To its own cost, there was a time the world believed
that the fair Cyprian beamed rays of maddened love,
revolving in the wheel of the third epicycle,
Paradiso, Canto 8 lines 1 – 3
Venus, or in the Greek mythology equivalent Aphrodite, is the classical goddess of love, lust, beauty and sexual reproduction. In reference to her place of birth she is also called the Cyprian. She is directly mentioned in the opening words of the 8th Canto of Paradise. These lines allude to the many stories that entwine around Venus’s entanglements with Paris, Eros and Adonis. They are the basis for the popular believe that the star named after her radiates insane love.
Was it this insane love that animated Professor Severus Snape? This riddle stays to be solved – perhaps – in the following. Yet, it is clear from our perspective now that Snape’s love for Harry Potter’s mother Lily became the driving force in his life.
‘But this is touching, Severus,’ said Dumbledore seriously. ‘Have you grown to care for the boy, after all?’
‘For him?’ shouted Snape. ‘Expecto patronum!’
From the tip of his wand burst the silver doe: she landed on the office floor, bounded once across the office and soared out of the window. Dumbledore watched her fly away, and as her silvery glow faded he turned back to Snape, and his eyes were full of tears.
‘After all this time?’
‘Always,’ said Snape.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33: The Prince’s Tale
After reading this I don’t think I exaggerate once I say whatever good Snape did in his life he did it out of love. This puts him in one row with the other inhabitants of Dante’s Venus Sphere who exist there for all eternity because they did good out of love.
But let’s return to the question of rays radiated by Venus onto the Potion Master. How did he become the one who did everything out of love?
One of the earliest memories we ever get to see of the young Professor Snape is that of a devastated child watching his abusive father terrorizing his helpless mother. Even a child in his situation has to forge close links with his parents. Yet, such a child can’t develop consistent attachment strategies to find comfort and protection – the father is trigger of the fear and creates thereby a dilemma without back door for the boy, the mother transfuses her anxiety.
The child experiences the world therefore as a constant lieu of threat; the horror of it mirrored in the attachment figures. (disorganised/ disorientated attachment style). For a child like that it is hard to develop an identity of one own as his focus is not on his emotions and motivations but he has constantly to judge the emotional state of the parents/ mother. It has been shown that these children become adults who overvalue relationships but are burdened with an insecure attachment style. This is proven right for Snape by this scene:
Snape staggered – his wand flew upwards, away from Harry – and suddenly Harry’s mind was teeming with memories that were not his: a hook-nosed man was shouting at a cowering woman, while a small dark-haired boy cried in a corner … a greasy-haired teenager sat alone in a dark bedroom, pointing his wands at the ceiling, shooting down flies … a girl was laughing as a scrawny boy tried to mount a bucking broomstick –
Harry felt as through he had been pushed hard in the chest; he staggered several steps backwards, hit some of the shelves covering Snape’s walls and heard something crack. Snape was shaking slightly, and was very white in the face.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 26: Seen and Unforseen
It seems even as an adult Snape is flashingly flooded by dark memories of the childhood. Why else would Harry have access to these memories first when he breaks surprisingly into Snape’s brain? And Snape’s vegetative reactions show that the memories are still a permanent strain for him. From that we can conclude that he hasn’t coped with problems and difficulties arising of his shaken relationship with his attachment figures. That means he is still in a state of dependency to his parents/ mother (mother because she is usually the first and foremost attachment figure).
Yet, from all we can read we can conduct that his mother isn’t and wasn’t available for him. So, if he is still entangled with her he is rather entangled with the archetype of the mother. The archetype of the mother is a rather abstract principle that is usually projected on a certain person. If no real character is available we tend to transform it into a mythological ‘fairy tale character’. Jung is of the opinion that a person who’s mother can’t live up to the expectations, often spends his life finding comfort by identifying with the motherland, the church or other abstract entities.
And here Lily and his engagement with Voldemort and his Death Eaters come into play.
‘You are,’ said Snape to Lily. ‘You are a witch. I’ve been watching you for a while. But there’s nothing wrong with that. My mum’s one, and I’m a wizard.’
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33: The Prince’s Tale
First, Snape develops an interest into Lily, the only other witch available in his surrounding. He even compares her with his mother. Yet soon, it becomes clear that young Lily rather represents another archetypal image, that of the Anima. And Snape withdraws for the mother archetype to the lap of the Death Eaters (with maybe Narcissa Malfoy as the most real mother figure he ever experienced).
And here we have set up the traditional triangle of man (Snape), mother (Death Eater Circle) and anima (Lily). The Death Eaters have a hold on him, they are restrictive and demanding like an excessively overprotective mother. And like any such a mother they offer him insufficient room to grow and expand.
Lily on the other hand is his soul image – I am a wizard and you are a witch, so we are basically similar. Just that she represents his female side. By exploring her he could be lifted to the greatest heights. However, the anima principle is hidden deeply in the psyche. If one sees the psyche as a big cauldron and the body as the fire beneath it, the anima is very close to the residuum, the unconscious, that shouldn’t be touched.
Snape needed ultimately to come to terms with both archetypes on his way to individualisation. When he just leaves one or both of them behind they will follow him all his life, at least psychologically and he will not be able to establish other healthy relationships.
Did he come to terms with the Death Eater organisation? Even though his surrounding might not have believed it, internally he had closed that chapter of his life after he had been personally confronted with the dear consequences of his actions. Even though he had to go back and had to deal with the Circle, he did so without the emotional ties he once was entangled in.
Did he come to terms with Lily? No. He was never given a chance to speak to her again after the ‘Mudblood’ incident. And then she was suddenly dead, killed under circumstances that were beyond his control in the end. Nevertheless, he mourned her loss for years and years and sailed straight into an obsessive depression. Instead of burning away the illusions and the goddess image he built her a pedestal and made her to his lone light in his darkness.
So, the love of Snape for Lily was not insane love radiated from Venus. It was unhealthy in the end as the goddess image he became to love belonged to some spiritual realm. It hindered him to move on in his individualisation, in his alchemical way to wholeness. Yet, I want to believe that with Harry – who made Lily not just a woman but a mother – something in Snape started to move into place. Consciously, he still fought this realisation as the ‘mothers’ in his life were always full of flaws. But unconsciously, the son enabled Snape to move on and still do everything out of love – for Lily and Harry.