Alraun
Images shaped from the roots of mandrake (see Mandragoras)
or from ash or briony. The term was popular in Germany,
where it was also used to indicate a witch or a magician. An alraun
had to be treated with great care because of its magical
properties. It was wrapped or dressed in a white robe with a
golden girdle, bathed every Friday, and kept in a box, otherwise
it was believed to shriek for attention. Alrauns were used
in magic rituals and were also believed to bring good luck. But
possession of them carried the risk of witchcraft prosecution,
and in 1630 three women were executed in Hamburg on this
charge.
The alraun was difficult to get rid of because there was a superstition
that it could only be sold at a higher price than
bought, and there are legends that owners who tried to throw
an alraun away found it returned to their room.
According to German folklore, an alraun assisted easy childbirth,
and water in which it had been infused prevented swellings
in animals. Because of the large demand for alrauns, they
were often carved from the roots of briony when genuine mandrakes
were difficult to find. They were exported from Germany
to various countries and sold in England during the reign
of Henry VIII.
Sources
Thompson, C. J. S. The Mystic Mandrake. London Rider,
1934.

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