My new white bryony vines are doing very well. Grown easily from seed, these herbaceous perennials are a member of the cucumber family, and like the cucumber and marrow the male and female flowers are found on the same plant. Although unlike cucumber the bryony is very poisonous, without any narcotic influences as far as I am aware. The yellowish green flowers are rather inconspicuous yet rather dainty. These flowers turn to berries which change from red to black as they age. The birds eat the poisonous berries and disperse the seeds. However the interesting part of this plant is its tuberous yellow root. This root is given the name the‘English Mandrake’ and I am looking forward to having a look to see what is under the soil. I may even try Scott Cunningham’s suggestion ‘Money placed near a briony root will increase, as long as it is left there.’ He goes onto say that ‘The root is also hung in houses and gardens as a protection against the effects of bad weather.’In my case, at this moment in time the bad weather is the lack of rain,although I am not sure that counts.
Cunningham places the plant as masculine, its element fire, and its planet Mars, although I would have guessed at Saturn. However Manfred M. Janus also suggests Mars (aggressive and warlike) which appears to have come from Culpepper. I was thinking along the lines of the poisonous dark berries ‘sour tart and dead-like’ (Agrippa) However Cunningham does give a favourable use as’ it is used for money spells’.
I thought I would look to see exactly what Culpeper had to say on the subject. He says of both the black and the white bryony, ‘They are furious martial plants, The root of bryony purges the belly with great violence.’........after further words of warning he adds ‘and therefore not rashly to be taken.’ However he does add some ailments it may aid in curing, such as ‘running sores’ ‘leprosy’ ‘foul scars’ ‘and all running scabs’. He does indicate that ‘As for the former diseases where it must be taken inwardly, it purges very violently, and needs an abler hand to correct it than most country people have.’
Mrs Grieve quotes “The roots of Bryony grow to a vast size and have been formally by imposters brought into a human shape, carried around the country and shown for Mandrakes to the common people. The method which these knaves practised was to open the earth round a young, thriving, Bryony plant, being careful not to disturb the lower fibres of the root: to fix a mould, such as is used by those who make plaster figures, close to the root, and then fill in the earth about the root, leaving it to grow to the shape of the mould which is effected in one summer.”
An image, or shaped root or alraun as it is called by some, is said to by some to hold magic powers, and can then be used as a talisman for protection, divination and perhaps just a confidante to have a chat with in times of trouble. So even though the previously mentioned con-artists were intent on defrauding their fellow men, the item they created may have had a use of their own. And I know I would love to have seen one.