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Medea's Ritual of the Mandrake

By Sarah Anne Lawless

Witch, pharmakon, demi-goddess, princess, niece of Circe, fierce devotee of Hecate, and beloved sorceress of ancient Greek and Roman literature. Whether a fictional or historical figure, Medea has always fascinated me. My favourite tale featuring the witch Medea is Apollonius Rhodius’ The Argonautica from around 200 BC (though its sources are so old as to be indeterminate). This famous tale of Jason and the Argonauts is the only surviving Hellenistic epic. It is hard to say if it is legend or myth, fact or fiction, but the tale has enchanted mortals for millennia.

Today it exists in the form of numerous movies, tv episodes, children’s books, and even as a video game. The beauty of the survival of such an ancient epic from pre-Christian times are the rituals and magic that have survived along with it. Enshrouded within the pages of The Argonautica is Medea’s ritual of the Mandrake. It is in fact two rituals — one of the harvest and one of the consecration of this famous magical root. Combining the ritual fragments from this epic with other knowledge of ancient Greek magic, one is able to reconstruct these rites so they may be performed today.

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