(Warning: this blog contains spoilers for the Harry Potter Series. If you are not familiar with the story but intend at some point to read the books or watch the films, you may prefer to skip this one.)
"While you are here," says Professor McGonagall as Harry Potter arrives at Hogwarts, "your house will be something like your family within Hogwarts. You will have classes with the rest of your house, sleep in your house dormitory and spend free time in your house common room.
"The four houses are called Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin. Each house has its own noble history, and each has produced outstanding witches and wizards."
We find out a little more about the houses when the sorting hat sings its song. We learn that Gryffindors possess courage and daring, Hufflepuffs are hardworking and loyal, Ravenclaws are academics and Slytherins ambitious and ruthless strategists.
The sorting hat has a problem with Harry. He has lots of courage, a good mind and is determined to prove himself; he could go anywhere.
"Harry gripped the edges of the stool and thought, 'Not Sytherin, not Slytherin.'"
And, as we all know, he was sorted into Gryffindor.
There are some surprises in the sorting. For instance, why is Hermione, "the brightest witch of her generation," not in Ravenclaw? Why was Neville, scared of everything, sorted into Gryffindor? Newt Scamander, incredibly intelligent and courageous, was – in his day - sorted into Hufflepuff. We think of everyone in Slytherin as being self-serving but Professor Snape, while demonstrating an unpleasant character, played the bravest and most sacrificial game of all as a triple agent, ultimately on the side of good.
We tend to think of ourselves as being in one "house" or camp; we espouse a set of principles. Our family, our friends and the world sort us (maybe) into another house. While, rarely, that might be as a result of our purposeful deceit – we wish to fool the world into believing well of us - the dissonance between what we believe about ourselves and what others believe about us can cause distress. What's more, we can come to believe the sorting hat of outside opinion rather than the true north of our own internal belief. For instance, growing up at home, I was labelled lazy, volatile, forgetful and unreliable. As I didn't recognise my bipolar disorder (those who suffer rarely do), I couldn't understand the "volatile". I didn't want to be lazy, but I did (and do) get bored. I wanted to be reliable yet was (and am) easily distracted.
But – just as Harry thought, "Not Slytherin," we can choose not to be in the house others think we should be. I choose to be hard-working, dependable, honest and loyal. I may slip up sometimes; get distracted or fall out of integrity but that is what I aim to be.
I'm not a Ravenclaw dreamer, whatever others may think. I'm proud to be a Hufflepuff.
Which house are you?
(If you want to know into which house the sorting hat would put you, go to www.mywizardingworld.com and set up your Hogwarts account. It's free but the sorting hat's decision is final.)
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