Harry Potter and the Elder Futhark
The Story of the Boy Who Lived Told Through Runes
The Harry Potter story presents a strong, modern archetypal connection to Jung’s hero’s journey. As my studies of the Runes clarified–the obscure, ancient Norse symbols Odin brought back from his time on the World Tree–I began making connections between the progression of their story and characters of the Potterverse, not just between personality traits and the meaning of the Runes, but in how the characters represented stages of Harry’s hero’s journey through the progression of the Runic aetts. My study of the Elder Futhark has been eclectic, though I approach them from the old Icelandic and Norse runic poems as interpreted by Kate MacDowell. I thought to intuitively draw Runes and see what came, as is common when using them for divination. I’m so moved by the series and have a smooth enough rapport with the Runes that I trusted myself to assign them.
The preliminaries to address include: there be spoilers here. If you don’t know what happens to Harry and his series or don’t want to, stop reading now. That’s your only warning. Rabid Potter ficcers beware–archetypes abhor chronology. Just go with it. As well, this is all subjective, so all of you Runic academics put down your Hávamál and just read. This is my modern take on an ancient story.
The Runes are divided into three aetts, or developmental groups, which signify the overall advancement of the journey. The first grouping is Frey’s aett, which explores how the hero comes into form and sustains. We begin the story with Fehu, or wealth that transfers and must be tended in some way. It asks us to think of generosity for what we have been given by our ancestors and in what we will pass on. Sirius is the closest thing to a living ancestor for Harry. Best friend to Harry’s parents, Sirius literally is the most valuable figure to Harry. He cares for Harry affectionately, though in passing on material means for Harry to continue caring for himself, Sirius bequeaths a sense of earthly belonging Harry had not known before. Hence, through Sirius leaving his home to Harry as the hidden base for the Order of the Phoenix, from which Harry could take action in the formed realm.
Uruz is the primal nature unmarred by domestication or socialization. The wildest figure in the Potterverse is without question Voldemort. In fact, when we first learn of him he is not capable of forming in the world just yet. His threat, however ethereal, is evident, as becomes his influence to inspire Harry to explore his own depths of wildness.
With Thurisaz comes the thoughtform, awareness of one’s self and what one could become. Young Tom Riddle foreshadows the potential of an unshaped psyche. As he rises to be the most powerful dark wizard in the world, the boundaries he pushes to succeed come to mirror possibilities for Harry’s fate, as well.
Molly Weasley embodies Ansuz, the Rune of taking form. Ansuz reminds us ongoing that we are never separate from what we create, so we must create with care. Molly demonstrated this trait best in ardent tending of her loved ones, her foremost priority. She walked it like she talked it, displaying a devotion to core priorities otherwise lacking in Harry’s personal life.
Where Ansuz is the very personal internal process of choosing what we give attention to, Raidho is the process of culling out what of ourselves we share with the world. No character blatantly displays firmness in telling her story precisely the way she wants others to hear it better than Dolores Umbridge. Despite her misguidedness, her rationale is impeccable. She is an excellent foil for Harry to discern what of his story needs to be heard by others.
Kenaz is the light in shadow. As we begin to share our story we can come to believe our words over reality; thus, having someone or something interject a bit of perspective puts us back on track. For Harry this is an internal process guided by his projections of his mother, Lily. He doesn’t remember her, but the sacrifice she made for him compels him to hold perspective and stay the course.
Gebo is the acquired ally. Along our paths we gain the gift of friends who help us move along. Dobby is the only ally to Harry who has no personal gain in mind, and who ever-expresses gratitude for Harry’s friendship. Subtle and small, Dobby’s gratefulness for their friendship gains Harry significant advantages over Voldemort.
Another important ally is Luna Lovegood, a brilliant embodiment of Wunjo–absolute joy and delight. Luna remains Harry’s best teacher of playfulness and detachment. Though he doesn’t understand her, her lightness always eases him. The glimpses of joy Harry sees in Luna’s fresh way to see the world also moves him forward.
With the completion of what it takes for Harry to sustain, we move into the second aett–Hagal’s Aett. With Hagalaz we begin to distinguish the personal journey from the collective. For this Rune we have Harry, a young boy entrenched between two worlds–literally–and upon whom the fate of the entire Wizarding World rests. As he takes on the mantle of being a wizard, so does he face the fact that an inevitable confrontation is coming.
Nauthiz confronts Harry quickly in Draco. In his nemesis Harry can be exonerated as a half-blood, thus subvert his calling and growth to self-hood, or he can assert his individuality and compassion. Harry’s choice to be authentic leaves Draco wrestling with constraint that eventually calls him to similar action.
Draco exaggerated is his father, Lucius, an icy man dominated by the power of wealth. Swayed by the glittering qualities of Isa, Lucius’ reality and vitality are challenged because Harry will not comply with the Death Eaters. Left impotent, Lucius’ plight foretells the magnitude of Harry’s imminent confrontation.
Jera is Nymphadora Tonks, the pinnacle artist as creator and prophet. Her ability to morph her form as she wishes is Harry’s earliest hint that we create ourselves as we want to be. Thus, culling through the experience shaping him into a young man, Harry creates his own destiny.
My greatest point of consternation in the series is and has always been that the strongest female character is also the most vile–Bellatrix Lestrange. In Eihwaz is the embodiment of the yew tree, sweet and poison, strong and unwavering, as is Bella. Through every desperate and deliberate act to destroy Harry, Bella is true to herself, a true match for Harry’s own resolve.
Luckily, he has Ron as his personal Perthro. Ever the comic relief and soothsayer of the obvious, Ron’s goofy nature bring calamity as easily as clarity. Ron is the force of randomness that keeps Harry grounded in possibility.
In Algiz is the shapeshifter Remus Lupin. No, that’s not why it reminds me of him, though it fits well. Rather, it’s Lupin’s conviction to protect Harry at all costs, his sense of standing firm on his boundaries, and if necessary to use the boundary as a weapon. He is Harry’s greatest teacher of self-truth, even in lessons Harry doesn’t want to learn.
Minerva McGonagall is Sowilo. Sowilo is the sun shining the light of the Divine on us, so that we may light our lives. McGonagall is the refined, hidden force of strength that encourages Harry, particularly when he doesn’t realize it.
With the final and third aett, Tyr’s aett, we embark on a new order. After completing our journey from the gods to formed possibility, we are now called to reflect back on the Divine. Neville Longbottom is Tiwaz. Neville’s voice sounds the battlecry awakening the second wind in the Hogwart’s students. As Harry wages his battle his way, Neville raises new forces and revitalizes the troops to stay the mission. Without Neville energy and change of course Harry can’t succeed.
Berkano’s trickster, mysterious nature is best represented in the Weasley twins. Chaotic and ever pushing the envelope, they are Harry’s cheerleaders. They blur his lines in a provocative way, keeping him engaged and forward-thinking.
The burden of Ehwaz falls to Albus Dumbledore. Whether he carried it admirably is debatable, though in his role as mentor to Harry Dumbledore is always reliable. He devotes to Harry every spare ounce of energy, and regardless of how Harry’s trust in Dumbledore wavers, Dumbledore’s trust in Harry remains impeccably solid.
Mannaz can only be lovely Hedwig. Harry’s owl familiar is his messenger to the magickal world when he is hostage in the muggle one. Her role as messenger, thus her life and death, signifies how Harry’s stamina and awareness diversifies to survive, if not thrive, in both worlds.
Laguz is Ginny, the water element that is both destructive and capable of taking care of itself. Fierce and independent, she is Harry’s picture of home and life renewed. As he adores her; thus, gives her power. Emotionally she could slay him. Yet she is his touchstone for returning to something known, supportive, reliable.
Hermione is Ingaz, the feminine principle of protection. In many subtly powerful ways Hermione is Harry’s strongest female complement. And no, I’m not an H/H shipper. Often she is the feminine voice of reason when Harry otherwise lacks that balancing influence. Hermione provides Divine Balance for Harry.
Dagaz, the progression of a day, of darkness to light, is revealed in the mystery of Severus Snape. In the end Snape’s wisdom, thus darkness, is Harry’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Finally, we close with Othala, enlightened and capable, ready to transmit the journey’s teaching to the new hero. As Hagrid greeted and led Harry to the Wizarding World, so Harry preserves the Wizarding World to be passed on to all.
With the close of Harry’s story, conflict is resolved and a new order is restored to the Wizarding World, to his personal life. His journey ends. As with the story of the Runes, the fullness of a life manifest is poised to return to the Divine ancestors and begin again.