Friday, December 09, 2005

Harry Potter and the Parashah

Guess what duda'im (Gen. 30:14) are called in English? Mandrakes (KJV, NRSV, JPS 1917)

Harry Potter enthusiasts might recall Mandrakes as playing a plot role in book 2 (link). As Hermione Granger could certainly tell you, the Harry Potter reference is based on legend. According to Wikipedia:

Mandrake is the common name for members of the plant genus Mandragora belonging to the nightshades family (Solanaceae). Their roots, because their curious bifurcations cause them to have a semblance to the human figure (male & female), have long been used in magic rituals, today also in neopagan religions such as Wicca...

In legend it is alleged that when the plant is pulled from the ground, it shrieks in pain. Supposedly, this shriek is able to madden, deafen or even kill an unprotected human; the occult literature includes complex directions for harvesting a mandrake root in relative safety...

Mandrake, from Heb., dud‘, meaning "love plant", which Orientals believe ensures conception. All interpreters hold Mandragora officinarum to be the plant intended in Gen., xxx, 14 (love-philtre), and Cant., vii, 13 (smell of the mandrakes). Numbers of other plants have been suggested, as bramble-berries, Zizyphus Lotus, L., the sidr of the Arabs, the banana, the lily, the citron, and the fig. But none of these renderings is supported by satisfactory evidence.

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