First herb (for the herbal altar) out the gate is the Mandrake Root, I took it as a definite sign when the mandrakes I planted last year began to come back up again (2 up so far, excited!). I’ve always felt a strong connection to the Mandragora, I couldn’t even tell you why to be honest, it’s always fascinated me, completely enveloped me within its mystery. It is a plant that knows the eons of time and the spirit of all things. It has legends abound, some interesting, some a little bit strange but nonetheless, this herb has not had its lore survive eons for nothing!
The Mandrake is my favourite bane; its lore is not for the faint hearted and certainly is not the plant for everyone. Mandrake is a native of Southern Europe, Israel and Jordan, it was used by our ancient ancestors as both an anodynic and soporific as well as an anaesthetic. It was said to incite delirium and madness and is one of the herbs of flying ointment fame.
The Mandrake is said to resemble a human form, on account of their habit of growing shoots that appear to be arms and legs. Mandrake, as an amulet, was said to protect against misfortune and possession, placed on the mantle in the home it was said to protect and bring in prosperity and good health. One of the most famous legends is that mandrakes would grow under gallows were men were hanged and their semen would drip to the ground. Because of this it was said a mandrake would scream when uprooted, thus the legend of using a black dog to pull it was born. Has one ever tried it? I do not know.
Mandrake was the root Medea used to create an ointment for Jason so he could steal the Golden Fleece, Hannibal spiked some wine with it and it enabled him to kill them all as they were stupefied. It is said to have incredible magical powers, one can connect to the mandrake root by (if you have a whole one) creating an alraun. I plan to do this once I have grown my own, I prefer this to purchasing one because from my garden, it has my energies and my care put into it.
I have been journeying lately, trying to connect with an energy I call ‘Mother Mandrake’, it is a work in progress so I will have more on this later!
So begins my journey into herbal altars and creating an in depth connection with not only the plant itself but its spirit, seed and material!