For me it began by accident. I wasn’t ever much of a strong reader in my youth. In fact I had struggled to read for most of my time remembering how to do it. It never came naturally. I supposed books and I would never be such great friends.
What changed was a challenge. My library had a summer reading contest (for although I don’t find myself to be incredibly competitive, when it comes down to it, I find many of my motivations have been incredibly competitive in nature), and if you read a certain number of pages, you received a certain number of points, and if you received a certain number of points, you received a prize.
So I read. Small books, children’s books, ones much less than I could have and should have been reading at the time. But I read them. And then, right before the end, I had a tally of all my pages–and they wanted a book’s title. But I hadn’t written any down.
I dashed through the library and found the biggest book I could. I scribbled down its title in illegible handwriting (which, sadly, hasn’t improved much over the years) and then presented a comparable number and got the prize I’d sought after all summer long. I think it was a button and a bookmark. It wasn’t really much, but I’d finally gotten it.
A co-worker of my mom’s had a nephew. I never knew him, but he was a good reader, or else his aunt wanted him to be, because she often ordered him books, and often she would let me borrow them. The year was only 1998 and this new book I’d never heard of was becoming popular. She’d bought him the first three, and she presented me the box they had come in one afternoon to read.
I pulled out the first book and began reading. I can’t say I found much to work with in the first chapter, but as things went on, I grew more attached to the story. I found friends at school also had read the books, and we often would talk about them with excitement and eagerness for the next.
My sister ventured to read them. She became a fan. My mom, perhaps intrigued, perhaps concerned, over all the fuss, acquired a copy and read them to my younger brother. It was a great chance for the two of us to relive the tale–each of us taking turns reading aloud, since my brother at the time couldn’t read at all.
While I waited in that lull of silence from the author, I was introduced at the bookstore and at the library to other tales. To mythologies. To the Series of Unfortunate Events. To Diane Duane’s YA series. To more I can’t remember. Before this, I had dabbled in mystery–in the Hardy Boys (which after reading one last year for old time’s sake I found incredibly trite and unfulfilling) and in Encyclopedia Brown. Now, now I was cemented in fantasy and could not be deterred.
Of course, it doesn’t take a Ravenclaw to know I’m talking about Harry Potter. At least, if you’re reading this blog, it shouldn’t, and I should sincerely hope that you’ve read them all, because I won’t be holding anything back, that’s for sure.
A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to reread the seventh book before the eighth movie comes out (a contradiction at once foolish and fiendish, if we’re being honest, but completely understandable in the scope of things). So when I finished my last book, I took this large tome off my shelf and began reading. Within a few chapters I realized I had forgotten how much I loved Harry Potter. I realized how much I had forgotten how inspiring this series has always been for me.
I have perhaps mentioned before, if not here then elsewhere, that I have within me a budding mythology that, to be frank, I am far too afraid of messing up to write down, that I have on numerous failed occasions already attempted to write. Inevitably the story would change at some point and I would stop, needing to start again, and this last time it happened, well, to put it kindly, I haven’t tried again since. Although, if I am being honest further, I have done a bit of outlining and drafting since then and my recently-completed Silent Sun series belongs also to this mythology, if only as a far-removed side story of the main tale. At least it’s something.
The tip of my wand, for those unable to see the intent behind these words, is that Harry Potter provided me that final raw passion and love for books that pushed me hardheadedly into writing–and with that in mind, I’ve learned to love it. To be passionate about crafting the book as opposed to just cracking it open. And trust me, if Allison Booker‘s story wasn’t enough to make you believe, I’ve long since called libraries my other home, reveling in the might of all those books and raw words at my disposal.
It should also be no doubt that I’d sort myself into Ravenclaw. After all, the eagle has always been one of the three animals I associate with myself (the second’s the wolf and the third is the snake, which although my sign on one of the many zodiacs I’ve studied, has always been third among the trio, with wolf and eagle swapping places sometimes, with usually the wolf coming out on top. I digress). So it’s only natural I’d be a Ravenclaw.
One thing I always found myself mystified by was wands. They are the most real thing about the stories–the most tangible, I mean, the most easily touched. The places, the people, we cannot visit nor speak with, but the wands! The wands we can create and hold and channel our might with. It’s pure poetry. I’ve always imagined myself with a wand. I’ve always desired one, always imagined what form mine would take–its length, its wood, its magical core.
As a much-needed aside, I seem to recall a time when this mythology inside me (for I use mythology in its full sense, since although this tale began meekly, it has since grown monstrous) was only a burgeoning blend of my deepest fantasies–of Pokemon and Digimon, of Cardcaptors and Charmed, Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings, influenced greatly by my studies of the psychic and my passion with astrology. From all these things, as I grew older, the flesh and bones fell away, leaving the transfused blood of a hundred tales, bleeding together into a single heart that pumped forth a story so great inside me I don’t know how to properly put it out, a story so vast and so meaningful to me, my greatest desire is sometimes to complete the thing in one sitting and for it to acquire even only a fraction of the fame its successors has made me wish it could have.
This latest rereading was a lesson in love and passion and inspiration. Though I can’t say it’s encouraged me to return to this task of transcribing the story inside me, it has reimbued me with many of the traits I once admired but seemed to have forgotten–like endlessly imagining worlds that do not exist, or that fateful question we all so often yearn to ask: “What if?”
So I asked, of wands, that ineffable what if–and now that I know Google, I searched it thoroughly. For wood and for wand cores. And I was happy with what I found.
My wand, which I have been practically obsessed with this past day and a half, would be a perfect homage to all that’s most meaningful to me in the magical world–first among them the elements. It would be a hawthorn wand with a mahogany hilt, a dual core of Augurey tail feather and Unicorn hair, eleven and three-quarter inches precisely, if I don’t later change my mind again about the length it would be. The Augurey, writes Jo, is also known as the Irish phoenix and is a sentinel of rain; the unicorn is a creature of purity and innocence, of the earth; hawthorn is aligned with the air, and mahogany, fire.
That’s not all, of course. Hawthorn is also my Celtic birth wood and represents a quest for power and strength, its properties including an affinity for protection and defense, for creativity and self-development. Mahogany, the handle, that part of the wand anchored most to the wizard and the conduit through which that magic inherent in him must flow through to the enhancing thrust of the wand he carries, mahogany is a wood whose name I not only like saying (it really rolls of the tongue nicely, doesn’t it?) but whose properties are well-rounded and, to say it one way, rather grounded, precisely what any anchor should be–balanced and grounded!
The core is perhaps the more important but much more delicate matter. I’ve always fancied dragons, but for a dragon heartstring to be my core, well, a dragon must have died, and I’d never want my wand to be the product of another being’s death, now would I? So one might suggest phoenix feather, but phoenixes are creatures of unrelenting power, and although I admire that, it does not speak to me–it does not describe me. So then there’s Unicorn hair. By no means am I claiming to be innocent, and most certainly not pure, but I’d like to think my intentions are at least honest, and with my helpful and gentle demeanor, the visage of a Unicorn is perfectly suited to my cerebral pursuits. Not to mention it’s perfectly tailored to the healing arts, something I’d want very much to learn if I could be granted the use of unimpeded magic.
Then there’s the Augurey, a creature crafted of JK Rowling’s imagination, a bird greenish-black bewailing storms and forewarning death (so was believed), and it seems a fitting and subtle association as well, for these birds were often misunderstood and merely masters of divination, not of death, and this parallels nicely with some thoughts I’ve had of myself throughout life, of times when I felt others did not quite get what I was saying, or that I sometimes feel like the dreams and images in my head are not just deluges of imagination, but something deeper, or that sometimes, sometimes I just get things, see them as they are, glimpse the big picture for a moment and know exactly how to act, what to say, what to write, what to do. The Augurey feather’s a mild wand core, but a touch of extra magic and meaning to lie alongside the stronger, more dominant Unicorn hair inscribed within its hawthorn shaft and mahogany handle.
Of course, what would a wand be if I did not go to Hogwarts to learn to use it! Naturally, as I’ve now asserted more than necessary (and will likely continue to do, forgive me), I’d be sorted into Ravenclaw that first night there, and most definitely I’d form great friendships with my bunk mates and would spend many long hours every day reading and writing and practicing all of my skills, till I had mastered and remembered each and every one of them.
After those first few years of mandatory classes, I would branch out into the studies of divination and healing, whilst still studying charms and transfiguration. Divination has always been an interest of mine (let me prod that mention of astrology up there) and healing, and protection, have also been of great import to me in various forms throughout the years. Charms make the most of what’s around us, and transfiguration is perhaps the highest form of recycling–completing remaking what’s unusable into items good as new!
Of course, my Muggle goals would remain, only now I’d have a hand in magic to aid me. I’d be able to draw out my stories into a Pensieve and then observe them in wonderment, writing down with my wand all my thoughts and impressions as I live through them again and again, the ultimate gift to a writer. I’d be able to bend time just enough to pleasure myself with all the learning I could fit in (for I’d be a Ravenclaw after all) and I’d never need to see a loved one suffer from either illness or harm, for with a flick of the tip of my wand and the whispered utterance of a word, all dangers would be dodged and all viles vanquished.
Such would be the wonders of my might, subtle but sufficient, all I could ever ask for and not a touch more than that.
Of course, one might argue this is all make-believe, and I’ll consent much of it is indeed. But since I was young, I’ve held the belief that the world is infinite, and that somewhere, in some dimension, in some universe, even if it’s not our own, everything that can happen, has, and if it has not yet happened, it will, no matter how unbelievably impossible it might seem within the constructs of our own limited worldview. And, I’d tell myself, all that we imagine is true on this account–if not here, then somewhere, but true, very true nonetheless.
Perhaps Dumbledore said it best of all: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
I echo this: Why can’t it be real? Everything is as real–or as unreal!–as we make it, and it’s in that fact that we find ourselves in the image of God, possessed of the power to create and destroy, to make Godly or utterly gross, to find within ourselves that depth of magic and power we all possess, to hone it and use it to our highest might. And surely, surely that is as meaningful as any wand, as any Unicorn hair or Augurey tail feather, as magnificent as the greatest septology ever written, as meaningful as love and light and life!
Wouldn’t you agree?