Harry Potter Numerology: One (Unity)

You may have noticed the recurrence of several numbers in the Harry Potter series and wondered what it all meant. In fact, this is a popular topic of speculation on forums and in critical essays. In this new series, I’ll give you my take as I explore

occurrences of various numbers throughout the series and explain how I believe J.K. Rowling uses numbers as signposts and signals throughout her texts.

The study of number meanings and symbolism, and their influence on Life, is called “Numerology”. More specifically, Numerology is “the study of a cosmic code that uses numbers as symbols… Numerology is used for insight into both who we are and the world in which we live. Wherever there is a number, it is actually a symbol for a truth” (Drayer, 1). Rowling uses traditional number meanings – as well as creates some of her own – to embed certain meanings and truths in her texts. Understand what significance Rowling gives to certain numbers, and you will be able to enjoy a deeper appreciation for her stories.

Now let’s start with an easy one: One (Unity).

In most Numerology systems, the Number 1 is the symbol of the primordial One, encompassing the beginning and the ending. It is the essential Unity of all things. This concept was held by the ancient Chinese, the Neoplatonists, the writers of the Upanishads, students of the Cabala, Christians and many other groups throughout history (Schimmel, 42-45).

People for whom the Number One is significant are leaders, the “alpha dogs” of the pack. “Number 1’s keyword is ‘courage’… The number 1’s attributes are strong willpower, determination, originality, independence, leadership abilities, pioneering spirit, and unique individuality… Frequently, number 1′s do not set out to be leaders. They… are just courageous enough to try it” (Drayer, 34). On the other hand, “they would frequently not listen to others’ viewpoints or carried chips on their shoulders” (Drayer, 35).

Harry Potter, as “The Chosen One”, fits the above description precisely. He does not set out to head the forces opposed to Lord Voldemort, but his willpower, determination, independence and courage make him a natural leader. He also exhibits stubbornness and frequently refuses to listen to others. For instance, despite Professor McGonagall’s warnings to guard his temper with Dolores Umbridge, Harry won’t and pays the price. And Harry certainly carries a chip on his shoulder, especially when it comes to Professor Snape.

Yet despite his flaws, Harry succeeds in uniting those opposed to Voldemort. Along the way, whenever you encounter a Number One in Harry Potter, you should find Harry’s skills at leadership and unifying others being tested, as he learns how fill his role as the Chosen One.

Sources:

Drayer, Ruth A. Numerology: The Power in Numbers. Garden City Park, NY: Square One Publishers, 2003.

Schimmel, Annemarie. The Mystery of Numbers. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

About Kris Swank

Kris Swank is Library Director at Pima Community College, Northwest Campus, and studies fantasy literature at the Mythgard Institute. She has contributed to Tolkien Studies, Mythlore and Silver Leaves journals, has published fantasy poetry, a Minoan murder mystery, and co-authored an epic fantasy short story for the Swedish music CD, Radio Rivendell Compliation, Vol. 2: The Book of War.

12 thoughts on “Harry Potter Numerology: One (Unity)

  1. Interesting ideas here…. I hadn’t really thought about the number one (though the recurrence of seven leapt off the series, so that one slapped me in the forehead), but I can see how the Chosen One is very powerful. That’s especially so, if we keep in mind John Granger’s Ring Cycle analysis, since the ultimately closed and never-ending circle of the pattern is whole, integrated, resolved through the characteristics of its constituents.

    Would the fact that some of the key players are Only Children (Harry, Hermione, Neville, Draco) also work with your analysis of One? (Other characters are Only Children, too, like Dudley and Teddy.)

    Looking forward to how this series develops, Kris!

  2. Fascinating. I look forward to hearing more about the numbers in the Harry Potter books. I had never thought about the “one” in “The Chosen One” before.

  3. Carrie-Ann, very perceptive. I address the unusual number of one-child families when I get to the Number Three (mother-father-child), but certainly they are worth looking at in the context of the Number One. Other only-children (as far as we know) include Luna, Dean Thomas, Crabbe, Goyle, Seamus and more. Is this Rowling just keeping several family trees simple? Or does she have a deeper intention? Also, what is the difference in risk-behavior between an only child and a child with siblings who may feel his/her actions would reverberate on his/her decisions?

  4. Sorry that last sentence didn’t make sense> I blame multi-tasking. Should’ve read: “Also, what is the difference in risk-behavior between an only child, and a child with siblings who may feel his/her actions would reverberate on his/her siblings?”

  5. Kris, great idea for conversation!

    One is indeed very significant in the Harry saga. Let’s briefly look at “the chosen ONE” and “the ONE who must not be named”.

    This entire enterprise was proven by Professor Granger to be an alchemical transformation of our every man Harry from a base to a Christ like spirit. From Harry’s awakening on the Island in the Sea, where he learns of his being chosen from birth, he follows Christ’s instruction “But seek ye FIRST the Kingdom of God”. (Mat.6:33) Harry slowly learns to discount self for the good of his fellow citizens. His transformation culminates in the LONELEST walk of his life into the forest again.

    Contrarily, Lord Valdemort’s guiding principal is “look out for NUMBER ONE”! He intends, by perverse magic, to become NUMBER ONE by gaining independence from The HOLY God through immortality.

    “Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and His Redeemer the LORD of Hosts; I am the FIRST, and I am the LAST; and beside Me there is no God”. (Isaiah 44:6)

  6. A handy reference for studying this subject is THE MYSTERY OF NUMBERS by Anemarie Schimmel.
    The 19 year gap between the end of Harry’s adventures and the Epilogue is the length of a Paschal Cycle, a neat fit with the redemptive theme of the series.

  7. Absolutely Sandra, Schimmel is a goldmine! I love your idea about the Number 19 – worth investigating further. It was such an odd number of years for Rowling to pick that it makes me think she MUST have had an ulterior motive…

  8. Fascinating, Kris! Like Carrie-Ann, I’d noticed Seven, as well as Three, but not really One. I like Viktor’s point about Voldemort as well; it adds to the weight of the Harry-and-Voldemort-as-doppelgangers depiction.

    This may just be coincidence, but of the seven Potter titles, five refer to a single object (philosopher’s stone, goblet of fire, etc.) Regarding the other two, the Order of the Phoenix is one made up of many. And the Deathly Hallows are interesting in that it’s three items, but the focus is on being the one to unite them.

  9. Thanks a lot for sharing this type of information this helps a lot who is interested in numerology my definition for numerology is Numerology is the study of numbers, normally based upon the premise that numbers can reveal the future or hidden information – thus, numerology is usually a form of divination. One of the most common examples of numerology is the use of a person’s name. Each letter in their name is given a number, the numbers are added up, then the numbers in the result are added up – continuing along until a single number is left, which is then alleged to be your special or lucky number

  10. Kris, what a fantastic topic! I have often thought the numbers had a deeper meaning in the books, but have not yet explored them.

    I am glad you started with the number ONE as it is the simplest of numbers, which makes grasping the aspects more easily understood. Still, although it is a simple number the meanings and symbolism are quite deep.

    The explanation of both the symbolism and how JKR uses them in her books was also so simple and, once I read your words, obvious. Yes, obvious, but why I had not thought of all of this myself while I was reading the books so many times. Sometimes things can be hidden in plain sight and only come into view when they are pointed out to us. Thanks for pointing!

    At least one of the books you posted will soon be added to my library.

    I would also like to thank others who responded to this post. Your comments and input make Kris’ post even more thought provoking.

    I am so sorry I am so far behind on posts. It has been a very busy summer. It is now time to get back to what I love, including Moving On To Kris’ Next Post!

Leave a Reply