What Does the Sorting Hat Sing About?
Harry Potter has become so familiar to us that we forget what revolutionary changes it brought in public perception. The image of a witch flying on a broom was something very evil until 1996. Rowling changed all that. The post-1996 world started considering witch with a broom, quite a normal thing. The long slander of paganism was over. What Harry Potter achieved was the redeeming of the images of witches, changing the negative Christian attitude of about two millennia.
Rowling has inserted subtle as well as overt hints in her books which suggest a good image of witchcraft and wizardry. One such hint is hidden in the song of the sorting hat. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Dumbledore calls for the song after his speech:
“Everyone pick their favorite tune,” said Dumbledore, “and off we go!” And the school bellowed:
“Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts,
Teach us something please,
Whether we be old and bald
Or young with scabby knees,
Our heads could do with filling
With some interesting stuff,
For now they’re bare and full of air,
Dead flies and bits of fluff,
So teach us things worth knowing,
Bring back what we’ve forgot,
Just do your best, we’ll do the rest,
And learn until our brains all rot.”
Everybody finished the song at different times.”
There are two important points to notice. First, professor Dumbledore calls everyone to pick his own favorite tune. The idea of everyone picking up their favorite tune while singing in the same Hall is something which only a pagan imagination can conceive. It is synonymous with the pluralist nature of paganism and the eastern religions, in which the followers can follow the path of self-realization by many paths. The Rig-Veda declares:
“Truth is one; sages call it by various names- Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti.”
There are hundreds of deities in Sanatana Dharma, commonly known as Hinduism. These deities have different natures. One can choose the deity which suits his particular inclination. All of these paths can lead to the truth.
This is something entirely alien to the Judeo-Christian ethic. In Christianity, there is one true path, dictated by the Church, which is variously called the bride of the Christ, or the body of God. No other path is allowed. It is considered a heresy to suggest such a thing. Other paths are prevented and those who try to follow it are punished.
Only in a pagan atmosphere can anyone can pick his favorite tune. It is not possible in a Judeo-Christian universe. The song ends at the same disparate pagan note. The second important point which the song makes is in these two lines:
So teach us things worth knowing,
Bring back what we’ve forgot
It is an exhortation to the pagan values, to the pre-Christian era which was full of magic. This era was lost when Europe converted to Christianity. The Harry Potter series attempts to resurrect the image of witches and wizards who were much maligned and persecuted during the Christian Dark Ages. What was lost during this era was the wisdom of paganism. With it was lost, the tolerance of different customs and beliefs. This ancient knowledge of the secret powers within is what the students of Hogwarts invoke and pray for.
 The Rig Veda. Griffith, Ralph. T. H. New York: Forgotten Books. 2008. 164:46
 Swarup, Ram. The Word as Revelation: Names of Gods. New Delhi: Voice of India. 2001. p. 23-25.
 Goel, Sita Ram. Papacy: Its Doctrines and History. New Delhi: Voice of India. 1986.
 Rajaram, N S. Profiles in Deception: Ayodhya and the Dead Sea Scrolls. New Delhi: Voice of India. 1997.
 Rowling, J K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic Inc. 1997. p. 128.