The Mandragora Root


The Mandragora or Mandrake (in english) is found often in European Folklore, describing a plant whose root has magical powers, protecting its owners from evil spirits. It is said that was used by Circe (sorceress from Homer’s Odyssey) in her potions and transform men into pigs.

The most interesting aspect of the Mandragora is, of course, the similarity of its root with an human shape or the shape of human legs, we believe that was an important source for countless tales.

It is very dangerous to pulling it up because, according to the legend, “(…)when the root is dug up, it screams and kills all who hear it.”

Josephus explains how to do it:

“A furrow must be dug around the root until its lower part is exposed, then a dog is tied to it, after which the person tying the dog must get away. The dog then endeavours to follow him, and so easily pulls up the root, but dies suddenly instead of his master. After this, the root can be handled without fear.”

Then, quoting Jean-Baptiste Pitois in The History and Practice of Magic:
“Would you like to make a Mandragora, as powerful as the homunculus so praised by Paracelsus? Then find a root of the plant called bryony. Take it out of the ground on a Monday (the day of the moon), a little time after the vernal equinox. Cut off the ends of the root and bury it at night in some country churchyard in a dead man’s grave. For 30 days, water it with cow’s milk in which three bats have been drowned. When the 31st day arrives, take out the root in the middle of the night and dry it in an oven heated with branches of verbena; then wrap it up in a piece of a dead man’s winding-sheet and carry it with you everywhere.”

“Mandragora” - Herbarium Apuleii and other works, Lombardy, c.1400- Yale Medical Library

Despite this horrendous description made by Pitois, the mandrake could be associated to sexuality since is root was used as aphrodisiac and fertility drug as we see in several books and hidden in the Bible. We know, as well, it has hallucinogenic or narcotic attributes and it was used in medicine as anaesthetic or to threat different kind of injuries. We also heard it is very poisonous, so we cannot advise you to used at “home cooking”. Be careful out there, folks.

“ΜΑΝΔΡΑΓΟΡΑ - Mandrake” - manuscript of Dioscurides De Materia Medica, Unknown artist, 7th century (Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale)
“The Tree of Good and Evil Knowledge” - from Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians, by J. D. U. Eckhardt, 1788
“Fructus mandragore” -Tacuinum Sanitatis, Rhineland, mid- 15th century. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris)
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