9th Century: Mandrake

Mandragora - Pseudo-Apuleius - De herbarum medicaminibus (late 9th cent.) Kassel ManuscriptIn that valley which encompasses the city on the north side there is a certain place called Baaras, which produces a root of the same name with itself; its color is like to that of flame, and towards the evenings it sends out a certain ray like lightning. It is not easily taken by such as would do it, but recedes from their hands, nor will yield itself to be taken quietly, until either the urine of a woman, or her menstrual blood, be poured upon it; nay, even then it is certain death to those that touch it, unless anyone take and hang the root itself down from his hand, and so carry it away. It may also be taken another way, without danger, which is this: they dig a trench quite round about it, till the hidden part of the root be very small, they then tie a dog to it, and when the dog tries hard to follow him that tied him, this root is easily plucked up, but the dog dies immediately, as if it were instead of the man that would take the plant away; nor after this need anyone be afraid of taking it into their hands. Yet, after all this pains in getting, it is only valuable on account of one virtue it hath, that if it be only brought to sick persons, it quickly drives away those called demons, which are no other than the spirits of the wicked, that enter into men that are alive and kill them, unless they can obtain some help against them.

—Flavius Josephus: The Wars of the Jews (c. 75 AD)

Illustration from a late 9th century manuscript of De herbarum medicaminibus, a work originally produced in the 4th century and ascribed to the Roman poet and philosopher Apuleius of Madaura; the attribution is spurious, however, so the anonymous author is now know as Pseudo-Apuleius.

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