Topic: Friendship This is it – the birth of the Golden Trio. I’m not going to lie, this chapter always gives me goosebumps. They go through this huge, even traumatic event, and they realize they like what they see in each other. Here’s Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived, risking his life for a girl he hardly knows and doesn’t particularly like. Here’s Ron Weasley, only seeing a situation he made catastrophic and trying to make it right. Here’s Hermione Granger, recognizing that her life has been saved and sacrificing her pride to protect them in turn. Here’s the Golden Trio.
Spiritual Practice: Contemplative Imagination Passage: “The common room was packed and noisy. Everyone was eating the food that had been sent up. Hermione, however, stood alone by the door, waiting for them. There was a very embarrassed pause. Then, none of them looking at each other, they all said ‘Thanks’, and hurried off to get plates. Thoughts: Being in the room with that troll was utterly terrifying, and I’m still a little wired, though most of the adrenaline has gone out of me and I’m really hungry and a little tired. It’s kind of awkward to know you helped someone in a major way, especially someone you don’t know well. But I’m hopeful that a bond can come out of this; that maybe, just maybe, we can be friends. Now, I need a plate, because I am STARVING and this food smells perfectly amazing.
Blessing: I would like to bless Hermione, Harry, and Ron. These three children, only eleven, have faced down a murderous troll, showcased the very best qualities of themselves, and formed a lifelong relationship in the process…then went back to life as normal. Bless them, bless them from the bottom of my heart.
Topic: Betrayal BETRAYAL AROUND EVERY CORNER!!! Not really. But kind of. We learn McGonagall is actually willing to bend rules – for sports of all things, who knew? – and betray her role of order-keeper, if in a minor way. Obviously, Malfoy betrays Harry and Ron to Filch in an attempt to get them into major trouble. Hermione views their actions (wandering the school at night to participate in a duel) as a betrayal of Gryffindor house. Finally, the appearance of Cerberus I MEAN FLUFFY is a betrayal of the idea that Hogwarts is a wholly safe, welcoming place.
Spiritual Practice: Contemplative Imagination Passage: “The Slytherins were already there, and so were twenty broomsticks lying in neat lines on the ground. Harry had heard Fred and George Weasley complain about the school brooms, saying that some of them started to vibrate if you flew too high, or always flew slightly to the left.” Thoughts: I’m so excited. We’re going to learn to fly! I’m also afraid beyond belief – I really hate heights, and I’ve heard some weird stuff about the school brooms not always flying right. On top of it all, we have to do this with the Slytherins. At least it’s warm out, and the grounds smell like…well, I can’t name everything in the greenhouses or the forest, but it’s a good smell. It’s comforting.
Blessing: I would like to bless Madam Hooch. She is teaching children how to do something subjectively dangerous, and she’s absolutely unflappable, even when Neville breaks his wrist. She is noticeably upset that it happens, but she stays calm and handles the situation so quickly and coolly.
Topic: Promises There are a lot of unspoken promises lurking beneath the surface here. Hogwarts overall promises to be this strange and wonderful place. Some of the teachers and classes promise to be challenging based on rumors everyone’s heard from older siblings or friends. Ron promises to stay friends with Harry, and vice versa. Hermione swears to all the gods in all the heavens to be a teacher’s pet (no judgement, so was I, especially at that age!) These promises all turn out to be kept, one way or another – at least for now.
Spiritual Practice: Contemplative Imagination Passage: “‘You – Potter – why didn’t you tell him not to add the quills? Thought he’d make you look good if he got it wrong, did you? That’s another point you’ve lost for Gryffindor.'” Thoughts: I’m a little shaken by the whole acid thing, it hadn’t occurred to me that we might end up hurting ourselves. I guess it makes sense, but…still. And Snape! He’s so angry. I don’t like angry men. He’s…not frightening, but dread-inducing. Who chews out a kid for making a mistake? And who would blame an innocent bystander for the mistake? I don’t like him. I think Potions is going to be my least-favorite class.
Blessing: I would like to bless Hermione. She is so eager, so desperate to seize hold of this new and wonderful world, that she doesn’t even let this horrible adult faze her. She just keeps trying to please and to learn.
Topic: Vulnerability By the time I was eleven, I had changed schools three times, and it never got easier. A new place, new people, new rules – it’s all really intimidating, and definitely makes you feel vulnerable. On a personal level, I’m really glad Harry had Ron solidly set as a friend by the time they got to the castle. And the Sorting Hat! Having a magical object dig into your mind and essentially cast judgment on you based on what it finds? Oof, that’s a lot. Oh, yeah, by the way, you’re gonna do this in front of the entire school. Talk about having your soul laid bare! I can’t even do that properly with a therapist, I would’ve run from that Sorting Hat so fast a Snidget couldn’t catch up with me.
Spiritual Practice: Contemplative Imagination Passage: “Harry quickly looked down again as Professor McGonagall silently placed a four-legged stool in front of the first years. On top of the stool she put a pointed wizard’s hat. This hat was patched and frayed and extremely dirty. Aunt Petunia wouldn’t have let it in the house.” Thoughts: I’m still reeling from the amazement brought on by the ceiling. I hear a thunk over the gentle murmur of the rest of the school – McGonagall, who I already simultaneously slightly fear and intensely want to make proud, has set down an old stool and an even older hat. I hear some of my peers whisper questioningly; most of us have no idea what’s going on. The hat is…not the best looking. I imagine it smells like gardening soil. I don’t know why. I imagine I’ll be finding out for sure soon. I’m suddenly extremely aware of the hundreds of eyes staring at us. My heart rate spikes and my stomach turns to ice. What’s about to happen?
Blessing: I would like to bless the Sorting Hat for using its time to think up such wonderful start-of-year songs!
Topic: Expectations There are so many expectations in this chapter! Harry expects to be an outcast loser kid like at his regular school because he doesn’t know much about magic yet. Everyone else expects him to be super cool and badass because he defeated Voldemort. I’m sure Malfoy expected to cozy up to Harry. I’m sure Ron didn’t expect to be Harry’s second guide in the Wizarding world. None of them truly know what to expect from Hogwarts, because it’s their first time away from home to a boarding school.
Spiritual Practice: Lectio Divina Quote: “‘Don’t, Ginny, we’ll send you loads of owls.’ ‘We’ll send you a Hogwarts toilet seat.'” Narrative: The Hogwarts Express is leaving, and Ginny is crying and waving to her brothers. Fred and George are trying to cheer her up as the train pulls away. Allegory: I’m struggling to find allegory here. Maybe I’m just tired, but it’s a pretty straightforward quote. Maybe the toilet seat (referencing an earlier joke/conversation) symbolizes sharing Hogwarts with their sister. This is the first year Ginny’s been left alone while the others go off on this grand adventure; she’s the youngest, Ron’s second, and it’s his first year. She’s used to having her posse of siblings around and she’s presumably going to be really lonely. The fact that she laughs at this should really be a red flag to everyone that she’s got a wicked streak in her, though (don’t get me wrong, I love it and I love Ginny more than words!). Invitation: I’ve kind of left my younger siblings behind “back home,” and I’m not as great at keeping in touch as I should be. I’m going to make a better effort to talk to them every day.
Blessing: I would like to bless Ginny, actually. She’s so full of courage already, and so in love with her brothers, and I just love the little-kid purity she has right now.
Title: She/He/They/Me: For the Sisters, Misters, and Binary Resisters
Author: Robyn Ryle
Publication date: March 5, 2019
I feel weird saying I liked this book, given that it’s a very stark and honest look at how different identities intersect and affect quality of life, usually in a negative way. Maybe it’s better to say I that I feel like I gained a lot from this book – new knowledge from perspectives I don’t live (the Olympics gender tests female athletes?!) and validation from the perspective I do have (bisexual women holla). I did like that the white/straight/cis/male path wasn’t condemned or glorified; the book was honest about the privileges that come with that identity, but also honest about the drawbacks of it as well. I really feel that this book has done a good job with what it was trying to do.
Topic: Being a stranger At first blush, it seems like this topic is a no-brainer. Harry has just learned about his parents, what he is, the world he belongs to. It’s all new and unfamiliar beyond what he’s maybe heard of in fairy tales. However, it’s a little more complicated than that. He’s so known to those already in this world, and that adds a whole new layer to the feeling. It’s one thing to be a total stranger, knowing nothing and no one and no one knowing you – it’s a different story when you’re out of the loop but everyone knows your name and keeps saying, “Welcome home.” It’s both thrilling and a little terrifying.
Spiritual Practice: Lectio Divina Quote: “‘Welcome,’ said Hagrid, ‘to Diagon Alley.'” Narrative: Harry and Hagrid have just come through the Leaky Cauldron and entered Diagon Alley through the brick wall portal. Allegory: Hagrid is literally lifting the veil (albeit a heavy one) between Harry and the Wizarding world. Nothing Harry has seen as of yet can come close to comparing to crossing this threshold. Reflection: Certain things should always be done with a flourish, and with sensitivity. Things like introducing someone to something magical, or bringing them home after a long absence, or taking someone under your wing when they need support and mentorship. Invitation: I’m going to look for ways to bring magic to people’s lives. To infuse something fantastical into their day and help them become better acquainted with something wonderful. I’m not sure what yet – it’ll probably differ from person to person.
Blessing: I would like to bless Hedwig, though we don’t know her name yet. She’s about to embark on this journey with Harry, becoming as dear a friend to him as Ron or Hermione. As a pet owner myself I know how strong that bond is and I really love that Harry gets to have that.
Title(s): the princess saves herself in this one the witch doesn’t burn in this one the mermaid’s voice returns in this one
Author: Amanda Lovelace
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publication dates: princess April 23, 2016 witch March 6, 2018 mermaid March 5, 2019
the princess saves herself in this one
In this age of #MeToo and #Resist and protesting and marching, this poetry collection about finding your own strength and taking back the narrative resonates. As a 25-year-old female, I identified strongly with a lot of the feminist themes and ideas presented here. The journey from delicate princess to helpless maiden to righteous queen is one I feel like I’ve made – or rather, am in the process of making. It’s a journey of healing, of finding yourself, and of coming into your own. It makes for a powerful story through verse.
the witch doesn’t burn in this one
Alright, ladies. You’ve found your power, and now it’s time to find your anger – and use it. This volume packs the same gut punch in a slightly different wrapper. Instead of being introspective, this time the lens is focused on the rest of the world and asking, why? Why are things the way they are? How dare this way of life continue while some fall through the cracks? Women will support each other, women will fight for each other, and women are coming for you. This whole collection resonates with the spirit of the phrase, “We are the granddaughters of the witches you failed to burn,” and I am personally living for it.
the mermaid’s voice returns in this one
Take a breath. You’ve been through a lot. You started as a princess, trapped. You found yourself a damsel, distressed. Then you made yourself a queen, took back your magic and raged at the world that did this to girls and women like you. It’s time to take care of yourself now. Think of this as a therapy session – it won’t all be soothing, some of it will be upsetting, but at the end, you’ll feel so much better. You’ll feel heard.
Topic: Generosity The topic is a little more difficult to suss out in this chapter. I mean, Hagrid is generous with Harry, of course. He’s generous with the best gift of all, the truth. And he even made Harry a cake! But I do think it’s easier to find where generosity is lacking. The Dursleys have never been generous with Harry – they’ve done the absolute bare minimum to keep him healthy and alive, and never shown him an ounce of kindness. Vernon continues to lack any sort of generosity even when backed into a literal corner and face with his worst fears coming true – Harry is going to Hogwarts to become a trained Wizard, but Vernon would still rather deny and cling to his belief that he could change things. Hagrid is (fairly) not generous with understanding when he finds that they’ve told Harry nothing of his parentage.
Spiritual Practice: Lectio Divina Quote: “‘Some say he’s still out there, bidin’ his time, like, but I don’t believe it.'” Narrative: Hagrid is telling Harry about Voldemort and what happened the night his parents died. He’s trying to explain that no really can explain what really happened or why. Allegory: We’ve already gotten enough information that Voldemort can be compared to Hitler. There were a lot of rumors surrounding Hitler’s death, and the same is true of Voldemort’s disappearance. Reflection: Being generous with the truth sometimes means talking about difficult things and imparting difficult information. Invitation: It has never occurred to me to ask my family members about their lives before I was born, much less about the bad things that may have happened to them. I don’t really know them. I would very much like to hear about my grandfather’s experiences in the Air Force, for example. I think the next time I see him, I’ll try to ask him about it.
Blessing: I would like to bless Hagrid. He is a very pure soul and is the first person Harry meets who obviously and genuinely cares for him and shows him any kind of love.
Topic: Fear There was really only room for one person’s fear in this chapter: Vernon Dursley’s. At first, he and Petunia are equally afraid of what the letters mean – they’re afraid of magic (the unknown, really) and they’re afraid of what it would mean for their lives if Harry is truly a Wizard. However, as the chapter goes on, Vernon goes a bit loopy in the lengths he’ll take to stop the letters. While everyone else ends up afraid of him, he doesn’t even notice because he’s too panicked himself. He doesn’t even have the mental capacity to fear things he should anymore…like, maybe, rowing to a rock in the middle of a stormy sea.
Spiritual Practice: Lectio Divina Quote: “Harry was thinking about this time yesterday and bitterly wishing he’d opened the letter in the hall.” Narrative: Harry received his first Hogwarts letter the day before, and it’s eating him alive that he doesn’t know what it was and he didn’t get a chance to read it. Allegory: I think this is obviously meant to highlight that, even if we have regrets, we can’t change the past. Harry is depressed and afraid that he’ll never know what the letter contained. However, if you’d read the books before, you know there’s hope – another letter, another chance, is coming. Reflection: I have of course regretted the past and missed opportunities, and feared the future. Specifically, recently, in regards to my job situation. I am constantly afraid of not making enough money and being a burden on those I would have to rely on if I couldn’t pay my bills. However, I’m also afraid to reach out and take hold of new career opportunities because I don’t trust my experience and my industry knowledge to carry me. Invitation: I will try to release the fear I feel about wielding my own power, in all aspects of my life. I will try to live in a way that I have little or nothing to regret.
Blessing: I would like to bless the industrious owls who made damn sure those letters got delivered. It takes work to cram a piece of paper through door cracks when you don’t have hands!