Hermione Granger’s birthday is September 19th. Happy Birthday, Hermione!
Hermione is a Virgo, like me, but I think she would deem astrology a “very woolly” subject. When Firenze begins teaching Divination, he calls astrology “human nonsense.” Parvati attempts to explain what Professor Trelawney has taught the class about how the position of Mars affects susceptibility to burns, and Firenze responds that Trelawney “…is a human, and therefore blinkered and fettered by the limitations of your kind.”
The words “your kind” immediately bring to mind some other characters with serious prejudices. Umbridge, for example, creates a really interesting foil character to Firenze, with her hatred of all part-human beings. It is the height of poetic justice that, as a direct result of her release of Trelawney from the Divination post, Dumbledore brings Firenze in to teach the subject instead. While Firenze is not a Seer, like Trelawney, he teaches the subject in a much more grounded way than Trelawney did. He openly expresses to the students that no method is foolproof, even among centaurs and especially among humans. His teaching methods do not involve rewarding morbid guesswork, so I would argue that he is a much better teacher than Trelawney, despite his rather clear feelings of superiority to humans. In this way, he mirrors Umbridge’s prejudicial sentiments, but rather than being an exceptionally prejudiced centaur, as Umbridge is an exceptionally prejudiced witch, Firenze is banished from his herd for deigning to “serve” wizards by teaching at Hogwarts. In this way, Firenze is actually a highly tolerant centaur, despite his feelings of superiority to his students.
According to J.K. Rowling in the 2007 documentary, J.K. Rowling: A Year in the Life, her most despised vice is bigotry—and this answer is consistent across many interviews she has given throughout the years. This theme wriggles into the story all over the place, and it’s effective in that we see so many differently bigoted perspectives, from Firenze and Umbridge to the Dursleys and the Death Eaters—and they are all wrong. And of course, our Virgo Hermione—intelligent and attentive to detail—understands this, as is made clear by her dedication to House Elf rights and her future with the Ministry’s Departments for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures and of Magical Law Enforcement. The whole notion of zodiac signs and astrology itself kind of play into the human need to see connections and make generalizations in order to attempt to understand the world—and that can lead to bigotry, if these generalizations turn into stereotypes, and the stereotypes turn into confirmation bias and discrimination.
Do you think J.K. Rowling made Hermione a Virgo because she is intelligent and detail-oriented? Do you think we latch onto the “intelligent and detail-oriented” part of the Virgo description because that part fits Hermione so well? Do you think Hermione, growing up as a Muggleborn in the 90s, knows she is a Virgo and on some level feels a connection with those attributes? Or is it all pure coincidence, human nonsense, a woolly discipline?
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Music: "Winter Chimes" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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