So to continue with the posts regarding the Nightshade family series, today I am discussing about a plant which is famous for screaming people’s heads off. Yes, folks, today we are talking about the Mandrake, or Mandragora officinarum as it is known in the botanical world.
Now I am sure we all have heard about Mandrake, especially for all the avid Harry Potter fans out there, but let’s take a deeper look at the mystery behind this magical plant and figure out what is true and what is a lie.
Mandrake in the Mediterranean
The Mandragora is found mainly in the Mediterranean and the Himalayas and belongs to the nightshade family, which as you all know contains alkaloids toxic enough to kill a human if taken in large doses.
It tends to have thick roots which often resembles the shape of the human body, either male or female depending on how you perceive it. On top of that comes the leaves which are arranged in the shape of rosettes along with flowers with five petals and orange and yellow berries.
However, taking into account that mandrakes belongs to the nightshade family, it is evident that the plant would be toxic enough that people would prefer you to stay away from it. But though it is not illegal to sell mandrake, the plant itself is quite rare that one is not able to have easy access to it.
Mandrake: Two sides of the same coin
Due to the toxicity of this plant, the mandrake is considered to be lethal, however, it is also used in medicine to cure people of various ailments.
Like all the other members of the nightshade family, the mandrake contains alkaloids which can be harmful if not taken in careful doses. All parts of the plant contain these alkaloids, making the entire plant a dangerous one.
However, in the earlier times, mandrake was quite popular in the use of medicine and since the roots are shaped like a human being, it was believed that this plant could cure all the ailments of the body no matter what part or organ was damaged.
Not only was it used as an aphrodisiac, but it was also administered as a pain analgesic since it allowed the person to forget his or her pain as the mind was clouded in a haze of hallucinations and delirium. It was also given as an anesthetic to patients before they underwent surgery; while others believed that mandrakes helped with sterility and fertility.
Mandrakes in Mythology and Magick
With so many interesting characteristics of the mandrakes, it is pretty common for people to come up with stories and myths revolving around this intriguing herb. And after doing my research, I came across a pretty interesting myth regarding the uprooting of mandrake.
It was believed in the olden times that the mandrake could only be uprooted on a full moon and whoever had the desire to uproot a mandrake must do it with the help of a dog. By taking the rope, the person should tie one end to the mandrake and the other to the dog. After leaving some meat for the dog to chase after, the person should stand back while the dog pulled the mandrake out after which it was safe for the person to use, as the shriek of the mandrake would’ve killed the dog. If somebody would try to uproot the mandrake by himself, then the fatal screams of the mandrake would kill the person. But this belief was soon shattered when there were reports that the dog did not die and other people could uproot the mandrake if they wished to do so.
With the belief that the mandrake helps with fertility and sterility, it is mentioned in Genesis 30 how Rachel conceives a child after being unable to do so for long and how the mandrake helps barren women when it comes to conceiving a child.
Furthermore, mandrakes are fairly popular in witchcraft. A lot of witches use mandrake roots in spells and rituals as it is believed to eliminate demons and bring good luck and prosperity to the one who carry it.
It was also believed that if the mandrake root was shaped like a woman, it could help the man get the woman he wanted, and if the root was shaped like a baby, then it could help women conceive. Suffice is to say that it made a lot of people desperate to procure a mandrake root which allowed people to engage in fraudulent activities by carving the roots in desired shapes in order to fool the people into buying them.
Another interesting myth regarding mandrakes is that people believed that witches used mandrake in order to fly on their broomsticks. Now considering how the mandrake induces hallucinations, it can be understood why somebody would believe this. However, since it helps alter the perception of an individual, witches often use it in order to astral project onto different planes and to communicate with spirits.
In conclusion, mandrake or Mandragora is a fairly interesting member of the nightshade family with lots of benefits and dangers which go hand in hand. So if you are interested to know about this, you can watch this video here and satisfy your thirst of the mandrakes.
Food for Thought
After reading this article:
- What other potential uses of mandrake can you think of?
- Have you had experience with mandrakes? If so, do let me know about it.