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Potions and Poisons

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Potions are the most tricky and precise form of physical magic. In ancient times, witches were always associated with potions: they brewed beauty potions, transmogrification potions, and invisibility potions most often. Potion brewing in ancient times was often viewed as practice fuelled by selfish and ill intent, but literature throughout the ages is filled to the brim with potions: love potions, fortune potions, invisibility or invincibility potions, and especially potions that affect one’s size.

The term potion comes from the Latin word “potio”, meaning “to drink”. Even early potions were able to induce sleep, cause paralysis, poison the body, or cloud the brain, and have been used to ages, both to help and to harm. Potions often contain obscure ingredients – things that one often would not consume alone. Potions from ancient Rome and Greece included ingredients such as bats’ blood, crushed beetles, feathers, bird and animal claws, snake skeletons or skins, and many different herbs. Animal parts were often used because it was believed that by consuming part of an animal, you would gain their qualities. For example, by drinking a potion containing bats’ blood, you were supposed to be able to see in the dark. Tortoiseshells would increase your lifespan and rabbit’s feet would increase your speed. This could also be why people were often warned against leaving their belongings places, as it was thought that an evil person could come along and transfigure into you or gain your qualities. Toads were often used in ancient potions as well, but this has a basis in science – toads secrete nasty chemicals when they are frightened, and so these chemicals would seep into a potion, thus causing many hallucinations. This most likely explains most of the reported “working” potions that people brewed.

The most sought-after potion by far is definitely the love potion, known as “philter” in the ancient times. These brews were banned



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