Mandrake is the common name for members of the plant genus Mandragora, particularly the species Mandragora officinarum, belonging to the nightshades family (Solanaceae). The roots sometimes resemble human figures and their roots have long been used in magic rituals. According to the legend, when the root is dug up it screams and kills all who hear it. Literature includes complex directions for harvesting a mandrake root in relative safety. It was a common folklore that mandrake would only grow where the semen of a hanged man had dripped on to the ground. All parts of the mandrake plant are poisonous. Uses in witchcraft and magic include baneful work, saturn herb, divination and prosperity spells. The Hortus Sanitatis (Garden of Health), the first natural history encyclopedia, was published by Jacob Meydenbach in Germany, 1491. He describes plants and animals (both real and mythical) together with minerals and various trades, with their medicinal value and method of preparation. The hand-colored woodcut illustrations are stylized but often easily recognizable. 1547 edition.
August 7th, 2018
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