It was once believed that mandrake plants were inhabited by dark-skinned supernatural beings known as mandragoras ("man-dragons"), which were mischievous by nature and often called upon to aid sorcerers and sorceresses in the practice of their craft.
A legend dating back to medieval times claims that when a mandrake plant is pulled from the ground, it emits an ear-piercing scream and begins to sweat droplets of blood. Legend also has it that any person whose ears were unfortunate enough to hear the plant's shriek would either be driven to madness or suffer an agonizing death. How this legend came to be is somewhat of a mystery, but it was nevertheless well known throughout Europe and even prompted many practitioners of sorcery to use dogs to uproot their mandrakes as a safety precaution.
One interesting theory concerning the origin of the shrieking mandrake legend can be found in Richard Lucas' The Magic of Herbs in Daily Living:
"Tests conducted by Sir Janghadish showed that a plant pulled up by the roots suffers tremendous shock, comparable to that of a person beaten into insensibility. This immediately calls to mind the legend of the screaming mandrake. Perhaps the myth originated when some person here and there with mediumistic ability tore a mandrake from the ground and psychically sensed the plant's torment and anguish. Such an experience would have excited profound emotions of horror in the mind of the psychic, especially if the person was a timid soul or one whose psychic faculties had just emerged for the first time. It is not difficult to understand that in some instances the shock could have caused insanity or heart failure."
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