My exposure to mandrake root (Mandragora officinarum) is pretty limited. If I were magically transported into the Harry Potter universe, I might be able to remember how to safely re-pot them and I could helpfully suggest using them to fight the paralysis brought on by the indirect stare of a basilisk.
Today I've learned something new. Romanian witches are throwing mandrake into the Danube River in order to bring misfortune to government officials as a form of tax protest.
Mandrake root is a poisonous member of the nightshade family.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
In an effort to reduce the number of tax evaders in Romania, the government issued a 16 percent income tax that extends to those individuals who practice witchcraft, astrology and fortune-telling. Some witches are outraged, especially as they make little money to begin with. Others believe that the law is a good step and count it as an official recognition of these professions.
The mandrake spell is one that a dozen witches participated in today, and it’s only one form of protest. (Others include curses composed through the use of dead animals and feces.) The president of Romania and other government officials have been known to wear purple to ward off evil, especially on Thursdays. Perhaps they’ll need it today.
So what else can mandrakes by used for? With a little more research I found that the Romans believed mandrake could cure demonic possession and the Greeks used it in love potions. It could be a strong sedative for playing tricks on people when slipped into wine—a property Hannibal used to ambush the troops of Carthage, and one Shakespeare’s Juliet uses in the potion she drinks to fake her death. For more information about wicked plants, check out Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart.