Hogwarts Houses: Understanding Ravenclaw

Do you love Harry Potter? Do you ever wonder which Hogwarts House the Sorting Hat would sort you into? Well, ponder no longer! I discovered Sorting Hat Chats the other day, which is a comprehensive understanding of the Houses. They have a test and full profiles for each House. In their system, you have a Primary and Secondary House, but that’s a lot of information to take in all at once, so I’d rather talk about my Primary.

I am a Ravenclaw.

Ravenclaws build and adopt an internal code through which they navigate the world. They built it by searching for personal truths and adopting a belief system they have chosen and believe to be true. This system is not an instinctual understanding of ethics, morals, or truth (gut instinct belongs to a Gryffindor), but a decision to live according to who they want to be, even if it goes against their natural tendencies. Once they decide what their truth is, it motivates all their decisions. They act out of a chosen, ironclad moral conviction rather than an instinctual one.

I will talk about several Ravenclaws to explain what this looks like in a person or character, but I want to use a villain first because he’s such a perfect example of an extreme Ravenclaw mindset. Ben Solo / Kylo Ren of the new Star Wars trilogy is a Ravenclaw. And, I understand why.

Ben went against his family’s wishes and chose a different belief system than theirs, in direct opposition to their views. He rejected what they taught him about the Dark Side being evil and chose it for himself, because it is his Truth. He believes Darth Vader had the right truth, and models himself after him, refusing to listen to any evidence to the contrary about his redemption or accept anything about him that does not fit the idealized version Ben carries in his head. This is all a warped form of an unhealthy Ravenclaw’s rigid “idealism.”

In the first film, we see Ben torn between his chosen truth and his emotions. He feels the pull of the Light side of the Force within him and is resisting it. Fighting it, because it’s not the person he wants to be. His emotions pull him toward his parents and the Light, but he believes his WILL and his BELIEFS should govern his choices, and chooses to act in accordance with them. He does not feel right about abandoning his truth, however tempting it is to give in to his feelings. Ben wants nothing to do with his emotions. He sees them as trying to derail his truth. Again and again, he acts against his feelings in favor of what he wants to become. That is a Ravenclaw move.

I feel sympathy for Ben, because I understand him. I do not agree with his choices, but we’re both torn between our emotions and the beliefs we chose for ourselves, and we think rationality should overrule our feelings. In the mind of a Ravenclaw, feelings lead you astray. The truth in the form of chosen beliefs keep you strong. They give you a guideline in life, through which you can measure every choice. Does this match my beliefs? No. Then I won’t do it, because I choose to act in accordance to these higher principles. It simplifies everything, even though it took a lot of time, effort, and thought to construct our tested and shaped moral code in the first place.

If a Ravenclaw makes an emotional decision, it feels like a betrayal of their true self. If Ben listened to his emotions, he would make more moral choices but also be torn up inside due to betraying his idealism for his feelings. That is not who he wants to be, so he deliberately chooses to be someone else and live up to his truth. He is trying to make it real, by living by it. And there is some truth to that; what you act like, you become. It just gets easier.

I decided as a child that emotional decisions are no way to live. I saw how messy and complicated it made people’s lives and decided to opt out. I found logic the wisest choice. Time and again, when my feelings told me to do this, I did that, because it was logical and I wanted to become logical. It worked. I am the queen of rationalizing away emotions most of the time, of taking a step back, and trying to make choices objectively. If my emotions come into conflict with what makes sense, I no longer know what to do. My illusion of being Spock crumbles. It shows me for the flawed, fallible, weak, emotional human being I actually am. It ticks me off. I wind up like Ben, angry that my stupid feelings are not allowing me to live my truth.

Ravenclaws believe when they have found their truth, others should hear it and adopt it. They try to recruit others into their way of thinking, because their truth seems so obvious to them, why wouldn’t other people want to live by it? For me, again, that falls under logic. This is the rational choice, so why are other people making emotional decisions?! Can’t they see why their life would be better if they were more detached?! Because I am a slow and stubborn believer in my truth, I am slowly learning that other people need to live according to their truths. Just because my truth works for me does not mean others will respond to it. They should, but they don’t. 😉

Ben also believes in his truth. He thinks if he can make Rey understand how much better the Dark Side is, she will join him on this journey. When she rejects it, he does not change his ideology; he walks away from her. Rey is not about to adopt his flawed ideology, and he’s not about to abandon it. Because even if it’s wrong, he rests his identity on it. It has been my hope from the start that Ben will find his way back to the light, but I know how hard that will be for him, because he has such an ironclad belief system.

It is not impossible for a Ravenclaw to change, however. It does happen. I think no one embodies the Ravenclaw spirit more than Saint Paul. A proud, learned intellectual devoted completely to his Jewish religious beliefs, he lived according to his truth when he persecuted the Christians. After an encounter with Jesus, Paul threw away ALL HIS beliefs and chose a new system. He attacked it with the same zeal and refusal to back down that made him so frightening as a persecutor of believers (I suspect that comes from his Gryffindor Secondary ;). For Paul, his new way of living was a Choice… and it made such sense to him, he failed to see not only how others could not believe it, but would show cowardice in the face of opposition. It simply never occurred to him to live any other way than in accordance with his new beliefs.

One of my all-time favorite fictional characters shows a similar conscious decision to alter his life and adopt a new way of living: Edmund Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia. Young Edmund had to learn the truth of Aslan the hard way, but then he decides this is not who I want to be and chooses to change. The sullen, angry, unforgiving and selfish boy becomes a happy, fulfilled, and selfless King of Narnia. He adopts a new ethical belief system and never wavers from it. No one can tempt him away from it.

Both Edmund and Paul had to reach rock-bottom before they were willing to walk away from their flawed beliefs and transform their lives. I don’t know if Ben Solo will reach that point in the final film, but I hope so. I hate to see a Ravenclaw go unredeemed.

Comment if you’d like to see me explore other Star Wars and Narnia characters in connection with the Hogwarts Houses. There’s one for each!

5 thoughts on “Hogwarts Houses: Understanding Ravenclaw

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  1. *applause*

    Great explanation!

    Ii particularly liked what you said about wishing / wondering why everyone doesn’t just do things the Ravenclaw way. The LOGICAL way. And I, in turn, wonder why everyone doesn’t do things the Hufflepuff way?? But it takes all kinds of Houses to make a world. 😉

    1. Thank you.

      I didn’t really grasp Ravenclaw until I thought about Kylo Ren and how he continually overthrows his internal nature to become an ideal, and then it became clearer. Ravenclaws act who they want to become, not as they are — they overthrow their gut instincts and moral hunches to adopt an impersonal system. This can be an incredible tool in the right hands — a believer in some higher ideal who will live and die for it, or an incredibly dangerous one in the wrong hands — I was discussing with another friend whether Hitler was a Ravenclaw primary, because he built such an extensive ideology against the Jews (and then used a Hufflepuff secondary to sell it to the masses).

      Given the tug of war between ideology and gut instinct and/or intrinsic morality, you can see why people do not get along. My father was profound a few years ago when he said, out of the blue, people assume others feel and think the way they do — and if they do not, they are a dangerous enemy.

      The world needs every House, that’s for sure. The Ravenclaws to promote idealism. The Gryffindors to charge into action on a gut instinct of morality. The Hufflepuffs to fight for fairness and equality. The Slytherins to show unfailing loyalty and cleverness.

      1. Hitler definitely had that evil Hufflepuff “these people I hate aren’t ACTUALLY human” thing going on: but yep, I can see the Ravenclaw part too, in his intense visualization of the ideal future, and giving himself completely to that ideal.

        What I love about the Sorting Hat Chat’s system is, they clearly lay out each House’s potential for good and evil. Different kinds of good. Different kinds of evil. It’s so much more nuanced than JKR’s “if you’re ambitious, that makes you evil, and if you’re evil, you’ll definitely be ambitious” mantra from the books. xD

        Oof. That’s soooooooooooooooo true. The natural assumption is, “everybody shares my thoughts & feelings, because they’re THE ONLY RIGHT ONES.” On the other hand . . . if you can learn to see differences in thinking & feeling as exciting, intriguing, instead of cause for anger, that’s a definite step in the right direction. Which is why I love MBTI. And Enneagram. And Hogwarts Houses. And all the rest of it. xD

        1. Rowling had a good starter idea, but the Sorting Hat co-mods went above and beyond in fleshing out her system and deepening it. It’s very nuanced, and extremely cool.

          Yup. All of these things — Enneagram, MBTI, Sorting Hat, etc — helps me “get” other people, or at least understand where they are coming from, even if I don’t change my mind or agree with them. 😉

          1. Same! It honestly helps me feel a lot calmer, and a lot safer, to have figured out that other people REALLY DO see the world differently than me, and that that DOESN’T HAVE TO BE a tragedy . . . 😉

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