H is for Houses & The Sorting Hat

The Sorting Hat is an iconic object in the Harry Potter books. Something no one can escape.

On arriving in your first year at Hogwarts the Sorting Hat assigns you into one of the four houses; Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin. This is important: as Dumbledore reminds us “your house is like your family”.

Hogwarts Houses

And Dumbledore was right, a house is like a family. You work together, you achieve together. At times you fail together, but that’s ok. It stops people getting a big head! And as with families sometimes there are arguments or disapproval within that group. Harry and Ron had their fair share of disagreements but always got through them. Hermione often disapproved of the way Harry did things. But this didn’t make them less of a house, a family; it just proved Dumbledore right.  A house is like a family.

And in our own lives some might say we have several families. Our colleagues at work.  Our real life family. Our friends.

So, because the Sorting Hat places students in a house, does that mean it decides their destiny?

We can see from the books Harry asked the hat to not put him in Slytherin. “Anywhere but Slytherin!” The hat listened to Harry and placed him in Gryffindor.

Not Slytherin

Some people believe our destiny is pre-planned for us, that it cannot be changed and that everything happens for a reason beyond our control. To some extent, personally, I agree. There are things out there beyond our control, events in our lives. Often something that happens to someone else that has a knock-on effect on us. That is their destiny and their choices. But choices you make in life change your destiny.

Think about it, every choice you make, if made differently could change your destiny. Did you meet your partner at work? What if you had not taken that job? Your partner might not be your partner!

Did Harry change his destiny by asking the Sorting Hat not to place him in Slytherin? What would have happened if he had not asked? Did his decision potentially changed magical history? They are not questions I know the answer to, but I do know we can learn from all of this.

What can we learn from all of this? Firstly, to trust our instincts and do what we want, what we feel is right for us. Not to always listen to others or do what the majority want to do.

Secondly, to not think too much about our destiny. If we re-visit every decision we have made that has impacted on our lives we do nothing but think about how things could be different. This is often not healthy; it can lead to regret and dwelling on the past. Of course there will be decisions we regret, things we want to do differently but simply thinking about them over and over will not change them, what we can do is learn from them and focus on the future.  That is the thing we can change – well sometimes at least!

For those who have not lost interest….

Prior to being sorted into a house Harry had been told by Hagrid that Voldemort was a Slytherin and that most bad witches and wizards come from Slytherin. He also encountered Draco Malfoy who was not overly polite or nice to Harry. Harry saw Draco sorted into Slytherin.

When Harry was being sorted the Sorting Hat said to him;

“Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind, either. There’s talent, oh my goodness, yes—and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now that’s interesting… So where shall I put you?”

I believe the hat is basically listing 3 possible houses for Harry to be placed in;

•  Gryffinor for his courage

•  Ravenclaw for intelligence (not a bad mind)

•  Slytherin for ambition (thirst to prove yourself)

By Harry saying “not Slytherin” was not Harry saying “anywhere but Slytherin”?  It was him (unknowingly to some extent) picking his house. Those words “not Slytherin” interestingly, also ruled him out of Ravenclaw because his request was based on limited information and a bit of emotion. A Ravenclaw is clever. A Ravenclaw is someone who makes rational choices after thinking about all options using good logic. By saying “not Slytherin” Harry was not considering all options or being logical. So he ruled himself out of Ravenclaw.

Destiny? Choice? Or a bit of both, that is for you to decide.

Whichever you decide fast forward to the end of book 8 when Harry is seeing his eldest son off to his first year at Hogwarts, where he will be sorted into a house. Albus, Harry’s son, was anxious about the sorting, asking his father what would happen if he was placed into Slytherin. Harry turned to his son and said;

“Albus Severus, you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.” Harry learned from his past.

Albus Severus