on the european mandrake a

European Mandrake
On the following pages is information about the uses of
European Mandrake and references to it in literature, etc.
A little about the other Mandrake. Mayapple or mandrake root should not to be
confused with its poisonous European namesake.
This herb has come to be identified magickally with Mandragora
officinarum because of its somewhat humanoid root, its preference of
where it likes to grow, and that it's both beneficial and deadly.
(Magick refers to the community of Wiccan – ie neopagan religion
with modern day witches and has little or nothing to do with the
magic of magicians) Despite the belief of some collectors and amateur
want a be witches, the European Mandrake, Mandragora
officianarum, is in the Solanaceae family and not in the barberry
family. It is not the same as the North American Mayapple
Male Mandrake
European mandrake is also called Mandragora, satan's apple, love apple, Circe's plant,
dudaim, ladykins, Mannikin, racoon berry, man-dragon, warlock root, earth-manikin,
root of evil, little gallows-man and bryony roots. Its name means "mandragon" and it is
mentioned here because it has engendered great interest and because many still think that
it and Mayapple are the same thing.
It is a largely poisonous plant which is associated with medieval witchcraft and sorcery
and was believed to be the most magickal of all plants and herbs. It is a very toxic plant
which if misused can result in sickness, delirium, or even a painful death.
Mandrake is a close relative to the nightshade and it has dark green
leaves that are 30 cm long and about 15 cm wide. The small
greenish-yellow or purple bell-shaped flowers produce small orangecoloured fleshy berries, which seem to glow in the sunlight, with a
strong, apple-like scent and therefore the name Satan's Apples. Its
large brown root resembles a human body and has a strong and
unpleasent smell. Mandragora comes from two Greek words
implying “hurtful to cattle.”
References to the mandrake go back many years. First accounts of the
Mandrake date back to the Bible where the mandrake is mentioned
in Gensis 30:14, 15 and 16 and again in the Song of Solomon 7:12. .
The Greeks, Romans and Celts considered it an anodyne and
Mandrake, from Hebrew, “dud”, meaning "love plant", was believe by
eastern Asians to ensure conception. A Christian heretic sect known
as Gnostics taught that when Jesus was given a sponge of vinegar
to drink from at his crucifixion, that the sponge contained a mixture
of mandrake which made Christ unconscious so that he could
appear to rise three days later. However, they did not explain how
the mandrake healed the nail and spear wounds.
Female Mandrake
Some ancient writers report that in 200 B.C., the Romans besieged Carthage. The Carthagian
defenders withdrew from the city, leaving behind quantities of wine laced with mandragora. When
the Romans drank the wine they were no match for the returning Carthagians. Rome, however,
eventually destroyed the entire city.
The ancients credited mandrake as being slightly narcotic and an aphrodisiac. They also believed that
it had the power to tell the future. They carved the roots into fancy shaped amulets for protection.
Other ancient historians include:
• Flavius Josephus described ways to collect mandrake in 93 BC.
• Dioscorides implies in his writings that mandragora produce sleep in patients who
were cut or burnt.
• Pliny the Elder reports that chewing a piece of the root of mandragora could put a
patient to sleep before being operated on.
• Lucian tells of using mandragora before a wound is cauterized.
• Galen relays how mandragora power can paralyse the senses and make a patient
• Isidorus tells how a wine made from the root can be given to patients so the will
feel no pain during an operation.
• It was considered sacred to the Pagan deities such as Aphrodite and Diana. It was
also the main plant for the legendary Teutonic sorceress named the Alrauna
• Mandrake was an old Anglo-Saxon herbal which was supposed to have powers
against demoniacal possession and dark earth spirits.
• In the 12th century, Ugone da Lucca, used the mandragora (mandrake) to put
patients to sleep so that they felt no pain during operations. It has been
discovered that the mandragora does contain drugs (tropane alkaloid) which if
used alone or in an alcoholic drink, could have some anaesthetic properties and
historically was used this way.
• The Arabs called the plant “luffâh,” or “beid el-jinn” (that is genie’s eggs).
Magicians made the roots look more like a human figure.
• Legend has it that when the plant is pulled from the ground, it shrieks in pain
which can madden, deafen or even kill an unprotected human. Another ancient
writer, Josephus gave specific instructions for safely pulling up the mandrake. It
involves using a dog to put up the root. The dog dies and the master can return to
safely get the root and bury the dog.
• Mandragora was a popular anaesthetic during the Middle Ages when witches
harvested the root at night for their enchantments.
In the Elizabethan Age it was still being used as a narcotic. It was also
thought that if a home had a whole mandrake root, it would protect the
house and give it fertility and prosperity.
The mandrake appears often in literature. Shakespeare refers to it four
times and two more times under the name of mandragora. He talks of
its sleeping or killing properties in Anthony and Cleopatra, Romeo and
Juiliet and King Henry VI Part 2. D. H. Lawrence, Ezra Pound and
Samuel Beckett all make reference in at least one of their books.
The popularity of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series has increased the
knowledge of the mandrake as Rowling relays through her the
character Hermione, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,
Chapter 6, that mandrake or mandragora, is used to revive people who
have been petrified. It is also mentioned by Madam Pomfrey in Chapter
13 and again by Professor Sprout in Chapter 14. Many of the properties
listed in ancient mandrake lore are recounted by Rowling.
The mandrake even makes its way to songs. The Mandrake Root are a
classic progressive hard rock band. And the group Deep Purple wrote a
song entitled the “Mandrake Root.
As in “Harry Potter”, the mandrake has been connected to whitchcraft,
bewitchment, sorcery, spells and potions for hundreds of years.
Some alchemists even tried to create human life from the mandrake
To Return to the Plant List
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