Learning to make potions is a vital skill not only in witchcraft, but also in creating remedies for illness and diseases. In the magical world, potions have been used or healing the sick, for changing someone's appearance, or for inducing people to fall in love.
An Exploded Cauldron
This cauldron is no longer in pristine condition. It reportedly exploded when a group of modern-day Cornish witches were using it to brew a potion on the beach. So the story goes, when ‘it was realised that the volume of the smoke was reaching unprecedented proportions … they lost their nerve and panicked and fled the spot as best they could.’ When their friends visited the site, all they found was this damaged cauldron, coated in a black, tarry substance.
It is rich in symbolism. The bottled mole signifies Snape’s role as a spy for the Order of the Phoenix, while the lilies of the valley by his hands represent his enduring love for Harry’s mother, Lily. The scissors refer to ‘sectumsempra’, the Dark Magic spell Snape invented, and the green cravat and table top echo the colour of his house, Slytherin.
This Anglo-Saxon recipe book is named after its first owner, Bald, a 10th-century physician. Bald’s Leechbook is a compilation of everything then known about medicine. One remedy against snakebite prescribes drinking the herb betony mixed with wine; another recommends smearing earwax on the wound while reciting a prayer.
Ye Olde Apothecary’s Shoppe
Seven hundred years ago, you would have had to visit an apothecary to buy your potions or ingredients, like betony or bezoar stones. This medieval illustration shows an apothecary – a medical professional, the equivalent to a modern pharmacist – working in his shop. He has handed a striped jar to his customer.
The Bezoar Goat
Bezoar stones, a mass of undigested fibre that forms in the stomachs of certain animals, have historically been used as an antidote to poison. They are mostly found in the ‘bezoar goat’, illustrated in A Compleat History of Druggs, but they have also been discovered in the guts of cows and elephants. The medicinal strength of a bezoar reputedly depended on the animal that produced it.