Snape as Vitriol: The Green Lion alchemical catalyst?

by John on May 6, 2007

I promised more than a week ago to post something about the place of Severus Snape in the alchemical drama of the Harry Potter novels. I’m still very much of two minds about this; I had hoped to post something definite but I cannot do that now. I don’t think that I’ll be sure enough of what Snape does and does not represent to say “I’m sure” until I can talk to Ms. Rowling about it.

As I don’t think I’m on her A-list for tea invitations, I will jump the gun of academic prudence instead and share with you (1) the Fandom research which has brought this to my attention, (2) my enthusiasm for this work (that is very different from what I have done or have seen elsewhere), and (3) my equally strong misgivings about it.

Let’s start with Severus Snape and my frustration in trying to see him in light of the Great Work taking place in the seven book alembic.

I have been asked several times at conventions, book stores, and on campuses when talking about the alchemy of the series what part the oily Potions Master plays. It’s a natural question, especially after I’ve detailed Ron, Hermione, and Harry’s roles and the meaning of Sirius’, Albus’, and Rubeus’ names in the black-white-red spectrum of the laboratory.

I’ve never given an answer that really satisfied me, if my interlocutors usually have been polite enough not to insist I come up with something better. Talking about Severus as both Dumbledore’s apprentice and his mirror image as an alchemist, the Gryffindor/Slytherin androgyn that is “slytherin-side-out,” is fascinating, even important (if true!), but it lacks the connect-the-dots transparency of Hermione as alchemical mercury or Sirius as the embodiment of the nigredo. I am eager to read anything that suggests something more easily understood about the character of Snape in the light of alchemy.

It’s a situation not unlike Harry Potter’s name. Many, perhaps even most readers disagree with my reading of what Harry’s name means. As a rule, someone in every audience (and one in ten reviewers on Amazon) feels obliged to tell me that my interpretation is “a real stretch.” I can live with that. What I find mind-boggling, though, are those readers who believe Harry’s name means, well, nothing. In a book full of Dickensian Cryptonyms and names embedded with literary and mythical references, the lead character’s name could be something like “Kodak” or “Coca-Cola”? Catchy but meaningless? There’s a real stretch.

Snape not having an alchemical role is like that. What chance is there in a book series in which every other major figure has a specific alchemical meaning or point-to-point reference that Severus Snape, the pivotal figure of these novels, doesn’t have one? I find that possibility one that is hard to get my head around (and I have pretty flexible noggin).

Hence my excitement when I found this in a Scribbulus essay posted at The Leaky Cauldron:

Vitriol is another substance that we will come across in the course of our analysis. It is the most important liquid in alchemy, bar none, serving as a catalyst for all subsequent reactions. It was distilled from an oily, green substance (copper sulfate) that formed naturally from the weathering of sulfur-bearing gravel. This Green Vitriol is symbolized by the Green Lion in alchemical drawings. After it was collected, it was heated and broken down into iron compounds and sulfuric acid. The acid was then separated out by distillation. The first distillation produced a brown liquid that smelled like rotten eggs (sulfur), but further distillation yielded a nearly odorless, yellow oil called simply vitriol. The name was also used for various sulfate salts, such as copper sulfate (blue vitriol, or rarely Roman vitriol), zinc sulfate (white vitriol), iron (II) sulfate (green vitriol), iron (III) sulfate (vitriol of Mars), or cobalt sulfate (red vitriol). Vitriol readily dissolves human tissue and is severely corrosive to most metals, although it has no effect on gold. Vitriol’s importance in the novels cannot be underestimated; without it, Harry cannot move through the stages of transformation to enlightenment, even when things look irrepressibly bleak…..

In Harry Potter, these four substances are symbolized by the following characters, and these will be discussed in greater detail: Mercury=Dumbledore, Sulfur=Hagrid, Salt=Sirius and Vitriol=Snape. The other characters have their places as well. Three couples represent the union of sulfur and mercury or the Great Marriage: James and Lily; Ron and Hermione (the “quarreling couple”); and Bill and Fleur. In addition, Ginny’s full name, Ginevra, means “white foam.” As mentioned in the paragraphs on vitriol, the only thing that can fight a sulfuric acid fire is foam. (highlighted by John)

Alchemy and Harry Potter, Scribbulus 116, pgs. 11-12

Two things caught my eye here with respect to Snape as Vitriol: “[Vitriol] is the most important liquid in alchemy, bar none, serving as a catalyst for all subsequent reactions” and “this Green Vitriol is symbolized by the Green Lion in alchemical drawings.” The Green Lion I had read about but never as Vitriol or as the critical catalyst of the Great Work. I put up my post on 24 April saying I would be writing soon about Snape as “the Green Lion or Alchemical Vitriol (the catalyst of the Great Work?)” with links to sites discussing these names and started looking through my books.

I was both relieved and disappointed. The disappointment came from not finding anything about alchemical vitriol that linked it to the Green Lion or that said it was a catalyst, not to mention “the most important liquid in alchemy, bar none.” Jung makes one reference to the Green Lion in Mysterium Conjunctionis: “the same is true of the synonyms for Mercurius, the green lion and the aqua permanens, which are likewise media of conjunction” (Mysterium Conjunctionis: An Inquiry into the Separation and Synthesisof Psychic Opposites in Alchemy, C. G. Jung, Princeton University Press, p. 461) but “media of conjunction” is a long way from “catalyst” and “synonym for Mercurius” contraindicates the symbol for Vitriol.

Abraham, too, in the three pages in A Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery devoted to the Green Lion does not mention vitriol. It is defined as “raw antimony ore, the unclean matter of the Stone, philosophical mercury, the prima materia in the earliest stages of the opus alchymicum (see Mercurius)” (A Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery, Lyndy Abraham, Cambridge University Press, pg. 92).

Part of me, I confess, was relieved. How could I have missed something this important? Nothing in Burckhardt, Eliade, my four alchemical dictionaries, and the pile of picture books and histories linked the Green Lion with anything but philosophical Mercury (‘Mercurius’).

But my disappointment won out. Really, Snape is vitrolic, no? Look it up. “Very caustic or bitter, scathing.” Snape’s picture should be in the margin. And “Green Lion”? Is there a better image of Severus than this sign of Gryffindor and Slytherin’s conjunction? Only the “Red Serpent” can compete.

But the best part was “Snape as alchemical catalyst,” a substance that spurs the reactants to transformation while remaining unchanged (untouched or neutral) himself. This made such transparent, point-to-point sense I was really hoping I would be able to find something to make this link, however embarrassed I might feel about having it missed it myself.

Then, voila, the author of the Scribbulus piece, Arianhrod, appeared in the HogPro comment boxes asking me to write if I had any questions about Alchemy and Harry Potter, Scribbulus 116, pgs. 11-12. I wrote immediately, of course, and asked for (1) the source of the link between the Green Lion and vitriol and (2) the source of the assertion that vitriol was the essential catalytic fluid of alchemical transformation.

Arianhrod’s response was prompt, generous, even enthusiastic.

I will do my best to dig up that reference for you. Vitriol is a necessary catalyst in the reaction; without it, the reaction can’t take place. The alchemists believed that it was corrosive to all metals except gold, and even today high school chemistry students are taught that for the most part, a catalyst isn’t changed in the reaction. (It is, but the alchemists didn’t know that.) The term vitriol is also an acronym for “Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem Visit the interior of the earth, and by rectifying you will find the hidden stone.” This comes from Valentine’s Azoth of the Philosophers. Alternately, it is vitriolum, which is “Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem Veram Medicinam”, or “Visit the interior of the earth, and by rectifying you will find the hidden stone which is the true medicine”.

There were different types of vitriol–blue, green, white, etc. Green vitriol is not common, which might be why the alchemists put so much importance on it. Green vitriol is a heptahydrate of iron (II) sulfate or ferrous sulfate. Sorry for being so technical; I have a background in chemistry. LOL Actually, any sulfate of the metals iron, cobalt, copper, or zinc is called “vitriol”. Modern chemists recognize it as a salt, not sulfuric acid, but sulfuric acid is still called “vitriol” or “oil of vitriol”. There is a school of thought that says the alchemists mistook vitriol for verdigris, which is copper (II) acetate. In any case, sulfuric acid is the most widely used acid in commercial production today, because it reacts with everything.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say (and they’re not the most reliable source, but…):

“Vitriol was widely considered the most important alchemical substance, intended to be used as a philosopher’s stone. Highly purified vitriol was used as a medium to react substances in.”

I.e., a catalyst.

Here is another source; see page 5: http://chemicke-listy.vscht.cz/docs/full/2002_12_05.pdf. In the meantime, I will try to find the source where I found that.

If we are wrong in this, then so is every other fansite out there, because EVERYONE seems to have identified Snape as the Green Lion or vitriol.

Arianhrod and I had a more than pleasant exchange of notes and found ourselves in agreement about Fandom’s obsession with ‘shipping and the necessity of uncoupling the alchemical exegesis of the books from this psychological turf war/projection sheet. There are some problems in this response, though, and, as tempting and delightful as Snape equating to vitriol and alchemical catalyst may be and as pleasant and generous as Arianhrod is, we shouldn’t rush past the red flags these problems send up.

(1) Arianhrod has no reference for either the assertion that vitriol is the Green Lion or that it is a catalyst for the reaction.

(2) Arianhrod cites a Wikipedia article that defines vitriol as what Abraham, Jung, and others say is the Mercurius or alchemical mercury and as a medium for the alchemical reaction. A chemical medium, however, is not a catalyst any more than a petri dish spurs the life that grows in it. Wikipedia is only a measure of internet consensus not historical, logical, or literary verities.

(3) The chemistry pdf article is about vitriol in the various streams of alchemy but nowhere does it mention it as the Green Lion or as a catalyst.

(4) Arianhrod argues from consensus in Fandom sites discussing alchemy: “If we are wrong in this, then so is every other fansite out there, because EVERYONE seems to have identified Snape as the Green Lion or vitriol.” I guess I really do need to get out more. Internet consensus is meaningless unless it can be tracked to a published opinion that has been through some process of verification.

Fortunately, we don’t have to wait for Arianhrod to find the source of the vitriol portion of “Alchemy in Harry Potter.”

I found the source for the vitriol citation myself in Arianhrod’s Scribbulus essay bibliography (pg. 41). In the letter posted on HogPro’s comment board, Arianhrod had written:

We have literally read hundreds of texts and books on this subject. Hundreds. Applying them to the stories is challenging, but you can’t make a square peg fit a round hole no matter how much you try. You have to constantly re-evaluate your theory as new information comes along, not cling to it. New ideas and fresh perspectives come with change…

I went, naturally, back to the Alchemy and Harry Potter essay to look at the bibliography and “works cited” and compare it to my preferred sources. It certainly is an impressive list, if nowhere near the hundreds of texts Arianhrod has read. I found it frustrating, though, because those ideas in the essay I found most interesting were always the ones without references.

I noted one trend in the “works cited” section. Of the 37 references in this section, 9 of the references are to the same source. As this constitutes almost a fourth of Arianhrod’s notes, I assumed the authority must be Adam MacLean or another alchemy maven who had digested “hundreds if not thousands” of books and published on the subject. When Mr. MacLean weighs in on alchemy in Harry Potter, I hope to be in the audience and in a front row.

But, no, Arianhrod’s authority is not Adam MacLean. It’s Dr. Laura De Giorgio, professional Hypnotist and New Age goddess. You can read about her gifts at her website, Deep Trance Now. Her alchemical musings and illustrations, especially those about the seven stages of transformation detailed in Arianhrod’s essay can be found on the Alchemy pages of this site. You can even purchase a course there on how to have your very own alchemical experience courtesy of hypnosis.

What were Dr. Laura’s sources for her alchemical insights? I confess to dreading that it was something she channelled a la Sister Claire Prophet and Saint Germain. At the bottom of her alchemy pages, though, she made this broad citation:

From the Book “The Emerald Tablet”
The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy for Personal Transformation
by Dennis William Hauck

I went back to the Scribbulus essay bibliography and found Dennis Hauck. His do-it-yourself New Age guides to alchemical experiences can be found on Amazon but Arianhrod listed this Hauck reference with her essay: Hauck, D.W. The Chemical Arcana. 2005. The Alchemy Lab. 11 March 2006. http://www.alchemylab.com/arcana.htm.

If you follow that url, you’ll find this passage on alchemical vitriol:

Vitriol

The most important compound, the one in which all other reactions took place, was Vitriol. It was distilled from an oily, green substance that formed naturally from the weathering of sulfur-bearing gravel. After this Green Vitriol was collected, it was heated and broken down into iron compounds and sulfuric acid. The acid was separated out by distillation. The first distillation produced a brown liquid that stunk like rotten eggs, but further distillation yielded a nearly odorless, yellow oil called simply Vitriol. The acid readily dissolves human tissue and is severely corrosive to most metals, although it has no effect on gold. It also shows a tremendous thirst for water. If a flask of Vitriol is allowed to stand open, it absorbs water vapor from the air and overflows its container. The sulfuric acid in Vitriol is the agent of transformation in most alchemical experiments.

Sound familiar?

More striking, on the same page as this definition appears, David Hauck lists his references:

Sources

G. R. S. Mead, Thrice Greatest Hermes: Studies in Hellenistic Theosophy and Gnosis, (York Beach, Maine: Samual Weiser, 1992). 864 pages. The best translation of the Corpus Hermeticum, the surviving works of Hermes Trismegistus.

Dr. Gottlieb Latz, Die Alchemie: Die Lehre von den Grossen Geheim-Mitteln der Achemisten und die Speculationen Welche Man an Sie Knupfte, (Bonn, Germany: Selbstverlag, 1869). 600 pages. The translated title is Alchemy: The Study of the Arcanum and How One Can Achieve It.

Dr. Gottlieb Latz, Secret of the Emerald Tablet of Hermes. Translated by D. William Hauck. (Holmes Publishing Group, Box 623, Edmonds, Wash., 98020; 1993.)

Mark Haeffner, The Dictionary of Alchemy, (London, England: The Aquarian Press, a division of HarperCollins; 1991). 272 pages. This compendium is an excellent source for understanding basic alchemical concepts.

Manly P. Hall, Man: Grand Symbol of the Mysteries, (Los Angeles, California: Philosophical Research, 1972). 254 pages. Chapter 16 discusses the Egyptian fascination with the pineal gland.

Rene Guenon, The Great Triad, (Cambridge, England: Quinta Essentia, 1991). 171 pages. This discussion of the three universal principles penetrates all the great spiritual disciplines. Chapter 12 is devoted to the triad of Sulfur, Mercury, and Salt.

I have two of these books (highlighted above) and promptly went to each to see what it might have to say about vitriol, the Green Lion, and alchemical catalysts.

Haeffner’s dictionary, which Hauck says is “an excellent source for understanding basic alchemical concepts,” does not have entries for vitriol or the Green Lion. For the “agent of transformation” in the Great Work or even just an important medium, this is quite the omission.

Guenon’s The Great Triad, as with all the Sufi giant’s texts, is dense, profound, and edifying. There is nothing in chapter twelve of this book that was source material for Hauck’s statements about mercury, sulphur, and salt or that suggests what he says about these alchemical reagents and products is true. Titus Burckhardt was Guenon’s student and was more knowledgeable about alchemy (hence his several books on the subject). Why Hauck does not mention this authority escapes me, except for my suspicion that Burckhardt’s “neglect” of salt leaves a hole in Hauck’s “Paracelsan” theories and practices.

His other three sources are a 19th century charcoal burner whose work is only available in a translation self-published by Mr. Hauck, a Samuel Weiser publication, and Manly Palmer Hall, author of The Secret Teachings of all Ages. I leave it to the discerning reader to weigh their value. This note on Manly Palmer Hall and how he knew what he knew (and published as surety) is revealing:

In an obscure astrology magazine of the 1940s, a biographer of Indian Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore wrote a profile of Hall, which holds an interesting passage:

The question is constantly asked on all sides as to how Mr. Hall can know and remember so much on so many different and difficult subjects. Perhaps a direct answer to this constant question may be discovered in the following episode in the life of Mr. Hall himself: The first question Mr. Claude Bragdon, American mystic, asked Mr. Hall after their first meeting in New York in 1937 was:

“Mr. Hall, how do you know so much more about the mathematics of Pythagoras than even the authorities on the subject?”

Standing beside both these dear American friends of mine, I was wondering with trepidation in my heart what reply Mr. Hall would make.

“Mr Bragdon,” answered Mr. Hall quickly, unhesitatingly, and with a simultaneous flash of smile in his eyes and on his lips, “you are an occult philosopher. You know that it is easier to know things than to know how one knows those things.”

So where does this leave me?

I am still excited about the possibility of Snape proving to be alchemical vitriol, the Green Lion, or an alchemical catalyst. It seems to be the sort of point-to-point reference we should expect in Ms. Rowling’s alchemical drama.

I remain enthusiastic, too, about discussing literary alchemy with the Jungian scholars and the New Age “Paracelsans.” We do not know and cannot know what mix of alchemical sources Ms. Rowling read in her “ridiculous amount of alchemy” that set the magical parameters of her stories. I have to think it included pieces of the literary tradition, some traditional material, a little psychology, and even a little of the do-it-yourself kits for wanna-be alchemists (didn’t she say she wanted to be one?). There’s certainly a lot out there that I know very little about — and it may be stuff that was close to Ms. Rowling’s heart when laying out these stories.

I’m all ears. I know too well the only final authority on the subject of “Alchemy in Harry Potter” is Ms. Rowling.

Perhaps after all her reading in alchemical lore, she sat down with David Hauck’s Seven Stages of Personal Transformation and did a connect-the-dots work from Hauck’s stages to her seven books as Arianhrod suggests. If Ms. Rowling is doing a dot-to-dot, I much prefer Hans Andrea’s work with The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkeutz at the yahoo group “Harry Potter for Seekers,” but, who knows? Severus could be alchemical vitriol via the researches in trance of Dr. Laura and friends. Only Ms. Rowling knows for sure.

But I am also very disappointed to learn again that internet scholarship, unless proven otherwise, is best assumed to be faux scholarship. Arianhrod’s theories on The Leaky Cauldron are fascinating but it will be hard to take her thoughts about Mercury=Dumbledore, Sulfur=Hagrid, Salt=Sirius and Vitriol=Snape as seriously as I might have, given her dependence on Dr. Laura and Dennis Hauck. It’s cut-and-paste work rather than something coming from a synthetic rather than a syncretic understanding. This work, again, may be spot-on, however many reservations I think serious readers have to have about it.

My approach in this has been both boring and sober. Stick to authorities in the field of alchemy, literature, and literary alchemy. In the absence of tea time with Ms. Rowling, this approach and time spent with her books has been the best I can do. I still hope to learn a bunch from the Jungians and New Agers about alchemy approached in a different way, but I don’t expect to abandon the literary tradition perspective until Ms. Rowling (or Deathly Hallows!) reveals how wrong I have been in this choice. The literary tradition has always seemed to me the common sense place to start and to dig deeper. It is the English literary tradition, after all, that Ms. Rowling is writing within.

More on this as it develops. I hope to post soon on the more substantial subject of Snape as Machiavelli’s (and Ms. Rowling’s?) Prince. Thank you for your patience on this alchemical topic; Stay tuned for reflections on Harry’s roots in the Renaissance of Northern Italy!

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

mary May 6, 2007 at 7:05 pm

This is very interesting, John, but I must say I share your mixed feelings. Although Snape does seem to fit the “Green Lion” perfectly (I am not the only reader to have noted the ‘lion’ references in the text where he is concerned, and ‘vitriolic’ is a perfect adjective for him), I am looking at these books from a purely literary/thematic pov, and what strikes me most about Snape is his strong similarity to Harry. For this reason, since I am fully expecting Harry to be transformd in DH, I will be disappointed if Snape is merely a catalyst, not a fellow protagonist. Does that make sense?

As I think I may have mentioned previoulsy, I have a couple of Snape essays you haven’t yet seen up at my website. I’d love you to look at them if you have time, though I understand you’re very busy now. If you are able to look at them, I’d love to know what you think.

athena May 6, 2007 at 8:52 pm

John,

That must have taken you days to research and write.

Thank you for that effort. Since we have begun our correspondence, (what has it been four years now?), I have learned a lot from you regarding literary alchemy.

I realize that it is a complex subject that takes years of study and analysis to understand. It’s not something one can read in a single sitting and go, “oh, okay, I understand it now.”

The good thing about the internet community scholarship is that it has spurred people to read things that they wouldn’t have ordinarily read, and to discuss topics that they had never considered before. That is the silver (or should I say golden) lining.

In regards to the subject of the significance of Harry’s name, I still like a theory I read years ago on the Harry Potter for Grown Ups list serv.

Old Harry is a nickname for the Devil, and Potter is a term to denote God, similar to the potter’s wheel and making life out of clay.

Harry = Devil
Potter = God

Devil/God

It is to signify the duality that lies within him.

With the concept that he may have part of Voldemort’s soul inside of him, it seems even more likely that it is the symbolic significance of his name.

I don’t know if Jo Rowling will ever fess up to that once Deathly Hallows is published though. Just think of how Richard Abanes and his cronies would make hay out taking any quote from her on that subject out of context.

She’ll probably stay mum on the true meaning of his name, even if she starts elaborating on the meaning of alchemy once we’ve all got our hands on the last installment of this epic series.

Linda

Mpolly June 6, 2007 at 7:21 am

Oh finally it’s great to have you back John. This is Michael from your Forums. Speaking of which are they up anywhere. The bookmark I had of them says they have been moved. Are they up at all? I loved them and would love to still be apart of that community.

spiritmech June 6, 2007 at 4:16 pm

What is vitriol? Is it anger (in the moment)? Or more like resentment (minutes, hours, days, years later)?

If it’s resentment, how can positive spiritual transformation come from a negative spiritual process?

How would Snape fit into a scheme if (at least in the Christian tradition) Snape ought to not “let the sun go down on (his) anger?”

Does someone else’s resentment (Snape) improve our own (Harry’s) spiritual state? Perhaps if we react in love and not with corresponding resentment?

caltheous August 9, 2007 at 6:33 pm

John, I’m so glad I wondered over to your site. I saw two of your talks at Prophecy 2007. Great job! I went out and bought one of your books yesterday as well (“Looking for GOD in Harry Potter”).

I am an editor at Scribbulus. Our first issues (when most of the current staff were not working for the site) were not as professional as our recent issues – these alchemy essays were in our earliest issues. We have a dedicated team of editors, reference checkers, and formatters who are diligently trying their hardest to fact check and reference every essay thoroughly. I was shocked by the extent of the problems you discovered in this essay and I will raise the issue at our next staff meeting. We are all volunteer however, no one on the Leaky Cauldron gets paid for their time, so we do what we can (which turns out to be quite a bit).

It is indeed generally believed in the fandom that Vitriol does describe Snape. I would love to get an explanation of Jo’s intent in an interview. Though it makes sense that Snape is a catalyst for reactions in the HP books, sulfuric acid is not a catalyst but a reactant. I am so confused by this entire issue. I would like to see him truly defined as something in Alchemy that does not change because that would best describe his fate in the series. He started with obsessive love and ended with it and we are left wondering if he ever learned anything from his connection with Dumbledore at all. Truly, I long to hear your thoughts on his character now that DH is done.

Thank you, Caltheous

Karen August 14, 2007 at 7:34 am

Hi John,

I came across these pictures and don’t know what to make of them. I really like the Snape is vitriol idea, but I’m very new to this and am having a hard time knowing what sources to trust etc.

http://www.levity.com/alchemy/emb_green_lion.html

Are these legit sources?

Natalia July 14, 2010 at 3:23 am

Wonderful Essay :)

Since I know a thing or two about Alchemy I thought I’d help you out with the Green Lion.

1 First off, I just ran across a compelling blog entry that compared Snape to the Hippogriff (http://www.thehpn.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=21&Itemid=9), connects the Hippogriff to a Gryffin, and one of the comments mentioned another essay stating the case that Snape is actually the Heir of Gryffindor (Gryffindor’s known for their bravery & Snape is “The Bravest Man I Ever Knew.”)

2 from http://www.alchemywebsite.com/animal.html
“The Gryphon, half-eagle and half-lion, was sometimes associated with the end of this stage. The eagle nature of the Gryphon gave this hybrid being an ability to ascend in the flask, so it marked, in a sense, THE SPIRITUALISATION OF THE GREEN LION.”

3 Gryffindor is actually French: “Gryffin D’Or” or “Golden Griffin”
and the books place a focus on the *Lion* as the animal representative of Gryffindor House. The House colors are Red & Gold (Think “Red Lion” & “Golden Lion”)

4 Slytherin is represented by the Serpent, but serpents have a dual nature in alchemy: they can kill and they can heal. Slytherin’s house colors are Green & Silver (Silver represents the Moon or “Sophia”, and the lunar phases would make her “Corruptible Sophia” )

The Roots of the word “Philosopher” are “Philo” (love) and “Sophia” (wisdom).

5 Now, the famous image of the Green Lion eating the sun from alchemical lore has a banner above it. According to my book, that banner reads “I am he who was THE GREEN & GOLDEN LION without cares, within me lie all the mysteries of the philosophers.”

Snape is the philosopher = Philo Sophia, lover of Wisdom (Lily symbolizes “albedo” = moon).

“Without cares” is intriguing because you wouldn’t think of Snape as someone without cares, but in fact, he never married, has no children, no social life – he has NO CARES that an ordinary person would have. The only thing he cares for is “not of this world”: Lily & the magical thing called Love.

6 The alchemical process is all about the “full-circle” or cycle of life & death & renewal, and the notion that “golden” things must be constantly replaced, renewed or they will become “vulgar gold”. That’s what the Green Lion is for. His destiny is to become the newly golden lion that replaces the old.

7 I think in the 6th book, Dumbledore represents the Golden Lion who is going “corrupt” (not that he’s turning bad, but merely that his time has come). In the first book, Dumbledore states about Snape “I would trust him with my Life” and he did — in the fullest sense of the word. I think Dumbledore really loved the whole school & everyone in it, and when he died, it was some kind of “old magic” at work. Dumbledore’s love protecting the school.

8 Another interesting thing here is the link between Hermetic Alchemy & Gnostic Christianity. In the Gospel of Judas Iscariot that was revealed to the public a few years ago, Jesus (a phoenix figure) actually ASKS JUDAS to ‘sell out’ which directly led to his death — not unlike Dumbledore (christ figure) asking Snape to kill him. This secret Gospel says that Judas was Jesus’ “favorite disciple”, and that Judas was actually THE ONLY disciple who understood who Jesus was and what he was here to do.

In it, Jesus explains to Judas that would be “cursed above all”, but in the end, would “surpass all the others” — in the end, he would be regarded as “the greatest” of them. Not unlike Snape in the Potter series.

What’ll really make you flip: while the Potter series is a coming-of-age story about Harry, JKR built the entire story around *Snape*, and I’m pretty sure she started writing this story waaay before the public had a whiff about the Gospel of Judas Iscariot — not 100% on the accuracy of that assumption, but I’m pretty sure JKR started writing in early 90s, and the Secret Gospel was rumored but not revealed until mid 00s.

Anyway, I really believe the Potter epic is all about the “spiritualisation of the Green Lion” = Snape = The Green & Golden Lion.

9 Snape’s transformation from the Green Lion into the Golden Lion teaches us the same lesson we learn from all the Disney movies (as all of these stories descend from the Hermetic tradition): That Love & Longing have transformative powers: Paupers can become Princesses, Mermaids & Beasts & Puppets can become human, A kiss can bring someone “back to life” — and a half-blood “snake” can “surpass them all” = can BECOME PURE.

I think of Snape’s life as something like the Conquistador in the movie “The Fountain”. He wasn’t meant to be with her in the material world, but she touches him in every life where they meet, and asks him to “finish the story”. In the end, his sacrifice allows for life to continue & his death is a symbol of freedom. He wasn’t meant for a material marriage, but a *celestial marriage* = the alchemical Marriage of Sol & Luna.

According to Paracelsus, everything that is material is “fallen” and must be interpreted only as a metaphor for, or *symbolic representation* of, the spiritual.

Alejandro Rivero July 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Hmm, so, “coca cola” is a meaningless name? It refers to the recipe in a straighforward way.

Bastian February 13, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Actually, my copy of Abraham’s dictionary (printed in 2010) does mention a connection between vitriol and the Green Lion:
“Some alchemists identified the green lion as vitriol, but Ripley disagreed: ‘Vitriall’ is that which ‘folys [fools] doe call the Gerne Lyon’”, she’s quoting from the Theatrum chemicum Britannium.

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