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
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.
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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