Readers of the Harry Potter series learn in the end that there was much more to Severus Snape than first met the eye. This nefarious potions master who made Harry’s life at Hogwart’s so miserable was, in actuality, a hero. This revelation is not the end of the story for some devotees of the killer of Albus Dumbledore. An entire religion has developed, centered on the worship of the Half-Blood Prince.
Adherents to this religion are known as Snapists. A core tenant of Snapism is that author J.K. Rowling misinterpreted Snape and did not give him the proper respect or credit he is due. Snapists believe the one-time professor still has lessons to teach, and he is accessible through the astral plane.
According to Zoe Alderton, a virtual ethnographer on Snapeism, “there’s copious historical precedent for fans rescuing characters killed by their creators (Sherlock Holmes—whom Snape more than superficially resembles—being the chief example).” This need to “rescue” Snape from unfavorable treatment has gone to a whole new level through Snapism.
The principal Snapists are commonly known as Snapewives. They believe that they are married to Snape on the astral plane and can achieve physical contact. The three “main” wives, Rose, Tonya, and Conchita, have written voluminously on the belief that J.K. Rowling was a flawed interpreter of Snape. They believe that Rowling was, in effect, the first Snapist, having been contacted and influenced by Snape, himself. Because she is a flawed human, however, his clear teaching was muddied by her attempts to reduce it to writing.
Due to the fact that the Snapists view Rowling as often misguided in her writings, Snapists offer their own revisions of the Harry Potter stories. Tonya wrote a reburial for the Snape, guided by the Snape of the astral plane. Tonya writes, “We stood looking down at his coffin. I stared up at him and placed a hand on his back. ‘If anyone can do this, it is you, Severus.’ I told him quietly. With a nod, he opened his coffin and saw himself dressed in his robe and coat. Hands clasped, marble white. He turned and conjured a Black Onyx casket. Black outside, white inside. I prepared it and watched as he lifted his body and floated it to the new casket.”
The three original Snapewives have since disbanded. Part of the problem stemmed from Rose and Tonya getting out of sorts over Rose’s growing fascination with Jethro Gibbs from NCIS. Rose’s online journal depicting her experiences with Snape (and Jethro) is still accessible. Despite the breakup of the original three, the belief system has attracted a growing following and has even inspired some scholarly discussion. In 2013 the Journal of Culture and Religion featured an article by Markus Altena Davidsen entitled, “Fiction-based religion: Conceptualising a new category against history-based religion and fandom.” In it, the author studies Snapism and other fiction-based religions against the backdrop of the development of traditional religions and their understandings of reality.
As the scholars continue to debate Snapism, its adherents worship quietly in the background, hoping that one day soon, the greasy-haired potions master will reach out to inspire someone to offer us more profound instruction from the Half-Blood Prince.
Read more fun facts about religion.
Read more fun facts about literature.