Ashwinder: the Fantastic Beast of luck and ruin, born in magical flames


We love all our new beasts and the Ashwinder is a pretty incredible one to take a look at! It isn’t the beast of luck after all.

Muggles scream at any creature they sense as magical, and even Muggle snakes have a touch of magic in them. So imagine the powerful effects magical snakes have on the psyches of witches and wizards. The Ashwinder, being a fire-born snake, feeds off intense emotion, magically transforming the moment.

Cultural myths tend to honor snakes, their appearance seen as omens of luck. Because of their habit of emerging from the old, shed skin, they have powerful mental connections to rebirth. Humans in myth who find themselves in the company of a snake are often in the midst of intense emotions, sometimes desperation, and realize that their feelings have been given the power to change the situation.  J.K. Rowling has taken this idea of emotional regeneration and, maybe with a nod to Muggle terror, added an explosive oomph in the Ashwinder.. Being born from a magical fire, the Ashwinder’s transformative abilities aren’t controlled or subtle – instead, all hell breaks loose, creating opportunities the wise witch or wizard can exploit by using their emotional instincts, and so create their own luck.

The eggs of the Ashwinder embody chaos and regenerative potential. After emerging from its nursery of a forgotten magical fire, the Ashwinder lives only for an hour and during that time finds a cozy, quiet spot in which to lay its eggs. Being the children of a fire-born snake, the eggs set fire to themselves and everything around them so they can hatch into their true home of flames. The destructive power of the eggs sets the stage for change and renewal, sort of like a berserk Phoenix.  Ashwinder eggs appear several times in writings from the wizarding world, and each time the eggs’ unstable potential turn human emotions into the fuel that transfigures the situation.

A Christmas play in ruins

Before Hagrid and his Blast-Ended Skrewts, another “interesting critter” enthusiast taught the students of Hogwarts about magical beasts. Around the same time that Newt was searching for his lost beasts in New York, Hogwarts hosted its first Christmas play.  It was also the last Hogwarts Christmas play because, thanks to Care of Magical Creatures teacher, Professor Sylvanus Kettleburn, the entire set was destroyed as soon as the play began. Dumbledore was a new Transfiguration teacher at the time, and In his notes to Beedle the Bard’s story, The Fountain of Fair Fortune, he gives his first-hand account of the disaster.

The director of the play, Herbology teacher Herbert Beery, assigned his fellow teachers various tasks for creating the show. Young Dumbledore’s task was to build the hill and fountain from the story, and Professor Kettleburn supplied the character of the giant Worm that encircles the hill. With tones of overly-modest regret, Dumbledore describes how his beautifully built hill and fountain never got a chance to show their brilliance, because the Worm almost immediately exploded and flung shattered scenery across the audience in the Great Hall.

It turned out that the Worm was an Ashwinder, grown to giant proportions by Professor Kettleburn’s Engorgement Charm. The Ashwinder had played its part well, wrapping itself around the hill – and laying its engorged eggs. With the hill in ruins, the eggs burst into flame, and seemingly also inflamed the simmering instincts in two of the actresses. While everyone else evacuated the burning Great Hall stage, these two witches held a real-life wand duel over the two-timing actor playing Sir Luckless. What began as a simple case of smashed scenery ended with dozens of people in the hospital wing to recover from badly-aimed jinxes, thanks to the Ashwinder and its eggs of chaotic desire. Poor Professor Kettleburn, who had helped the Christmas play effort with his normal reckless enthusiasm, landed in one of the 62 probations he would be given while at Hogwarts. They didn’t call him “Bad-Luck Burny” for no reason.

A Bowtruckle saved, and a Demiguise found

In the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the course-correcting potential of the Ashwinder egg helped Newt and his friends escape to safety and find the rest of Newt’s lost beasts. Newt carried around a frozen Ashwinder egg in his pocket, possibly with the intention of releasing some of its transformational power during emergencies. Desperate for information to find his gentle Demiguise before it came to harm, Newt offered his frozen Ashwinder egg to the gangster goblin Gnarlack, with an air of holding great, unpredictable power in his hands.

But just as he was reaching for the egg, Gnarlack spied little Pickett the Bowtruckle, watching from Newt’s pocket. Unlimited visions of Bowtruckle lock-picking possibilities danced before Gnarlack’s eyes. Tearing up, Newt handed over the pleading little Bowtruckle, receiving Gnarlack’s information with intense guilt and sadness over betraying Pickett. The next moment, all hell broke loose as Aurors apparated into the speakeasy, scattering patrons as they tried to spy Newt and his friends. Newt took full advantage of the pandemonium to find his little Pickett and put him safely back in his pocket.

Felix Felicis – golden luck of the Ashwinder

Felix Felicis, that golden potion of liquid luck, gets its power from an Ashwinder egg. The potion harnesses the egg’s change-bringing properties so that it will always prompt the drinker to make the right choices leading to their desires.

As shown in the game Wonderbook: Book of Potions, the recipe for brewing Felix Felicis shows how it may accomplish this. Ashwinder egg is the very first thing to go in the cauldron, followed by stabilizing ingredients, like thyme and Occamy egg shell, that focus its power to transform. Thyme may help keep the chaotic nature of Ashwinder eggs under control, as its oil is known to stabilize cooking oil to keep it from smoking at a high heat. And we all know how Occamys are choranaptyxic, growing or shrinking to fill available space. Perhaps the Ashwinder egg activates Occamy egg shells to grow emotional space around the drinkers, making them feel the confidence of infinite possibilities, and knowing which ones to reach for. No guessing, no uncertain choices – just follow the voice of the potion. As Harry said after drinking Felix Felicis, “Trust me, I know what I’m doing … or at least Felix does.”

Even when controlled by an excellently made potion worthy of the Half Blood Prince himself, the power of the Ashwinder is still barely stable. As our crystallized-pineapple-loving Slytherin, Professor Slughorn, says, Felix Felicis is “ desperately tricky to make, and disastrous to get wrong” and “if taken in excess, it causes giddiness, recklessness, and dangerous overconfidence”.

Not all potions using Ashwinder eggs leave choices up to the drinker. Most love potions use Ashwinder eggs, and completely take over the mind of the victim.  In love potions, the Ashwinder egg focuses all of its emotion-harnessing potential on only one transformation – to remove all doubt in the drinker’s mind that there is only one path, and it leads to their beloved. And even without a love potion, romantic feelings can burst into flames when detonated by Ashwinder energy, as shown in the actresses of the Christmas play.

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But for the witch or wizard whose perception connects to the quiet potency of the Ashwinder, their very fear can turn a situation to their favor. And for occasional drinkers of Felix Felicis, their minds are aware of infinite paths, knowing exactly the right one to follow. They can see through any chaos to all the shining possibilities waiting for them, thanks to the snake of pure potential, the Ashwinder.