Learn Tarot with Harry Potter: The Hierophant

The card on the left is from the most well-known and often used decks in the world of tarot called the Rider-Waite. I’ll be using the images and traditional meanings from this deck to discuss tarot in the Learn Tarot with Harry Potter series. The artwork of Fudge belongs to Brenna-Ivy Art.  

Traditional Meaning of The Hierophant

The imagery on the Hierophant card is somewhat complicated, especially for modern-day tarot readers. I’ll address this shortly, but first, let’s look at the symbolism as it is traditional understood. We see the Hierophant, or Pope figure, seated between two stone pillars on a large chair, almost like a throne. He is richly attired in a red priestly robe, and atop his head is a truly magnificent crown (more so even than the Emperor and Empress). He holds a crosier in one hand, while his other hand gives the sign of a blessing to the two men kneeling before him. These two men are undoubtedly priests or studying to become ordained, as their heads are shaved in the tonsure fashion. There are two crossed keys at his feet, representing the spiritual and mundane worlds meeting.

The meaning of the word Hierophant is, “a person, especially a priest in ancient Greece, who interprets sacred mysteries or esoteric principles“, so by this definition we are asked to read the card as a Pope figure, or a type of spiritual authority who understands the religious or spiritual mysteries of life and who stands as a go-between, advisor, or teacher of sorts between these ‘secrets’ and us. Traditionally, the card is associated with education, deep thinking, developing philosophies on life, and exploring spirituality – essentially to “integrate mind and spirit” and “ascend to a high plane of awareness” (Liz Dean’s Ultimate Guide to Tarot, pg. 51). It also speaks to the experience that being part of an institution or structured community can offer, as well as defining and living your values.

However, the imagery on this card (and this is my opinion) speaks to me of religious rigidity and conformity, as well as abuse of power and denial of the reality of ‘common’ life that is often associated with religion and the Catholic church today. I associate it with saving face, keeping up appearances, and the kind of institutionalized rigidity that alienates and ostracizes those who don’t belong. I think of corruption, power, and political maneuvering as well.

If you connect with the traditional meaning, then this character comparison may not fit as well for you, but if you resonate with my interpretation, then you won’t be surprised at the correlations between Cornelius Fudge and the Hierophant. Even if you do see the traditional meaning as more fitting, the reversed aspect of the Hierophant is pretty spot on with my interpretation so you can use this to help you with the reversed or ‘negative’ aspect of this card.

Cornelius Fudge as The Hierophant

Ah, good old Cornelius Fudge. As far as Harry Potter characters go, Cornelius is probably one of the most indifferently despised. No one takes him too seriously, not the fans of the books, heck, not even the characters themselves really do. Unfortunately, when we do notice him it is because of his bumbling nature and (later on) his absolute refusal to make moral and responsible decisions. However we feel about him, Fudge does play a large part in the first five books, and it is due to his colossal screw-ups that Voldemort is able to fully return to power. It is through this aspect of Fudge that find the best representations of the Hierophant card’s themes. Fudge is like one big ‘ol reversed Hierophant written into a character.

Firstly, let’s look at Fudge’s role in the books. When we meet him he is the Minister for Magic, a position akin to the President of the United States or Chancellor of Germany. He has held this role for the last 13 years (13 years!) and to his credit, he has managed to keep things calm and peaceful after the First Wizarding War ended. As the Minister for Magic, Fudge has actually done a decent job, although it is rumored he made few decisions on his own, instead writing to Dumbledore (hello Magician!) for advice. However, he is the face of the Ministry and is endowed with all of the power and influence that comes with the position.

It is impossible to speak about Fudge without speaking about the Ministry as an institution. It is in charge of enacting and writing laws, working with the muggle government, and performing trials and sentencing for those who break wizarding rules. We see many examples of the Ministry, and Fudge himself, sending letters to Harry informing him of violations of magic he commits (Chamber of Secrets, Order of the Phoenix), and in Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince we witness the legal power of the Ministry during the Wizengamot trial.

In addition to keeping the laws and regulations of the wizarding world, the Ministry seems to have a hand in the education system in the wizarding world. We see this especially with Umbridge (Fudge’s right hand woman) in Order of the Phoenix. Although they may not directly set or grade the O.W.L.S or N.E.W.T.S., it seems many of the judges work for the Ministry and we get the sense that the Ministry steps in whenever they please.

Fudge as a character is greedy, arrogant, incompetent, and cruel and down-right cutthroat in Order of the Phoenix. He uses the press (Rita Skeeter and the Dailey Prophet) to wage a character assassination against Harry, a FIFTEEN year old, and Dumbledore. Even before this, Fudge shows his distain for ‘lower’ classes of wizards, favoring Lucius Malfoy over Arthur Weasley, and treating other species, particularly house elves and goblins, with disgust and discrimination. He is cowardly, inconsiderate, and offensive.

If we look at the artwork of Fudge above, we see the same kind of expression and showiness pictured on the Hierophant card. I mean seriously, look at their faces, their eyes, could they be any more similar!? Fudge is wearing his signature pinstripe suit and lime green bowler hat, a pompous and flashy get-up, that mirrors the fine robes of the Hierophant. Although not pictured, we know that Percy Weasley becomes Fudge’s assistant and follows him everywhere, which mimics the figures at the Hierophant’s feet.

The similarities go beyond expression though. Just as the Hierophant represents the Church in the Rider-Waite deck, Fudge represents the Ministry. They both stand-in for the institutions they head. Both characters put on a public face, wear fancy attire, and base their actions on how they look to others, or how they can hold on to their positions of power. Both hold the keys to life’s mysteries – the Hierophant, a spiritual knowledge and connection, and Fudge, the Department of Mysteries where we see the Hall of Prophecy and The Veil where Sirius dies.

We can think of the Hierophant card and Cornelius Fudge this way: If Fudge had been honorable, if he had had morals and courage, he may have run the Ministry differently. In this alternate world, we would see more of the traditional meaning of the Hierophant reflected. As it stands though, we see exactly how much damage can be done by the negative aspects of this card. Aspects like poor leadership, selfish ambition, harsh rules and regulations, too much authority, punishment to those who don’t conform, corruption, greed, staunch adherence to duty and obligation (we hear Fudge say it is his ‘duty’ many times), and rigid orthodoxy are all traits showed by Fudge and his ministry, and these are all negative aspects of the Hierophant card. The card however, does tell us to clarify our values – which Fudge also kind of pushes in the series. It is because of his folly that everyone must take a side and decide what they stand for, which is one way to go about this task.

How Fudge as The Hierophant Helps Us Read Tarot

Fudge as the Hierophant helps us read tarot because as we consider how he exemplifies the most awful aspects of the Hierophant card, we can reflect on these traits and behaviors in ourselves or in the institutions we associate with in our own lives. Let’s look at a few questions about Fudge from the books. They are asked with his character and the Hierophant card’s themes in mind:

  • In what ways does Fudge deeply neglect his duties as Minister of Magic? How does this affect the wizarding world?
  • What kind of culture does Fudge’s Ministry encourage or set for the wizarding world?
  • What are Fudge’s worst traits and how are these magnified by his position as Minister?
  • The Ministry safeguards the Department of Mysteries. What do you make of this connection and the Hierophant’s guarding of ‘sacred mysteries’?
  • What good things does the Ministry/Fudge do during the series?
  • If Fudge had been a better person, what difference would it have made for the Ministry as an institution? For the Hogwarts education experience? For those employed at the Ministry? Etc…

How We Can Ask These Same Questions of Ourselves

As we ponder the above questions about Cornelius Fudge, we can turn these questions towards ourselves. This is helpful as a fun way to self-reflect, but more importantly, if we contemplate these questions, we can tie them into any tarot reading where the Hierophant comes up. Whether is for yourself or a querent, think about these questions when the Hierophant shows his up in a reading:

  • Are you neglecting any of your ‘duties’ in life or are you being a responsible leader/teacher/mentor when the situation calls for it? Are there any areas where you could step up into this position? What effect would this have on you or those around you?
  • Would you benefit from seeking out a leader/teacher or community/institution to belong to?
  • What kinds of organizations do you belong to or participate in? What morals, values, or principles do they encourage and live out?
  • Reflect on the traits you dislike and like about yourself – how are these brought out by your different roles in life?
  • What kind of big life mysterious do you often think about? How do you go about trying to seek answers?
  • What good things come from the institutions or leaders (especially spiritual mentors) in your life?
  • What would you change about these institutions, mentors, teachers, or communities? How would these changes better reflect your values or principles?

This post should get your started thinking about the Hierophant, Fudge’s character, and the themes of institutionalization, greed, and deciphering your own values. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear any observations you have from the stories or in how this helped you read the Hierophant card in tarot!

Next week we will explore James and Lilly Potter as card number VI, The Lovers.

Listen to the podcast episode of Fudge as the Hierophant:

Learn Tarot with Harry Potter: The Emperor

The card on top is from the most well-known and often used decks in the world of tarot called the Rider-Waite. I’ll be using the images and traditional meanings from this deck to discuss tarot in the Learn Tarot with Harry Potter series. The artwork on the bottom belongs to Uphillart

Traditional Meaning of The Emperor

The Emperor card above shows an older, yet still powerful man, sitting on his rather solid and intimidating throne. The man is clothed in a striking red cloak, with royal blue sleeves below, and peeking out from underneath the cloak are his legs which are covered in silver armor. The throne of the Emperor is made of granite or other solid stone and decorated with four rams’ heads. He wears a golden crown, and in each of his hands he holds a golden apple and ankh. Behind him is an intensely red-orange sky and fiery colored mountains, where a small stream flows at the base of the peaks.

The Emperor card represents fatherhood, strength, and leadership. He is pictured as an older male, not young and wild, but not yet taken with age; instead, he is wise and mature, still ready to take on the challenges that come with ruling the land. His armor shows us that he is ready for battle if it should be necessary, and that he is on guard against threats to his people. His position on the throne, and the way he looks directly forward shows he isn’t afraid of confrontation; he is secure and confident in his beliefs. The rams’ heads connect with Aries energy, showing him as an intrepid pioneer, unafraid of exploring new opportunities and places. He is a protector and not afraid to set boundaries, while the golden apple in his hand tells us that he also gives easily to help those in his care.

The Emperor tells us that we are protected and in good hands. He speaks to competence, fatherhood, and ambition. He represents a trustworthy, honest, loving partner (as he is to the Empress), and loyal family man. The Emperor often talks to us about being comfortable with who we are, being unafraid to explore new territory, but also to consider what traditional values may be important to our lives. He speaks to balance and security, especially on the home front, and of being in control of our own lives. The Emperor is a leader, in the best way possible – responsible, sensible, and fiercely protective of his values, his family, and his home.

Arthur Weasley as The Emperor

At first glance, Arthur Weasley may seem a strange choice to stand in for the Emperor card. On the surface (and especially in the earlier books), Arthur seems like the bumbling dad who is a little bit silly, a little bit ignored, and who is interested in irrelevant things. He is seen as unambitious and just kind of…harmless. But if we dig deeper, Arthur Weasley is actually more of an Emperor than we might have guessed. Much like Molly, Arthur is one of the father figures in Harry’s life, and he is certainly important as the father of all seven Weasley children. Sadly, Arthur is actually the only father figure of Harry’s to live through the entire series, making him even more important by the ending of the books.

In terms of the imagery on the Emperor card, Arthur matches quite a few elements, although they appear differently with Mr. Weasley. In the images above we see both Arthur and the Emperor with similar expressions. Arthur seems more warm and welcoming, but both are looking directly towards us, with confidence and a sense of assessment. Arthur is pictured against a reddish-orange background that closely matches the colors of the Emperor card. Behind him is a halo of color, resembling the gold crown on the Emperor’s head. Arthur’s clothing keeps this same color motif, and the suit reminds us of his position in the Ministry of Magic. Here Arthur still looks young and full of energy, but there are wrinkles and a bit of greying at his temples. In the books he is described as balding, so although not captured in this image, it is another way to show that Arthur is mature and middle-aged, and reinforces that fatherly image.

In terms of character traits, Arthur embodies the positive side of the Emperor. He is THE family man of the series. He is a loving, loyal, and devoted father and husband, and puts his family first in most of his decisions. He and his wife Molly (The Empress) are passionately in love after seven children and decades of marriage. He often defers to her, but there is a sense that he does so because he loves her intensely and chooses his battles. Arthur often encourages his children in their less traditional ideas, but overall his values are pretty traditional as a father and husband. In addition, he welcomes Harry as one of his own, and has a special relationship with him as we see in Prisoner of Azkaban when he warns Harry about Sirius and Order of the Phoenix when he escorts Harry to his trial.

Arthur is often accused of being unambitious, but in reality Arthur’s ambition leans in a less typical direction. He is absolutely passionate and ambitious about his interest in Muggles. Yes, he finds them fascinating, but Arthur is also a staunch believer in Muggle and Wizard equality, even going so far as to co-author the Muggle Protection Act, which was unpopular at the Ministry and caused him to be overlooked by his higher ups. This is where we see Arthur’s values in full force. He gets into several confrontations over his belief in equality and fairness – even physically fighting a few times. Arthur is eventually promoted at work, and when he gets involved with the Order of the Phoenix, he takes on more and more responsibility and puts himself in great danger to do what he feels is right and to protect his family.

The Emperor card in the Lover’s Path Tarot by Kris Waldherr

One final tie-in to consider is Arthur’s name itself. There has been the observation that the Weasley’s are partially named after characters from Arthurian legends. If this is true, Arthur Weasley must be named after King Arthur himself- indicating a a correlation between this very emperor-like mythical character and Arthur Weasley. In fact, in the Lover’s Path Tarot the author chose to represent the Emperor card with the image of King Arthur and his queen Guinevere.

How Arthur as The Emperor Helps Us Read Tarot

Arthur as the Emperor helps us read tarot because as we consider how he lives out his role as a father, sticks to his principles and values in the face of scrutiny, and provides a stable loving environment for his family, we can think about these elements and people like him in our own life. Let’s look at a few questions about Arthur from the books. They are asked with Arthur’s character and the Emperor card’s themes in mind:

  • On the surface Arthur seems ‘silly’ or ‘weak’ even; how does viewing him through the traits of the Emperor card change this view of him as a character?
  • What kind of father is Arthur Weasley? How do his children, wife, and Harry react to him because of his fathering style?
  • What are Arthur’s core principles and how does he live by them throughout the series?
  • How does Arthur protect those he loves? What does he sacrifice to do this?
  • What kind of husband is Arthur? How does this contribute to his happy marriage with Molly?
  • How does Arthur embrace the pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit of the Emperor?

How We Can Ask These Same Questions of Ourselves

As we ponder the above questions about Arthur Weasley, we can turn these questions towards ourselves. This is helpful as a fun way to self-reflect, but more importantly, if we contemplate these questions, we can tie them into any tarot reading where the Emperor comes up. Whether is for yourself or a querent, think about these questions when the Emperor shows his form in a reading:

  • Think about yourself through the Emperor card; what seemingly silly or insignificant traits of yours can you see more strength or meaning in with this lens?
  • Think about father figures in your life – what did you learn from them (good or bad) and carry forward into your life? Are there any father qualities you have found important in your life?
  • What are your core principles? Do you live by them or do you struggle to align your actions to your values?
  • How do you protect those you love? What have you sacrificed in order to give them the life you want for them?
  • What kind of partner are you (or do you want to be)? What could you learn from the Emperor or Arthur about being in a healthy relationship?
  • In what ways do you embrace the pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit of the Emperor? How does this move you forward in life?

This post should get your started thinking about the Emperor, Arthur’s character, and the themes of leadership, fatherhood, and living by your principles in your own life. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear any observations you have from the stories or in how this helped you read the Emperor card in tarot!

Next week we will explore Cornelius Fudge as card number V, The Hierophant.

Listen to the podcast episode of Arthur as The Emperor :

Samhain Tarot Spread

Samhain is just around the corner ya’ll! I’ll be publishing my Samhain article and podcast episode soon, but first I wanted to put out my Samhain “Death Card” tarot spread. (Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds!)

Samhain is one of my favorite celebrations on the Wheel of the Year. There is just something absolutely magickal about this time of year – the veil is thin, as they say, and we can feel the otherworldly energies alongside us. One of the most prominent themes of Samhain has to do with death. It is a time to connect with ancestors, to explore our shadow side, and to get in touch with the waning energies of the Earth around us. Death is a part of life; in fact, many things must die in order to be reborn – especially in the natural world.

The tarot spread I’m sharing with you today focuses on this theme of death – that is to say, letting go or letting something die. Tarot is a great way to practice self-reflection and notice aspects of our lives that we might not be consciously aware of otherwise, so with this spread, we’ll be looking at what aspects of your life need to ‘die’ or be ‘let go’ so that another aspect of yourself can be reborn and live. It’s a deep subject, but Samhain is a deep, shadowy holiday, so this spread reinforces these energies.

Below I’ll walk you through a sample reading of my Samhain Death Card reading, much like I did with Mabon’s tarot spread. If you’d like to print out the spread for your Book ‘O Shadows/Tarot notebook, click the picture for a free PDF printable.

How to Read the Spread

To read this spread, you’ll want to shuffle your cards or cut your deck. Then, you’ll lay out the cards face down in the positions you see above. I personally like to ask each question as I’m choosing the card for that position. Once all the cards are laid out, take a deep breath, ask for clarity and insight, and then turn over the cards in the order you laid them down.

Next thing I like to do is take a second to notice any overarching themes/images/suits. Are your cards all wands? Do you have several major arcana cards? Are the figures all looking directly at you? Do you have repeating numbers or colors? Just take notice of all of these things and and see how they play in later.

Now you’ll move on to the individual cards.

#1: This card will tell you what area of your you need to ‘let go/release/die’.

#2: This card will speak to why you are having trouble letting go – what fears are keeping you from allowing this aspect to die.

#3: This card will help you think about how to go about releasing this aspect of your life.

#4: This card will tell you how releasing this aspect will change your life/what effect it will have overall.

#5: This card will give you insight into what may be reborn or given life after this old aspect has passed.

I like to write notes as I go, then revisit my initial overview. I also like to either speak or write my insights into a cohesive ‘story’ because as I do this, more connections arise. It gives the reading a deeper meaning and helps it resonate with me. I often think about the cards for days after a reading when I take the time to write up a summary (or video/voice memo). Below I’ll go through a short sample reading.

Sample Samhain Tarot Reading

This sample reading is much shorter than what I’d do for myself or a client, but it can give you an idea of how to read the spread.

Notes: Many figures are looking at ‘something else’ – not directly at me, they seem focused on others or a task at hand. There is alot of mist/fog, and alot of the figures are alone-they don’t seem upset about that overall, just something I noticed.

#1 Four of Pentacles- The aspect of the querent’s life they may need to let go in is the need to stay in control at all times. It seems to me that this figure is worried/preoccupied with rearranging their home (and symbolically with the pentacles, their possessions), while the visitor stands sadly outside. They are looking at the visitor, but seem to be more concerned with controlling the situation inside than letting others in, or flow. It speaks to me about needing to control situations and people and emotions, etc – so this may be the aspect to let go a little.

#2 The Six of Athames – Where to begin? The biggest thing I notice is that this is usually a card of exploration or beneficial voyage/escape – this image shows the figure tethered. I think this shows that the real fear here is that if they were to ‘let go’ of control (the tether), they’d be adrift at sea, at the mercy of the elements, having no clue where they’d land. They’d feel out of control and scared they’d get lost. (all metaphorical of course)

#3 Four of Athames – This card indicates forcing yourself to take a time out. Unlike the first card, this figure is doing absolutely nothing. They are outside, relaxing under a tree, enjoying the day. This person has no plans, is in no hurry, and if someone else came up, you get the feeling he’d welcome the company. This card doesn’t say how, but it definitely shows that the querent needs to embrace this attitude to begin to move away from the fear aspect.

#4 The High Priestess – Embracing a less fearful, controlling attitude will result in the querent being able to be more creative, in touch with their intuitive side, and actually able to gain MORE control in their life. When we aren’t afraid of someone/something being ruined or not going as we planned, we actually feel more in control because as we go with the flow, things come more naturally and we can appreciate things as they come. How many times have we planned and been disappointed, but not planned and been delighted? The High Priestess shows that tapping into this more open, communicative energy helps us feel more in control than when we tried to control with force.

#5 Eight of Wands – When this querent moves into this new mindset and lets the old one die, they will experience many opportunities or ‘new lives’. The wands laid out before this figure represent ambitions, inspiration, paths, and actions, and as you can see, they are all laid out before her, pointing out different ways to go. Instead of being busy deciding how it MUST be, she is able to CHOOSE a path which is offered. This is a card which often speaks to career choices, or swift, good news – so it shows fast forward movement and change!

Summary: Overall this reading makes a lot of sense. The querent has struggled with shutting others (other opportunities, paths, relationships, etc) out because they didn’t fit with the picture in their head. This was keeping them stuck and although comfortable, not exactly happy. They are afraid because they equate being out of control with being lost/chaotic/adrift, instead of what card #3 says, which is that lack of control can also equal freedom, rest, openness, and enjoyment of the present moment. By letting this aspect ‘die’, the querent will understand that by letting things flow and accepting them as they come, they will actually feel more in control overall, and finally, that this will give them even more wonderful opportunities than they imagined! See, not scary at all!

That’s my short sample reading. I hope it helped you in how to approach your own reading. Good luck!

If you love this tarot spread, but don’t love reading for yourself, I’m offering $15 Samhain Tarot Readings for the month of October! Just click below and choose one of these three Samhain inspired readings.

Belladonna

I have a deadly nightshade

So twisted does it grow

With berries black as midnight

And a skull as white as snow

The vicar’s cocky young son

Came to drink my tea

He touched me without asking

Now he’s buried ‘neath a tree.

Trad. “Girls’ Skipping Rhyme” from Chokely in Wynterset

History of Belladonna

Belladonna, or “beautiful woman” in Italian, is a witchy herb with a sordid history. Beautiful yet deadly, belladonna is the femme fatal of the plant world, and is intertwined with the idea of beauty cloaking a hidden danger. Used as medicine, in beauty treatments, and as a murder weapon, belladonna has quite the bewitching reputation. Its energies are associated with death, beauty, power, and danger, and although we probably won’t be using the actual herb in our spellwork, knowing the history of the plant can help us incorporate its magickal properties in spells or rituals. Let’s take a look!

The Belladonna card from the Liminal Spirits Oracle by Laura Tempest Zakroff

Named for Death & Beauty

Belladonna’s official name is Atropa belladonna. Atropa comes from Atropos, a character in Greek mythology. Atropos (which translates to “unturnng one”, “she who may not be turned aside”, or “the inflexible”) was one of the Three Fates that decided a person’s life. The first sister spun the threat of a person’s life, the second measured it, and Atropos, being the last, cut it – symbolizing death. (Her Roman name was Morta, from which we get muerte, mort, and morte in the romance languages). In some sources, these Fates were daughters of Erebus and Nyx (Darkness & Night), so we see another layer of association with death.

The second part of the official name is belladonna, which means “beautiful woman” in Italian. The berries of the belladonna plant are indeed beautiful and apparently are fairly sweet in taste, but they hide a deadly alkaline poison that can kill quite easily. The name beautiful woman, comes from the enchanting woman of the Italian Renaissance court, where pale skin and ‘bedroom eyes’ were considered the height of beauty. To achieve this look, the women would use eye drops with belladonna juice in them to dilate their pupils.

In folklore and folktales, belladonna has been called many other things, all of which add to its notorious reputation. The most famous of these names are Deadly Nightshade, Witch’s Berries, Sorcerer’s Berry, Death’s Herb, Beautiful Death, Death Cherries, and my personal favorite, The Devil’s Cherries (great band name!).

A Nefarious Poison

Belladonna is best known for its reputation as a deadly poison. Weather fact or folklore, the stories about the use of the plant to carry out murderous intentions abound. There is some research that suggests early civilizations made poison arrows from belladonna. In Ancient Rome, Empress Livia Drusilla is said to have poisoned her husband, Emperor Augustus, with belladonna, while the wife of Emperor Claudius was supposedly poisoned with the plant by her husband. Another legend says that the historical Macbeth poisoned barrels of English drink with belladonna, causing the opposing troops to retreat before battle. And according to some historians, Solomon Northup (Twelve Years a Slave), was knocked out and abducted using a concoction that contained belladonna.

Nicholas Culpepper wrote “It is of a cold nature; in some it causeth sleep; in others madness, and shortly after, death.” These effects have led some to surmise that the famous poison that makes Juliet seem as though dead in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, included deadly nightshade.

Whatever the historical accuracy of these claims, it is absolutely true that belladonna is a deadly poison. The roots, leaves, and berries all contain high amounts of tropane alkaloids, which are deadly to humans and many domesticated pets. If one handles the plant with cuts or scrapes of any kind, the poison can affect them, and although the berries contain less alkaloids, they are the part of the plant most often responsible for poisoning deaths.

A full grown adult can die from approximately 20 berries (or less) and a child from only two. The symptoms of belladonna poisoning are as follow:

  • rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • skin rashes
  • hallucinations
  • convulsions
  • delirium
  • flushed skin
  • coma
  • dilated pupils
  • difficulty swallowing
  • blurred vision
  • severe cramping
  • headaches
  • Death

Although there are some medicinal uses for this poisonous plant, the boundary between toxic and non-toxic amounts is too close for comfort. It has been used as a muscle relaxer, pain reliever, and its key chemical ingredients have been included in some eyes drops in optometrist offices. It seems that there are some homeopathic products which contain belladonna, including teething tablets for infants, that have been warned against by the FDA, and as we can see, there is good reason to avoid any product containing belladonna, especially those made for children.

Practical Magic (1998) – two sisters poison an abusive boyfriend with belladonna

Belladonna Folklore

The folklore surrounding belladonna is very closely tied to witchcraft (or what societies assumed was witchcraft). One of the most persistent associations is that belladonna was an ingredient in the flying ointment used by witches. Flying ointment was a mixture of ingredients, usually poisonous and psychotropic plants, which were put into an ointment (made from the fat of children no less!) and rubbed into the skin (an in some stories the broom handle…uh…yeah it’s what you’re thinking), to help witches ‘fly’ to their satanic meetings. [An entirely separate discussion is whether this ‘flying’ was physical or astral; it seems the latter is more likely. A witch would ‘fly’ (i.e. get high) and have hallucinatory experiences which were believed to have been really experienced)]. Belladonna was often listed as an ingredient in these ointments, due to its association with death and its hallucination inducing chemicals.

Another popular folk belief has to do with belladonna and beauty. In an ancient folk practice from Romania, girls would venture out, find a belladonna plant, and make an offering. She would bury bread, salt, and brandy in exchange for the plant’s root, which would then be carried on top of her head. This would assure her good looks and beauty. As we read above, belladonna was also used to ensure sensuousness and attractiveness in renaissance ladies, so this plant has been connected to the idea of beauty for centuries.

Belladonna & Goddesses

I just wanted to quickly include the goddesses associated with belladonna because the plant’s energies closely align with these powerful deities. Because of belladonna’s strong feminine energy and associations with death and danger, this herb has been connected to several ‘dark’ goddesses. The Roman goddess Bellona is one such deity. She is a goddess of war in Roman mythology. According to some sources, priests who worked with this goddess would drink a mixture infused with belladonna before rituals or meditations to connect with her.

Belladonna is also connected to Hecate and Circe. Circe (possibly Hecate’s daughter) is a Greek enchantress figure. Known for her workings with potions and herbs, Circe was a powerful woman who could use her knowledge to change those who offended her into animals. She is also associated with powerful femininity, sensuality, and because of this, witchcraft. Hecate is also a Greek goddess, and she is probably the most intensely ‘witchy’ goddess of all. According to Wikipedia (yes, I use Wikipedia!): “She is variously associated with crossroads, entrance-ways, night, light, magic, witchcraft, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, ghosts, necromancy, and sorcery“. We can easily see how belladonna, a plant connected to death and beauty and mystery and liminal spaces is tied to these goddesses.

In Magickal Workings

The magickal properties of belladonna are as dark and dangerous as her history. Powerful and seductive, yet extremely toxic, these energies should not be played around with lightly. Here are some types of magick that belladonna may be used for, although I don’t encourage use of the actual plant. I find that working with an artistic representation can replace the physical herb in spellwork.

  • Magick dealing with the underworld or the dead
  • Connecting with Circe, Hecate, Bellona, or or other similar goddesses
  • In meditation (connect to the energy) to travel to the underworld/dead or similar energies
  • Dark love spells or other magick to invoke intense power or seduction
  • In hexes or curses (dealing with enemies) – warfare and aggression
  • Beauty spells
  • To open and get in touch with liminal spaces

I don’t have many ‘suggestions’ for this herb because there is no way I’m recommending using the actual plant. It can be grown and as far as I could tell it isn’t illegal; however, it is very dangerous both physically and energetically. I love the idea of using a piece of artwork you connect with to bring in the powerful magickal properties, especially around Samhain, or maybe even a belladonna inspired charm. I think it’s up to you how you choose to work with this herb.

Back to Herbal Encyclopedia

Belladonna Recipe

Alright, so I don’t have a recipe this week because this plant is highly toxic! What I do have are two suggestions to get in touch with her powerful energies.

  1. Create a piece of artwork inspired by belladonna. If you’re artistic you can paint or draw – the plant itself, be inspired by a story or goddess connected to belladonna, or even an imagined magickal working scenario.
  2. Make a cocktail inspired by belladonna! You could use butterfly pea flower and some lemon juice (this is what turns my Psychic Blend purple) and some other ingredients to make a fun (non-toxic) drink for a Halloween party, or even a ritual for Samhain.

Learn Tarot with Harry Potter: The Empress

The card on the left is from the most well-known and often used decks in the world of tarot called the Rider-Waite. I’ll be using the images and traditional meanings from this deck to discuss tarot in the Learn Tarot with Harry Potter series. The artwork of Molly Weasley belongs to Anna Daviscourt.

Traditional Meaning of The Empress

The Empress is a beautiful card in the Rider-Waite deck, and indeed, she is representative of a beautiful female figure. In this card, the Empress is sitting on a luxurious cushion made of deep, vibrant red material. She is clothed in a loose-fitting gown with a pomegranate design, denoting fertility, death, and rebirth (tied to the myth of Persephone and Demeter). Underneath the gown, it can be inferred that she is pregnant, reinforcing the fertility theme. She is surrounded by abundance, represented by the many trees behind her, the flowing river to her side, and the wheat at her feet. She wears a crown and holds a scepter indicating her authority in her domain, and a necklace of seven pearls, which stand for wisdom and possibly even the seven chakras. The card’s colors also have meaning. Yellows, oranges, reds, and bright greens dominate, symbolizing the earthly, sunny, and fertile aspects of the Empress.

The Empress is the mother card in the tarot deck. She is nurturing, earthly, and secure. The Empress, in her abundant garden, shows us beauty, sensuality, love, fertility, and harmony. She denotes unconditional motherly love and the kind of resourcefulness that comes with being responsible for all her earthly children. She can also speak to domestic harmony, a happy partnership, and a deep level of emotional support. The Empress tells us that we are loved, we are cared for, and that she, as the divine Goddess, provides us with resources when we seek them out. She asks us to respect her creations on Earth, nurture ourselves, and recognize and add to abundance whenever we can. Usually, she is paired with the Emperor card, and together they form the traditional family unit with equal masculine and feminine energies.

Molly Weasley as The Empress

In the Harry Potter books, the character who best represents this card is Molly Weasley. When we meet her, she is dropping off several of her children at King’s Cross station. Harry approaches her and asks how to get to Platform 9 3/4, and Molly gently tells him what to do. This first meeting demonstrates Molly’s nurturing quality, and foreshadows how much of a mother figure she will play in Harry’s life as the books continue.

Molly is the birth mother to seven children: Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny. She has devoted her life to raising her kids and creating a comfortable, loving, and happy home for them. She married her husband, Arthur Weasley, just out of Hogwarts, and they seem to have a very happy marriage, still filled with affection and sensuality. She is often seen taking care of her home, the Burrow, cleaning and doing other chores to keep up the household. The garden at the Burrow is featured a few times in the series, and is one of the only instances of a garden playing a role of importance in the books. Molly and all of her children have the characteristic Weasley hair, a bright red-orange like a flame, which is kind of their trademark in the wizarding world. Molly is fiercely protective of her home and her children. She seems to be the one running the household most of the time, and when any of her children are threatened, she shows her magickal skills and passionate nature.

The connections between Molly and the Empress card are numerous. Molly’s red hair mimics the oranges and reds on the Empress card. At home she is surrounded by more reds and oranges, and also green in the form of Harry’s eyes. Like the Empress, Molly lives in a home of abundance and happiness. They aren’t rich, but the atmosphere their loves creates makes the Burrow one of the happiest places in the books. It is comfortable and one can almost imagine the Empress’s cushions on the Weasley’s couches (albeit maybe a little more tattered). Molly is resourceful like the Empress, always making sure her children have what they need, even if it isn’t the best quality or newest model. She has a loving, fairly equal marriage with Arthur (The Emperor), full of physical connection and emotional intimacy.

The garden at the Weasley’s home mimics the garden of the Empress. It is one of the only significant gardens mentioned in the books and it plays host to not only the hilarious de-gnoming incident, but also Bill and Fleur’s wedding. Molly is fiercely protective of her home, which she ‘rules’ most of the time, but of her children as well. In fact, we can also see a tie-in with the myth of Demeter and Persephone in this aspect. Just as Demeter deals with trying to protect her daughter from Hades, Molly has to protect her only daughter from both Voldemort as Tom Riddle’s diary (in Chamber of Secrets) and Bellatrix (Deathly Hallows). Molly is a very earthly presence in the books, usually offering support, advice, or a good talking-to to one of her children (and Harry). She really takes the time to include Harry in her family, inviting him to her home for various events and getting him gifts for Christmas. One small, but interesting correlation is the pearl necklace on the Empress. It holds seven pearls, one for each of Molly’s seven children. Molly truly is an empress in her domestic domain, and mimics the Empress card in the tarot.

When we look at the illustration of Molly above we see many similarities to the Empress card. She is hugging Harry, a nod to fertility and motherhood. Food hovers around her, reinforcing the ideas of home, security, abundance, and comfort. The warm oranges and browns remind us of the colors in the Empress card, and on her head are a few star hair clips, a (unintentional) nod to the stars on the Empress’s crown.

How Molly as The Empress Helps Us Read Tarot

Molly as the Empress helps us read tarot because as we consider how welcoming, warm, and motherly she is, we can think about these elements and people in our own life. Let’s look at a few questions about Molly from the books. They are asked with Molly’s character and the Empress card’s themes in mind:

  • Where do you see the themes of abundance and fertility in Molly’s life?
  • How does Molly show emotional support for her children (including Harry)?
  • How would you describe the relationship between Molly and Arthur?
  • How do you think Molly manages to provide the necessities for her children when its obvious the family struggles with money?
  • Molly is mothering, but not necessarily coddling. How does she encourage responsibility and gratefulness in her children?
  • Molly nurtures others all the time, but how does Molly find time/resources to nurture herself?

How We Can Ask These Same Questions of Ourselves

As we ponder the above questions about Molly Weasley, we can turn these questions towards ourselves. This is helpful as a fun way to self-reflect, but more importantly, if we contemplate these questions, we can tie them into any tarot reading where the Empress comes up. Whether is for yourself or a querent, think about these questions when the Empress shows her form in a reading:

  • Where do you see the themes of abundance and fertility in your life? (Fertility can relate to creativity, ‘birthing’ a talent or project, or growing something)
  • Where might you need to find a source of emotional support at this time? Where might you need to show emotional support to someone else?
  • What kind of relationships do you have in your life? Are they balanced and nurturing? If not, how could you move towards a relationship like this?
  • How do you use the resources in your life – meaning, are you using them wisely and gratefully? Are you making the most of what you’ve been given?
  • What traits/behaviors did you learn from your own mother figure? Were they ‘good’ or ‘bad’? If you are a mother, what traits of the Empress and Molly would you like to emulate?
  • How do you show the traits of independence and responsibility? Do you encourage yourself or do you like to be encouraged by others?
  • How can you nurture yourself when you need it?

This post should get your started thinking about the Empress, Molly’s character, and the themes of nurturing, abundance, and fertility in your life. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear any observations you have from the stories or in how this helped you read the Empress card in tarot!

Next week we will explore Arthur Weasley as card number IV, The Emperor.

Listen to the podcast episode of Molly as The Empress :

Mugwort

If they wad drink nettles in March,

And eat muggins [Mugwort] in May,

Sae mony braw young maidens

Wad na’ be gang to clay.”

Popular Rhymes of Scotland, Robert Chambers

History of Mugwort

An herb of the night, mugwort has a long mysterious and magickal history. An unassuming, weed-like plant, this herb has been used to treat issues specific to women as well as in the Chinese healing practice of moxibustion. It has long been associated with dreams and divination, and with superstitions and magic folklore. Mugwort’s psychoactive properties make it a powerful tool for magickal practitioners, when used carefully and with intention. Let’s take a look at this herb’s fantastical history and magickal uses.

Herb of the Night

The Mugwort card from the Liminal Spirits Oracle by Laura Tempest Zakroff

Mugwort has long been associated with the night and with the sort of divine femininity of this energy. Its Latin name, Artemisia vulgaris, reinforces this association. Vulgaris simply means ‘common’, but Artemisia refers to Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon. Artemis was known as a goddess of the earth, communing with nature, and often seen as dancing with supernatural and wild creatures in the forests. This association with night, the dark, and the mysteries that come with it, reflect mugwort’s use in dreaming and divination, as well as astral travel and psychic experiences.

Another association that comes from the Artemis connection is that of ‘women’s issues’. Artemis was not only Goddess of the moon, but also of maternity, childbirth, and other uterine things. The moon marked women’s monthly mensural cycles. We will touch on these uses later on, but mugwort was often used to treat menstrual and childbirth issues. The herbs has commonly been referred to as Miadenwort, Motherwort, and Womb Wort.

Remember, Mugwort, what you made known,

What you arranged at the Great proclamation.

You were called Una, the oldest of herbs,

you have power against three and against thirty,

you have power against poison and against infection,

you have power against the loathsome foe roving through the land.

Nine Herbs Charm, The Lacnunga

The origins of the English word ‘mugwort’ are somewhat up in the air. The herb was important in Anglo-Saxon culture, and like others we have discussed, is featured in the Nine Herbs prayer from the Lacnunga. The term mugwort may come from Old English “moughte” (moth) or “mucgwyrt” (midgewort), both of which refer to mugwort’s use in repelling flies, midges, moths, and other annoying insects. There is also the ‘folk etymology’ (basically a word sounds like a thing it is associated with) with the word “mug”, alluding to mugwort’s use as a bitter flavoring ingredient in beers/gruits before hops gained popularity. It’s also thought that the term mugwort came from “muggi”, an old Norse word meaning marsh, and the German “wuertz”, meaning root. So, whichever is the true etymology of the word, we can see reflections of how the herb has been used by these ancient cultures.

Mugwort’s common names include: Felon herb, St. John’s Herb (NOT St. John’s Wort) , and Sailor’s Tobacco.

Medicinal and Other Uses In History

Mugwort has many medicinal properties. In Ancient Rome, soldiers put mugwort in their footwear to keep their feet from feeling fatigued. It was said that a traveler could walk more than 40 miles with mugwort in their shoes and not feel tired. It was often planted on roadway for easy access for this purpose. In Germany, the herb is called Beifuß, meaning ‘by foot’.

Traditional Chinese medicine uses mugwort in moxibustion, a practice of burning cigar shaped roll of herbs near an acupuncture needle or point to clear certain energies. Mugwort is made into a Moxa, and burned to treat inflammation or even correct the position of a baby before delivery.

Throughout history and cultures, mugwort has been used to treat different conditions related to women’s reproductive organs. It was ingested to stop excessive mensural bleeding or to induce uterine contractions (and sometimes abortion). It was also used to relieve pain during and after childbirth.

In North America, Native Americans also used mugwort (although they may have used Artemis douglasiana, a a different spieces of mugwort). In the southwest, tribes rubbed it on their skin to protect them from poison oak, to get rid of intestinal parasites, and in salves and compresses to treat eczema. Mugwort was sometimes referred to as “women’s sage”, because of its use in women’s menstrual issues.

In modern herbal circles, mugwort is used as a natural insect repellent, as an anti-anxiety and sleep aid herb, and to ease menstrual cramps.

In addition, mugwort has been used to flavor beer, fish, soups and salads, and even desserts, especially in China, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea.

Psychoactive Properties & Warnings

Although mugwort is not a regulated substance in most countries, it does possess some minor psychoactive chemicals that do produce ‘trippy’ experiences for some people. Mugwort contains thujone, which can be toxic in large amounts or from long-term consistent use. (we’re talking every day, big quantity use). Mugwort’s cousin, wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), is an ingredient in Absinthe, and although it was orginally believed that thujone was a major contributor to absinthe’s —– properties, it has seen been determined that thujone only appeared in low quantities in the drink. This is important to consider when using mugwort because it means it is NOT as psychoactive as wormwood. Then there was the myth that thujone produced similar effects as cannabis. This has also been found to be incorrect.

In addition to thujone, mugwort contains eucalyptol and camphor. The first two compounds together work to stimulate contractions in a woman’s uterus and to cause damage to fetal tissue – therefore one major warning for mugwort is that it NOT be used by anybody who is pregnant, nursing, or is trying to become pregnant. Camphor can induce hallucinations, vivid dreams, and hypnotic states, depending on the amount smoked or ingested.

Here’s the thing – taken at a small dosage, the amount of these chemicals present in the dried herb are going to be fairly small, and thus produce mild effects. You most likely won’t be tripping out if you drink a cup of tea with a teaspoon-tablespoon of mugwort in it, especially if it’s combined with other ingredients. Smoking it may be another story, but as I have not tried that method, I cannot speak to the experience. I recommend doing more research before using mugwort, just to be on the safe side, but I can tell you that I’ve drank mugwort tea several times and have only felt ‘slightly highish’ once.

I recommend listening to this episode of Seeking Witchcraft for an interesting discussion on the herb. It is called: Incense, Flying Ointments, Wine & Other Ritualistic Mind Altering Substances from Aug 21, 2020.

Here are my firm warnings for mugwort (but always do your own research!)

-DO NOT INGEST IF PREGNANT, NURSING, OR WANT TO BE PREGNANT

-DO NOT DRINK ALL DAY ERRRRRYDAY

-DO NOT DRINK LARGE QUANTITIES (use 1 tbsp to at least 8 oz water) can cause liver damage, convulsions, and nausea

-DON’T MESS WITH THE ESSENTIAL OILS

-IF YOU HAVE AN ALLERGY TO CERTAIN SPICES OR CHAMOMILE, YOU MAY BE SENSITIVE TO MUGWORT

-DON’T GIVE TO CHILDREN OR PETS

-IF SMOKING, DO RESEARCH! SMOKE IN LUNGS IS ALWAYS HARMFUL

-DON’T DRIVE OR DO ANYTHING YOU SHOULDN’T DO WHEN UNDER THE INFLUENCE

-START SMALL AND SEE HOW YOUR BODY REACTS

Mugwort is an uncontrolled substance in the United States, although according to a 2011 Louisiana statute, it may be banned in that state (although I couldn’t find a similar statute for other states). So…..do your research before purchasing.

Mugwort Folklore

As you can imagine, mugwort is steeped in folklore. Tied to the tradition of traveling is the belief that St. John the Baptist used mugwort fibers in his famous ‘girdle’. Along with this association was the Middle Ages belief that mugwort was a protective herb – not just against weariness, but against evil spirits and animals. These two beliefs together led to the herb being called “cingulum Sancti Johannis”, and was worn on the head to prevent possession by evil spirits, and when collected on St. John’s Eve it gave extra protection against calamity.

As stated, mugwort has always been associated with the night, femininity, and intuition, and because of the actual psychoactive properties in the herb, mugwort was believed to aid in divination, prophetic dreaming, astral travel, and altered states of consciousness. People placed the herb near their bed or under their pillows, drank it in teas, smoked it, and also rubbed it onto their skin (its oils do work this way), to obtain these properties. It was used in special rituals in China and as a smudging herb by some Native American tribes, sometimes in tandem with peyote.

I wanted to include this excerpt from this site. I’m not sure who to attribute the words to, but they beautifully describe the overall mood and energies surrounding mugwort:

“Artemisia vulgaris guards the entryways of this liminal space. According to Homer, Artemis is potnia theron — mistress of wild animals. Her silvery-grey flowers, the color of moonlight, announce that this is an untamed place, which makes some people uncomfortable as easily as it makes others feel at home. She affirms what is forgotten and in shadow. Also known as mugwort or cronewort, Artemisia vulgaris walks and lives among people. As intractable and sturdy as an old hag, she prefers devastated city spaces to bucolic pastures. She is often found in highway dividers or abandoned lots. Like Artemis who cultivated her solitude, Artemisia vulgaris helps us become sure footed, helps us value being alone as a way of centering and grounding ourselves. She is referred to in Russian as Zabytko, the Herb of Forgetfulness. Her strong, camphor-like oils open up ancient memory, clear the cobwebs of forgetfulness, and help us remember ways of healing and living that attend to spirit and soul. When you’ve lost your vision, your senses are dispersed, and you need an ally to help you remember how to dream, Artemisia vulgaris can be smoked, drank, or placed on your brow.”

In Magickal Workings

The magickal properties of mugwort are both self-explanatory and steeped in mystery. That’s just the energy of this herb. Lovely, gentle, mystical, and capable of inducing altered states of consciousness, here are some types of magick you can include mugwort in.

  • Divination, astral travel, prophetic or lucid dreaming, meditation, trance work
  • Fertility spells or rituals (not ingested or smoked!)
  • Anything relating to night magick, moon magick, or dreams
  • Rituals to connect to the Goddess Artemis/Diana or any of her correspondences
  • For protection, especially travel (physical or astral)
  • Magick where creativity or intuitiveness is desired

As always you can put the herb into sachets or other charms to bring its energies to your workings. But since mugwort is a psychoactive herb when ‘used’, it may be more powerful to engage with it directly. Incense is one way to do this, so is smoking the herb. Mugwort tea is of course an easy way to reap the benefits of this herb and to enter into the psychic realms. There are also recipes for salves or oils that contain mugwort that can be used since mugwort can be absorbed through the skin as well. You can simply order mugwort (or wildcraft it) and keep the herb near you during divination or sleep if you prefer not to mess with the ingestion part. Whatever method you choose, do your research and never use while pregnant!

Back to Herbal Encyclopedia

Mugwort Recipe

Although mugwort can be used to season foods, I personally feel that to connect to its magickal energies, this herb is best used in or on the body. I have linked below a wonderful webpage that give a simple recipe for mugwort infused oil, as well as several other mugwort recipes you may wish to try. I’ve also linked my Dream Blend Enchanted Herbal Tea. It contains mugwort and valerian root, and will help you experience that altered state of consciousness that mugwort is famous for. If you wish, you can also get ahold of mugwort at most metaphysical stores and online to make your own tea infusion as well!

Dream Blend

Mugwort Infused Oil (and other recipes)

Yarrow

 A kindlier background for the whole, 

Between the gloom and splendour. 

Let others captivate the mass 

With power and brilliant seeming: 

The lily and the rose I pass, 

The yarrow holds me dreaming.

Sorrow by Archibal lampman, canadian poet

History of Yarrow

Perhaps one of the oldest herbs on the planet, yarrow is a plant that has long been associated with spirits, protection, and healing. Used by Neanderthals and modern herbalists alike, yarrow has connected people to the spirit realm for centuries. It has a reputation for helping heal soldiers’ wounds and breaking fevers, among other medicinal powers. Yarrow is one of the definitive witch’s herbs, used for love, divination, aura cleansing, and so much more. Let’s explore the history and magick of yarrow.

An Ancient Herb

Way back in my first blog post (and first episode of Herbal Witchery) I referenced the Shanidar Cave burial site. This Neanderthal burial site is located in Iraq and is though to be more than 50,000 years old. In the bigger scheme of things, the discoveries at this site are massive and important, but what is fascinating for this post is that pollen from a few plants was found there, yarrow being one of them. Now sure, many plants have been around since this time, but only a few, including yarrow, were found here. And what’s more interesting, is that many researches believe that this site tells us that Neanderthals buried their dead with funeral rites involving flowers or herbs of importance and that these herbs were believed to have special significance or spiritual powers. This is the first appearance we have of yarrow in the span of human history, making it one of the most ancient spiritually significant herbs in existence.

In addition to this, yarrow was found on the teeth of a Neanderthal skull in El Sidrón cave in Spain. The researchers determined there was no reason for them to have eaten yarrow other than to self-medicate. Yarrow is fairly bitter, but it is known to help with toothaches (among many other medicinal uses as we’ll see below), so the scientists determined that they were using yarrow for this purpose.

From just these two examples, we can decipher that yarrow is an ancient herb, one whose uses and associations have remained mostly unchanged over time. As we will see, yarrow has remained in use, both spiritually and medicinally, in these same ways since this ancient era.

Yarrow’s Many, Many Names

Yarrow is an herb of many names and the history behind those names is fascinating. The official Latin name is Achillea millefolium, which means Achilles’ Thousand-Leaved herb. This scientific name was given in the 18th century, and was chosen because of yarrow’s association with the Greek hero Achilles. The myth says that Achilles used yarrow to treat soldier’s wounds on the battlefield. It is said that he learned to use this plant from the centaur Chiron. Another myth says that yarrow was formed from the rust of Achilles’ spear. (Fun myth, but this post does an amazing job of explaining why this association is not as solid as may have been thought). The millefolium portion of the name means “thousand-leaved”, referring to the herb’s green leaves, which are feathery and very numerous.

The English name yarrow comes from Old English “gearwe” (Dutch gerwe/yerw and Old High German garawa). This word also relates to the Yarrow River – whose name’s etymology is…hard to pinpoint. From Wikipedia:

The name Yarrow is obscure, and there are multiple explanations as to the origin of the name. It may have the same origin as the River Yarrow in Selkirkshire in Scotland, and therefore be derived from the Brittonic element garw, meaning “rough, harsh, rugged, uncultivated”… it may also be related to the River Arrow in Warwickshire and derived either from Brittonic *ar, an ancient river-name element implying either horizontal motion, “flowing”, or else “rising” or “springing up”… A relationship with the River Arrow in the Welsh marches is also possible, deriving therefore from a form of Brittonic arɣant, meaning “silver, white, bright”.

Wikipedia entry on the River Yarrow

It may seem like alot of information, but I think that it shows us just how old yarrow is. There is a mystery to the word ‘yarrow’. Any one of those associations can also be tied to the yarrow herb. Yarrow was featured in seven recipes in the Lacnunga (see pg 353 of this resource), so whether the name for a river or an herb, yarrow featured prominently in Anglo Saxon culture.

Yarrow also goes by many common names, such as: yarroway, staunchweed, knight’s milfoil, soldier’s woundwort, bloodwort, herbe militaris, bad man’s plaything, devil’s nettle, devil’s plaything, old man’s pepper, field hop, carpenter’s weed, death flower, eerie hundred leave grass, old man’s mustard, seven-year’s love, snake’s grass, and Nose Bleed, and in the American Southwest it is referred to as plumajillo, or “little feather nettle”. Many of these names refer to the plant’s ability to stop (or start) bleeding, its pungent, peppery smell, or its association with witchcraft.

Medicinal Uses for Yarrow

Yarrow’s reputation as a medicinal herb is vast. Yarrow is native to basically the entire globe, and is used in Ayurvedic, Chinese Traditional, and Native American medicine, as well as European herbal medicine. Some specifics are listed below:

  • to repel insects
  • as an astringent
  • as an anti-inflammatory agent
  • to cure hemorrhoids
  • to induce sweating (a diaphoretic)
  • to treat gastrointestinal disorders
  • Navajo considered it a “life medicine” – used it or toothaches and earaches
  • Miwok used it as a head cold remedy and analgesic
  • Plains Indians used it for pain relief
  • Cherokee drink tea as fever reducer and restful sleep inducer
  • Zuni use it before fire-walking, and to apply on burns
  • Ojibwe inhale the smoke to treat headaches, or smoke it to break fevers
  • to treat hemorrhaging
  • as a diuretic
  • heal skin wounds/burns and stop bleeding
  • as a mild sedative for anxiety

Something to keep in mind is that yarrow, like any herb, can be harmful, especially if used incorrectly. Pregnant or nursing women shouldn’t use yarrow internally, it is related to ragweed and can cause allergic reactions, and it is TOXIC to dogs, cats, and horses.

Yarrow Folklore

There is also no shortage to yarrow folklore. Yarrow was connected to both Venus and the Horned God, meaning it was often associated with love. It was thought to guarantee love for seven years when hung above the matrimonial bed. It was also used to divine a future love. This is seen in some British and Irish practices where a young maiden would use yarrow to get a glimpse of her true love, by repeating one of the versions of the rhyme below:

Yarrow, sweet yarrow, the first that I have found,

in the name of Jesus Christ, I pluck it from the ground;

As Joseph loved sweet Mary, and took her for his dear,

so in a dream this night, I hope, my true love will appear.

or

Green ‘arrow, green ‘arrow, you bears a white blow,

If my love love me, my nose will bleed now;

If my love don’t love me, it ‘on’t bleed a drop,

If my love do love me, ’twill bleed every drop.

or

Good morrow, good yarrow, good morrow to thee,

I hope by the yarrow my lover to see;

And that he may be married to me.

The colour of his hair and the clothes he does wear,

And if he be for me may his face be turned to me,

And if he be not, dark and surely may he be,

And his back be turned toward me.

or

Thou pretty herb of Venus’ tree,

Thy true name is yarrow;

Now who my bosom friend may be,

Pray tell thou me to-morrow.

It was also associated with friendship love- helping to attract friends, refresh stale relationships, and also to set boundaries between friends (an element to healthy relationships).

Yarrow is also associated with clairvoyance and psychic ability in British folklore. It was believed if you held the leaf of yarrow to your eye you would receive psychic visions. In Scotland, rubbing your eyelids with yarrow flowers can bring prophetic dreams. Yarrow tea is thought to bring psychic insight.

In Chinese folklore, yarrow stalks have been used open the superconscious mind in casting and interpreting the I Ching. It is considered lucky, to promote intelligence, and it is rumored to grow on Confucius’ grave. Apparently there is a traditional saying that says “wherever yarrow grows, one need not fear wild feasts or poisonous plants”, this ties into the next point, which is that yarrow is thought of as a protection herb.

Yarrow was thought to be a protective herb against fairies and other supernatural forces. It was worn as such amulets and charm bags. It was also sometimes used in exorcisms to call and banish the devil.

A few random facts about yarrow: it is often used in butterfly gardens, it is food for many different bugs, and birds often use it in their nests, which has been shown to prevent parasitic infestations. It has also been used in gruit, a type of beer that used bitter herbs before the 14th century in the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium.

There are also some beautiful poems written about yarrow. I’ve included another one by Archibald Lampman, a Canadian poet below. You may also want to check out the Yarrow River poems by William Wordsworth, (lots of sorrow and lost love etc. There are actually a few poems here, Yarrow Unvisited, Yarrow Visited, and Yarrow Revisited).

The yarrow’s beauty: fools may laugh. 

And yet the fields without it 

Were shorne of half their comfort, half 

Their magic — who can doubt it? 

Yon patches of a milky stain 

In verdure bright or pallid 

Are something like the deep refrain 

That tunes a perfect ballad. 

The meadows by its sober white — 

Though few would bend to pick it — 

Are tempered as the sounds of night 

Are tempered by the cricket. 

It blooms as in the fields of life 

Those spirits bloom for ever, 

Unnamed, unnoted in the strife, 

Among the great and clever. 

Who spread from an unconscious soul 

A aura pure and tender.

YARROW  by Archibald Lampman

In Magickal Workings

The magickal properties of yarrow are ancient and line up with many of the folklore beliefs and healing properties we’ve seen thus far. Here are a few types of magick yarrow is used in:

  • Healing old wounds
  • Clarity of purpose, especially in creative endeavors
  • Protection and shielding
  • During divination or psychic exploration
  • To cleanse the aura
  • Love spells, especially for lasting love or friendship
  • To purify spaces and intentions

To put some of these magickal properties into action you can do many spells or workings. Keep yarrow on your altar when doing shadow work or drink yarrow tea; this will remind you that healing takes time and to be patient while you do the work. Drink yarrow tea (I make a beautiful Psychic Tea with yarrow as a main ingredient) before bed to bring prophetic dreams or just before divination to connect to the spiritual realm. Put yarrow in a container under your pillow to dream of future loves or hang it in a decorative manner over your bed to increase the longevity of your relationship. Put yarrow in a sachet or charm bag for any of the above purposes. Use yarrow stalks if you practice I Ching divination also. There are many different ways to use yarrow in your magickal practice, just be creative and connect your intention to the energies of the herb!

Back to Herbal Encyclopedia

Yarrow Recipes

For this week’s recipe, I’ve decided to give you two like I did with Calendula. Yarrow is much more widely known for its healing properties than its inclusion in food, most likely because it is fairly bitter. As mentioned above, it was used extensively as an alternative to hops in ‘gruit’, so you’re getting a beer/ale recipe here! I have not made this, and it seems a little complicated, however I know some of you will be up to the challenge and I’d love to hear about it. The second recipe is really simple and it is for a yarrow salve that you can use for a multitude of small problems. Enjoy!

Yarrow Beer

Yarrow First Aide Salve

Learn Tarot with Harry Potter: The High Priestess

Traditional Meaning of The High Priestess

In the Rider-Waite version of the High Priestess, we see a card that is steeped in mystery and symbolism. The High Priestess is seated on a stone bench between two pillars. Behind her is a tapestry covered in pomegranates and dates, and the pillars to her sides are black and white, alluding to light and darkness, with the initials J and B inscribed on them. These letters stand for Boaz and Jachin, which are representative of the four elements. She is cloaked in flowing white and blue attire, wears a headpiece representing the moon’s phases, and holds a scroll with the letters TORA (the Torah, the sacred Jewish text).

As modern tarot readers, it is sometimes hard to wrap our heads around the symbolism of this card. Honestly, unless you are steeped in Jewish or Kabbalistic knowledge, this is one of the harder cards of the deck to understand. To pull the meaning out, let’s look to Liz Dean’s explanation of the High Priestess card in The Ultimate Guide to Tarot:

She represents the principle of the divine feminine; historically she is the female Pope…Today she might be the psychic, astrologer, or spiritual teacher. Her spiritual path is above material values and earthly relationships. Her gift is wisdom; and knowledge of the world beyond the veil…the High Priestess…tends her inner garden of the spirit in secret, walking between the earth plane and the celestial realms beyond…

The Ultimate Guide to Tarot, Liz Dean pg. 38-39

According to this explanation then, we have a card that talks about feminine power, intuitive knowledge, the spirit realm, and psychic experience. In practice, this might include listening to your gut, deciphering dreams, gaining knowledge by going within yourself (so something like meditation), and possibly even using methods of divination that helps us do this, such as using tarot, scrying, automatic writing, or tea leaf reading. What’s clear is that the High Priestess encourages us to go within for knowledge and not to be afraid to put stock in our inner knowing. She tells us to look inward, to take time away from ‘others’, and to get to know our true selves. In some ways, she also encourages us to ignore what others say and trust our intuition.

Sybill Trelawney as The High Priestess

If you’re anything like me, your memory of Trelawney from the series is of a strange, crackpot teacher who maybe had one fluke prophecy that turned out to be true. Well, I’m here to tell you folks, that that reading of Trelawney is just not correct. Yes, we see some of those elements, but when we actually breakdown Sybill Trelawney’s character, you’ll see she is much more of a High Priestess than you’d think at first glance.

If we look at the illustration of Trelawney above, we notice several similarities to the High Priestess card, although the symbols and layout are different. Trelawney is cloaked in bluish attire that somehow feels tied to water (intuition), and the moon (feminine cycles). She stands in her classroom, surrounded by magickal objects of divination: books, teacups, crystal balls, astrological models, candles, and potions. An owl sits to her side, a symbol of wisdom, and on her face are her very large glasses, which (although described comically in the books) can stand as a symbol for her enhanced “second sight”. She is looking directly forward just like the High Priestess, and clutches at the beads on her chest, possibly made of crystals or another substance imbibed with magickal properties.

One thing to remember about Trelawney is that she in fact IS a professor. Albus Dumbledore, the mastermind of the series could have chosen anyone to teach Divination at Hogwarts, and he chose her. Although it may not feel like it in the books, Trelawney does hold a certain amount of authority and power in her position as a professor at Hogwarts, likening her to the powerful role of the High Priestess.

Trelawney teaches Divination class. In this course, we see the students practice divinatory arts such as tea leaf reading, crystal ball gazing, dream interpretation, and astrology predictions. They must climb to the highest, most distant tower on the seventh floor to reach this room, and it is often filled with smoky incense so thick it makes it hard to see. This in and of itself can be a representation of a spiritual journey – we often talk about ‘ascending’ to the higher self, or searching the ‘higher realms’ when referencing the type of work the High Priestess encourages. Sensory depravation is also though to encourage the other senses, so by making it hard to see in the normal sense in the room, Trelawney is encouraging different states of mind and other ways of perception.

Trelawney often talks about being a Seer, having the Second Sight and an Inner Eye. She makes several predictions throughout the books that actually turn out to be true (it seems every prediction made, except for one, actually came true). Despite her presentation by Rowling as a charlatan and a ridiculous parody of a modern-day psychic, Trelawney is actually fairly gifted at what she does. The High Priestess card talks to us about listening to our inner voice and intuition, but as we all know, this can be confusing and often, when we make a determination for ourselves, we are right – just not in the way we expected. It is the same for Trelawney.

Trelawney encourages her students to seek out their inner sight, to practice divination, and to not be afraid of what they find within. Yes, she is dramatic and sometimes silly, and has a drinking problem, but I think that this comes from being overly empathic. She often mentions staying in her rooms is more comfortable for her and doesn’t mess with her Inner Eye; perhaps she truly cannot handle all the information she gets when around everyone. The High Priestess card does often speak to solitude and keeping to oneself, so Trelawney also represents the card in this aspect.

How Trelawney as The High Priestess Helps Us Read Tarot

Trelawney as the High Priestess helps us read tarot because as we think about how Trelawney approaches life and teaching, we can think about these elements in our own life. Let’s look at a few questions about Trelawney from book three onward. They are asked with Trelawney and the High Priestess themes in mind:

  • Why do you think Trelawney keeps to herself much of the time? What does this do for her?
  • How does Trelawney encourage the students to work their Inner Eye muscles?
  • Despite being ridiculed, Trelawney stays true to her self, what does this say about her character and inner strength?
  • Why do some students despise Trelawney’s class and others love it? What does this say about their comfort level with their higher selves?
  • After looking through Trelawney’s predictions (scroll down to prophecies), what is your opinion of her abilities as a ‘Seer’?

How We Can Ask These Same Questions of Ourselves

As we ponder the above questions about Trelawney, we can turn these questions towards ourselves. This is helpful as a fun way to self-reflect, but more importantly, if we contemplate these questions, we can tie them into any tarot reading where the High Priestess comes up. Whether is for yourself or a querent, think about these questions when the High Priestess shows her face in a reading:

  • Could you benefit from setting time aside to get in touch with yourself (meditate, read, write, practice divination, be creative)?
  • What types of activities or habits can help you get in touch with your intuitive side? How can you incorporate them into your daily life?
  • Do you have a strong sense of self? Do you generally listen to your own advice, or are you easily swayed by others’ opinions?
  • Are you someone who is open to the ‘spiritual’ or ‘supernatural’ realm? If so, how does this affect your life? If not, what about it doesn’t resonate with you?
  • Do you believe you can see your future? Do you believe the future is malleable or set? How does this affect how you live your life?

This post should get your started thinking about the High Priestess, Trelawney’s character, and your own ability to access your intuition. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear any observations you have from the stories or in how this helped you read the High Priestess card in tarot!

Next week we will explore Molly Weasley as card number III, The Empress.

Listen to the podcast episode of Trelawney as The High Priestess :

Learn Tarot with Harry Potter: The Magician

The card on the left is from the most well-known and often used decks in the world of tarot called the Rider-Waite. I’ll be using the images and traditional meanings from this deck to discuss tarot in the Learn Tarot with Harry Potter series. The artwork on the right belongs to Jessica Roux Illustration.

Traditional Meaning of The Magician

When we look at the Magician card we notice several things. A man is standing alone before a table, making a confident, wide gesture with his hands. In his right hand he is holding a powerful wand pointing upwards, while his left hand point downwards. He is wearing robes that evoke power and mystery. Above his head is an infinity sign, sitting almost like a halo. In front of him, his magickal tools are laid out; a cup/chalice, a staff, a sword, and a pentacle. Above him hang beautiful green vines and vibrant red roses, and below him are the same, with the addition of white lilies.

The Magician is a card of magick and manifestation, but even more than that, the Magician speaks to us about purpose, drive, and resourcefulness. The Magician is clever, he is the chess master, moving the pieces around on the board in order to achieve his goal. He uses the tools of his trade to aid him in his quest, and while he also uses intelligence and skill, it is his determination and willingness to take action that sets him apart and makes him able to manifest what others can’t. He tells us to set our sights on a singular purpose and take action to achieve it. If we want something in life, we often must use the tools we have in front of us to get it. We have to believe it is possible, but more than that, we have to act. We have to tap into that powerful, maybe almost spiritual part of ourselves, and believe that what we dream about, what we thinking about, will become our reality when we move towards it with practical actions. We must use our strengths, skills, and trust our internal guidance in order to achieve our goals.

Albus Dumbledore as The Magician

Using the description above, Albus Dumbledore is the perfect representation of The Magician from the Harry Potter series. From our very first introduction to him in Privet Drive on the night of Harry’s birth, to the train station at the end of book seven, Dumbledore is the consummate wizard, using his intelligence and power to achieve his purpose.

Look at the image of Dumbledore above. What do we notice? He is seated in his office in front of a desk. In his hand is a wand, books, a parchment and quill, the Pensieve, a lighter, glass vials, his special pocket watch, and what look like his favorite candy, lemondrops. Fawkes stands behind him. He is wearing his signature blue wizard robes, and on top of his head is his wizard’s hat. Although not identical, the similarities with the Magician card are there. This image of Dumbledore reinforces his connection with the Magician card – we see that he is wise, powerful, connected to the magickal realm, practical, and most importantly, that he takes action. He absolutely contemplates things first, but even the amount of tools on his desk show that he is actively searching for something, not simply sitting there passing the time.

Dumbledore’s singular purpose in the books is to defeat Voldemort, and almost to his character’s detriment, he never waivers from this goal. I say this because as readers, many of us were shocked and a little dismayed by the realization that Dumbledore cultivated a relationship with Harry in part, to train him for the sacrifice he was going to have to make in the end. But, just as a Magician (or us in our own lives) must make hard choices and sacrifices to manifest our goals, Dumbledore had to do this hard thing in order to realize his purpose.

This is his overarching purpose, but what about on a smaller scale? Dumbledore fits the bill of the Magician here too. His office is full of magickal tools he uses – such as the Deluminator (formerly known as the Put-Outer), the Sorting Hat, the Pensieve, the talking portraits, books, and other “whirring” “silver instruments“. He always seems to be pondering a deeper question, and as we see in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, he has followed his intuition regarding the Horcruxes and has been able to piece together information to share with Harry. Dumbledore is known for his encouragement to the students, especially Harry, to use their strengths and to believe in their abilities, just as the Magician card urges us to do. Dumbledore is an inventor, a leader, and a traveler. He moves freely in the books, even when it seems impossible.

By far, the most Magician-like quality that Dumbledore represents is his mastermind status. Even in death, even from beyond death, Dumbledore is the ultimate source of wisdom, the ultimate mastermind, manifesting the reality that he thinks is most beneficial. Harry may be the “chosen one”, but Dumbledore, like the Magician card, IS the number one character in the books, in the sense that it is really him who steers the story and most of what happens in them from behind the scenes. An example of this is the backbone of Deathly Hallows…Ron, Harry, and Hermione chase the Horcruxes because Dumbledore essentially instructed them to – after death.

How Dumbledore as The Magician Helps Us Read Tarot

Dumbledore as the Magician helps us read tarot because as we think about the way he function in the books’ storylines, we can think about the way we function in our own life stories. Let’s look at a few questions about Dumbledore with the themes of the Magician card in mind:

  • What is Dumbledore’s ‘singular purpose’ in the books? Why is he so obsessed with this goal?
  • What does Dumbledore sacrifice to attain completion of his purpose?
  • How does Dumbledore embody the Magician traits of both spiritual awareness and practical action?
  • How does Dumbledore use the tools at his disposal to achieve his goals?
  • How does Dumbledore function as a conduit between Harry, Voldemort, and the wizarding world in general?

How We Can Ask These Same Questions of Ourselves

As we ponder the above questions about Dumbledore, we can turn these questions towards ourselves. This is helpful as a fun way to self-reflect, but more importantly, if we contemplate these questions, we can tie them into any tarot reading where the Magician comes up. Whether it is for yourself or a querent, think about these questions when the Magician shows himself in a reading:

  • What is your singular purpose or ultimate goal? How ferocious is your desire for this purpose to be realized? What makes you so focused on this goal?
  • What might you have to sacrifice to attain completion of your goal? And how will you handle these difficult choices?
  • How tuned-in with the spiritual world do you feel? What does your connection look like?
  • What practical actions are you planning to take to realize your purpose?
  • What tools/skills/training/knowledge do you have at your disposal to aid you in the quest?
  • How does your purpose of goal fit into the bigger picture of your life, the lives of those close to you, and possibly even the world?

This post should get your started thinking about the Magician, how Dumbledore functions as the Magician in Harry Potter, and how you can function as the Magician in your own life. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear any observations you have from the stories or in how this helped you read the Magician card in tarot!

Next week we will explore Sybill Trelawney as card number II, The High Priestess.

Listen to the podcast episode of Dumbledore as The Magician :

Learn Tarot with Harry Potter: The Fool

Traditional Meaning of The Fool

If we take a moment to study the picture of the tarot card above we see the image of a young man about to walk off the edge of a cliff. Far from being panicked about this, his facial expression and body language indicate that he doesn’t have a worry in the world. He is almost prancing towards the precipice, unaware of what lies ahead of him. He carries an impractical little bag, wears clothes that look too fancy for walking far distances, and holds a single white rose, as if he has just been smelling the flowers and decided to wander from the garden to this location. His dog has followed him, either jumping happily along or desperately trying to warn him that “hey man, you’re about to fall off a cliff!”. The sun shines in the background, lighting up the whole card with its golden rays, and jagged mountains can be seen in the background.

The Fool is a card of promise, new beginnings, and innocence. This card speaks to us about embarking on new journeys and the risks and rewards that await us on those journeys. Many times in life, we don’t know what we are getting ourselves into when we start something new. Whether that is a relationship, business, school, or career – we often enter a stage in our life as novices, unaware of what lays ahead. We may be unprepared like this character, or we may have our head in the clouds daydreaming rather than using practical knowledge or skills, but just like this figure, we have to take the leap to get anywhere in life. Friends may try to warn us, like the little white dog, but if we don’t go ahead, we will stay stuck. So ultimately, this card is promising us a new future, a new learning experience, and a way to grow by taking risks and keeping our eyes open as we gain more knowledge on our journey.

Harry Potter as The Fool

Using the description above, Harry Potter is the perfect representation of The Fool from the Harry Potter series. When his story begins (minus the first chapter when he’s a baby), Harry is on the cusp of his 11th birthday. He lives with his aunt, uncle, and cousin as a sort of unwanted addition to their family. He is treated poorly, but despite this, seems to maintain an inner good-naturedness and naiveté that is endearing to the reader. Strange things happen around him, but Harry seems only vaguely aware of the these occurrences until an invitation from Hogwarts, addressed specifically to him, comes to the house. His uncle tries to keep them from him, but they begin flooding into the living room in overwhelming force. As Vernon tries to avoid the letters, Harry is dragged along with his aunt and cousin to an isolated island in the middle of a lake. Hagrid, an envoy from Hogwarts shows up, tells Harry he’s a wizard, and whisks him away from his abusive “family”.

Just as the Fool hangs on the precipice in the card, we see Harry stand before the entrance to Diagon Alley. This is Harry’s first first glimpse of the wizarding world. It is the first time he takes the plunge and drops off the cliff so to speak. But where we really see similarities to the Fool card are at King’s Cross Station on Platform 9 3/4. In the artwork above, Harry stands amazed (and a little confused). He has his belongings with him, including his white owl Hedwig, but he has no idea where to go or how to get to the Hogwarts’s Express. Once the Weasley’s turn up and show him how it’s done, he takes the ultimate plunge and runs headlong into what seems like a solid wall.

Just like the Fool, Harry has to risk it. He has to risk running into a solid wall, going off on his own away from the only family he has ever known (even if they are total crap), and he has to trust that everything Hagrid has told him is true. Again, like the Fool, Harry has absolutely no clue what awaits him on the other side. He is going into a world he is unfamiliar with, one that he knows almost nothing about, and on for which he is completely unprepared. Harry embraces the Fool’s energy because he just kind of goes along with the change. He doesn’t overthink it, emotionally overreact, or hesitate too long, instead, he just kind of says ‘ok, let’s do this’ and runs.

Along with this is Harry’s innocence and awe that permeates these early scenes of the books. Not only does Harry not know anyone at the school or in the wizarding world, he has no clue who he is within that context or what he will be up against. Like the Fool, he is embarking on a journey with no plan, no context, and no goal. But as we see, this works for Harry. He makes friends and allies, faces and overcomes challenges, learns and grows, and by the end of the books, he is a full-fledged grown man with a career, family, and sense of self.

How Harry as The Fool Helps Us Read Tarot

Harry as The Fool helps us read tarot because as we think about his beginnings, we can think about our own. Let’s look at a few questions about Harry in these early chapters of book one. They are asked with Harry and The Fool card in mind:

  • Does Harry’s lack of awareness about his origins help or hinder him on his journey?
  • Is Harry an exceptionally brave person, or is he foolhardy?
  • What would have happened had Harry turned away on Platform 9 3/4 instead of running through the doorway?
  • What doesn’t Harry’s story tell us about the rewards and setbacks of taking risks, especially those we take blindly?
  • If Hedwig could talk, and warn Harry of what was to come, what would she tell him? Would he heed her words?
  • Ultimately, what does Harry’s journey teach us about starting on our own journeys in life?

How We Can Ask These Same Questions of Ourselves

As we ponder the above questions about Harry, we can turn these questions towards ourselves. This is helpful as a fun way to self-reflect, but more importantly, if we contemplate these questions, we can tie them into any tarot reading where The Fool comes up. Whether is for yourself or a querent, think about these questions when The Fool shows his face in a reading:

  • How much do you know about this new venture/stage/journey in your life? Do you feel you should jump in unaware, or would you benefit from learning more first?
  • Do you need to embrace courage and bravery to take a risk or do you feel you’d be silly and foolhardy to start this journey as is?
  • If you don’t take this risk, what would happen in your life?
  • What benefit could you gain from ‘jumping off the cliff’? What might you lose?
  • Do you have anyone in your life cautioning (or encouraging) you to start this new thing? What part of their words or warnings strikes a nerve with you?
  • Does anything about The Fool’s Journey or Harry’s journey speak to you about your own life? Do you ultimately think its worth taking the plunge?

This post should get your started thinking about The Fool, Harry’s journey, and your own ‘Fool’ moments in life. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear any observations you have from the stories or in how this helped you read The Fool card in tarot!

Next week we will explore Albus Dumbledore as card number I, The Magician.

Listen to the podcast episode of Harry Potter as The Fool :