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Revision as of 18:42, 9 January 2006
The mandrake or mandragora has, in folklore and superstition, always been regarded as a plant with powers. This idea is based on the shape of the root which is forked and roughly resembles the human figure. It was supposed to grow under the feet of a hanged man and could only be pulled from the ground after performing the necessary rituals. It was advisable to put wax in the ears before one attempted to do this: the mandrake would scream when pulled free and this could cause deafness.
The mandrake root was used for invulnerability, for discovering treasures, and as a charm for pregnancy.
Aka Botanical Name: Mandragora officianarum (Solanaceae)
Synonyms: Mandragora, Satan's Apple, love apple, Circe's plant, Dudaim, Ladykins, Mannikin, Racoon, Berry, Bryony roots
Mandrake is a long leaved (nearly a foot long, and 6" wide) dark green plant with small greenish-yellow or purple bell-shaped flowers that drow on 3-4" stalks. The flowers eventually fruit into small orange-coloured fleshy berries with a strong, apple-like scent, hence the name Satan's Apples. It is best known for the large brown root, running 3 to 4 feet into the ground sometimes single and sometimes forked into two or three distinctive branches (bifid) which gives the plant a rough resemblance to that of a human monster form. Magically speaking, the female mandrake carries forked that look like a pair of human legs, whereas the male has only a single root. In the old Herbals we find them frequently figured as a male with a long beard, and a female with a very bushy head of hair The female form is the most sought after for magic and medicinal use. It was the female form that was carved in the Middle Ages (in Germany and France) into manikins.
Native to Southern Europe, especially around the Mediterranean regions of Greece and Rome. It should not be confused with Podophyllum peltatum, or mayapple, which grows in the United States. Another species of mandrake, Mandragora autumnalis, flowers in winter on the island of Rhodes, and has beautiful mauve and mauve-white blossoms. The fruit, the golden red love apples, ripens in May.
First accounts of the Mandrake date back to the Bible. The Ancients, including greeks, romans and celts considered it an anodyne and soporific. The fresh root operates very powerfully as an emetic and purgative. The dried bark of the root was used also as a rough emetic. Mandrake was used in Pliny's days as an anaesthetic for operations, a piece of the root being given to the patient to chew before undergoing the operation. Mandragora becomes the most popular anaesthetic during the Middle Ages and in the Elizabethan Age it was still being used as a narcotic. In the Grete Herball (printed by Peter Treveris in 1526) we find the first avowal of disbelief in the supposed powers of the Mandrake. Gerard also pours scorn on the Mandrake legend.
“There have been,' he says, 'many ridiculous tales brought up of this plant, whether of old wives or runnegate surgeons or phisick mongers, I know not, all which dreames and old wives tales you shall from henceforth cast out your bookes of memorie.'”
The root of the mandrake resembles a phallus or a human torso, and for this reason was believed to have occult powers. Many weird superstitions collected round the Mandrake root. As early as 93 BC the historian Flavius Josephus described the process of collecting the mandrake, stories of which were embellished over the years.The mandrake was fabled to grow under the gallows of murderers and its anthropological shape evidently was responsible for the superstition that it shrieked when it was uprooted. The demon inhabiting the root would be aroused and the sounds of its piercing groans of agony would be so horrible that whoever heard it, die or go deaf and insane.
The harvester should then performing the necessary rituals before trying to pull it safely from the ground.
·put wax in the ears ·draw three circles around the plant with a sword and. Other recommend the tip of a willow wand. ·remove the plant only after sundown or in the moonlight ·beware of contrary winds while uprooting it use a dog to gather the root The dog (preferably white) was starved for several days and then tied with a black thread to the root around which a trench had been cut. The owner threw a piece of meat, and as the dog leapt for the meat, the mandrake root was pulled from the ground. Human hands were not to come in contact with the plant. The dog is supposed to die after the harvest.
An old document declares,
"Therefore, they did tye some dogge or other living beast unto the roots thereof with a corde ... and in the mean tyme stopped there own ears for fear of the terrible shriek and cry of the mandrake. In which cry it doth not only dye itselfe but the feare thereof killeth the dogge...."
After the plant had been freed from the earth, it could be used for "beneficent" purposes, such as healing, inducing love, facilitating pregnancy, and providing soothing sleep or “malevolent” such as the “main-de-gloire”.
The plant of witches
Medieval witches were said to harvest the root at night beneath gallows trees, trees where unrepentant criminals were supposed to have died. The root purportedly sprang up from the criminal's last semence (the process of hanging somebody triggers ejaculation). According to witchcraft accounts, the witch washed the root in wine and wrapped it in silk and velvet. She then fed it with sacramental wafers stolen from a church during communion. The mandrake was believed to have been used in many potions such as love potions or flying ointment. Often they were stashed in secret cupboards, because possessing one could expose the owner to the charge of witchcraft. In 1630, three women in Hamburg were executed on this evidence, and in Orleans in 1603 the wife of a Moor was hanged for harboring a "mandrake-fiend," purportedly in the shape of a female monkey.
There is an ancient practice of carving the roots into amulets of protection. The plant was cut into fancy shapes and forced to grow in moulds till it assumed the desired forms. Then the magician inserted grains of millet into the face as eyes. These artefacts were known as puppettes or mammettes and were very popular. Italian ladies were known to pay as much as thirty golden ducats for similar artificial mandrakes. Their owners took great care of their little mandrakes bathing them, dressing them and tucking them in at night in order to consult them on important questions. In France, they were considered a kind of elf, and associated with the main-de-gloire, another evil artefact of witchcraft. As an amulet, it was once placed on mantel pieces to avert misfortune and to bringprosperity and happiness to the house.
Native to Palestine, and neighboring Arab countries in the Mediterranean, it was long thought to be an aphrodisiac. Later it was used as a narcotic and as an anaesthetic. Ingestion of minute prepared portions is reputed to enhance awareness and psychic creativity and was often practiced during pagan rituals (Diana, Hecate, Dyonisos, …).
Mandrake was used for procuring rest and sleep in continued pain, also in melancholy, convulsions, rheumatic pains and scrofulous tumours. The root finely scraped into a pulp and mixed with brandy was said to be efficacious in chronic rheumatism. In large doses it is said to excite delirium and madness. The crushed root was purported to have caused hallucinations followed by a death-like trance and sleep.
Perhaps because it was believed to spring from such substances as a dead criminal's semen, mandrake root was often used in potent sex-magic rituals and love potions. The fruits of the plant, also called love apples, were believed to increase fertility
A remedy against demon’s possession
Among the old Anglo-Saxon herbals both Mandrake and periwinkle are endowed with mysterious powers against demoniacal possession. Its human-like forked root was thought to be in the power of dark earth spirits. At the end of a description of the Mandrake in the Herbarium of Apuleius there is this prescription:
'For witlessness, that is devil sickness or demoniacal possession, take from the body of this said wort mandrake by the weight of three pennies, administer to drink in warm water as he may find most convenient - soon he will be healed.'
Flavius Josephus says that the Mandragora, which he calls Baaras, has but one virtue, that of expelling demons from sick persons, as the demons cannot bear either its smell or its presence (Wars of the Jews, book vii, cap. vi.).
Symbol Element: Fire
Planet: Mercury, Uranus and Pluto.
Powers: Protection, Fertility, Money, Love, Health
A whole Mandrake root placed in the home, will give the house protection, fertility, and prosperity. Also, where there is Mandrake, demons cannot abide. Money placed beside the root is said to multiply.
Quote “And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, "Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes." And she said unto her, "Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? And wouldst thou take away my son's mandrakes also?" And Rachel said, "Therefore he shall lie with thee tonight for thy son's mandrakes." And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, "Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son's mandrakes." And he lay with her that night. And God harkened unto Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob the fifth son. “