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Severus Snape & The Green Man Motif



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Old June 15th, 2011, 8:06 am
Charlotte_Snape  Female.gif Charlotte_Snape is offline
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Severus Snape & The Green Man Motif

This is a hypothesis* I've been sitting on since finishing the books last year. I've come to my own conclusions about it, but I'd love to hear yall's take on it:

Okay, so my theory is about the Green Man. I think it's a little something Jo planted (no pun intended ) into Snape's story. I'll use descriptions from Wikipedia and quotes from TPT and SWM to walk you through it:

Quote:
A Green Man is a sculpture, drawing, or other representation of a face surrounded by or made from leaves. Branches or vines may sprout from the nose, mouth, nostrils or other parts of the face and these shoots may bear flowers or fruit... Found in many cultures around the world, the Green Man is often related to natural vegetative deities springing up in different cultures throughout the ages. Primarily it is interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, or "renaissance," representing the cycle of growth each spring.
I'm sure you can see it already The Green Man appears in many forms, but there are three main types of Green Man faces:
  • The Foliate Head - completely covered in green leaves
  • The Disgorging Head - spews vegetation from its mouth
  • The Bloodsucker Head - sprouts vegetation from all facial orifices

As far as I've read, they all symbolize rebirth and resurrection. Why is this so awesome??? Because it looks like you can match each type of face to a significant event in Snape's life

Peering through Greenery: The Foliate Head is completely covered in green leaves
Quote:
He fell headlong into sunlight, and his feet found warm ground. When he straightened up, he saw that he was in a nearly deserted playground. A single huge chimney dominated the distant skyline. Two girls were swinging backward and forward, and a skinny boy was watching them from behind a clump of bushes....Lily had picked up a fallen flower from the bush behind which Snape lurked.


So Lily (a flower) picked up a flower, and Snape (green man) was covered by foliage. Lily and Petunia are obvious references to plants, but there's a lot of other strong plant imagery in his early memories, as well:

Quote:
  • The scene dissolved, and before Harry knew it, re-formed around him. He was now in a small thicket of trees. He could see a sunlit river glittering through their trunks. The shadows cast by the trees made a basin of cool green shade.
  • There was a little silence. Lily had picked up a fallen twig and twirled it in the air...
  • His voice trailed away; she was not listening, but had stretched out on the leafy ground and was looking up at the canopy of leaves overhead. He watched her as greedily as he had watched her in the playground...
  • ...“Oh yes, they’re arguing,” said Snape. He picked up a fistful of leaves and began tearing them apart, apparently unaware of what he was doing...
  • You’re not going to end up in Azkaban, you’re too - ” He turned red again and shredded more leaves. Then a small rustling noise behind Harry made him turn: Petunia, hiding behind a tree, had lost her footing...
  • There was a crack. A branch over Petunia’s head had fallen...
We also learn from his early memories that he is keen on being sorted into Slytherin, whose house color is green, which would make Snape a "Green Man"...
Quote:
“This is it! We’re off to Hogwarts!”
“You’d better be in Slytherin,” said Snape...



Dark Mark & Death Eaters: The Disgorging Head spews vegetation from its mouth

The Dark Mark conjured by Morsmordre is green, while the dark mark on the forearm is black.



Voldemort was the Heir of Slytherin, and Voldemort's dark mark was likely inspired by the Chamber of Secrets:



There's a lot to analyze here because the Serpent puts a twist in the interpretation. But what I will venture to guess is that the Disgorging Head represents Snape's Worst Memory. This is because SWM was a watershed moment in his life. It was the end of his friendship with Lily, and the beginning of his path to becoming a Death Eater. He lost her friendship over a choice that would eventually lead to her death, as well.

Harry dunks his head in the pensieve, and for the first half of the memory, Snape appears to still be The Foliate Head:

Quote:
And there he was, at a table right behind Harry. Harry stared. Snape-the-teenager had a stringy, pallid look about him, like a plant kept in the dark.

Harry looked over his shoulder yet again and saw, to his delight, that Snape had settled himself on the grass in the dense shadow of a clump of bushes....
The "transformation" begins when James attacks him:

Quote:
"You-wait," he panted, staring up at James with an expressionof purest loathing. "You-wait...."

"Wait for what?" said Sirius coolly. "What're you going to do, Snivelly, wipe your nose on us?"

Snape let out a steam of mixed swear words and hexes, but his wand being ten feet away nothing happened.

"Wash out your mouth,"said James coldly. "SCOURGIFY!"

Pink soap bubbles streamed from Snape's mouth at once; the froth was covering his lips, making him gag, choking him-
But when he yells at Lily, that's when he really becomes the Disgorging Head from the Chamber of Secrets. He opens his big mouth, and his words sting her like the poison bite of a snake (the snake would be his tongue, his words would be the "poison").

"Mudblood" = Pure Blood Supremacy = Salazar Slytherin = Chamber of Secrets = Disgorging Head

Now, I read recently a quote from Jo about a link between CoS and HBP. I traced it back to a question she answered on her website:

Quote:
In what way is 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' related to 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets'?

I have been engulfed by an avalanche of questions on the subject of 'Prince' having once been a title of 'Chamber'. I am therefore attempting to answer most of them under this heading......... 'The Half-Blood Prince' might be described as a strand of the overall plot. That strand could be used in a whole variety of ways and back in 1997 I considered weaving it into the story of 'Chamber'. It really didn't fit there, though; it was not part of the story of the basilisk and Riddle's diary, and before long I accepted that it would be better to do it justice in book six......... The link I mentioned between books two and six does not, in fact, relate to the 'Half-Blood Prince' (because there is no trace left of the HBP storyline in 'Chamber'.) Rather, it relates to a discovery Harry made in 'Chamber' that foreshadows something that he finds out in 'Prince'.
So this would be the Horcrux Diary, but might the Green Man have something to do with it, as well?

Also, let's not forget that becoming a death eater would eventually lead to overhearing the prophecy at the Hog's Head Inn. From Wikipedia:

Quote:
Commonly used as a decorative architectural ornament, Green Men are frequently found on carvings in churches and other buildings (both secular and ecclesiastical). "The Green Man" is also a popular name for English public houses and various interpretations of the name appear on inn signs, which sometimes show a full figure rather than just the head.
The prophecy and the fact that Snape's version of the Disgorging Head is a skull also makes me think. It's another twist in the interpretation, and it reminds me of that scene on the windy hilltop with Dumbledore. Contrast the scene below with SWM, which happened on a nice summer day...

Quote:
The corridor dissolved, and the scene took a little longer to reform: Harry seemed to fly through shifting shapes and colors until his surroundings solidified again and he stood on a hilltop, forlorn and cold in the darkness, the wind whistling through the branches of a few leafless trees. The adult Snape was panting, turning on the spot, his wand gripped tightly in his hand, waiting for something or for someone… His fear infected Harry too, even though he knew that he could not be harmed, and he looked over his shoulder, wondering what it was that Snape was waiting for -

Then a blinding, jagged jet of white light flew through the air. Harry thought of lightning, but Snape had dropped to his knees and his wand had flown out of his hand.

:::snip:::

“Well, Severus? What message does Lord Voldemort have for me?”

“No - no message - I’m here on my own account!”

Snape was wringing his hands. He looked a little mad, with his straggling black hair flying around him.

“I - I come with a warning - no, a request - please - ”

Dumbledore flicked his wand. Though leaves and branches still flew through the night air around them, silence fell on the spot where he and Snape faced each other.

“What request could a Death Eater make of me?”

“The - the prophecy…the prediction…Trelawney…”-------------“Everything - everything I heard!” said Snape. “That is why - it is for that reason - he thinks it means Lily Evans!” ------------“You know what I mean! He thinks it means her son, he is going to hunt her down - kill them all - ”
The leaveless autumn night is to a skull, as the warm summer day is to a living head, and the "disgorging" is really his confession of love for Lily, in the form of a plea to Dumbledore. He also loses his wand when Dumbledore appears, just like he lost his wand to James in SWM. Perhaps this point is a little murkier than the other ones, but it does seem like some kind of foil to the situation in SWM. In his foolishness, he lost Lily, and now he's trying not to lose her again.

His death eater status also eventually lead to his job as Potions Master:

Quote:
Serpents are connected with poison and medicine. The snake's venom is associated with the chemicals of plants and fungi, that have the power to either heal, poison or provide expanded consciousness (and even the elixir of life and immortality) through divine intoxication. Because of its herbal knowledge and entheogenic association the snake was often considered one of the wisest animals, being (close to the) divine. Its divine aspect combined with its habitat in the earth between the roots of plants made it an animal with chthonic properties connected to the afterlife and immortality."
Which brings us to the subject of his death...

Spinner's End: The Bloodsucker Head sprouts vegetation from all facial orifices
Quote:
Something more than blood was leaking from Snape. Silvery blue, neither gas nor liquid, it gushed from his mouth and his ears and his eyes, and Harry knew what it was, but did not know what to do -


This one is pretty self-explanatory. Snape has been compared to spiders (who suck the blood of their victims for nourishment = bloodsucker), and his death was a bloody affair. It's so wonderfully clever! at least, I can't imagine that this is all an accident -- it's just too artful and poetic...

And the fact that spiders eat their victims by spinning them, and then sucking out their blood -- I can't help imagining Jo as the "spider", spinning the tale for us, and Snape as her hapless victim!

I dunno, maybe there's nothing more to it than a foreshadowing of Harry's "resurrection" thanks to Snape passing along the essential information, but I like to think there's more to it than that Maybe each Green Man event represents a "rebirth" of Snape as an individual? Could they be revealing clues about his inner self, or inner turmoils/changes? Am I just reaching for things that aren't there coz he's my favorite character?

What do you guys think?

P.S. In the Potions Master comparison, I like that the snake's venom is associated with the chemicals of plants, because it directly links snakes to plants, and supports the Disgorging Head from SWM where his words are like poison to Lily. It goes on to say that the snake venom & plant chemicals "have the power to either heal or poison" -- just like words <3


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Last edited by Charlotte_Snape; June 19th, 2011 at 7:34 am.
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  #2  
Old June 15th, 2011, 6:21 pm
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Re: Severus Snape & The Green Man Motif

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlotte_Snape View Post
P.S. In the Potions Master comparison, I like that the snake's venom is associated with the chemicals of plants, because it directly links snakes to plants, and supports the Disgorging Head from SWM where his words are like poison to Lily. It goes on to say that the snake venom & plant chemicals "have the power to either heal or poison" -- just like words <3
On the subject of Potions Masters, venom, and words...

OotP'I wish to interrogate him!' repeated Umbridge angrily, and Snape looked away from Harry back into her furiously quivering face. 'I wish you to provide me with a potion that will force him to tell me the truth!'

'I have already told you,' said Snape smoothly, 'that I have no further stocks of Veritaserum. Unless you wish to poison Potter -and I assure you I would have the greatest sympathy with you if you did - I cannot help you. The only trouble is that most venoms act too fast to give the victim much time for truth-telling.'


Does it have anything to do with your Green Man observations? I could not say, but certainly it is one of those little things in the books that is too perfect to have happened by accident. I feel sure Rowling had decided on Snape's manner of death at the time she wrote the above lines.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlotte_Snape View Post
Now, I read recently a quote from Jo about a link between CoS and HBP. I traced it back to a question she answered on her website:

So this would be the Horcrux Diary, but might the Green Man have something to do with it, as well?
Well, the thing she excised from CoS altogether was an old Potions book full of corrected recipes and clever, invented spells, which had been property of "The Half-Blood Prince". Does that fit in, somehow? Muffliato and Langlock affect functions of the face (speech, hearing). Or maybe, the spells get nastier over time, showing the transformation from the original leafy style, natural, innocent Snape, to the one that will be the DE?

Quote:
The leaveless autumn night is to a skull, as the warm summer day is to a living head, and the "disgorging" is really his confession of love for Lily, in the form of a plea to Dumbledore. He also loses his wand when Dumbledore appears, just like he lost his wand to James in SWM.
Hmm, I kind of like it. The Green Man is a symbol of rebirth, and the changing seasons (in pagan myth). So the "Disgorging" one is born in a warm Spring day (school ends in early June, at Hogwarts) and dies on a leafless autumn or winter night, signifying that from this moment forward Snape is no longer a Death Eater?


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Old June 15th, 2011, 7:05 pm
LyraLovegood  Female.gif LyraLovegood is offline
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Re: Severus Snape & The Green Man Motif

Just a few points in this dissertation I must needs quibble with:

1st, I'm having trouble linking the themes of rebirth and resurrection with the poisonous serpent, the skull, and the Death Eaters.

2nd, I think the memory from the windswept hill, when Snape begs Dumbledore to protect Lily, is mostly lacking in plant imagery. So I think maybe if Jo had intended to use The Green Man motif (of which I never heard before reading this thread's opening post, so admittedly I'm ignorant of the concept), she'd likely have thrown in as many references to plants, leaves etc. in there as she did in the first memory of Lily on the playground.

3rd, I don't think it was Snape passing on the memories to Harry that enabled Harry to be reborn/resurrected after Voldemort's AK knocked them both to King's Cross near the end of DH. My understanding of that was that it was based on three things: Voldemort's soul being already so fragile when he went to kill the Potters that a piece of it bounced of and clove to Harry; Lily's sacrifice of herself out of love for her baby, covering him with the blood protection that keeps Harry safe until he is of age; and Voldemort's arrogant insistence that it be Harry's blood that he use when he himself is reborn at the end of GoF. Snape had naught to do with any of these things, and given his conversation with Dumbledore as to why the boy must die, he didn't even seem to know about them, at least not about the first and last ones.

So, the way I see it, Snape passing on the memories is not what enabled Harry to survive the Killing Curse one more time. It was Snape passing on those memories that caused Harry to realize that he would have to sacrifice himself, allowing Voldemort to kill him, before Voldemort could be finished. And it was Harry's willingness to lay down his life in this way that enabled him to protect the other defenders of Hogwarts and to choose to return from King's Cross instead of, let's say, boarding a train and going on.

So I find your Green Man Motif very interesting, and it's a valid theory. But I don't think it's ironclad, and I certainly cannot see Severus Snape as any sort of minor nature deity. A great wizard he was, and a hero of the Voldy Wars. But not a nature god.


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Last edited by LyraLovegood; June 15th, 2011 at 7:10 pm.
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Old June 15th, 2011, 8:10 pm
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Re: Severus Snape & The Green Man Motif

I’ve never heard of the Green Man theory before, so I guess you could also say I never thought to apply it to Snape. I don’t understand how Snape represents rebirth and resurrection. It seems like every time there is a flower, green, plant, or anything outdoorsy that you’re trying to tie it to Snape to make it fit this theory.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LyraLovegood
So, the way I see it, Snape passing on the memories is not what enabled Harry to survive the Killing Curse one more time.
Right. The memories just tell Harry that he has to sacrifice himself. Without the memories would Harry sacrifice himself? Perhaps, but maybe later. Without the blood protection it wouldn't matter if he had the memories or not as sacrificing himself would mean he dies instead of surviving the killing curse. The memories aren't what makes it special. It's Lily's blood in him that does.

Maybe I don't understand the Green Man theory well enough.


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Old June 15th, 2011, 8:28 pm
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Re: Severus Snape & The Green Man Motif

I'm sorry - I just don't see the connection. When I think of earth and plants, I think of Professor Sprout and Neville. The only use I can see Snape having for plants is to use in his potions. Not only that, the Slytherin Common Room was located under the lake.


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Old June 15th, 2011, 8:32 pm
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Re: Severus Snape & The Green Man Motif

Quote:
Originally Posted by LyraLovegood View Post
1st, I'm having trouble linking the themes of rebirth and resurrection with the poisonous serpent, the skull, and the Death Eaters.
Death and decay is a part of the natural cycle of rebirth. Skulls fit in with that, anyway. If the symbolism is intended and applies to Snape, it could be argued this negative portrayal in the chronological middle of his life, is him going through a cycle of corruption and (figurative) "death" before his rebirth. Where I feel the lack is in later plant imagery around post-DE Snape, perhaps.

Quote:
2nd, I think the memory from the windswept hill, when Snape begs Dumbledore to protect Lily, is mostly lacking in plant imagery.
In particular, while there is little plant depiction in the scene showing Snape's absolute nadir (the scene on the hill), the plant description that is there is evovative of death and decay (leafless trees).

Quote:
Snape had naught to do with any of these things, and given his conversation with Dumbledore as to why the boy must die, he didn't even seem to know about them, at least not about the first and last ones.
He did not know about any of them, but he set them all up through his actions and choices. He heard the partial Prophecy, he told Voldemort, and he begged for Lily's life, so that Voldemort gave her a real chance to stand aside, thus making her self-sacrifice effective. He also enabled Harry's sacrifice, as Harry would most likely have fought, had the truth not been communicated to him. This aspect of Snape's character in the series is not a discussion of his psychology, ethics, choices, etc., as I see it. It is about his role as a cog in the story.

Quote:
But I don't think it's ironclad, and I certainly cannot see Severus Snape as any sort of minor nature deity. A great wizard he was, and a hero of the Voldy Wars. But not a nature god.
I agree. If this is intended, it is intended on a symbolic level, not as a literal truth about Snape's character. While the Potterverse does contain mythological creatures (e. g. werewolves, we meet two of them in the series), the Green Man is not one of them.


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Old June 15th, 2011, 8:52 pm
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Re: Severus Snape & The Green Man Motif

This is really interesting. First of all, I don't think it matters how many times plants are mentioned in reference to Snape. Honestly, I never noticed these connections myself. If it was meant to be this way, then it's a very subtle thing because plants aren't brought up in everything Snape's involved in. I don't see a very strong connection with rebirth however, as Snape doesn't have anything to do with it. Could this be an accurate theory? Yes, definitely, but not all the pieces fit together, IMO.


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Old June 15th, 2011, 8:57 pm
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Re: Severus Snape & The Green Man Motif

Great Essay! I love talking about Snape in terms of his connection to nature so this will be a monster post.

First of all, nice use of green lettering.

One thing that my friend Hwyla noticed about Snape years ago is that he is always connected to the Enchanted Forest just like Hagrid. He is always "searching the park" etc. He is probably the only one who cares if the Whomping Willow gets damaged.

I like the scene with Snape "shredding leaves" because it's foreshadowing for his life as a Potions Master, preparing all those ingredients as well as re-writing the Potions Book.

Of course "Libatious Borage" the original author has a leafy name - Borage is an herb that was connected with courage. Roman soldiers once drank a "libation of borage" before they went into battle. That's so symbolic of Snape, I think.

And when people say that Snape isn't connected to plants, I'd like to point out that the first book he used in Potions Class was "1001 Magical Herbs and Fungi."Snape's first "quiz" in Book One is about plants like aconite, asphodel, and wormwood.

Also, we have examples of the way a Potions Master must work with Sprout in Hufflepuff. In HBP, we have Harry watching Slughorn getting plants from Sprout for his classes. Who grows all those ingredients in Snape's Potions Cabinet except Sprout?

In CoS, Sprout grows the Mandrakes, but Snape makes the "Restorative Draught" - and thus, gives the kids their lives back. So rebirth is connected to Snape through the use of plants.

JKR said while writing the books, she used this old Herbal reference book when she was "potioning," so it is a direct source for the books:
Culpepper's Herbal

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

I wrote my own essay about Snape and plants in this essay (it's long, lol):
Apothecary Snape: Potions, Medicine, Alchemy, Healing

One thing to remember is that there is Alchemy with metals (like Nicholas Flamel) and then there is Alchemy with plants (Green Alchemy). In the old texts, Metal Alchemy was often symbolized by the Red Lion and Herbal Medicine by the Green Lion. We used to discuss a long time ago in terms of Harry (Red) and Neville (Green), but I think Snape could also be the Green Lion after reading DH and all the references to Gryffindor in connection with him.

This reminds me of Snape's Memories leaving him as he dies:


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Last edited by silver ink pot; June 15th, 2011 at 9:09 pm.
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Old June 15th, 2011, 9:00 pm
TreacleTartlet  Female.gif TreacleTartlet is offline
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Re: Severus Snape & The Green Man Motif

A very interesting theory and not one I had considered before, as I always associated the Green Man figure with Hagrid, due to his appearance and association with the Forrest and creatures. Also,as he is the one who tells Harry he is a wizard so is responsible for Harry's re-birthing into a magical world. This is a role he performs for all the students as he introduces them to Hogwarts across the lake as first years. Also, JKR has herself associated Hagrid with the Green Man.


JKR: Hagrid was always supposed to be this almost elemental force. He's like the king of the forest, or the Green Man.


Source: http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/...southbank.html

However this doesn't necessarily mean that Hagrid is the only representative of the Green Man within the story. I will need to look into this idea further.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LyraLovegood View Post

1st, I'm having trouble linking the themes of rebirth and resurrection with the poisonous serpent, the skull, and the Death Eaters.
The Serpent in many cultures is traditionally associated with death and re-birth due to the shedding of it's skin. It is also associated with healing and this can be seen in the modern Cadeceus and the Rod of Asclepius.

Cadeceus:



Rod of Asclepius:


The snake is also the symbol of the Celtic Goddess Sirona who was associated with healing.

I thought this aspect of the Slytherin symbol was shown when we see Snape healing Draco and when he is responsible for attending to Katie Bell after she was cursed by the necklace, and also to Dumbledore's cursed hand.



Last edited by TreacleTartlet; June 15th, 2011 at 9:04 pm.
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Old June 15th, 2011, 10:07 pm
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Re: Severus Snape & The Green Man Motif

I have to admit I have never heard of a skull in British culture representing rebirth, nor a poisonous snake. The skull is usually a representative of death, period. Rebirth is not a Christian motif either. I'm pretty sure the Christian belief is resurrection.
The other problem I have with this motif is that we never once see Snape with his hands dirty from working with anything in nature and of course there is the small problem that Snape is just one of many characters in the book. He is not the hero or even IMO someone close to the hero. Harry is the hero and he is the one who defeats death and becomes the Master of it. Neville comes close to being the Green Man with his very close connection to the concept of growing plants and his respect for the natural world. Does Snape even once voice respect for the elemental power of nature? I can't remember one time when he even acknowledges the natural world. Yes, green is the colour of Slytherin. The green of the underwater lake that reflects into the Slytherin Common Room and the silver of the moon. Not many plants flourish in moonlight. Of course Snape uses plants in the making of Potions, but we never see him gather any and the growing plants at Hogwarts are grown by Pomona, who's name means apple and is the Roman goddess of fruit trees. The same thing as Minerva MCGonagall being named for the goddess of wisdom. Albus being white represents the side of the Light and Severus is of course, 'stern'. I haven't got the faintest idea who Flitwick was the son of, other than of course his parents.


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Old June 15th, 2011, 10:36 pm
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Re: Severus Snape & The Green Man Motif

Lovely essay! I like how you note the phases of his transformation with parallels to nature. I especially see this in his death scene.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlotte_Snape View Post
He also loses his wand when Dumbledore appears, just like he lost his wand to James in SWM. Perhaps this point is a little murkier than the other ones, but it does seem like some kind of foil to the situation in SWM. In his foolishness, he lost Lily, and now he's trying not to lose her again.
I wonder if the loss of a wand reflects a yielding of secrets (ex. prejudice in the one memory, love in the other). Losing the magic (control?) he relies on allows the serpent to escape from his mouth.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TreacleTartlet View Post
A very interesting theory and not one I had considered before, as I always associated the Green Man figure with Hagrid, due to his appearance and association with the Forrest and creatures.
Not to mention his big shaggy beard!


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  #12  
Old June 19th, 2011, 6:13 am
Charlotte_Snape  Female.gif Charlotte_Snape is offline
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Re: Severus Snape & The Green Man Motif

Okay, thanks to everyone for reading! I know that was a long read, so thanks & thank you for the input so far!

There is so much information on the Green Man that I've decided to create several posts just for informational purposes
This is the first of those, and it's superlong, so please bear with me.

Okay First, let me explain that Snape & the Green Man motif is really more of a hypothesis at this point:
Hypothesis:a tentative explanation for an observation, phenomenon, or scientific problem that can be tested by further investigation. A hypothesis requires more work by the researcher in order to either confirm or disprove it. In due course, a confirmed hypothesis may become part of a theory or occasionally may grow to become a theory itself.

I observed a connection between the Green Man motif and Snape's life, and I have a tentative explanation for it. That's all there really is to it for now, so you're right that it's not ironclad -- it needs a lot more work. But uncharted territory can be really fun to explore, so I can only hope other people will become interested enough to research, analyze, & chip in

Second, I'd like to address everyone's reservations about Snape & the Green Man. I'll start by clarifying that while it's associated with different religions, mythologies, and vegetative/nature dieties, the Green Man - in and of itself - is not a formal diety, and does not posses a mythological narrative of its own.

The Green Man is actually more of an archetype -- a universal symbol of rebirth & renewal. I did some online hunting and was lucky enough to find a good essay that explains the Green Man from a symbolic/archetypal/non-mythological perspective:

The Archetype

Quote:
The Green Man is thought primarily to represent the irrepressible nature of life with its cyclical pattern of birth, death and re-birth/renewal. This link comes from the Green Man's vegetative aspect and the seasonal cycle which most plants go through each year beginning in the spring, peaking at the height of summer and dying back in the dark of the winter, only to return again the next Spring. Most of the seasonal celebrations which include Green Men tend to happen around May time which further enhances his link with the new green life and renewal of Spring.
I think the May-Green Man connection is significant since The Bloodsucker Head makes it's appearance during the Battle of Hogwarts -- May 2nd -- which ended in the deafeat of Voldemort & the Death Eaters (metaphorical winter), and signalled the beginning of a better world (spring & renewal).

Then, of course, the comparison to the "seasons" of his life. May 2nd can be seen as Green-Man Snape's return to Spring & Summer -- by following Lily into the afterlife. Lily died on Samhain, and Snape's death coincides with Beltane. (Bealtane and Samhain were the leading terminal dates of the civil year in medieval Ireland.) It's worth noting that the birthstone for May is the Emerald (the idea of his death as a "rebirth").

His death was the end of The Prince's Tale, but it was also "the beginning" because the memories from the Green Man take us back to the beginning of his story -- to his love for Lily & a return to the innocence of childhood. It could also signal a "return to innocence" in that Harry was able to clear his name (re-establish innocence) after finding out that he was faithful to The Order. Only the memories from the Green Man made that possible.

You can also say that Snape was "Green with Envy" of James, and he was also something like a green stem without a flower -- without Lily (recall the imagery from the first memory -- Lily is the "fallen flower" and Snape is "the bush"). Green is used to describe anyone young, inexperienced, or gullible (probably by analogy to unripe, i.e. unready or immature fruit) which gives us a few ways to look at some of the choices in his life (Joining the death eaters = gullible; Not knowing how to deal with James = inexperienced/emotionally immature). I think a lot of these things really do lend themselves to a character analysis (at least iMO). Anyway, continuing with the archetype interpretation:

The Color Green

Quote:
Certainly if we look at the use of the colour green in our society it is perceived as having a positive, life-affirming role - the green traffic light - green for go, the colour of money - the "mighty" green dollar, emergency exit signs - "green for safety. Interestingly, green is also the colour of the human heart chakra - the colour of love....
I did some digging on this color and found more symbolism:
  1. In ancient Rome, green was the color of Venus, the goddess of beauty and love [What does the Emerald symbolize?]
  2. The Battle of Hogwarts/Green Man-Snape happens under Taurus, and Venus is the ruling planet of Taurus.
  3. Stories of the medieval period further portray it as representing love and the base, natural desires of man.[wikipedia]
  4. Jo has also mentioned the Snape & Lily r'ship as being "the heart of it all" in this interview, so I know she put a lot into that part of the plot: The Green Man & The Flower?
  5. Lily makes a loving sacrifice that keeps Harry alive (blocks a green AK curse)
  6. Green-Man Snape vows to keep Harry alive, out of love for Lily.
  7. Snape is The Head of Slytherin House (The 3 different Faces or Heads of the motif).
  8. Slytherin house represents the element of Water, which symbolizes the Emotions (Love).

Eliza101 asked the question "Does Snape even once voice respect for the elemental power of nature?" Well, if Snape really does represent the Green Man, it would be more apt to say that he is "a force of nature" as the expression goes Or that his love for Lily is a "force of nature" and a force to be reckoned with. JMO of course...

Also, Eliza mentioned about the Lake that makes Slytherin's common room look green. I found out the word green is closely related to the Old English verb growan, "to grow". It is used to describe plants or the ocean. This reminded me of a book by Susan Cooper about an elemental spirit called the "Greenwitch". She possess great wisdom and is of an ancient "wild magic". She's born by a ritual of arranging twigs & leaves into a face, and then tossing the foliate mask into the ocean. The original cover-art features the Greenwitch covered with foliation of seaweed and swimming fish:

On the Green Man wikipedia page, it makes mention of:
Quote:
A character superficially similar to the Green Man, in the form of a partly foliate mask surrounded by Bacchic figures, [which] appears at the center of the 4th century silver salver in the Mildenhall Treasure, found at a Roman villa site in Suffolk, England; the mask is generally agreed to represent Neptune or Oceanus and the foliation is of seaweed
Water is pretty vital to the life of plants, so I see Slytherin's Water element as reinforcing Snape's Green Man motif, rather than detracting from it.

Disgorging & Communication

Quote:
The final, and perhaps, most significant aspect of the Green Man is his regular appearance as a disgorger of vegetation from his mouth and sometimes his ears and eyes too. This process can be likened to a masculine form of the birthing process i.e. from the brain instead of the womb. Information from the worlds around and within us is transformed into unique images and ideas in the brain which can then be born out into the world through our use of language. This "secondary birthing" of living vegetation through the mouth of the Green Man could therefore link his association to re-birth and renewal with his ability to communicate and share information.
Now to me, that's an eerily accurate description of Snape's Bloodsucker Head To arithmancer: I think the veritaserum scene that you quoted from OotP is very, very interesting, especially in light of this particular interpretation of the GM. I will try to analyze it at some point (when I'm done posting all the information I've found).

Quote:
As the mouth is the source of our ability to communicate verbally through sound and language this suggests that the Green Man has a role as a communicator who translates Nature's message to us, perhaps through the "language" of plants.
I think this is very interesting considering that he does communicate things like Wolfsbane=Lupin, and Asphodel & Wormwood = Lily; those are the obvious ones -- any others? (I like Silver Ink's interpretation of the Advanced Potions Book = Leaves of a book, like leaves of a plant )

Quote:
The face or head element of the Green Man suggests another significant meaning for the archetype. The head is traditionally seen as the seat of consciousness by many cultures and in the West it is seen as the domain of our intellect or intelligence.
So yeah, I love this description in connection with the visual of Snape's Bloodsucker Head: His thoughts/memories being the "vines" and "stems" of plants

On Plants & Consciousness

Quote:
Heads were also specifically revered by our Western ancestors, the Celts, as the source of inspiration, foreknowledge and prophecy. The Green Man therefore points to a relationship between our mind or consciousness and the green world of plants and trees - a kind of "green intelligence" or "green consciousness".
Some people mentioned that Hagrid, Professor Sprout, & Neville have more associations with plants than Snape. However, I would make a distinction between a very practical & pragmatic relationship to plants versus an esoteric & mystical relationship to plants. While Hagrid, Professor Sprout, and Neville have a practical understanding of plants & their pragmatic uses (raw gillyweed = breathe underwater), it's sort of just a Magical version of Muggle's Horticulture (not to mention that there isn't much besides their blatant association to plants that connects them to the actual motif of the Green Man or the concept of "rebirth" that it represents).

Silver Ink gave another good example:
Quote:
In CoS, Sprout grows the Mandrakes, but Snape makes the "Restorative Draught" - and thus, gives the kids their lives back. So rebirth is connected to Snape through the use of plants.
In actuality, the only one with a deep understanding of plants & plant essences, and their effects on the human mind & bodyis Snape. I think especially the work with plant essences (distillations, etc.) sets him apart from the other plant people because the essence of a plant is really like the "spirit" of the plant. The Potions master can be seen as possessing an esoteric "Green Intelligence" or "Green Consciousness".

Green Man/Potions Master"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'm hoping this will partly satisfy Arithmancer who noted a lack of plant imagery in the last part of Snape's life: Some of the plant associations will be in the potions ingredients, and his role as Potions Master would be a mystical interpretation of the Green Man. Also, Snape is a literal "Green Man" as the Head of Slytherin House. Allow me to re-quote this from wikipedia about Serpents & their connection to Plants:

Quote:
The snake's venom is associated with the chemicals of plants and fungi (a direct analogy; snakes=plants)...Because of its herbal knowledge and entheogenic association, the snake was often considered one of the wisest animals, being (close to the) divine. Its divine aspect combined with its habitat in the earth between the roots of plants made it an animal with chthonic* properties connected to the afterlife and immortality.
*Chthonic designates, or pertains to, deities or spirits of the Underworld (subterranea) = Dungeons! There is also a part that talks about Cthonic serpents that guard trees (reminded me of him waiting at the bottom of the whomping willow )

Symbols of Rebirth

Treacle was right that Serpents do represent the cycles of birth, death, and rebirth due to the shedding of their skin. Inky's essay is a really great read, and makes another connection between Slytherin-Green-Man Snape & the concept of "Rebirth" -- The Phoenix!

Quote:
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:

"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.
That was a brilliant catch about the Phoenix Song & Snape's Spell sounding like song I noticed something else about CoS and HBP -- both Tom & Snape are half-bloods. Both were brilliant students who invented various new spells. Tom was the "Heir", much like a Prince is an heir to a royal throne

Sectumsempra was one of Snape's *secret spells*. It was one of The Prince's Secrets, hidden in a book, parallel to The Heir's secret, horcrux "hidden" in a book. Sectumsempra also happened in a bathroom, and the Chamber can only be accessed by a bathroom (I know they're different bathrooms, but still )

I also like what Ignisia said too about the scene on the Windy Hilltop vs. SWM:

Quote:
Originally Posted by ignisia View Post
I wonder if the loss of a wand reflects a yielding of secrets (ex. prejudice in the one memory, love in the other). Losing the magic (control?) he relies on allows the serpent to escape from his mouth.
Exactly Whether it's the Windy Hilltop or SWM, divulging information is the Disgorging-Head.

The "Chamber" has a Disgorging Head (statue of Salazar Slytherin)
The "Heir" has a Disgorging Head (Voldemort's Dark Mark & Morsmordre)
The "Prince" also has a Disgorging Head (Snape & Green Man motif)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arithmancer
Well, the thing she excised from CoS altogether was an old Potions book full of corrected recipes and clever, invented spells, which had been property of "The Half-Blood Prince". Does that fit in, somehow? Muffliato and Langlock affect functions of the face (speech, hearing). Or maybe, the spells get nastier over time, showing the transformation from the original leafy style, natural, innocent Snape, to the one that will be the DE?
I really do see something here, especially with Inky's comment about the book & it's leaves. See, Jo said 'The Half-Blood Prince' might be described as a strand of the overall plot. That strand could be used in a whole variety of ways and back in 1997 I considered weaving it into the story of 'Chamber'.

So maybe the Green Man motif is that "strand" of the overall plot that can be used in different ways? It's interesting to note that a "motif" is literally a repeating pattern within an overarching theme.

I think it's definitely possible that Snape is like a metaphorical "Chamber of Secrets" (well, maybe a cauldron of secrets ). And his greatest secret was kept by Dumbledore, and revealed only by The Bloodsucker Head:

Quote:
“Very well. Very well. But never - never tell, Dumbledore! This must be between us! Swear it! I cannot bear…especially Potter’s son…I want your word!”
Snape's Death = Bloodsucker Head
Snape = Serpent
Dumbledore = Phoenix

All symbols of rebirth & renewal


On Vegetable Chemistry

Oh, one more thing before I forget! Inky also brought up a great point about The Green Lion! According to wikipedia, while most of the Green Man faces were male & human, there are also carvings of Green Demons, Green Cats, and Green Lions:


In alchemy there were two kinds of practices. One was called Mineral Alchemy (which would eventually branch off into mechanical laboratory chemistry), the other was called Vegetable Alchemy or Vegetable Chemistry. The Green Lion is a phase of the alchemical process, but it also came to refer to alchemists who worked with plant substances (the equivalent in the field of minerals was The Grey Wolf).

Quote:
To other alchemists who worked primarily with vegetable matter and processes, rather than the mineral work, the Green Lion was an image of the green raw energy of nature, "the green fuse which drives the flower" as Dylan Thomas elegantly expressed it in one of his poems. Here the Green Lion which devours the sun is the green pigment chlorophyll. The green leaves of the plant are formed out of the energy of sunlight. Alchemists often attempted to create living processes in their flasks and looked especially for precipitates or crystallisations which resembled leaves or plant forms. The Green Lion here could be a plant sap extract which was often the prima materia for their alchemical work. 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.
In light of Vegetable Chemistry & the references to Gryffindor in DH, I'm with Silver Ink in that Snape is the embodiment of The Green Lion (more than Neville). The main reason being the code name for alchemical phase of The Green Lion: VITRIOL.

Vitriol was a corrosive substances used to dissolve "vulgar" gold. Vitriol has two meanings. One is that it's an alchemical anagram Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Inveniens Occultum Lapidem Veram Medicinam ("See in the interior of the purified earth, and you will find the secret stone, the true medicine").

The other meaning that will really remind you of Snape is the very definition of the word:
  1. Cruel and bitter criticism
  2. subject to bitter verbal abuse
  3. abusive or venomous language used to express blame or censure or bitter deep-seated ill will

And I have another idea about what this all means - "rebirth" and especially that last part from the previous quote above about the Gryphon & the "spiritualisation of the Green Lion". It's sort of crazy tho & requires some really careful analysis...

K that's it

__________________________________________________ ____________

So now that we have an understanding of the Green Man from the archetypal perspective, I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts Obviously this is all leaning toward a very symbolic, mystical, and metaphorical interpretation, and I know that's not everyone's cup of tea. Personally I still think it's worth exploring
Anyway, my next post will also be sorta long & delves into the mythologies associated with the Green Man...
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Last edited by Charlotte_Snape; June 19th, 2011 at 8:30 am.
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  #13  
Old June 19th, 2011, 1:16 pm
TreacleTartlet  Female.gif TreacleTartlet is offline
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Re: Severus Snape & The Green Man Motif

Gosh Charlotte, I will have to read this a few more times as there is so much to take in, but here is just something that initially struck me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlotte_Snape View Post
Oh, one more thing before I forget! Inky also brought up a great point about The Green Lion! According to wikipedia, while most of the Green Man faces were male & human, there are also carvings of Green Demons, Green Cats, and Green Lions:


In alchemy there were two kinds of practices. One was called Mineral Alchemy (which would eventually branch off into mechanical laboratory chemistry), the other was called Vegetable Alchemy or Vegetable Chemistry. The Green Lion is a phase of the alchemical process, but it also came to refer to alchemists who worked with plant substances (the equivalent in the field of minerals was The Grey Wolf).



In light of Vegetable Chemistry & the references to Gryffindor in DH, I'm with Silver Ink in that Snape is the embodiment of The Green Lion (more than Neville). The main reason being the code name for alchemical phase of The Green Lion: VITRIOL.

Vitriol was a corrosive substances used to dissolve "vulgar" gold. Vitriol has two meanings. One is that it's an alchemical anagram Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Inveniens Occultum Lapidem Veram Medicinam ("See in the interior of the purified earth, and you will find the secret stone, the true medicine").
Wow, this takes me back to the old days of the Alchemy in HP threads.

I like the idea of Snape as the Green Lion. The Green Lion visually conjures a hybrid between the Gryffindor symbol of the lion, and the colour symbol for Slytherin.

I don't think it can be denied that Snape certainly had courage.

"You are a braver man by far than Igor Karkaroff."(Dumbledore, DH, The Prince's Tale)

And:

"Do not think that I underestimate the constant danger in which you place yourself, Severus. To give Voldemort what appears to be valuable information while withholding the essentials is a job I would entrust to nobody but you."



Dumbledore even suggests that Snape could have made a Gryffindor.

"You know, I sometimes think we Sort too soon..."

So, Snape as the Green Lion could be the embodiment of both the qualities of Slytherin and Griffindor.



Last edited by TreacleTartlet; June 19th, 2011 at 1:19 pm.
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Old June 30th, 2011, 3:27 am
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Re: Severus Snape & The Green Man Motif

Quote:
Originally Posted by arithmancer View Post
Where I feel the lack is in later plant imagery around post-DE Snape, perhaps.
I did say "perhaps". Now that I consider it, he is a character that, relatively speaking, is frequently seen in the forest. In PS/SS Harry follows him into the Forest, where he confronts Quirrell, in a scene Harry at the time misunderstands. In CoS, Snape searches the grounds for Ron and Harry when they fail to arrive on the train. In PoA I am not sure whether any of his scenes in the climax take place in the forest or not, but we learn he has a history with the Whomping WIllow, and his knowledge of its secrets allows him to follow Lupin, Sirius, and the Trio into the Shrieking Shack. In OotP, we are told by Dumbledore that he intends to search the forest for Harry after sending the Order to rescue him from the Ministry. In HBP, Snape has a key conversation with Dumbledore in the Forest, some of which Hagrid overhears. In DH, Snape's Patronus helps Harry gain the Sword of Gryffindor, again in the forest. GoF is the only book I can't recall having a forest-related scene for Snape.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TreacleTartlet View Post

JKR: Hagrid was always supposed to be this almost elemental force. He's like the king of the forest, or the Green Man.


Source: http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/...southbank.html

However this doesn't necessarily mean that Hagrid is the only representative of the Green Man within the story. I will need to look into this idea further.
Interesting! This shows, certainly, that Rowling is familiar with the Green Man. Also, I find it interesting that Hagrid is a teacher that defends Snape to Harry. In PS/SS he dismisses Harry's suspicions of him. In HBP, he refuses to believe Harry's version of Snape's "murder" of Dumbledore. In fact, we are never shown him condemning Snape or opposing him - he is not present in the aftermath scene of HBP in which the other Order members go over Snape's actions and express their anger and disappointment, and he has left the school by the time McGonagall and the other teachers confront Snape.

Your mention of Hagrid's role in Harry's "rebirthing" reminded me that Snape also has such a role. It is his memories, that come out of his head in the third "Green Man" scene Charlotte mentions, that suggest to Harry the course of action that will bring about his rebirth after he is "killed" by Voldemort in the Forest.


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