This week we discuss: awesome alliteration; pretty pug Pansy Parkinson; how exactly Hermione planned to pull this off; academic excellence despite physics; emotional labor with Ron/Hermione and Harry/Ginny; large schools hate signs; Sir Cadogan and King Pellinore; Divination is clearly the worst to come; tasseography, apophenia and pareidolia; Helena Blavatsky and the paradox of Seers; Neville and the Macbeth effect; Hermione has no patience for this shit; your Professors read their horoscopes; polyester and orgies; apparently air is good for breathing; hell hounds of all shapes and sizes; starting a monster-inspired craft brewery; Rate My Professor: Hogwarts Edition; sneaky Animagi; fuck you, McGonagall is a professional; hippogriffs and Our Lord; Batman on a sparrow; themes of beastliness; Draco brings douchey back; weepy drunk Hagrid; and stupid fucking teenagers.
Content warning: Some images/gifs may be a bit startling/disturbing, given that they are of various versions of folkloric beasts. Proceed with caution if stumbling across such images without warning might be a problem.
S: Welcome back to Advanced Muggle Studies!
C: What’s up, bitches?
S: How dare you insult our tens of fans! It’s almost like they might not know that we tend to say terrible things like that and be shocked…somehow.
C: I was going to say, does that count as an insult? Or is it more like, welcome back to the family for the week?
S: I think it’s more like a term of endearment. If you’re listening to us you probably don’t find the term overly offensive unless it’s leveled in a very particular way. Hope springs eternal.
S: We are continuing with Harry Potter and the Prisoner Of Azkaban, which we are excited about, and we are moving on this week to Chapter 6. Which, as I’m reading it again for this podcast, I realize an inordinate number of things happen in this chapter.
C: Yeah, there’s a lot of shit that happens.
S: And with our trademark segues, we may be here forever.
C: We may be here all night.
S: What else do we have to do? It’s not like we have jobs.
C: Or lives, clearly.
S: Who do you think you’re talking to?
C: This and Star Wars are our outside interests, people.
Chapter 6: Talons and Tea Leaves.
S: Excellent title for a chapter.
C: Hard to go wrong with alliteration.
S: This is also the wonderful chapter where we meet Professor Trelawney. When we open, it’s the first day at Hogwarts and Draco right on time has moved on from dreadful insults to dreadful imitations – imitating Harry passing out on the train. And apparently the Slytherins are terribly easily entertained. Pansy Parkinson finds a comment like “The Dementors are coming, Potter! WOOOO!” to be very witty and funny.
C: There’s a reason she’s not in Ravenclaw.
S: She also has a face like a pug. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about that.
Because doesn’t Pansy end up dating Draco for a while? Or at least, it’s strongly implied?
C: I think so. She at least seems to have a crush on him in this book. God knows why, because he is awful.
S: Well, with her high standards for wit and insults, Draco must be right up her alley. They’re telling Harry to get over it, and I like that in this opening, Fred and George are chiming in on the “Don’t worry about it, Harry, Draco is a dick.” They come over and see what Draco is doing.
“That little git,” he said calmly. “He wasn’t so cocky last night when the dementors were down at our end of the train. Came running into our compartment, didn’t he, Fred?”
“Nearly wet himself,” said Fred, with a contemptuous glance at Malfoy.
C: It’s a wonder that they don’t go over and make that point to the Slytherins. Because if it had, it might have encouraged Draco to stop doing this.
S: I like to hope they let that bit of information drop at a well-timed moment. But they are trying to cheer Harry up, so that’s something. They mention that dementors affect everyone badly – Arthur, when he went to Azkaban, said it was the worst place he’d ever been.
And they do have Quidditch to look forward to, so that makes Harry happy. They also have all their new subjects today. In Hermione’s case, she has all the subjects ever.
This is where we get our first look at Hermione’s impossible and highly improbable schedule. She has 3 subjects per hour – Divination, Muggle Studies (WOOHOO) and Arithmancy, all at 9 a.m. Her only explanation to Ron is
OF COURSE…I FIXED IT
I do wonder – I guess she just never planned to explain it at all? Thought they would let it go? I feel like if I were Hermione I would have come up with some more plausible explanation for how I’ve managed to make this work, but at the same time, maybe it’s not a good idea because it’s easily disproven.
C: If this was you, with this schedule, and you were like, “Oh no, I fixed it, pass the marmalade,” I would be like, oh no, I am not letting this go.
S: You never would have let me get away with that.
C: No. No, no, no.
S: Knowing you, you would have tried to follow me if my answers didn’t please you to make sure I was telling the truth. I feel like the bar is surprisingly low for a cover story here.
C: Is it because she knows it won’t hold their interest for that long? Would Ron pursue it more if this was Harry doing this? Is he more inclined to push less because he cares less right now?
S: Probably. And it would be harder for Harry to pull something like this on Ron because historically they’ve taken the same classes on purpose all the time, so he and Ron choose the same subjects so they’re in classes together. That’s not necessarily the case with Hermione – she’s in more classes now that they wouldn’t be in. So, I guess she thinks what they don’t know won’t hurt them, and if she’s taking a boatload of classes that they’re not, I guess she figured she could plausibly handwave it away.
C: Isn’t she supposed to not tell?
S: Yeah, which complicates matters, because it’s only so long that you can hide the fact that you have this schedule printed on a piece of paper as what seems like an inconvenient piece of evidence, if you’re trying to keep this a secret. But on the upside, I feel like Hermione goes a long way to inspire a generation of readers that you do what you have to do for academic excellence, laws of physics be damned.
C: She gets more tired, stressed, and overwhelmed as the book goes on, and I know part of that is because she is taking on Buckbeak’s issue by herself while Harry and Ron are busy being dicks, but in theory, with the Time-Turner, you can take as much time and get as much sleep as you need. So, say she has to stay up until 5 one morning doing all her studying, and she sleeps for 3 hours and then she wakes up. Well, just turn the Time-Turner back a few times and go back to sleep.
S: I would think so. The physics on how it works are a little complicated, but if she’s essentially having 30-hour days, then you’d think that you could essentially keep turning time back to get sleep to catch up. So, it’s one of three things: either the Time-Turner doesn’t work that way, or J.K. Rowling didn’t think about having it work that way, or it’s way more useful to the narrative to have Hermione slowly unravel, giving us more clues about what she’s really up to. I’m liable to opt for number 3.
C: Yeah, leading to her telling of Trelawney, storming out of class, and then eventually smacking the shit out of Draco.
S: All of which are high moments in the career of Hermione Granger.
C: Her career is pretty epic. All the while dealing with her asshole best friends!
S: And they’re not even really assholes yet! We haven’t even gotten to Book 4.
C: We went into this a little last episode. For the most part, I like Ron. I don’t like how he treats her in that he never apologizes. It really pisses me off.
S: I seem to remember him apologizing once or twice, but now I’m not sure I’m remembering correctly. A lot of times he keeps blustering past it because he doesn’t want to admit that he’s wrong.
C: That’s basically what happens in this book. Ron says something really rude to her, and she hands over Hagrid’s note, and he’s like, you won’t have to do it all alone this time, because we’re going to step up and finally do what we said we’d do and stop being assholes. And so then she bursts into tears and hugs him, and she apologizes to him, and he says, “Oh well, I never liked Scabbers anyway.” That’s not a fucking apology, you dick. That’s you blustering through. They both decide at the same time that they’re over it and let it go, but – just apologize.
S: But in terms of who’s doing the emotional lifting, it’s definitely Hermione. And maybe we’re used to characters like this, because Ron is Ron, and we like Ron for all his flaws. I agree with you – it’s interesting looking at where Rowling comes through on strong depictions of women and feminist characters, and where traditional roles get the best of the storyline and the characters. I think all of this between Hermione and Ron is one of those places where we want to keep an eye on it. And I begin to suspect personal history comes into play. If I recall correctly – and I’d have to look it up because I don’t remember exactly the wording – Rowling said that part of the reason she wanted to get Ron and Hermione together was she remembered or identified or felt that other people identified with that situation – where you fall for someone that logically you know you shouldn’t, and you can’t help it, even though objectively you look around and see that there are better looking people, nicer people, but you can’t help it.
C: Isn’t that how we all fall in love?
S: I think that’s the point. Hermione is so empirically logical as a character that in a way it’s important for her to fall someone when it doesn’t make logical sense. It would make logical sense for her to fall for Harry, who is awesome, isn’t a genius but it clever and treats Hermione very well. But that’s the whole point. The heart wants what it wants, and in this case, it wants it some Ron Weasley.
That’s important for Hermione’s depth as a character, just as it’s important for Ron to fall for someone he feels is better than him in every way, when he already suffers from low self-esteem. I don’t think you can say it’s just one thing – it’s not just an example of how we give men a free pass. But it’s certainly worth reading it through that lens and pointing out things that might be objectionable.
C: It just bothers me.
S: I know it does, because you feel like Hermione deserves way better. And there are many cases in which you see that she might be on her way to something better – Viktor Krum being a big case in point.
C: Very hot in the movies!
S: And seriously underplayed! He didn’t get nearly enough lines, and – wait. Why are we talking about the movies! I’m going to start going off and we haven’t even gotten close! Stop it.
C: Well, I guess to end up this conversation that has already gone off the rails – I object to it because I like Hermione so much, and because as a woman I’m used to doing more emotional labor. Not with all men, not with all my guy friends, but male family members, even customers I have to deal with. One thing that drives me crazy is when some man comes in and tells me I need to smile more. Fuck you, sir, I don’t have to.
So yeah, it bothers me that she has to do that.
S: I think that’s a useful concept to look at going forward – emotional labor, who does it and who doesn’t.
As we go forward we may be proven very, very wrong, but one of the reason I enjoy Harry and Ginny so much – and I know many people have issues with Harry and Ginny, but one of the reasons I always liked how Harry and Ginny got together was that Ginny didn’t do that. When it came to emotional lifting – she had a crush on him, he didn’t reciprocate, she decided to move on and live her own life. He came back around, which was great, and she was happy about, but it wasn’t like she was trying to do a lot of heavy lifting in a relationship that was one-sided or not working.
C: Yeah, she was a little girl who had a crush, she got over it, grew into a young woman, had herself some flings and fun, and then when Harry was like, “Oh, you’ve got boobs!” She was like, you know.
S: Well, since we’ve jumped to Book 6, let’s go back to Book 3. Enter Hagrid, who is clearly very excited about his first lesson. But they’ve got Divination first. So, they’ve got to go on a journey, because it takes like 10 minutes to get there.
C: Do they not label classrooms or give directions? You’re just supposed to wander around this castle and make it on time?
S: It reminds me of college. You have these university campuses that have these really obscure labels on buildings and rooms, and it says one thing on your schedule, like the J.J. Coleman Building. But the Coleman Building doesn’t say that on the side, it says the HHS building, and you’re trying to find it.
C: And you’re like, wait, is this the room on the 3rd floor or the 6th floor? I remember those days.
S: And the library has like 3 names? It’s very confusing.
C: Very college!
S: Learn to do labels, college, god damn! How hard is it to post accurate signage? I’ve never understood why it was so complicated.
C: You know what they should do? This is a complaint on our college particularly, although I’m sure they do it at more than one – you sell 3 to 4 passes per parking space that’s actually available. So you buy a parking pass, and you only get a 1 in 4 chance of actually parking there, and where the fuck does that money go? BUY SIGNAGE.
S: Dude, at a certain point I didn’t buy parking passes anymore. I parked on the side of the road off campus and took the shuttle, because it made no sense.
C: That’s why I wound up majoring in what I majored in – because it was one of the things you could do at the smaller satellite campus, which meant that it was easier to park. And that’s why I have a degree in criminal justice.
S: And also, because you are Professor Creed, and you stand for the just.
C: It was that, or architecture, and, you know.
S: I can’t imagine you doing that. It’s a lot of math.
C: Exactly. That’s how I got what I got.
S: Invaluable experiences, the college life.
C: And fascinating for everyone listening, I’m sure.
S: And we have many more stories if you’d like to hear about the classes we attended, fraternities and sororities we didn’t join, and hours we spent at the library!
C: I did vote at elections, though. There was an election about whether or not we wanted a particular type of sports team, and I was like, fuck no we don’t need that, but of course the fools we went to school with voted for it, which raised up our tuitions and fees to pay for this stupid fucking sports team we didn’t need. Thank god, those years are done. And I do take great delight, in every time our alma mater calls me to solicit money, hanging up on them.
S: Well, on their way up to the North tower they meet Sir Cadogan, who reminds me of Sir Pellinore from The Once and Future King and Camelot – the dotty, off his rocker white mustachioed, frizzy-haired knight who wanders in and out of the story chasing the Questing Beast, and he’s never going to catch it – it so reminds me of Pellinore.
He’s that sort of character – a clearly insane knight who rides a fat pony, and he’s so awesome.
He lobs challenges and insults at you, calls you names, and dogs, and then the moment you ask him for help, he’s like, “A quest! Once more unto the breach, dear friends!”
So fortunately for them Sir Cadogan is happy to assist them in finding the North Tower.
“Be of stout heart, the worst is yet to come!”
I don’t know what the worst is. More stairs?
C: The worst is Divination. Isn’t that obvious?
S: And so they reach the little trap door. I mean, really, how are you supposed to find Divination? It has a fucking trap door! It has a hidden interest, literally!
C: if your inner eye is sufficient, you can see it.
S: They finally make it with the help of Sir Cadogan, the trap door kind of opens, and they go up into this classroom that doesn’t look like a class.
It looks like a tea shop, full of small tables and poufs. It’s hot, there are these perfumed incense fires she’s got going. I can’t imagine sitting through an hour of that. Can you?
C: I would fall asleep.
S: It makes me nauseated just to think about. Of course, it’s filled with candles and crystal balls and teacups. And we meet Professor Trelawney, who looks like
a large, glittering insect. Professor Trelawney moved into the firelight, and they saw that she was very thin; her large glasses magnified her eyes to several times their natural size, and she was draped in a gauzy spangled shawl. Innumerable chains and beads hung around her spindly neck, and her arms and hands were encrusted with bangles and rings.
Emma Thompson nailed the performance. She is everything you could imagine about a fortune teller, times 10. Turned up completely.
She doesn’t go out much, because
“I find that descending too often into the hustle and bustle of the main school clouds my Inner Eye.”
C: I mean, she’s not wrong.
S: I find my inner eye is often clouded when I have to go out among people.
C: it’s a problem.
S: It’s interesting – when she starts, she tells them that
“I must tell you at the outset that if you do not have the Sight, there is very little I will be able to teach you. Books can take you only so far in this field…”
I love that Hermione is rather alarmed by the idea of a subject where books aren’t helpful.
“Many witches and wizards, talented though they are in the area of loud bangs and smells and sudden disappearings, are yet unable to penetrate the veiled mysteries of the future.”
Which leads me to wonder if Professor Trelawney is not so good with those loud bangs and smells and sudden disappearings.
C: Probably not. You wouldn’t want her to sub for Defense Against the Dark Arts.
S: Can you imagine? Her whole shtick is around random dramatic pronouncements, like asking Neville if his grandmother is well, and telling Parvati to beware a red-haired man, and talking about classes being disrupted in Feb by flu, and around Easter, one of our number will leave us forever.
They start by reading tea leaves, which is called tassomancy or tasseography.
C: Bullshit is what it’s called, technically.
S: It’s a much more accurate description. Apparently, it started in medieval Europe when people would read splatters of lead, wax, molten substances, and it went on to reading tea leaves in the 17th century when tea became more popular.
So, you’d drink the tea, have all the residue in the cup, and decide on a shape. And then the shape would be interpreted based on intuition or a system of symbols. If you see a sun or snake or mountain, it means these things!
C: I’ve always only ever seen a teabag.
S: It’s because we drink tea wrong, because we’re American. If we were doing it properly and using leaf tea that left residue, then maybe we’d know more about our futures.
It made me thing of – I couldn’t remember the name so I looked it up – apophenia.
C: It’s a fear of apos.
S: It’s basically the human tendency to see patterns, even in things that are unrelated, or things that are just remotely symbolic. At a basic level, you can refer to this as our tendency to see shapes in the clouds. The human brain is wired to constantly be looking for patterns and to assemble images into recognizable shapes, which is why sometimes you turn a corner and a pile of laundry looks like something else entirely.
C: It’s so weird how nobody reads the Bible and thinks maybe this is why some of this shit is in here.
S: I think people tend to take it to the other side. Isn’t there a whole branch of numerology, where people study chapters and count letters and page numbers, and try to read significance into patterns in that, which I think is crazy.
S: There are lots of examples of apophenia – pareidolia, where people see faces in things, like seeing Jesus in a piece of toast.
One of our most awesome tens of fans sent me a message the other day – remember when we were talking about the Cassandra thing last time, because Cassandra was a Seer and she authored the Divinity book?
The last name of the author J.K. Rowling came up with was Vablatsky. She pointed out, and I knew who this woman was but hadn’t made the connection – with just a slight rearrangement, it seems to be a reference to Helena Blavatsky.
She was an infamous fortune teller and founder of the Theosophical Society. She was like the queen of charlatans. She bilked people for tons of money, she used all the tricks –flickering lights, tabletops, rapping –she was one of the most well-known spiritualists at the time.
And I thought it was funny that in the book she joined two concepts of Divination – Cassandra, who is a true Seer, and Helena Blavatsky, who was a complete fraud. And I feel like that’s what she does with Trelawney. There is something to it, in this world., but that’s only a tiny part of it because most of it is bullshit.
It’s fun how she pokes fun at the trappings of fortune telling, like reading crystal balls and tea leaves, and cold reading people, which is what Trelawney is doing when she picks on people because it’s likely very obvious, for example, that Neville is the kind of kid who would knock over a cup.
It’s like the Macbeth effect when Trelawney tells Neville,
“Oh, and dear–” she caught Neville by the arm as he made to stand up — “after you’ve broken your first cup, would you be so kind as to select one of the blue-patterned ones? I’m rather attached to the pink.”
And he does it. It’s such a Macbeth effect – would he have gone on to kill the king if the witches hadn’t told him he’d be king?
C: His wife was pretty instrumental in that. Lady Macbeth is awful, but she’s also awesome and I love her.
S: Fantastic character. And it’s not a question you can really answer. Would Macbeth kill the king if the witches don’t tell him that he’ll be king? And then he goes on to fulfill it.
C: Isn’t that something that comes up in this series? There’s a prophecy, and it could mean Harry or Neville but it turns out to be Harry because Voldemort decided it was?
S: Exactly. I think that’s the kind of view she subscribes to when it comes to prophecies of any kind.
Harry and Ron aren’t very impressed by this. They swap their cups, and Ron is like, what can you seen in mine? Harry gives the perfect you answer, in my opinion:
“A load of soggy brown stuff,” said Harry. The heavily perfumed smoke in the room was making him feel sleepy and stupid.
I can totally see you saying that. They switch it in the movie, where they have Ron giving Harry the fortune reading, but in the book Harry reads Ron’s fortune:
“Right, you’ve got a crooked sort of cross…” He consulted Unfogging the Future. “That means you’re going to have ‘trials and suffering’ — sorry about that — but there’s a thing that could be the sun…hang on…that means ‘great suffering’…so you’re going to suffer but be very happy…”
C: He’s a masochist.
S: I love that Ron is trying to figure it out.
“There’s a blob a bit like a bowler hat,” he said. “Maybe you’re going to work for the Ministry of Magic…” He turned the teacup the other way up.
“But this way it looks more like an acorn…What’s that?” He scanned his copy of Unfogging the Future. “A windfall, unexpected gold. Excellent, you can lend me some…and there’s a thing here,” he turned the cup again, “that looks like an animal…yeah, if that was its head…it looks like a hippo…no, a sheep…”
I wonder what a hippo would portend in your cup.
C: Overeating? Hippos can bite the shit out of you.
S: They take on crocodiles. Don’t mess with them. Meanwhile, Hermione is less and less tolerant of all this bullshit. Trelawney takes Harry’s cup and is interpreting it. She’s like, “A falcon! You have a deadly enemy.” And Hermione is like,
“But everyone knows that,” said Hermione in a loud whisper. Professor Trelawney stared at her.
“Well, they do,” said Hermione. “Everybody knows about Harry and You-Know-Who.”
Of course, he has an enemy. I love that Hermione calls out the vague generalities of this. It’s like reading a horoscope that tells you that you have a creative mind but sometimes you like to think analytically. Like, really? Horoscopes are ridiculous. They’re so broad, and people read them and think, “Oh, that’s so me!” THAT’S EVERYONE. That’s just being a person.
C: Yeah, just read some of the other horoscopes for the day or week or whatever, and you will find something else that will make you think, “Oh, that’s me!”
S: And now I have to read our horoscopes for today. What are you, do you know?
C: I am an Aquarius, but I am also a borderline Aquarius because I was born only a day off. I could have been the sign before or after. There’s some kind of term for that.
S: To be fair, Aquarius, this is actually coincidentally apropos, since I know stuff. Your horoscope today says: “Take some of that knowledge you’ve gathered and processed over the past few weeks and begin to spread it around. It’s time to put your communication skills to work. Your emotions are strongly tied to your actions, and things will take on a much lighter tone than they have had in the past couple of days. Take deep breaths and find a way to release your pent-up tension.”
C: Oh, you mean do my job?
S: Exactly. Put those communication skills to work, ma’am! Let’s see mine.
C: You have to say what you are.
S: I’m a Taurus. “Jump back on stage and say what you have to say. Your participation in the conversation is critical to maintaining a healthy energy flow. The things you say will have a profound effect on others, so choose your words carefully. Enjoy a physical activity that involves a group. Make it a social event. Be an active participant in all situations today.”
C: You’re definitely going to an orgy.
S: Apparently, I’m going to also do my job and then I’m going to an orgy. Well, if the stars have determined it, there is nothing I can do.
C: Read some of the general characteristics of our signs and see if we meet them.
S: Okay, Aquarius. Come on, Internet, I need to understand Professor Creed. Oh! Your element is air, your quality is fixed, your color is light blue or silver.
C: What does air and fixed mean?
S: No idea. Strengths: progressive, original, independent, humanitarian. So far, so good. Weaknesses: runs from emotional expression, temperamental, uncompromising, aloof.
S: Aquarius likes: fun with friends, helping others, fighting for causes, intellectual conversation, is a good listener. Dislikes: limitations, broken promises, being lonely, dull or boring situations, or people who disagree with them.
C: That does sound a lot like me.
S: I read an interesting theory once that suggested that horoscopes might have less to do with astrology and more to do with predictable birth patterns and the order in which you were born. I don’t know, it was an interesting thought.
C: My favorite part is dislikes others who disagree. Yes.
S: And you dislike dull and boring situations. As opposed to all those other people who like dull and boring situations.
C: That’s an excellent point.
S: You are shy and quiet, but on the other hand, you can be eccentric and energetic.
C: Both true.
S: However, in both cases you are a deep thinker and a highly intellectual person who likes helping others. You are able to see without prejudice on both sides, which makes you a person who can easily solve problems. Did you write this? I think you wrote this.
So basically, you’re an introvert. “You can easily adapt to the energy around you. You have a deep need to have some time alone and away from everything to restore power.” So, you’re an introvert.
C: Because not everybody agrees with me, and they’re boring and so I hate them
S: “If there is no mental stimulation, you are bored.” Yes, that is the definition of being bored. “And lack motivation to achieve result.” Oh, you’re a visionary! You’re capable of perceiving the future and know exactly what you want to be doing in five or ten years. Did you know that?
C: Um, no. I wish that were the case.
S: You are known as a thinker, a progressive and a humanist, and you constantly strive to be surrounded by other people. But the biggest problem is the feeling of being limited or constrained because of the desire for freedom and equality for all, you will always strive to ensure freedom of speech and movement. Aquarius has a reputation for being cold and insensitive. My word, Professor Creed!
But this is your defense mechanism against premature intimacy! You need to learn to trust others and express your emotions in a healthy way.
C: Eh, true. I still want to know what air and fixed means.
S: Apparently, I’m an earth element, not air. It starts to get kind of woo-woo so I’m out.
C: I’m looking it up, you keep talking.
S: All right, apparently, I am reliable, patient, practical, devoted, responsible and stable. But also, stubborn, uncompromising. I like gardening, cooking, music, romance, high-quality clothes, and working with my hands. That is an oddly specific point.
C: You like high-quality clothes?
S: Apparently so! I dislike sudden changes, complications, insecurity of any kind. And synthetic fabrics! What the fuck?
C: How have you survived this long?
S: I don’t know! Apparently, I have a stable nature, but I’m also uncompromising, so I don’t know. Are you laughing because you found out what air is?
C: No, I looked it up, and it brought up “People also ask: what is my element?” So, the answer from Wikipedia is spring, and in parentheses “Wet becoming hot.” And that sent me off into laughter.
S: OH YEAH. So apparently, I always need to be surrounded by love and beauty, and am attuned to the material world, hedonism and physical pleasures. OH, MY GOD I AM GOING TO AN ORGY.
C: Oh God!
S: Apparently, I am “sensual and tactile, considering touch and taste the most important of all senses.” Really?
C: You’re horny all the time!
S: I’m also “stable and conservative, able to endure and stick to my choices until they reach the point of personal satisfaction.” Oh my god, I’m so going to an orgy.
C: And you better have an orgasm at this orgy, or else you’ll have to stay there until it happens.
S: I feel very cheated by my sign. Apparently, I have the ability to see things from a grounded, practical, and realistic perspective, and I find it easy to make money and stay on the same projects for years or until they’re completed. This is news to me! I wish I knew that. “What we often see as stubbornness can be interpreted as commitment, and their ability to complete tasks, whatever it takes, is uncanny.” No.
C: Yeah, this is not super sounding like you.
S: But apparently, I am an excellent cook, gardener, lover and artist. OH YEAH.
C: I can attest to some of that, not all of that.
S: Don’t tell them which ones! Let them wonder.
S: This is weird. I don’t think this is so much me.
C: I have to read you the stuff about the element of air, though. “This is the element that connects all other elements, even though it seems irrelevant, invisible as it is. The distance from the earth sends us up high into impractical and mental planes that don’t satisfy our physical needs. Still, this is the element that can be found in all others, keeps the fire going just like the sun burns hydrogen. We can say that the beginning of life wouldn’t be possible without fire, but there would be no fire on our planet without air. The element of air gives us room to breathe, widens our lungs, and with them opens our soul to personal freedom. All signs that belong to this element have a strong need to feel liberated and free.”
S: Did you know that air gives you room to breathe?
C: Air signs: signs that represent air are Gemini, Libra and Aquarius. “It is interesting to notice that two of them have a problem with the sun, with Libra taking it to fall and Aquarius to detriment.” And I have no idea what the fuck that means.
S: No one does.
C: “The sun keeps all things in order encircled around it. And air needs to be free to circle the universe instead. Looking at the bigger picture” – what picture is bigger than the universe, I don’t know – “People born under the strong influence of these signs have a problem fitting into a regular order of their surroundings, no matter if it is their country or their workplace. Their main goal in life is just to stop pleasing others and worrying about their opinion so they can be able to follow their brightest and most liberating ideas.
“How do we balance air? The biggest challenge for every individual marked by air is grounding and understanding the importance of their body. They have a strong tendency to remain in higher spheres, where everything is lighter and seems possible. It is not easy to implement their ideas, intelligence and knowledge into practical things and truly make them alive.
“To truly succeed in overall growth and development the most important thing for airy individuals is to stop talking and start doing – concrete, practical moves toward fulfillment. They are balanced by the element of earth and need a healthy daily routine, with meals at the same time every day and activity allowing them to remain aware of their physical existence. If they forget to eat, for example, this hole in their stomach will have an effect on any rational plan they’ve had.”
I think that’s true for anyone. “The importance of fulfilling their physical needs is primal and irreplaceable.”
S: Air is important, is what I’m getting.
C: “Balanced by the element of earth” – isn’t that you?
C: “It is instantly obvious that these are practical signs that value material things such as good quality clothing, work hard, and know how to make a plan and put it into action. Earth represents matter itself, the physical body and with it our finances, the food we eat, and our daily routine. The biggest challenge earth has to face is a recognition of something as fast and unstable, transparent, as air.” Why do we get along?
S: I have no idea!
C: “To get in touch with the element of air, these individuals should read, have a coffee break, walk aimlessly, and socialize as much as possible.” So yeah, maybe if we didn’t both read we wouldn’t be friends.
S: Apparently, I’m really materialistic. I’m reading more about Taurus, and it seems I’m materialistic. Although apparently William Shakespeare was also a Taurus, so I guess I win? I don’t know.
So was Al Pacino, so I might have lost.
C: In conclusion, you are not very Taurus-y.
S: Clearly, I was born under the wrong sign. I don’t know what Trelawney would make of that one.
C: Mars was in retrograde.
S: Do you have any idea what that means?
C: No clue.
S: It’s nice to know you’re just as confused by this as I am.
C: That’s because I’m so airy. You need to be grounded. Actually, that sounds kind of dirty. It sounds like something you’d do to me in an orgy.
S: Well, I am an excellent lover. And I have a thing for high quality clothes and satin sheets! So, you know.
Weirdest, most specific detail ever. “You’re a Taurus, you don’t like polyester!”
C: Are you wearing polyester?
S: No, I’m not at the moment. I don’t think. This might be a blend.
C: You can’t stand blends!
S: This shirt is so soft, though! I must be a Taurus!
C: You wouldn’t be this way if your Inner Eye wasn’t blocked and your chakras weren’t misaligned. I don’t know what to do with you.
S: I clearly need to broaden my mind.
C: You do.
S: Listeners, if you have your own thoughts about horoscopes, we’d love to hear them.
C: If anyone wants to explain what Mercury being in retrograde means – or is that Mars?
S: I think any planet can be. It can be ascending or descending or in retrograde. I think it just has to do with how close it is to earth based on orbit. If you understand this better than we do, I apologize if we’ve misconstrued all of it, but it’s hard to look at horoscopes and not feel that it’s just generic so that people see what they want to see in it – which is true of a lot of fortune telling.
C: Except we both agree that mine was kind of accurate.
S: Yours was! You are clearly better at this than I am. Harry sucks at this, because apparently, he’s going to die. Professor Trelawney is gasping, screaming, sinking into an armchair. Why doesn’t she have a fainting couch?
C: She needs a chaise lounge.
S: To drape herself gracefully over whenever this happens. Because apparently Harry has the Grim.
“The Grim, my dear, the Grim!” cried Professor Trelawney, who looked shocked that Harry hadn’t understood. “The giant, spectral dog that haunts churchyards! My dear boy, it is an omen — the worst omen — of death!”
That dog needs something else to do.
C: Seems like a really boring place to haunt.
S: Someone should take him out to play! Apparently, it’s an omen of death. Hmmm. There is one thing I didn’t actually Google.
C: Death omens?
S: I know there’s lots of death omens, but the dog, which I’m sure has some incredible and significant symbolism. Here we go, the black dog, the name given to the specter of the British Isles.
“It is a nocturnal apparition often said to be associated with the Devil, or a hell hound.”
C: Isn’t that the Hound of the Baskervilles?
S: Yes! There’s a picture of it here on this page. It says the story was inspired by legends of ghostly black dogs in Dartmoor.
But apparently in European mythology, dogs have long been associated with death. We know Cerberus was associated with the underworld, but there are others. They think this might have something to do with dogs scavenging for food. And poor black dogs are considered particularly malevolent, just like black cats. I feel like black things in general get a bad rap.
C: Which is a shame, because black is so slimming.
S: Oh, good lord. It breaks it down by locale, and some of the better-known dogs have names like Hairy Jack, Churchyard Beast, Shug Monkey – not making that up – and one of them is Padfoot.
C: Well, that’s interesting.
S: It’s what the black hound is known as in Lancashire in England. Padfoot, or the Grim. So.
C: I bet there are so many people who got that reference before us.
S: We’re American! How would we know? We don’t know anything! Apparently, it’s Wakefield also, Leeds, and some areas of Bradford – the local version of the legend is Padfoot. But interestingly a variant version of Padfoot in the Heavy Woollen area is viewed as benevolent if you offer it kindness. NICE.
C: I think you and I should start a craft beer and call it Shug Monkey.
S: I think we should! That’s an amazing name. There’s also one called – and I don’t know how to pronounce it – Cu-Sith.
C: Isn’t that the elemental sign for copper?
S: It’s a Scottish-Gaelic pronunciation.
C: I would pronounce it copper.
S: Based on this it would be like coo-she. But it’s spelled Cu-Sith! And I thought you would appreciate that.
C: I do! STAR WARS!
S: There’s also Guy Trash, Hateful Thing…
C: That’s another really great name for a beer.
S: Or a band! Oh, there’s a Bogey Beast! We could do a whole line of craft beers off of this.
C: That would be the beer Ginny would craft.
S: Seriously! Hairy Jack, Shug Monkey, Swooning Shadow, Hateful Thing, Bogey Beast. We’ve got a whole line right there.
C: Guy Trash is a great name for an angry girl band.
S: So that’s nice to know about the Grim – it’s based in local legend, and we see where she gets Padfoot. Now that I mention this – that’s a recurring theme in this book. The idea of things that are beastly that turn out to not be — beasts that appear dangerous but are manageable through understanding. It contrasts very strongly when we get to the end of the book when there is another animal that appears harmless and safe, and is entirely the opposite.
Everyone sees the Grim and flips the fuck out because Harry is going to drop dead, right now. RIGHT NOW, Harry!
Everyone was looking at Harry, everyone except Hermione, who had gotten up and moved around to the back of Professor Trelawney’s chair.
“I don’t think it looks like a Grim,” she said flatly.
Damn, Hermione. Way to go.
Professor Trelawney surveyed Hermione with mounting dislike.
“You’ll forgive me for saying so, my dear, but I perceive very little aura around you. Very little receptivity to the resonances of the future.”
C: Trelawney, you bitch!
S: Seamus has the best approach.
“It looks like a Grim if you do this,” he said, with his eyes almost shut, “but it looks more like a donkey from here,” he said, leaning to the left.
Everyone is stunned by this revelation that Harry is going to die. Although, why this should come as a revelation to anyone, I don’t know.
C: I can’t believe there aren’t more wizarding parents telling their kids, that class is a waste of time and you’re not taking it.
S: Right? That’s a good point. “DO NOT TAKE TRELAWNEY!” I feel like Hogwarts needs a Rate My Professor. Even when you’d sign up for classes in high school, there would be people telling you take this person, don’t take this person. It’s sad how little they seem to know about their teachers before they take their classes.
C: It’s like stuff doesn’t exist until we get to that year. We’ve never head of Hogsmeade! Nobody has ever seen the thestrals before even though there are lots of kids who would have seen death!
S: It works well for the narrative of each book, but when it comes to internal consistency over a series of books, a little less so.
But Professor McGonagall handles this situation beautifully. I also love how there’s a detail buried in here that you’re not paying attention to because you’re worried about Harry being killed. Their next lesson is Professor McGonagall, who is teaching about
Animagi (wizards who could transform at will into animals), and wasn’t even watching when she transformed herself in front of their eyes into a tabby cat with spectacle markings around her eyes.
But no one is paying attention.
C: And she’s all offended, like, people usually burst into applause when I do that, what’s wrong with you?
S: If I turned into a cat, I’d expect applause from my class, wouldn’t you?
S: Hermione explains, “We’ve just had our first divination class.”
“Ah, of course,” said Professor McGonagall, suddenly frowning, “There is no need to say any more, Miss Granger, Tell me, which of you will be dying this year?”
Everyone stared at her.
“Me,” said Harry, finally.
“I see,” said Professor McGonagall, fixing Harry with her beady eyes. “Then you should know, Potter, that Sybill Trelawney has predicted the death of one student a year since she arrived at this school. None of them has died yet. Seeing death omens is her favorite way of greeting a new class. If it were not for the fact that I never speak ill of my colleagues–“
To be fair, it’s a show stopper opening a class with a death omen.
C: I’m personally surprised Trelawney can limit herself to one student dying a year.
S: Maybe she figures if she does much more it will be over the top.
C: It makes me wonder how many sections of Divination there are. If she predicts one per year then she might have sections where no one is predicted to die, robbing herself of that drama.
S: She’s got to have 2 or 3 per year, right? You generally have two houses per class. Let’s say 3rd year Gryffindor and Hufflepuff have one and Slytherin and Ravenclaw have one. Seems like it starts in year 3. So, she’s got…10 classes?
C: That’s a lot of classes. Just think what happens if you’re teaching history of magic or other core classes, you’ve got a lot of fucking classes because you’ve got every grade level.
S: Well, once they pass their owls, can’t they drop subjects?
C: I thought when they picked subjects for this book it said they were adding classes but keeping what they had.
S: Yeah, but later on in book 6 they drop Care of Magical Creatures. So, I guess in the last few years you can drop. You might not have so many seniors.
C: I can’t imagine many people dropping Transfiguration, though.
S: Me either. So, it seems like the most capable teachers have the toughest core subjects, like Professor McGonagall who has the more advanced classes. Some people might want to drop Potions, but it seems like you need it for a lot of things. Charms too. Not that Professor McGonagall couldn’t teach 10 classes a day, she totally could.
C: Professor McGonagall is a badass.
S: And she is not going to speak ill of her colleague even though she really wants to. Which makes it so much nicer when she and Trelawney join forces in Book 5. She’s setting up dynamics that play out interestingly when we unite against Umbridge in 5.
C: It’s one thing to be a dingbat, and another to be an Umbridge. And Professor McGonagall likely knows that Trelawney is a real Seer, don’t you think?
S: Probably. And I’m sure she thinks much of what Trelawney does is claptrap, but she knows why Trelawney is there and why Dumbledore gave her the job. And she’s respectful and won’t speak ill of her colleagues, because she’s a professional, dammit.
And she has an amazing line.
“You look in excellent health to me, Potter, so you will excuse me if I don’t let you off homework today. I assure you that if you die, you need not hand it in.”
C: She’s the best.
S: She is my idol. But of course, Ron is still a little worried, and Lavender Brown is fixated on Neville’s cup. Ron, why do you date Lavender Brown? She likes DIVINATION.
C: She’s blonde and probably has big boobs.
S: I like her in the movies. She’s so well done. Ron: You haven’t seen the dog anywhere, have you? Harry: I totally have. Which freaks Ron out. His uncle Bilius saw one once, and died 24 hours later!
“Grims scare the living daylights out of most wizards!”
Whereas Hermione takes the Macbeth approach.
“There you are, then,” said Hermione in a superior tone. “They see the Grim and die of fright. The Grim’s not an omen, it’s the cause of death! And Harry’s still with us because he’s not stupid enough to see one and think, right, well, I’d better kick the bucket then!”
C: It’s hard to argue with that.
S: She’s so done with Divination. It’s a lot of guesswork and not worth her time. Although, of course, Ron is like, you don’t like it because you’re bad at it. You don’t like being bad at something. Which pisses Hermione off.
C: I’m sure that doesn’t help.
“If being good at Divination means I have to pretend to see death omens in a lump of tea leaves, I’m not sure I’ll be studying it much longer! That lesson was absolute rubbish compared with my Arithmancy class!”
She snatched up her bag and stalked away. Ron frowned after her.
“What’s she talking about?” he said to Harry. “She hasn’t been to an Arithmancy class yet.”
S: Clearly, she has, and clearly it was better than Divination. And now they’re off to Care of Magical Creatures for one of the many times they won’t be talking to each other with Harry in the middle.
They have Care of Magical Creatures with Slytherin, which, ugh. It’s Hagrid’s first lesson and he’s very excited. Hagrid asks everyone to open their books, and Draco asks the question on everyone’s mind: “How? How do we open the book?”
Not even Hermione has been able to open the book! Because no one thought of what is CLEARLY the most obvious approach, which is to … pet the book.
C: Or, as you were just saying, show it some kindness.
S: Right? Again. Something that appears dangerous but is manageable if you approach it with understanding. When the book tries to bite you, you kick it and get a belt. Whereas Hagrid’s reaction is to pet it, because he loves it.
He’s a little thrown off his game but he goes to get the creatures, and this is where we get to meet the Hippogriffs. They’re interesting!
They had the bodies, hind legs, and tails of horses, but with the front legs, wings, and heads of what seemed to be giant eagles, with cruel, steel-colored beaks and large, brilliantly orange eyes. The talons on their front legs were half a foot long and deadly looking.
They seem rather fierce. I looked up hippogriffs, and I thought you might appreciate that the first mention of the hippogriff was by the Latin poet Virgil. In that poem, a hippogriff is born by mating a mare with a griffin.
C: Oh, of course!
S: I want to expand my horse stock. Bring me a griffin!
C: I was expecting you to say it was born of a frog that sat on a chicken’s egg or something.
S: No, that would be too obvious! From the name, we should have realized this has a deep connection to Gryffindor. Harry connects with it very well, therefore. But here! He represents Christ’s dual nature!
Much as our Lord was the joining of a horse and an eagle! We’ve talked about how griffins represent our Lord, because EVERYTHING represents our Lord, so why not hippogriffs too?
C: At this point, what doesn’t represent Jesus?
S: Snakes. And that’s about it. And I will be putting this picture up on the site. There’s an illustration by Gustave Dore of a hippogriff, and I swear it looks like nothing so much as Batman riding a bird. I’m going to send this to you real quick, because it looks like Batman.
C: Batman riding a bird?
S: You will see it! Meanwhile, the hippogriffs are kind of beautiful. They’re a little startling at first, but they’re very impressive. They’re also a little proud. Do not offend them, especially if you handle them badly. You have to make the first move, and you bow. And if he bows back, you can touch him. If he doesn’t, you best run for your life because he will have no patience with you.
In the movie Harry gets volunteered to go touch the hippogriff, but in the book, he steps up to help Hagrid, because no one volunteers. And you get a great line from Lavender and Parvati:
“Oh no, Harry, remember your tea leaves!”
Harry goes to face off with the hippogriff, which is named Buckbeak.
C: Okay, that does look like what you said. Actually, it looks like Batman riding an overgrown garden sparrow. It’s as if Batman got shrunk to the size of Ant-Man.
S: I’M SO GLAD YOU SEE IT TOO.
We have the great scene from the movie where Harry bows, it doesn’t seem to go well at first but Buckbeak bows back, and all is well.
Harry gets to ride him in a gorgeous scene from the film.
In the book, he doesn’t care so much for it, because it’s like riding a horse so not as fluid as a broom.
Then everyone starts practicing the same thing – bowing, practicing.
But apparently Draco is under the impression that a creature that is proud and has a concept of dignity, pride, and manners can’t understand what you say. Which seems highly illogical, but you know, Malfoy.
So, he calls the hippogriff a “great, ugly brute.” And the hippogriff is like, “Really? Let me sing you the song of my people.”
The talons come out, Draco’s arm is bleeding, it’s the end of the world. “I’m dying! He’s killed me!”
C: If only.
S: He got a pretty good cut on his arm, it seems. And once again Hagrid takes the wounded boy to the school, leaving the rest of the class to wander in on their own.
Of course, it’s not a big deal. Madam Pomfrey regrew all the bones in Harry ‘s arm, I think she can fix a cut for Draco.
S: But they are a little nervous, because let’s be fair, this isn’t the best thing to happen in Hagrid’s first class. He’s not a qualified teacher. He has the position based on experience in the subject matter, but that plus being half-giant plus wounding the biggest prick in the Ministry’s son – it’s not going to go well. On the way up they pass the Slytherins huddled in a group, and Harry is sure
they were cooking up their own version of how Malfoy was injured.
Yeah, I bet they were. Later that evening they see Hagrid is back so they sneak out again to check on him. And Hagrid is just drunk. He’s depressed, weepy drunk.
C: GYST, Hagrid.
C: Get Your Shit Together.
S: you feel so bad for him! This is his first step up in a long time, and his first day he feels like he blew it. Of course he didn’t blow it, because Draco Is a prick. And the school governors have been told, and Ottaline Gambol has a point – maybe Hagrid started a bit too big and should have gone a little smaller.
S: OMG, why are flobberworms flobbery?
C: OMG flobberworms are flatworms!
S: IT ALL MAKES SENSE. At least the trio tell Hagrid they’ll back him up to Dumbledore. And Hermione, being the responsible one, takes whatever Hagrid has been drinking and dumps it out, because Hagrid, you have had enough because you are starting to cry and there are limits. So, he goes and sticks his head in a water bucket, and that helps.
And then he realizes, wait a minute! I’ve been talking to Harry, Ron and Hermione! And it’s dark! And they’re out here talking to me!
“WHAT D’YEH THINK YOU’RE DOIN’, EH?” he roared, so suddenly that they jumped a foot in the air. “YEH’RE NOT TO GO WANDERIN’ AROUND AFTER DARK, HARRY! AN’ YOU TWO! LETTIN’ HIM!”
Hagrid strode over to Harry, grabbed his arm, and pulled him to the door.
“C’mon!” Hagrid said angrily. “I’m takin’ yer all back up ter school, an’ don’ let me catch ye walkin’ down ter see me after dark again. I’m not worth that!”
C: It’s true.
S: Poor Hagrid. He’s like no, that was dumb, appreciate the thought, but again, seriously crazy ravenous murderer on the loose out for Harry, maybe wandering around at night to cheer me up is not the best use of your time.
C: It is better than sneaking off to Hogsmeade, though.
S: You know, there’s a lot of stuff in this book that is a great idea when you’re 13, and to an extent you’re invited to enjoy the experience with Harry sneaking out and getting to do the things he wants to despite the danger. But like you said, when we get to Lupin letting Harry have it –
C: It’s the best.
S: There was a moment where I realized, oh crap, I’m such an adult. Have you ever heard of the movie Epic?
C: I have not.
S: It was a little animated movie, kind of a blip, about fairies and a girl who got drawn into a fairy world. I don’t much remember the plot, but there was this thing they were trying to protect because if they didn’t it might mean the devastation of their entire world and lots of people would die. And there’s this scene where this girl and a hunky fairy guy are told they have to guard this thing, and it actually is super important.
So, what do they do? The minute any adults are gone they go off and have this romantic “I can show you the world” sort of moment where they fly around enjoying the beautiful fairy world and gazing soulfully into each other’s eyes, all having their romantic adventure, completely forgetting everything they’re supposed to be doing.
Then they come back, and oh look! Everything has gone terribly because you didn’t do the thing you were supposed to do! And I took my niece to see it, and I remember sitting in the theater thinking, oh god, I’m an adult, because I hate these people right now. How could you do that? People are going to die because of you, you stupid teenager! Make out on your own time!
C: I 100% agree with you, but also, were teenagers your best bet for guarding the vital thing?
S: The chief of the guards was off doing something equally important, and the dude fairy teen was like one of his deputies in training, so he should have been more responsible. I hated that movie, and couldn’t stand it after that. The only likeable characters were the adults, and they get completely and consistently screwed over by these teens who are way more interested in makeout times amid the fairy dust.
C: But as a Taurus who loves physical pleasure, you should understand that.
S: I should! Many a time I’ve snuck away from my duties to have an orgy.
C: I mean, you’re a great lover.
S: Clearly! I’m going to brag about that. “Hi, my name is Professor Seraphine. I’m a great lover, and I don’t like polyester.”
C: If you ever have to introduce yourself, you need to do that.
S: I really do feel that I should take advantage of this.
Sorry for the abrupt ending, but that wraps up this chapter for us! We’ll be back in a week or so with Chapter 7!
Intro music: “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saens, performed by Kevin McLeod
“Black dog (ghost).” Wikipedia.org.
Haynes, Natalie. “The myths and folktales behind Harry Potter.” BBC Culture.
“Helena Blavatsky.” Wikipedia.org.
Poulsen, Bruce. “Being Amused By Apophenia.” Psychology Today. 31 June 2012.