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An alraun is a herbal root found in human form, or carved to be, and used as a magical talisman. The most famous of such roots being Mandrake, but many other roots have been used in history as well including bryony, dandelion, thistle, as well as tree roots. Don’t snub humbler roots than Mandrake (whose reputation was significantly blown up by medieval herbalists to charge a large sum). Did you know the oft-hated dandelion belongs to the dark goddess Hecate and has powers of divination and summoning spirits?
In Germanic folklore, it was the local village wise woman who created alrauns. The word alraun itself is derived from “rune” which is an old Germanic and Celtic term for mystery, magic, and secrets (1). In 1700s Germany there were witches who called themselves Alrune believing it was the name of a goddess of the crossroads (3). Once an alraun is made it belongs solely to the maker or the receiver and is not to be seen by any other soul. It was once common in both Pagan and early Christian times for alrauns to be passed on within families at the owner’s time of death. The alraun was considered the protector of the family. Alrauns, being made from chthonic roots, provide a link to the ancestors and deities of the underworld. They act as confidantes, advisers, seers, as well as familiar spirits. Alrauns are called upon for love, fertility, help during childbirth, divination, good health, prophecy, protection, as well as cursing and harm.
According to The Mystic Mandrake by C.J.S. Thompson, the alraun 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. By the 16th century the German word “Alraundelberrin” (Mandrake-bearer) had taken on such a strong connection with witchcraft that to be condemned as such was a death sentence.
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. Alrauns were said to grant wishes of their owners, and to do magic for them, just as a familiar spirit would.
Alrauns are fed milk, honey, and their owner’s blood to empower them. It is best to make these offerings to the alraun each time it is used for magic. You must treat the alraun as a beloved member of you family, letting it know of family news, and always talking sweetly to it, as if coddling a small child.
How to Make an Alraun
You will need:
•A digging stick or gardening gloves
•A libation or offering
•A sharp ritual knife
•A wand, staff, or a sigil powder
It is best to craft an alraun in winter or spring as that is the best time for transplanting without shocking the plant. To make a plant root alraun, seek out your intended plant after the new moon and draw a circle around it in the dirt with your finger, wand, or with a sigil powder. Let the plant know you are a witch and make your intent for it to come across strongly so it readily agrees. Then carefully dig up the whole plant without breaking any of the roots or bruising any leaves. If there are any separate root offshoots, carefully break them off and leave them behind leaving a live plant in place of the one you took. If not, leave a suitable offering. Some plants prefer whisky, wine, or mead while others may simply prefer water or a physical object. Pour the libation or bury the offering in the hole you’ve made without looking and walk away without looking back.
You can either take the live plant home or take it to where you will be transplanting it. If your root doesn’t already have a human shape to it, carve it into the opposite sex of yourself with your ritual knife. It can also be carved into a hermaphrodite. Be careful not to remove any of the small roots at this time and don’t over carve the root or you will kill it. A rough semblance is good enough. Now it is time to transplant. It is best to plant an alraun near a crossroad, but if this isn’t possible your garden or a pot will do (2). Water the plant after transplanting and leave it be for three weeks to a month or more. If the original leaves die, do not despair, it is because all its energy is going back to the root to heal from your carving – the root is still alive and growing. Once a week, before you dig it up again, feed it either a mixture of milk and honey or milk and a drop of your own blood if you will be keeping it for yourself.
On the next dark moon, dig up your root, and again leave an offering behind in the hole without looking. Now you can take your root home and wash it. Remove any excess hairs or growths that distort its human shape. Loosely wrap it in a cloth of natural fibre inside a paper bag and leave this somewhere warm and dry. In a month you should have a perfectly dried alraun. Wrap it in black, red, or white linen, wool, or silk and place it in a small box. The cloth is its funeral shroud and the box its coffin. Hide the alraun away in a dark place until you call upon it. When you do, offer it milk and honey, or wine, or blood depending on your purpose. Treat the alraun as a beloved child or family member. Speak to it sweetly. It is incredibly dangerous to throw one away or sell an alraun for less than you bought it for. It is a sentient familiar spirit and not a curio to be tossed aside. The alraun has the power to bless or curse its owner so think carefully on your intent before making one.