Botanical Name: Mandragora officianarum (Solanaceae)
Synonyms: Mandragora, Satan's Apple, love apple, Circe's plant, Dudaim, Ladykins, Mannikin, Racoon, Berry, Bryony roots
The real Mandrake (the plant) is a long leafed (nearly a foot long, and 6" wide) dark green plant with small greenish-yellow or purple bell-shaped flowers that drow on 3-4" stalks. The flowers eventually fruit into small orange-coloured fleshy berries with a strong, apple-like scent, hence the name Satan's Apples.
It is best known for the large brown root, running 3 to 4 feet into the ground sometimes single and sometimes forked into two or three distinctive branches (bifid) which gives the plant a rough resemblance to that of a human monster form.
Magically speaking, the female mandrake carries forked that look like a pair of human legs, whereas the male has only a single root.
In the old Herbals we find them frequently figured as a male with a long beard, and a female with a very bushy head of hair.
The female form is the most sought after for magic and medicinal use. It was the female form that was carved in the Middle Ages (in Germany and France) into manikins.
Native to Southern Europe, especially around the Mediterranean regions of Greece and Rome. It should not be confused with Podophyllum peltatum, or mayapple, which grows in the United States.
Another species of mandrake, Mandragora autumnalis, flowers in winter on the island of Rhodes, and has beautiful mauve and mauve-white blossoms. The fruit, the golden red love apples, ripens in May.
First accounts of the Mandrake date back to the Bible. The Ancients, including greeks, romans and celts considered it an anodyne and soporific. The fresh root operates very powerfully as an emetic and purgative. The dried bark of the root was used also as a rough emetic.
Mandrake was used in Pliny's days as an anaesthetic for operations, a piece of the root being given to the patient to chew before undergoing the operation. Mandragora becomes the most popular anaesthetic during the Middle Ages and in the Elizabethan Age it was still being used as a narcotic.
In the Grete Herball (printed by Peter Treveris in 1526) we find the first avowal of disbelief in the supposed powers of the Mandrake. Gerard also pours scorn on the Mandrake legend.
“There have been,' he says, 'many ridiculous tales brought up of this plant, whether of old wives or runnegate surgeons or phisick mongers, I know not, all which dreames and old wives tales you shall from henceforth cast out your bookes of memorie.'”
Planet: Mercury, Uranus and Pluto.
Powers: Protection, Fertility, Money, Love, Health
A whole Mandrake root placed in the home, will give the house protection, fertility, and prosperity. Also, where there is Mandrake, demons cannot abide. Money placed beside the root is said to multiply.
“And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, "Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes." And she said unto her, "Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? And wouldst thou take away my son's mandrakes also?" And Rachel said, "Therefore he shall lie with thee tonight for thy son's mandrakes." And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, "Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son's mandrakes." And he lay with her that night. And God harkened unto Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob the fifth son. “