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The mandrake root is native to both the Mediterranean and the Himalayas. With a long history of use in religious and occult practices, this plant is particularly noted for its potent roots, which somewhat resemble the human body.
One of the earliest mentions of mandrake can be dated back to the Bible. In Genesis 30, Rachel, Jacob’s wife, relies on this special plant to help her conceive a child. With its sweet fragrance that acts as an aphrodisiac, the mention of mandrakes in the Song of Solomon is part of a romantic encounter between Solomon and his new wife. It is suggested that the scripture links the mandrake with sexuality and fertility.
In the Middle Ages, folk understood that plants bearing resemblances to body parts could be used to treat the associated limbs and organs. Mandrakes can look rather like babies, so those having trouble conceiving would sleep with them under their pillows.
And it wasn’t just about mandrakes getting people “in the mood” and fertile! According to Anthony John Carter, as he writes in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 2003, medieval folk carried mandrake roots around as good luck charms, hoping the plant would grant them not only wealth and the power to control their destiny, but also the ability to control the destinies of others as well.
Having a long history of medicinal and magical use – from witches brew to modern medicine – this fantastic plant is still fundamentally part of our lives and certainly continues to work its magic in our modern day society.