In this article I will analyze mythological concepts and symbols used in the Harry Potter franchise.
The Golden snitch is a ball in the quidditch game. It’s a golden winged orb, and in the story, Dumbledore hides the Resurrection stone inside.
J. K. Rowling borrowed this concept from mythology, more specifically alchemy. You can find the Golden Snitch on the Ripley’s scroll from 15th century in the form of the Winged (or Round) Chaos.
The Winged Chaos represents a psychopomp, a messenger of Gods. Those are entities that can communicate between conscious and unconscious (or Worldly and Underworldly) realms. In mythology generally represented by Hermes, Mercury, Iris, Heimdallr and Ratatoskr.
The Ripley’s scroll is an alchemical text, a guide to making the Philosopher’s stone (or Sorcerer’s stone — the theme of the first installment of Harry Potter series).
The main theme of the first Harry Potter story. Voldemort is after it, because who possesses the stone can prepare the Elixir of Immortality.
Once again, this is also a theme from the Ripley’s scroll, but scholars throughout the history have been trying to use alchemy to create it. Taoist masters tried to make it hundreds of years before Christ.
But Carl G. Jung discovered that alchemy was just a precursor to psychology, and the Philosopher’s stone and Elixir of Immortality were just very complex metaphors for so called individuation process (becoming who you really are).
More about it in my other article, Finding the Philosopher’s stone.
Harry, Basilisk and Phoenix
Another part of the story heavily influenced by mythology and old stories, specifically St. George.
Just to refresh your memory: Harry Potter kills the Basilisk with a sword, is wounded, saves a girl named Giny and the bird Phoenix flies in and heals the wound with his tears.
St. George does the same thing. Giny and Virginie (Giny and Virginy) — not only is the root of the name same for HP’s Giny, but she is literally a virgin in the story. St. George kills the dragon with a spear and his reward is the virgin princess. The ability to fight the unknown chaos is attractive for a potential female partner. That is the reward.
The Phoenix represents a concept of self-renewal and getting rid of the parts of your personality that no longer serve you.
And in the words of Dr. Jordan Peterson: “What saves you in the encounter with the snake is your capacity to let things go and die and come back to life.”
Fluffy is a gigantic three-headed dog guarding the Philosopher’s stone. His greatest weakness is his inability to resits falling asleep to music. In the mythological stories, Orpheus plays his harp to make him fall asleep. In the HP series, there is a spell playing the harp.
The inspiration for Fluffy came from the hound of Hades, Cerberus. It’s a multi-headed dog guarding the gates of the Underworld.
Goblet of Fire
The Triwizard Tournament is a magical competition held between Hogwarts, Durmstrang, and Beauxbatons.
One champion is selected to represent each school, and if he wins, he gets the Triwizard Cup, 1000 galleons and eternal glory.
This is very similar to the Quest for the Holy Grail — in the story Sir Galahad, Sir Bors, and Sir Perceval set out on their quest to find it.
The Golden Snitch is a parallel to the Sorcerer’s stone, which is also a parallel to the Holy Grail, because the Stone and the Grail both give eternal life (or a pathway to attain it) to the owner.
If you think back to the first task of the Triwizard Championship, it’s about retrieving a Golden Egg from a Dragon (also a meta-reference to the Ripley’s scroll).
When Harry and Cedric went to grab the Cup, it transported them. This is similar to the finale of the Quest for the Holy Grail. Sir Galahad touches the Holy Grail and is ascended into Heaven.
Indiana Jones 3 also used the Holy Grail story. And same as in getting the Philosopher’s stone, one of the pre-requisites to be able to get it is humility.
That is beautifully expressed in the following quote: