Saturday, September 14, 2013

Potions, Lies, and Mysteries: The Harry Potter Project - CoS 8-9

Like Harry, we are moving more quickly than expected into autumn. The early mornings are cold, and I feel for him up on his broom as I feed the pigs and watch the sun rise through my own steaming breath. 

I've put off my own 'pepperup potion' for too long, and so photos will have to wait til next week, when the bottled brew is ready to be seen and sipped (slowly, please, or you might end up looking like Ginny for the next quarter-hour). But the season is right for it, and I'm looking forward to having some on hand!

Rowling does come up with some excellent potions. Adorable names and amusing extras alongside - I can appreciate why Snape would lean towards the subtlety and the never-ending options for improvement that come with recipe-magic.  I think about him often now, as Autumn is the season for infusions, potions, essences, and tinctures. I'm especially interested in Madam Z. Nettles' Scintillation Solution - some suggest it's a brain tonic, making poor Madam Nettles a witty conversationalist, but I like to think it makes her 'bright' in another sense - a spell for brilliant, glittering skin perhaps. And I want it for my own. 

 When Harry finds the Kwikspell Course (I hope it's advertised as The Kwikspell Kourse and sold for five payments of $19.99 - with a 'kwik' response getting you an additional 'spell-boosting wand extender' and three extra-potent toadstools) on Filch's desk, we see more of the habitual lying the students of Hogwarts are noteworthy for (in my reading anyway). Harry lies to Filch, Hermione to Myrtle at the dullest party imaginable, Harry lies to Sir Patrick Delaney-Podmore's ghost at Nearly Headless Nick's request, and of course Nick himself is awash in socially-acceptable party lies. After Mrs. Norris is found, Harry, Ron, and Hermione attempt to lie their way out of any connection with the petrifying, and all of this is very casual, expected behavior. It's a small thing, I know, but one that grates on me while reading. Perhaps because I'm learning just how much I do value honesty; or perhaps because most of the lies are so careless.

The Death-day party itself is not terribly interesting. Rowling's ghosts are better left in the background, I think. But rumors that some Catholic critics of the series have linked the Death-day party to a Black Mass are still unsubstantiated. If anyone finds such a link, please pass it on. I can't find any real connection in the books or online....yet. 

Christie's recent post delves into the use of blood-slurs in the wizarding world - fascinating and thought-provoking - as well as touching on the mention (in last week's discussion) of those who disapprove of the Mandrake image in this book. I looked it up and discovered (to my surprise) that there are not a few who link the Mandrakes ugly-baby look in earlier chapters and eventual use in a Restorative potion (Lockhart calls it a Mandrake Restorative Draught, but we can't really trust him to know the proper name of anything but quality hair care and Odgen's Old Firewhisky) to a subtle pro-abortion agenda by the author. This is, I think, more than unfair to Rowling, who has her faults, but can generally be counted on to avoid the overly-subtle agenda. Mandrakes are in fact known for their human appearance, and for their cry, which kills. And Rowling's shown us  many times that her main skill as an author is in creating the cartoon - sometimes with a way-too-pushy agenda, but never with a so-light-you-can't-quite-taste-it message. So lets not pretend we believe she's delighting in cutting up 'living human babies' or encouraging the reader towards abortion in anyway through her use of Mandrakes, which are - after all, primarily used in fertility and life-promoting ways throughout magical tradition. 

But the mysteries in the book are deepening..and the Chamber of Secrets is such a grand, gothic sort of name for the hidden place of evil within a castle of magic. Unashamedly gothic. I love it.


  1. I think you would've been Snape's second favorite student ever!!! Second only because SPOILER. ;)

    all of this is very casual, expected behavior. It's a small thing, I know, but one that grates on me while reading

    It's true; everyone lies pretty constantly and easily. Teachers as well as students. It was more unnerving to me at first. I don't even tell a half-truth easily. After a million reads, though, I don't notice as much. Which is probably a bad thing. :P

    OK, did a little Googling, and it sounds like the Black Mass thing is in O'Brien's book Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture. According to this reviewer, he's actually quoting another author, apparently with the purpose of agreeing.

    Your last two paragraphs are fantastic. Can't wait for the Pepperup potion recipe and pictures!!

    1. Yay! Snape likes me BEST :p

      The lying works opposite on me, the more I read and reread, the more I notice and fret. But I lie easily, and I have to work hard for honesty, so maybe that has something to do with the difference ;)

      I want that book now! Especially the Paganization of Culture part..and Pepperup is in Process Today!!!! :)

  2. Oh! Are those 'mums?

    Now that I'm going to be professionally surrounded by toddlers five days out of the week, I can't get my hands on a pepperup potion soon enough!

    The lies make me uncomfortable, too. Lying, like all sin, is something that gets easier the more it's done, and our trio aren't off to a good start. (The Live Action controversy and the arguments between the "Lying Apologists" backed by Kreeft and the "Pharisees" backed by Shea has been troubling me lately, mostly because I don't know who's right. (I hate not knowing the right answer, if you didn't notice, haha!!)) It's all in keeping with secular societal norms, though. Reminds me of Anna's post about The Hunger Games ( I feel similarly about Harry and Co. (And she quotes from Harry Potter, too!)

    I haven't got to that part in chapter nine yet (will see to it after this comment!), but for the Mandrakes, Rowling is using a well-established folklore/myth. It's not like she's inventing the imagery of the baby. It was already there. And sometimes in herbal lore, what the plant or flower looks like is what made people associate it with its use. So roots that look like tiny human figures were connected to babies!

    1. no, they're..ummm..something else. something tall and spindly kind of weedy. I don't know what, but they don't match the 'mums I've got growing on my doorstep ;)

      The Live Action controversy worries me too! I don't think I'm opposed to what they did, but it bothers me that they don't seem to have wrestled with it at all, and they do willingly choose to put themselves into situations that demand a I don't have your hatred of uncertainty though ;) so I can just sort of feel hazy about it all. I'll have to check out Anna's post, I hated those books.

    2. I feel the same way about Live Action! And lying to hide Jews during WWII, and... I was raised to believe that you never told a lie for any reason, but now I think I'd do the latter... I don't think I could be convincing enough to work for the former...

      Masha, you hated the Hunger Games books, too? SOLIDARITY. I wanted to appreciate them, and I saw some value and some power in them, but... ugh. Christie, I hadn't seen that post of Anna's, so I just went and read it, and it's fantastic!!

    3. It's tansy. Beautiful yellow blossoms, second only to Sweet Annie for leaves that are God's gift to the world of smell, and can kill you if you eat it.
      -The Neglected Husband

    4. Now I want to have twin girls and name them Tansy and Annie. c: