Plant used in Draught of Living Death.
- Interesting that this traditional symbol of bitterness figured prominently in the first question Snape ever set Harry in Potions (PS8).
- An infusion of wormwood is used in the Pottermore, Wonderbook Book of Potions, and Halfblood Prince video game versions of the Shrinking Solution (Pm, BoP, HBP/g)
- Wormwood or Artemisia absinthium, is a a plant which grows in rocky waste areas all over the northern hemisphere. Sagebrush in the American West is a distant cousin. The family name, Artemisia, refers to the goddess Artemis, or Diana - the goddess of the moon and the hunt. source: Wikipedia
- Although wormwood has a bitter taste, it's an ingredient in the alcoholic beverage absinthe, known in France as "Le Fee Verte" or "The Green Fairy" for it's bright color and supposedly hallucinogenic effects. Absinthe was popular in the 19th century among bohemian artists and writers such as Oscar Wilde, Charles Baudelaire, Edouard Manet and Vincent van Gogh. The alkaloid "thujone" present in the wormwood was rumored to drive absinthe drinkers insane, so it was banned in many countries up until present day. Although wormwood by itself is certainly poisonous, thujone in absinthe is quite diluted. So Vincent Van Gogh probably did not go mad and cut off his ear due to a love for absinthe. source: Nature's Poisons
Café Table with Absinthe by Vincent Van Gogh [public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
Used in the Draught of Living Death, and the Pottermore/Book of Potions Shrinking Solution.
From Middle English "wormwode" referring to a drink to expell worms
In Harry's first Potions class, Snape mentions three plants: wormwood, asphodel, and aconite (wolfsbane). All three plants have some connection to Harry's dead mother Lily, and may be foreshadowing for the whole series. The three plants also show what might have been on Snape's mind during his first face-to-face meeting with Harry.
- Wormwood is bright green, like the eyes of both Lily and Harry. It has a bitter taste, just as Snape has bitter remorse about Lily's death. The name is reminscent of "Wormtail," the nickname of Peter Pettigrew, the traitor who sold Lily and James Potter out to Voldemort. However at the time of the first potions class, Snape and everyone else believed that Peter was a dead victim of Sirius Black. But this could certainly be seen as foreshadowing.
- Asphodel is a type of white lily associated in ancient Greece with the deaths of heroes.
- Aconite/wolfsbane is associated with the Marauders: Harry's father, James, and his friends Sirius Black, Peter Pettigrew, and Remus Lupin. Snape was nearly killed by Lupin as a werewolf when Sirius tricked Snape into going to the Shrieking Shack during a full moon. This is possibly foreshadowing for the events of PA, when Snape brews the Wolfsbane Potion for Professor Lupin, just before Wormtail is revealed and runs back to Voldemort.