Trelawney is an old fraud, isn’t she? And Divination is just woolly guesswork, right?
In Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling sets up Divination as extremely unreliable from the start, so that many readers stop noticing that most of the predictions in the books actually do come true. Including some of Harry and Ron’s guesswork. Obviously, there are more than 5 instances of this, but here are some of the most interesting.
5. Mars is Bright Tonight
In Philosopher’s Stone, Harry comes across several centaurs for the first time. And whenever Hagrid tries asking the centaurs if they’ve seen anything unusual, they reply with “Mars is bright tonight.” This is one of the first prophecies that we come across in the series, and the meaning is quite plain: Mars is the Roman god of war. War is coming. And, as we all know, it did.
4. It’s Flying Away…
In Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry has to take his divination exam. As usual, he makes stuff up, but what’s strange is that what he makes up goes against what he knows will happen. He says that the Hippogriff that he sees in the Crystal Orb is flying away, and that it’s fine. This could be just reflecting Harry’s hopes, but nothing in the narrative indicates that this is the case – in fact, while Harry is talking about Buckbeak, the narrative gives the feel that he seems strangely detached, not even thinking the fact that the appeal is happening as he does his exam.
This is one of a few cases where we see that the art of divination does not necessarily mean that the Seer actually knows that they’re doing. Harry is unusually emphatic about the fact that Buckbeak is fine, speaking ‘firmly,’ and even on the verge of shouting ‘no’ when Trelawney suggests that he should see a dead hippogriff. As we all know, by the end of the book Buckbeak is indeed fine, and – as Harry predicted – flying away.
3. Unexpected Gold.
Once again in PoA, Harry and Ron’s first Divination class is packed with true prophecies, particularly their first attempt at reading tea leaves.
“You’re going to suffer but be very happy.”: This prediction about Ron comes true in the seventh book. Ron suffers the torment of the locket, first during the times he had to wear it, and later upon his return, as well as through the deaths of Fred and his other friends. Nonetheless, he is clearly very happy to be back, and after thwarting Slytherin’s locket he appears a lot happier and more optimistic than either Harry or Hermione. In any case, he seems very happy in the epilogue, doesn’t he?
“Maybe you’re going to work for the Ministry of Magic.”: Harry eventually joins and later heads the Auror office.
“A windfall, unexpected gold.”: In the next year (GoF, Harry wins the Triwizard Tournament and gains a thousand galleons.
And, of course, there are Trelawney’s predictions – which are, as Hermione pointed out, obvious. The Grim has always been a bit of a stupid omen anyway, in my opinion, because quite clearly everybody dies, Grim or no Grim.
2. A Pack of Dirty-Looking Playing Cards
In the Half Blood Prince, as Harry is heading towards his first lesson with Dumbledore, we get another example of the fact that the Seer doesn’t always know what they’re doing even when making a true prophecy. Trelawney is reading from a pack of cards, predicting the events of the end of the book.
Conflict and violence are clearly present in that last battle, and the last card we see her draw represents “a dark young man, possibly troubled, one who dislikes the questioner”. As readers, we can see that this is none other than Draco Malfoy, but nevertheless Trelawney decides that ‘that can’t be right.’ Thus, once again, we see that divination does not necessarily require the seer to actually be skilled, or to have any idea what they’re doing.
1. The First to Rise.
When 13 dine together, the first to rise will be the first to die. Indeed, although scoffed at by the vast majority eating that Christmas (PoA), this superstition is quite pertinent to the events of the Harry Potter series. Because, indeed, Harry/Ron wasn’t the first to rise – Dumbledore was; he rose to greet Trelawney. And Cedric definitely wasn’t there, as seen by the fact that J.K. Rowling quite clearly described which students were. This superstition appears to be quite consistent, as it was later used to forebode the deaths of both Sirius (at a meal in Grimauld Place) and Lupin (in Mad-Eye Moody’s ‘wake’).
So there you have it. Divination: not necessarily the waffle we’d been told. What do you think? Have you spotted any other true prophecies in the book?
(Above fan art courtesy Elzora)