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Apothecary Snape by Silver Ink Pot
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Apothecary Snape by Silver Ink Pot

Apothecary Snape: Potions, Medicine, Alchemy, Healing

By Silver Ink Pot

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Medicine is not only a science; it is also an art. It does not consist of compounding pills and plasters; it deals with the very processes of life, which must be understood before they may be guided.


Medicine should be based upon truth and not verbal sleight of hand. Practice should not be based upon speculative theory; Theory should be derived from practice.

~ Paracelsus

..."If I stoop
Into a dark tremendous sea of cloud,
It is but for a time. I press God's lamp
Close to my breast; its splendour, soon or late,
Will pierce the gloom. I shall emerge one day.
You understand me? I have said enough?"

~Robert Browning, "Paracelsus"

Severus Snape is a "Potions Master" at Hogwarts School for Wizards. While witchcraft and wizardry has always been connected with cauldrons and magic elixers, there is also a strong connection between Potions and the study of Medicine, Pharmacy, and Alchemy. Snape is not seen actually "healing" someone until Book 6, The Half-Blood Prince. Yet, throughout the series, Snape is there in the background with clues all around him of the Healing tradition.

In Book Two, for instance, Snape tells Gilderoy Lockhart that he, personally, will brew the "Mandrake Restorative Draught" because he is "still the Potions Master" at the school. A "draught" is another word for "drink," and if it is "restorative," then it gives something back to the victims of the Basilisk. In effect, the "restorative draught" is a medicinal drink that works as an "antidote" to the paralyzing effect of the giant snake. That is only one example, out of many in the books. Snape is nearly always concerned with the "antidote" to something dark and ominous. He produces Veritaserum to force the truth out of Barty Crouch Jr. in GoF. In the same book, Harry believes Snape is "forcing them to research antidotes, and, in Chapter 18, Snape shouts the word "Antidote" to the class.

1515, from L. antidotum, from Gk. antidoton "given as a remedy," lit. "given against," verbal adj. of antididonai "give in return," from anti- "against" + didonai "to give"

One could say that Snape's entire purpose is to find "antidotes" or solutions to problems, and his interest in Defense Against the Dark Arts is symbolic of that.

It is quite ironic that the one character Harry loathes almost as much as Voldemort is actually a healer, a sometime paramedic, an apothecary, a walking encyclopedia of plant lore, and someone who understands aspects of alchemy. Basically, he's a doctor and a pharmacist all in one, and the only obvious successor at Hogwarts to the Alchemical tradition of Dumbledore and Nicholas Flamel.

I will not go into each and every plant or potion, with name meanings and implications. There are already some wonderfully complete glossaries for that online, which I've listed at the end of the essay. I want to explore in a more historical and symbolic way, the connection between Severus Snape, Potions Master, and the medical world, with emphasis on the positive statements J. K. Rowling has made about those subjects. It is hardly possible to do this subject justice in one essay, but this is my attempt.

The Potions Master

What is a "potion" anyway, and what is the connection to the magical world?

A potion is just a drink, but usually medicinal:

Potion: c.1300, from O.Fr. pocion (12c.), from L. potionem (nom. potio) "potion, a drinking," from potus "drunken," irregular pp. of potare "to drink," from PIE base *po-/*pi- "drink" (cf. Skt. pati "drinks;" Gk. pinein "to drink," poton "that which one drinks," potos "drinking bout;" O.C.S. piti "to drink," pivo "beverage").

The word is a close relative to the opposite sort of beverage - a "Poison."

Poison: c.1230, "a deadly potion," from O.Fr. puison (12c.) "a drink," later "a potion, poisonous drink" (14c.), from L. potionem (nom. potio) "a drink," also "poisonous drink," from potare "to drink"

Professor Snape tells the students poetically just what they are to learn in the study of Potions, which he obviously finds highly appealing:

"You are here to learn the subtle science and exact art
of potionmaking," he began. He spoke in barely more than a whisper,
but they caught every word -- like Professor McGonagall, Snape had
the gift of keeping a class silent without effort.
"As there is little foolish wand-waving here, many of you will
hardly believe this is magic. I don't expect you will really understand
the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes,
the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins,
bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses....
I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death
-- if you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads
as I usually have to teach."
SS/PS, "The Potions Master"

Since human beings or "Muggles" have also been brewing potions over the centuries, someone once asked J. K. Rowling if someone really needed to be magical in order to make Potions. She answered:

Quote:Can muggles brew potions if they follow the exact instructions and they have all of the ingredients?

J.K. Rowling: Well, I'd have to say no, because there is always... there are magical component in the potion, not just the ingredients. So, at some point they will have to use a wand. I've been asked what would happen if a Muggle picked up a magic wand in my world, and the answer would probably be something accidental... possibly quite violent. Because wands, in my world, is merely a vehicle, a vessel for what lies inside the person. There is a very close relationship -- as you know -- between the wand that each wizard uses and themselves. In fact, we'll find out more about that in book 7 (crowd applauds). For a muggle you need the ability, in other words, to make these things work properly but you're right and I think that's an interesting point. Potions seems, on the face of it, to be the most Muggle-friendly subject. But there does come a point in which you need do more than stir. Thank you, good question.
Radio City Reading, 2006

1001 Magical Herbs and Fungi

The name of the text book used for First Year Potions Students is not about Potions, but plants. When Professor Snape asks Harry some pointed questions about the plants Aconite, Monkshood, Wolfsbane (which are all the same plant), as well as Asphodel, and Wormwood, Harry wonders: "Did Snape expect him to remember everything in One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi?"

The connection between the study of herbs and the making of potions goes back to the ancient world.

The earliest known book about healing plants was written by Theophrastus, a contemporary and friend of Aristotle in Ancient Greece. Written around 350 B.C., his book was called "Enquiry into Plants." Later, another Greek writer, Dioscorides, wrote a five volume, illustrated herbal called "Materia Medica." Some of the knowledge he compiled may have come from the great Egyptian Library at Alexandria, which later burned down, so he saved it for future generations. Copies of the Materia Medica were highly prized throughout Europe, and became a standard reference for healers.

The book which J. K. Rowling used to come up with many of Snape's assignments is called "Culpeper's Herbal," and she showed her copy to interviewer Leslie Stahl on the television show "Sixty Minutes" one time:

Quote:LS: And what's this? You brought another book I haven't seen.

JKR: Oh yeah, this is so useful for me because I'm not a gardener at all. And my knowledge of plants is not great. I used to collect names of plants that sounded witchy, and then I found this. "Culpeper's Complete Herbal", and it was the answer to my every prayer. flax-weed, toad-flax, flea-wort, gout-wort, gromel, knotgrass, mugwort... just everything you could possibly... you know, so when I'm potioning, I get lost in this for an hour. And the great thing is it actually does tells you what they used to believe it did, so you can really use the right things in the potions you were making up. So that was a very handy book to find.
Sixty Minutes Interview, 2002

In the HBP, Harry finds Snape's old Potions Book and, like JKR and her Culpeper, he becomes "lost in it" by the hour, impressed by the imagination of the writer, whom we come to learn was a teenage Severus Snape. Potions also becomes a way to connect to Harry's dead mother, who was a favorite student of Potions Professor, Horace Slughorn. Again, though Potions is not Harry's favorite subject, he learns to enjoy it, and the connection to Lily is totally positive.

The plant ingredients in the books are the following:

Abyssinian shrivelfig
Asphodel root
Bubotuber pus
Daisy roots
Flux weed
Gilly weed
Ginger roots
Soporforous Bean

In a Pickle

In Book One, Harry also notices: "pickled animals floating in glass jars all around the walls." Why does Snape have those in his dungeon? They seem to disturb Harry, perhaps because he compares these dead creatures to the living animals cared for by Hagrid or studied by Professor Lupin.

However, there is quite a good reason for those jars full of animal parts - the study of zootherapy, or healing with animal parts.

Harry is told by the centaur, Firenze, in Book One, that unicorn blood will keep someone alive when they are close to death. On Dumbledore's chocolate frog card, it says that he and Alchemist Nicholas Flamel are famous for discovering the twelve uses of Dragon Blood. Horace Slughorn, another Potions Master, is seen collecting giant spider venom and unicorn hairs in HBP. To heal his cut and bleeding hand in OotP, Harry uses "Essence of Murtlap" collected from a type of sea-rat. We are told in "Fantastic Beasts" that the Murtlap

"has a type of growth upon its back resembling a sea anemone. When pickled and eaten, these Murtlap growths promote resistance to curses and jinxes, though an overdose may cause unsightly purple ear hair." (pg. 30)

Notice that the Murtlap must be "pickled" in order to be useful. This is probably why Snape has Harry and Ron pickle some rat brains for detention, and why Neville has to disembowel toads another time. Of course, there is also the symbolism of Peter the Rat, and Umbridge the Toadish Headmistress to lend humor to those episodes. Though distasteful and intended to shock the reader, the cutting up of these animals is no more disturbing than the dissection that goes on in any high school biology class.

Studies of the ancient world have shown that ancient people often used zootherapy as a form of healing, and that continues today in many parts of the world, such as the Orient and South America. In one study of the ancient Near East during the Middle Ages, researchers discovered that many animal products were used in healing:
Intensive research into the phenomenon of zootherapy in the medieval and early Ottoman Levant has yielded forty-eight substances of animal origin that were used medicinally. The vast majority of these substances were local and relatively easy to obtain. Most of the substances were domestic (honey, wax, silkworm, etc.), others were part of the local wildlife (adder, cuttle fish, flycatcher, firefly, frog, triton, scorpion, etc.), part of the usual medieval household (milk, egg, cheese, lamb, etc.), or parasites (louse, mouse, stinkbug, etc.). Fewer substances were not local but exotic, and therefore rare and expensive (beaver testicles, musk oil, coral, ambergris, etc.).
Healing with Animals

The most famous "animal" part used in the HP books is, of course, the "Bezoar," which Snape defines in Book One as "a stone found in the stomach of a goat . . . (which) will save you from most poisons." Harry sees the term again in Snape's childhood book, in which he has condensed a complicated antidote down to one sentence: "Just shove a bezoar down their throats." Using that advice, Harry is able to save Ron Weasley's life after he drinks poison.

The animal ingredients for Potions Class are:

Armadillo bile
Ashwinder eggs
Bicorn horns
Black beetle eyes
Boomslang skin
Doxy eggs
Dragon hide
Dragon blood
Dragon heart
Dragon liver
Dragon horn
Erumpent fluid
Frog brain
Horned toad
Horned slugs
Jobberknoll feathers
Lacewing Flies
Lionfish spine


In Book One we are told that Lord Voldemort is seeking the "Philosopher's Stone" which belongs to Nicholas Flamel, and which has kept Flamel and his wife alive for centuries. In fact, JKR has written her own mini-history of Alchemy in Book One, Chapter 13:

Quote:The Ancient Study of Alchemy is concerned with making the Philosopher's Stone, a legendary substance with astonishing powers. The stone will transform any metal into pure gold. It also produces the Elixer of Life, which will make the drinker immortal.

There have been many reports of the Philosopher's Stone over the centuries, but the only stone currently in existence belongs to Mr. Nicholas Flamel, the noted chemist and opera lover. Mr. Flamel who celebrated his 665th birthday last year, enjoys a quiet life in Devon with his wife, Perenelle (658).

Alchemy is all about "transubstantiation of metals" and the mixing of various elements to create gold, or to create the Philosopher's Stone. I won't go into all the various details of Alchemy; it is sufficient to say that Snape does not seem to teach Alchemy during Potions Class most of the time. However, in some instances, minerals are mixed into the Potions, such as the Moonstone in the Draught of Peace (OotP).

In another way, though, Snape is the "heir" of the Alchemists because he knows the process of "distillation," which was invented and refined by the experiments of Alchemists over centuries. When Snape speaks of "brewing fame" and "bottling glory," he is using the mystical language of the Philosophers. In order to perform the experiments necessary to create the stone, the Alchemists invented vessels for holding liquids, and letting things "ripen" or "distill," just as Snape lets the Veritaserum ripen from one full moon to the next in OotP.

Nettles, Nettesheim, and Nettleship

Before Flamel comes up in Book One, another famous Alchemist is mentioned on Ron's chocolate frog card: Henry Cornelious Agrippa Von Nettesheim, or as he is called on the card - Agrippa. He was a teacher and doctor in the Middle Ages, was considered a wizard in his day. His last name is also interesting, meaning something to do with "nettles" in German.

At the end of Book One, Harry and Hermione encounter a logic puzzle that protects the Philosopher's Stone with a series of Potion Bottles, two of which contain "Nettle Wine." Nettle is a common weed which is quite medicinal in value, but there is another reason for that word. It is reminiscent of the birthplace of Alchemist Agrippa, and in turn the name "Nettesheim" is reminiscent of "Nettleship," which was the name of JKR's chemistry teacher at her school in Chepstow.

Nettleship is supposedly one inspiration for the character of Snape, though there are other teachers JKR has mentioned who also added dimensions to the character. Ann Rowling, JKR's beloved mother, was an assistant lab worker under Mr. Nettleship:

Quote:After 12 years bringing up her daughters, Anne Rowling secured the position of lab technician at Wyedean Comprehensive under the supervision of John Nettleship, the school’s head of science. Nettleship remembers Joanne, whom he taught, as a bright but quiet girl and considers himself an early inspiration for Professor Snape.

"I think chemistry maybe made the most impact on her because I did teach her about the philosopher’s stone, the alchemist’s stone. Possibly she knew about it already, but I did include it in my lessons and explained how it turned things to gold." He then chuckles before adding: "It seems to have worked for her, hasn’t it."

Although bright, she was not the most enthusiastic student, as Nettleship, who is now retired, recalls: "Her attitude in the science lessons was more like Harry’s in the potions class rather than Hermione’s."

Anne Rowling, meanwhile, was delighted to be around the beakers and chemicals and working once again after such a long absence. "She was absolutely brilliant, a sparkling character, totally reliable, very interested in words and stories and things like that. Although her job was on the technical side, she was also very imaginative," says Nettleship.
JKR Story

JKR did indeed learn more about Alchemy after leaving Mr. Nettleship's class behind, and she has mentioned the influence of the Alchemists on society more than once:

Quote:JKR: "I've never wanted to be a witch, but an Alchemist, now that's a different matter. To invent this wizard world, I've learned a ridiculous amount about alchemy. Perhaps much of it I'll never use in the books, but I have to know in detail what magic can and cannot do in order to set the parameters and establish the stories' internal logic."
Interview, 1998

JKR also spoke of the contribution of the Alchemists to science: Where did the ideas for the wizard classes and magic spells come from?

Rowling: I decided on the school subjects very early on. Most of the spells are invented, but some of them have a basis in what people used to believe worked. We owe a lot of our scientific knowledge to the alchemists! Interview, 1999

So Professor Snape, with his Nettle Wine connection to Nettesheim and Nettleship, and his dungeon chemistry lab, is firmly in the tradition of the Alchemists, and perhaps that is one reason he earned the trust of Albus Dumbledore.


One last Alchemist must be mentioned, because he was a bit different than the rest, and was more concerned with the medicinal value of Alchemy. Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim, was born in Switzerland in 1541. A physician, he went travelling all over Europe to learn all he could in order to help mankind with his knowledge. Like Snape he was an angry sort of man, difficult on his own students, and often at odds with other learned men of his day. He made discoveries about healing, believing it was better to allow a wound to heal on it's own, and uncovering the medical properties of the mineral Zinc.

Most of all, Paracelsus wanted to "go beyond Agrippa and Flamel" and said:

Quote:"Many have said of Alchemy, that it is for the making of gold and silver. For me such is not the aim, but to consider only what virtue and power may lie in medicines."
Paracelsus on Crystalinks

In that respect, Severus Snape is firmly in the tradition of Paracelsus.

JKR gives us a clue about Snape as a parallel to Paracelsus. In OotP, Peeves the Poltergeist is about to drop a bust of Paracelsus on someone, but Nearly Headless Nicc warns Harry to avoid the knock on the head. I believe that is JKR's own clue to the reader that something medicinal or Alchemical is coming, and sure enough, we find it in Book 6, when Harry creates "Cupboard Man."

Cupboard Man

When Harry wants to hide his precious HBP Potions Book from Severus Snape, who ironically wrote the book Harry prizes, the boy enters the Room of Requirement, and puts the book in a cupboard beneath what is perhaps the same bust of an "ugly wizard" (that fits Paracelsus). He then places a tiara on the wizard's head. That is symbolic of the "Prince" in the book - Severus Snape. Harry "builds" this cupboard man as a way to remember where he put the book, but it also shows that Harry does not quite understand Snape as well as he thinks, and something is missing. Inside the cupboard is a five-legged spider skeleton inside a cage, believed to be the creature known as a "Quintaped" from JKR's Fantastic Beasts.

The dead Quintaped is almost like a dead heart inside someone's ribs, which are "inside" the cupboard man. Harry sees Snape as an "ugly wizard" who wears an old crown (born in the Prince family), and though the valuable knowledge of the HBP Potions Book is inside, the heart is dead and something is lacking. But is that a true appraisal of Snape?

Five in Alchemy is the number called "Quintessence," and is associated with that "extra" knowledge someone needs in order to find the Philosopher's Stone. In HBP, Harry has to read a book called "Quintessence: A Quest" for Charms Class, which is possibly foreshadowing for what will happen in Book Seven. Therefore, I believe the "dead" creature symbolizes the lack of Quintessence in Harry's vision, and not something lacking in Snape's life. What Harry needs is to discover more than he knows at present in order to understand the real man, and basically find the "Stone" or the "internal truth" of Professor Snape.

Prince of Spagyric Medicine

Paracelsus wrote in his "Tincture of the Philosophers" that:
‘Solve et Coagula, et habebis magisterium’

"Dissolve and recombine and you have the magistery."

What he is talking about there is "Spagyric" Alchemy or Herbal Alchemy. Paracelsus coined the term "Spagyric" from two Greek words: "spaein" (to divide) and "agarein" (to unite). The "Magistry" refers to "Mastering" the art of mixing remedies by separating them and then recombining them in new mixtures, or "tinctures." Perhaps this is the source of the name "Potions Master" instead of merely calling Snape a Potions Professor. When he teaches DADA, he does not become "DADA Master," for instance, so JKR must mean something more.

Snape is also the self-proclaimed "Half-Blood Prince." His mother's maiden name was Prince, and his father was a Muggle named Snape. He is a mixture himself. The "title" of "Prince" was also used by Paracelsus, who is referring to his own mastery of Medicine and Alchemy. I believe Snape's "title" has alot more to do with Paracelsus, and alot less to do with being similar to "Lord" Voldemort, as Harry seems to believe, or "Prince" Machiavelli, as other writers have concluded.

In his "Book Concerning the Tincture of the Philosophers," Paracelsus refers to himself with the following "titles":
Philosopher of the Monarchia,
Prince of Spagyrists,
Chief Astronomer,
Surpassing Physician, and
Trismegistus of Mechanical Arcana.

Later in the same book, he calls himself:

Theophrastus Paracelsus,
Prince of Philosophy and of Medicine

Clearly, Paracelsus felt he possessed the "truth" about the way medicine should be mixed, and that other doctors of his time were somehow wayward and possibly quacks. We see that same self-confidence in Teen-Age Snape, as he had the audacity to "rewrite" his Potions book, improving upon the recipes, adding creative ingredients of his own, and simplying complicated ingredients. Just as Paracelsus had the courage and conviction to throw out the ideas of his contemporaries, Snape rejected the book still used by his own Head of House, Horace Slughorn, and developed his own potion formulas, which he then taught at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Actually, Spagyric Herbalism goes back into ancient history, with Helen of Troy mentioned in Homer's Iliad, mixing "Nepenthe" or Opium with wine, to ease suffering. Other herbalists wrote of the practice, such as the Greeks Discoriodes and Galen, who used wine and vinegar respectively when mixing remedies.

Volumes could be written about the influence of Paracelsus on the doctors of his time, who probably either loved his philosophy or hated him. However, he was a force to be reckoned with, and his teachings were based on the simplicity of nature:
Man is his own doctor and finds proper healing herbs in his own garden: the physician is in ourselves, in our own nature are all things that we need: and speaking of wounds, with singular prescience he says that the treatment should be defensive so that no contingency from without could hinder Nature in her work (Stoddart, p. 213).

Paracelsus expresses the healing powers of nature by the word "mumia," which he regarded as a sort of magnetic influence or force, and he believed that anyone possessing this could arrest or heal disease in others. As the lily breaks forth in invisible perfume, so healing influences may pass from an invisible body.
Evolution of Modern Medicine

Snape the Apothecary

In the books and movies, Snape has a large cabinet/closet full of potions ingredients, both plant and animal. In the movie, the walls of Snape's dungeon are lined with large labeled jars similar to those in an old English apothecary shop.

Apothecary: 1366, "shopkeeper," from O.Fr. apotecaire (13c.), from L.L. apothecarius "storekeeper," from L. apotheca "storehouse," from Gk. apotheke "storehouse," lit. "a place where things are put away," from apo- "away" ... Cognate compounds produced Skt. apadha- "concealment," O.Pers. apadana- "palace." Drugs and herbs being among the chief items of non-perishable goods, the meaning narrowed 17c. to "druggist" (Apothecaries' Company of London separated from the Grocers' in 1617).

Today we call an apothecary a "Pharmacist."

Pharmacy c.1386, "a medicine," from O.Fr. farmacie, from M.L. pharmacia, from Gk. pharmakeia "use of drugs or medicines," from pharmakeus "preparer of drugs," from pharmakon "drug, poison, philter, charm, spell, enchantment." Meaning "use or administration of drugs" is attested from c.1400; that of "place where drugs are prepared and dispensed" is first recorded 1833. Pharmacist coined in Eng. 1834.

There is an Apothecary Shop in Diagon Alley, and described in Book One, Chapter Five:

Quote:"Hagrid wouldn't let Harry buy a solid gold cauldron, either ("It says pewter on yer list"), but they got a nice set of scales for weighing potion ingredients and a collapsible brass telescope. Then they visited the Apothecary, which was fascinating enough to make up for its horrible smell, a mixture of bad eggs and rotted cabbages. Barrels of slimy stuff stood on the floor; jars of herbs, dried roots, and bright powders lined the walls; bundles of feathers, strings of fangs, and snarled claws hung from the ceiling. While Hagrid asked the man behind the counter for a supply of some basic potion ingredients for Harry, Harry himself examined silver unicorn horns at twenty-one Galleons each and minuscule, glittery-black beetle eyes (five Knuts a scoop).

Note the "barrels of slimy stuff" which are similar to the "slimy things in jars" lining the walls of Snape's dungeon. Beetle Eyes or Parts are another ingredient used in Snape's potions class. It's clear that Snape has his own miniature apothecary shop on the premises of Hogwarts.

Snape is a particular type of Pharmacist, who pickles his plant and animal ingredients into liquid mixtures. Therefore, he is practicing one of the oldest types of medicinal preparation known as "Pharmacognosy,"

Quote:It was not until 1815 that the term Pharmacognosy was introduced by Seydler. This name is formed from two Greek words, pharmakon, drug, and gnosis, knowledge, and literally means the "entire knowledge of drugs." The most comprehensive idea of the scope of pharmacognosy was presented by Fluckiger, who stated that it "is the simultaneous application of various scientific disciplines with the object of acquiring knowledge of drugs from every point of view."
Drugstore Museum

Considering that Severus Snape is well-known for his noticeable hook-nose, then having a descriptive word with "nosy" as the ending, and a word which describes precisely what Snape does on a daily basis, is probably no coincidence, and is actually quite humorous. We can only guess if JKR had that word in mind, but knowing her research methods, I would suspect she has come across it.

Paramedic Emergencies

The term "Paramedic Snape" was coined sometime back in 2005 on Chamber of Secrets Forum, Development of Snape's Character Through HBP, v. 3. My friend, Subtle Science, used it to describe Snape's healing of Dumbledore's wounded hand after he was injured by the horcrux ring. The thinking behind that label creates a very persuasive argument for Snape being one of the good guys.

Snape has been seen to act in a humane way beyond the call of duty in more than instance, whether he is preparing the Wolfsbane Potion for Professor Lupin, sending children to the hospital wing due to a Potions accident, or summoning stretchers for the the Trio and Sirius Black, who were attacked by Dementors in PoA. Of course, I've already mentioned the Mandrake Draught in Book 2, and I am curious about the bottle of Skelegrow, a substance given to Harry by Madame Pomfrey to restore his boneless arm. Was that another reason Snape was angry with Lockhart in Book 2, because of Harry's unnecessary injury that required painful bone regrowth? Did Snape make the Skelegrow for Harry?

There is also the Polyjuice accident in Book 2, in which Hermione Granger accidentally turns into a cat-woman, after drinking the potion with a cat hair in it. Though Hermione not Snape's favorite student, he says nothing sarcastic about her condition, and passes her empty chair silently. Is Snape being suddenly sensitive to Harry's feelings? Or is he holding to medical ethics and not discussing a patient?

Hermione must also take "10 kinds of potions" due to injuries in OotP, and we can safely say that Snape probably made those for her after diagnosing the curse used by Dolohov at the DoM.

Snape is a Dark Arts expert, and that seems a rather morbid and forbidding line of study. Yet in HBP, we learn that someone with such knowledge may have the power to reverse or heal an attack by a dark object.

Snape is able, through some sort of "fast action" to save the life of Albus Dumbledore, when he is dying from the curse on the ring horcrux. If Snape had not acted, Dumbledore says he "would not be here to tale the tell."

Snape also heals Draco Malfoy, after Harry confronts him in the bathroom and makes him bleed with the Sectumsempra curse. There on the wet and bloody floor:

Quote:"He knelt over Malfoy, drew his wand, and traced it over the deep wounds Harry's curse had made, muttering an incantation that sounded almost like song."
(HBP, Sectumsempra)

The mention of the "song" is a parallel with the healing of the Phoenix, the pet and Patronus of Albus Dumbledore, and the creature who saves Ginny and Harry in CoS as they lie dying on the wet floor of the Chamber. The song of the Phoenix always gives Harry hope in the books, and the bird has healing tears that can cure almost anything. It is like an Antidote with Wings.

Yet despite Snape's willingness to help, and his Phoenix-like "song," some readers view Snape's paramedic ability as totally self-serving on Snape's part. By this theory, Snape only saves Harry from the Dementors in PoA because Voldemort has not returned yet, and Harry is Dumbledore's favorite pupil. While that is the reason Snape gives Bellatrix in HBP, "Spinner's End," there is much more to it than that. For instance, in PoA, Snape puts the injured Ron on a stretcher first, because he has the worst injury, a broken leg. And while no one in the Ministry would have blamed Snape for leaving Sirius Black behind for the Dementors, Snape does the humanitarian act of putting him on a stretcher also, and taking him back to the castle. That is in sharp contrast to the way Sirius treats Snape in the Shrieking Shack tunnel, when the injured Snape is floated like a balloon with his head banging against the rocky ceiling.

In HBP, some readers believe that Snape is only keeping Dumbledore alive until Draco can find a way to kill him. And Snape must keep Draco alive and safe, due to the Unbreakable Vow he made to Narcissa Malfoy. Therefore, Snape has ulterior motives, and is just biding his time while watching the weakened Dumbledore fade away.

However, again that is not the whole story - there is Katie Bell.

Snape is able to reverse the horrible effects of the cursed opal necklace which Katie Bell touched by accident, and which pulled her up into the air screaming. Since Harry saw the attack on the girl, and was disturbed by it, he asks Dumbledore why Snape should be given the task of healing her? Dumbledore reassures Harry that "Professor" Snape's knowledge of the Dark Arts means he has enough skill to help the girl. And indeed, Katie Bell does later return to school, well enough to play Quidditch again.

This seeming "medical miracle" does not impress Harry, who by then is more worried about the bad feelings of the other Quidditch players who have to make way for Katie to be back on the team. Snape gets no credit from "The Chosen One." There is no fanfare, no glory, no medal of honor, no trophy, no gloating on his part, and certainly no applause from certain readers who hate his character, but nevertheless, Snape healed Katie Bell merely because she need his help, just as any healer would do in the history of the world.

There is a cynical view that Snape saved Katie so the necklace would not be traced back to Draco. Yet there is no hint of that in the books. At the end of HBP, Dumbledore tells Draco he has done no lasting harm to anyone, which lets him off the hook for the poisoning of Ron and the near-death of Katie. Snape's medical knowledge helped save both of them: Ron is saved because Snape taught Harry the lesson about the bezoar twice, in the first potions class and through the HBP Potions Book. And Katie Bell is saved because Snape knew how to reverse an evil curse with his knowledge of the Dark Arts and Antidotes.

The medical qualities of Severus Snape are so much an integral part of the books that it is difficult to believe such an intelligent and worthy character could be thrown away as a mere villain. He is the only "successor" in the books to Alchemists such as Flamel and Paracelsus, and the only teacher at Hogwarts with anything resembling an Alchemy Laboratory. JKR has basically told us how she feels about the Alchemists and Herbal Medicine - she is a self-taught student of those disciplines herself. Her husband is a doctor, and her revered mother worked in the Chemistry Lab of John Nettleship. All of those facts tell us that JKR might think twice before writing off a complex character with the medical background of Healer Severus Snape.

We would perhaps do well to think of Golpalott's Third Law, as put forth in the HBP:

Golpalott's Third Law of Antidotes: The antidote for a blended poison equals more than the sum of the antidotes for each separate component.
Book 6, Chapter 18.

At the end of HBP, Harry's view of Snape has become completely poisoned. He believes Snape is the murderer of Dumbledore, and blames him for the death of his godfather, Sirius Black. What he has forgotten is that Snape also saved Sirius from the Dementors, and Dumbledore from the ring horcrux. There is also the contradiction that Harry seems to love the HBP Potions Book, and the "creative boy" who wrote it, yet he loathes Snape nearly as much as he hates Voldemort. In order to overcome all those poisonous ideas, Harry needs "something more" than the sum of his knowledge about Snape. I believe the evidence of "Healer" Snape is overwhelming, and that somehow, like the Phoenix, that spirit will heal the rift between Snape and Harry in Deathly Hallows.


Agrippa Writings

Apothecary History

Dioscorides: Materia Medica

Etymology Online Dictionary

Healing with Animals



Potions and Ingredients from the HP Books

Potions List - Mugglenet

Potions Encyclopedia - HP Lexicon

Spagyric Medicine
(This post was last modified: 06-12-2012 10:02 AM by Silver Ink Pot.)
05-11-2012 09:32 PM
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