Alchemy as the Framework for the Harry Potter Books
CORRELATING THE 7 BOOKS AND THE 7 TASKS TO
THE 7 STEPS OF ALCHEMY
I’ve long thought that alchemy is what the Harry Potter books are about, and that it’s the framework for each book and the series. Almost two years ago I decided to study alchemy, particularly spiritual, philosophic, esoteric alchemy, and alchemic imagery in literature, and it has only strengthened my belief that JKR is writing about Harry’s process of becoming a Philosopher’s Stone. I think I’m ready to attempt correlating the steps of alchemy with the books, and also to the 7 tasks at the end of the first book, but my understanding of alchemy is by no means complete, so I reserve the right to gain a better understanding about any part of it.
I have to blame and thank John Granger, and Portkey‘s Alexism for making me want to learn about alchemy. I also thank Alexism for recommending some books and websites to get me started, and wish I could conjure her up to help or comment on this.
This is an exploration and a work in progress. I’m more sure about the information on the steps, which I’ve taken from alchemy books, than I am about seeing how it correlates to the books and tasks. I want to include enough information about the steps, in plain language, so others can also see and connect things, too.
Most of the alchemy information was taken from The Emerald Tablet, Alchemy for Personal Transformation, by Dennis William Hauck, but it’s been tempered and focused by information from numerous other alchemy books. A Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery by Lyndy Abraham is my second biggest source of information.
Thanks to Salamon2 for looking up people’s Astrological signs in the Seven Tasks, Seven Horcruxes thread.
Each step of alchemy is done on three levels, body, soul and spirit. Maybe eventually we can identify the 3 for each step or book.
There are many other symbols and images for each of the steps than what I’m including. At some point after this correlation, I’ll post those along with examples of them in the HP books, like McGonagall‘s spilled Ginger Newts being a clever example of an amber-colored flowing thing. In alchemy, the steps are repeated over and over to achieve higher levels of purity, and these symbols are cleverly woven into the story to show a thread of the cycle repeating through the books.
Alchemic squares, and squared circles are significant, as well as amber-colored flowing things. They symbolize the joining of the 4 elements, fire, air, water and earth, which creates the fifth element, the Quintessence. After these appear, Harry is given some kind of information or understanding. I’ve already started a thread about alchemic square and circles here.
So here are the 7 steps of philosophical alchemy and their correlations with the tasks and the books. I apologize because it’s very long, but it could be even longer. I’ve left out the gods that go with each step, the images and symbols used in alchemic pictures and literature, most of the information about tarot cards, and also playing with how horcruxes might correlate, too.
1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Alchemy Step: Selecting the prime material and putting it into a sealed vessel in which the work will be done. The first process is Calcination. It’s working with very hot fire. (JKR said Gryffindor goes with the element of fire.) Fire turns the matter into powder and burns off the dross. This is the beginning of the Black Stage.
Planet/metal/color/day of the week for the step: Saturn/lead/black/Saturday
2 Astrological signs assigned to this operation:
1. Aries, a fire sign, for the emergence and assertion of ego. Characters with the sign of Aries are: Fred and George, who helped Harry get on the train in this book, and later give him the map.
2. Also the Fire sign of Sagittarius, a sign of war. Characters who have the sign of Sagittarius are: Hagrid, who started Harry off on several journeys in this book and waged war against the Dursleys. Also Bill and Charley Weasley.
Tarot Card: The Fool, who has the First Matter in his knapsack, and doesn’t know it.
Task: Fluffy by Hagrid
For the first task, Harry decided to go after the stone to stop Voldemort from getting it. He got the information of how to get past Fluffy, as well as the flute he used to do it, from Hagrid, and he literally jumped into the black unknown.
Hagrid is prominent in this book. He brought Harry to the Dursleys after the attack on the Potters. He succeeded in giving Harry his Hogwarts letter, and told Harry who and what he and his parents really were. He forced the Dursleys to let Harry enter the Wizarding world after Harry decided he wanted to accept his invitation. He also brought him into the Wizarding world for the first time to buy his school supplies, and he gave him his ticket for the Hogwarts Express. Hagrid gave Harry the information and the flute to get past Fluffy and save the Stone from Voldemort, so he started him off on three journeys. This is the only book in which Hagrid was called The Keeper of the Keys. He had the keys to who and what Harry is, the key to Harry’s gold at Gringotts, the key that enabled Quirrell to get to the Stone, and Harry to get past Fluffy.
I can't help but mention that fire (Hagrid and Harry) went into the earth (Gringott's underground vaults) and came out with gold and a Philosopher's Stone. Alchemists saw gold as fire in the earth, and gold and or a Philosopher's Stone is the result of a successful alchemic process.
Other things embarked upon in this book were Harry becoming friends with Ron and Hermione, and enemies with Draco Malfoy and Snape. Harry also became a Gryffindor. Gryffindor goes with the element of fire, and its markers are its colors of red and gold, and mentions of the common room fire whenever possible. I see the round Gryffindor tower, sealed by a password, as the alembic, the sealed vessel in which the alchemic work takes place. Maria’s bedroom in The Little White Horse gave me that idea. They both have round rooms with four poster beds and limited access. Hogwarts as a whole can be seen in the same way with its limited access. Also, Harry became a Seeker chasing a golden orb, and alchemic initiates are called Seekers and are trying to make or become gold.
I think Voldemort choosing between Neville and Harry was equivalent to choosing the Prime Material to put through the process of becoming a Philosopher’s Stone. Dumbledore deciding to send him to the Dursley’s for 10 hard years, so he wouldn’t be a pampered prince, could be seen as being sealed in a vessel and undergoing the first step of alchemy, calcination, or burning off the dross. Harry’s decision to enter Hogwarts can also be seen as being put into a sealed vessel in which the work will be done. And that’s when his scar started burning, because Voldemort was back. He had liked his scar before that started.
As for the planet, metal, color and day of the week:
(You can tell I made good use of the Potterindex for the short time we had it. Luckily, I printed my search results, because I had a feeling it was too good to last.)
Saturn wasn't mentioned in this book. Harry’s legs felt like lead a couple of times. Toads, mostly Neville’s, were mentioned about 20 times. Saturday was the day for several significant events, but it’s more natural than arbitrary for half of them; the trip to the zoo, Hogwarts letters inside 2 dozen eggs, Harry’s first Quidditch match, and sending off Norbert the dragon. Lyndy Abraham’s Dictionary of Alchemic Imagery says a dragon is a symbol for the first stage of Mercury in the Work. The first matter is dissolved to obtain two seeds from it, Sulfur and Mercury. They are compared to 2 dragons, one winged and one wingless (which could be why Harry loves to fly and Hermione doesn’t). These 2 seeds must be united by Mercurius, and the result is called Dragon’s Blood. The trio watched Norbert hatch, but only Harry and Hermione, Sulfur and Mercury, launched Norbert on his way.
There is a plethora of black things in this book: the hair of McGonagall, Harry, and James; Sirius Black’s motorcycle; Hagrid’s hair, eyes, coat, and his dog, Fang, too; Snape’s hair, eyes, and cloak; robes, hat and cloak for school; a black mark on Ron’s nose. Upon arrival at Hogwarts both the lake and the ceiling in the Great Hall were black as well as the inside of the sorting hat as Harry wore it. Quirrell had been in the Black Forest of Albania where he met vampires, hadn‘t been the same since, brought back Voldemort who had been possessing small animals there, and felt he needed to buy a new book about vampires. Other miscellaneous black things are bludgers, a cloud of bats on Halloween, Norbert’s egg as well as Norbert himself, Bane the centaur, Peeve’s eyes, the chessmen the trio replaced, and the black flames Harry had to go through to go forward.
I think the tarot card, The Fool who carries the First Matter with him in his knapsack and doesn’t know it, is tied to Neville, and also to Harry suddenly having the Stone in his pocket at the mirror. Harry wasn’t aware that he had such a rare pure heart that he could get the stone out of the mirror, just like The Fool doesn‘t realize what he has in his knapsack. Lead and a toad are both symbols of the prime material, or first matter, which is chosen and put into the sealed vessel to go through the process to become a Philosopher‘s Stone. Harry’s legs felt like lead a couple of times, but toads, and Neville’s toad in particular, are mentioned about 20 times in this book. Either boy could have been The Chosen One of the prophecy. Harry is going though the process, but Neville is inside the same vessel and along for some parts of Harry’s journey. Sometimes I wonder if Neville is going to turn out to be the one who vanquishes Voldemort in the end, maybe the final blow. Or if Neville is primarily earth, as marked by frequent mentions of his toad and knack for Herbology, perhaps fire and earth, Harry and Neville, will cooperate in some way in the end.
As for Voldemort paralleling this step, Vapormort embarked upon his resurrection or rebirth by coming back with Quirrell and trying to get the Philosopher’s Stone. He started the process of regaining his body and power.
The thing in common between the first step, the first task, events in the book, and possibly the horcruxes and Voldemort, is embarking on a journey or starting a process.
2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Alchemy Step: Dissolution - Learning to let go. It’s working with water. (JKR said Slytherin goes with the element of water.) Water is added to the powder left after Calcination as a solvent, to break down the material. Spiritually, the idea is to clean up the murky depths within. This step is to release the tiny spark of essence from its prison in the matter. It includes not hiding from emotions, which can be like releasing monsters.
Planet/metal/color/day of the week for the step: Jupiter/tin/brown/Thursday
Astrological Sign assigned to the operation: Cancer, a water sign, which the Egyptians associated with the Scarab beetle and the idea of the soul being born into a higher reality. People who are Cancer: Dobby, who was featured in this book.
Tarot Card: The Queen, who represents the lunar consciousness and the feminine soul of the alchemist.
Task: Devil’s Snare by Prof. Sprout
The task included learning to let go,
relax, to get free of the Devil’s Snare.
(oops- that was movie contamination.) Harry let go when he decided to
jump into the dark hole beneath the trap door. Hermione remembered
that fire would make the Devil's Snare release them. Ron released her
from what she thought was her limitation in getting fire, and then
Hermione released Harry and Ron from the Devil's Snare.
Ron is prominent in this book. He is Pisces, a water sign, whose planets are Neptune and Jupiter. In other books, he came up with a broom to fly to Jupiter to impress Veela, and used Jupiter in fake Divination homework. In GOF, his fake wand turned into a tin parrot. I think his appetite is his prominent marker, and identifies him as the body part of soul, spirit, and body. (Not that I see it going with this step, but orange for the Chudley Canons and maroon seem to be his other prominent markers, and not telling Harry what to do. That‘s Hermione‘s territory, because she‘s the mind part of mind/spirit/body.) There is a smattering of brown things in the book: chickens at the Burrow, Ginny’s eyes, Hermione’s hair and eyes, Dobby, and the Polyjuice after essence of Crabbe and Goyle was added. The term mudblood was introduced in this book - credit goes to Brent Dax for catching that. Hermione is a mudblood, further marking her as earth. The only mention of a Thursday was that it was the day on which Hermione stole (you could say released) potion ingredients from Snape during a double potions class.
Lockhart was featured in this book, maybe to go with the Tarot card. There’s a man in touch with his feminine side. He wore robes of forget-me-not blue, aquamarine, turquoise, palest mauve, jade green, lurid pink, or lilac, as well as curlers and a hair net, not to mention his personality.
Ron and the twins released Harry from his prison behind bars at the Dursley’s. Lucius Malfoy decided to release the diary and plant it in Ginny‘s transfiguration textbook. The enchanted car released itself into the forest after releasing it‘s passengers, Ginny released the Basilisk from the Chamber, Lockhart released Cornish Pixies and also caused Snape to cause Harry’s Parceltongue ability to be released. Hagrid was released from the accusation of opening the chamber years ago, the truth about Lockhart was released, and you could say society was released of him, too. Harry took on a selfless act in deciding to face the monster in the depths, and killed it to “clean up the murky depths below“. You could say the diary was dissolved, and Ginny was released from possession by Voldemort. People were also released from having been petrified.
A parallel to Voldemort and this step could be that Lucius released the diary, and then Voldemort was released from the diary.
The thing in common between the second step, the second task, events in the book, Voldemort and possibly a horcrux is things being released. Specifically to Harry, a tiny spark of essence that was released would be his desire to right a wrong with a selfless act.
3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Alchemy Step: Separation, extracting what‘s useful and discarding the rest. It’s becoming aware of little tricks and illusions fostered by ego, and becoming aware of opposites within. It’s the first application of air in the Work which can give insight, and the first coming together of the soul and spirit. The final and lasting fusion between soul and spirit and the universe does not take place until the final stage of alchemy, Coagulation. People undergoing Separation tend to be courageous and daring, often initiating major changes in the world and the lives of the people around them.
Planet/metal/color/day of the week for the step: Moon/silver/white/Monday
Astrological Sign assigned to the operation: the Water sign of Scorpio, which the Egyptians related to the decent into the underworld to bring back knowledge. Characters with the sign of Scorpio are: Molly Weasley, who played a part in Harry overhearing that everyone thought Sirius was after Harry to kill him, and she told Hermione and Ginny about a love potion she’d made as a young girl.
2 Tarot symbols for Separation are:
1. The King, which stands for masculine consciousness and insight, and
2. Justice, symbol of disposition and balance, which are the desired attributes of the King.
Task: Flying Keys by Prof. Flitwick
For the task, Harry spotted the correct key and flew to catch it with Ron and Hermione helping to corner it. That’s two examples of separation.
Lupin was featured in the book, and he very much goes with the Moon, since it turns him into a werewolf, during which time he needs to separate himself from others, his boggart turns into a silvery-white Moon, and his nickname is Moony. He taught Harry how to produce a Patronus, which is silvery-white. Percy’s silver Prefect badge was mentioned several times, and interestingly, the badges Ron and Hermione received were scarlet and gold. The broomstick servicing kit Hermione gave Harry had silver lettering on it and included silver clippers. Harry focused on it to try to overcome his feelings about Aunt Marge, so there is another instance of Hermione being involved with Harry trying to temper his impulses and feelings with thinking. Other things that are silver or silvery-white are Dumbledore’s hair and beard, the ladder to Divination, crystal balls, ghosts, the invisibility cloak, patronuses, and something Harry followed through the forest in a dream. Draco Malfoy’s hair is silver-blond, and the Slytherin snake symbol is silver. The only notable mentions of Monday were it being the day two essays were due; Lupin’s on boggarts, and Snape’s on werewolves. I think there was a chemical wedding between Lupin and Harry because what Lupin said and did when he first talked to Sirius changed what Harry thought and felt about Sirius. He went from wanting to kill him, to being ecstatic about he prospect of living with him instead of the Dursleys. Then we also had Harry and Hermione encircled by the golden chain of the time turner, so that they could release two condemned lives, and their riding together on Buckbeak the hippogriff. Harry and Hermione initiated major changes after Dumbledore suggested they go back with the time turner, and Wormtail initiated a major change, too.
In the book, Harry separated himself from the Dursleys when he left because of Aunt Marge‘s insults, Sirius separated himself from Azkaban, and Scabbers separated himself from Ron. Harry and Hermione worked together, without Ron, to free Buckbeak and Sirius via air, so that goes with the first coming together of soul and spirit and applying air. Truth was separated from lies regarding Sirius and Wormtail, and that also goes with becoming aware of tricks and illusions, and Lupin was separated from everybody in the end. We became aware of tricks by learning that Sirius, Scabbers, and the other Marauders were secretly unregistered animagi. Snape also learned that Harry had an invisibility cloak, and that‘s how he had thrown mud at Malfoy in Hogsmeade and come back with Zonko stuff with also goes with tricks and illusions.
Sirius' separation from Azkaban also initiated 2 major changes. No one had ever escaped from Azkaban before, and the balance of power at Privet Drive changed now that Harry could intimidate the Dursleys with his dangerous Godfather who liked to check on him and make sure he was happy.
A parallel for Voldemort and this step could be that Wormtail separated himself from hiding in the Weasley family, and went to the Black Forest in Albania to find Vapormort and help him return to power which initiated a major change.
The thing in common between the third step, the third task, and the third book is Separation, becoming aware of trick and illusions, and initiating a major change.
4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Alchemy Step: Conjunction, also called the Chemical Wedding. The androgynous youth connected to both feeling and intellect (that‘s what the Chemical Wedding symbolizes, the joining of thinking and feeling, and that‘s what happened when Hermione got Harry to check if Sirius was home, and thereafter when she was the voice in his head preventing reckless behavior). Soul and spirit leave the earth together (which may be why Ron was at odds with Harry for awhile). It’s the turning point of the whole alchemic process (JKR has said book 4 was pivotal in every sense, for the series, Harry, and the plot) and it lifts the quintessence from the previous step to The Above. It’s setting things right. This step completes The Lesser Work, and produces The Lesser Stone.
Planet/metal/color/day of the week for the step: Mercury/Mercury/mercury (for color also opal/rainbow/peacock, and it can also be blue or silver.)/Wednesday.
Astrological Sign assigned to the operation: Taurus, an earth sign symbolic of masculine strength, virility, planning, and bullheadedness. Characters who are Taurus: Professor Sprout
3 Tarot Cards go with the 4th step of Conjunction:
1. The Lovers, representing the union of the King and Queen, and
2. The Moon, representing their offspring, the Lesser Stone, and
3. Strength, representing renewed will and energy to carry on the work and face the coming challenges.
Task: Chess by Prof. McGonagall
So in this book, there should be a lot of the joining of thinking and feeling, and the joining of soul and spirit, which is H/Hr. That could be why Ron (the body) was estranged from Harry for awhile.
When Harry was invited to go to the Burrow and the QWC, Uncle Vernon had a furious battle between not wanting to make Harry happy, and wanting to get rid of him for the rest of the summer.
I think we can say that Mr. Weasley combined thinking and feeling when he was yelling at the twins for giving Dudley the Ton-Tongue Toffee, but decided not to tell Mrs. Weasley about it.
We saw Harry overcome feeling with thinking in his reaction to the Veela mascots at the QWC. Hermione asked him what he was doing, and he snapped out of it.
Mrs. Weasley overcame feeling with thinking when she heard about the riot at the QWC. She repented over having shouted at the twins about OWLS as they were leaving and what if that had been the last thing she said to them.
You could say that thinking had to be combined with feelings for Harry and Dumbledore to accept that Harry had to be a Triwizard Champion.
Harry was forced to think of how to get past his feelings and think of a way to find a partner for the Ball.
We know now that Ginny decided to combine thinking with her feelings for Harry. She modified her behavior, but didn’t give up on him. She went from just hoping, to trying to make it happen by being more “- herself“ . Hermione thought of something to do about her feelings about House Elves, and she combined thinking and feeling in finding ways to help Harry, like the Toast Walk, and in finding ways to help him with the TWT. Ron was finally able to combine thinking and feeling after watching Harry battle the dragon.
BCJr used thinking and feeling as part of his plan to get Harry to trust him so he could help him win and get to the Portkey. Harry had to overcome his feelings about Cedric in order to take his advice about the egg, and then he also combined thinking and feeling when he decided to stop and help Cedric in the maze, and also in deciding that they should take the cup together. Fire and earth worked together for successes in the TWT, in both Harry and Hermione, and Harry and Cedric.
Voldemort went from being Vapormort to having a body again, so that can be seen as adding feeling to thinking. It's interesting that he had to go in the opposite direction that Harry did by needing to acquire feeling, but in his case it was physical. He also combined thinking and feeling in deciding to forgive the Death Eaters, otherwise he wouldn’t have any minions left.
Harry had to overcome his feelings with thinking in facing his parents and Cedric’s shadows, and to be able to escape.
BCJr’s reveal was a complex blend of thinking and feeling from start to finish, from his parents reactions at his trial, BCSr deciding to break the law to please his dying wife, the struggles of both BCJr and then BCSr while they were under “house arrest”, to BCJr wanting to prove himself as Voldemort‘s most loyal servant.
In the 4th task of the first book, chess, they had to combine thinking with feeling several times. First, to not take offense that Ron should tell them what to do, then to deal with the need for Ron to sacrifice himself, and then to be able to leave him to go do what they had to do.
The thing in common with the 4th task, the 4th book, and the 4th step is combining thinking with feeling.
5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Alchemy Step: Putrefaction and Fermentation. Green is associated with the Quintessence, or Emerald Vision. This step is ruled by the blood humor. (Harry bled a lot in detention.) It shows the first solidification of the result of conjoining the soul and spirit (HHr working together). It sets the soul afire with divine passion and inspiration. It’s the second operation of working with fire, and also of working with higher or heavenly Sulfur. It’s accomplished through True Imagination. It’s death to The Below, and resurrection to The Above, and leads the individual beyond any limitations. The hatching of this new consciousness is often marked by a brilliant display of colors (the twins fireworks display on their way out would provide this imagery) which marks the end of The Black Stage. In this step, the connection between the powers of the Above and the Below is symbolized by a thick yellow fluid that flows like wax, which represents true enlightenment. That’s why I’ve said that after an amber flowing is mentioned, like ginger newts spilling, or butterbeer, pumpkin juice, onion soup, or even ear wax as a few examples, Harry is given information or understanding. The sign that Putrefaction is nearing it’s end is a white swan, (which we saw in Cho's patronus). The golden warmth of Fermentation comes from the union of inspiration and imagination. This is the Secret Fire, and it requires opening up to the reality of transpersonal forces. (I think that goes with how Harry felt about secretly running the DA, and also managing to get his story out in the Quibbler.) Alchemists connected this step with the Fire sign of Leo. People who are Leos: Harry, Ginny, and Neville.
Planet/metal/color/day of the week for the step: Mars/iron/red/Tuesday
Astrological Sign assigned to the operation: Capricorn. People who are Capricorn are Snape and Voldemort.
2 Tarot Cards go with this step are both of the Hermes figures:
1. The Hermit, and
2. The Magician or The Hierophant
Task: Troll by Prof. Quirrell
Harry and lots of people were fermenting over one thing or another during OOTP in the sense of ferment meaning: a. A state of agitation or of turbulent change or development. b. An agent that precipitates or is capable of precipitating such a state. Dementors breed where there is decay, and Harry and Dudley were attacked by dementors. Harry fermented not hearing any news or getting any information from Ron and Hermione, and over being left out while they were at Grimmauld Place. He also fermented over his trial, and Dumbledore ignoring him. Sirius fermented about loosing Harry when he went back to school. Umbridge was at Hogwarts stirring things up with students and staff. These things also contributed to Harry’s black stage, with being tortured for telling the truth, being banned from Quidditch and loosing his Firebolt, seeing Ron become prefect instead of him, Voldemort’s invasion into his head increased, along with the joy that was going to Occlumency lessons with Snape, and then the pinnacle of his black stage was losing Sirius.
But besides painting a very black stage, we also saw what this particular step is about, death to the below, resurrection to the above and getting beyond limitations. Harry got beyond Umbridge’s plans to eliminate him as a problem, Sirius got out of the limitations of Grimmauld Place a couple of times, Hermione found a way for them to get past the limitations of their new DADA teacher (Umbridge) and that also was the only bright spot for Harry, because he knew he was circumventing her. Also Harry continued to tell the truth about what had seen regardless of the consequences. Hermione and company also managed to get Harry’s story into the Quibbler, successfully getting beyond the limitations that the adults had run into when trying to spread the word. Harry got the twins past their limitation for starting their own joke shop. He gave them the money in book 4, but they actually launched the shop in book 5. We also saw this in Harry finding ways to get around Umbridge to talk to Sirius. Then in the Department of Mysteries, Dumbledore protected Harry from Voldemort, and then when Voldemort possessed Harry, it was his love for Sirius that made Voldemort decide to leave - Harry didn’t have to do anything to fight him or escape from him, which parallels the 5th task in the first book, the troll.
We also saw Voldemort get past security at the DoM to try to see or get the orb with the prophecy in it, and we saw Hermione get Harry past hiding out in Buckbeak’s room thinking he was possessed and a danger to everyone.
The fifth task in the first book was the troll, which stank (which goes well with fermentation) and it had already been knocked out by Quirrell, so they didn't have to do anything to get past it.
As far as Voldemort, he wanted to hear the prophecy, you could say he was fermenting over it, but he was limited in being able to do that. He finally found a successful way around that by sending false visions to Harry to make him get it for him.
The thing in common between the 5th task, the 5th book, and the 5th step is fermenting, and getting past limitations.
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Alchemy Step: Distillation and Sublimation. This step includes The White Stage. It’s the second and higher working with water (Slytherin is water, and so is Dumbledore as the Moon). The ferment is hardened so it can become a Stone. (Harry’s resolve was hardened.) When the soul has been completely purified of passion, then it becomes all light, all heartfelt love. The soul and spirit leave the body, and join together (Harry is soul, Hermione is spirit, Ron is body. Harry and Hermione spent a lot of time in the library together.) By cleansing ourselves of our instincts and purifying our emotions during Distillation, we gain a higher perspective from which to continue the Work to its final stage. The purest experience of emotional energy (such as love) is sometimes found where it is least expected - in unattachment. This separation or distancing from the object of desire allows an entirely new perspective. In alchemical terms, it represents sublimation, the resurrection of the most basic and darkest matter on a higher level. Chemically, this powder will become the Stone. The undistilled person is ruled by the forces of lust, survival, and greed. Once distilled, a person gains astonishing equanimity and one-pointedness. Though sometimes distilled people appear lacking in basic feelings and emotions, they can be highly intuitive when they take the larger view to which they are privy. (Harry seemed intuitive about what Malfoy was up to.)
Planet/metal/color/day of the week for the step:
Venus/copper/green/primarily Virgo, also Libra/Friday
Astrological Sign assigned to these operations:
1. For Distillation: Virgo. People who are Virgo: Hermione, Percy, (and we’re suspecting Aunt Petunia)
2. For Sublimation: Libra. People who are Libra: McGonagall and Flitwick
4 Tarot Cards go with this step:
1. The High Priestess,
2. The Pope,
3. Temperance, and
4. The Tower (its imagery matches Dumbledore's death on the tower)
Task: Logic and Potions by Prof. Snape
Harry was obsessed with a Slytherin (water) in HBP, Draco, and Draco was featured in the white stage book, and Draco has been given white hair. Albus (white) Dumbledore is marked as the Moon, which goes with water, and Harry worked with Dumbledore more than in any other book. They also entered memories together, they entered a circular thing, the pensieve, and entered silvery memories together. Dumbledore helped Harry harden his resolve to do what it takes to vanquish Voldemort, starting with getting the memory from Slughorn, and now to continue hunting for Horcruxes, and then to finish Voldemort.
As a HHr shipper who didn’t like Snogwarts, and thinks there’s something very fishy about H/G in HBP, I really like the part that says when the soul has been completely purified of passion, it becomes all heartfelt love. I think that goes with the idea of choosing Hermione over Ginny because he’ll realize that they love each other. And it also goes with his task for his Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell says that there cannot be revenge in the hero’s task, or else it isn’t a hero’s task. I think somehow Harry will not be so much thinking of personal revenge, but more general love for mankind revenge to stop Voldemort from what he’s doing to everyone. Campbell used the example of a soldier who had been sent out to kill a man to avenge the king. He had hunted down the man, and was about to kill him when the man spat in his face. The soldier walked away. He had to, because to kill the man in anger would be dishonorable. This is a bit off topic, but this is a good place to bring it up. Campbell knows all the myths and hero’s journeys of every culture, and he says the hero always gets the task he’s ready for. So we can stop worrying that Harry doesn’t know how to do the things Dumbledore did to find Horcruxes.
Harry’s chemical wedding was with Dumbledore. Harry entered his office when it was time to go to the cave furious after just having found out Snape was the one who caused Voldemort to kill his parents. But he mastered his anger better than he had ever done before, because he wanted to go with Dumbledore. So Dumbledore caused him, affected him, to merge thinking with feeling, which is the point of the chemical wedding. The trip to the cave is full of symbols that go with a chemical wedding (CW). Harry is the Sun as a Leo and fire, and Dumbledore is the Moon and calm, thinking, receptive water, so there is the CW between the Sun and the Moon. Harry again had to overcome his feelings in order to keep feeding Dumbledore potion. A CW doesn’t particularly go with this step, but there’s at least one in every book, and this is a great one, so I wanted to point it out.
Other things in the book that fit the step are that Ginny surely seemed to be playing the Pleasure half of Venus' role. (Hermione has the Virtue half of it.) We had one of the Tarot cards that go with this step played out, The Tower, which signifies a great change.
The sixth task in the first book was Harry and Hermione going on without Ron, using logic to sort out benign, harmful, and helpful potions, and Hermione‘s hug and “you‘re a great wizard, Harry" speech. I’d say sorting out harmful and helpful potions fits with HBP, and I don’t think it’s over with yet, either. I think this goes with JKR saying that books 6 and 7 are two halves of a whole, and you slide from 6 right into 7. I think for a couple of situations, Harry has seen the riddle but hasn’t sorted it out yet. I think he’ll get the real story about Snape’s real MO, what was going on between Snape and Dumbledore past and present, and that he was wasting his time following Draco - Hermione was right about that after all, because Dumbledore knew about it and was prepared. Well, for Draco’s attempt, not an invasion. I also think Harry will find out why his attraction to Ginny “struck” him the way it did, and why eventually he “couldn’t help himself“, and why he kissed her in front of everybody “without thinking about it“. And after he goes through all of that, he’ll think about and open his eyes about Hermione, that she’s usually right, he can trust her judgment, and he’ll realize how much she helps him, maybe her motivation, and how he feels about her. The appropriate time for the chemical wedding is in the spring, so that’s when the penny should fall, although I hope we’ll see it tipping in that direction before then.
The thing in common between the 6th task, the 6th book, and the 6th step is being purified from passions, acquiring heartfelt love, the marriage of opposites aka the Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and the soul and the spirit (or mind) leaving the body and joining together.
7. Harry Potter and the ??? in which Harry hunts and destroys Horcruxes and Voldemort, comes to understand the power of love, finds heartfelt love, becomes enlightened, and becomes a Philosopher’s Stone.
Alchemy Step: Coagulation. This Step includes The Red Stage. The united soul and spirit rejoin with the body. The step produces the Philosopher’s Stone, and completes The Greater Work. When the Red Stage is completed, the alchemist can transform the reality of everything around him. From this Stone can be made the elixir that heals all wounds and cures all diseases. It’s the second and higher working with Air and Earth. It produces questions such as , “Who am I?” It is only by totally embracing mortality, Dissolution, that immortality can be attained. (That would go well with Harry thinking he has to die to vanquish Voldemort.)
Planet/metal/color/day of the week for the step:
3 Astrological Signs assigned to the operation:
1. Gemini: Draco Malfoy
2. Pisces: Ron and Lupin
3. Aquarius: Arthur Weasley (and we’re suspecting Luna, unless her sign is Arachne. Radish earrings go with Ophiuchus which is the constellation that goes with the sign of Arachne, and the whole thing was a hoax, which would be an Easter Egg that goes nicely with Luna.)
5 Tarot Cards go with this step:
1. The Devil,
2. The Magician/Hierophant,
3. The Sun,
4. Judgment, and
5. The World.
Task: Mirror of Erised by Dumbledore
For the task, Harry’s pure heart enabled him to get the Stone from the mirror. Lily’s love in him enabled him to burn and vanquish Voldemort in Quirrell.
Things that go with gold, the Sun, the Phoenix, the uroboros (which is a serpent in a circle biting it’s own tail) can be expected to be featured in this book. And something to mark the red stage, which some think could be the death of Rubeus (red) Hagrid, or maybe a red-headed fiery Weasley.
In alchemical drawings, this step is illustrated by an androgynous youth emerging from a grave, a king reclaiming his throne, or a purple moon fallen to the earth with a single red bird ascending into the sky (Dumbledore was a Moon who wore purple, and Harry thought he saw a phoenix fly from the tomb.) This would have gone so well with finding out Dumbledore’s death was faked, with him “emerging” from the grave and reclaiming his throne as headmaster, but I suppose his portrait will have to do. Several headmasters in portraits were said to be sitting on throne-like chairs.
The tarot cards symbolizing Coagulation are also paradoxical: The Devil and the Magician/Hierophant, who is making his second appearance as Hermes (the first time was in Fermentation.) Together, the Hierophant and the Devil stand for the opposing forces of light and darkness that come together in the higher marriage, the Marriage of Heaven ad Hell, which produce the divine Androgyne, or the Stone. The Androgyne symbolizes the joining of opposites on all levels necessary at this stage.
The Sun card symbolizes the projection and multiplication powers of the Stone.
The Judgment card depicts this final achievement, even as the World card shows the return to the earth to embody these higher insights in the 8th stage, when the alchemist returns to where he started. Imagery includes the winged Mercury, the balanced scales of justice, or wingless creatures being borne away by winged creatures.
For most alchemists, the primary symbol of Coagulation was the Phoenix, which represents the completely spiritized self which rises from the lower nature of the soul in a recapitulation of the 7 stages of alchemy. It’s a symbol of the Sun and gold.
In this state of clarity, the alchemist knows exactly who he is, what he believes, and what is going on within him at any given moment. This is the idealized state of combining thought with feeling. Both the Imagination/Mercury, and the Will/Sulphur, must be called into action; they are co-equal in the Work. When the two are co-joined, marvelous magical effects can be obtained.
The thing in common between the 7th task, the 7th book, and the 7th step is enlightenment, finding heartfelt love, the joining of opposites on all levels, and making or becoming the Philosopher’s Stone or gold.
In the 7th task, Harry was enlightened about Quirrell, he had a pure heart so he was able to get the Stone from the Mirror of Desire, and he and Quirrell tried to kill each other - Quirrell was strangling Harry, and Harry was burning Quirrell, so opposites were joined there. Love was Harry’s protection. When Harry recovered, Dumbledore cared too much for his happiness to tell him the whole story just yet, so that could go with seeing heartfelt love along with the tasks in the first book. I think we saw it in Hermione towards Harry too, when she hugged him the first time, and looked like she wanted to do it again after he regained consciousness.
If JKR needs to show Harry becoming enlightened, but she doesn’t want to be preachy like CS Lewis was in The Chronicles of Narnia, as she has said, then she could do something similar to what Jane Austen did at the end of Emma. Emma had what I call a cascade of revelations that corrected the many wrong conclusions she had drawn, and it resulted in an epiphany in her feelings about both marriage and Mr. Knightly. JKR could show Harry becoming enlightened by revelations about Snape, Dumbledore and Snape, Lily and Snape, Ron and Hermione’s feelings toward each other, Hermione’s feelings about Viktor, what was behind the oddness about his attraction to Ginny, why Hermione has been so devoted to him, and his feelings about Hermione. That would be a lot of enlightenment! And I think it would fulfill her goal of topping Jane Austen's twist in Emma, too.
The joining of opposites could be seen in the final chemical wedding between Sulphur and Mercury, the Sun and the Moon, and I expect we’ll see at least 3 of these for Harry; one each for body, mind, and spirit. I’d bet there will be others for additional imagery and other purposes, too. The marriage of the red and white couple of Bill and Fleur would fit, and then there are possibilities with Lupin and Tonks, and maybe even Hagrid and Olympe. She’s got lots of red and white couples, so she could fill the book with them reconciling or joining if she wanted to.
The reconciliation of opposites in the sense of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell could be seen with the reveals about Snape, and also if Harry were to have to come to the decision to work with or cooperate with Snape in order to vanquish Voldemort. He hates Snape most after Voldemort. Voldemort is the epitome of darkness, and Harry as gold and the Philosopher’s Stone represents light and enlightenment. Facing Voldemort to try to vanquish him goes with the reconciliation of opposites. If Harry or his scar is a horcrux, and he has to deal with just how much they are joined, that would fit with the marriage of heaven and hell, good and evil, love and hate. If he thinks he’ll have to die in order to rid the world of Voldemort’s evil, that would fit perfectly with a Hero’s Journey and with the ideas about this step in philosophical alchemy.
HP7 will include Harry’s decision to quit school to hunt Horcruxes and Voldemort instead. He could choose to ignore the prophecy and hide instead, so this decision shows a sacrifice and love for mankind, and it seems love will be what gives him the final victory. If Hogwarts does open and Hermione decides not to return so she can help Harry instead, that would be another example of a sacrifice and love for mankind, and maybe love for Harry, too.
After Harry vanquishes Voldemort, he will have “transformed the reality of everything around him". If he has his final Chemical Wedding between male and female by getting married, he will have transformed the reality of his personal life, too.
I wonder if Snape and Ron will have to die or make sacrifices to enable Harry’s victory. Both were put into the position of The Hanged Man of tarot cards with Levicorpus; Snape by James, and Ron by Harry. Maybe Snape has already made his sacrifice by changing sides and becoming a double spy. All those years of serving both Voldemort and Dumbledore, and of risking being caught duping either Voldemort or Dumbledore can be seen as a sacrifice. His life wasn’t his own. I think Ron may have to make a sacrifice, which would mirror what the did in the chess game. And Harry saved Ron's life twice in book 6; from picking up the cursed necklace, and shoving a bezoar down his throat when he was poisoned, so Ron has a life debt to Harry. I could also see Ron surviving but being injured and out for awhile as in the chess game.
A parallel for Voldemort and this step of Coagulation could be that all 7 pieces of his soul are reunited in the great beyond, and his soul and spirit will have left his body for good. He may even have a moment of enlightenment before that about the power of love, and what friends and loyalty can do. That goes with a comment JKR made that all dictators fear that those they have oppressed will rise up against them.
(I know you expected I’d stop at 7, but this is the last one, I promise!)
8. It’s usually included with step 7, but it’s also said that the eighth step is for the alchemist to return to where he started and project and multiply. I wonder if that will be living happily ever after in his parents house having children with Hermione. But Pisces and Aquarius are the signs associated with projecting and multiplying. Ron is Pisces, and we think Luna might be Aquarius, but I don’t see how that fits with Harry going back to the beginning, projecting and multiplying. If it isn’t having a 10 children to make a dozen like in The Little White Horse, it might be something else entirely, like working together to right more wrongs. It could be getting rid of more darkness by being Aurors, or fixing the relationships between wizards and House Elves, giants, and centaurs. That could tie up those loose ends, and I see H/Hr as more inclined to do that than Ron and Luna. That would also fit with transforming reality, and healing wounds which are the results accomplished by the 7th step. Or she could just end with Harry and Hermione, and Ron and Luna as couples show that.