The Wand Chooses The Wizard…

Standard

Luna Lovegood and I share a Patronus, but this one is hers (from the movie), while the wand in the picture is mine (and, yes, it's a Yew-branch...)

One of the reasons I like the story of Harry Potter so much is that even though the author of the books, J.K. Rowling, may not herself espouse a Shaman’s view of the world, she does not look down her nose at people who see things from other perspectives. I also like the fact that although JKR doesn’t consider herself a magick-user in the real world, she respects her own intuition enough to allow it to guide her, and as a result of this, she actually does get some real-world magickal things “right”. Case in point, the nature of magickal wands.

The consensus-reality, real-time Shaman/Witch/Wizard’s view of the world and the Cosmos is that everything that exists within it– including dirt, water, rocks, and your dining room table– is part of a whole and living system, and therefore all things share in that life and sentience, even if they appear to be externally inert. In the Harry Potter books this magickal truism is expressed by the adage “the wand chooses the wizard”.

This magickal fact– that wands apparently think, feel and make choices– is represented in the series as being a very deeply mysterious thing that even witches and wizards themselves do not fully understand. I think it is presented as such because the author herself is looking at the story she is telling from a human perspective. Considering the sentience of wands to be a complete mystery would be the bog-standard muggle view of things, and I will say here that although I dislike the term muggle, I will use it in this post to indicate someone looking at the world from a point-of-view that holds that magick does not exist, rather than as an epithet for a person who cannot utilize energy to perform magick, as I do not think there are any real muggles in the latter sense of the term.

To a muggle point-of-view, then, wands that choose who they will bond with would appear quite strange and not at all understandable, but to a witch or wizard in the story, this should be a perfectly normal and natural state of affairs. It is also a phenomenon understandable by real-world magick-users, and I would now like to explain the entirely possible, real-world-magick reasons why Harry Potter and Voldemort were chosen by their respective wands, and why their wands reacted to one another as they did throughout the story.

First, let us look at Harry and Voldemort themselves. There are both strong parallels and differences between them, and these likenesses/differences are what drive the wands’ choices of the two wizards in the story. One of the most important parallels between the two is that both Harry and Voldemort lose their mothers in infancy– Voldemort’s mother dies, heart-broken and depressed, within hours of his birth, and Voldemort himself deprives Harry of his. (It is also one of the ways that Voldemort “marks Harry as his equal”– you’ll want to remember that prophecy by Sibyll Trelawney, as it also helps explain the magickal subtext of what is going on.) The actual circumstances surrounding the loss of each wizard’s mother are very different, and these differences also play a magickal role in how things develop– i.e., Voldemort’s mother dies in despair, leaving him truly alone, while Harry’s mum dies out of great love for him, defending and protecting him against terrible danger.

Now we all know what was said in the story about Lily Potter’s love protecting her son, and so on, but here’s how I as a magick-user understand the subtext– we start with Lily Potter desperately pleading for her son Harry’s life, and Voldemort kills her without a moment’s hesitation, as he is intent on killing Harry. As Lily dies, her great love continues to hold her Spirit near her son, and when Voldemort attempts to kill Harry, Lily’s energy (now entirely free of her physical body) can and does defend him by joining her own energy to her son’s, and both mother and son backhand Voldemort across the face with his own curse. Now that Lily is dead, her Spirit must of course “go on”, but the power of her love stays with her son, and even though a shard of Voldemort has broken off and embedded itself in Harry, the strength of Lily’s love and courage help keep the soul-fragment repressed. Thus Harry is the “Horcrux that Voldemort did not intend to make”– Voldemort doesn’t even realize that he’s made one, and Lily’s love keeps Harry safe from psychic take-over by the Spirit-fragment, so Voldemort does not understand until very, very late in the game that an extra bit of his soul-stuff is missing, and worse yet, his officially designated enemy and equal has possession of it.

The other thing that happens in the magickal exchange is that the energy directed at Harry literally marks him. Hagrid opines that Harry’s lightning-bolt-shaped scar is “the mark of a Dark curse”, but from a magickal perspective, the lightning bolt scar that Harry wears is the rune Sowilu, the Sun, symbol of light, truth, life and justice. While it is a physical mark of the rebounding energy of Voldemort’s Killing Curse, it is also once again something that is tempered and channeled by his mother’s abiding love into a much more positive result– the runic scar actually assists Harry in attracting the particular wand he winds up with, but more of this matter in a moment.

The rebounding curse destroys Voldemort’s physical body, but he cannot die and “go on” as Lily has done because he is trapped on the physical plane of existence (without access to Spirit-resources) by the Horcruxes he has made. Lily, on the other hand, passes beyond, and having bequeathed her maternal love to her son, she now becomes a fully-fledged Ancestral Spirit with a fair amount of power at her disposal. Because her exit from life was both clean and heroic, she is able to take on the guardian-and-protector role of an Ancestor almost immediately, and as Albus Dumbledore surely knows, her Ancestral Power to protect Harry will be augmented by Harry’s proximity to Lily’s sister, Petunia. So off Harry goes to live with the Dursleys, at good old Number Four, Privet Drive.

J.K. Rowling has mentioned that she chose the number four as the address for the Dursleys because the number always seemed “stodgy” to her (i.e., four-square, meaning “nice and normal”), but when a magick-user hears the mention of the number four, it evokes a different meaning altogether. Four is a very important number in many magickal traditions because of the Earth’s Four Quarters– North, East, South, and West. The number four is often used as a sort of magickal shorthand for the protections offered by each of the Quarters during magickal ritual, and some protective formulas are repeated in fours, so that there is one repetition for each Quarter, making a circle of protection around the wizard or witch performing them. This magickal use of the number four is echoed by the four Houses at Hogwarts, and each of the Houses is associated with a color and a classical Element (Earth, Air, Fire, or Water), just as the Quarters themselves are. By placing Harry with the Dursleys, Dumbledore makes sure that Lily’s Ancestral Powers surround Harry completely, and protect him in every direction, giving him his mother’s protection against the second strand of magick at work here, that of Voldemort’s Marking of Harry as his equal by having attempted to kill him.

Being Marked as Voldemort’s equal means that Harry’s early life circumstances now begin to magickally parallel Voldemort’s– living with the Dursleys, Harry endures true privation and aloneness, in almost the same way that young and orphaned Tom Riddle did, but with one difference: even though the Dursleys are completely horrible to him, they still (rather begrudgingly) grant Harry “family space”, which means that he can directly access his mother’s Ancestral protective powers. Be it ever so wretched, the Cupboard Beneath The Stairs still lies within a magickal circle, cast by Lily’s love and kept very much alive by Petunia’s blood-relationship to Harry.

Now let us turn to the wands themselves. We know from the story that the cores of Harry’s and Voldemort’s wands are the same, and they are also unique– they are the only two feathers ever given for wand-making by Albus Dumbledore’s Phoenix, Fawkes. Since Voldemort a) was chosen by the Yew/Phoenix wand, and b) since he had specifically Marked Harry as his equal, the other wand of the pair was primed to choose Harry, because the magick set in motion by Voldemort the night his Curse rebounded ensured just this outcome.

The woods that each of the wands are made from are also of interest, as they reflect in both cases a sort of “energy-bequest” from each deceased magickal mother to her still-living son. Voldemort’s wand is made of Yew, and as I posted previously, the energy properties of Yew wood are watery/airy and feminine. The Yew is the tree of death, the Ancestors, regeneration, and most interestingly, sure protection against evil and harm. Yew-energy is also very useful for magicks involving the dead, and for contacting the dead for their help and advice. From a magickal perspective, the Yew’s choice of Voldemort would seem to indicate that his deceased mother has regrets and wishes she could have helped him more, so the Yew is “sent” in hopes that he will somehow find his way back to her by the use of the its magick. The Yew also embodies Voldemort’s mother’s wish to belatedly protect her son, no matter what wrongs he has committed– Yew-energy is the absolutely best protection against harm, and in the story, as long as he was using his Yew wand, Voldemort was pretty much protected against any of the unpleasant consequences of his actions.

From a magickal perspective, when he accepted the Yew-wand’s choice of him, Voldemort was in a way unconsciously seeking after his dead mother, and when he rejected the Yew after the Priore Incantatem incident, Voldemort rejected his mother– and her post-death magickal gift of iron-clad protection– all over again. He could not get past seeing both his clinically depressed mother and his feminine-water-air Yew wand as “weak”, yet without the pliancy of the Yew (which is a springy wood that is often used to make hunting and long-bows) to assist him, both he and his magick became brittle and open to fracture and defeat.

In contrast, the wood of Harry’s wand is Holly. Magickally, it is said to hold a masculine polarity, and it is also associated with the element of fire. Holly is also held to be able to repel lightning-strikes, and it recognizes a kindred-spirit in Harry, who with his mother’s love, was able to repel the searing bolt of a Killing Curse. Harry is even marked with a lightning-bolt-shaped sign, indicative of his Holly-like power to repel harmful energy.

Another important piece of Holly-lore is that the Holly is the plant of the Winter Sun-King, just as the Oak is the tree of the Summer King. As the plant of the Winter King, the Holly represents the quality of emerging successfully from trial and adversity, which is just what Harry has done by making it to age 11 and leaving the Dursleys for the first time in his young life to go to Hogwarts and take up his magickal birthright. When he enters Ollivander’s, he has “Holly/Phoenix wand” written all over him, in a manner of speaking– and with a magickal sun-rune on his forehead spelling it out, no less!

Now as to the way the two wands– Yew and Holly– interact: since Voldemort and Harry are self-marked and identified as wizards of equal strength, and since the cores of their wands are not only identical with regard to substance but also in origin, the difference between the two wizards and their wands comes down to the wood. Yew is feminine-polarity, and Holly is masculine, and with their shared identical cores, they are more correctly thought of as a Sacred Couple, with “one heart beating in two breasts” rather than as “brother-wands” the way Ollivander describes them. When Voldemort regenerates his physical body (just as the Yew tree can regenerate its entire above-ground body from its root-bole) the two wands come face-to-face for the first time since they went out into the world from Ollivander’s shop. And far from it being a mystery with regard to how they will interact, any student of occult lore will be able to tell you with no difficulty. First, the two wands will not want to fight each other, due to their shared cores and the compassionate altruism of Phoenix-energy, and second, the Yew (female) will magickally open and receive the Holly (male) as her Sacred Other, which is exactly what happened when the two wands were forced to duel.

Something also occurs, thanks to Yew being the premier facilitator of communication with the dead– instead of simple images of Harry’s mother and father appearing due to Priore Incantatem, the Yew-energy augments them and allows the released shades to hold off Voldemort and his Death-Eaters long enough for Harry to escape with Cedric’s corpse, leaving Voldemort (who has stupidly neglected to plumb all of his Yew-wand’s magickal possibilities in favor of simply using it to deal out physical agony and death) feeling bewildered and angry, and underneath it all, betrayed. He very belatedly becomes interested in wandlore, but superficially, as in “what wand can I get hold of that will be stronger than Harry Potter and his wand?” More importantly, he stops using his Yew wand, a mistake of major proportions, as his Yew-given protection from any and all harm is now gone.

Because the Holly-wand and the Yew-wand share identical-origin cores, Harry’s wand knows that Voldemort has abandoned the wand that chose him. In a way, it’s another parallel with the wizards that wield the wands– Harry and Voldemort are aware of each other because Harry is the unintentional Horcrux, and the Holly and Yew know each other because they share cores. The bottom line is that Voldemort has been disloyal to– and dismissive of– his Yew/Phoenix wand, and when he attacks Harry at the beginning of Deathly Hallows with a borrowed wand, Harry’s wand acts of its own volition, fighting Voldemort with true anger for his magickal disrespect of the wand that of her own will came to Tom Riddle as a boy to partner with him magickally and help him. Voldemort then seeks the Death-Stick– The Elder Wand that is one of the Deathly Hallows– but even though the Elder Wand is very powerful, it does not grant the same all-purpose, all-the-time protection against harm that is the hallmark of the Yew, so ultimately, despite the strength of the wand, Voldemort remains vulnerable to magickal and physical injury.

Now, I have heard and read enough interviews with JKR to know that she is not a practicing magick-user in the real world. I also know that she has done her homework very well, so I know that the assignment of the Yew to Voldemort and the Holly to Harry were conscious choices on her part. What I do not think is planned is the “magickal correctness” with which the sentient wands operate– this I credit to her intuition and her willingness to be guided by it, which is a distinctly magickal trait, and which also gives a fabulous richness to her story of The Boy Who Lived.

[As a post-script, I will say that all rights to the characters and plot-lines mentioned here belong to J.K. Rowling as the author of the Harry Potter series, and the rights to the general magickal information within this article, as well as the conclusions drawn from it, reside with me. Go ahead and quote freely as long as attribution is given, but no copying of this post wholesale to submit as a school paper or to pass off as one’s own writing on another website. I am a magick-user myself, which means 1) I will find out, even if you live in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, and 2) the copyright-violation-hex is primed and ready to go. It is self-activating, but not self-limiting, meaning that you will have to confess to me and to the people you deceived by passing my work off as your own before I remove it. In the meantime, your ability to attract bad luck will become the stuff of legend.]

Monday Is My Saturday…

Standard

And I am just thrashed after a long week of being pulled in several different directions, so I’ve decided it’s time for a bit of Ravenclaw House snarkiness… all in good fun, of course…

Some pictures of some people just cry out for "bunni-fication"...

 

 

Yes, it's snotty, but also kinda funny...

 

...and I did this one because I just *cannot* get enough of "Diadem Bunny"...

 

I think that sums it up nicely...

As Long As We’re Talking About Yew Wands…

Standard

English Yew specimen. Everything about the tree is poisonous, except for the fleshy red part of the Yew-berry/cone.

To get the Pottermore-experience update out of the way, my unhappy time there continues– the Moments still refuse to load properly, but I can get into my Profile page, which takes about a half-hour and a couple of page-refreshes to complete. I can accept Friend requests, and look at stuff that I’ve collected, but I cannot even try to brew a practice potion, as the potion-brewing page also does not load completely. Interestingly, the practice spell page (in preparation for participating in Wizard Duels) does load, and I have so far managed to score 90 to 105 on the two spells I practiced briefly.

The one thing I really wanted to be able to access the Moments for– the extra back-story stuff that JKR has allowed to be published on the site– I cannot access at all from my home dial-up platform. Today at work, I used 40 minutes of my lunch hour and a public internet computer to try to get through as many Chapters as I could, collect as many objects as I could, and score as many Galleons and House Points as I could, while trying to find the thing in each Moment with extra (and locked) back-story that would allow me to open the locked material. I then dumped everything I opened into my Favorites folder for later perusal. I will also add that I almost froze the public computer I was using, because even with broadband access, the library computer I was on almost could not handle the pages when the graphics/animation quality was set to high. I also found that if I set it to low (to keep the CPU from making horrible asthmatic wheezing noises), I could see stuff like Galleons and other collectible items, but I could not actually collect them, so I’d briefly click back to high-mode, and try to collect whatever it was as fast as possible, before the CPU threatened to choke. I’m up around 24 House Points, having slogged my way to the beginning of Chapter 17. I’ve managed to collect a lot of potion ingredients, and some other trinkets and goodies, and I’ve collected enough Galleons to recoup most of the cost of my Screech Owl, which is nice, but not especially thrilling.

Next week, when I have a bit more time to myself, I will be sending in an email to Pottermore summarizing the problems I’ve been having, both from my home dial-up and from broadband public-use internet terminals at work. It’s just not been a smooth interface or experience any way you slice it, and my main complaint is that there is no way to opt out of the high-graphics-quality mode until you load at least one Moment to the point where you can select the low option. The site also does not remember that you selected the low setting, either– every time I come back, I’ve got to ask for the low option all over again.

Now on to something much more fun…

I was a bit surprised– though not at all disappointed– that the wood of my wand on Pottermore is Yew. It tickled me into going back through my various magickal books and herbals to re-acquaint myself with the occult properties of the wood. First, here is the little paragraph one gets at Pottermore describing Yew-wood wands:

Yew wands are among the rarer kinds, and their ideal matches are likewise unusual, and occasionally notorious. The wand of yew is reputed to endow its possessor with the power of life and death, which might, of course, be said of all wands; and yet yew retains a particularly dark and fearsome reputation in the spheres of duelling and all curses. However, it is untrue to say (as those unlearned in wandlore often do) that those who use yew wands are more likely to be attracted to the Dark Arts than another. The witch or wizard best suited to a yew wand might equally prove a fierce protector of others. Wands hewn from these most long-lived trees have been found in the possession of heroes quite as often as of villains. Where wizards have been buried with wands of yew, the wand generally sprouts into a tree guarding the dead owner’s grave. What is certain, in my experience, is that the yew wand never chooses either a mediocre or a timid owner.

This really does not give a very good insight into the mythological associations and the actual magickal and mundane uses of Yew wood, which are extremely interesting, and I think knowing about the real symbolism of the Yew tree actually explains some of the stuff that went on between Harry Potter’s Holly/Phoenix wand and Voldemort’s Yew/Phoenix one. First, here’s some general and also magickal information about Yew trees–

1. Yew trees can grow new trunks out of the original root-bole of the plant. Because of this ability to regenerate, it is estimated that some of the British Yew trees (Taxus baccata) now alive are as much as 4,000 years old.

2. Yew trees existed as far back in time as the Triassic Period, 200 million years ago. An archaic Yew, Paleotaxus rediviva, has left fossil traces in rock formations dating from the Triassic. It is believed that all 10 varieties of modern Yew developed from Paleotaxus.

3. The Yew has managed to survive great climactic and general planetary upheavals. Yew fossils have also been found that date from the Jurassic Period, 140 million years ago.

4. Pollen counts of samples taken from ancient peat bogs across Europe indicate that Yew trees were much more abundant during the last Ice Age than they are now.

5. Every part of the Yew tree is poisonous– roots, bark, needles, wood, and seed. The only thing that a Yew tree produces that is not poisonous is the fleshy part of the Yew “berry”.

6. Because the Yew is slow-growing, the wood it produces is tight-grained, resilient and tough. Many weaponry uses were found for it in the past– it was used to make staves, spear-hafts, hunting bows, and the very famous Medieval English long-bow. Arrowheads were also often treated with poison made from yew needles, bark or seed. Care must also be taken when filing, sanding or otherwise working the wood by hand– its name of Death Tree is well-deserved.

7. The Yew is sacred to all forms of the Underworld Goddess. It also has a Dark Lunar association because of its long-standing use as a raw material for making bows and poison for arrowheads.

8. In Britain, Yews are often found in churchyards, and it is plain from growth-dating the trees that they were there long before the churches were built nearby. There are many British churches and churchyards that once stood within a circle of Yews, and these Yew-circles are felt to be a legacy of Druidic Sacred Groves.

9. Yews are also associated with underground springs. In Wiltshire, at Amesbury, there are fourteen Yews in the churchyard that are all growing over blind springs. Eighteen yews at Bradford-on-Avon do the same. Of the ninety-nine churchyard Yews at Painswick in Gloucestershire, it has been determined that all of them are growing over nodes or underground springs. It is highly likely that the Yews were planted with the idea of marking and protecting these power-spots. Carvings of Yew-wood which were left as votive offerings have also been found during archaeological excavations at some sites of ancient springs and wells.

10. Magickally speaking, the Yew is considered the single most potent tree for protection against evil and malevolent intent. It is also held to connect one with the Ancestral Spirits, and is also held to bring dreams and access to the Otherworlds via soul-journey. Part of the probable reason for this association is that during warm weather, the poisonous resin of the tree produces a vapor that when inhaled causes torpor and in some cases, visions. The Spirit of the Yew can be invoked to assist with Otherworld journeys, and to enhance the openness of communication with the Otherworld. It also can grant an increased ability to perceive messages and other assistance being given to the practitioner by Spirit-Guides and other shamanic Helpers. It is also used for Summoning the Spirits of the Dead, and wands of the wood are particularly useful for “settling” or dispelling haunts and wraith-energy.

11. The Yew’s place on the Wheel of the Year is at Samhain, when the Veils Between the Worlds are thinnest, entry into the Otherworld is easiest, dreams are the most potent, and access to the Ancestors is most possible.

12. Modern magickal tradition identifies the Yew-energy-polarity as feminine. Traditions are split on the elemental identification, with some marking Yew as Water-associated, while others identify it with Air. It is probably safe to associate it with both elements, due to the ancient traditional planting of Yews over underground water and blind springs, and also because of the Yew’s visionary vapors, which are most definitely an Air-element trait. The Yew is also connected to the Zodiac-sign of Scorpio, which in ancient times, was not ruled by Pluto but by Mars, yet another energy-correspondence with the use of Yew wood for archery implements and other weaponry. Modern tradition planetary association identifies the Yew with Saturn, doubtless because of the Yew’s general poisonous nature, but I personally disagree with this. My own take on the energy is that it is much more Dark-of-the-Moon Lunar and thus watery in feel, mixed with a sharp and quick Mercurial vibe.

Here’s a bit more information from the Wikipedia entry on Yew trees–

All species of yew contain highly poisonous alkaloids known as taxanes, with some variation in the exact formula of the alkaloid between the species. All parts of the tree except the arils contain the alkaloid. The arils are edible and sweet, but the seed is dangerously poisonous; unlike birds, the human stomach can break down the seed coat and release the taxanes into the body. This can have fatal results if yew ‘berries’ are eaten without removing the seeds first. Grazing animals, particularly cattle and horses, are also sometimes found dead near yew trees after eating the leaves, though deer are able to break down the poisons and will eat yew foliage freely. In the wild, deer browsing of yews is often so extensive that wild yew trees are commonly restricted to cliffs and other steep slopes inaccessible to deer. The foliage is also eaten by the larvae of some Lepidopteran insects including the Willow Beauty.

Yew wood is reddish brown (with whiter sapwood), and is very springy. It was traditionally used to make bows, especially the longbow. Ötzi, the Chalcolithic mummy found in 1991 in the Italian alps, carried an unfinished longbow made of yew wood. Consequently, it is not surprising that, in Norse mythology, the god of the bow, Ullr, had an abode named Ydalir (Yew Dales). The yew longbow was the critical weapon used by the English in the defeat of the French cavalry at the Battle of Agincourt, 1415. It is suggested that English parishes were required to grow yews and, because of the trees’ toxic properties, they were grown in the only commonly enclosed area of a village – the churchyard. The yew tree can often be found in church graveyards and is symbolic of sadness. Such a representation appears in Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem “In Memoriam A.H.H.”.

The Eihwaz rune is named after the yew, and sometimes the yew is also associated with the “evergreen” World tree, Yggdrasil.

I am planning a “Part B” to this post, in which I would like to talk about the interaction between Harry Potter’s and Voldemort’s wands from the perspective of  European Shamanic/Magickal practices and traditions, which I think adds an extra layer of richness to Harry Potter’s story (and I think such an exporation also helps clarify a few things about HP wandlore as well as JKR’s “writer’s intuition”), but I am tired as well as short on sleep from a very busy caregiving-and-work week, so I’ll end this here for now…

I Love/Hate Pottermore– or, Harefoot at Hogwarts

Standard

After seven months of no-explanation, no-projected-start-date waiting with about half the planet, I finally have an active account on Pottermore. My main reasons for wanting a Pottermore account are that 1) I myself am a big fan of the Harry Potter series (I’ve always wondered what House I’d be sorted into if J.K. Rowling was the Sorting Hat), and 2) since I work for a public library system in a major U.S. city, I know there are going to be kids who will want to explore Pottermore on our library computers, so I need to know something about using it.

It’s a fun concept, and one of the things that looked interesting about it was that there would be additional background-notes material by JKR available on the site– stuff that didn’t make it into the books, but would be fun to know about. The art for the site also looked quite nice, and although in other circumstances I think I would have tried very hard to be a beta-tester for Pottermore, I had to let that idea go because of other demands on my time.

Because I am basically a long-time lurker on the two biggest Harry Potter fan-sites– Mugglenet and Leaky Cauldron— I have been following the saga of the Pottermore beta-testing from the very beginning. It rapidly became apparent that Pottermore had major platform and lack-of-servers problems, and the server problem struck me as a particularly stupid one for the site to be having because JKR herself pointed out to Sony and the platform development folks that they would probably need a lot more server-space than was being planned for. What happened in response to her input really ticked me off– they basically “politely dismissed” her concerns, and went ahead as planned, and the poor beta-testers soon found out how poor the planning for the site had been. Pottermore had problems that should have been worked out long before it ever went into beta, and one of the main issues was… nowhere near enough server space. This became obvious when they pushed back the date that the ebooks would be available for purchase on the site– they needed the book-vending server space to keep Pottermore from turning into one big Fuchsia Screen of Death.

I felt bad for both the beta-suckers-I-mean-testers, and for Ms. Rowling, whose name and sterling reputation is all over Pottermore. Sony definitely did not do right by her, and it started with them thinking they knew more than she did about what the response would be like for Pottermore. What really bites about this is that you know if it had been, say, Donald Trump telling the planners they needed more servers, they would have all rolled over on their backs, widdled all over themselves like 6-week-old puppies and would have said, “Oh yes, Mr. Trump. We are currently in the process of relocating one quarter of the population of Atlanta so that we can turn that portion of the city into a vast server-barn just for you. It will all be done and up and running by tomorrow, Mr. Trump.” However, the person doing the suggesting in the instance of Pottermore happened to be female– never mind that she’s the most successful children’s author of all time and has about the same amount of money as God, so she could literally buy Sony and all its subsidiaries if she wanted to– which meant, bottom-line, Sony and the planners felt free to ignore her “girly, artiste” input. Are you laughing sardonically now? I know I sure am!

Anyway, it became apparent very quickly that Pottermore was in heaps of trouble, so beta-testing was first extended for two months, and then “indefinitely”, and Charlie Redmayne was induced to jump ship from Harper Collins to helm Pottermore. I hoped at this point someone would step forward and offer a simple explanation for the delay. Human beings do make mistakes, and the courteous, customer-service-savvy thing to do would have been to offer a simple “Oops, sorry, we miscalculated and will fix this as soon as possible, but it may take 4 to 6 months. In the meantime, please hang in there. We promise we will make it worth the wait.” This also never happened, and cynical little me thinks it was probably because 1) the supposed demographic of the fan-base makes it easily dismissed– i.e, it’s just kids, so let ’em wait, and 2) some dim bulb in a boardroom somewhere very likely came up with the “idea” that if people were not told when exactly the site would be back up, they’d visit Pottermore more often to check to see if things were open to the public yet.

I am sure I am not the only Harry Potter fan who was less than impressed with them hanging fan-art and House Tweets all over the Pottermore blog like it was some sort of make-do cyberspace refrigerator (not that fan-art and Tweets are bad things, mind you– they’re fun!), and I am sure that I was not the only disgruntled Harry Potter fan who just decided to skip Pottermore altogether and continue to lurk at Mugglenet and Leaky Cauldron, where I was sure that I would know soon enough when Pottermore was breathing again after repeated defibrillation and a stint at Saint Mungo’s with Gilderoy Lockhart as a ward-mate. I personally found out Pottermore was open from an announcement on Mugglenet this last Saturday, and I registered well before the long-promised “You Can Now Register” email got to me.

So now that I’m in, do you think my troubles are over? Heck, no!!! Apparently, Pottermore is still server-starved, and also apparently, no provision was made for people who are dial-up users. I registered Saturday afternoon and got notification my account was active Saturday evening. That evening, I was able to briefly access Chapters 1 and 2, but from Sunday on, nothing has loaded, even with graphics quality set to low, Adobe Flash disabled and my computer left running for hours unattended. Yesterday, I could not even click into the sidebar stuff, which is nothing but print, and when I’d try to reload the page, I started getting “Server Cannot Be Found” error messages. Demand is once again heavy-to-overload on too few servers, and the result is that dial-up users can’t download much of anything. This ticks me off not just because I’m a dial-up user, but also because a lot of low income kids are, as well. While kids may have computers at home, their families cannot always afford a broadband connection.

Now just so we’re clear about what’s possible, huge service providers like Google get around the dial-up vs. broadband issue by reading how much data a user is pulling and by having a 2-tier system for high-load things like image searches. As a dial-up user at home, I get Google’s Basic page when I image-search, but at work, where my connection is high-speed, I get their newer page with the searchable pop-ups. One would think the folks designing Pottermore would have taken into consideration that not all Pottermore users are affluent and have access to broadband internet service and would have offered something like a “Pottermore Basic”, and if not, they should have been up-front with the fact that there are minimum system requirements that must be met for access to Pottermore. This latter possibility– that dial-up users simply won’t be able to access Pottermore at all is frankly unacceptable, especially after seven months of waiting for things to be fixed. I pointed out on ElmBlade43’s excellent and helpful  Blog of a Pottermore Beta that as a dial-up user, I can use Google without a hitch, I can access Facebook and play all their games with only a few tiny hiccups, and I can download MP3s from Amazon, all without getting “Server Not Found” and “Virtual Memory Too Low” error messages. So, what in the name of Rowena Ravenclaw is up with Pottermore? I’ll tell you– not enough server-power.

In discussing the situation I am currently facing with ElmBlade (a very delightful Slytherin and my first Friend on Pottermore), I told her that I’d keep trying with my dial-up, but that I’d also attempt to access Pottermore from work on one of the public internet terminals, which are broadband, but which do not have the most recent software installed. The verdict so far is that my dial-up connection still cannot grab anything, but I did get on at work, although even that connection was also at times semi-slow.

Since our library computers are on one-hour timers, I quickly jumped ahead in the story so that I could at least get my wand and get sorted–and don’t I sound exactly like those poor beta-testers from last October, folks? Forget moseying around on Diagon Alley (which is really beautiful) and enjoying buying my owl and my first magic books– it was Wham-Bam-Thank-You-Sony and dump everything into my Favorites folder so that I can try to load it later at home to read it. Frankly, Pottermore is still more of a pain than a pleasure for me and my dial-up, and I think that things would be far better for everyone if they just did what JKR told them to do in the very beginning– make double-Peeves sure they can handle a lot of high volume site-traffic, because the blunt truth is that Pottermore will never be a low-use site, ever— just look at Mugglenet and Leaky Cauldron and multiply it by about a hundred and fifty, because parents and grandparents are going to be playing on Pottermore, too. It’s fun, it’s cute, and it does most definitely scratch that “I wanna go to Hogwarts” itch.

So, to sum up, I love JKR and I love the concept, but I really hate Sony’s half-Squib muddle of what should be a fun experience for *everybody*, even if they don’t have the latest technology. Sony needs to take a page from Helga Hufflepuff and her House at Hogwarts– she never turned anyone away, or turned up her nose at anyone who was sincere.

And just so you-all know, I Sorted into Ravenclaw with nary a Hatstall, which I certainly thought I might because I truly am the sort of person who makes Luna Lovegood look normal. My wand is 13 inches (an excellently witchy number), is made of Yew with a Dragon-Heartstring core, and is “surprisingly swishy”. My user-name, in what I consider to be a real bit of true Magick, is ThornAvis9209. Please feel free to send me a Friend request if you are also on Pottermore— adding Friends and repeatedly changing my password are about the only things I can do there at the moment…

Cosmic Foo-Foo Bunny’s Fifteen Fun and Holy Precepts

Standard

Okay, it’s time to be silly again, so I give you a Holy-Foo-Foo-Bunny-Saint Icon to contemplate and fifteen of The Divine Foo-Foo’s most popular Precepts to put into practice. They will change your life. Really.

Always speak softly and carry a huge, fully-charged magickal carrot...

And now, here are…

The Fab Fifteen Foo-Foo Bunny Wisdom-Carrot Precepts of Eternal Inner Fluffiness

1. Cosmic Foo-Foo  Bunny is neither vengeful, nor jealous, nor a tyrannical and violent hot-head, so She is thus completely worthy of thy emulation and respect.

2. Carrot Cake is Her most precious Sacrament, and is always suitable for thy breakfast.

3. Be thou shameless, yet gracious, in all things.

4. Never put anything on thy feet that will cripple them.

5. Never contemplate karmic debt when thou art administering a swift knee to the groin.

6. Always be thou kind to flowers, especially the imaginary ones.

7. If thou shouldst suddenly find within thyself the wanting of a cookie, then go thou forth immediately and eateth of one.

8. Never give space in thy most serene and goodly Heart to anyone or anything that intends it malicious harm.

9. Do not let thyself be tricked into coveting trash.

10. Honor thy face with a Sacred Smile at least 5 times a day.

11. Honor thy Intuition always.

12. It is without doubt perfectly permissible for thee to occasionally scare the ever-loving crap out of small and unruly children.

13. Always trust thy Totem, as well as any candy-grams It may send thee.

14. Honor Precious Fluffiness wherever thou dost find it, but most especially when It is within thee.

15. When in doubt, or when pressed for haste in thy decisions, slowly partaketh thee of a marshmallow, and by thy art contrive to make the chewing of it passing slow. It will give thee time to think of a smart and witty retort.

[Scribe’s Note: I feel constrained to add that the marshmallow of Precept #15 can be a mental marshmallow, if no actual physical marshmallow is to hand. Also feel free to play fast and loose with all of the Precepts– for example, the only one that’s written in stone for me is Precept #2… yum, yum…]

To conclude, no disrespect is intended towards Ms. Emma Thompson and her wonderful creation, Nanny McPhee. They are both fine examples of consideration, creativity and cleverness, and are paragons of Inner Fluffiness besides. In a 2005 interview with Kate Kellaway of The Observer, Ms. Thompson was asked about how the two nannies– Mary Poppins and Nanny McPhee– would have gotten on. Ms. Thompson replied that she thought Poppins might have been sniffy: ‘She’d likely be defensive because Nanny McPhee is almost a Buddhist: still, unegotistical. She would never describe herself as “practically perfect in every way”.’ A nice assessment and sentiment, I think…

The Hare In The Moon

Standard

In my previous post, I mentioned the Full Moon of May, called the Hare’s Moon in certain pagan quarters, and I thought this might be a good time to talk about the Hare In The Moon. For starters, the Lunar Hare was seen by lots of different groups of indigenous peoples all around the world, from the Aztecs and Maya to the Chinese. I have also always been able to see the Moon Hare without any problem, but I became dismayed one day recently, when I stumbled across a website that purported to show people the “correct way” to see the Hare In The Moon.

Since when does there need to be a correct way?

Furthermore, the way the author of the site designated his hare– which is formed by the dark maria of the Moon– led me to believe that the person doing the “official designating” had never really seen The Hare that always jumped right out at my eye every time I looked at the Moon from about age 8 onwards. His hare was wilty, anemic and hard-to-find, while my Hare was easy to see, and always explained (at least to my satisfaction) the weird association of eggs with rabbits at Easter. (Hint: forget all those forced, modern stories about “rabbits once having been birds according to myth”. Rabbits are associated with eggs for the simple reason that the Hare In The Moon is holding one.)

So, for anyone interested, here is how to see the Fertile Lunar Hare. It is neither the correct way, nor the only way to see The Hare, but I do think it is probably the way the ancient peoples of Europe saw it, which is why we’ve got the Easter Bunny bringing decorated eggs in baskets to everyone each Spring.

Here are some pictures to walk you through it–

 

First, here's the Moon, as She appears in the heavens...

 

Second, here is how my eye has always resolved The Hare In The Moon.

 

Third, here is the image rotated, to make The Hare and Her Egg easier to see.

 

Fourth, here She is all tricked out for Spring, with a crown of leaves and a little egg-shaped Moon above Her head, showing that She is a Lunar Priestess. I've also always thought that Her Egg could easily double as a Shaman's Drum.

 

Fifth, here is the image rotated back to the actual orientation of the Moon in the sky. The Lunar Hare now looks like She's leaping up and dancing with Her Drum-Egg...

Frankly, I think the way I see the Lunar Hare is like a race-memory held in the Collective Unconscious or something. I’ve always been able to see it clearly, and there’s never been any doubt in my mind that I was Seeing True– in other words, seeing The Hare In The Moon in the same way that my ancient ancestors did. I also consider this vision of The Hare as a gift from them, as if they allowed me to look through their old eyes for a moment so that I would understand the cosmic mystery of The Hare and Her Egg.

Thank you, my Celestial Elders.

The Universe Finally Returns My Magickal Ring… Sort Of…

Standard

Funny thing, the way energy works… I was resting and recuperating today after all the Easter rigamarole, and I spent part of my morning having a nice, two-plus hour telephone talk with my friend Prunella. During the course of our conversation, she recounted a charming story about being startled out of her wits early one morning last week by the appearance of the setting Moon. She was up just before dawn, and was on her way over to her mother’s place to start her care-giving day, and as she started across the street, she suddenly caught sight of the very large setting Moon low on the western horizon. She said that the way the Moon was angled as it set made the dark spots of the lunar maria resemble eyes and a great big open mouth, and it looked for all the world like the Moon was about to bite a huge chunk out of the Earth. She was so spooked by what she saw that she had a really strong physical startle-reaction, and she said she knocked herself off-balance almost to the point of falling.

I told her I could definitely relate, and in return, I told her the story of what happened the night I finished making my very first Full Moon Ring, back in the early days of my witchery.

In case you do not know what a Full Moon Ring is, dear reader, it is a plain silver ring that has an enchantment Worked on it the night of the New Moon. It is then buried in a copper bowl that is filled with earth, and it is left to sit like a hidden seed in a garden-pot until the night of the Full Moon, when the ring is dug up, washed, and taken outside. The witch says a quick little prayer to Luna, and then places the ring on her finger in the moonlight. A well-made Full Moon Ring is a handy little charm to have because among other things, it will protect the magickal operator from rebounding energy in the case of too-quickly-cast or imperfectly-cast spells. This isn’t the only thing a Full Moon Ring does, of course, but at least now you know why a witch might want to have one.

Anyway, I made my first Full Moon Ring out of some 16-gauge sterling silver wire that I had bought in order to try making silverpoint drawings with. I scavenged it from the old mechanical drafting pencil it came in, and I shaped and hammered it into a sort of V-shaped bypass design, because I knew nothing at the time about either cold joinery or soldering. I hoped that the fact that the ring was open/adjustable would not spoil the spell, and I went ahead and worked the New Moon enchantment, during which I buried the ring, lit a batch of white candles, and did a lot of chanting.

On the subsequent Full Moon, I dug up the ring, washed it, and took it outside to put it on, at which time I discovered that there was a huge, sharp and very bright ring around the Moon. It was quite beautiful, but was also very spooky-looking, because the ring was quite a way out from the Moon, and covered a huge amount of sky. It felt very, very eerie to be standing underneath it, and I confess I had second thoughts about doing the final bit of ritual and putting the ring on because the celestial ring made the Moon look very weird. In the end, I did complete the ritual, but as I told Prunella today, it was a near thing, because I was seriously creeped out, and the longer I stood there looking at the lunar ring, the more spooked I got. Unusual stuff happening in the sky– especially the night sky– can have a real visceral impact on one, because a) it’s dark, b) you’re little, and c) the celestial phenomenon is huge and is hanging right over your head. Even though I knew intellectually what caused the lunar ring (ice crystals in very high, very thin clouds), it did nothing to lessen the emotional impact of seeing this gigantic, perfect, razor-thin ring around the Moon.

With regard to how successful my first Full Moon Ring was, I recall that the energy on-lay lasted about a year, and one day when I had to take the ring off temporarily during a college intaglio class, some arse-wipe stole it off my workbench when I wasn’t looking. I was not happy about this, and I always regretted having lost it, because of the numinous experience I had standing under the be-ringed Moon the night I put the little bit of wire on my finger. In the end, I figured out that the theft happened because the ring was not a solid band, which I subsequently found out that it needed to be. I also very uncharitably hoped that it hexed the thief and brought whoever took it the worst of luck, because it really did hurt me to lose it.

Over the intervening years, I made a couple more Full Moon Rings in company with other folks in two covens I Worked with, and I discovered that when one makes a Full Moon Ring with others in a group, when the group dissolves, so does the on-lay on everybody’s rings. They are best made alone, by a solitary practitioner.

At any rate, I’ve not felt the need for a Full Moon Ring for quite awhile, but lately, with the care-giving I’ve been doing and the self-healing and other-healing ritual I’ve been doing, I decided I probably ought to make myself one. I duly purchased a plain silver band which I intended to use for the spell, but about a week and a half ago, I wound up “needing” to use the band for a different energy-purpose. (Funny how that worked out…) Because I am intending to perform the ring-spell to take advantage of the Full Moon in May (the Hare’s Moon, of course), I needed another plain silver ring stat, because the New Hare Moon will fall on April 21st. I’ve been doing internet searches over the last week to try to find something suitable, but frankly, I’ve been dithering.

The dithering is likely due to my care-giving chores keeping me in my parents’ vicinity for semi-long stretches of time– I have found that I am reconnecting (whether I want to or not) with old bits of my own younger energy that got fractured and scattered when I was still living at home with them many years ago. Reclaiming these bits of myself has been akin to dealing with what a shaman might call soul-loss, and one of the things that I found myself thinking about was when I made that very first Full Moon Ring– and specifically, the type of V-shaped ring I modeled my little wire creation on, as at the time I could not afford to buy the kind of ring I wanted.

Tonight, I got online intending to buy one of those wonderful sterling bands that are made from casts of real twigs, but during the search, I found a ring that not only was beautifully made, it harkened back to that simple, tapered shape I so loved back in my late teen years. The artist even makes her rings in a similar way to the way I made my little one– she uses heavy wire, which she solders and then carves into shape, so the ring is constructed rather than cast. The minute I saw it, I knew– it is my old, little, wonky bit of twisted wire married to the elegant finger-talisman my 19-year-old self always wished for, finally returning in the full circle of years for this May’s Hare’s-Moon. Whatever else it may become, by Will and by Spell, it is certainly a fond token of that long-ago moment in time when the Lady of Heaven and I together each wore a wondrously magickal ring, night-enchanted and witch-silver.

Here's a photo of the ring I'll be getting. The artist's name is Altana Marie; she has a nice shop on Etsy that I'm sure I will be revisiting...

Here's another shot of the ring from a different angle. I've always loved the look of these chevron-style rings on the hand...