Magical Drafts And Potions

Arsenius Jigger was a notable potioneer, former Ministry of Magic employee, and professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Following his retirement, he traveled the world studying various forms of defensive magic and potions in the hopes of giving young people a solid foundation in magical knowledge upon their entrance into Hogwarts. The following represents the third printing since Jigger’s original publication of Magical Drafts and Potions in 1856. Although the content remains the same, the editor has left footnotes to denote changes in legislation, theory, and other relevant content.

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An Overview Of African Potions

Chapter 13
Before the author delves into the briefest overview of African potions by region, he would first like to take the opportunity to apologize for the brevity of this section. In fact, owing to the large variations in climate, flora, fauna, as well as magical tradition and even faith, the potions of Africa would be much better suited to a single standalone book that highlights not only the rise of magic in various parts of the continent, but the unique structures and traditions, some of which exist in place today, others of which have unfortunately faded through the Ministry’s attempts to standardize magical education throughout the world. Those students who are interested in African ingredients, herbs, healing, and potions are more than encouraged to seek independent study in this regard.

Although this section is dividing Africa into north, west, central, east, and south, there is a great discrepancy even within these large geographical regions. Remember, some of these areas are mountainous, some grassland and fields, hills, deserts, deep forests, beaches, tropical climates - every possible geological structure can be found on this continent, adding to the vast biodiversity that magical folk see.

As the author discussed in the chapter covering the foundations of magic, the secrets of Egyptian magic, also called heka, are still being sought by western witches and wizards, particularly by the maheka-lala, or the regional name for the curse-breakers of Gringotts. Unfortunately, the magical communities of Egypt now have no recollection of this heritage of powerful and advanced magic either, and the magic practiced there now can best be characterized as western in nature.

However, one of the ingredients endemic to potions in northern Africa, particularly those which are brewed in Morocco, contains flowers and essential oils from the argan tree, a species of tree in the Sous valley in southwestern Morocco. The flowers of the argan tree are used in beautifying creams as well as slimming and thinning potions. The oil, meanwhile, has widespread use in North African potioneering, being utilized not only in different beautifying potions, but also love and lust potions, and certain healing potions, particularly those that cure digestive issues, ulcers, and other stomach problems.

There are a few species native to North Africa that are still used in region-specific potions. The first of these is the fat-tailed scorpion, of the genus Androctonus, whose etymological root comes from the Greek for “man-killer.” The tail of this scorpion is used in certain strong antidotes to poison, and can also be used in powerful anti-venoms. The claws, meanwhile can be used in potions that increase an individual’s stealth and cunning.

The Egyptian cobra is another popular ingredient - as well as occasional witch or wizard’s pet - in North Africa. Despite its common name, this snake can be found across most of North Africa and parts of the Middle East, as well as across the savannas of West Africa, and even parts of east Africa. The blood of this snake is a very powerful ingredient, and it is thought that the skin of the hood of the Egyptian cobra may be one of the important ingredients in the mysterious Drink of Despair, occasionally known as the Emerald Potion. However, replicating this is impossible, as the use of the hood of this cobra is illegal in most parts of the magical world.

A very important animal which (while it can be found elsewhere in the world) originally came from Egypt is the phoenix. The feathers of the phoenix will be well-known to students in Great Britain, as it is one of the three cores that the Ollivander family uses exclusively in their wands. While phoenix tears on their own also serve as a magical curative, these tears can also be used in even more powerful curing potions. Phoenix tears are exceedingly rare and difficult to track down by legal and ethical means, so these potions are not often used.

One relatively unique aspect of North African potioneering that is seen, though to a lesser extent, in central and eastern African regions is the use of chips of metallic and stone elements in potioneering, often heavily utilizing the substances alchemic principles. For instance, there is an incredibly powerful love potion that was invented in the sixteenth century in Morocco that utilizes not only dates from the date palm and two spines from the crested porcupine, but also incorporates shavings of copper as one of its major ingredients.

Traditionally, witches and wizards of southern Africa took the role of shaman, priest, healer, and occasionally even leadership positions within their communities, mostly of the San, Bantu, and Khoikhoi people, although those of the Zulu nation arrived a little later in the region’s history. Potions were not quite as commonly used as healing energies, healing charms, and even runic enchantments. However, traditional plants native to Southern Africa were used in potions primarily brewed for healing, protection and strength, and dreams. For example, the leaves of a plant native to South Africa known as uzara is used in antidotes to uncommon poisons. Meanwhile, the roots of the plant Silene pilosellifolia are used in several Draughts of Vivid Dreaming.

One of the most powerful protective potions known to wizardkind is, in fact, a highly complicated and time-sensitive concoction that comes from southern Africa composed of the blood of a blackhead Persian sheep, the eyes of a galago (more commonly called a bushbaby), and charred wood chips from an African date tree. This potion, while it will not defend the taker from all harm or disease, will make them resistant to many forms of Dark magic and assault. Few have managed to brew this protective potion successfully, and none off the continent of Africa, interestingly. Galago eyes are also used in other protective potions, that, while they are not quite as efficacious as the Staalhart Serum, are still quite handy and can be brewed in Europe and Great Britain.

These days, much of the potioneering in urban South Africa is heavily influenced by the European witches and wizards who arrived during the colonization of the region. Although wizardkind has often been in close contact and agreement in other situations of colonization and influx of magical and non-magical kind from elsewhere, there was a good deal of strife and tension between the witches and wizards who lived in South Africa and those who arrived with the colonizers in the 17th century and onward. There was, in fact, a twenty-year conflict between the magical South Africans and Dutch-descended witches and wizards at the beginning of this century that only ended when the International Confederation of Wizards stepped in to control the situation. The conflict is now known as Die Draai or “The Turning.”

Also a well-known symbol and unique element in East African non-magical populations, particularly among the Maasai, is the zebu or brahman cow. While they have myriad uses in Kenya and Tanzania for dairy, meat, and draught oxen, their tongue, hooves, blood, and liver also have several unique uses in potions. Scrapings from their hooves, for example, can be used in potions that very rapidly heal blisters, sores and other cuts, while their tongue is often used in secrecy or silencing potions. These are potions which, in conjunction with specific complicated spells, can prevent a person from speaking about a particular topic or revealing a secret. Though not as dire as a blood oath or Unbreakable Vow, as they can be overcome without harm by a very strong mind, they are still very tricky potions with which to manage.

Feathers of the superb starling (Lamprotornis superbus) are also used in beautification potions, and are in fact occasionally used as pets. When they are used as such, they are not poached for their feathers, but rather collected from the cages and enclosures to keep for potioneering. The specific beautification potions for which they’re used promote smooth, blemish free skin and thick, smooth hair. Dried feet of these starlings are also used for muscle-building potions and potions that encourage toning of the body. While these potions will not alter the composition of the body on their own, they do seem to impact the overall metabolism and resource allocation, so that physical exertion has a faster and more robust impact on the witch or wizard who consumes it.

There has always been a strong pull to the concept of balance among Central African magical communities. Similar to some of the philosophies you see in the Far East, many of the witches and wizards of Central Africa have been of the belief that magic is best in balance when one recognizes the balance of the day and the night, the man and the woman, the light and the dark. While these communities have always maintained a strict sense of moral and ethical obligation, the Witches and Wizards particularly of Rwanda and the Congo have always believed that Dark magic is not evil because of its existence, but rather for the purpose for which it is used. For example, it is often noted that using a “Dark” but swift-acting poison by choice to end a life of suffering may be of a more benevolent purpose than leaving that being to suffer.

The education we see young people receive in potions is similar. For every potion, there is a counter-potion: even if one were to learn the recipe for a Cheering Potion using the white head feathers of the Congo peafowl, it would then make sense to learn a Sadness Serum using the black wing feather of a black guineafowl. The cultures of the Central African regions seek out recipes for potions as well as spells, amulets, runic enchantments, and similar magic that reflects this opposition - either using the same ingredient to achieve opposing effects, or, in the case of the white feathers of the peafowl and the black of the guineafowl, opposing characteristics.[1]

Despite the multiple varied populations that make up all regions of Africa, the magic of West Africa has become the most cohesive on the continent over the past several hundred years. Following the establishment of Uagadou School of Magic in West Africa, there was a concentrated effort from the various African ministries to begin to consolidate and create a more regional magical identity. The school currently mostly consists of witches and wizards from Western Africa, although they have begun admitting many from Central and Eastern, and some from North and South Africa on a yearly basis.

The potions taught at Uagadou are in line with the International Confederation Standards of education, so if a young witch or wizard from Great Britain were to spend a semester at Uagadou, it would not be terribly different from the education he or she would receive at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. However, there has always been a bit of a fine line when it came to magic in many of the local communities. While the concept of magic as a whole did not face the persecution it did in many parts of Europe, much of West Africa had a conflicting viewpoint when discussing the positive and negative qualities of magic: in contrast to the Central African magical communities, while healers, shamans, and other important religious figures were often encouraged and even celebrated, the Dark Arts in any form met strong fear and opposition in the community.

As such, the teaching of poisons, harmful potions, and other forms of “Dark” potioneering are not taught in any depth in the school. There is a heavy focus on potions for luck, deep and dreamless sleeps, healing potions, and also, interestingly, potions that help prevent water loss and delay the onset of dehydration - a highly specialized potion that, while it does not prevent dehydration endlessly, helps the body contain water while regulating body temperature to prolong the time before its onset.[2]

[1]In the past five decades or so, the magical population in Central Africa has dropped greatly, with much of this population traveling to West Africa, in consideration of seeking to escape Muggle conflicts. Many families also desire to be located closer to Uagadou, and as such, there have been much larger magical communities established in Mali and Burkina Faso.
[2] In consideration of the population shift in the magical communities with the increased cultural balance of Central African wizarding families, Uagadou has begun to present a much more varied representation of magic that reflects a more diverse student body. It has also begun to accept a much more even balance of students from throughout the vast, vast continent of Africa.

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