In Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore tells Harry

'I did,' said Dumbledore. 'On a cold, wet night sixteen years ago, in a room above the bar at the Hog's Head inn. I had gone there to see an applicant for the post of Divination teacher, though it was against my inclination to allow the subject of Divination to continue at all. The applicant, however, was the great-great-granddaughter of a very famous, very gifted Seer and I thought it common politeness to meet her.

Why did Dumbledore want to discontinue Divination? Is it because he didn't much like the branch of magic or didn't believe in it? It does not sound plausible that he would remove a subject from Hogwarts just because of his personal opinions. (Moreover, Divination examinations are taken during the O.W.L.s so I doubt whether Dumbledore would, with his individual decision only, be able to remove it completely from Hogwarts). From Order of the Phoenix we also know that there is whole room dedicated to storing prophecies in the Department of Mysteries, so prophecies and divination are a real thing in the Harry Potter universe, from the point of view of us readers as well as the characters themselves. Then why would Dumbledore want to remove Divination?

Another thing to consider is that Professor McGonagall says, in the Prisoner of Azkaban, that true Seers are rare, so it might be that Dumbledore might have found it difficult to get someone competent enough for the job. This does not make much sense either, because if in the Harry Potter universe true Seers are rare, having someone teach the theory behind divination would at least help to keep the field alive. Also, he had trouble finding people for Defense Against the Dark Arts as well, but that does not mean he just gave up on the subject, rather, he made controversial hiring such as Professor Lupin and Moody to keep the classes running smoothly.

What exactly was the reason for Dumbledore not wanting to continue Divination at Hogwarts (until he met Professor Trelawney)?

  • It's considered a very "woolly" subject. Given the low number of real seers available and the emphasis in the OWLS on divination theory (as opposed to practical examination) it's conceivable that they might just have rolled it into another subject.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 11:03
  • but they do have practical examination for Divination in the O.W.L.s
    – user13267
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 11:24
  • 6
    @user13267 - is there anyone who tests the predictions made during OWLs for accuracy? If not, they are not "practical" Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 11:25
  • 2
    @Richard The rolling it into another subject idea probably has some merit. After all, we know that Hogwarts teaches Arithmancy, which is another form of divination (for example, the wikipedia article on arithmancy explicitly states its a form of divination).
    – KAI
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 17:38
  • 2
    "prophecies and divination are a real thing in the Harry Potter universe" Yes, prophecies are a real thing. But Devination is (probably) not. True Seers are born, not taught, as far as I understand. Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 8:31

1 Answer 1

  1. It's a snake oil subject from practical Hogwarts teaching standpoint.

    He likely knew that for students like Harry and Ron, the best and only way to pass it is to make *&t up. The darker the better.

    He also knows very well that the professor makes predictions up (e.g. Trelawney predicting someone will die every year, as Professor McGonagall indicated).

    Remember that the most academically excellent people had very low opinion of the subject (McGonagall and Granger)

  2. It's not a teachable subject

    Now, let's leave aside that most of the subject is fraud, and/or con games (predicting something vague that anyone can misattribute to anything).

    Trelawney herself states that some people have the gift and some don't.

    In other words - while predictions and seers exist and work and are real in-universe, you can't TEACH a non-Seer to See. Even if the teacher was a gifted seer like Firenze, never mind a spontaneous prophet like Trelawney (who doesn't even know she is one). Never mind if the teacher is a conman.

    For a very poor equivalent, imagine a class on a theory of music composition, taught to tone deaf students. Yes, you can teach certain rules and approaches. But they won't be able to compose - you won't get the talent from knowing the theory.

    In the books, there is zero evidence that anyone taught Divination in class was ever able to make a working, accurate prediction based on what they were taught.

    The only cases of actual verified prediction/prophecy we are shown are spontaneous and have nothing to do with any of the material covered in Divination class

  3. It's not necessary for OWLs

    You make an interesting point about OWLs - BUT, if you review the material carefully, the students do NOT have to sit OWLs for the subjects they chose not to study. Harry and Ron don't have OWLs for Ancient Runes or Arithmancy... and even more to the point, Hermione doesn't take OWLs for Divination!

  • 12
    Actually, Dumbledore never took Divination. From HBP: "Divination is turning out to be much more trouble than I could have foreseen, never having studied the subject myself." Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 12:05
  • 15
    He likely knew that for students like Harry and Ron, the best and only way to pass it is to make *&t up. The darker the better. - This may roll into another point: Harry and Ron only took Divination because it was purportedly easy and they didn't want to take a harder class (IIRC). Therefore, Dumbledore may have wanted to remove the class to force students into taking more challenging classes.
    – Xantec
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 12:56
  • 1
    It would make sense to have a class in it to inform students on how divination works, what forms are more valid than others, etc. As opposed to trying to teach kids to actually do it.
    – DLeh
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 15:42
  • 2
    You might be right. But they could also talk about history of divination or something. For 11 year olds it wouldn't have to be super complex.
    – DLeh
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 15:50
  • 9
    +1 for not being a teachable skill. You'll note that the only times we see someone making a real prophecy, there are no crystal balls, tea leaves, or any other tools involved.
    – Martha
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 18:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.