In J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, divination is an integral facet of magic that entails individuals attempting to gather valuable insight into the future using various rituals and techniques. At Hogwarts, the witches and wizards have a rare gift. They are born with a natural ability that enables them to prophesy (Seers) while others can see well into the future (Inner Eye). According to the school’s curriculum, individuals can enroll for a program that will enable them to learn all the divination techniques during their third year in the institution. It is a practice that goes back in time and appears as an elective subject that is integral to the students as it would come in handy in the preparation of magic. Centaurs were also known to dabble in this ancient art with their version built on the rotation of stars, moons, and planets. Theirs was an attempt at making predictions of the occurrence of individual phenomenal events by using herbs such as mallowsweet and sage. They would then proceed with their search for the meaning of celestial portents using the symbols and shapes that would appear from the fumes. It is also important to acknowledge that these figures had a low opinion of the divination that human beings were known to teach and perform at Hogwarts. To them, it was a form of fortune telling that people were obsessed with as it gave them the idea that they could make accurate predictions about what was to take place in future. In this essay, I will discuss the role that divination plays in the book, techniques depicted and the relationship between it, prophecy and free will.
The novel offers an intriguing tale that looks into the distant past. It is for this reason that divination plays a central role in the prediction of future events that directly affect the characters. Sibyll Trelawney, for instance, makes nine predictions in the book foretelling the fate of various individuals. Five out of the original nine come to pass which further proves their authenticity. Predictions made about the Grim, a warning to Parvati, the flu, the pink and blue cup, the loss of one of her student and Neville Longbottom’s late arrival to class all came true. Though divination she can interpret events that other persons seem not to understand correctly. Her abilities as a divinatory allow her to be cautious about all situations that she is presented with to avoid making poor choices that are detrimental to her and all those that she interacts with while at Hogwarts. She is a direct descendant of Cassandra Trelawney whose first name is similar to a figure in ancient Greek mythology whose curse entailed making accurate prophesies that individuals would disregard. Sibyll makes correct predictions that would benefit all those around, but as turned out, no one believed her. It was only the wizards Voldermort and Dumbledore who see the truth in her predictions and are keen on her prophesies while seeking to understand what they entail fully. She begins by suggesting to Neville that a malady may afflict his dear grandmother. Neville ignores this prediction as he had seen her the previous day and does not believe that she could be ill. She then proceeds to make a second prediction involving Parvati and warns her about a particular “red-haired man” who she needs to be wary of while at Hogwarts. The prediction comes to pass a year later when Ron abandons her sister during the Yule Ball.
Divination in the novel involves a set of rituals that have to be conducted if one is to gaze into the future successfully. It is vital to note that there are those in Hogwarts who believe that prospect could only be viewed at the bottom of a murky teacup such as Lavender Brown. Others, such as Professor Minerva McGonagall saw this as a form of distraction detrimental to magic as it was a waste of energy and time. However, for the few able to predict the future, specific procedures and methods had to be followed if they were to gain any success in their actions. Observing the dregs found in a teacup was one such method and produce results for those who followed all the procedures stipulated. The appearance of an acorn at the bottom of the teacup would predict good luck for an individual while the presence of a skull would predict impending mortal danger that was to afflict an individual. Sibyll is an expert at this art and reads Harry Potter’s teacup before making a startling prediction. Her prediction reveals a falcon that seeks to annihilate Harry. A second shape appears in the form of a club which was an indication that there was an impending attack. Harry is consistently in a state of worry due to the onslaught that the Bludgers and Sirius unleash on him while participating in the Quidditch match (Rowling ). Sibyll also observes the Grim through her tea leaves and sees death fast approaching. The return of Sirius Black confirmed this prediction. Moreover, her prediction involves a dog that also appears in the game and seems to be stalking Harry throughout the game.
There is a direct link between predictions, prophecy and free will as each one of them influences the other. For instance, Sibyll makes a prediction about thirteen individuals dining together and the first among them to rise will subsequently lose their life. Here she predicts Professor Lupin and the fact that his days at the institution were numbered. Her prophecy is connected to the projection made concerning the fate of Professor Lupin which would also impact the final exams that were to take place in the institution. Free will comes into play when her convictions lead her to predict The Dark Lord and his new set of circumstances where he was living life with no disciples but with a prisoner.
“It will happen tonight. The Dark Lord lies alone and friendless, abandoned by his followers. His servant has been chained these twelve years. Tonight, before midnight, the servant will break free and set out to rejoin his master.” (“Sybill Trelawney’s Second Prophecy | FANDOM Powered by Wikia”)
The interpretations of this eerie prophecy can be viewed in light of Pettigrew’s discovery at his dungeon and his escape to join his master. His escape spells danger as he intends to see a return in Voldemort’s reign and the evil consequences that would follow. It is clear that the students have a jaundiced view of their teacher in matters of divination and just believe that she is a fraud. All actions undertaken from this point are as a result of the individual’s decision to pursue them and are tied to their free will. All those who decided to ignore the warnings had to pay dearly when the predictions came to pass solely because of their stubbornness. From the predications that were proven to be correct, it is essential to acknowledge that divination in the book was a real phenomenon. A fundamental question in light of this finding is whether it affects individual’s free will. Free will is a controversial concept with a person expected to make choices free of any form of coercion. Individuals have to pick an option of their choice that will lead to the direction that they want for their lives. People have free will, but in the novel magic seems to limit this option. Divination is part of magic and it is through this ancient art that the predictions made come true.
In conclusion, divination plays a significant role in the novel as essential predictions and prophesies that are made about the future finally come true. Sibyll Trelawney is crucial to the plot and its development, especially in matters divination as she manages to make accurate predictions lasting a whole year. Prophecy serves both a thematic and symbolic role in the novel as it helps individuals focus on events that took place in the past while emphasizing what will possibly come in future. Even though it is impossible to change the past, divination enables the characters to work towards improving their present circumstances to influence their future.