Latin: Mandragora officinarum
French: La mandragore
‘Mandragora officinarum’ has been nominated the official Mandrake, or Alruna, as it is called in Swedish.
Alruna means “the one who knows all”, and refers to the enormous powers of this plant. According to legend it is a magical being whose gift for healing by far surpasses those of all other herbs, and not only them, but even mighty beasts such as the unicorn and the bird caladrius.
But whomever wants to pick mandrake has to practise utmost care, for it does not like being uprooted at all, and it is awfully dangerous to anyone who dares to attempt it.
Opinion is divided in regards to what it really looks like, and there are many plants other than the ‘official’ that have also been said to be the mandrake. But the most striking trait that remains the same in all descriptions, is that the root looks as were it human. But since one can’t possibly see that before digging it up, when on a mandrake-hunt one has to rely on another of its traits to identify it; the true mandrake glows like a lamp at nighttime. Naturally the best night is that of magical midsummer, but otherwise one should choose a friday evening.
Once it has been found things are certainly not going to be so simple as just walking up to it and tug it out of the ground. No, anyone foolish enough to try that are getting themselves into deep trouble, for then the mandrake will let hear a dreadful shriek, and whosoever hears it falls dead to the ground.
Besides it’s not all that easy to even get the chance to dig it up. Because if it sees someone coming, first thing it does is to run away. It’ll do that from everyone who isn’t chaste and/or didn’t wash their face properly before going. But if it flees it can be stopped if one manages to draw three circles around it with a sword.
Once that has been done, be cautious to keep out of adverse winds from the plant, and start digging. But make sure to use an ivory staff, and all the while be very careful absolutely not to touch it, because then it will release an electric shock.
One should dig until it sits in the earth with only a few, slender fibres. Then take a rope and tie around it. They used to tie the other end to a black dog without any patch of white, that had been starved for three days. And they stopped their ears and walked away some distance, throwing food before the dog. When it rushed forward to take it it would jerk the mandrake out of the ground, who then let out its cry, and so the dog who heard it died.
But that’s just a terribly mean and selfish thing to do, revealing a rotten soul, so one day there was a kindhearted man who thought of another way. He tied the rope to a mangonel instead, which he made work from a safe distance, and that way no one had to die.
Furthermore, there’s actually a third method. That is, give the mandrake a honey-cake to eat. Then it’ll become happy and won’t shriek so woefully at all. Kindness rewards itself.
Once it’s out of the earth it’s alright to pick it up, then it’s not dangerous anymore… Well, as long as it is treated with respect and well cared for, at least. Some mandrakes have this idea that they want to be bathed in vine, given a new shirt every new moon, and only drink milk and eat biscuits. And if they don’t get their way, one can expect something terrible to happen. But as long as one does not neglect to fulfill its demands, it will ward off misfortune and instead bring good luck in many ways.
Just to have it in the house will drive any cold whatsoever on the retreat, and the sickness it knows not to cure never was, the only thing it holds no power against is death itself. And because it knows everything it can answer questions about whatever one wants to know. It brings a deep and peaceful sleep, and if a coin is laid next to it overnight, it will have doubled when morning comes. If one has no children, but would like to, expect to have the house full soon enough. However, one must never become greedy. For if the mandrake is made to work too hard, it may become burnt out and die.
Additional notes: There is plenty more to say about the mightiest of herbs, but I have to put some sort of limit to it.
Thanks to kevboy02 for the name in French!