Mandrake: European Mandrake Image
Ruled by: Mercury, Uranus, Pluto
Invocatory: Diana, Ishtar, Aphrodite, Circe and Saturn
Tarot: The World
Common Names: Gallows, Devil’s Apples, mayapples, mandragona, manikin, herb of Circe.
The American Mandrake is a completely different species from the European Mandrake.
Mandrake is used in rituals to aid in protection, love, money and health. It is used in the form of incenses or sachets and you may also use the root to hang above mantels in your house for protection. When using Mandrake Root in spell work it requires a 3 day soaking period to wake up the root, this is done in rain water or spring water.
It is used as an aphrodisiac, but poisonous if taken internally and could be terminal.
The Cherokee use mandrake for a very different purposes and in all the elements for various forms of healing and magick. In the direction of north it is referred to as Spleenwort [Aspenium playneuron]. It is an evergreen fern and was used with other plants in a formula as eyewash. Another plant called mandrake [Mandragora officinarum] was used for treating skin conditions and warts. In the East, South and West direction they use one of the other forms of mandrake, called the Mayapple [Podophyllum peltatum]. It is called Indian apple or mandrake, and is used in “special Medicine”. Like sunflower and evening primrose, Cherokee myths hold mayapple as sacred. Mayapple is a member of the Bayberry family, along with twinleaf in the West Medicine and blue cohosh in the East. Mountain folks used it to treat cancer and as a liver tonic. In the South Mayapple is used for the treatment of warts and mixed with dandelion to apply to warts as well. The mountain folks were also aware that the mayapple root was poisonous, except for the ripe fruit.
Mayapple grows abundantly in damp wooded areas in the Appalachian and Smokey Mountains. The plant has distinctive umbrella-shaped leaves with a single white flower that blooms in May and a yellow berry that is ripe in July and August. The rhizomes were used as a laxative. The Penobscot of Main used it for certain cancers, along with periwinkle. Today mayapple is used to treat planter warts and as a treatment for cancer and tumors.
In the west direction it is known by the Cherokee name of oo ne ski u ke and has a large leaf and a single white flower. An elder said do not touch the leaves with your bare hands because they are poisonous, but the fruit is good. To dig them out you learn to use a wood spatulalike piece made of laurel to dig with, then you dry and crush it to make Medicine. In the old days it was used to purge the body of ails. The women prefer to use it for themselves and their children, roasted, and even use it on difficult sores to heal.
Warning: Mayapple contains agents that are irritating to the skin. Do not use mayapple without the guidance of a person trained in its handling and use. This member of the Barberry family should not be used during pregnancy.
In Rome by a senatorial decree it is considered Illegal and is so titled Illegal Aphrodisiacs and Abortifacients. It is the magickal substance “venemo” that is forbidden by Roman law, According to Pliny, Natural History XXV.95, XXVII.2, XXIX.23, cf. Quintlilian, Declamations 7.4; 8.5.
It is associated to the Goddesses of Aphrodite/Venus and Hecate/Trivia, as you can see it is associated to both the light and dark aspects of the Goddess. However, do note that it is also associated to the Love Goddess in Egypt, which is Hathor.
It was the sacred plant of Aphrodite and was the golden apple that was the centre of her garden. It was identified with or equal to henbane, because of Aphrodite’s characteristics and effects.
Mandrake is important herb to witchcraft and gynaecological medicine. It served midwives since antiquity to increase sexual desire, to promote fertility, and pregnancy, to ease birth, to numb caesarean section, to kill the fruits of life in abortion, and to expel a stillborn.
The mandrake is also known by the names of “circeon, Mandragora Circaea, antimelon [in place of the golden apple], others called it kirkaia, dirkaia [plant of Circe/Kirke].
Mandrake is also interpreted as Moly. There are two kinds of mandrake the white which is associated to the male aspect and the black which is associated to the feminine aspect. Pliny states that when the seed is white the plant is called by some arsen, by other morion, and by others hippophlomos. [Pliny, Natural History XXV.147].
According to Apollodorus [second century B.C.E], the most important scholar of this time, it was the klrkata rixa, the plant of Circe, that was an amulet against the black magick of Pasiphae, a daughter of the Sun God Helios [Circe too was his daughter].
It was one of the key ingredients in the salves or flying ointments that Witches in the Middle Ages used. Here is a thought, what if we today made this blend and used it but under the watch of someone who monitored us. We could travel to many places and learn many things from our ancestors.
During Christian times the root of this herb was called Hexenkraut [witches’ wort], Unhold Wurzel [monster root], or Satan’s apple. In German it was called Alraune. It was treasured as a panacea that it was called Artz-wurxel [doctor root], “this is a term used by Williram von Ebersber in his exegesis to the Song of Solomon in 1060”. In the 16th century a wise woman or a witch was called an Alraundelberin [mandrake bearer]. Those who kept it in the home were said to have connections of the present and future.
Mandrake wine was used to treat insomniacs in the Middle Ages and early modern era. Many women were persecuted and exiled from villages and towns due to the use of mandrake.
Herb Craft, by Anna Franklin
Witchcraft Medicine Healing Arts, Shamanic Practices, and Forbidden Plants, by Claudia MÜller-Ebeling, Christian Ratsch, and Wolf-Dieter Strol
The Cherokee Herbal, by J.T. Garret