harry potter

Notes from the Apothecary

October, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Mandrake

As we approach Samhain, I like to examine an herb or plant that has particular links to the season. Last year I explored the magic of the pumpkin, an obvious choice for the Halloween season. This year I wanted to dive deeper into folklore and magic, and the mandrake has been my mystical plant of choice.

Immortalised by J. K. Rowling in the Harry Potter series as the shrieking stars of herbology, the image of the human-like root screaming actually goes back to at least the 12th century. A medieval manuscript describes how the plant ‘shines at night like a lamp’ and that iron must be used to circle the plant to prevent it escaping, although the iron should never touch the plant. Other texts note that a dog must be used to pull the root up which, let me tell you, does not end well for the dog. Surrounded by magic, mystery, myth and superstition, this plant has a rich tradition of medicinal use and is a popular tool of modern witches and magical practitioners.

The Kitchen Garden


The true mandrake, mandragora officinarum, should never be eaten. It is hallucinogenic and narcotic, and can cause unconsciousness and even death. Sometimes people use bryonia alba, the false mandrake, as a substitute for mandragora. This plant is also highly poisonous. Another substitute is American Mandrake, which is poisonous in parts. Basically, if you come across anything purporting to be mandrake, don’t eat it!

The plants are beautiful, with springtime flowers of blue and white, and summer fruits sometimes known as devil’s apples. It needs really well drained soil to support those enormous roots, which can grow up to four feet in length. It also needs warm conditions and a good bit of sunshine to thrive, and a good quality compost for nutrients. Grown the plant well away from anywhere children and pets have access to. They can be grown from seed, or by separating the tubers.

The Apothecary

Six cures are described in the mediaeval Harley manuscript. One was for headaches and insomnia, whereby a salve of mandrake leaf juice was plastered to the head. Another was for earaches, and the juice was mixed with oil and poured directly into the ear. Another was a remedy for severe gout, but as it was administered in wine, I’m unsure how effective this would have been! Mandrake was also recommended for epilepsy, cramps and even colds.

Dioscorides, in his materia medica, also advised the plant was used to help insomniacs, but also that it seemed to have sedative and even anaesthetic properties. He did point out that ingesting too much was deadly!

Mrs Grieve states that the leaves are harmless and cooling and used to soothe ulcers, while the root and its bark is a strong emetic.

The Witch’s Kitchen

There is a belief that the mandrake only grew under the place where someone had been hanged. This gives it a dark association with death, possibly criminal activity, but also the oddly positive aspects of corporal punishment: law, order and justice. Called ‘little gallows man’ in Germany, the mandrake can be a symbol of ridding yourself of something you no longer need; of doling out ‘punishment’ to the things in your life you wish to drive away from you.

Dioscorides believed the root could be used in love potions.

The human like shape of the root speaks of transformation and hidden things. The mandrake reminds us not to judge a book by its cover, and that things are not always how they seem. We should always look twice, or as Terry Pratchett wrote, we should open our eyes, then open our eyes again.

In folklore, the cry of the mandrake caused either madness or death. Mrs Grieve writes that small doses of the root were used by ‘the Ancients in maniacal cases’, again connecting the root to madness and states of disconnection between the body and mind. Historically it was used to cure demonic possession, indicating it could be used to heal a disconnected body and mind, so there appears to be a contrary nature to this plant.

Mandrake can be used in any magical working to increase the potency of the spell, and in particular to increase psychic powers and prophetic magics.

Home and Hearth

Place a dried mandrake root on your mantelpiece to bring prosperity and joy into your home. Place a piece of mandrake on top of money, so a spare change pot or money box, and more money will enter your life. Hang one above the door to prevent demons or people with negative intentions from entering. Always keep out of the reach of children or pets!

I Never Knew…

As recently as the nineteenth century, mandrake roots were still being sold in Europe as charms to increase the libido.

*Images: Mandrake (Mandragora officinarum) from Tacuinum Sanitatis manuscript (ca. 1390), public domain; mandragora autumnalis, copyright tato grasso 2006 via Wikimedia Commons; folio 90 from the Naples Dioscurides, a 7th century manuscript of Dioscurides De Materia Medica, public domain.

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About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

 

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways

Book Review – Pop Culture Magic Systems: How to Create your own System of Pop Culture Magic by Taylor Ellwood

September, 2017

Book Review: Pop Culture Magic Systems: How to Create your own System of Pop Culture Magic

Author:Taylor Ellwood

Copywrite:2017

Publisher: Megalithica Book from Immanion Press

Pages:118

 

 

     I enjoy Mr. Ellwood’s style of writing. His writing makes the reader feel he is very approachable. He could easily be a great neighbor to get to know. He has a web presence that also lets you know, that he is available to readers and fans. He is the author of over 20 books.

 

     In this book, the author gives you the complete breakdown of what you need to create your own system of magic from the pop culture that sparks your imagination. He writes of how he wants to help generations to come to work with the stories that fit the current time and the new heroes that current generations are growing up with.

 

     Mr. Ellwood talks about his own work in the Universes of The Legend of Zelda, Harry Potter, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Dragonball Z. He even includes a chant that he has used with the main character from the video game Horizon Zero Dawn. He does this to show that you can use just about any Pop culture genre that appeals to you.

 

     The author goes into great detail explaining what correspondence is and how to work with it in a meaningful way. Mr. Ellwood also has written about the different Principles of Magic. He gives full definitions of each principle and he writes about 11 different principles, this is something that I personally have not seen many authors do. The author has done this because this is a true break down of how to Create a Magic System that will flourish and grow for you in the future.

 

     Mr. Ellwood writes about all the different magical theories that will help anyone be that a pagan fan of a Pop Culture or a witch looking to use her old pantheon spells with a modern twist.

 

     Each chapter of the book that Mr. Ellwood has put his energy into builds on the one before. There is homework of sorts if you care to do it. And he even gives the name of his Facebook group dedicated to Pop Culture Magic. He has some great insights into how to build a system from the stories that speak to you.

 

 

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About the Author:

 

 

Dawn Borries loves reading and was thrilled to become an E-Book reviewer for PaganPages.Org. Dawn, also, has been doing Tarot and Numerology readings for the past 25 years. Dawn does readings on her Facebook page.  If you are interested in a reading you can reach her at:  https://www.facebook.com/NumerologistDawnBorries/.

In the Words of Mama Bear

February, 2016

The Lessons of Professor Snape

snape

Mama Bear sits here looking at the 2” of snow that was dumped upon us last night without warning, and at the pile of cats holding me here in my chair. How on earth am I supposed to get a blog written? Do you know how hard it is to type with paws and claws and purring motors everywhere?

I shan’t write a long entry this month, however, I did want to speak on something that has affected us all; the death of Alan Rickman.

I know, why aren’t I writing about Lenny or David or any myriad of stars that have passed to Elysium in the past few weeks? Because they never touched me the way that Alan Rickman, in his role as Severus Snape did.

In that role, Alan Rickman portrayed something and someone that not only tugged at my heartstrings, but held up a mirror to my own life. It showed me that it’s ok to hold on to a dream, to help someone else manifest it if that dream manifests for them and not for you. In fact, it helps you to grow as a person.

He was the dreamer of far flung dreams, the last to give up, even after death had conquered Lily Potter. Instead, Professor Snape dedicated his life to the care and education of her son, Harry. In keeping Harry alive, his love for Lily lived on. No matter how much Harry and his crew loathed or feared Professor Snape, he always looked out for them and cared for the.

How many of us have done exactly that? Lost something or someone and then given all of our attention to someone or something else to enable that love to live on? Why do we do it? Do we do it to allow ourselves to see the original dream play out not as we wanted it to, but as we needed it to?

It’s difficult. Truly it is, to give something or someone everything that you are and will be, to spend those hopes and dreams, to watched them dashed and lived out by someone else, or something else.  Then you spend all of your energies protecting that someone or something else, just so you can see that dream live up to its full potential. Don’t overlook it. It’s like the old adage, “Where a door is closed a window is opened.”, and sometimes those windows lead you to worlds and opportunities that you cannot imagine, yet they are greater than you ever dreamed.

Mr. Rickman, thank you for bringing the lessons of Severus Snape to the big screen and into my life. Thank you for giving me hope, that no matter what, my dreams can continue in some form or fashion, even if they aren’t what my original vision was.

And I will remember you. Always.