Mandrake (plant)

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Mandrake
Mandrake-roots.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Plantae
(unranked):Angiosperms
(unranked):Eudicots
(unranked):Asterids
Order:Solanales
Family:Solanaceae
Genus:Mandragora
L.
Species

Mandragora officinarum
Mandragora turcomanica
Mandragora caulescens

 
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"Mandrake root" redirects here. For the Deep Purple song, see Mandrake Root.
"Mandragora" redirects here. For other uses, see Mandragora (disambiguation).
For other uses, see Mandrake.
Mandrake
Mandrake-roots.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Plantae
(unranked):Angiosperms
(unranked):Eudicots
(unranked):Asterids
Order:Solanales
Family:Solanaceae
Genus:Mandragora
L.
Species

Mandragora officinarum
Mandragora turcomanica
Mandragora caulescens

Mandrake is the common name for members of the plant genus Mandragora, particularly the species Mandragora officinarum, belonging to the nightshades family (Solanaceae). Because mandrake contains deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids such as atropine, scopolamine, apoatropine, and hyoscyamine, and the roots sometimes contain bifurcations causing them to resemble human figures, their roots have long been used in magic rituals, today also in contemporary pagan traditions such as Wicca and Odinism.

Description[edit]

The root is often branched. This root gives off at the surface of the ground a rosette of ovate-oblong to ovate, wrinkled, crisp, sinuate-dentate to entire leaves, 5 to 40 cm (2.0 to 15.7 in) long, somewhat resembling those of the tobacco plant. A number of one-flowered nodding peduncles spring from the neck bearing whitish-green or purple flowers, nearly 5 cm (2.0 in) broad, which produce globular, orange to red berries, resembling small tomatoes. The fruit and the seeds are poisonous.[1]

Effects[edit]

In the Bible[edit]

Two references to דודאים (dûdã'im)—literally meaning "love plant"—occur in the Jewish scriptures. The Septuagint translates דודאים (dûdã'im) as μανδραγόρας (mandragoras), and Vulgate follows Septuagint. A number of later translations into different languages follow Septuagint (and Vulgate) and use mandrake as the plant as the proper meaning in both Genesis 30:14–16 and Song of Solomon 7:13. Others follow the example of the Luther Bible and provide a more literal translation.

In Genesis 30:14, Reuben, the eldest son of Jacob and Leah finds mandrake in a field. Rachel, Jacob's infertile second wife and Leah's sister, is desirous of the דודאים and barters with Leah for them. The trade offered by Rachel is for Leah to spend that night in Jacob's bed in exchange for Leah's דודאים. Leah gives away the plant to her barren sister, but soon after this (Genesis 30:14–22), Leah, who had previously had four sons but had been infertile for a long while, became pregnant once more and in time gave birth to two more sons, Issachar and Zebulun, and a daughter, Dinah. Only years after this episode of her asking for the mandrakes did Rachel manage to become pregnant. The predominant traditional Jewish view is that דודאים were an ancient folk remedy to help barren women conceive a child.[citation needed]

14 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.

15 And she said unto her, Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son's mandrakes also? And Rachel said, Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son's mandrakes.

16 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.
—the BibleKing James Version, Genesis 30:14–16[3]

A number of other plants have been suggested by biblical scholars,[citation needed] e.g., most notably, ginseng, which looks similar to the mandrake root and reputedly has fertility enhancing properties, for which it was picked by Reuben in the Bible; blackberries, Zizyphus lotus, the sidr of the Arabs, the banana, lily, citron, and fig. Sir Thomas Browne, in Pseudodoxia Epidemica, ch. VII, suggested the dudai'im of Genesis 30:14 is the opium poppy, because the word duda'im may be a reference to a woman's breasts.

The final verses of Song of Songs (Song of Songs 7:12–13), are:

לְכָ֤ה דֹודִי֙ נֵצֵ֣א הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה נָלִ֖ינָה בַּכְּפָרִֽים׃ נַשְׁכִּ֙ימָה֙ לַכְּרָמִ֔ים נִרְאֶ֞ה אִם פָּֽרְחָ֤ה הַגֶּ֙פֶן֙ פִּתַּ֣ח הַסְּמָדַ֔ר הֵנֵ֖צוּ הָרִמֹּונִ֑ים שָׁ֛ם אֶתֵּ֥ן אֶת־דֹּדַ֖י לָֽךְ׃

12 Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give thee my loves.

13 The mandrakes give a smell, and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved.
—the BibleKing James Version, Song of Songs 7:12–13[4]

Magic and witchcraft[edit]

Mandragora, from Tacuinum Sanitatis (1474).
Mandragora plant

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. For example Josephus (circa 37–100 AD) of Jerusalem gives the following directions for pulling it up:

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.[5]

Excerpt from Chapter XVI, "Witchcraft and Spells", of Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual by nineteenth-century occultist and ceremonial magician Eliphas Levi.

The following is taken from Paul Christian's The History and Practice of Magic:[6]

Would you like to make a Mandragora, as powerful as the homunculus (little man in a bottle) 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.

Literature[edit]

In its more sinister significance:

"... Not poppy, nor mandragora,
Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,
Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep
Which thou owedst yesterday."
Shakespeare: Othello III.iii
"Give me to drink mandragora ...
That I might sleep out this great gap of time
My Antony is away."
Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra I.v
"Shrieks like mandrakes' torn out of the earth."
Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet IV.iii
"Would curses kill, as doth the mandrake's groan"
King Henry VI part II III.ii
"Get with child a mandrake root"

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mandrake in wildflowers of Israel
  2. ^ Piccillo, G.A.; Mondati, E.G.M.; Moro, P.A. (2002). "Six clinical cases of Mandragora autumnalis poisoning: diagnosis and treatment". European Journal of Emergency Medicine 9 (4): 342–347. doi:10.1097/00063110-200212000-00010. 
  3. ^ "Genesis 30:14–16 (King James Version)". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 6 January 2014. 
  4. ^ "Song of Songs 7:12–13 (King James Version)". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 6 January 2014. 
  5. ^ James Hastings (October 2004). A Dictionary of the Bible: Volume III: (Part I: Kir -- Nympha). University Press of the Pacific. ISBN 978-1-4102-1726-4. Retrieved 28 May 2014. 
  6. ^ pp. 402-403, by Paul Christian. 1963

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]