It was brought up in a discussion on the Leaky Lounge forums that there are three “hogs” in Harry Potter lore, all in close proximity to each other: Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, and the Hog’s Head Inn. The lack of swine references elsewhere and the origins of each place being so mysterious and shrouded in the mists of time, the trick will be to find the correct pig tale that led to the founders saying “this is the spot” and what it contributed to the magic of the place.
Voldemort has made it clear that he covets the place, for its magic as well as being a recruiting ground for his followers. Whatever site Hogwarts is placed on will have some lingering but potent power since it made Hogwarts the stronghold of ancient magic that it is. Hogsmeade does not share this ancient magic nor does the Hog’s Head Inn since they do not appear to be any more than the only wizarding town in Britain and an inn. At one time, the story attached to the site would have been well known enough for the founders of each place to use it in the names.
The true location of Hogwarts and the “karma” of the place would reveal much about how Harry Potter’s world was formed, the forces that are moving inexorably towards a confrontation or how it might all end.
J.K. Rowling said in an interview about the choice of “Hogwarts” for the name of her wizarding school that it was the name of some lilies that she had seen in Kew Gardens.1 The fact that they are lilies is suggestive indeed but is likely unimportant since she also mentioned that a friend had to remind her where she had seen the word. There is one other comment that she made with regards to the naming of Hogwarts and that was to say that “for some reason” not elaborated on she wanted the word “hog” to be there. “It sounds comical and inviting at the same time.” 2
Hogwarts was built over a thousand years ago by the four greatest witches and wizards of their time.3 Since Professor Binns gave this little lecture in the same year of Nearly Headless Nick’s Deathday Party celebrating his death five hundred years4 previous in 1492,5 we at least know that Hogwarts was built before 992 A.D. There is nothing in what little we know about the founders and the founding of Hogwarts to reveal a special affinity for pigs. So what does the “hog” in Hogwarts stem from?
We have some second hand information from Alfonso Cuaron that only Rowling can confirm the importance or validity of; let us consider it nevertheless, in spite of the lack of specifics. He said that, when he asked her about placing a sundial on the set, she said, “That makes perfect sense because when the castle was built it was on an ancient Celtic site.” 6 This shows that Rowling is aware of Celtic symbolism. For the Celts, the solar wheel was an important symbol in their art. It also shows that by 992, or slightly before that, the site chosen was already ancient, had a history of its own and must have been abandoned or the wizarding school could not have been built there. These are important requirements in locating a suitable site.
This comment about an ancient Celtic site is quite intriguing. In Britain, there are so many possibilities! We know, however, that Hogwarts is in Scotland, which narrows the list considerably. Since Harry and Ron flew over Peebles following the Hogwarts Express in the Ford Anglia,7 we can exclude the region south of Edinburgh. As well, the Hogwarts Express leaves King’s Cross Station at 11 a.m.8 and arrives at Hogsmeade station after dark. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry tries to glimpse Hogwarts from the train but “it was a moonless night.” 9 Based on this, we know that the train ride to Hogsmeade must take at least eight hours.
The “hog” in Hogwarts suggests a site connected to pigs, and there are several, but the “warts” yields no further clues as to where it is. And so we have arrived at another name that forms part of the puzzle – Hogsmeade. One wonders, was Hogwarts placed there to be near the town or was the town built there to be near the school? Or were either of them placed there to be near the Hog’s Head Inn? The train station would not have been there in the tenth century, and so the inn must have been built after the school and the town; otherwise, there is no reason for it to be in this remote area. It also does not appear in wizarding history until the Goblin Rebellion in the seventeenth century, but the sign with the bloody hog’s head is very suggestive.
We have only two sources of information about the beginnings of Hogsmeade – the Chamber of Secrets video game and the Famous Wizarding Cards – which state that Hogsmeade was founded by Hengist of Woodcroft, who was fleeing Muggle persecution.10 It is thought that the Three Broomsticks Inn was his home.11 Since the town started with one inn, the second inn must have been added later as the town grew. The video game also notes states that by tradition, Hogwarts and Hogsmeade were created around the same time – the end of the tenth century just before the first millennium was over with its predictions of apocalypse, not unlike the panic that was experienced when the second millennium approached its conclusion.
One event that could have precipitated the change was that, in 99112 and in 993,13 according to medieval chroniclers, Mount Vesuvius erupted, consuming many Italian and Gaulish cities with fire and spewing stones three miles away. A plague called St. Anthony’s fire was ravaging populations and frightened people were flocking to churches.14 An eclipse darkened the sun in 969.15 Halley’s Comet appeared in the sky in 989.16 This is a very likely time for witches and wizards to want to hide away before they get blamed for causing this. Equally of interest, 987 is the Chinese year of the pig. There are so many possibilities for a founding date. With Viking raids harrying the coasts, a school would be safer inland and hidden so that rumours of its treasures would never reach Viking ears.
The historical Hengist was the King of Kent and never lived in Woodcroft,17 which is the next town up the Wye River from Tutshill, Rowling’s former home. He also lived in the fifth century18 so he could not have been present at the founding of Hogsmeade. It is some other Hengist unknown to Muggle history who founded the wizarding town.
The etymology behind the name “Hogsmeade” at least may give us a clue as to where in Scotland he went. “Hog” is a “domesticated pig, esp. castrated male reared for slaughter.” 19 The Oxford Concise English Dictionary also states that the word “hog” is Old English and possibly Celtic in origin.20 “Meade,” I believe, is simply a poetic form of meadow. The Celts and the Saxons who followed them gave practical names to places like York, 21 which was Eborus (place of yew trees) under the Celts and Eoferwic (place of wild boars) under the Saxons, or Snape,22 which was a “boggy piece of land” and Bristol,23 which was “assembly place by the bridge.” Practical. Hogsmeade. Somewhere in Scotland around the turn of the first millennium there was a field known for pigs and Hengist built a town there.
According to the story of Math Son of Mathonwy in the Mabinogion, pigs arrived in Britain by way of the Otherworld.24 They were a gift from the fairy people, specifically Arawn Lord of Annwyn, to Pryderi Lord of the southern Welsh. As such they are an important totem animal to the Celts, as well as food. There is an inscription to a Gaulish god, who is a pig, named Moccha in Langres, France.25 He is equated with the Roman god Mercury, perhaps due to his connection to alchemy, whom Julius Caesar names as the most important Celtic diety.26 Boar or wild pig imagery figures very prominently on shields, helmets, and rock carvings. Pigs may even have the role of guiding the souls of the dead to the Otherworld!
The Goddess Brigit is sometimes shown with a pig. Although her festival of Imbolc started with a serpent predicting the weather, it is now a groundhog that does so. One cannot mention pigs and snakes together without also adding that the hog has the reputation of being “immune to the bite of serpents and does not hesitate to destroy them.” 27 This is an important symbol of the fight between the forces of Dumbledore and the forces of Voldemort!
When Sirius Black attacked the Fat Lady, she was found hiding in a map of Argyll.28 In a castle whose walls are covered with moving portraits of people and animals, this singular map on the walls of Hogwarts seems to indicate only one thing: Hogwarts is in Argyll.
The former kingdom of Dalriada has a rich deposit of Celtic and pre-Celtic artifacts, concentrated especially in the Glen of Kilmartin. But who were the Dalriada?
History tells of the Scoti who left Ireland and founded a kingdom of Dalriada in Alba in the fifth century. In the ninth century they conquered the Picts and formed one nation that was afterwards known as Scotland. Although the Picts are usually considered to be a “Celtic” tribe, Dalriada was the only true Celtic kingdom in Scotland and its former territory is now part of the county of Argyll. But, old as any of their ruins may be, in the tenth century, they may not be old enough to be ancient to Rowling.
It might not be the ruins of one of their strongholds that Rowling had in mind. The Scoti brought with them the Stone of Destiny from the hill of Tara that once belonged to Fal, one of the four Hallows of Ireland. There is no hog story connected to the Stone or to the places where the Stone was kept until it was moved to Scone but the destiny of the founders of Argyll may be echoed in the fate of the four founders of Hogwarts.
Now that we have arrived with our wizards in what was Dalriada in Scotland, we come to a conundrum: although the Celts and the Picts hunted boar, the Scottish had a reputation for an aversion to pork before the nineteenth century.29 This may be due to the Celtic belief in the transmigration of souls: the pig, being an important totem animal, could also be deemed to be carrying a human soul. It might be viewed by the Scottish Celts like eating a deceased family member and taboo.
Hengist, who is likely to be a Saxon, would not have had that problem but, when he arrived at the field in which he built his town, were there swine running around or was there a story connected to the place that involved pigs? Were they “hogs” or were they “boars”? The first is an emasculated farm animal and the second is wild game and that too may or may not be an important distinction.
Another link to pigs in Argyllshire is that a boar is featured on the badge of the ruling Campbell clan.
The Campbells claim descent from the Dalriada; some even claim descent from Diarmid himself, which is why the head of a boar is on their badge. A hog’s head, indeed! The ruins of their former stronghold castles litter the Argyll countryside, especially around Loch Awe, but their construction is much later than Hogwarts.
Diarmid was a legendary hero from the Ossianic Cycle who ran off with Grainne, the wife of Fionn. The lovers escaped to hide from Fionn’s wrath in Scotland where Diarmid liked to hunt boar. It was as a boar that the Animagus Fionn killed Diarmid. Never “underestimate the power of obsessive love.” 31 There is a cairn and a monolith marking Diarmid’s grave in a meadow near Stromheiller in Argyll. While it is not the only place that claims to be Diarmid’s grave, this one is in the parish of Muckairn, “place of wild boars.” That could be the Muggle name for Hogsmeade, as the train from Oban to the Highlands passes nearby.
The kingdom of Dalriada was in Argyll and its capital was in the south at Dunadd, the hillfort where they first brought the Stone of Fail/Destiny to crown their kings upon. This very important site is marked by a Pictish carving of a boar into the rock on the hillside. Archaeology shows that this ancient site has been used as a fort since the Iron Age. The comments about Hogwarts being built on a Celtic site implies using the foundations of an older building, but this brings us to another problem – the anachronistic castle that is Hogwarts, since it is as the ruins of a castle proper and not a hillfort that Muggles will see it and Dunadd was never more than a hillfort. However, it could be that Rowling never had in mind a ruin that had been plotted by Muggles; it was more that, if a Muggle ever approached Hogwarts, they would only see a dangerous ruin.
It is thought that Ravenclaw “from Glen” gave Hogwarts its ever-changing floorplan,32 so it must substantially be as it was when the builders built it with some modern touches like plumbing added later. The founders must have brought the knowledge of castle building from the south with them, but what or whom did they honour, with the inclusion of “hog” in the name of their school, the town and the inn – the badge of the local ruling clan, the Chinese Zodiac, the story of Diarmid and Grainne, a Celtic god like Moccha or Brigit, the carving on an ancient hillfort, or the parish that was named for there being a great deal of wild pigs around?
The romantic in me wants the old Celtic site of the pillar and cairn of Diarmid to be the place where the wizarding world set down some roots. It is a tantalizing thought for what it might mean, though, if such a site is symbolic of Harry’s history, since Rowling seems to choose what is included in the story for its multiple layers of meaning. The story of Diarmid and Grainne contains many elements of the Harry Potter saga. There is a prophecy about Diarmid and how he might die. He carries a magical mark on the forehead put there by a fairy woman (rather like Harry’s scar) that gives him power over any woman. Grainne uses the power of her eyes to compel Diarmid to take her with him, and her name is Gaelic for “love”. Since she would be the Lily in this tale, the only name that could be better would be Gaelic for Lily.
And there is a love triangle possibly mirrored in the Harry Potter stories, with a jealous and spurned lover out for revenge by plotting the death of his rival. Because Diarmid had saved Fionn’s life before and Fionn therefore owed him a life debt, Fionn was exhorted to save Diarmid since he, alone, had the knowledge to counteract the boar’s poison. He could not refuse because of his debt but he delayed in his rescue because he wanted Diarmid to die. Although the killing of Diarmid shamed him, Fionn never repented of his causing the death of the brave and handsome Diarmid.
Grainne was not intended to be harmed (just like Voldemort had no plans to kill Lily). Fionn just wanted her back: in some versions, defeated at last, she goes with him; in others she dies of a broken heart. In the Irish version of the story, Diarmid even has an invisibility cloak, handed down to him from his foster father, which he uses to hide Grainne from Fionn in a rowan tree while they were being hunted. In a Scottish version of the tale, Diarmid cuts the boar’s head off before succumbing to the poison. From this version perhaps comes the Hog’s Head Inn’s name.
In an interview on the Prisoner of Azkaban DVD, Stuart Craig, who is the production designer for the Harry Potter movies, mentions, while discussing the map that Rowling drew of Hogsmeade, the name of the lake next to Hogwarts – the Black Lake.34 There is a Black Loch in Scotland, just northeast of Diarmid’s Grave, between the cairn and Muckairn, next to the Fearnoch Forest. One feels a Eureka moment: if this is the karma that Hogwarts inherited, Snape is a very bad man!
It seems to fit. There is so much to recommend the story as the reason Rowling wanted the “hog” in Hogwarts. And yet, I feel some lingering doubts. There is no ruined castle here and a wild boar and a hog are just not the same thing. There are several common words that relate to mammals of the species Suidae. Part of me has a sneaking suspicion that Rowling chose that one for the fun of naming an institution of learning for the “chopped hogs” of outlaw bikers. She said in an interview that she envisioned the hairy bikers that descended upon Chepstow on the weekends when she created the character of Hagrid. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone practically begins with the alarming and hairy looking Hagrid arriving at a quiet and respectable suburban street with a roar on the back of one of those “beasts.”
1. Renton, “Wild About Harry.”
2. Rowling, Interview with Emma Coad.
Hogwarts, I always wanted Hog to be there, for some reason. I messed around with various different versions of Hogwarts until I settled on Hogwarts. I like it. I think it sounds comical and inviting at the same time. So you think about words like that and you try lots of different things and then suddenly one fits and you’re happy with it.
3. Ibid., Chamber of Secrets, 114.
4. Ibid., 99.
5. Ibid., 102.
6. Mzimba, “man behind the magic.”
She says: ‘No, you can’t have a graveyard there’. And I’m like, ‘Why?’ She says: ‘Oh because the graveyard is near this other wing of the castle and it’s going to play an important part in number six because such and such and such.’
So then you say ‘What about a sundial?’ She says: ‘That makes perfect sense because when the castle was built it was on an ancient Celtic site.’ Bap bap bap!
You have to be humble and respect it! She has full control of that universe and you don’t want to contradict that.
Lizo: So wow, there’s a graveyard at Hogwarts that plays a crucial part in book six!
Alfonso: Six or seven. She said ‘later on’ - I don’t have the specifics.
7. Rowling, Chamber of Secrets, 62.
8. Ibid., Philosopher’s Stone, 68.
9. Ibid., Order of the Phoenix, 176.
10. Lexicon, s.v. “Hogsmeade.” Information from the Chamber of Secrets video game.
11. Lexicon, s.v. “Hengist.” Information from the Famous Wizarding Cards.
12. Wikipedia, s.v. “Mount Vesuvius.”
13. Coulton, “On the First Millenium.”
15. La Rondine, “Italy at the First Millenium.”
17. Wikipedia, s.v. “Hengest.”
19. Concise Oxford Dictionary, s.v. “hog,” 511.
21. Ayto & Crofton, Brewer’s Britain & Ireland, 1231.
22. Ibid., 1024.
23. Ibid., 153.
24. Ganz, Mabinogion, 100.
25. Wikipedia, s.v. “Mercury (mythology).”
26. Caesar, Gallic War, 128.
27. Goldsmith, “Ancient Pagan Symbols.” I did verify the claim on other sites, there are other mammals like Honey Badgers and hedgehogs that are also immune to snake bite.
28. Rowling, Prisoner of Azkaban, 124.
29. Wikipedia, s.v. “Scottish pork taboo.”
30. Wikipedia, s.v. “Clan Campbell.”
31. Rowling, Half-Blood Prince, 177.
32. Bunker, “The Founders of Hogwarts.” Information from the Famous Wizarding Cards.
33. Ancient Scotland Tour, “Strontoiller.”
34. Prisoner of Azkaban DVD, “Interview with Heyman, Kloves, Radcliffe, Cuaron, and Rowling.”
35. Walk in Scotland, “Connel and the Black Lochs.”
Ancient Scotland Tour. “Strontoiller.” http://www.stonepages.com/tour/strontoiller.html.
Ayto, John and Ian Crofton. Brewer’s Britain & Ireland. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005.
Bunker, Lisa (editor). “The Founders of Hogwarts. The Harry Potter Lexicon, last updated 30 April 2007. http://www.hp-lexicon.org/wizards/founders.html#Ravenclaw.
Caesar, Julius (translated by Carolyn Hammond). The Gallic War. London: Oxford University Press, 1998.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary, Sixth Ed., s.v. “hog.” Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980.
Coulton, C.G. “Medieval Sourcebook: Ralph Glaber: On the First Millenium” (sic), http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/glaber-1000.html (accessed 30 March 2007).
Gantz, Jeffrey (translator). The Mabinogion. London: Penguin Books, 1976.
Goldsmith, Elizabeth “Ancient Pagan Symbols,” About.com http://altreligion.about.com/library/texts/bl_ancientpagan67.htm (accessed 30 March 2007).
Joe, Jimmy. “Fenian Cycle.” Timeless Myths, last modified 24 June 2006. http://www.timelessmyths.com/celtic/ossian.html#Reconciliation.
The Italian Club of St. Louis. “Italy at the First Millenium” (sic). La Rondine Volume 5 Issue 8 (August 2001): 1. http://www.italystl.com/italianclub/rondine/ronaug01.htm (accessed 30 March 2007).
The Harry Potter Lexicon, s.v.“Hengist.” From “Wizards With No Surname,” last updated 4 February 2007. http://www.hp-lexicon.org/wizards/wizards-nosurname.html.
———, s.v. “Hogsmeade,” last modified 30 October 2006. http://www.hp-lexicon.org/wizworld/places/w_pl_hogsmeade.html.
Mzimba, Lizo. “Alfonso Cuaron: the man behind the magic.” CBBC Newsround, last updated 28 May 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/tv_film/newsid_3758000/3758101.stm.
Prisoner of Azkaban DVD Extra. “Interview with David Heyman, Steve Kloves, Mark Radcliffe, Alfonso Cuaron, and Jo Rowling,” November 23, 2004. Transcript, Accio-Quote http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2004/1104-poadvd.htm (accessed 2 May 2007).
Renton, Jennie. “Wild about Harry.” Candis Magazine, November 2001 http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2001/1101-candis-renton.html.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Vancouver: Raincoast Books, 2005.
———. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Vancouver: Raincoast Books, 2000.
———. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Vancouver: Raincoast Books, 2005.
———. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Vancouver: Raincoast Books, 2003.
———. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Vancouver: Raincoast Books, 2000.
———. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Vancouver: Raincoast Books, 2005.
———. Interview by Emma Coad. “One-on-one interview with J.K. Rowling,” ITV, 17 July 2005. http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2005/0705-itv-coad.htm (accessed 27 March 2007).
Walk in Scotland. “Connel and the Black Lochs.” http://walking.visitscotland.com/walks/argyllisles/connel-black-lochs.
Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, s.v. “Clan Campbell,” last modified 27 March 2007. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clan_Campbell.
———, s.v. “Hengest.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hengest (accessed 30 March 2007).
———, s.v. “Mercury (mythology): Names and Epithets,” last modified 22 March 2007. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_(mythology).
———, s.v. “Mount Vesuvius: Eruptions,” last modified 14 March 2007. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Vesuvius.
———, s.v. “Scottish pork taboo”, last modified 9 January 2007. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_pork_taboo.