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Section 1

Life Force: The Psycho-Historical Recovery of the Self
Jean Houston, Ph.D.

Some of the references herein can be found at greater length and detail in the excellent book Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander, who we are told, "was awarded the Order of Merlin, Second Class, in 1979 in recognition of his services to the study of magical beasts, Magizoology."

The quoted definitions throughout this and the other sections are from the online dictionary.


Abominable Snowman
In Scamander's Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, there is an entry for "Yeti," with a notation that it is also known as the Abominable Snowman, a creature with white fur, standing 15 feet tall.

Clearly, a close encounter with a Yeti would be a memorable experience, so it comes as no surprise that the bombastic Gilderoy Lockhart published a book claiming an extended association with this fabled creature, Year with the Yeti.

Scamander is correct in pointing out that the Yeti is also known as the Abominable Snowman, but incorrect in stating that it's known as Bigfoot, which is clearly its North American cousin, also known by the name Sasquatch.

Those who hunt the Yeti (or, at least, hunt for information about this creature) have yet to find it, for the same reason that those who hunt the Loch Ness monster have yet to find it: Sightings are inconclusive. The scientific conclusion is that those who have purportedly seen the Yeti have in fact seen a creature, but have misidentified it as a Yeti.

Typically cited as being spotted above the snow line in the Himalayan mountain range--depending on its region, the snow line is 14,700 to 17,000 feet above sea level--the Yeti remains elusive, and is most likely a creature of imagination, not a rarely seen creature who haunts remote and high mountain regions.

In the Harry Potter novels, Abraxans are elephant-sized Palomino horses with wings that make their appearance when a dozen of them are drawing a carriage carrying students to Hogwarts from Beauxbatons, one of two other schools of witchcraft and wizardry in Europe (the other school is Durmstrang).

The inspiration for the name likely came from the word abraxas, which has a place as a god in Egyptian culture and also in demonology. It is frequently used as an amulet, and the magical word abracadabra is derived from it. In numerology, its seven Greek letters translate to 365, which corresponds to the number of days in a year.

It is obviously connected to Greek mythology, to Pegasus, from the word pegasos (the Greek word for "spring"), a winged horse who sprang to life from drops of blood from Medusa, one of the Gorgon sisters, when beheaded by Perseus.

Tamed by Bellerophon with a golden bridle given to him by Athena, Pegasus later bore him in battle against the Chimaera.

Not only a symbol of poetic inspiration, Pegasus also symbolizes flights of imagination.

Pegasus, a northern constellation, can best be seen in October.

Abraxan: Aethonan

Aethonan is cited in Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them under the listing for "Winged Horse" as a breed found mainly in Britain, and the likely inspiration is Aethon. In Greek mythology, Aethon (the son of Hyperion) is the sun god and Pegasus carries his chariot daily from east to west. In Roman mythology, Aethon is one of the names of Helios's horses (the others are Phlegon, Eos, and Pyrois) that carries Helios's sun chariot across the heavens.

"Do some of the beasts appear in your dreams sometimes and give you nightmares?"
J. K. Rowling: No. They haven't yet and I don't think they will but I, myself, am like Ron because I too am afraid of spiders, so the Chamber of Secrets would be the one I fear most. -Interviewed on Blue Peter on cBBC (March 12, 2001)

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, in Hagrid's hut, the Minister of Magic (Cornelius Fudge) and Lucius Malfoy--the chief instigator to remove Albus Dumbledore from his position as Hogwarts headmaster and incarcerate Hagrid in Azkaban--don't know they have visitors: Using his father's invisibility cloak, Harry Potter overhears the dastardly plan, as does Ron Weasley. Knowing the two boys are in earshot, Hagrid drops the none-too-subtle clue that anyone who wanted to know what was really going on should follow the spiders.

Harry and Ron take Hagrid's advice, which leads them deep into the Forbidden Forest, where they encounter a giant spider, an Acromantula named Aragog, whom Hagrid has befriended and raised. (The well-meaning Hagrid also found Aragog a wife, an Acromantula named Mosag.)

In Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, Scamander notes that these creatures, which originated in Borneo, were specially bred by wizards to be used as guards for dwellings or treasures. With its eight 15-foot-long legs and near-human intelligence, and armed with a poisonous secretion, the Acromantula is indeed a formidable beast, which is why Harry and Ron are justifiably horrified when Aragog tells them about his personal history, but decides in the end that although he would not bring his old friend Hagrid to harm, his friends enjoy no such privilege: They are suitable prey, at which point Harry and Ron beat a well-timed retreat.

In truth, real-world spiders do have eight legs and do have poisonous secretions, but the estimated 34,000 species of spiders, from the class Arachnida, are typically small; in fact, the largest is the tarantula, which usually grows only to three inches; however, some can grow up to ten inches and may eat small birds, toads, mice, and frogs.

Scamander cites Borneo, located northwest of the South China Sea in the Malay Archipelago, as the birthplace of the Acromantula, a name that may be a combination of "acro" (meaning height) and tarantula (the biggest known spiders in the world), which makes sense: An Acromantula, then, would be a large spider.

It's possible, given Rowling's intimate knowledge of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, that a partial inspiration for Aragog and Mosag is Tolkien's own Shelob, which he said was a philological joke, since it translates to "female spider." A giant spider with a poisonous sac to paralyze or kill her prey, Shelob, who lives deep in the bowels of Cirith Ungol, is, like Aragog and Mosag, a formidable enemy and nearly bests Frodo and his manservant, Sam.

Harry Potter deliberately spills a bottle of armadillo bile, used as an ingredient in potions in Professor Snape's class, in order to stay behind after class to listen in on a conversation between Snape and Professor Karkaroff. There is no conclusive reason why armadillo bile would be useful as an ingredient for potions, since standard texts do not make any special note of it.

A gray serpent with fiery eyes, the Ashwinder emerges from a magical fire and lays its flammable eggs under a sheltering rock or log. Its name may be a combination of its color (ash) and its method of locomotion (sidewinding), which is unusual for snakes, producing a J-shaped pattern in the sand. This species of snake recalls the sidewinder, a gray snake found in the southwest United States, which lays its eggs under rocks to protect them from the heat of the desert sun.


In his Defense Against the Dark Arts class, Professor Lupin teaches his students how to defend themselves against a boggart, a shape-shifting creature, which assumes the shape of each person's worst fear. For Seamus Finnigan, his worst fear is a banshee, a nonmalevolent female spirit specifically associated with Irish mythology, which sometimes makes a distinction between the banshee's physical presence and aural presence: Its physical presence presages one's own death, whereas its aural presence presages the death of someone in the family.

Therefore it's obvious why Seamus Finnigan fears and doesn't want to see a banshee: It would signal his impending death.

Derived from Irish Gaelic ("bean woman" or "spirit woman"), the banshee typically makes her appearance at night and is instantly recognizable for her sustained and unmistakable keening sound. Professor Gilderoy Lockhart's book Break with a Banshee is one of the required texts for his class, but as most of his students discovered, his books tend to be more fiction than fact; in actuality, he simply mines other people's experiences and passes them off as his own. So when he claims to have banished the Bandon Banshee, the claim can be discounted, since proper credit should have been given to an unnamed witch about whom we know little except that she is harelipped.

Deep in the bowels of Hogwarts, an ancient beast lies in wait, to be summoned once again by one who speaks Parseltongue, a language that few witches or wizards can speak--a language most often associated with Dark Wizards and the house of Slytherin, from which most dark wizards have come.

From the basilisk's presence spiders flee, even giant ones like Aragog and Mosag. A fearsome creature--whose real-world origins may be found in the Indian cobra--"basilisk" comes from the Greek word basileus, which means "king." Thus it is known as the King of Serpents, blessed with long life, able to kill with a single glance, and virtually invulnerable, except to attack by weasels, which can secrete a deadly venom, or the sound of a crowing cock. It can also die of fright if it sees its own reflected image.

A creature from Greek and Roman mythologies, the basilisk was known in the Middle Ages as a cockatrice, and had the body of a snake and the head, wings, and feet of a rooster.

First-year Hogwarts students are given a shopping list of required items, which include a set of brass scales, needed for weighing ingredients for potions. (One of the most taxing and procedural classes students can expect to take is Potions under Professor Severus Snape.)

It's not surprising that one of the ingredients used in potion-making is the beetle, for ancient Egyptians considered it sacred; in fact, it was most frequently fashioned as a talisman. Derived from the Latin word scarabaeus, the scarab was an important Egyptian symbol of rebirth, which is why it was frequently used as an amulet positioned over the heart of a mummy, since the human heart was removed during the mummification process and the amulet served in the afterlife as that person's new heart.

In the wizarding world, any good apothecary store would carry scarab beetles and beetle eyes; in fact, most witches and wizards buy theirs at Diagon Alley at the Apothecary, though there'd almost certainly be an apothecary store in the magical village Hogsmeade near Hogwarts as well.

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