We’ll be the first to acknowledge how problematic J.K. Rowling can be. However, it’s OK if you still love the magic she created with the now-iconic Harry Potter series — the books (and later, the movies) got many of us through some truly difficult times in our lives. They mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people! This perhaps explains why we’re all so obsessed with Harry Potter symbols. Even the most mundane or inconsequential parts of the world of Harry Potter come with their own hidden meanings. Each wand wood, each house, and each name carries special significance. And that’s to say nothing of the many, many emblems. You might say the entire franchise has us under its spell (or should we say spells?).
After all, we aren’t just talking about a lovely story here but an alternate universe. Somewhere we can all retreat when we want to break up with the real world. We’ve witnessed world-building before when we read The Chronicles of Narnia, Game of Thrones, and even The Princess Diaries (hello, who didn’t want to move to Genovia?!). But none come close to the level of detail found in the magnificent wizarding world of Harry Potter.
For that reason, and many more, Harry Potter symbols deserve a deeper dive. Read on and see how much you know or remember.
Harry Potter Symbols: Deathly Hallows
1. Deathly Hallows
The Deathly Hallows symbol is based on the magical items each of the three brothers used to escape death: the invisibility cloak, the Elder Wand, and the Philosopher’s Stone. In the symbol, the triangle represents the cloak, the circle is the stone, and the line down the center is the wand.
2. The Philosopher’s Stone
If you’ve read the Harry Potter series, you remember the Philosopher’s Stone from the very first book. (It was called the Sorcerer’s stone in America.) The stone, which is represented in the Deathly Hallows symbol by the circle, looks like any regular semi-polished gemstone.
3. Invisibility Cloak
What better way to hide from death (or Filch) than with an invisibility cloak? Harry was gifted the cloak in his first year, as it once belonged to his father.
4. Elder Wand
The Elder Wand was also part of the Deathly Hallows. It was most notably used by Dumbledore and is represented by the line down the center of the Deathly Hallows symbol. Harry destroys it at the very end of the series.
Harry Potter Symbols: Scars and Tattoos
5. Harry’s Lightning Bolt
Ever wonder what the lightning bolt is about? Harry has a lightning bolt scar above his eye, which he earned the night Voldemort killed his parents. Harry was spared because his mother’s love was so fantastically powerful, hence leaving behind the distinctive mark. That scar, though, left him linked to the Dark Lord and would ultimately serve as a warning whenever Voldemort was near.
6. Dark Mark/Death Eaters
Before Harry Potter was born, James and Lily Potter and their friends were the ones fighting Voldemort. Voldemort had his own posse, though, called the Death Eaters. They self-identified by being marked with the “dark mark” tattoo on the inside of their forearm. That mark kept them linked to Voldemort, as a gang symbol.
Harry Potter House Symbols
Each of Hogwarts’ four houses has its own name and symbol. Each comes with its own characteristics that are said to describe the members of that house. Gryffindors are represented by a lion and the colors red and gold. Their traits are “daring, nerve, and chivalry.”
Hufflepuffs are represented by the colors black and yellow, and their emblem holds the semblance of a badger. While many people scoff at the thought of being sorted into Hufflepuff, it’s worth noting that it’s the most inclusive house. Hufflepuffs believe in fairness and loyalty and have a strict moral code.
Harry Potter almost ended up in Slytherin due to his inescapable link to Voldemort. While many of the Wizarding World’s most morally corrupt characters were Slytherin (including you-know-who, plus Draco and his family), it’s worth noting that so was Severus Snape — and he turned out to be a fairly decent guy. Slytherin’s colors are green and grey/silver, and they’re represented by a slithering snake. (See what Rowling did there?) They’re noted as being cunning, shrewd, and ambitious.
Ravenclaw’s colors are blue and bronze, and they’re represented by the eagle. They’re known for being the smartest of the bunch (#Ravenclaw4Life!). Key descriptors are “wit, wisdom, and knowledge” which, you know, all basically translate to “smarty pants.”
Miscellaneous Harry Potter Symbols
Each wand is different and every part of the wand represents a personality trait or moral characteristic of the wand’s witch or wizard. From how long and bendy (or not) a wand is, to its core and the kind of wood it’s made from, each one is unique and represents its wizard perfectly. And don’t forget, the wand chooses the wizard.
Fun fact on that note: If you go to Ollivanders at Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter, their wand experts will ask you a ton of questions and get to know you before finding the wand to which you belong.
The Harry Potter series has everything, including sports. An overlooked symbol are the broomsticks players rode during Quidditch games. Not only is this a representation of how witches and wizards travel, but it’s a call back to the old world of fantasy. The broomsticks are a slight salute to the magic we read about as kids. Although Harry Potter is modern and original, Quidditch is a reminder that classic storybook whimsy is part of the series too.
What else is there? Surprisingly, a lot! This, though, should be a good jumping-off point.
13. Platform 9 ¾
To enter the wizarding world, Harry Potter and the gang waited on platform 9 ¾. It’s where people boarded the Hogwarts Express and transported to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizards. Some people also get it as a tattoo as a token of acknowledgment of the magical world.