The Mandragora, or Mandrake in English, is often found in European Folklore describing a plant whose roots have magical powers, protecting its owner from evil spirits. It is said that the Odyssey’s sorceress Circe used it both in her potions and to turn men into pigs.
But the most interesting aspect of the Mandragora is, of course, the similarity between the shape of its roots with either the human shape or the shape of human legs. We believe this to have inspired countless tales.
It is very dangerous to uproot it because, according to 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…