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Title: In search of traces of the Mandrake myth - The historical, and ethnobotanical roots of its vernacular names
Author: Dafni, Amots
Blanché i Vergés, Cèsar
Khatib, Salekh Aqil
Petanidou, Theodora
Aytaç, Bedrettin
Pacini, Ettore
Kohazurova, Ekaterina
Geva-Kleinberger, Aharon
Shahvar, Soli
Dajic, Zora
Klug, Helmut W.
Benítez, Guillermo
Keywords: Etnobotànica
Plantes medicinals
Medicinal plants
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: BioMed Central
Abstract: Background: Mandrake (Mandragora spp.) is one of the most famous medicinal plant in western cultures since Bibli‑ cal times and throughout written history. In many cultures, mandrake is related to magic and witchcraft, which is said to have a psychosomatic efect (especially when mandrake contains narcotic compounds) in addition to the pharma‑ cological infuence, as occurs with other narcotic magical plants. Due to its unique properties and related myths, it is not surprising that this plant has many names in many languages. Methods: This paper presents an attempt to reconstruct the historical, ethnobotanical, and folkloristic roots of 292 vernacular names of Mandragora spp. in forty-one languages. We used the plant's morphological data, philology, myths and legends, medicinal properties and uses, as well as historical evidence and folkloric data, to explain mean‑ ing, origin, migration, and history of the plant's names. Results: The names were classifed into the following main categories: Derivatives of mandragora (19 languages), alraun (7) and of yabroukh (5). The salient groups of the plant's vernacular names are related to: Anthropomorphism (33 names in 13 languages); Similarity to other plants (28/9); Supernatural agents (28/9); Narcotic efects (21/8); Leaves, fruits, and seeds (21/8); Aphrodisiac properties (17/10); Use of a dog (15/9); Gallows (14/5); Black magic, sor‑ cery, witchcraft (13/8), and Medicinal use (11/7). Conclusions: This frequency distribution of the mandrake's vernacular names refects its widespread reputation as related to the doctrine of signatures, beliefs in its supernatural, natural, and mythic powers, and to a lesser extent, its uses in magic and medicine. A spatiotemporal analysis of the mandrake's names supports the old idea that the pull‑ ing ceremonies for this plant originated in the Near East and that various other myths related to this plant may have originated in diferent places and periods. Keywords: Mandragora spp., Plant names, Etymology, Phytonymy
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It is part of: Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, 2021, vol. 17, num. 61, p. 1-35
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ISSN: 1746-4269
Appears in Collections:Articles publicats en revistes (Biologia, Sanitat i Medi Ambient)

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