Aconite and Belladonna

Okay, so I’m rereading all the Harry Potter books in preparation for Deathly Hallows. Finished Sorcerer’s Stone the other night. I was paying close attention to Snape in this one, for obvious reasons. I paid special attention to the first time Harry sees Snape: Harry notices a greasy-haired man at the head table looking at him with loathing and right then Harry feels his scar burn, for the first time. But Snape is talking to Quirrel, who has Voldemort in the back of his head. But I thought it was interesting. Was it Snape who made the scar burn, or Voldie? She raises the question right off the bat: is Snape good or evil.

Then in the first potions class, Snape asks Harry a series of three questions, which Harry naturally can’t answer, it being the first day (though of course Hermione can). First, what would you get if you combined asphodel and wormwood? Answer: “a sleeping potion so powerful it is known as the Draught of the Living Death.” Second: Where would you look for a bezoar? Answer: “from the stomach of a goat and it will save you from most poisons.” Third: What is the difference between monkshood and wolfsbane? Answer: “They are the same plant, which also goes by the name of aconite.”

I think we will see all three of these. Of course, we have already seen the bezoar, in Half-Blood Prince, where Harry uses a bezoar to save … is it Ron? Or Slughorn? Anyway, it has appeared. The Draft of the Living Death seems especially promising for plot purposes. And after googling “aconite” I wonder if that’s what was in the water Dumbledore drank to get the Horcrux.

From “It was said to be the invention of Hecate from the foam of Cerberus, and it was a species of Aconite that entered into the poison which the old men of the island of Ceos were condemned to drink when they became infirm and no longer of use to the State. Aconite is also supposed to have been the poison that formed the cup which Medea prepared for Theseus. (Note—Aconite and Belladonna were said to be the ingredients in the witches’ ‘Flying ointments.’ Aconite causes irregular action of the heart, and Belladonna produces delirium. These combined symptoms might give a sensation of ‘flying.’—EDITOR)

Love the references to Belladonna.

Continuing my list of the books I’ve read so far in 2007:

1. The Sea, John Banville (exquisite book, reminds me of what high-flown literary fiction is like, since I’ve read so little in the past few years. Extraordinary eye for detail, tight first person narrative focus, a bit heavy on the navel-gazing and middle-aged male Irish angst.)
2. Looking for Alaska, John Green (good, but I never really got Alaska, never saw her. Not like I got/saw Holden Caulfield.)
3. I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith (as good as JK Rowling promised)
4. The Night Journal, Elizabeth Crook
5. The Ice Queen, Alice Hoffman
6. Blood and Chocolate, Annette Curtis Klause
7. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman
8. The End, Lemony Snickett

Now reading The Fugitive Wife, by Peter C. Brown. Wonderfully compelling narrative of a Midwestern wife who runs away from her hard-ass husband and ends up in Alaska during the Gold Rush. But wow, some of the things he does my crit partners–Lynne, Kate and Jen—would never let me get away with, like POV shifts from paragraph to paragraph. This is not the seamless flow of Bel Canto, mind you. It’s just sloppy and pops me out of the story.

Also and forever, The Golden Bough, now on p. 269, still on taboos. This section is on abstaining from women, putting them outside the community during menses, sex weakening warriors and hunters, etc.

4 thoughts on “Aconite and Belladonna

  1. Hm. Interesting. I think it was Quirrel who made the scar burn and Snape was a red herring, as most of that first book was deceivingly written to make you think it was a simple we-have-to-convince-the-adults-that-this-nasty-guy-is-the-villain tale.But I’m pretty firmly in the Snape-is-evil camp. I think he lurrrvvess Narcissa and got himself stuck because of that, and that it’s that simple. But I love the lengths peeps will go to to find ways he could be good. 🙂I’m going to start re-reading some time in April, I think.


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