Wednesday, 09 September 2009

Astronomy and Harry Potter

Most, if not all, self-respecting Potterphiles are aware that many of Rowling's characters have names that mean a little more than appears on the surface. Remus Lupin, the werewolf is one of the best examples: in Roman mythology, Remus was raised by wolves and Lupin means wolf. Intelligent professor McGonagol is named Minerva, like the Roman goddess of wisdom. Dumbledore is the front man of the 'good side' and his first name, Albus, translates as 'White'.

Then there's Sirius Black, who transforms into a dog as an animagus: Sirius is known as the dog star. Interestingly, his brother was named Regulus, which is also a star. Regulus (the star) is brightest in spring. Regulus Black died young after performing a very brave act. You might think their parents were just enthusiastic astronomers, but the pattern continues throughout the Black family. Bellatrix is a star (sometimes known as the Warrior Woman); Andromeda isn't a star, but it's a galaxy. Regulus, Cygnus and Arcturus are stars. Ursula and Cassiopeia and Orion are constellations. I don't suppose there are stories behind them all, but there's enough to make me interested. I want to find out more. Especially when I realise that Merope is a star - Merope Gaunt was Voldemort's mother. She wasn't one of the Blacks as such, so where did she pick up the name?

I suspect that the naming scheme was in part just a quick name generator, especially since the first Black on the scene (Narcissa) is not, as far as I can tell, astronomically named. Still, there's enough pattern to make the concept worth exploring. Except, you know, not more worthwhile than actually passing General Astronomy. Or Calculus, for that matter. One day I'll find time, though, or at least find out that somebody else has already done it!


  1. I'm glad that you are making good use of your Astronomy course!

  2. Hmm, yes - I don't want to stop next year, now!

  3. I like this. It's nice to pick up on the pattern and let it wash over you as you read and reread. It's cool you shared this. I think this is a good part of what makes Potter so wonderful. There's always something else to take from the text and enjoy.

  4. Thanks for the comment, Sandy.