Summary: "A fake fortuneteller can be tolerated. But an authentic soothsayer should be shot on sight. Cassandra did not get half the kicking around she deserved."
Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns Trelawney. Robert Heinlein owns the above quote.
Sibyll Trelawney was a very good fake fortuneteller. She knew it. She perpetuated the stereotype. It was easy to fake trances, mystic divination, and premonitions. As a student of human behavior, Trelawney noticed things and gave people what they wanted to hear. It helped that everything she uttered was so damn vague. Her "revelations from the Beyond" could be applied to any set of circumstances. That was the beauty of it; people fulfilled their own desires and twisted her own cryptic, fortune-cookie phrases to fit their situation.
Unfortunately, Sibyll Trelawney was also a bad Seer. The very bad ones were burnt out husks of prophecy, their minds weathered away into nothingness under the deluge of psychic premonitions. (The Ministry of Magic kept a few of these poor souls locked up in their Department of Mysteries, "for their own good, and the good of the Wizarding World". Sibyll was very glad her gift wasn't that strong.) The good Seers could remember their own visions, the very good ones could possibly even choose what they saw and when. Her great-great-grandmother, the famed Cassandra Trelawney, was one of best Seers of the modern era. Sibyll was not. She never could recall her own moments of pure clarity. All Sibyll could remember of her visions was a vague impression of a brightly colored path ahead of her, future events clearly marked but blurry beyond all recollection afterwards. Only the sense of having lost time and the shocked expressions on the surrounding faces usually clued her in that she had had a real vision. Her great-great-grandmother Cassandra had smiled joyfully when her successor had turned out to be a disappointment.
"We're blessed by Apollo, Sibyll. It may not seem like much now and you might wish you were more powerful one day, but be thankful he hasn't paid that much attention to you. Remember what happened to the mortals who caught Apollo's notice and their fates. You, my dear, are the lucky one."
It was hard accepting her grandmother's advice when she was younger and more ambitious. But as time had passed, Sibyll slowly had come to realize what people came to her for. They wanted her to reassure them that there was a reason for everything, a master plan to the chaos of life. Wizards and witches turned to Seers and their promises of a better future to come in the absence of religion. They wanted her to tell them it would turn out all right. So she gave them what they wanted to hear: false promises and bewildering statements. Sibyll could stand being a fake. Giving people a sense of reason in a senseless time was a purpose. It was better than serving as a deus ex machina. Sibyll had no plans to join the ranks of Apollo's discarded and broken playthings. Not for a few moments of fame or glory. After all, Cassandra had been ignored, belittled, and then beheaded.
Sibyll Trelawney could live with the title of a fraud just fine.
Author's Notes: Poor Sibyll is much maligned, in both the books and in fan fiction. I felt someone should take her side, tell her story, but no one seemed to step up, so I did. (If you want something done…) Seriously though, Trelawney is an interesting and underdeveloped character. The quotation can be found in The Notebooks of Lazarus Long. Technically speaking, Trelawney is both an authentic soothsayer as well as a fake fortuneteller. It was that dichotomy which first interested me in her characterization. Let me know what you think of my interpretation of her. Thanks!
-TombCrank the Crafty