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Mandrake

The root of the mandragora often divides itself in two, and presents a rude appearance of a man. In ancient times human figures were often cut out of the root, and wonderful virtues ascribed to them. It was used to produce fecundity in women (Gen. xxx. 14-16). Some mandrakes cannot be pulled from the earth without producing fatal effects, so a cord used to be fixed to the root, and round a dog's neck, and the dog being chased drew out the mandrake and died. Another superstition is that when the mandrake is uprooted it utters a scream, in explanation of which Thomas Newton, in his Herball to the Bible, says, “It is supposed to be a creature having life, engendered under the earth of the seed of some dead person put to death for murder.”

“Shrieks like mandrakes' torn out of the earth.”

Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, iv. 3.

Mandrakes called love-apples.
From the old notion that they excited amorous inclinations; hence Venus is called Mandragoritis, and the Emperor Julian, in his epistles, tells Calixenes that he drank its juice nightly as a love-potion.

He has eaten mandrake.
Said of a very indolent and sleepy man, from the narcotic and stupefying properties of the plant, well known to the ancients.

“Give me to drink mandragora ... That I might sleep out this great gap of time My Antony is away.” Shakespeare: Antony and Cleopatra i. 5.

Mandrake.
Another superstition connected with this plant is that a small dose makes a person vain of his beauty, and conceited; but that a large dose makes him an idiot.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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