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"The start-of-term banquet will begin shortly, but before you take your seats in the Great Hall, you will be sorted into your houses. The Sorting is a very important ceremony because, while you are here, your house will be something like your family within Hogwarts."
— The importance of the Sorting Ceremony[src]

The Sorting Ceremony was a yearly ritual performed at the beginning of each school year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The Sorting was held in the Great Hall, before the Start-of-Term Feast, after students had arrived at school, often via the Hogwarts Express.[2]

The ceremony's purpose was to assign first-years to one of the four school Houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin. It was done through the use of the famous Hogwarts Sorting Hat. The Sorting Hat's decision was final.[2]


In the early years of Hogwarts, prospective students were chosen or assigned personally by the four founders themselves. However, they realised that they would have to find an alternative once they had died and so Godric Gryffindor came up with the idea of the Sorting Hat, which he and the other three enchanted with their combined prowess to review and assign future generations long after they were dead, and thus the Sorting Ceremony was born.[3]

Ceremony description[]

"The Sorting Ceremony will take place in a few minutes in front of the rest of the school."
— Description of the Ceremony[src]
2008 Sorting Ceremony

2008 Sorting Ceremony

The Sorting Hat was placed upon a stool at the head of the Great Hall, whereupon it sang a song of its own composition about the four founders of Hogwarts and the qualities sought by their respective Houses (this song was different every year). The Sorting Hat also could also give warnings to the students whenever it detected a need, likely based on information learned in the Headmaster's Office, where it was kept for the remainder of the year.

New students were then summoned to the stool one by one in alphabetical order by last name, where they were sat upon the stool and placed the hat on themselves. While the hat was on the student's head, a sort of back-and-forth conversation may have gone on in their minds.[2]

Decision of the Hat[]

"Hmm. Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind either. There's talent, my goodness, yes — and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now that's interesting... So where shall I put you? Not Slytherin, eh? Are you sure? You could be great, you know, it's all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that — no? Well, if you're sure — better be GRYFFINDOR!"
— Harry Potter's reluctance to be sorted into Slytherin causes the Sorting Hat to put him Gryffindor[src]
Harry Potter being sorted PSF

In 1991 Harry Potter asked to be sorted into Gryffindor

The Sorting Hat assigned students to different houses based on the qualities that each of the four founders valued most in their students; Godric Gryffindor valued bravery and chivalry, Helga Hufflepuff valued hard work and loyalty, Rowena Ravenclaw valued intelligence and creativity, and Salazar Slytherin valued ambition and cunning. Anyone who did not possess any of these qualities went to Hufflepuff house by default. The Sorting Hat's decision didn't always seem to make sense at first, but ultimately, the Sorting Hat was never wrong. The decision of the Sorting Hat was generally considered to be final, and whichever house a student was sorted into would be their house for the entirety of their time at Hogwarts.

The Sorting Hat's decision could be influenced somewhat by the desires of the wearer.[2] However, there were only two people who definitely knew this. When Harry Potter was being sorted in his first year, the hat told him he would do well in Slytherin, but Harry asked to be placed elsewhere.[2]

B2C12M1 Sorting Hat in Dumbledore's office

Harry Potter questions the Sorting Hat about its decision to put him in Gryffindor

In 1992, during his second year Harry found out he was a Parselmouth. After finding this out, Harry started to doubt the hat's decision. While in Dumbledore's office he asked the Sorting Hat if it put him in the right house. The hat stated that Harry was particularly difficult to place, but it stood by what it said last year, that Harry would have done well in Slytherin. Harry later told his son Albus Potter about the hat's ability to take the wearer's request into consideration.[4][5]

It is possible that Sirius Black also asked to be placed in Gryffindor, since he decided to break the tradition of his family being in Slytherin after consulting James Potter. It is also possible that Hermione Granger asked to be placed in Gryffindor. She stated that before deciding on Gryffindor, the Sorting Hat seriously considered putting her in Ravenclaw.[6] It is known that Hermione particularly wanted to be in Gryffindor (though she wouldn't have minded Ravenclaw).

Very rarely, around once every fifty years, a "Hatstall" would occur in which the Sorting Hat would take more than five minutes to decide where to place a student. Only two true Hatstalls were known to Harry Potter: Minerva McGonagall (between Ravenclaw and Gryffindor) and Peter Pettigrew (between Gryffindor and Slytherin).[7]

Sorting Hat's song[]

The Sorting Hat's introductory song changed every year, presumably because, according to Ron Weasley, the hat had nothing to do between sortings except compose a new song.[2][8]

Behind the scenes[]

  • In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the students are not sorted in alphabetical order for dramatic effect. The hat's song is also omitted.
  • When Harry was watching Snape's memories in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, he sees his father quote a part of the song the hat sang the year Harry was Sorted, although its songs supposedly change every year. However, it is possible that it sometimes reuses songs or, at the very least, some lines or verses.
  • In the film, Harry speaks aloud his desire to be a Gryffindor rather than a Slytherin. This is contrary to the novel, in which Harry finds he does not need to speak because the Hat can hear his deepest thoughts and desires. Also in the film, the Sorting Hat announces all of its deliberations to the entire hall, while in the novel, only the wearer can hear the deliberations and the Hat only announces the chosen House publicly. This is probably for the ease of the movie-watchers.
  • In the book, when the students are called, they place the hat on themselves, but in the film, Professor McGonagall does it for them.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, during the Sorting of Lily Evans, for an unknown reason the Headmaster's chair is empty at the staff table.
  • The secrecy of the nature of the Sorting is uncertain. In Philosopher's Stone, the ceremony appears to be an entirely secretive affair to new first-years, as neither Ron, who had five older brothers attend Hogwarts before him, nor Hermione, who had read the entirety of Hogwarts: A History, knew what the ceremony was like. In contrast, Harry openly mentions the Sorting Hat to his son Albus in Deathly Hallows, who appeared to have prior knowledge of it.
  • Harry only attended three Sorting Ceremonies, including his own, during his time at Hogwarts, due to a combination of circumstances. In his second year, he and Ron were being interrogated after flying the car to Hogwarts. In his third year, he and Hermione were talking to Professor McGonagall about Harry's Dementor attack and Hermione's timetable, respectively. In his sixth year, he was attacked by Draco Malfoy on the train and arrived at the school late, and he, Ron and Hermione did not return to Hogwarts for what would have been their seventh year.
  • Naturally the Deputy Head would read aloud the names during the Sorting, however, Professor McGonagall was absent during the one in the 1993–1994 school year.
  • The sorting hat didn't appear in J. K. Rowling's early plans for Hogwarts.[3]


Notes and references[]