“The world is built on the power of numbers.”
Besides J.K. Rowling’s well-publicized plans for a total of seven books tracing the life of Harry Potter and his seven years of schooling at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, there are many intriguing references to the number seven in the septology. What might seem arbitrary numbers at first glance become meaningful patterns when examined in the context of the entire series. The number seven seems to be a marker for well-placed clues to future events.
Signs of Seven
In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, we see many references to the number seven. One example is where Harry is getting fitted for his wand in Ollivander’s shop: “Maple and phoenix feather. Seven inches. Quite whippy. Try -”.1 While we find that the seven-inch wand was not Harry’s perfect fit, we do see that “He paid seven gold galleons for his wand.” 2 Other references to seven include:
● We learn there are seven floors in Hogwarts.
● Gryffindor students are housed on the seventh floor in Hogwarts castle.
● When Harry, Hermione and Ron travel through the trap door they find seven tasks to win in order to get to the stone.
● Professor Snape’s challenge consists of a logic puzzle containing seven bottles that when solved lead directly to the Mirror of Erised and the seventh task.
● We learn there are seven players on a Quidditch team.
● There is a broom called a “Cleansweep Seven.”
● Harry’s first training match with Oliver Wood for Quidditch is at seven o’clock.
● There are seven hundred ways to commit a foul in Quidditch.
● Gryffindor has the opportunity to overtake Slytherin in the House championship for the first time in seven years.
The references to the number seven continue into The Chamber of Secrets. In chapter one, after Harry has completed all the chores to prepare for the visit of Uncle Vernon’s potential clients, “It was half past seven in the evening when at last, exhausted, he heard Aunt Petunia calling him.” 3 When Harry visits Ron at the Burrow for the first time he notices that “Ron had covered nearly every inch of the shabby wallpaper with posters of the same seven witches and wizards.” 4 More mentions of the number seven in The Chamber of Secrets include:
● Students are required to buy all seven of Professor Lockhart’s books for Defense against the Dark Arts that year.
● “Nothing seemed to give Colin a bigger thrill than to say, “All right, Harry?” six or seven times a day.” 5
● We learn that Draco has become the Slytherin seeker when “from behind the six large figures before them came a seventh, smaller boy, smirking all over his pale, pointed face.” 6
● “All seven of them held out their broomsticks. Seven highly polished, brand-new handles and seven sets of fine gold lettering spelling the words Nimbus Two Thousand and One gleamed under the Gryffindors’ noses in the early morning sun.” 7
● During the same confrontation, “Ron gaped, open-mouthed, at the seven superb broomsticks in front of him.” 8
● When Fred and George mention the Slytherin team and their superb brooms “They reported that the Slytherin team was no more than seven greenish blurs, shooting through the air like missiles.” 9
The references to the number seven in The Prisoner of Azkaban begin with a mention of the prize money won by The Weasley family: “I couldn’t believe it when Dad won the Daily Prophet Draw. Seven hundred galleons!” 10 Seven is significant when referring to the Weasleys in book three:
● There are seven Weasley children.
● Percy is in his seventh and final year at Hogwarts.
● It is Fred and George Weasley who inform Harry that there are seven secret passageways leading out of the castle.
It is also interesting to note that Ginny is the seventh child in several generations. What does JK Rowling say about this significance?
The backstory with Ginny was, she was the first girl to arrive in the Weasley family in generations, but there’s that old tradition of the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter and a seventh son of a seventh son, so that’s why she’s the seventh, because she is a gifted witch. I think you get hints of that, because she does some pretty impressive stuff here and there, and you’ll see that again.11
We are also introduced to Professor Trelawney who has an office that is accessible only by a spiral staircase on the seventh floor. Other notable sevens include:
● Hermione’s revelation that there have only been seven animagi this century.
● After Sirius was apprehended, he awaited his sentencing in professor Flitwick’s office on the seventh floor.
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we are introduced to the Tri-Wizard tournament and the Quidditch World Cup. Ron says of the teams in the final match of the Quiddich World Cup, “Krum’s one decent player, Ireland has got seven.” 12 We also meet the charming Cedric Diggory who is a seventh year and a Hogwarts champion in the Tri-Wizard tournament that incidentally was established “some seven hundred years ago.” 13 Other references to seven include:
● It took seven or eight wizards to restrain the dragons the night Harry first saw them while under his invisibility cloak.
● Mad Eye Moody’s trunk has seven locks.
● Fred and George invented canary creams that cost seven sickles each.
● Dobby is up to seven socks in his collection.
● During the second task of the Tri-Wizard tournament Harry “swam swiftly toward a seven-foot-tall merman with a long green beard and a choker of shark fangs” 14
● Unicorns do not turn pure white until they are full grown which is around seven years of age.
The Order of the Phoenix has numerous references to seven. This may be because we are closer to The Half-Blood Prince where J.K. Rowling reveals Tom Riddle’s desire to split his soul into seven pieces. In the first chapter we learn that Harry needs to hide under the window to listen to the seven o’clock news. We also see these references:
● Harry makes a scene upon hearing a strange “cracking” sound and Vernon waves to the next-door neighbor at number seven.
● Harry also makes reference to Dudley bullying a boy who was seven or eight.
● The “House of Black” is the locale of the Black family tapestry that has been in the family for “seven generations.”
● The Ministry of Magic houses the Department of Magical Games and Sports on level seven.
● Arthur whispers to Kinglsey Shacklebolt, ““If you can get away before seven, Molly’s making meatballs.” 15
● During Harry’s trial we also hear of “Clause Seven,” which allows a wizard to use magic in front of Muggles in extenuating circumstances.
● In his potions class, Snape instructs the students to “Add powdered moonstone, stir three times counter-clockwise, allow to simmer for seven minutes then add two drops of syrup of hellebore.” 16
● Harry, however, “had not added syrup of hellebore, but had proceeded straight to the fourth line of the instructions after allowing his potion to simmer for seven minutes.” 17
● The “Room of Requirement is on the “seventh floor of Hogwarts castle.
● Hagrid had gained the trust of “six or seven“ Giants at one point out of about “seventy or eighty” while on his mission to persuade the Giants to join the side of the Order.
● Over Christmas after Arthur’s attack there was breakfast for seven back at Grimmauld Place.
● Seven owls return to the owlery when Harry meets Cho unexpectedly while trying to get a message to Sirius.
● Harry learns James and Lily began to date in their seventh year.
There is also the revelation of the prophecy that foretells of Lord Voldemort’s demise:
The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches ...Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not ... And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives ... The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies...18
It is interesting to note that the crystal sphere, which contains the prophecy, is housed in row ninety-seven. Also, in the wording of the prophecy Trelawney mentions twice that the “chosen one” will be born as the “seventh month dies.” The second reference gives the phrase extra emphasis.
The references to seven that we have been teased with by J.K. Rowling culminate in The Half-Blood Prince. The protection that Lily gave Harry at one year old ends on his seventeenth birthday next year. There are many references to a wizard’s “coming of age” at seventeen. Rowling emphasizes this fact by taking her readers through the students’ Apparating lessons and subsequent tests.
In chapter three, Dumbledore’s long awaited visit to the Dursleys comes to a head when he tells them of the terrible injustices that have been done to Harry (and surprisingly Dudley as well). Dumbledore leaves their house with this statement regarding the lingering protection that Lily gave Harry:
This magic will cease to operate the moment that Harry turns seventeen; in other words, at the moment he becomes a man. I ask only this: that you allow Harry to return, once more, to this house, before his seventeenth birthday, which will ensure that the protection continues until that time.19
The most important “seven” revelation is in the discovery of Tom Riddle’s quest for immortality. Through strands of memories coerced or willingly given, the reader sees the possible explanation of Tom Riddle’s dark past and is finally introduced to the most important seven of them all -- Tom’s pursuit of the creation of a seven-part soul. To achieve a seven-part soul requires six Horcruxes, which the reader learns are made when one splits her/his soul by the act of murder and then takes the split portion and encapsulates it in a desired object for safe keeping. The only way for the creator of the Horcrux to die, is for someone to first destroy the bit of soul hidden in the object and then to kill the creator himself.
The Significance of Seven
Why seven? What is so special about the number seven that J.K. Rowling would include it again and again throughout the series? Why did Tom Riddle believe that seven is the “most magically powerful number”? And why was this so important that he was willing to commit six significant murders to ensure that there were seven pieces of his soul?
To answer this, one needs only to look at the significance of the number seven in our own history.
Since the earliest civilizations, man has realized there is more to life than his own little world. So he looked at the biggest and brightest physical entities as the most important and highest powers. The Sun is one obvious power and has often been worshiped as a god. The moon is also pretty big, mysterious and powerful, and that too was considered to be a god. In fact all the celestial bodies were considered deities, and as far as the ancients were concerned, there were seven such astrological celestial bodies that influenced human affairs and personalities.
Later, more heavenly bodies could be seen by telescope but by that time, civilizations were already committed to the seven gods. Nearly all ancient religions adopted this number: the Egyptians had seven gods, Muslims seven heavens, Parsees seven angels, Persians seven sacred horses, and Phoenicians seven mysterious kabiris gods.20
The number seven is important in many cultures and religions. There are seven steps to creating the Philosopher’s Stone in the ancient science of Alchemy. There are seven days in a week, seven virtues and seven vices as well as seven branches in a menorah. There are Seven Wonders of the World, seven sacred sciences and seven chakras. In Greek Mythology, seven is the symbol of the Virgin. It is not possible to construct a perfect heptagon or to divide the circle into seven equal portions using only simple geometer’s tools. Hence, seven is indivisible, unconquerable, and virginal.21
In the ancient study of numerology seven represents power and perfection. According to Wikipedia: “Numerology is the study of the purported mystical or esoteric relationship between numbers and the character or action of physical objects and living things.” 22 When we look at the numerology chart of Tom Riddle by analyzing his birth date of December 31, 1926 he has a life path of seven. How can this be a coincidence? All sources on numerology state that those with a “life path” of “seven” are loners. More Highlights of a “Life Path” of seven:
● “This path will be the place to work with the mind and to have a certain taste for perfection.” 23
● “It’s easy for you to detect deception and recognize insincere people, and you avoid them.” 24
● “Chances are you are a very charming and refined individual with great poise and a quick wit. Nonetheless, there is an exclusiveness about you.” 25
● “Your reserve is often taken to be aloofness, but actually, it’s not that at all. It is merely a cover up for your basic feeling of insecurity.” 26
● You must especially watch out for selfishness and egocentricity, thinking of yourself as the center of the universe, the only person who really matters.27
● “This is a very spiritual number and it often denotes a sort of spiritual wisdom that becomes apparent at a fairly early age. A built in inner guide providing a strong sense of intuition may set you up as being a law unto yourself. Whatever spiritual position you take, whether traditional or bizarre, you will cling to it with fervor. Once you have decided an issue, it is almost impossible to get you to revisit the question. Adaptability is not your style, and change for you is a rarity.” 28
Why mention numerology at all? What does this show us about the use of the number seven in the Harry Potter novels? It seems that JK Rowling could have easily looked at the study of numerology when writing the personality of this character. Tom Riddle can be characterized as a loner as we unravel his childhood through memories in The Half Blood Prince. We also learn he is charming and persuasive in The Chamber of Secrets and also that he was a member of the exclusive and coveted “Slug Club” for Slughorn’s hand picked students. Lord Voldemort is a master Legillimens and is an expert at detecting deceit. He certainly shows an affinity to the number seven. So much so that he is willing to kill six people to create seven parts to his soul.
Some of the most well known references to the number seven are found in the Bible which contains hundreds of such references. In fact, the number seven is mentioned more often than any other number in the Bible. Here, seven not only represents spiritual perfection but also the Seal of God.29 In the Hebrew, seven ([b’v, - Sheh’-bah) is from a root word meaning to be complete or full. This can be clearly seen from the first time a variant of this word is used in Genesis in the Bible:
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Genesis 2:1-3) 30
Just as God created the world in six days, Voldemort created six Horcruxes. God rested on the seventh day and deemed it the Sabbath day, and Voldemort housed his seventh and final Horcrux in his own body.
Voldemort wanted seven Horcruxes because seven represents perfection and finality. He was seeking completeness and power along with immortality. He was also seeking to be invincible and indivisible because seven is unconquerable. Indeed, Voldemort sought nothing less than to create perfection in himself. He felt his “ace in the hole” was to invoke the power that seven has held in the eyes of man since they began to look towards the heavens. He chose the name “Lord Voldemort” to seal his seven-fold quest for a deific existence. But he chose his path of spiritual perfection through dark magic that corrupts and contaminates his soul. Nevertheless, no other number is a more fitting symbol of the wizard and his quest.
Millions of fans are anxiously awaiting the seventh and final book in the series. What J.K. Rowling has in store for us is not known. However, it is interesting that the seventh book is rumored to be planned for release in 2007. Coincidence? Perhaps. But knowing Rowling, it is more likely another example of seven meaning finality and perfection.
1. Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic, 1997. p. 84.
2. Ibid. p. 85.
3. Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic, 1999. p. 10.
4. Ibid. p. 40.
5. Ibid. p. 104.
6. Ibid. p.111.
7. Ibid. p. 111.
8. Ibid. p.112.
9. Ibid. p. 125
10. Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic, 1999. p. 9.
11. Anelli, Melissa and Emerson Spartz. “The Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet interview Joanne Kathleen Rowling: Part Three,” The Leaky Cauldron, 16 July 2005. http://www.quick-quote-quill.org/articles/2005/0705-tlc_mugglenet-anelli-3.htm.
12. Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic, 2000. p.63.
13. Ibid. p. 187.
14. Ibid. p. 499.
15. Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic, 2003. p. 132.
16. Ibid. p. 234.
17. Ibid. p. 234.
18. Ibid. p. 841.
19. Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic, 2005. p. 56.
20. Seiyaku.com. “Why is this magical and pagan number used by Christians so much?” Seven. 2006. Seiyaku.com. February 22, 2006. http://www.seiyaku.com/reference/seven.html.
21. Fractiles. “What’s So Special about seven?” 1998-2006. Fractiles, Inc. February 22, 2006. http://www.fractiles.com/y7.html.
22. Wikipedia. “Numerology.” Wikipedia Encyclopedia. 2005-06. Wikmedia. February 22, 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numerology#Seven.
23. Psychics and Mediums Network. “Numerology readings based on Dates of Birth 12/31/26 and 7/30/80.” Free Numberology reading. 1994. Psychics and Mediums Network. 28 Feb. 2006. http://www.psychics.co.uk/numerology/homepage.html.
24. McClain, Michael. “ The Life Path Number.” Astrology-Numeroloy.com. 1996 – 2006. Michael McClain. 22 Feb. 2006. http://www.astrology-numerology.com/num-lifepath.html.
27. Decoz, Hans. “The Meaning of Life Path Numbers”. Decoz Numerology. 1997-2005. 22 Feb. 2006. http://www.decoz.com/numerology-Course-03.htm.
28. McClain, Michael. “ The Life Path Number.” Astrology-Numeroloy.com. 1996 – 2006. Michael McClain. 22 Feb. 2006. http://www.astrology-numerology.com/num-lifepath.html.
29. Harris, Andrew. “Seven.” 1,2,3,4,5…. April 2002. Bible Numerics. February 22, 2006.http://www.vic.australis.com.au/hazz/number007.html.
Rowling, JK. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic, 1999.
———. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic, 2000.
———. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. New York: Scholastic, 2005.
———. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic, 2003.
———. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Scholastic, 1999.
———. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic, 1997.
Wikipedia. Wikipedia Encyclopedia. 2005-06. Wikmedia. February 22, 2006.