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. …