for transformation, or at least symbolises it.
I can see this, Voldemort wants to transform himself into an immortal, into a powerful god. The mystery of what was contained in the prophesy, the idea that the answer to his defeat might lie there caused Voldemort to go through all kinds of planning and manipulations to obtain the knowledge. I imagine if he can retrieve all the remaining soul bits he may, with the retrival of all their various experiances, be able to obtain another level. So far his paralellism of the alchemical process of the making of the stone seems to be working for him. It seems this is an aberration of the spiritual intent of the stone and homage to the greedy popular understanding that the stone is about making gold. It seems that the alchemists who approached the process with the intent of healing and achieving harmony were the ones who were rewarded. Are there two kinds of stones? Is gold or an endless supply of riches and immortality the purpose of a dark stone?

Were Harrys dream trips along the corridor planted memories? It could be that the place reverbrated with him after his experience inside the Ministry and that his visits in dreamstate were attempts to try and unveil the mysterious pull. Most likely it was implanted memories though. Voldemort was implanting memories it seems as early as the orphanage. He was definitely better at it than Slughorn. I don't see how he could reach inside the sci barriers of Hogwarts though. Hermione did tell us there were magical barriers that protected Hogwarts both mentally and physically I think in reference to 'Hogwarts A History'. That would lead me to beleive it was Snape who planted the memory ecxept for the way he reacted at seeing the hallway in Harry's memory during the occlumency lesson. He was aware Harry had been inside the Ministry that summer.

I really look forward to discussing 'Wondrous Healing" as soon as I can get it.


I have looked over 7/21 to see if the date has any Shamanic relationships.
There were only 4 thing that happened on 7/21 that I thought relevant:
First men to walk on moon
Tony Blair elected in 1994
Alexander the great was born
Temple of Artemis destroyed
Thanks for the great finds!

Maybe I am finally tired enough to sleep now, till tomorrow friends


Sulihawk, there was a thread once upon a time that dealt with both the rash behavior of Sirius and Harry in OotP based on the quotes you posted. I cannot remember what they called that thread at all, unfortunately. But I know that there were quite a few people who thought the sequence of events you quoted was very significant. After HBP came out, I haven't seen much on this, however.


Originally Posted by JohnDL
Linguistically, the "Holy Spirit" of the Bible comes from that same holy sperm, making the alchemical identification of Hermione with the Holy Spirit even more radical.
But, comparing Mercurius to the Holy Spirit is not such a stretch.

From wiki

Hermetica is a category of popular Late Antique literature purporting to contain secret wisdom
Hermione is wise.

Sophia is wisdom.

Sophia is a common name that comes from the Greek word σοφία, and its older form sophos (σοφος), meaning ("wisdom"),
Many theologians, many of which are feminist, concur that Wisdom and the Holy Spirit are one and the same.

From Wiki

For the Gnostic Christians, the Sophia was a central element in their cosmological understanding of the Universe. A Feminine figure, analogous to the human soul but also simultaneously one of the Feminine aspects of God and the Bride of Christ,
In this line of thought, Eve would be an example of Sophia. A feminine person who got too material, too caught up in being earth-bound. This is earth/body = bad, spirit = good. This is why Gnostic type Christianity had its issues. A heresy that it spawned was that Jesus, who is good, could not possibly take on a human form. He would be too tainted, if he dressed up like a human and wlaked this earth. Therefore, he was a spirit from beginning to end.

For non-Gnostic Christians:

In particular Proverbs 8.22-31 in which the Sophia speaks as if an entity in her own right - as well as in the Psalms, the Apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon.
For Judaism:

In Judaism the Sophia appears alongside the Shekinah, 'the Glory of God', a figure who plays a key role in the cosmology of the Kaballists as an expression of the feminine aspect of God.
Hermione uses light and fire to fight the significantly named Devil's Snare. Fire is often used as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. She is all about liberation.

There is much significance to Peter's name. The very least, of which, is that Peter Pettigrew will deeply regret his actions, probably while Hagrid's roosters are crowing three times. :p

Since I consider the Spider Hollow as a potential Hallowed place, complete with burial of some significant personage, all they have to do is hang the basilisk corpse (accio dead, rotting, basilisk! Ewww!) and the spiders will have to find a new hang out.

I wonder if the Chamber of Secrets has tunnels that reach back to the Spider Hollow. The Chamber certainly has the look of a temple.

From this site:


The basilisk was of some use after death. Thus we read that its carcass was suspended in the temple of Apollo, and in private houses, as a sovereign remedy against spiders, and that it was also hung up in the temple of Diana, for which reason no swallow ever dared enter the sacred place.

It was also said in antiquity that silver rubbed with the ashes of a dead basilisk would make the silver take on the appearance of gold. These protoscientific uses of the basilisk persist in the medieval bestiaries and the latter attribute became quite popular in the alchemical tracts of the Renaissance.
So if basilisk-metaphor-stand-in-Voldy dies, maybe Peter's hand turns to gold. Or at least his soul is back on the golden Philosopher's Stone track. This fits with the trio's first get together on the train with Scabbers. "I'm going to turn this rat yellow." Gold is yellow. Peter can change and become a better man via his relationship with the trio.

Harry's contribution to Peter is obviously the life-debt aspect.

Ron was Peter's master. Voldemort is the master now. Peter, dude, you can't have two masters. So Ron's contribution to Peter was his showing a lowly rat kindness.

Hermione's contribution to Peter would be?? I dunno. Certainly not cat removal services! :lol: So her part in Peter's story would be something that happens in the final book.


The other day, I mentioned Alexander the Great and the temple of Artremis. Also, temple of Artremis/Diana matches the Spider Hollow connection that I have been toying with.
This quote links Alex with Griffins.


One legend involving griffins is the Ascension of Alexander the Great. According to this story, Alexander captured a pair of griffins and, having starved them for three days, hitched them to his throne and, teasing them with chunks of roast beef held above their heads on lances, flew heavenward for seven days. Alexander would have stolen a peek at God Himself if an angel had not asked him why he wanted to see the things of heaven when he did not yet understand the things of earth. Chastised for his presumptuousness, Alexander flew back to earth. Representations of Alexander's ascension were placed in French and Italian cathedrals during the 12th century.

During the Middle Ages, Christian nobles searched for griffin's eggs or "grypeseye" which they mounted and used for cups, believing they brought health to any beverage.
Romans 7/21 says:

I find then the evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.
Buddies, does this ever support that Harry has a horcrux in him!!

doug rogers:    


Romans 7/21 says:
I find then the evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.

Buddies, does this ever support that Harry has a horcrux in him!!
Julius, July, was a Roman wasn't he ? July 21...

Barmy Codger:    

Will take home latest posts and gnaw on the ideas.

More from 'Sacred Mushrooms of the Goddess'. While the book deals mostly with the mysteries of Eleusis, it draws in related topics mostly in episodic examples which are about a page and a half long each. Every page is full of information that makes my head reel (but then, it's a book about psychoactives). So while there is an overall thesis in the book, I've just been dipping into it at various places and reading section at a time. Here are a few excerpts, some of which are interesting in themselves, some interesting because they relate to things we have discussed, and some even relating to 'Harry Potter'.

Mandrake in Rumania

Much of such herbalist traditions in antiquity did not surface into literature and hence is irretrievable. By chance the later lore about the use of mandrake in Rumania elicited the interest of ethnographers and offers a fuller picture of pagan herbalist rituals.

There was a belief that wearing a belt made from a wolf pelt would induce lycanthropy. The skin of a hanged man would produce the same outcome since the mandrake was thought to sprout from the man's semen spilt on the gallows, like his homunculus or little persona begotten upon his death. The magic of the mandrake, in addition to its formidable toxins, resides in the resemblance of its root to the body of a man, hence, the mandrake is a dead man's baby. In actual practice, the wolf belt was anointed with mandrake and other psychoactive toxins.

The Rumanians are the descendants of the ancient Roman province of Dacia, so-called from the Phrygian for 'wolf,' and they were so-named for their warrior brotherhoods, with roots going back to their homeland in Asia Minor and a perpetuation of the haoma-wolves, documented on the funeral inscription for the Persian King Darius in a list of groups bearing offerings. They were a warrior fraternity that employed the haoma wolf-sacrament for their rites of induction. The Rumanians preserved aspects of the elaborate ritual for the hunt for the wolf-plant that would have been widespread throughout Europe, but unfortunately only occasionally documented.
The ritual is described, which is interesting, but I can't quote everything that's interesting, so we'll skip that and come to the next bit which says:

The original plant of the haoma-wolves was the Amanita muscaria. In Huichol traditions, in addition to the peyote sacrament, there is a more secret rite of warrior initiation that involves the wolf-plant, which is the mushroom. Here in the Rumanian rite, as often happens, another plant has been substituted, but with a ritual that perpetuates some aspect of the original.

...It derives from the original fungal sacrament, but other plants were always also involved in these wolf-belts, and witches' pharmaceutics, and the mandrake, like hemp and Datura, appears to be a substitute for the original entheogen.
So here we have some reinforcement for John Allegro's interpretation of mandrake. Since different substances came to be used for the original ones in a ritual, they could take on the name of the original. Or they could maintain their names, as mandrake might, but still be the practical equivalents of mushroom. This is an example similar to soma, which was theorised to have been made from mushrooms, a theory that is still debated, but which the book 'Soma, the Divine Hallucinogen' theorised was first made from lotus and lily plants, and later from other substances when the demand or climate change had made the originals scarce.

I have to add that any time I read about wolves and lycanthropy, I am reminded of Rust-of-a-lupine-nature, the starter of this Shamanism discussion. I still miss him. He did not favour the use of psychoactives, he preferred drumming or chanting or the like. Ms Rowling has not given us any examples of those things (only one I can think of, the droning of a wasp as Harry begins a trance), and has instead referred often to the various plants, herbs, fungi, potions, etc which taken as a whole must be seen as psychoactives.

My brief quote from 'Wondrous Healing' posits that hypnotic suggestibility is an inherited trait, and treats the development of religion as the result of an increasing number of humans having the 'suggestibility' gene in them. Here is another perspective, from 'Sacred Mushrooms of the Goddess'.

Mushroom as Linguistic Mediator

[Gordon] Wasson eventually acquired a paper by the brilliant Russian linguist, Vladimir Nikolaevic Toporov, which should have laid the basis for the rebuttal of any criticism of his mycological centricity. Wasson's long-time friend and intellectual supporter, the great linguist and semiotician Roman Jakobson had called his attention to it and Wasson commissioned a translation into English, which was finally published in the journal Semiotica: 'On the Semiotics of Mythological Conceptions about Mushrooms.' Combining the discoveries of the structural anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss about the role of mushrooms in the culinary and dietary regimes in different cultures, and of the French mycologist Roger Heim on the relationship of mushrooms to other hallucinogens, and of Wasson himself on the role of mushrooms in mythical-mythological systems, in particular in the mushroom cult, Toporov disclosed the exceptional role that mushrooms play in the semiotic systems of diverse peoples. Cultures tend to create similar semiotic oppositional systems (such as sacred and profane, feminine and masculine, raw and cooked, food and poison, celestial and chthonic, decent and indecent or taboo, etc.); and within these dichotomies, the mushroom tends to suggest itself as the archetypal universal classifier, mediating the oppositions. As such, similar semiotic clusters occur around the world among peoples of unrelated languages, and phonetic similarities across languages, like multilingual puns, further extend the vocabulary.
And, about bees. 'Sacred Mushrooms of the Goddess' devotes three or four pages to the fig, maintaining that cut open figs resemble female genitals and therefore is the source of much sexual imagery in ancient times. The subject is concluded with a couple paragraphs about the fig which will lead to quotes about bees.

This is the same tree that was the original of the Garden in Eden, for which reason Adam and Eve had its leaves ready at hand to cover their nakedness, hence the curious custom of covering the embarrassing nudeness of Classical sculptures with an affixed fig leaf. The Hebrew folkloric collection known as the Haggadad specifically identifies the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge as the fig. The woman's name became Anglicized as Eve, Hava in Latin, which means 'the mother of all' (mater cunctorum viventium, Genesis 3, 4-5, from the Hebrew Havvah, or 'Life, the Living One,' in Greek Zoë, which was the Canaanite epithet of Asherah, the great Mother Goddess, consort of the high god El, who was syncretized with Yahweh, until the reforms of the late 7th century abolished her cult. Her emblems were the Tree, the Cosmic Axis, and the Serpent. And her cult was orgiastic, an ecstatic shamanism, affording direct and easy access to the divine.

The visionary nature of the fig tree is preserved in the curious episode in the gospel of Luke about the tax collector Zacchaeus who wanted to see Jesus, but being too short, he climbed a sycamore fig to catch a glimpse of the deity. Thus also was Amos a tender of sycamore figs, when the Lord spoke to him, commanding him to be a prophet unto the people of Israel. The Buddha was said to have received enlightenment under a fig tree. The ambivalence of the Judeo-Christian tradition to the Tree of Knowledge and its in-dwelling goddess can be sensed in the prohibition against eating its figs that make man the equal of god, with the Knowledge of good and evil, reinterpreting its fruit as the 'bad' (malum) with 'apple' (malum), homophones in Latin, the latter designating any fruit that, unlike a nut, is fleshy on the outside, including pomegranates and figs: the fruit is not named in Genesis, although it was recognized as the fig still in medieval times, but the force of the pun became irresistible, probably reinforced by pagan traditions of an apple-like magical fruit.

That fruit was probably the fly-agaric mushroom. The sycamore fig, in fact, produces clusters of red fruits, spotted with white. It also attracts wasps, needed for its pollination; all manner of flying insects represent the souls scurrying to the final destination, and each fruit became the wasp's tomb, like the supposedly fatal attraction of the fly to the agaric's visionary toxins.
Naturally, you're thinking of Mrs. Figg. But the quote was to introduce insects, and now to bees...

Bee Maidens

Persephone's drug-induced abduction is absolutely appropriate to the religions of the agrarian peoples who preceded the immigrant Indo-Europeans in the Greek lands. Those religions centered upon the female's procreativity and the cyclical rebirth and death of both plants and mankind.

....When the roving Indo-Europeans settled in the Greek lands, their immortal Father God of the sky, who was Zeus, became assimilated to the pattern of the dying and reborn vegetative consort of the Great Mother. There are indications of this assimilation in the traditions about the Zeus who was born and died in Crete; whereas the Zeus who is head of the Olympian family is immortal like all of the other eleven. Furthermore, archeological remains from the Minoan-Mycenaean period of Greek culture frequently depict visionary experience encountered by women engaged in rituals involving flowers.

Most explicit is a golden ring, probably the official badge of authority for a shaman priestess, from Isopata in Crete. It depicts a sisterhood of women in a flowering meadow, whose flowers are apparently the narkissos. They are experiencing a vision indicated by the single disembodied eye, a universal symbol of the visionary trance. Similar disembodied eyes decorate the Palace of Quetzalpaplotl at the ancient 10th century site of Teotihuatan, which by the time of the Aztecs already lay in ruins, but was considered their spiritual origin. There the botanical involvement of the vision is indicated by the 'tears' of entheogenic fluid dripping from the 'eyes' of flowers.

The women depicted on the ring, moreover, have the narrow waists and exposed breasts favored in Minoan couture and the segmented limbs characteristic of insects, and the head, upon elongated necks, are similarly those of an insect. They are, in fact, bees, gathering the nectar of the flowers, able to convert it into the nourishing sweetness of honey, but equally into the source of their 'toxic' or ios sting. It is a self-evident conclusion that the poison and the honey are both harvested from the flowers. Serpents similarly acquired their own toxins by ingesting poisonous herbs, or conversely they contaminated plants by the proximity, with the plants absorbing the serpents' toxicity.

Such bee maidens are indicative of a matriarchal culture and the title of 'Bees' (Melissai was granted to the Priestesses at Eleusis.

...The ios word, in addition, as we have seen, to being at the basis of the homophonous word for 'toxin' and 'toxic arrow' and the 'doctor' as iatros, as well as 'intoxicate,' involves the naming of certain magical botanical saffron-purple children, such as Ion of Athens and the Iamos of Lake Stymphalos in Arcadia who was the founder of the hereditary {<---note} priesthood of clairvoyant shamans at the sanctuary of Zeuss at Olympia. The flower associated with this complex is the saffron/ purple -colored violet (or pansy), actually the same word, for the (w)ios word has lost its initial digamma or 'v'; so that this is the word also that surfaces in English both as 'viola' and 'virus,' originally the venom emitted by a poisonous animal, from Latin as a 'slimy liquid, poisonous stench.' The flower's name as 'pansy,' from the French pensée or 'thought,' continues its visionary connotations; and the face clearly decipherable on its petals readily suggests the little animate person lurking in its botanical form. Shakespeare, borrowing from the Elizabethan herbal, knew of the plant's visionary properties and used it to cause the alteration of perception that leads to the confusions of love in Midsummer-Night's Dream.
All those of you who have a U.S. dollar bill in hand can see the disembodied eye on the top of the pyramid. Once again we have extra significance applied to Dumbledore's bee association and students' attraction to the sweets at Honeydukes, etc. Pansy Parkinson's name now signifies something. Also a saffron /purple violet might be another source for the purple symbolism of royal garments. Further, iatros, 'doctor' or 'healer', was, according to Peter Kingsley, applied to Empedocles, whom he considered a shaman.

I'll conclude with a more general item. Gordon Wasson's wife Valentina was Russian. Early in their marriage they discovered a basic difference in opinion, she loved mushrooms and he abhorred them. They attributed this to cultural differences. The two of them spent their life together gathering information about mushrooms and published a classic work about its use as an entheogen. And so...

It was the novelist, mythologist, and poet Robert Graves, along with Aldous Huxley, who first called Wasson's attention to the existence of a mushroom cult among the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica [which led to their experiencing it as an entheogen]. Graves developed a keen interest in mushrooms and working with Wasson he demonstrated that the Eleusinian mixed drink or kykeon, like the traditional mixed Homeric drink that the linguist Watkins analyzed, is actually an acrostic for 'mushroom.' He also suspected that the wise and lascivious forest creatures of pagan Europe who went by the name of 'fig-men' existed upon a diet of mushrooms. Graves, unfortunately, was seen as a renegade Classicist, despite his widely acclaimed and well researched historical novels, and his theory, like most of his ideas in myth, was ignored in professional circles.

The official verdict is that the Greeks and Romans had little use for mushrooms, especially those of the psychoactive type, a result of the fungal phobia of the scholars who studied Classical antiquity, the very aversion from which Wasson had been rescued by his marriage to Valentina.

Actually ancient authors mention specific psychoactive properties for mushrooms, in particular one parasitic on the oak tree that was reputed to induce clairvoyance. Compounding the problem was the mistaken opinion of the Rumanian scholar Mircea Eliade that drugs were characteristic only of the late and decadent stage of shamanism and religion, a verdict influenced by his personal distaste for the behavior of his students of the psychedelic generation at the University of Chicago.

Thus it was that not even explicit depictions of mushrooms in an Eleusinian context were recognized for what they were, special scholarly blindness insisted on identifying them as flowers or anything else. but certainly not mushrooms. A friend called Graves' attention to the famous marble bas-relief from Pharsalos in Thessaly, northeast Greece, now in the collection of the Louvre. It depicts the two goddesses, Persephone and Demeter, facing each other, each holding a broad-capped mushroom with bulbous base, probably the Amanita muscaria.
At this point, I hope that all my typing hasn't been in vain -that someone has found the material interesting. At the same time I have begun to feel guilty for lifting so much from the book. In return for doing this, I intend to buy a copy.

image -

Emerald63 post:    

A Preamble to this post:
I see the spirit of Cotton Mather is still alive and well. However, I spent most of a day preparing this post and I'll be... darned... if I'm going to just not post it. I also find myself increasingly confused over what we can discuss, given that we have discussed so many issues over such a long time (including the ones mentioned in the preceding post and all of which play a more or less important role in shamanism, something obviously alluded to in HP), without either internal acrimony or external recrimination, and that we are only now being told are not acceptable. Is our entire experience here being invalidated? Are we henceforth to completely disregard our own experiences here in favor of the... suggestions... of someone we've only recently come to know? Perhaps I should immediately determine how one downloads a complete thread (to one's hard drive? to CD/DVD?) before all of our effort and camaraderie are... ruthlessly deleted... altogether.

Following that sad statement (and my both honest confusion and a highly disturbing and deep chill) I give you my latest. I do so hope someone appreciates it.


Greetings All!

In the interest of "moving right along," erm, yeah, well... you know what I mean... I'm going to toss out some thoughts I've had without fully investigating them. Please make of them what you will, unless you find them to be off base. In that case, feel free to just gloss over them. Here goes!



Originally Posted by JohnDL
if JKR did not intend some sort of transformation, would she have provided so much in the way of satire and social comment? What is the biggest, most obvious thing missing from the Potterverse? It's practice of religion, isn't it?


Originally Posted by Barmy
I think I know what you mean, and mostly agree. But still, Christmas is observed, and I think on two occasions Easter was observed by the symbolic use of eggs. First time was the hatching of Norbert, and the second was when Harry and Ginny shared a chocolate egg.

You're right about the use of 'non-standard' symbols, but even though, for example, Harry didn't destroy the diary with a sword, he killed the serpent with a sword, and this is standard stuff. Only, as usual, it harks back to pre-Christian symbolism, too. Umm...could be wrong about that. But isn't dragon slaying by sword a pagan thing too?

It seems to me JKR is incorporating a nominal use of Christian holidays (as is the case in much of British society), but her use of the attendant symbols is not nominal, not by a longshot. I'm not familiar with a true Pagan instance of dragon slaying, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. I can think of several dragon incidents, but I'm not sure if they are entirely Pagan in origin or if there was later influence by Christian tales, especially that of St. George. Here are the examples that may be entirely Pagan, or may not be:

1) The most famous incident is in the Siegfried cycle of tales from Germanic mythology. I believe these dated after at least heavy influence in the region by Christianity, but I don't know if they were constructed by those still following the Old Religion. Siegfried slays a dragon with a sword. He also cooks and eats part of its heart. By this act he is then able to understand the language of the birds, i.e of the Gods.

2) In Arthurian myth Merlin sets the red and white dragons against one another but he does not himself use a sword. Could Merlin's later use of the "Sword In The Stone" to identify Arthur be considered a delayed proxy use of a sword to kill a dragon?

3) In Norse mythology Thor attacks the World Serpent with a weapon (probably his hammer, but maybe a sword). I believe he's in a boat at the time, and the creature has risen to the ocean's surface and is causing problems. I'm not sure how closely the Norse associated this great serpent with the one that resides at the base of the Yggdrasil, the World Tree. If they believed the world itself was the greater manifestation of the World Tree of the Gods (which I believe they did), then they may have thought of the two serpents as one. Whatever the case, Thor was able to beat back the monster successfully. I don't remember what is thought may become of the World Tree Serpent at Ragnorak.

4) An example Mark shared with me, that I was previously unfamiliar with, may have several important ties to HP. In the Grimm's fairy tale "The Singing Bone" a knight goes into a cave to kill a dragon. He chickens out, though, and his squire kills it instead. (This is reminiscent of Newt [Arthur] pulling the sword from the stone rather than his foster brother, Kay. [Is Newt his nickname only in the Disney film?]) In the Grimm's tale the knight takes credit for the squire's actions. Someone ends up making a flute out of one of the dragon's bones. When it is played the other dragon bones sing. They tell the truth about who the real dragon slayer was. I was reminded of the flute Hagrid made for Harry for Christmas in PS/SS. (I believe that one's wood, though.) With that flute music tames Fluffy. We see Fawkes' music play an important role in several scense in the series, and Snape seems to almost sing the healing spell after Harry hits Draco with Sectumsempra in HBP. Will we see Harry's flute again? Will it play a role in Book 7, maybe allowing Harry the Dragon Slayer to communicate directly with Fawkes?


Originally Posted by Barmy
Maybe the basilisk and the Chamber were part of a symbolic structure that was framed in book two, but the diary and its symbolism (horcrux, Voldemort, etc) is framed by the whole story of seven books, so might be considered separately from the basilisk.

I agree. The events in the Chamber were just that, "events" plural. It wasn't just about killing the basilisk (aka the dragon) to rescue Ginny. But although destroying Diary-Tom was the heart of the matter, the basilisk did have to be killed first, so both have importance. In mythology the dragon that is slain is usually more than just a monster - it symbolizes evil or the normally uncontrollable powers of nature. The slayer is doing more than killing just a literal monstrous beast; he is either destroying or keeping at bay evil itself.

In CoS as well, the basilisk is more than just a monstrous beast. It is also representative of the greater evil of the legacy of Slytherin's pureblood supremacy beliefs and, ultimately, of the level of pure evil that resulted from that legacy: Tom Riddle Jr, Lord Voldemort, and the immortality-providing horcruxes.

Harry using the sword to kill the representative of evil fits the traditional dragon-slaying motif. But Harry further acting to almost directly attack evil itself is a new twist. There is still symbolism involved, because he attacks the diary and Diary-Tom, who is the outgrowth of LV's evil, rather than the source. But this would still seem to be an enormous hint that it's more than just various instances of symbolic "monster" fighting Harry will endure throughout the series - it is all leading to ever-increasing assaults on the source of evil, on Voldemort.

Following that train of thought, I've considered the various "monster" slaying in the books. In each case the contact between Harry the Hero and the particular symbol of evil becomes less physically intense. A seemingly strange sequence of events, but not really.

1) In PS/SS Harry is in the thick of it during a hand to hand struggle with Quirrell-mort. With LV in the back of Q's head at the time, this is the closest Harry has yet come to fighting V directly in any meaningful way. (The GoF graveyard scene was filled with special circumstances.) There is direct contact and the result is at first extremely painful and eventually fatal to Q-mort, though Vapormort is... reborn. (Hmm... hadn't considered it in those terms before.)

2) In CoS Harry must evade the basilisk's glare and its bite. He succeeds in the first, but since the second occurs just as he's thrusting the sword home, he is not exactly involved in an ongoing hands(?) on fight. He makes no "personal" contact with Diary-Tom. (In fact, it would not have been possible as D-Tom never became fully corporeal.) As D-Tom is but a proxy of LV, Harry need only lay hands on the material home of that proxy. It's of great symbolic value that a portion of a symbol of evil, the basilisk's fang, is used to destroy a greater symbol of evil, its proxy, although I'm not sure what this may portend for the method Harry will eventually use to destroy the source of evil itself. He'll destroy the horcruxes to aid in his defeat of V, but he won't be throwing them at him, I don't think, nor clubbing him over the head with them.

3) In PoA there is no direct interaction between Harry and V in any form. And he never makes direct contact with Wormtail other than Wormtail tries to kiss his feet. It seems the more tangential the "contact" with V, the less physical the ensuing encounter. And though he intends for Wormtail to suffer in Azkaban, the lack of a hands on approach with this less direct proxy of V ends up resulting in his escape from any repercussions at all. For now.

4) GoF finds Harry physically touched by V for the first time. It causes him intense pain. But he never fights Voldy physically (being tied up most of the time he couldn't even if he wanted to). Instead they duel magically. We have no idea how a traditional wizards' duel would have played out, though it's more than likely V would have won. But instead Priori Incantatem happened. Harry did best Voldy at this, with the help of both Fawkes' empowering song (the language of the birds, i.e. the gods, used agaisnt the serpent-like representative of evil) and the echoes of those V had killed. Even so, the contact between Harry and V was never physical.

5) Again in OotP Harry faces V directly, but without physical contact. The closest contact is mental, as V tries to possess Harry. But even with no contact of any kind, not even through PI, Harry gains the upper hand again. Despite once again being beset by intense pain inflicted by V, he still manages to cause V violent pain as well... with only his thoughts of love for Sirius.

6) In HBP, it's arguable that V gets the upper hand in both the pain inflicting and duel winning departments, even though he never even shows up. His mere influence (or psychological control) over Draco's plans results in the wizarding forces for good losing their leader and in Harry personally witnessing a horrific death while remaining completely helpless and unable to fight. At least in Sirius' death Harry was in the fight and Sirius felt no pain that we could see.

So... will Harry's next duel(s) with V be even more detached, yet have still stronger results? How incorporeal will the rivalry become? Could it even remove itself completely from the realm of the living, with the two of them finishing it all in the Otherworld once the horcruxes are all destroyed? And imagine, if Harry could step back through into the realm of the living afterward, wouldn't he be the ultimate Potterverse hero of all time?


Originally Posted by JohnDL
One thing Allegro points out is that ancient gold was not the yellow color of modern pure gold, but had a reddish tone (still sold today as "red gold). This might put a different spin on a number of instances in HP where gold comes into play, especially if JKR knew this. Even if she didn't, in instances where she is using or alluding to ancient myth, it still might be of importance. Allegro mentions this as gold- the red gold of the ancients- was used as a mushroom code word. The gold of Alchemy is also likely red gold.

Several things come to mind, especially the red and gold housecolors for Gryffindor. If Harry is seen as "gold," i.e. pure of heart, another combination of red and gold might be seeing him covered in blood. This would have ties to Mithraic initiation, where Mithra, a sun deity, is "reborn" when baptized in a shower of bull's blood. A further interesting tie to Mithra are your findings that connect the basilisk with blood, John, though that tie would likely have to be the blood of birth I suggested, rather than menstrual blood. The death of the bull ends one life cycle and Mithra's baptism in it marks the beginning of another via his rebirth. Harry is covered with blood from the basilisk's ruined eyes and from its mouth as he kills it up close and personal with the sword. Even as the basilisk dies, Harry is reborn amidst blood, although by the agency of Fawkes' tears (apparently JKR is not a follower of Mithra). And, as I mentioned above, he further turns that rebirth around to take yet another blow at evil by "killing" Diary-Tom, which sends forth the unlikely flood of ink, which then brings about rebirth for Ginny. :cool:

It's interesting that in the four house animal totems we directly see two of the four images associated with the four gospels of the New Testament and symbolically see the other two as well. The four NT "totems" are the lion, the eagle, the bull, and a man (a scribe, I think). Gryffindor's totem is the lion (where one would think it would be the... griffin... duh) and Ravenclaw's totem is the eagle (not the raven as Noble House gift catalog would have us believe). I can see the common British image of the bullheaded badger easily taking the place of a real bull, which might not look too friendly if used for kids in a school setting. As Slytherin the man was so closely identified with snakes, and was a parselmouth, his house totem seems to have gospel associations as well, but only through the connection of Slytherin with an image of a man, and then a serpent, and not of a scribe with a serpent.

Another tidbit, concerning the derivation of the word "griffin," which seems to be in contradiction to the one given by Allegro here:


Philologically, also, the cherub-griffin is related to the fungus. The names in Indo-European and Semitic go back to another "pod-" or "womb-" word, *GUR-UB, similar in meaning to the source of the name of the well-known pod-plant, the Carob.... The name had another reference in the ancient world, however. The Accadian botanists use the same Semitic word for Carob to describe the Sumerian "seed-of-life" plant, the mushroom.
I noted that in "franglais" the name "Gryffindor" might be written "Griffin d'or," meaning "Griffin of Gold." Thinking I was onto something, I checked my BHD for the origin of the name of the mythical beast. The Latin and Greek names for a griffin is "gryps" which is taken from the Greek "grypos," meaning "hooked," and refers to the hooked beak of a griffin. So it has nothing to do with gold. But... it is reminiscent of the first completely non-human helper Harry meets after learning he's a wizard, Griphook, the Gringotts goblin. And of course goblins have a great deal to do with gold and with rubies the size of "burning embers" (which Harry notes in PS/SS), as well as having doormen who wear uniforms of red and gold. Perhaps more hints that the goblins will come around to supporting, or even helping, the Order?

At any rate, unless Carob seed pods are hooked, I'm not sure I can see any connection between the known Greek derivation of "griffin" and Allegro's alledged derivation. I am fascinated by etymology, but it seems to me that the more ancient a language the more we now know of it only from its written form; for most ancient languages, no one living today knows what they sounded like. Unless there are extant written explanations for various words showing that there were either pronunciation or philological connections, I'm not sure one can subjectively base any connections on similar sounding terms alone. That is, the written terms for Griffin may in deed be related, but they may sound nothing alike. If "gur-ub" sounding like a pronunciation antecedent to griffin is his only basis for a connection, Allegro may not have much of a philological leg to stand on. I don't mean to discredit everything the man says but, as in previous things of his you've quoted, I find the variance between the dictionary etymology of griffin and his claim to be at odds, something that, personally, I can't overlook.


Originally Posted by Allegro
It is not difficult to see the... connection between the serpent and the mushroom... Both emerged from holes in the ground... and both bore in their heads a fiery poison which the ancients believed could be transferred from one to the other. "If the hole of a serpent," writes Pliny, "has been near the mushroom, or should a serpent have breathed on it as it first opened, its kinship to poisons makes it capable of absorbing the venom. So it would not be well to eat mushrooms until the serpent has begun to hibernate."

Perhaps this is instead, or additionally, a folk interpretation reflective of a botanical fact. Perhaps summer mushrooms are simply too potent, and possibly dangerous, while winter ones are safer. Much interesting info in general in your Allegro passage, John. Josephus specifically cited using both menses and urine, though I wonder if he too, as perhaps with Pliny, was misinterpreting ancient practice in doing so. Perhaps not, though, The explanation that sperm was thought to coagulate menstrual blood and thus cause conception does seem plausible. But I still have doubts about every mention of ancient female blood magic referring to menstrual blood, not when there is another highly symbolic instance of it during birth.


Originally Posted by Allegro
A ... connection between sexual influence and sorcery appears in the derivation of our word "magic." Its immediate source is the Latin magus, representing the old Persian magush, the title of a religious official whose power of mind and body earned him a reputation for sorcery. ... Their title may now be traced to a Sumerian phrase [GUL, as in SAG-GUL (from the footnotes)] for "big p*nis" [that is, tumescent], and to be cognate with the Greek pharmakos, "enchanter, wizard", from which comes our "pharmacist."

OK, first thought - I wonder what some folks would think if they knew their pharmacist was descended from a tradition of "enchanters" and "wizards"! :lol: Second thought, I'm reminded of a title used in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, definitely the most mythologically symbolic and cerebral of all the ST spin-offs. "Gul" is a rank used by the military administrators of an alien species whose society is domination oriented (as are the Voldy and the DEs) and that has a heavy military emphasis. The series began just as that species had finally been defeated for its cruelly enslaving methods of other species (as house-elves have been). As these Guls were not very nice people, I suppose they might also be referred to as... "tumescent." I.E. all swollen up in self-importance, or just like a big... :whistle:



Originally Posted by Allegro
...In classical mythology the counterparts of the mythical cherubim are the griffins who guard a source of treasure near a cave called "the Earth's Doorbolt", the entrance into the womb of mother Earth.


Originally Posted by JohnDL
Interesting to connect griffins and cherubs, and I am wondering when the well-known image of griffin used in HP originated; from the wing description it appears to have a very ancient pedigree. There's also the griffin's half-earth, half-sky motif, which Allegro relates to the "connection between earth and sky" made by the mushroom, which was mythologically a direct connection between the male sky-god and the female Earth.

It's my understanding that some of the earliest known Western depictions of four legged winged creatures were Middle Eastern. But the area's history is long and varied, so I checked my old college art history text, Gardner's Art Through The Ages, 7th Edition, as revised by Horst de la Croix and Richard G. Tansey. A caveat, before a quote - the symbolic importance of ancient art is, oddly enough, not set in stone. Our understanding of what the ancients meant with their art forms is often limited by what written records they left behind, and is more often completely conjectural where no written records exist about that subject. As the years pass, and archeologists and mythologists uncover new evidence, old assumptions sometimes fall by the wayside. This 7th edition was released in 1980, and no doubt there may have been updates to its theories since then. Given that, here's what it had to say on the winged creatures, both generally and specifically those found at Khorsabad (previously Dur-Sharrukin), one of several successive capitals of the great Assyrian Empire:

The palace facade consisted of a massive, crenellated wall, broken by huge rectangular towers flanking an arched doorway. Around the arch and on the towers were friezes of brilliantly colored glazed tiles, the whole effect being sumptuous and grand. Dazzling brilliance seems also to have been part of the royal Assyrian plan to overwhelm the visitor. The doorway was guarded by colossal winged bulls with human heads. These man-headed bulls, derived from age-old composite creatures of Mesopotamian art, served to ward off enemies, visible and invisible, and to guard the kings whose traits their faces probably reflect. They are partly in the round and partly in high relief, and they combine the front view at rest with the side view in movement, contriving this combination by the addition of fifth legs. The gigantic size, the bold vigorous carving, the fine sweep of wings, and the patterning of the surface by the conventional treatment of details produce together a splendor and a stupendous strength that are awesome even today. [the accompanying photo shows one 13'10" tall that now stands in the Louvre] But we may think of them in all their majesty not so much as guardians of the king as augmentations of his regality. They wear the horned crowns of the god-kings of Akkad and the large-eyed, bearded masks familiar ever since Sumer. The bull and lion bodies of the gate figures [also shown in tile decorations], and their eagles' wings, suggest the superhuman strength and fierceness of the king and his swiftness to bring justice or vengeance. The virtues of Assyrian kingship are written large in these hybrid beasts. Ancient art repeatedly testifies to man's persisting fear and admirations of the great beasts that serve as his metaphors for the powers of nature and for the gods themselves.
I have no problem with this source, or any art history source, being unfamiliar with more obscure possible references meant by winged creatures, including possible ties to A.M. As metaphors for nature and the gods, they may well also reflect other such metaphoric images. No mention is made here of any sky/earth connection, but it seems so utterly obvious that I'm convinced there was something to it, either with or without attendant mushroom imagery.

FYI, all, the southern kingdoms of Sumer, Akkad, and Babylon held sway over the entire Mesopotamian region for centuries, before the more northern Assyrians were able to establish themselves as the premiere power in the region, ruling territory that stretched from the Tigris to the Nile and from the Persian Gulf to Asia Minor. Their eventual rule, which lasted from circa 900 to 600 BCE, was ruthless. This is what is referred to specifically in the quote when it discusses the justice or vengeance of the king - the Assyrian king, i.e., not kings in general.

Very interesting info on the phoenix, John, thank you! I'm still not sure about all the ideas Allegro tries to tie together definitely being related, but I can see the possibility much more here than previously. As to the etymology, though...


It was long ago suggested that the Phoenix bird was the stork, ever the type and emblem of maternal and filial affection. The Latin name for this bird, ciconia is almost certainly derived from the Sumerian *GIG-IA-U-NA, "pod of fertility"...
{much later} So striking was the color of the cap of the Amanita Muscaria that it gave its name to red or purple dyes in the ancient world. Of such was the Greek phoinix, the "Phoenix", name of the palm tree, the bird, and the Levantine coast, as well as a famous purple dye. As we shall see, the Greek word was derived from a Sumerian phrase, "mighty man holding up the sky", a fanciful descriptive epithet of the mushroom.

{still later} [The name Phoinix, as]... the designation of the palm tree ... signified fancifully a kind of overgrown mushroom, the fronded leaves representing the canopy, the tall trunk the mushroom stem. The Greek word comes from the Sumerian *GEShPU-IMI, with just the same meaning as *GEShPU-AN-UR, "strong man (holding up) the sky"... [After the commonplace moving of the the first syllable to the end, the] development was as follows: *pu-imi-ges to *[/i]pu-ini-ges[/i] to the Greek Phoinix.
Hey! My BHD agrees... Ciconia was indeed the Latin name for the stork. :lol: These days, it is also a variant name for Ciconiidae, the genus of birds making up the entire group of related stork species.

Further, the entry for phoenix itself includes as its third entry:

[P-] a southern constellation near the star Achernar.
Achernar may also be named for Acheron, one of the rivers of Hades, but that's just a guess on my part; the word itself does not appear in my BHD.

Of course the Allegro/BHD agreement was doomed to some level of strain, though. :lol: While I was checking "phoenix" in the BHD, I happened to notice above it this entry:

Phoe-ni-COP-ter-us, noun [Gr. phoinikopteros, red-feathered; phoinikos, purple-red, and pteron, wing.] a genus of birds including the flamingos.
I found this interesting firstly because of the flamingo's unique pink color, which can sometimes deepen to almost red if they're fed enough of their main food, freshwater shrimp, making it also sometimes the same color as the phoenix. :cool: It was of interest secondly because of the meanings given of its root words, closely related to phoenix as they are.

So, are the Greek terms for red coloration original to Greek or do they stem from an earlier source with ties to A.M.? Here's what I've found in my BHD about the derivations of both Amanita Muscaria and the mollusks used in making the famous purple dye, purpuria (purpurea?).

- Amanita is a Latin name for the genus of poisonous mushrooms that includes A.M. It is said to be a genus of Agaricus, but that too is defined as a genus. Are there such things as sub-genuses? Agaricus includes a number of mushrooms, some poisonous, some not. A further, pharmaceutically specific comment follows in the BHD, but I'll save that for a bit later.
- Muscaria comes from either or both "musca," Latin for "fly" (also now referring to a genus of flies), and "muscarine" or "muscarin" which is an "extremely poisonous alkaloid found in certain mushrooms, rotten fish, etc." (If anyone wants the chemical formula let me know.) Further info on "muscarine" is also intriguing, but I'll save that for a moment as well.

So we have almost literally the "fly mushroom" which is where the term "fly agaric" (a member of Agaricus) comes from. It would appear there's a possible connection to flies rotting fish would attract and a similar bodily effect both it and our mushroom could instill upon ingestion. That connection may have prompted the A.M. name. Or perhaps A.M. has a strong odor. A variety of mushroom I'd never seen before, I think called the stinking horn, came up in my yard a few years back. Internet research and some emails to a Kansas group of fungi fans got me a name for it. So I know first hand (first nostril?) that mushrooms can smell really, really bad! Perhaps this attracts flies. What I didn't find was any connection between the name A.M/ and an ancient name for red, purple, or any combination thereof.

I knew the ancient name for the mollusk derived purple dye as "purpuria." My BHD didn't have this exact word, of either spelling, but it had every other variation imaginable. :rolleyes: But this definition was given:

PUR-pu-ra, noun [Latin, purple]
2. [P-] a genus of mollusks, some of which yield a purple dye.
(That's twice now I've seen the [P-] designation, though the table of abbreviations does not list it! Argh!! Does anyone know what it refers to? It's not the designation my BHD uses for words taken from Phoenician.) Unless Allegro is referring to non-Latin ancient names for the mollusk based dyes, there would seem to be no etymological tie between A.M. and the purple dye commonly known by its Latin name. Yes, about that "unless"...

Also of interest, the first meaning given for "purpura":

1. a disease characterized by purplish patches on the skin or mucus membranes, caused by the subcutaneous escape of blood from its vessels.
Here we have some connection to something purple other than the mollusks. I can see a "purpura" related name being applied to anything purple or red, such as A.M., but I still don't see the reference to purple in the Latin name for A.M.

So is there a non-Latin name for *A.M.* specifically that ties it to the genus name purpura? And is the Latin use of that name to mean the color purple borrowed from some other language? I'M SO CONFUSED!!! I just wish to hell my BHD gave older etymologies than the ones it does. Just because it - and I - don't see the explicit ties Allegro has outlined doesn't mean they don't exist. But if the BHD doesn't actually mention older etymologies because they don't exist, or haven't been proven then maybe Allegro is off-base. I know this has been a flood of etymology which may come to nothing, but if Allegro is off on this, he may be off on things we're trying to more expressly tie to HP, hence the continued investigations.

As a reward for you patience... given you're actually still with me :whistle:... here are those further comments I mentioned. For Agaricus:

In pharmacy, either of two species of fungus belonging to the genus Polyporus; that of the larch, Polyporus laricis, called also [i]male agaric; and that of the oak, Polyporus igniarius, called also female agaric. The former was used as a cathartic; the latter as a styptic, and also for tinder and in dyeing. [bold added]
At last, a tie between a fungus and dyes?! I'm no textiles expert, but I remember something about fungal dyes usually producing brown colors. Polyporus literally means "many pored." I could find no description of the two species, but aren't tree funguses usually, or at least sometimes, not of the gilled variety. The genus name translation would suggest that for these two at least. I'm not familiar with any tree fungi of bright color, though my knowledge in that area is also greatly limited. If anyone is interested in pursuing it further, please, go right ahead... and let us know what you find!

Now, about "musca":

in astronomy, a constellation, supposedly outlining a fly, in the southern part of the heavens near the Southern Cross.
My, my, my... all these ties between red mushrooms that may attract flies; constellations used for navigation at sea in the southern hemisphere, where the stars went to "die," including a phoenix and a fly; fly-attracting and alkaloid dead fish from the sea; and purple dye making mollusks from the sea.... kinda almost merits a :wow:, and does merit a :cool:, imo. :tu:

Oh, no mention anywhere about the strong man holding up the sky. I'd check the derivation of "Atlas" but at this point I'm afraid of how many more tendrils I might find to chase after! :rotfl:

Finally... moving along...

So this is seems where we get the notion that the Phoenix can bear heavy loads, and I can see the parallel here with stork myths about carrying babies.
Whatever actual linguistic ties may or may not exist, the idea that any two bird speices (even if one of them is mythical) are connected with both birth/rebirth and carrying any loads, is indeed intriguing, as the latter especially is not something usually associated with birds at all.

Hmm... maybe the next time I come across Allegro quotes I'll just keep reading and try to fight off the urge to comment, considering I always find the info itself interesting, even if I do often doubt his sources. :rolleyes: :lol:


Originally Posted by JohnDL
...the name Hermes derives from the Sumerian ERUM-USh, "erect phallus."

Curious. How do you suppose Hermes became so identified with hermaphroditism if his name derives from a word meaning "erect phallus"?


Originally Posted by JohnDL
Getting the impression our ancestors were perverted 'shroomers? :p Or, were THEY normal and WE are the weirdos... :scared:

Or maybe just Allegro is??? :elaugh:



Originally Posted by JohnDL
So, La Fee, the game's afoot. Don your deerstalker and let's have after it!


Originally Posted by IrishFaerie
Well then, have after it, we shall. :D You wonderfully articulated exactly what I was thinking. The satirical element of the HP series sometimes gets overlooked, I think. Because of this, I'm afraid JKR's "call for transformation" gets lost in the mix.

Perhaps she means to have only those capable of untangling the subtle truths to "get it" - like how only the very few could have ever seen the Philosopher's Stone in the Mirror of Erised and known what the wise thing to do about it was... protect it, not use it. Yea Us!


Originally Posted by Sulihawk
I can see the obvious political and social commentaries in the paralells of class, race and slavery. The mirror of Erised admonishes us to take that look at each of our basic desires and try to see as Harry finally does, what is good for all, not our individual gain.

If I had a better memory concerning Jonathon Swift's work Gulliver's Travels, instead of the fragmentary one left from high school, I'd attempt a comparison of the satire and social commentary I know both authors use. I believe there might be some intriguing literary connections there. Anyone else know Swift better than I do? (BTW, I would bet my last dollar JKR is a big fan of Swift's essay A Modest Proposal. :lol: )



Originally Posted by Barmy
The superior race of beings who oversee the growth of their experiment on Shikasta (Earth) apparently shed their sense of humour in order to become superior beings. And I am left wondering whether Ms Lessing herself had any humour in her.


Originally Posted by Sulihawk
Oh I hope this is not what we have to give up to evolve into superior beings, Barmy! :lol:

But is shedding a sense of humor really the mark of superior beings? Where does Ms. Lessing suppose the concept of humor came from if not God himself, or the Gods themselves? Is she perhaps making a subtle ironic comment on her aliens perhaps not being superior after all?

I'm reminded of something that happened to me several years ago. I was attending a cross stitch convention (yes, there are such things), and I was looking over various pattern flyers as another woman turned the display rack. Just as I saw one I found quite humorous, she turned to her companion and commented on the same one. It showed Noah and the Ark. The Ark was travelling at a high rate of speed, thanks to an outboard motor, and all the animals were leaning back against the acceleration, their mains, tails, and ears blown back by the breeze. Out back of the Ark was Noah, sporting an old-fashioned long-legged striped bathing suit and... waterskiing. The pattern was titled "Making the Best of a Bad Situation" and I ended up buying a copy. However, this other woman remarked, "Oh that is just not appropriate!!" and walked off in a bit of a huff. I had the same thought then that I expressed above about the original source of humor. Her loss, I suppose. (Unless it becomes ours, should this portion of my commentary disappear, as my opinion may inadvertantly rub someone else's the wrong way.)


Originally Posted by WeasleDiva
Dumbledore explains that the happiest man in the world would see only himself. So, I think the mirror may mean that we are responsible for our own happiness and accepting ourselves as we are.

Yup... no Happy Meals for grown-ups, eh WD? (Sorry, guys, inside joke there.)

on the Pillars Boaz & Joachim:

We find the twin pillars Boaz and Joachim. Boaz denotes strength. The strength of God supporting HIS children. JAOCHIN is the pillar of beauty. These are on each side of the entrance into King Solomon's Temple

Originally Posted by WD
We have two pillars with flying hogs on them at Hogwarts, a place where you can acquire wisdom.

WeasleDiva, do you know if there's any connection between the two pillars in the Temple and the two special trees in Eden, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? One is forbidden to Man, one is not. We certainly see both good and evil after passing through the Hogwarts pillars. (I've always been quite fond of the idea that if Muggle and wizard worlds are ever re-united that those winged boars will fly away, a la "when pigs fly." Now there's a smilie face I'd like to see - a winged pig just a'flappin' its wings!)

Quote: htm
The two columns in their original form represented an artistic metaphor for the balance between the male and female aspects of nature. They make a statement about the creative nature of god in the human equation as the divine union between the male and female. The Pomegranate and its seeds are a reference to the union and seed of the sexual act. The water lily (Lotus) capitols are a reference to the females vulva and the column itself represents the male phallus.
I caught only part of a History Channel show on the Kabbalah a while back. Damn TV Guide gets about half of the HC's listings wrong, and the HC website isn't always accurate either, so it never aired at the original air time and was not listed for replay, but replay it did. I only found it by accident. :grumble:

At any rate, there was some fascinating material regarding the joint impression within Judaism of God as both male and female. I believe it was said this idea was very old, but had been sort of left behind over the centuries, until the Kabbalists brought it back for much further consideration. There was a lot of other good stuff that has now, of course, flown the coop of my memory.

I may have to order that particular show on DVD, despite the outrageous pricetag, because I was informed by the feedback staff at the HC website that the "series" it was supposedly a part of is nothing but a catch-all term for shows that don't really fit together otherwise. So there's no set time for the "series" to air (something they seem not to have told TV Guide, because they list it at the same time every week) and, therefore, no set time for replays. :sigh: But you know... the Guide does somehow manage to almost always have the brain-drain garbage correctly listed. :huh: Blah.


Originally Posted by WD
Yipe! Throw in a little alchemy and you have the Sun and Moon. Pillar by day and pillar by night a la Exodus. Also, we have two Gatekeepers.

We didn't see any pillars on either side of The Veil, did we? Just the arch supports? Pillars there would be very symbolic, I think. Perhaps if Alfonso Cuaron were making OotP we might see as much.


Originally Posted by WD
Glad you had an good time, IrishFairie. Did you get a chance to pop in on Mary Magdalene lying under the pyramid at the Louve? That wacky DaVinci Code! ha!

At the risk of repeating myself, I must share an absolutely delightful tagline I saw elsewhere on the forums. It was a possible title for Book 7 dating from before the big announcement - "Harry Potter and the Da Vinci Code of Sudoku." :rotfl:

Well, I've come back around to another post from Barmy, so I think I'll stop for now and pick this up again later. Hope you haven't all passed out by now or, worse, gone to.......... zzzzzzzzzzz....................................... ..... :rolleyes: :lol:


Emerald63 February 8th, 2007 9:54 pm

Re: Shamanism and the HP Connection

THANK YOU. Thank you SOO much. We will do our best to follow the guidelines you've set down. Please let us know if you feel we are not, and we will further refine our methods.

And from the bottom of my heart... thank you for returning our "intellectual children," our writings of the past year and a half, to us...

Must go now, the tears of gratitude and joy are making it hard to type.


sulihawk February 9th, 2007 4:52 am

Re: Shamanism and the HP Connection
"Shamanism and similar areas of research have gained in significance because they postulate new ideas about mind and spirit. They speak of things like vastly expanding the realm of consciousness ... the belief, the knowledge, and even the experience that our physical world of the senses is a mere illusion, a world of shadows, and that the three-dimensional tool we call our body serves only as a container or dwelling place for something infinitely greater and more comprehensive than that body and which constitutes the matrix of the real life."
—Holger Kalweit, Dreamtime and Inner Space.

Have you ever travelled somewhere in a dream that you have never been to? Later when you went there for the first time you realised you knew every nook and cranny and then remembered the dream? We still have the vestiges of magic in our world! Then *shudder* there are the dream journeys like Harry has, he does not see a blessing in the dream, though the timely arrival of his spirit on the scene saves Arthur Weasley's life. Harry instead feels dirty and violated because of the view through which he sees the occurance, through the eyes, muscle and fangs of Nagini. Unfortunately I can relate, I had such a journey and could not save the person though the 'dream' was 2 1/2 years prior to the death. Harry could not stop what had happened, Fate had her way. But he was able to remember exact details and raise the alarm which saved a life.

Dumbledore sent Harry and Hermione on a journey back in time to save two lives in PoA. Did he or someone else send Harry to save Arthur? Fate perhaps?? Harry's other journeys in OotP and GoF send warnings also which help save him in the end. Forewarned is forearmed. We share these journeys with Harry through his green eyes so like his Mother's. Is Lily the instrument then, sensing the dangers and showing them to her son so he can get help and be prepared for the battles to come?

I am looking forward to reading what spiritual journeys our hero goes on to explore in Deathly Hallows. Will he do battle with the cause of these journeys as a horcrux inside his head? "The same yet in essence divided?"

barmy codger February 10th, 2007 12:28 am

Re: Shamanism and the HP Connection
This discussion was dead, dismembered, and reborn. Perhaps raven has turned into phoenix.

Proceeding from earlier talk---

Originally Posted by sulihawk
I finally found the passage I was looking for that lends itself to the theory that Harry might have been slipped something to cause his rash and violent behavior in OotP.

I'm not unsympathetic to your ideas. There seem to be a lot of references to mind altering substances. But consider:

But before he knew it, Harry was shouting.

This is from book 5, when Harry arrived at Grimmauld Place. He was angry before Umbridge laid eyes on him.

Many in the alchemy thread felt that each of the books has a flavour which they tried to interpret as meaning that each book was a step in the alchemical process. John Granger, who has written books about the alchemical symbolism in 'Harry Potter, thought that book 5 was the nigredo stage. Black, Putrefaction. At the time I hadn't found the arguments convincing (I thought the nigredo stage should be earlier in the process), yet there is undeniably a dark quality to book 5. Standard explanation for Harry's moods is his teenage angst, but his fellow students haven't been angry. Possible explanation is, to put it glibly, that he was isolated, kept in the dark, fed lots of manure (that's how you raise mushrooms!), and stewed in his own juices (or succumbed to Voldemort's bad vibes) -and that amounts to the nigredo stage of alchemy. Book 6 also had underlying themes. First we had the strange chapter title 'An Excess of Phlegm' and Fleur Delacoeur nicknamed phlegm. Along with that is Slughorn. Phlegm is one of the four humours, and phlegmatic nature is sluggishness. We have had lots of mentions of slugs throughout the books, so there is symbolism at work.

Originally Posted by sulihawk
As for the shamanistic journeys being the Voldemort soul piece trapped inside Harry's and not his own, I don't know. Oddly enough I am not much of an abstract thinker and may just be misunderstanding your intent. If the soul was able to escape from Harry I don't think it would return to Harry but to Voldemort. Can we see it as the pair with Harry in control of the consciousness of the trip? I think if we can accept the soul residing inside Harry then it is trapped there by the scar or Lily's protections. Now Voldemorts own transitions is a different subject and can be viewed as the journey into a dark stone or false god. In his state of diminished soul, can Voldemort continue to grow in power?

It has not been established or stated that part of Voldemort's soul is in Harry. So far there is just a link between them, and we may discover that it's nothing more than that. If Harry had become a horcrux and contained a portion of Voldemort's soul, then some extra possibilities open up. The problem is that Harry would have to destroy himself, if he's a horcrux, in order for Voldemort to be destroyed. Perhaps, if Voldemort is transformed instead of destroyed, this technicality is not a problem. I was exploring the idea that Harry had a piece of Voldemort's soul but wasn't a horcrux. Either way, the piece of soul is attached to Harry. We noted long ago that Harry often has a second voice speaking in him. Could this be the second soul? If spirit journeys are flights of the soul, and if Harry has two souls in him, which one is making the journey?

The absence of the soul during a spirit journey is like death. It is called a little death, but it is not death There are stories of magi or shamans who went into a trance and left instructions to be revived. Their bodies are just lying there maybe for days. Only their instructions weren't followed, for various reasons (making for various interesting stories), and their souls were lost. This seems to amount to death but it is never clear (at least not in my memory), just as it wasn't clear whether Voldemort was really dead or alive, even though he still existed as Vapourmort. The stories I remember are from 'The Myth of the Magus'. If you're curious, and if the library copy is available, I can post more about it. There are also stories of the rebirthing done wrong -the magus kills himself in order to be reborn but the assistant's lapse of attention spoils the pot so the magus is a goner. In a similar way, the Dementor's kiss is not death. Except, what else can it be? Ms Rowling doesn't explain. I guess she wants us to question and ponder these things.

Anyway, what is the purpose of Harry's having so many dreams and visions? Is it to show he is a wizard, a magus, or a shaman? There are plenty of witches and wizards around but they don't have dreams. Were his dreams all induced by external forces? Voldemort said he planted dreams in Harry's head, but he did that after he found out there was a link between them and that Harry was already dreaming about the corridor. I feel the dreams about the corridor may actually express Voldemort's longing for love and for transformation. Sounds unlikely, but a great majority of people on this earth are just looking for love.

In another example, from book 4:

'It's going to be boiling in Trelawney's room, she never puts out that fire,' said Ron as they started up the staircase toward the silver ladder and the trapdoor.

...He could hear an insect humming gently somewhere behind the curtain. His eyelids began to droop...

He was riding on the back of an eagle owl.
This can be seen as distillation in the alchemists retort (the tower) - where heat makes the rarified spirit leave the body. Also, we have learned that this insect-like buzzing can accompany the start of spirit journeys. If it's Voldemort's soul in Harry that's being transformed, then an example like that would fit well. I can't argue the case because I haven't reviewed the texts with this in mind. And as far as I can foresee, any dream Harry has from Voldemort's soul could just as well have come to him via the link. In that case, though, Harry's dreams would be more like Voldemort's dreams during the time the link was at its strongest, so that would be a test of the idea. The link has the advantage of giving Harry access to Voldemort's soul, without the disadvantages of Harry's needing to destroy himself as a Horcrux. The link also has medieval symbolism behind it, the two fishes of Pisces joined by a silver cord. All this would work with both souls inside Harry, too, without Harry being a horcrux. But the link is already in the story and the idea of two souls in Harry is only speculation. But then, two souls might account for why occlumency didn't work for Harry against Voldemort. But then....

Originally Posted by WeasleDiva
Hermione is wise.

Sophia is wisdom.

Your comparisons are good and we could go further. I could offer some quotes from Jacob Bohme. But I finally became curious about the association of Sophia with bodily fluids which JohnDL quoted from Allegro. I didn't get very far with that but in reviewing the quoted text I thought of something:

Originally Posted by John Allegro
traditional accounts of the Mandrake, which we have identified with the Holy Plant, the sacred fungus. One method of drawing it from the ground safely was to tie a dog to it, then call the animal to follow. The animal sprang to obey, pulling out the Mandrake, and promptly died, a "vicarious victim, as it were, for him who intended to remove the plant, since after this none need fear to handle it". The canine sacrifice was well worth the price, since "it posesses one virtue for which it is valued; for the so-called demons- in other words, the spirits of wicked men which enter the living and kill them unless aid is forthcoming- are promptly expelled by this root, if merely applied to the patients."

Allegro is quoting Josephus, a source also used by Hugo Rahner in 'Greek Myths and Christian Mystery'. I suggested the mandrake was Harry, and Sirius the dog was sacrificed -raising Harry out of the powers of the Underworld (all of book 5, nigredo stage). Harry = Philosophers' Stone = Amanita muscaria mushroom = Mandrake. And: 'Spirits of wicked men which enter the living' = Salazar Slytherin --->Tom Riddle. Jr. This was an idea I had long ago: I thought Tom had become possessed by Slytherin when Tom opened the Chamber of Secrets -the red gleam in Tom's eyes. Since then, there hasn't been much to carry the idea further. In fact, remarks from Ms Rowling squelched it, I think. If Voldemort, rather than Slytherin, is the one who enters the living, say, enters rats, snakes, Quirrells, Jorkins, et. al. then Harry as the Mandrake is the 'aid forthcoming'. He 'promptly expelled' Voldemort's possession of him, also in book 5. However, if indeed there is Slytherin spirit in Voldemort, the expelling of Slytherin is a way Harry could transform Voldemort, by vanquishing the One -the One not being Slytherin not Voldemort. While scanning search results for shamanism + Harry Potter on the internet (looking for the archives of this thread V1) I came across a site citing shamanic elements as proof the books were un-Christian. One page noted that an anagram of Salazar was Lazaras, almost like Lazarus, who was revived from the dead.

One last thing. When 'hallows' were being discussed, I thought there might be a similarity to 'halo'. My dictionary gave the origin of the word as being the circle made by oxen or such animals on a threshing room floor. Odd to find it related to a spiritual aura, but not much use. I failed to make a connection. The book 'Sacred Mushrooms of the Goddess' has something about ergot:

A fragment of papyrus preserves a portion of a comedy by Eupolis entitled the Demes, performed shortly after the great scandal of Profanation of the Mystery in the 5th century BCE. It proves that those guilty were indeed specifically accused for using the Sacred Drink for recreational purposes, and that it was barley and not another grain or grass that was the host for the ergot, which, as it now appears, is the only possible source for a psychoactive agent worthy of risking the extreme dangers of illegal use. In the comedy, an informer explains to a judge how he had come upon someone who had obviously been drinking the kykeon [the sacred drink] since he had barley groats on his moustache. The accused had bribed the informer to say that it was simply a barley porridge and not the potion that he had drunk. The comedian, in fact, puns, implying that the 'crumbs of barley' were actually 'purples of barley,' proving, for those who knew the Mystery, that the forbidden ingredient was ergots of barley.

Large quantities of ergot-infected barley would have been needed to supply the annual requirements for the Mystery. These would have come from the Rarian plain [which is near Eleusis], perhaps from some portion of it devoted by the priesthood specifically to the systematic cultivation of the fungus by contaminating the grain with the honeydew [sap from insect-attacked grain], and then separating the 'purples' on the Threshing Floor of Triptolemos. Such a partition might have been thought to enact a magical balance averting the otherwise inordinate demands of the more terrible aspects of the forces within the earth.

The word 'halo' is derived from the Greek 'halos', meaning 'threshing floor,' as in one of the Eleusinian Mystery rites called the Haloa: it was sacred to Demeter, Persephone, and Dionysus, and was celebrated by women in mid winter. It involved abundant, obscene language, and the veneration of sexual symbols, bringing together the proper women with their p[for hire]e sisters, and it was considered a mystery.
The rest is unsuitable for sensitive readers. Even I know that. 'Purples of barley' I can't explain exactly, except that it's grain with ergot. I haven't read the section thoroughly yet. The quote also shows another example of punning (something Ms Rowling enjoys) which must always be taken into account along with normal etymology. . And the term 'potion' is used for the sacred drink of the Mystery.

Emerald63 February 13th, 2007 3:32 am

Shamanism & HP, A Primer, Part 1
(EDIT) I'd like to say to anyone reading this and my next two posts that I am going to be working VERY hard to make future posts much shorter and maybe be in a list form. But there's just sooo many shamanic elements repeated in all the books that it can be hard to choose which to leave out. But I will try, because I'm really hoping more readers will be interested in joining in... and I don't want to scare you off! :lol:

Greetings All!

Since the discussion is going again in a new format, I thought this might be a good time to recap the basics of shamanism and where it can be found in the HP books for those who are just now joining our show "in progress" so to speak. :D

A momentary diversion... Yes, Sulihawk, I've had many dreams of places I've never been to, only to one day find myself in the living version of the place, one I'd never known existed other than in my dream. It's also happened by seeing photos of places after dreaming about them but before ever having heard of them. I suppose I am blessed that I've never been left feeling responsible for anyone's life, though.

Barmy, I've skimmed your comments on Harry's attitude in OotP and will pile it on top of the other continuing topics I'm still working on. :rolleyes:

To the Old Gang in general, I'll continue trying to catch up with the really Big Ideas from v.2 that I hadn't gotten to. I'll be doing some of that here and some of that wherever we all decide to go to for a more adult-oriented version of the discussion. Anyone wanting to join us for that, please owl me and I'll let you know where... as soon as we do! :lol: But as for here and now...

Let me say first this is an off-the-cuff description that conforms to my own understanding of the subject of shamanism. I'm not an expert, I haven't written any books about it, and I haven't even read that many. But I've been mentally gathering tidbits through a year and half long discussion of the topic. Please, anyone, old or new to the discussion, who has more or better info to add - have at it! You may also wish to read the initial post of "Shamanism in HBP" v.1, now archived in the History of Magic Reference Books subforum. Our discussion founder, Rust_Loup, who has unfortunately moved on with his life, provided us a great beginning. This recap is, therefore, as much for my benefit as yours. Sort of a "final exam" for what I've learned... so far.

Because the subject of shamanism, and it's relation to HP, is so complex, I'll begin with some background information. Due to the length of even a basic overview I will forego any connections to HP in this first post. But my subsequent ones will address shamanic events in each of the books, and in the series as a whole.


Shamanism: What is it?
Shamanism is an ancient form of spirituality that occured in every corner of the world and in pretty much every culture at some point in its history. The word itself is taken from a Siberian dialect, but it's now used generically to describe very similar practices from many cultures. Shamanism predated more organized, formalized religions, all of which do have some ties back to shamanistic precursors. An intermediate stage between ancient shamanic practice and modern organized religion can be found in Classical mythology. It retains many key shamanistic concepts while also recounting cultural lore and moving into accounts of wider spread ritual behavior.

Almost all ancient spiritual "paths" or "belief systems" (a way of believing other than an organized religion) incorporated the belief that the natural world is inhabited by many types of spirits, and not just plants, animals, and humans. These spirits live in and represent every sort of feature of the natural landscape, both alive and inanimate, as well as natural occurances like the weather, the tides, earthquakes, volcanoes and the like. Most paths also believed that there are alternate realms of existence beyond ours, and that the spirits sometimes reside there. Often the realm above us, that of the stars, was believed to be the home of the gods or spirits, though other unseen realms might exist as well. And in some cultures, the spirits of the ancestors were included in the greater scheme of spirits.

Also common to ancient belief systems was a recognition of the cyclic, balanced nature of life. One of the most obvious and important of the cycles of nature is that birth leads to growth, then to maturity, then to death. Along the way, new lives are introduced and old lives pass away. A belief in an afterlife or reincarnation was also ubiquitous. The other omnipresent cycle is that of the seasons. It was vital for the ancients to know exactly when certain animals could be found for hunting, and, after agriculture was introduced, when to plant their crops. There were also changes in weather patterns to consider, like when the first snowfall could be expected or when a monsoon season would begin. The very lives of the ancients depended on them understanding the cycles of nature, and how to predict their arrival so they could prepare. Examples of balance in nature include male/female, night/day, winter/summer, birth/death, and earth/heavens, among many others. One very famous symbol for this balance is the Asian yin-yang, showing both black and white comma shapes intertwined and encompassed by a unifying circle.

Because they believed in spirits, it was natural for ancient peoples to want to contact them for any number of reasons. To be fair and respectful of their beliefs, we need to remember that to them "spirits" were what we would today call gods. They were not spirits in the sense of ghosts and they were definitely not trivial. This sort of belief does still exist in many parts of the world, although Westerners would likely refer to it as a "religion." Some of the best known surviving examples are the Native American tribes of North America. Some have converted to Western organized religions, but many have not. However, their shamanistic practices are often kept secret for only tribal members to know. (There are many books and individuals purporting to teach "authentic" shamanism but, alas, many are simply out to make a buck. Use caution and skepticism if you come across them.) But we do know of ancient examples, both from surviving artifacts from pre-literate cultures and from the writings of cultures who practiced shamanism into the historical era.

So what is a shaman, exactly?
A shaman, or medicine man/woman, was a special member of a tribe, clan, or community who went through many years of training in order to learn mastery over what was known of nature and how to contact the spirits for further guidance in all aspects of life. In some cultures the role was passed down in families, while in others those who seemed to have an affinity for it were accepted as apprentices by elder shamans. Sometimes an individual would go through an experience that indicated to the elders that he or she was being singled out by the spirits as a good candidate to become a shaman. (I'll explain more about this momentarily.) Also, some cultures limited the role to males, in some rare cases to females, and in yet other cultures either gender could achieve shaman status.

It was the job of the shaman to use his/her knowledge of the natural world to aid the tribe in whatever way they could. When the need merited it, the shaman would also "journey" to alternate realms in order to speak directly with the spirits. There he/she would learn very specific information that could be used to deliver the most effective aid possible. The shaman might speak with the spirits of the ancestors, of animals, or of plants to gain insight. Sometimes it was believed the shaman could return from the journey bearing more than knowledge. Sometimes further special abilities would have been bestowed on them during the journey or a magical object might be given to the shaman to bring back to this realm. Shamans also created their own magical objects, called totems. These could take any number of forms, but examples would include drums, rattles, staffs, or weapons. Each was created very carefully and was imbued with powers from the spirits during special ceremonies.

How did a person become a shaman?
The beginning of shaman training would include learning all the detailed lore of the tribe, including its history and its spiritual beliefs, what we would call its mythology. It would also include practical knowledge like which plants and practices were effective in treating health problems, which would provide protection during battle, and which would assure a successful hunt. All this was vital, as most tribal cultures were based on quite small groups compared to today's societies. Any significant drop in population could spell doom. Various branches of tribes, those too small to continue in their own right, might join with larger branches, but at the cost of the most unique aspects of their identity. Shamans would spend many years in training, often not achieving full shaman status until well into their lifetime. Shamans gained so much special knowledge, which was often kept secret among themselves, that they were respected as very powerful individuals. This was also because they were believed to be able to contact the spirits directly. And quite often a shaman was also seen as someone not quite as sane as the rest of us, or, at the least, eccentric. Both his/her abilities and the lasting effect those would bestow might account for this. Or someone who had been a "bit different" than the average person, even as a child, was seen as being that way because the spirits had been especially close to them since birth.

Remember I mentioned that some individuals seemed to be tapped by the gods themselves to become shamans? This was because they underwent certain life events without having sought them out. Examples are a severe illness or injury, either of which would be life threatening. Often when a person is gravely ill or injured, in a fevered semi-consciousness or coma, they experience what is now referred to as a "near death experience," or NDE. A NDE can have the same effect, partially, as the many years of preliminary shaman training because they provide a natural, personal, and very powerful introduction into other levels of consciousness, i.e. into other realms. In essence they provide a direct, spontaneous link to the spirits. Accounts of NDEs have provided scientists with a clear picture or just how life-altering they can be. We've all heard of the person who "died on the table" only to "come back" changed in both outlook and goals. This was what was happening to people who were said to be "chosen by the spirits" to become shamans.

Once a shaman in training was deemed ready, elder shamans would subject him/her to several days of physically and psychologically demanding excercises. These could involved fasting, sometimes refraining even from drinking water, physical isolation, sleep deprivation, long distance hikes without food or rest breaks, or extreme heat or cold endurance. In some cases, the effects of these excercises were multiplied by the use of specially prepared and administered hallucinogenic compounds. The combination of any of these excercises would induce the altered state of consciousness which is the hallmark of a shamanic journey and which is the mandatory initiation for anyone wishing to become a full-fledged shaman. The greatest of the shamanic journeys is that of death itself, followed by a literal rebirth, as with a NDE. The purpose of the elder shamans in subjecting a candidate to these very demanding excercises was to induce as close to that scenario as possible in the shaman-to-be. It was not uncommon for those in training to fail their test or to choose not to finish it. Becoming and being a shaman was not for the faint of heart.

How did a shaman contact the spirits?
There were numerous ways. Not all are legal nowadays, which became a concern when we discussed these methods in our previous thread on this subject. However, it's no secret that - in general and with no specifics mentioned - many cultures' shamans used mind-affecting substances to assist them in reaching a different or "altered" state of mind (or "level of consciousness"), wherein they believed themselves to have left their bodies in order to meet with the spirits.

But this was by no means the only way to contact the spirits or journey to their realms. Any practice that can help an individual calm or alter their brain wave function can be helpful in reaching that altered state of mind. Examples include rhythmic practices like drumming and ritualized dancing, as well as deep meditation. These are not only effective, but completely safe physically, whereas mind altering substances, in addition to now being illegal in most forms, can also be very dangerous if not used in a very exacting manner.

But even though the non-chemical ways of entering "another realm" are physically safe, managing to enter a new, unfamiliar level of consciousness can sometimes effect one very deeply on both emotional and spiritual levels. So, if you feel so drawn, it is wise to approach any attempt at shamanistic practice only after extensive study, preferably with an experienced, legitimate practioner to guide you.

What happend when a shaman contacted the spirits?
There are numerous written accounts from historical times that describe similar phenomena. Often, as a shamanic trance is being entered, a high pitched whistling sound is heard. The sensation of spinning may occur. Bright lights, sometimes flashing or of shifting color, will be "seen." There is also described a sensation of being drawn through a tunnel or tight passageway. There is much less information about what was experienced once the shaman "arrived" in an alternate realm. This aspect of the journey is at the heart of shamanic practice and, as such, was often kept secret. These days, many people have learned how to "travel to the astral plane," usually through meditative practices. This is basically what shamans were doing, although their abilities to navigate the astral plane and to communicate with all of its inhabitants, both human and otherwise, were highly developed.

[Edited from its original form by Em63:] It's this last, brief section that is clearly present in numerous examples in the HP books. But other, less clear, mythology related examples also appear. While not as "flashy" they are the heart and soul of shamanism within Harry Potter. In future posts I'll examine how these hallmarks appear in HP, as well as how JKR also incorporates other shamanically-descended mythological events.


Nessy February 15th, 2007 3:18 am

Re: Shamanism and the HP Connection
I can't wait to for your future posts re: how shamanic hallmarks appear in HP etc. All I can think of for the moment is that the floo network with its spinning rush of emerald flames and its use as a transportation device (and the powder) sounds like a shamanic trance situation. I don't know much and I am eager to learn more.

VivianU February 16th, 2007 10:38 pm

Re: Shamanism and the HP Connection
I'm also thinking of the trips into the Pensieve. Does that qualify?

Emerald63 February 17th, 2007 7:12 am

Re: Shamanism and the HP Connection
Greetings, Ladies!

I've not forgotten about your posts, though I'm suddenly finding myself quite busy with several projects! But I'm really excited that you're eager to learn and I hope to have my compatriots help me teach you.

To answer your questions briefly (I'll do more "Shamanism in HP" book outlines soon), both the floo network and the pensieve are shamanic in nature. The floo network is more so symbolically. It takes the witch or wizard from one part of their "realm" to another, but it doesn't not take them between realms. (Unless you count Arthur Weasley trying to come through the Dursley's boarded up fireplace in GoF! :lol: ) But the idea of the lights, colors, spinning, compressed area, and travelling in general are shamanic. But you know that sneaky JKR... most of the examples she uses lurk in more mythologically oriented scenes.

I think I should probably rephrase the last lines of my first post here:
"It's this last, brief section that is clearly present in numerous examples in the HP books. But other, less clear, mythology related examples also appear. While not as "flashy" they are the heart and soul of shamanism within Harry Potter. In future posts I'll examine how these hallmarks appear in HP, as well as how JKR also incorporates other shamanically-descended mythological events."
Hopefully that better reflects what's going on in the books. (I've edited my own first post to include this new paragraph.)

As to the pensieve, it is a true shamanic journey. The body stays in place and only the mind travels. It crosses out of its own realm, both in space and time. It gives insight from the viewpoint of another being as well, in a sense giving the viewer almost god-like access to another's memories. The image of the long silver tendrils Harry sees Dumbledore store and retrieve from it are reminiscent of what Astral Plane travellers say they see. When the soul or persona leaves the body it is said to be "tied" to its body by a silver cord. This cord indicates that the person and his body are still one entity, only temporarily and partially separated. The cord is also how a traveller finds his or her way back to the body, especially when not yet very experienced. I haven't personally read any accounts of shamans seeing this thread, but I wouldn't be surprised if they do, considering Astral Plane travel is so closely related to shamanic travel.

So... great catches, Nessy and VivianU!! I'll try to meet you back here early next week. :)

IrishFaerie February 17th, 2007 1:17 pm

Re: Shamanism and the HP Connection
Hi Everyone!!

So, this is where we live now, huh? Barmy, I think you are right, our totem may have transformed to phoenix.

Welcome to Nessy and VivianU!! I'm glad you guys are joining in the discussion!

I love that you brought up the Floo Network, Nessy. That's something I haven't thought about for awhile. It's highly shamanic though. And, thinking about it, of course the Dursleys have their fireplace boarded up. That's overtly symbolic of their mistrust of anything magical/shamanic (not to mention, funny for Jo to write Arthur, Fred, George and Ron all crammed into a blocked up fire place!).

Well, I'm going to sip my morning tea (hmm, I guess it's afternoon already!) and look over the rest of what Barmy and Emerald posted. :relax:

It's good to see some form of the shamanism thread still alive and going!

dorcasderr February 17th, 2007 6:28 pm

Re: Shamanism and the HP Connection
Actually, the experience of Apparating seems to fit the physical feelings described in Shamanic travel. Of course, like the Floo Network the whole body is transported, not just the spirit.

Emerald63 February 20th, 2007 12:41 am

Re: Shamanism and the HP Connection
I'm finally back with some Actual HP Shamanic Events to share!!! :wow: :lol:

First, good catch, dorcasderr! Apparating is highly shamanic. Even though the whole body is indeed transported, the transport frequently moves the witch or wizard from their magical realm to the Muggle realm. And the tightly compressed feeling is a classic shamanic element.

I'm going to start my next discussion by saying that every one of the books to date has a predominant shamanic event in it. These conform more to the mythological storytelling viewpoint of shamanism. But the books all also have many smaller events that are shamanic in nature, some more so than others, but plenty to show that JKR has some knowledge of the specific subject of shamanism, not just it's mythological progeny.


The "Big Event"
The "Big Event" in PS/SS takes place, as do the big events in all the books, near the end of the story. For this first outline of shamanic events I'll go in reverse order, describing the "Big Event" as a first example, going on to list other events from the book afterward.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione have figured out what the Sorcerer's Stone is and where it is, and they also believe it to be in danger of being stolen by Snape. They determine to stop him and rescue the Stone from someone who would misuse it.

To begin their journey the Trio must get past Fluffy, the giant three-headed dog. In form Fluffy is taken directly from the Greek mythological creature Cerberus, a three-headed dog that guards the gates to Hades, the Greek Underworld and land of the dead. Also common in myth is the need to charm a person or animal with music. Harry plays his flute, a handmade gift, or fetish, from Hagrid, and Fluffy falls asleep.

It's then time for the Trio to Go Below, to Hogwarts own Underworld, where life is quite different than in the school above. They reach its depths by leaping into a seeming bottomless pit. The passageway is fairly narrow and also requires one to allow freefall in order to pass through it. Also of note is that the Trio are not only foregoing sure footing, but lighted surroundings as well - they go into the darkness.

Once "down the rabbit hole" as Lewis Carroll would say*, they begin a series of increasingly difficult tests of their deductive reasoning and abilities, not to mention courage. Their aim is to safeguard and return the Philosopher's Stone to the realm above. This is a clear parallel to mythologies (e.g. Egyptian) that describe a sun god's nightly journey through the Underworld to safeguard the sun and shepherd it as it makes its way back to the east where it will return to the world above the next morning. These tales also feature tests and sometimes battles with monsters or human agents of evil.

(* - Carroll's books about Alice, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass are some of the best modern shamanic allegories in all literature.)

Note that as the Trio progress the tests become more difficult and that, eventually, only our hero Harry can continue. This is a typical feature of many hero quests.

The stories that grow up around and embellish shamanic journeys must sometimes be analyzed to find the precedents they illustrate. In the many tales of this sort we see a hero, who represents the shaman, journeying into unfamiliar and often unnatural surroundings, which represent the other realms of existence where powerful spirits live and shamans must journey. It is the shaman's role to gain knowledge from good spirits, to battle evil ones who are causing trouble in the realm of humans, and sometimes to return with special items necessary to the well-being of his/her people. This is exactly what the hero on a quest does. It's just that with modern culture's loss of openly shamanic practice over the ages, most people have lost the ability to see the true origins of these myths. The exploits of mythic heroes depict actual events ancient peoples believed really happened to their shamans. (And which many today still believe occur.)

Eventually, Harry reaches the final test, the one that will either kill him or make him a successful shaman. He faces not only Quirrell, a man whom he can envision as an enemy, if only reluctantly, but also Voldemort, a non-human spirit entity he did not even know still existed. As the purest of human agents, the rare one Dumbledore says can see the Stone and not want it for himself, Harry has the ability to defy his evil spirit opponent successfully.

Here at the end of Harry's first quest is a variation from typical ancient myths. Ancient shamans journeyed for many reasons, including initially to prove their worth and level of self-knowledge and motivations. The work they had to do to reach that stage takes many years of reflection, preparation, and maturation. But in the beginning the HP books were geared toward children and had a child hero. Harry had not had either the time or the life experience to reach the typical beginning shaman stage. In adapting the greater scheme of shamanic mythology, JKR substituted the awareness, clear reasons, and willingness to sacrifice oneself of Harry's mother in order to supply him with the insight and defenses he needed to prevail. The result is an admirable hybrid of shamanic precedent and the purity of innocence more often found in later Christian inspired hero tales.

As with any introductory shamanic experience, Harry remains unconscious for some time after his exploit has ended. He awakens in the Hogwarts hospital wing three days after he saved the Stone, Quirrell had died, and Vapormort had once again fled. He needs some adult experience, in the form of Dumbledore's explanations, to begin to understand all that has happened and its underlying import. It's of note, I believe, that Harry was still in the unconscious realm (another realm separate from that of humans) for exactly three days. In one of the books of the Aprocrypha, additional Christian writings still consulted by the Catholic faith, but which were not chosen for the final form of the New Testament, Jesus is said to have descended into hell between his death from Crucifixion and his spiritual rebirth from Resurrection. During his time below he spoke with sinners, attempting to heal them of their errors and bring them back into the realm of light. Harry did not intend for Quirrell to die, nor did he freely choose to be the agent of his death. Neither did he tell Vapormort to "get thee behind me." He was not yet experienced enough, being on his own initiation journey, to try to heal his enemies or guide them away from dark magic. But I feel that if he could have, he may very well have tried. And I do feel there is a strong possibility something of this sort will happen in Deathly Hallows when a mature, fully trained Harry must make his final shamanic journey in his quest to vanquish Voldemort.

Other Shamanic Events in PS/SS
From the very outset of Book 1 shamanic events are all over the place! Our fist clue that differing realms are beginning to intersect, to in effect take the reader on his/her own shamanic journey, occurs when Vernon Dursely, Muggle Extraordinaire, thinks he sees a cat reading a map and a streetsign. This is, of course, shapeshifting animagus Minerva McGonagall. (Unfortunately, I neglected to mention in my overview that shamans frequently shapeshift.) Vernon also sees many oddly dressed people on his way to work. Unknown by him to be wizards and witches, we can see them as friendly visitors from a "spirit realm" (when compared to the Muggle, or human, realm). One can even say that on this occasion they come to bring us "tidings of great joy." Although Vernon has his back to the flury of owls zipping to and fro that day, we can see them for the animal messengers from the spirit world that are part and parcel of shamanic belief and later mythology.

That night, as "normal" people sleep, the Great Shaman himself, Dumbledore, "appeared so suddenly and silently you'd have thought he just popped out of the ground," i.e. from the Underworld. Remember, the Underworld of many mythologies is not like the hell of Judeo-Christian tradition. It is not a place where evil doers are punished for eternity. While it can be a dark and unnerving place in some mythologies, a place in which the living may feel extremely uncomfortable, it is merely a place where the dead reside. And in some mythologies it's a rather pleasant place for spirits to spend time, either eternally or before being reincarnated. As we now know DD to be the best of wizards to follow "light magic" (a term JKR never uses but is the logical counterpart to dark magic), we can discount his seeming to come out of the ground as a bad sign and recognize it as simply his appearance from one of the many other spirit realms.

As Hagrid arrives we have the most important shamanic journey to date. He brings Baby Harry, fresh from a Near Death Experience, yet miraculously alive and well, save a new "initiation" scar. They arrive from the sky with an attendant "low rumbling sound" that grows "steadily louder," which eventually "swelled to a roar." After farewells to transition him to his new life in a new realm, the Elder Trio place Harry on the Dursley doorstep, rather like what happens in a changling story from Irish-Celtic fairy mythology.

[The Celts had a vast shamanic tradition, best witnessed by the Druids who combined the roles of priest, judge, and keeper of tribal lore (as accomplished by highly respected "bards"). When Christianity arrived in Pagan areas, the old ideas and ways were discouraged, then suppressed. But they did not die - they became myths, folklore, and fairy tales. In Ireland the old gods and spirits became known as The Fay (or Fey), what we know as fairies. Norse spirits, of both good and evil varieties, were known as elves, and their stories survive as well. There are many Celtic and Norse mythology clues in HP, not just Greek and Roman ones.]

For ten long years Harry stays in the realm of Muggles, unaware of his own natural ties to a different realm. But he is not entirely out of contact with his natural realm. Numerous events happen to him, usually when he's stressed or angry, that give hints to his non-Muggle-realm origins. His hair grows out overnight after Aunt Petunia's horrible haircut. The horrid sweater of Dudley's she tries to make Harry wear shrinks. Harry finds himself atop his school when Dudley's gang chases him. During this time he "lives" within a confined coccoon or womb-like area under the stairs at #4 Privet Drive, all the while developing slowly in magical ability, all the while slowly returning to his own realm. Harry's odd "mishaps" culminate when he communicates with the snake at the zoo, inadvertantly freeing it when Dudley knocks him to the ground. Here we see Harry's first strongly shamanic ability - he can talk to snakes. And here the knowledge of his Muggle family that he is very different begins to solidly form, just as shamans are often viewed as not like other members of a tribe or clan.

The "Letters from No One" absolutely seal the deal that there is something very odd indeed about "that Potter boy." I had always assumed they were delivered by owls, but rereading that chapter I found that twice they come through the mail slot along with regular mail, and afterwards are shoved through any small gap available, eventually careening down the long narrow chimney flue, all with nary an owl in sight. (They even come inside eggs, a clear symbol of rebirth.) Later Hagrid said he had the responsibility of getting Harry's letters to him. However he did this, on his own or with owls, they are still open communications from "another realm." Their blatant difference from Muggle mail (on parchment using green ink and having no postage stamps) and their sheer numbers are too much for Vernon, who first tries to isolate his realm from the "invading" spirit realm and, after that fails, takes his family on a sort of anti-quest in order to escape.

Along the way all the family members gradually do with less and less than they are accustomed to. Spoiled Dudley is actually cuffed by his father when he tries to bring along a TV, VCR, and computer. (Interestingly, none of those things will work where there's a great deal of magical presence.) The family sleeps in a grungy hotel that night and has a sparing breakfast the following morning, when yet again those blasted letters start coming in spades. Vernon drives for ages, eventually settling on a tiny rocky island some distance offshore in the sea. Here we have another clear tie to Greek shamanic myth - Vernon introduces them to a "toothless old man" who points with "a rather wicked grin, at an old rowboat." This is Charon, the Ferryman. It is he who allows the newly dead to cross from purgatory-like plains over the river Styx and into Hades proper and their new existence there. And the island is certainly hellish, as is the journey to it.
"It was freezing in the boat. Icy sea spray and rain crept down their necks and a chilly wind whipped their faces. After what seemed like hours they reached the rock... [inside the house] the wind whistled through the gaps and the fireplace was damp and empty."
The portions I placed in bold are all classic environmental and time distortions that can happen in shamanic journeys. Also present is the fasting element: "Uncle Vernon's rations turned out to be a bag of chips each and four bananas." The cold persists as well: "He tried to start a fire but the empty chip bags just smoked and shriveled up." As the night continues, Harry is coldest of all on the floor with the thinnest of the meager blankets they'd found. The storm continues to rage, complete with thunder that begins as midnight, and Harry's birthday, draws near. (Lightning is not mentioned, but one may surmise it was likely there as well.)

Enter Hagrid, Harry's first conscious contact with a realm beyond the one he's always known. He is "a giant of a man" who squeezes through the door. He is obviously not of this world, as his size, "wildness," and various activities show - he starts a roaring fire (which warms Harry), he produces food seemingly from nowhere (mimicking the mythic cauldrons and cornucopias of abundance), he provides new knowledge for our young proto-shaman (as any spirit of light/good should), and he even brings two animal messengers into the story (he pays the Daily Propet owl and also sends word to DD that he's found Harry). On the first day of his new life, Hagrid takes Harry the new shamanic apprentice, away from the tiny island, leaving the average people behind.

From here they have train and subway journeys (with their long tunnel pathways), arriving at another gateway to an even more magical realm - The Leaky Cauldron that stands before Diagon Alley. Inside they meet yet another gate guardian, Tom the bartender "who was quite bald and looked like a toothless walnut." He resembles the Charon-like boat owner, but he guards the Gates of Paradise in a way, rather than the gates to the Underworld. Even his first words to Harry, the first of any wizard save Hagrid, are full of welcome and joy: "'Bless my soul,' whispered the old bartender, 'Harry Potter... what an honor.'" Considering the bartender's name is Tom, I've wondered if the words "Bless my soul Harry Potter," may be a big clue about Harry eventually healing Voldemort, or in some way vanquishing him while allowing what is left of his soul to transform into a being who can travel on to the Underworld, as all people should after death. Our shaman Harry could prove to the darkest of wizards that death really is only the next great adventure. :)

Well.... I could go on and on and on and on and... even more than I already have :lol:... but um, you get my point. :whistle: :rolleyes: Now I think it's time now for anyone who'd like to, to comment on what I've outlined here and to also add in more such events from PS/SS because, despite my going on and on, there are plenty more examples where those came from. Have fun with this - it's so exciting to begin to see things that have been in the stories all along but are only now revealing themselves to you the readers, the next shamans in training. :tu:

dorcasderr February 21st, 2007 11:36 pm

Re: Shamanism and the HP Connection
Thank you Emerald 63, first for your explanation of Shamanism itself, and also for the outline of Shamanic events in the first book.Now i won't feel QUITE so lost!.

Emerald63 February 23rd, 2007 3:01 am

Re: Shamanism and the HP Connection

Originally Posted by dorcasderr (Post 4360164)
Thank you Emerald 63, first for your explanation of Shamanism itself, and also for the outline of Shamanic events in the first book.Now i won't feel QUITE so lost!.

You're welcome, dorcasderr! There is another pertinant and helpful overview, written by our discussion founder, rust_loup, in the first post of the "Shamanism and the HBP Connection v.1" thread that is now archived in the History of Magic Reference Books section. Many of the early posts in that version would also be helpful for getting a better understanding of both shamanism and how it appears in the books.

I'd like to say to anyone reading this that I am going to be working VERY hard to make future posts much shorter and maybe be in a list form. There's just sooo many shamanic elements repeated in all the books that it can be hard to choose which to leave out. But I will try, because I'm really hoping others will be interested in joining in. And just in case others try to start this thread from the beginning, I'll be making a brief edit to the beginning of my own first post to let them know not to fear and endless succession of endless posts. :lol:

Nessy February 23rd, 2007 8:45 pm

Re: Shamanism and the HP Connection
Thank you Emerald63 for your amazing post. All I can say at the moment is wow! Wow!

Emerald63 February 23rd, 2007 9:56 pm

Re: Shamanism and the HP Connection

Originally Posted by Nessy (Post 4362882)
Thank you Emerald63 for your amazing post. All I can say at the moment is wow! Wow!

You're most welcome, Nessy. I'm glad you liked it. :blush:

Would you care to comment on any of the events Harry goes through, either the ones I included or some of the others in PS/SS? I continue to learn from other's catches and would like to hear what you (and others) have to say. Once you know the basics it's really quite easy - and fun - to find examples. There are definitely plenty of them! :)

Nessy February 24th, 2007 10:08 pm

Re: Shamanism and the HP Connection
:relax: I'll post soon I promise! Got a bit of studying to do....

Emerald63 March 2nd, 2007 5:11 am

Re: Shamanism and the HP Connection
Greetings to Nessy, and hopefully others, too!

Please don't ignore your schoolwork, Nessy. When you do have time to get back to this, I've got a bit more for you. If you want to reread the canon section involved, it includes Chapters 16 and 17 of CoS. This post includes only the Big Event, so it won't be nearly as long as the one for PS/SS. :clap: :lol:

The "Big Event" in CoS
Harry seeks to save Ginny and stop or destroy whatever monster has been plaguing Hogwarts. He goes below ground, into the depths of the earth to do so, knowing he'll face great danger. That's a shaman's role - to journey to the spirit realms in order to defeat whatever evil spirit is plaguing his people and to find healing for individuals in need. As is typical, Shaman-Harry enters this realm through a secret portal accessed by special powers. Also common, he has the sensation of falling and travelling down a long narrow passage. Once at the bottom the narrowness continues until he reaches the very gates of the other realm.

The pillars just inside this gateway have serpents entwined on them. These are the de rigueur totem animal of the underworld, regardless of culture. They symbolize both connections with the dead, with their movements below ground, and rebirth, with their skin shedding aspect (as well as many species being egg-born). Through both of these ties snakes are also associated with healing, the art of preventing or postponing death so that the person may rise from the sickbed to begin a new life. Here in this chamber one "life" will end, evil spirit Diary-Tom, and another will be reborn, Ginny. Harry is the shaman that mediates this event, battling not one, but two evil beings the baslisk and Diary-Tom.

Harry is helped by his personal totem animal, also representative of death and resurrection, the phoenix. Despite Harry's patronus protector being a stag, I think his true totem animal is phoenix (especially considering his wand core). The stag seems more a legacy from his father, rather than a reflection of Harry's inner self and destiny. His totem animal aids him (pecking out the pesky basilisk eyes) and enables him to retrieve a magical item from another realm - the sword - with which he can defeat his first opponent. For his second opponent, I think it's really interesting that Harry uses an element of one evil being, the basilisk fang, to defeat another evil being, Diary-Tom. The great serpent is Diary-Tom's totem, but he has distorted and misused Snake "medicine" (in the Native American sense) to favor only its negative connotations. He's also done that with the phoenix medicine within his wand core. Between the two misuses, it's not surprising that the fang is able to destroy him.

Harry's efforts allow the former imbalance in life energies/souls to correct itself; the never-completely-corporeal Diary-Tom ceases to exist and Ginny revives. His totem animal guides them, along with Ron and Lockhart, back to the realm of the living.

There Harry shares information from beyond, the story of what happened in the Chamber, and gives the ruined diary to the Master Shaman, Dumbledore. Between the information and the object, DD is able to learn a great deal about the wizarding world's most powerful foe, the greatest evil spirit to plague them. Harry also brings back the Hat and introduces Gryffindor's Sword into the realm of the living once more. There is no mention of it in any of the flashback scenes that occur in times earlier than CoS takes place. It would seem even DD did not know of its existence before Harry presented him with it. The information and the objects all mark Harry as a great shaman himself, even though he is still in training.


Also, most shamanic cultures believed caverns represented the womb of Mother Earth. So a girl being "reborn" from one is also symbolic in that way, even beyond returning from a generic separate realm.

Of course there is tons of other symbolism, including both Freudian and Jungian psyhcological ones. Those incorporate underground, or subconscious, aspects as well as the fear of facing death. There is modern mainstream religious symbolism in the action, too, but I'm not sure I see any in connection with the underground setting. It is hellish. But other than Jesus journeying to Hell between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection (per the Apocrypha) I'm not familiar with other monotheistic journeys to an underworld. But even Jesus' journey has shamanic overtones.

Nessy March 11th, 2007 7:27 pm

Re: Shamanism and the HP Connection
Is there anything shamanistic about Harry becoming the Quidditch seeker in the Philosopher's Stone?

Passionfruit March 21st, 2007 10:44 am

Re: Shamanism and the HP Connection
Hello everyone!

Nessy, that's an interesting idea, because the snitch seems to have some spirit-like qualities. It's very hard to see, almost like just a sunray, something incorporial/aetherical. Only the moment Harry catches it the golden sunray becomes a corporial ball.
Isn't gold also alchemically connected to the sun? So probably Harry is catching the spirit of the sun?

Emerald63 March 27th, 2007 12:30 am

Re: Shamanism and the HP Connection

My apologies for being away so long. There have been several family emergencies lately, two of which are ongoing. I'm also due to leave on a retreat in a couple of days, so my further apologies for being away for the next two weeks. I hope to have time to check in when I return, though one of those emergencies will be ongoing for some time and is 200 miles away from home.

Passionfruit, it's so good to see you here! :agree:



Originally Posted by Nessy (Post 4387934)
Is there anything shamanistic about Harry becoming the Quidditch seeker in the Philosopher's Stone?


Originally Posted by Passionfruit (Post 4402854)
Hello everyone!

Nessy, that's an interesting idea, because the snitch seems to have some spirit-like qualities. It's very hard to see, almost like just a sunray, something incorporial/aetherical. Only the moment Harry catches it the golden sunray becomes a corporial ball.
Isn't gold also alchemically connected to the sun? So probably Harry is catching the spirit of the sun?

Good catches (so to speak ;)) for both of you. There is indeed a great deal of symbolism regarding the Golden Snitch and Harry's role as Quidditch Seeker. Some of it is shamanic, though there are also mythological, biblical, and philosophical connections as well. Remember, a "seeker" is usually the term for one who seeks spiritual enlightenment, no matter which path they follow to find it.

Yes, the Snitch does represent the golden sun of some mythologies, which often as not has highly spiritual overtones in said beliefs. A few sun images even feature wings, as in Egyptian mythology. And there are tales of a shaman, god, or mythological hero swallowing it, as Harry comes close to doing at the end of one match (his first I believe). The sun was often believed to be swallowed by a god (or sometimes a monster) as it set. When taken by a god or goddess, he/she shepherded it through the Underworld throughout the night, guarding and defending it, giving "birth" to it again the next day. If a monster were involved, the god/dess would fight and kill the creature in order to restore the life-giving sun to its rightful place in the morning sky.

I'll close with a bit of a shamelss plug, but with (I hope) a good reason... I've been published! MuggleNet just today published an editorial I sent in way back in October of 2005. It involves lots of Celtic mythology, although I was much less familiar with shamanism and how it appears in Celtic myth when I wrote it. But it discusses in detail Otherworld journeys, the basis of shamanic belief. As I will be away again for some time... (here's that "good reason" for my self-plug) you may find it an entertaining read. I plan to let others of the Old Shamanism Gang know it's up and if they see fit to comment in the thread for it they may be able to assist you with questions you have on shamanism within the ed. I'll ask them to drop in here, too, if you feel the need.

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