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Essays

Magic and Magical Theory
Divination:
The Theory and Practice of Prediction

A theory as to the nature and functioning of Divination as a magical art...
by Paul Dionne

Divination is almost always misunderstood as "predicting the future". Yes, it certainly is meant to do that, but successful Divination does not predict the raw future. Divination really predicts a future based on events that are currently happening outside of the wizard's or witch's direct knowledge.

Let me try to make a couple of examples. A Divination on Person A getting hit by a bus as they cross the street next Tuesday will not work. But a Divination on Person A getting hit by a bus on Tuesday will work when, at the very moment of the Divination spell, an enemy of Person A is planning to run over Person A on Tuesday. See the difference?

The Divination is really a form of "sensory perception" that is perceiving something going on elsewhere that, if continued through to it's natural conclusion, will have an impact to someone or something in the future. It is not looking into the future, seeing something happen, coming back to the present and reporting on it.

This begs these two questions (at least):

First of all, why doesn't Divination work better then? Because even when you have the facts, you can't always deduce an outcome. A lot of it depends on human behavior, which is inherently unpredictable. Trelawney's "big prediction" about LV is very strong because he is not only really predictable but also really powerful and nasty.

Second, why doesn't the wizarding world understand what it is, why do they still consider it 'foreseeing the future'? In a word, prejudice. Because it's not reliable, it's not treated seriously, and those who have "the gift" are blinded by its wonder that they don't see the reality either. In order to figure it out, you have to use more scientific methods, and Hermione herself says in PS16 that wizards and witches aren't the best at using logic.

Now to the book. Here are the snippets [all from PA] regarding the mis-named "telling the future", and how they fit, or debunk, my theory:

Trelawney's "Big Prediction"

She predicts that LV's servant who has been chained for twelve years will break free and rejoin his master. Voldemort will rise again with his servant's aid, greater and more powerful than he ever was. All that is to happen that night. Now, at that very moment, Sirius is steadfastly tracking Wormtail and is already getting close. Crookshanks is also on the case on Sirius' behalf. Wormtail is Voldemort's servant. Voldemort is planning his own rebirth, but does not have the ability due to his current form. Now, if the spell first of all gathers up all this 'real time' knowledge, then the spell can also put two and two together. It is logical for Sirius and Crookshanks to uncover Wormtail (Pettigrew). It is reasonable to assume that Pettigrew can evade them as he has managed to in the past. It is reasonable to assume that his cover as Scabbers will be blown. It is reasonable to assume he will return to Voldemort, and that Voldemort will have Pettigrew's help to be reborn. And the power of Voldemort in this whole equation makes it really "strike home" with Trelawney, hence the trancelike state she enters. Then the spell delivers this conclusion to Trelawney, and she spouts it off as a prediction. So it's not out of thin air, it's an assemblage of data with a conclusion drawn.

Other, minor, predictions

Trelawney predicting that Neville will break a cup appears to come out of thin air (PA6). Neville isn't planning on breaking a cup. But Neville is a nervous klutz in real-time, so she is seeing something that, if continued to it's natural conclusion, results in Neville breaking a cup. I think my theory still holds here.

Trelawney predicts someone won't be around by Easter. Seems to come out of the blue (PA6). But Hermione already hates the class, taken to it's natural conclusion means she's gone by Easter.

Trelawney seeing the 'Grim' many times around Harry. It's almost universally agreed upon that this Grim is really a representation of Sirius aka Padfoot. In real-time, Sirius is interested in Harry. Also the skull (danger), the club (an attack), etc., is very evident: in real-time, Sirius is planning on attacking Wormtail who is in the pocket of Harry's best friend. If her Divination saw all that going on, the natural conclusion would be "Harry will see a big black dog attacking someone, with danger, etc." So the theory fits.

Trelawney predicts Lupin will not be with Hogwarts for very long (PA11). This, too, fits the theory. If you have all the facts about Lupin, you can deduce he won't stay long, her spell simply put together the pieces for her.

Harry seems to predict that Buckbeak survives and flies away (PA16). OK, this seems to go against my theory. None of the events that led to Buckbeak's release seem to even be in the planning stages at this time, so yeah, this seems to debunk me. Unless someone would be kind enough to twist this in my favor! [Since Harry invented that story off the top of his head when he actually saw nothing at all, and since it was simply based on what he wished would happen, I don't think it's an example of Divination at all, just coincidence, so there is no need for it to fit this theory. -ed.]

NEXT: Research in GF for additional information. .

© 2002 by Paul Dionne

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