This week, we discuss: more monomyth; disapproving McGonagall; positive social policing; What the Fuck, Hogwarts?!: After Hours edition; sexy My Little Ponies; virgins LOVE THEM SOME UNICORNS; magical boobs; poorly conceived Jesus metaphors; stop killing animals for their phallus parts; Apollonian vs. Dionysian philosophy and rituals; what Pentecostals and Dionysian ritual madness might have in common; why you never see female centaurs; centaur erotica; Dionysian masculinity and queer themes; the power of Amazonian genitals; Firenze as the sole far-sighted centaur; and damn that clever man Dumbledore. (AND IF THAT DESCRIPTION DIDN’T ALREADY CLUE YOU IN, THIS WEEK WE ARE MORE THAN USUALLY NSFW.)
Welcome back to Advanced Muggle Studies. We are going to try to finish Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, depending on how much we talk!
Chapter 15: The Forbidden Forest
S: I am happy to say, I found great scope for the lack of dirty jokes that you missed last week. We’ve got PLENTY of material this week.
C: I’m so happy to hear that!
S: SO. MUCH. MATERIAL. In this chapter alone. We will try to do it porn joke justice. Is that a thing?
C: It is on this podcast.
S: So it’s appropriate that this is “The Forbidden Forest.”
C: That gets me hot. The Restricted Section, The Forbidden Forest…oooh boy. Somebody spray some water on me.
S: Not on the list of things I ever needed to know. Before we go into 15 – the last couple episodes, I’ve been falling down on keeping us abreast of where we are in Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth, so let’s go back. Last time I talked about it, we were “Crossing the Threshold,” where the hero crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the limits of his world. Which is pretty much leaving the platform onto the Hogwarts Express.
The next stage after that is “Belly of the Whale,” which represents the final separation from the hero’s known world and self. By entering this stage the person shows willingness to undergo a metamorphosis. My thought is that this is when Harry is Sorted by the Sorting Hat and officially joins Gryffindor.
S: The next is “The Road of Trials”: a series of tests, tasks or ordeals the person must undergo to begin the transformation. The trials often occur in threes and the person often fails one or more test. That’s very well served by Quidditch, classes, Harry vs. Malfoy. Granted, Harry doesn’t fail much in this book. We save that for the later books. All of that exposition of Harry being initiated into the Hogwarts world does serve a purpose aside from world and character building, though.
The next two, in this book, I think are merged together. The next one is “Meeting with the Goddess:” this is the point where the person experiences a love that has the power and significance of the all-powerful, all-encompassing, unconditional love that a fortunate infant may experience with his or her mother. So Mirror of Erised, right?
C: I think so.
S: Immediately following is “Temptation”: material temptations that may lead the hero to abandon or stray from his or her quest. I think that’s also Mirror of Erised, where he gets so wrapped up that he starts not to care.
The next stage we are going to see in Chapter 15. When we left our intrepid, idiotic heroes, they had left the Cloak on top of the tower after getting rid of Norbert—
S: And got themselves busted by Filch, who is only too happy to take them to McGonagall, who has got to be having one hell of a night. She’s already caught one first-year out of bed with a crazy story about a dragon, and now there’s a whole bunch more. What is happening?
C: Yeah, she’s not happy. Can you imagine Snape ever taking 50 points from Slytherin? I can’t.
S: No, I really cannot. I can’t imagine anything a Slytherin that could do that would make Snape do that to his house. But McGonagall’s a badass, and this is one of the great moments that establishes her as an impressive character. Everybody has that teacher – tough, smart, pushes you – but the real test of respect comes in whether or not they mean what they say. McGonagall does, and you like her more for it. “I don’t care if you’re in my house, you don’t have the right to do this, how dare you?!”
C: I like it. It reminded me of times when we’d be in school and have a terrible substitute, and the kids would run wild and terrorize the sub? I did not like that and I did not like teachers who did that. You can always strike a balance between letting your kids have some freedom and treating them with respect that they deserve, and that ratchets up as you get older, but at a certain point you have to be able to say, “Look bitches, I’m sending your ass to the principal’s office.” And McGonagall is clearly one of those teachers.
S: The great thing is that you and I were both fortunate enough to have a Southern McGonagall as one of our teachers. I think it was fair to argue that you and I were among her favorites – she let us get away with a hellllll of a lot. But at the same time one of the things I loved about that woman, even at the time, is that she would smack you down, tell you when you were being stupid, or had a terrible idea.
C: Yeah, it was the greatest thing to have somebody who has no fear of telling you exactly how it is, and being able to do that, and you still adore them afterwards. That’s a rare talent.
S: Because it’s fair. She had students you could tell she didn’t like, but at the same time when they came through she would commend them and be fair in praising them.
But the worst thing about this is Neville! He snuck out to try to warn them because he heard Malfoy talking about the dragon!
C: Poor Neville!
S: I feel so bad for him!
C: He’s so brave.
S: McGonagall: “Mr. Filch says you were up in the astronomy tower. It is one o’clock in the morning. Explain yourselves.
C: As if there is anything you could say!
S: But of course she thinks they told Draco a story he fell for in an attempt to get him in trouble, and thought it would be funny if Neville got fooled too, which is of course not what happened, and Harry feels terrible because now Neville thinks they lied to him to hurt his feelings, which is awful.
So McGonagall lays the smackdown, gives them all detention, and takes 50 points from Gryffindor for each of the three. 150 points, donezo.
I’m starting to think the points system is an effective behavioral management tool, because the next day, when the other students find out that they lost 150 points to their stupid classmates, no one will give them the time of day. It’s great social pressure.
C: So is it good? Or is it bad because now they’ve been totally ostracized? That’s not great either.
S: It’s not great, but may be a form of positive peer pressure. If you’ve taught, one of the biggest mistakes in my opinion is try to walk in and assert your dominance in a classroom. It doesn’t work because at the teen level especially, the kids push back against that. It’s better to do what Dumbledore and McGonagall do – engage with students on a level of respect and trust, so they understand that if they screw that up there will be a problem. In doing so, you can create a classroom environment where students will police each other. If one student is being an ass, the others will chime in, and you don’t have to step in. It can have its downsides, but it is a form of social management because they want a positive outcome for the group rather than every man for himself.
C: Well, you and I, and me in a more blatant and rude way, did that to others, but it also didn’t result in people being ostracized from literally our entire school for a number of weeks afterward.
S: But we also weren’t sorted into Houses that were supposed to be our families, and we weren’t pitted in an Inter-House competition with the rest of the school.
C: I enjoyed high school, I had a really good time – but I can’t imagine, with the exception of you and maybe a few others, being in a group of my peers and thinking, “Aha! My family!”
S: That’s why they have to start young – to make this work.
They’re having a rough time. Harry offers to resign from Quidditch, which scandalizes Wood, and he tells Harry not to be stupid. But they’re all still being ostracized, and Harry thinks, ‘Just gotta make it through exams. We’re the worst.’
About a week before the exams Harry passes a classroom and hears Quirrell talking to someone, almost as if he’s being threatened. He agrees to something, then runs out pale, about to cry, straightening his turban. Harry thinks this must mean Snape has finally broken Quirrell’s resolve and gotten him to explain how to get past his obstacle.
Hermione’s instinct is: ‘We have valuable information adults need, we go to Dumbledore and give them that information.’ Harry isn’t on board: ‘We can’t prove it, Quirrell won’t back us, Snape definitely won’t, they’ll all think we made it up, and we’re not supposed to know this anyway. So we’re going to keep our heads down and shut up.’ I guess I agree with that to an extent. From their perspective I guess it makes sense.
C: I wonder what we would have done?
S: I don’t know.
C: I think we would have gone and told a teacher.
S: Probably. It’s useful that it happens now, when the kids are already feeling in trouble and very aware of their tenuous position. Had this happened at an earlier point in the story when they were generally approved of, it might have been easier in Harry’s mind to go to Dumbledore. But also, because so much of what they heard hinges on their faulty premise that Snape is behind this.
The next morning they get notes to report to Filch in the entrance hall at 11 p.m. for their detention.
C: And I believe we have now entered the portion of the podcast which is: “WHAT THE FUCK, HOGWARTS?”
S: YES. It is time for our daily, hourly, minutely segment of WHAT THE FUCK HOGWARTS? They’re in trouble for being out at night, after curfew. They’re doing detention at night, after curfew.
C: In the Forbidden Forest, where they are not allowed!
S: With one adult!
C: And something is killing pure, precious creatures, it’s a dangerous forest anyway but now something is killing unicorns, and nobody stops to think, ‘You know, maybe there’s something else we can do with these kids!’
S: Part of me thinks that this could be a total Hagrid move: ‘Send the kids to me, I’ve got a job for them!’ And he just neglects to mention that the job is in the Forbidden Forest chasing down a unicorn murderer. But it still doesn’t seem like a good idea.
C: Like, surely you would have some professor in charge of detentions and would know who was doing what, when, and why.
S: The detentions in the later books are way more appropriate, like cleaning the trophy room and sorting out flobberworms and filing. Mundane tasks that need to get done. But in this case, this one is wildly inappropriate for 11-year-olds: to go into a Forbidden Forest potentially full of monsters and maybe get eaten.
C: Maybe they learned from this mistake.
S: Maybe. I doubt it. They don’t seem to do that often.
Here comes Hagrid with Fang. Hagrid slaps Filch down a bit for lecturing the kids and trying to scare them. Malfoy tries to pull this ‘I’m not doing that!’ Hagrid: “Copying lines? What good’s that to anyone? Yeh’ll do summat useful or yeh’ll get out.”
C: Well, Hagrid clearly did not read ahead to the rest of the series, as you just pointed out.
S: So true. And they’re going into the forest, because, lo! There is unicorn blood on the ground. A unicorn has been hurt, the second time in a week. Found one dead last Wednesday. Going to try to find it, might have to put it out of its misery.
We know Quirrell was arguing with whoever in the room, so I think we can figure that he was being told to go kill the unicorn. So they split up. Malfoy and Neville take Fang, and Harry, Hermione and Hagrid go another way.
C: And can I just say that this adds insult to injury, sending two of the kids off with no adult supervision whatsoever. It’s terrible all around. What the fuck, Hogwarts?
S: Yeah. Malfoy, who is known to pick on Neville, with no supervision to stop him doing anything bad to Neville. They go on wandering around. Hagrid says it’s not easy to catch a unicorn – they’re powerful magical creatures and he’s never known one to be hurt before. So I thought we could talk about unicorns!
C: I loved My Little Pony when I was a child, and I still have some of my figures, including unicorns.
S: I liked the original My Little Ponies. The new ones are cute but I have nostalgia for the old ones with the normal-sized eyes.
C: I’m not a fan of the new stuff. It’s like they tried to sex up My Little Pony, which is weird and wrong and bizarre.
S: That is basically what happened.
So, unicorns are interesting. I found this to be yet another one of those instances where – we talked about this before – J.K. Rowling has taken some very sexy mythology and neutralized it for use in this book. Because whoa there, unicorns.
One thing I didn’t quite realize is that unicorns largely originate in accounts of natural history in Greece! Again, this is the Greek mythology book. Writers of Greek natural history were writing about them like they were real, way over in exotic India. There was a lot of discussion about what they looked like and did. There was a 6th century merchant of Alexandria who traveled and wrote about a unicorn. The unicorn he wrote about was based on 4 bronze statues of unicorns in the palace of the king of Ethiopia. So let’s be clear, he’s not writing about a real unicorn, but unicorn statues that he saw, and telling what unicorns are like – based on statues. Just want to make sure we understand the scientific method here.
C: But what were the unicorn statues based on? REAL UNICORNS. So there you go.
S: According to him, it is impossible to take this ferocious beast alive, and all its strength lies in its horn. Apparently they were super fast, impossible to capture. Until we get to the Middle Ages, and the medieval period when, like everything in mythology, the unicorn got Biblicized.
So a unicorn becomes part of this medieval bestiary, and part of this very complicated allegory in which unicorns could only be caught by virgins. I WONDER WHY.
C: I guess that leaves us out.
S: Sucks, right?
C: Dammit. If only I’d known!
S: This is the hallmark of European folklore. Catching a unicorn is impossible, and it’s too strong to be caught by hunters. So you have to trick it. This is a direct quote from 7th century Isidore of Seville: “If a virgin girl is placed in front of a unicorn and she bares her breast to it, all of its fierceness will cease and it will lay its head on her bosom, and thus quieted, is easily caught.”
C: Who knew boobs were so powerful? Dang.
S: Boobs are magical! They were trying to tell us all the way back in the Middle Ages. I assume that led directly to the invention of the corset.
C: No wonder so many people get so het up about women breast feeding in public. Can you imagine if we all went around flashing people randomly? We could take over the world.
S: Yeah, but it attracts wild roving bands of unicorns! Imagine, breast feed in the mall and the next thing you know there’s magical livestock stampeding your shopping center. So in a lot of medieval art, tapestries, this becomes a very common symbol – a woman in a forest with the unicorn laying his head in her lap.
C: So was this just an excuse for people to draw boobs?
S: The illustration I’m looking at here doesn’t show her boobs. She looks naked, but the unicorn’s head is covering her boobs while a guy sneaks up to kill it from behind. Sneaky. But the later ones I’ve seen, some of them in person on tapestries, are generally clothed and the unicorn is not lying his head on her chest but more in her lap. Again, phallic imagery anyone? I’m sorry. Come on. We all know what you’re doing.
C: Isn’t there a story in Greek mythology about some chick and a swan?
S: Yeah, Leda and the Swan.
C: Is this an updated version of that, but with a unicorn’s horn?
S: No, not officially. But there’s certainly some suggestiveness. Maybe this is a close as medieval artists got to risqué imagery. Wooo, a unicorn…with his horn.
C: Except for all the fart trumpets.
S: Yeah, but that was marginalia. Tapestries hang on your wall. Racy stuff!
C: You wouldn’t want to have a tapestry that featured someone picking a basket of fresh dicks. Except I actually would want that, so listeners out there, if you want to hook me up.
S: One day I will get you a print of that and gift it to you.
C: I would 100 percent frame it and hang it in the most visible place possible in my home.
S: I believe it. Once the unicorn is Biblicized, it then becomes part of this elaborate metaphor for Jesus, because everything was, at that point. So the idea is that the unicorn symbolizes Christ, captured and put to death, just as the unicorn is captured and put to death by the virgin, but that’s also somewhat complicated.
C: But if you go by the stories, Jesus wasn’t entranced, he went willingly, so that doesn’t actually work.
S: It doesn’t work. There’s also the complication that the virgin herself is generally representative of the Virgin Mary. So in some cases they saw it as a metaphor for the virgin birth, and in others, they liked the notion that the unicorn symbolized Christ’s humility, and that the horn was a symbol of power. (At least they got that right.) “He avoided capture unless brought into the company of a virgin, who symbolized the Blessed Virgin.” Again, that’s problematic. Is Jesus being captured Mary’s fault? No sense at all.
C: That doesn’t make any sense. Let’s be realistic, though, if there was a way those priests could blame women for it they would.
S: They absolutely would.
C: And by those priests I mean Middle Ages priests, not necessarily today’s priests.
S: No, they would have. It would have been extremely convenient. This is a weird association that, I guess, don’t think too hard about since the unicorn is supposed to be pure and noble and phallic, so I guess – Jesus!
C: Just stick with the lamb! That’s actually in the translation.
S: It is actually in the Bible! It’s not like there’s a shortage of allegories or visual representations of Jesus. Why do you have to invent them and put this weird sexual connotation to us?
C: Speaking of representations of Jesus – 100% 6-foot-tall blue eyed white man. TOTALLY.
S: Jim Caviezel! Right on the mark. This is a funny article, which pointed out that pretty much every animal at this time was also compared to Jesus, including the pelican which they said would peck at its breast and cause it to bleed to feed its young if it couldn’t get them food. “And Jesus shed his blood for us!” So at this point I think they’re just going around looking for things. “I cut my finger, shedding my blood – much in the way Christ did for us!”
C: I like your pious voice! Do it again.
S: I feel like we should spend a day trying to correlate everything you do to being a metaphor for Jesus.
C: If I did that it would be blasphemy from dawn til dusk!
S: For example! “We are doing a podcast to educate people about the awesome world of Harry Potter and its implications – much as Christ stood on the mount and gave the sermon to explain the truth to all!”
C: I recently ate peanut butter straight from a jar that my parents bought and provided for me…. Much as our Lord has provided eternal salvation for his flock!
S: We’re going to hell! If you’re listening to this podcast, I hope you’re not overly religiously sensitive – I mean you’ve gotten this far, so I’m going to assume that a few religiously insensitive jokes won’t mess you over – but at the same time I feel like Jesus would find this funny too.
C: I would just like to say to you, depending on your perspective, you have either grown so much or fallen so far to be able to make these jokes. And I approve heartily.
S: I have! I’d say grown. Although if you talked to my parents they would probably disagree.
C: Same. Which is why I refuse to tell my mother the name of this podcast, because if she listened she would disown me.
S: Are you kidding me? My parents don’t know I’m still into Harry Potter, so we’re leaving that alone.
C: Oh, no that would be bad. Much like Christ ignored our sins! Oh I’m going to do this the rest of the episode. You know that.
S: I hope so! So the unicorn becomes implanted into European folklore, which turns into a mania for unicorn horn. They thought that if they stirred it in your food or drink it could detect poison. Usually these were narwhal horns or oryx horns.
C: I love narwhals!
S: Apparently the medieval people didn’t, because apparently they were killing them for their horns, then selling them, much like tiger penis today.
C: People sell tiger penises? I knew about ivory and elephant tusks, but not tiger penises.
S: It’s a big deal in Chinese traditional medicine, which is ridiculously based on this idiotic notion that tigers are especially virile and that by using the dried, powdered tiger penis in a medicinal remedy that it will provide vitality, vigor and one would assume, stamina?
C: In that case, I’ve got a stray tomcat that will not quit. Come and get that thing.
S: Surely we could fake it. QUIT KILLING TIGERS FOR THEIR PENISES, PEOPLE.
C: Or for any reason! Other than imminent death!
S: Exactly. If we’re going to kill things for their penises, start with sex offenders. Anyway, the unicorn becomes a staple of Western lore. Now they’ve neutralized it. But I found something else really interesting – unicorns were associated with Dionysus, Dionysian cults and iconography. Do you know what I’m talking about?
C: A goddess?
S: A god, actually. The Dionysian thing has always really interested me. In Greek mythology, Apollo and Dionysus are Zeus’s kids.
C: Who’s NOT Zeus’s kid?
S: Everyone is Zeus’s kid, because he’s a whore. Apollo is the god of reason and rationality, while Dionysus is the god of the irrational and chaos.
C: Ah, patron saint of our current president!
S: Precisely. They weren’t considered rivals, but this concept of Apollonian philosophy and Dionysian philosophy becomes this interesting part of Western thinking – the dichotomy between the reasonable and rational and the chaotic and irrational. Dionysus is also known as Bacchus, the Greek god who is always drunk. As Tyrion Lannister said, “Where’s the god of tits and wine?” That’s Bacchus. That’s who he is. He’s the god of getting drunk and having orgies.
C: That would be MY patron saint.
S: In the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th centuries, there were these mystery cults. A lot of them incorporated ritual madness, fertility – which I get. If you’re going to have a mystery cult, what else would you do but get high and have visions? That’s a Dionysian thing, as he’s also the god of epiphanies.
The cult of Dionysus is also called the cult of souls. He’s a divine communicant between the living and dead, and his servants sometimes feed the dead through blood offerings.
All of that is to say that unicorns were originally considered a Dionysian symbol. Which I find faaaaaaaascinating. Because again we have the thing were society takes something very adult, very charged, and all about the sexy time, and you just neutralize, neutralize, neutralize, and now you have Lisa Frank and My Little Pony. And given that Dionysus also came with symbols of snakes and a phallic symbol, this association is REALLY interesting.
C: It sounds a lot like some parts of the Pentacostal churches.
C: Because they have those snakes and speaking in tongues, all of that sort of thing.
S: I would say there’s definitely some influence over the generations. You’ve got the one half of the service, which is supposed to be about the mind, and the other part that is fully about giving yourself over to chaos, divine mysteries, irrationality, handling snakes and general craziness. That is a Dionysian ritual.
I haven’t been able to see the clear link as to when unicorns would transition from a symbol of sex and drugs and drunkenness, or at least associated with it, and transitioning to this symbol of purity and holiness, and the only thing I can think is that it’s when Christianity co-opts the symbol and turns it into a Christian metaphor that doesn’t really work if you think about it too long.
C: Well, two things – they co-opted all sorts of pagan things and put their own rubber stamp on top to help get rid of paganism. And two, there is a whole hell of a lot of Christian theology that doesn’t make sense. That’s par for the course.
S: That’s fair.
C: To sum up, that’s par for the course. Christians being Christians, what are you going to do?
S: Now we get to the point where we have unicorns playing this role here, as this pure, powerful thing. So they go deeper into the forest, hear a noise, and there’s the centaurs. Hello, Ronan! I love the centaurs in this book. They’re so completely blasé.
C: And Hagrid does not get that they’re trying to tell him something at all.
S: This is probably as direct as a centaur gets! They’re trying to tell him something. Hagrid: ‘Have you seen anything?’ Ronan: “Mars is bright tonight.” Why is that interesting?
C: Mars is the god of War!
S: Yeah! He’s trying to tell you! Hagrid: ‘Okay, that doesn’t make sense. Have you seen anything?’ Ronan: ‘Always the innocent are the first victims.’ Hagrid: ‘Okay, but have you seen anything?’ ‘Mars is bright tonight.’ That’s about as good as it’s going to get. And then Bane shows up. It’s like a ‘Who’s on First’ routine at this point. Hagrid: “Oh, Bane! Have you seen anything?” Bane: “Mars is bright tonight.”
So of course, I went to centaurs, because this is what I do! Again – Greek mythology is where this comes from. Apparently there has been a lot of discussion over time ho a half-man, half-horse would be proportioned out, and part of me truly believes that has something to do with the fact that men who were thinking about this were imagining, ‘What if you could be half-man, half-horse, with a dude’s body but a horse’s giant dick?’ So many different variations of where the waist would go, front legs vs. back legs – it’s amusing.
C: Are there female centaurs? There have to be, right?
S: There are. Apparently they’re rare but you see them occasionally. One of the few times I’ve seen one is in the Prince Caspian movie. And of course, Leslie Knope.
According to Greek mythology, you’ve got centaurs descending from Centaurus, who mated with some mares? Why? I don’t know?
C: At least they didn’t mate with human women. That’s usually how those things go.
S: The most popular myth around centaurs is the wedding of Hippodamia to the king of the Lapithae. So the centaurs go, but they get so drunk at the ceremony they try to ride off with the bride and women in the wedding party, because, you know. Fun in the forest!
C: And then lo these many years later, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was made.
S: Ugh, yeah.
C: Problematic movie, but very catchy songs.
S: The most famous centaur is Chiron – wise, a healer, sacrificed his life to save others, immortal –
C: Well, if you’re immortal of course you can sacrifice your life, so it doesn’t mean dick.
S: I’m not entirely sure when they became associated with stargazing, and I don’t know if it’s a Rowling thing or just a nod to a famous centaur-related constellation. But they’re another myth that’s been neutralized and are not so much seen as dangerous, barbaric – now they’ve come to symbolize this joining of man’s nature and a beast’s nature, uniting those things, supposedly they’re still dangerous but they can still help you. They’re complicated.
C: How much centaur erotica do you think is for sale on Amazon’s e-book website?
S: SO MUCH. You know there’s a lot.
C: Continue with your research, and I will do what I do with the sexy things.
S: I am very curious, now, about centaur erotica. So you look it up right now, and meanwhile, I know this was something that bugged you on another podcast – in Book 5, a discussion about Umbridge and the centaurs. Nobody really knows what happened to Umbridge in the forest with the centaurs, and the reason there was this suggestion that maybe something very unpleasant happened to Umbridge and the centaurs, because the most famous story about the centaurs is about them getting drunk and hauling some women off to the forest, ostensibly to rape them.
C: Yeah, but this is Harry Potter. I don’t think there was any rapey intention.
S: This is Harry Potter. I don’t know if that is J.K. Rowling not coming out and saying it, but thinking, if you know the mythology then you know more than somebody who doesn’t. Either way, they drag her off to the forest, scare her, and she comes back and she seems fine. I guess it all depends on how you interpret it. Do you read it that way and think, ‘Oh, yeah, I know what happened in that forest,’ or do you not? It’s open to interpretation.
C: Okay, so let’s go back to a fun sexy topic, not a terrible sexy topic, and let me tell you some of the titles I have found searching for centaur erotica on Amazon.
S: Oh god.
C: First off, you can get the Kindle edition of this one for free, so I think we should buy it and do a bonus episode after our Drunk Potterwatch episode. This is called “Taken By The Centaurs,” very straight and to the point. Then we have one called “Wedded to the Centaur,” “A Centaur’s Concubine,” “The Virgin, the Centaur and the Werewolf,” “The Centaur’s Bride,” “The Centaur’s Touch,” “The Centaur’s Slave,” “Forced By The Centaur,” “The Centaur’s Hands”–
S: Ooh, well! Hands!
C: “The Centaurus,” “Carnal Encounters,” “Centaur’s Prize,” “Becoming the Centaur’s Wenches,” and then the best/worst one of the first page of results: “Any Way You Pump A Centaur: Hot Wife, MMF, Bi-Racial, Centaur Fantasy Threesome Erotica.” For those of you with very specific tastes.
C: That one is also free if you’d like to do a double review.
C: Oh, on page 2: “Half Man, Half Horse, All Love!”
C: “Ravished by Legendary Beasts”! How many beasts can we be ravaged by? Let’s find out.
S: All of them. There’s dinosaur erotica. You can be ravaged by anything.
C: I think these are actually getting worse. “Brood Mare For The Centaur”–
S: OH COME ON!!
C: “Boned,” which is very direct —
S: Simple and to the point.
C: And I think we’re going to have to stop with this one: “Creamed by the Centaurs.”
S: We’re stopping there! That’s disgusting! I did not need these mental images today!
C: This concludes our segment: What the Fuck, Seraphine and Creed?!
S: Right? Well while you were doing that, I found a book about centaurs and their relationship with women, and they were looking at the language Aristophanes used when talking about centaurs. They noted this word kentraun was commonly used for phallus. And tauros frequently meant phallus or – I don’t want to offend our listeners – the c word. Female genitalia. “The ambiguity of the term is interesting, although in either case, whether referring to intercourse between male and female or male and male, it suits the sexual aggressivity of the centaur and is appropriate to the folk etymology for the name centaur.”
This is interesting – he says that the term kentauros refers to aggressive homosexuals. Which might explain why traditionally, there aren’t as many women centaurs. It says that female centaurs were relatively rare. Centaurs are “male in the extreme, their attributes of drunkenness and lust corresponded to some Greek notions of masculinity” (Dionysian again)!
C: Well, that certainly matches up with the prevailing Christian worldview of gay men.
S: Yeah, right? Half-beast?
C: Having orgies constantly?
S: Or, that they are all sexual predators that carry off people they want to rape?
C: And young children?
S: Good god. I’m starting to think there are some serious undertones here, because the further I go in this book, it says “it raised the question of male and female difference, since their bodies and behavior indicated that they were an exclusively masculine species, doubly potent in possessing the sexual attributes of both human man and animal. But there was no account of reproduction of the centaur species.” This could have some serious queer undertones.
Although, I just found something amazing that you will be very impressed with.
C: I have a question first. Those very rare female centaurs – lesbians?
C: This is so fascinating. How do you put us down these rabbit holes?
S: It’s great, isn’t it? The female centaurs I’ve seen, the very few, aren’t depicted as very attractive. They’re more masculine warrior types. To me that contrasts strongly with other female mythological creatures – like mermaids, which are always sexualized in the extreme despite being half fish.
C: And sirens.
S: This is fascinating stuff. There may be a legacy of homosexuality in the treatment of centaurs. But again, if you associate this wild sexuality with Dionysian behavior, letting loose, getting drunk and having fun – I imagine there was a lot of dude-on-dude in those mystery cults, whether or not that was what they were doing in their regular time.
Would you like to hear something amazing?
S: This is by far the best thing I’ve read today, and I saw it totally by accident. This book talks about the centaurs and Amazons. Listen to this.
C: Like Wonder Woman?
S: Yeah, and this is going to change your view of Wonder Woman, let me tell you.
Like the centaurs, the Amazons were involved in the myths told about both Heracles and Theseus, as well as other heroic figures. Bellerophon, a hero with tasks to fulfill, fought the Amazons, as well as the Chimera. This latter monster, one-third lion, one-third dragon, one-third goat, was a hybrid, being not unlike the Amazons, who shared male and female attributes. Although Bellerophon defeated the female band of Amazons, he in turn was defeated by the Xanthian women, who lifted their skirts and used the apotropaic power of their genitals to drive him away from their city.
S: I have to define this word. Apotropaic: supposedly having the power to avert evil influences or bad luck. THEY HAD MAGICAL VAGINAS!!!
C: And this is where old Republican senators get the idea that if someone rapes you, your body just shuts it down!
S: DUDE, I JUST HIT ANOTHER RABBIT HOLE BY ACCIDENT. I looked up apotropaic marks. They are symbols or patterns scratched on the fabric of a building to keep witches out. They’re sometimes called witches marks – a term also used to denote identifying marks once thought to be found on the bodies of witches.
C: So everything circles back to vaginas.
S: IT ALL COMES BACK TO VAGINAS! People through the centuries are still just as obsessed with what’s in people’s pants and what they do with it, as we were back in the day! Now, before, we made up stories about half men, half horses raping women or men in the forest. Now we’re pissed off about who gets to use which bathroom depending on what they’re packing! We have not changed.
C: It’s all so stupid.
S: We are so OBSESSED with this stuff. People! It’s sex! People have been doing it for literally the entirety of the human experience! Genitals have been around equally that long! Everyone has them! People use them! Can we just –
C: I don’t understand. Any of this.
C: Everything circles back to vaginas. I’m going to get that tattooed somewhere.
S: Yes, because – and I wrote a paper on this in college – all magic eventually circles back to women. We have to talk about that later. But go on.
C: People being so caught up in what’s in your pants, what you do with it, who you sleep with. WHO GIVES A FUCK.
S: Apparently a LOT of people.
C: My philosophy is, if you’re not doing something with someone unsound of mind or underage, and you’re not doing it with animals who you cannot get consent from, do whatever you want whenever you want with whoever you want. I don’t care.
S: As long as they legally able to consent, and do consent.
C: Yes. Do your own thing. If that’s marrying your high school sweetheart at 18, and the first time you kiss is at your wedding, and all you do is have missionary sex for the rest of your life, fine. If you want to go have massive bareback orgies that you film and put on the internet, fine. Why is it such a big deal?
S: As long it’s between consenting people and doesn’t hurt anyone! That’s it.
C: And also, how did you and I come from our families and come to this point of view? Because when I got the sex talk, this was not it.
S: No, my family was very much of the belief that sex before marriage was wrong. I didn’t object to that. I realize that over time I have developed a (and I haven’t decided if it’s problematic or nuanced) complicated view of my own religious beliefs. Yeah, the Bible teaches, and sex before marriage is considered fornication. I didn’t have sex before I got married. But at the same time, what I thought was important to do for me means absolutely nothing beyond what it meant for me. Turning around and demanding that everyone do exactly that thing is not only irrational and impossible, it’s illogical. And that also completely takes away from the notion – all these religious people are about serving God. Okay, if you’re going to serve God, however you define that (that’s a whole other barrel of monkeys) – there’s got to be a choice involved. You’ve got to choose to do that. Which means you don’t get to legislate, beat, bully, scare people into doing things you want them to do. Either they choose to do it or they don’t. If they choose to do it –
C: Because if they don’t have a choice and are forced into it —
S: It negates the value of the behavior! So that’s the premise that religion is built on. There’s a choice. There is this set of beliefs, and it’s important that you choose this set of beliefs or not, but the whole setup is built up around that choice. Which means that, by definition, there’s going to be a lot of people that choose NOT. Which means you have to deal with that. You can’t then turn around and say, ‘Well, I take away your right to not choose this!’ What are you doing? Choose the thing that makes the most sense to you, that reflects your values and gives you something to center your life around, but stop with the doing all of this to everyone else! (OOH, and I have the Oscars on mute and Fantastic Beasts just won something.) Sorry, off topic.
C: Oh, yay! But I have one more thing to say and then we will move on, I swear. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah – so many problematic things about that story. In these two towns supposedly full of these horrible people, you have Lot and his family who were righteous and feared the Lord, and they got warning and got out in time and were saved. The moral? You do you and let everybody else do whatever the fuck they want. You’re going to be fine.
S: I guess, more or less. It’s the same idea with the Noah story. Noah had a really long period of time to tell people what he believed was coming – something like 50 years to talk about all this, because you know arks don’t build themselves, especially without heavy equipment – but people either didn’t buy it or just ignored it. So you do you, and let the chips fall.
C: We should start a religion and politics podcast.
S: This IS a politics and religion podcast! It’s a clever ruse so that when the government comes knocking they’ll think we’re just talking about Harry Potter.
C: One more thing – nobody ever talks about how Lot was like, “Hey, fuck my virgin daughters instead.”
S: Actually, a lot of people talk about that.
C: And then they escape the city, and they get him drunk and bone him! SO much more happening in that story than just dudes wanting to sleep with dudes.
S: There’s a lot happening there. Gonna go back to Harry Potter. It’s safer.
C: We could talk all night.
S: Which is why we have to keep going. In the forest, the centaurs are no help and apparently Malfoy, again as anyone with a grain of sense could have figured, thought it would be funny to scare Neville, which made Neville panic and signal. Hagrid! WHAT THE FUCK.
They regroup. Now it’s Harry, Draco and Fang and Hermione, Neville and Hagrid.
Harry and Draco find the dead unicorn. “Harry had never seen anything so beautiful and sad.” I also found that according to mythology unicorn blood traditionally was super deep, dark red and in fact poisonous – if it fell on the ground it would kill whatever it touched, because the idea was that you’ve done something so terrible by killing it, that is its one defense. So Rowling flips the script there.
C: So then was sending off virgins to bare their breasts and lure unicorns to their deaths really just an elaborate way to execute virgins?
S: Gotta get the crops growing somehow.
So in this version, unicorn blood is silver and can save your life. But we see a hooded figure “crawling across the ground like some stalking beast,” and drinking the unicorn’s blood, which is gross! And then the thing gets up on its feet, not like the movie portrayed it as a floating cloak. It comes toward Harry, his scar burns, he drops to his knees, and something leaps over Harry, charging the figure. Another centaur! Only it’s a blond one.
Firenze is such a unique character. And I love that Rowling is so good – the centaurs are essentially sidelined in this series. They play small roles but they’re not major characters. But even in her minimal treatment of them you get an idea of a very complicated dynamic that exists with them. She doesn’t do much with them but what she does is good.
Firenze saves Harry, then lets him ride on his back which is apparently a huge affront. Because there’s only room for one human on this centaur, and he’s already part of the centaur. Ronan and Bane are infuriated. Firenze: “Do you even know who this is? This is Harry Potter, bitch! He needs to get out of the forest!”
Clearly they know what’s happening. Bane: “We are sworn not to set ourselves against the heavens.” So we know what’s coming and we will not do anything about it. Firenze takes a different view – “I set myself against what is lurking in this forest, Bane! Yes, with humans alongside me if I must!”
C: So I get that Ronan and Bane are old school, but just what exactly do they think will happen to them? “Voldemort, come slaughter us, it’ll be fine!”
S: I don’t know. I guess they figure it’s human affairs, it’s not going to affect them. But Firenze is a little more farsighted. He’s willing to do this even if it means helping humans, who are apparently scum of the earth. Which, to be fair…
C: We kind of are.
S: Now we have Harry and Firenze, who provides some incredibly useful exposition. “It is a monstrous thing to slay a unicorn. Only one who had everything to lose and everything to gain would commit such a crime. The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something pure and defenseless to save yourself, and you will have but a half-life, a cursed-life, from the moment the blood touches your lips.”
Which, given that Voldemort was already living 1/7th of a life at this point, is impressive. This makes things even worse.
C: This is an improvement.
S: The centaurs know everything, somehow – they know the Stone is in the school and they know who’s after it.
C: They watch the heavens! Although let’s be honest – Hagrid is in and out of that forest all the time. I’m sure he told them accidentally.
S: The pin drops. Firenze connects the dots for Harry. The Stone is the school, you have someone killing unicorns to stay alive, someone desperate to return to strength and power – can you not think of anyone that might be? So of course he now realizes: VOLDEMORT!
So Harry goes back, finds Ron, who is asleep, and “shouts something about Quidditch fouls” when Harry wakes him up.
C: 700 of them!
S: I remember clearly the first time I read this. I remember how inspiring I found Harry as he puts it together. Ron’s over here freaking out about the name, but Harry’s way past that. Harry’s got guts. He’s dealing with things the others aren’t – Voldemort does want to kill him.
C: Hermione meanwhile: “It sounds like fortune telling to me, which Professor McGonagall says is a very imprecise branch of magic.” Which foreshadows her adventures with Professor Trelawney in Book 3.
S: They talk all night and finally go to bed, at which point Harry pulls back the covers to find his Invisibility Cloak with a note pinned to it: “Just in case.”
C: Well, isn’t that convenient?
S: Damn you, Dumbledore!