Mandrake, Magical & Mysterious.

atropa_mandragora_drawing1The Mandrake, Mandragora officinarum, is a plant called by the Arabs luffâh, or beid el-jinn (“djinn’s eggs”).
Mandrake is the common name for members of the plant genus Mandragora belonging to the nightshades family (Solanaceae).
Mandrake contains deliriant hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids such as atropine, scopolamine, apoatropine, and hyoscyamine.
The roots sometimes bifurcate, causing them to resemble human figures. Their roots have long been used in magic rituals, and today are valued by members of neopagan religions such as Wicca and Germanic revivalism religions such as Odinism.
The roots of Mandrake were supposed to bear a resemblance to the human form, on account of their habit of forking into two shoots which form a rough figure of a human.
In the old Herbals we find them frequently figured as a male with a long beard, and a female with a very bushy head of hair. Many weird superstitions collected round the Mandrake root.
It was common belief in some countries that mandrake would only grow where the semen of a hanged murderer had dripped on to the ground.
And it was believed to cause death to whoever dug it up, as the plant would let out a shriek upon being dug up, which none might hear and live.
Therefore if you would dig up a Mandrake you should either do it from a distance using string, or tie the string to your dog and let him pull it up. Of course, then the dog would die from the terrible scream from the plant.
In J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the author makes use of the legend of the mandrake’s scream, and anyone tending mandrakes wears earmuffs to dull the sound.
As an amulet, it was once placed on mantel to bring luck and happiness. Bryony roots were often cut into fancy shapes and passed off as Mandrake.
Small images made from Bryony roots, cut to look like the figure of a man, with millet seed inserted into the face for eyes, were sold to the foolish and uneducated.
They were known as puppettes and were credited with magical powers.
Italian ladies were known to pay as much as thirty golden ducats for these artificial Mandrake amulets.
Read more via Growing Hermione’s Garden: Mandragora Officinarum – Mandrake.

‘The Skeleton Queen.’

rob-woodcox-01Portland-based photographer Rob Woodcox has released “The Skeleton Queen,” a portrait series that tells the story of a woman and her harrowing journey to find love.
A group of Woodcox’s friends gathered on the beach, where artist Chelsea Sinks painted their bodies like skeletons.
Dressed in dark lace and torn rags, the model Chelsea Page posed as the weathered-but-powerful Skeleton Queen herself, and Michelle Hebert assisted with the photo shoot’s design.

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Like a contemporary retelling of an ageless story, Woodcox does an excellent job bringing Old-World-esque fairy-tale imagery to the haunted shores of Oregon.

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Unbroken by her desires and ambitious quest, the Skeleton Queen stands as a metaphorical figure of those who have survived the trials of love and found a greater personal fulfillment at the end.
See more via The Skeleton Queen: Spooky Coastal Photoshoot by Rob Woodcox | Illusion Magazine

Macabre Scary Zodiac Creatures.

zodiac-fantasy-creatures-damon-hellandbrand-ariesUS-based artist Damon Hellandbrand has created a series of awesome fantasy-themed digital illustrations reimagining the 12 signs of the Zodiac as terrifying imaginary creatures.
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Artist – Damon Hellandbrand dhellandbrand.com | Portfolio
(Hat Tip Bored Panda)
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via Artist Transforms Zodiac Signs into Terrifying Fantasy Creatures – What an ART.

‘The Penny Dreadfuls’.

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Victorian Britain experienced social changes that resulted in increased literacy rates.
With the rise of capitalism and industrialisation, people began to spend more money on entertainment, contributing to the popularisation of the novel. Improvements in printing resulted in newspapers such as Joseph Addison’s The Spectator and Richard Steele’s The Tatler, and England’s more fully recognizing the singular concept of reading as a form of leisure; it was, of itself, a new industry.
Other significant changes included industrialization and an increased capacity for travel via the invention of tracks, engines, and the corresponding railway distribution.
In accordance with these changes, the demand for literature in the mid-nineteenth century intensified dramatically.
The penny dreadfuls, named for both their cheap nature, and poor, sensational quality, erupted into existence and met the desires of the poor class.
The penny dreadfuls “became by far the most alluring and low-priced form of escapist reading available to ordinary youth, until the advent in the early 1890s of future newspaper magnate Alfred Harmsworth’s price-cutting ‘halfpenny dreadfuller’ (Springhall 568).”
The term “dreadful” was originally assumed to express societal anxiety or moral alarm over the new profitable innovation directed at the youth. In reality, the serial novels were overdramatic and sensational, but generally harmless.
If anything, the penny dreadfuls, although obviously not the most enlightening or inspiring of literary selections, resulted in increasingly literate youth in the Industrial period.

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The wide circulation of this sensationalist literature, however, contributed to an ever greater fear of crime in mid-Victorian Britain.
These serials started in the 1830s, originally as a cheaper alternative to mainstream fictional part-works, such as those by Charles Dickens (which cost a shilling [twelve pennies]) for working class adults, but by the 1850s the serial stories were aimed exclusively at teenagers.
The stories themselves were reprints, or sometimes rewrites, of Gothic thrillers such as The Monk or The Castle of Otranto, as well as new stories about famous criminals.
Some of the most famous of these penny part-stories were The String of Pearls: A Romance (introducing Sweeney Todd), The Mysteries of London (inspired by the French serial The Mysteries of Paris), and Varney the Vampire.
Highwaymen were popular heroes; Black Bess or the Knight of the Road, outlining the largely imaginary exploits of real-life English highwayman Dick Turpin, continued for 254 episodes.
Working class boys who could not afford a penny a week often formed clubs that would share the cost, passing the flimsy booklets from reader to reader.
Other enterprising youngsters would collect a number of consecutive parts, then rent the volume out to friends.
In 1866, Boys of England was introduced as a new type of publication, an eight-page magazine that featured serial stories as well as articles and shorts of interest.
It was printed on the same cheap paper, though it sported a larger format than the penny parts

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Numerous competitors quickly followed, with such titles as Boys’ Leisure Hour, Boys’ Standard, Young Men of Great Britain, etc.
As the price and quality of other types of fiction works were the same, these also fell under the general definition of penny dreadfuls.
Read on further via Penny dreadful – Wikipedia.

The Salem Witch Trials, 1692..

gileslong1The Salem witch trials occurred in colonial Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft—the Devil’s magic—and 20 were executed.
Eventually, the colony admitted the trials were a mistake and compensated the families of those convicted. Since then, the story of the trials has become synonymous with paranoia and injustice, and it continues to beguile the popular imagination more than 300 years later.
Several centuries ago, many practicing Christians, and those of other religions, had a strong belief that the Devil could give certain people known as witches the power to harm others in return for their loyalty.
A “witchcraft craze” rippled through Europe from the 1300s to the end of the 1600s. Tens of thousands of supposed witches—mostly women—were executed.
Controversy also brewed over Reverend Samuel Parris, who became Salem Village’s first ordained minister in 1689, and was disliked because of his rigid ways and greedy nature. The Puritan villagers believed all the quarreling was the work of the Devil.
In January of 1692, Reverend Parris’ daughter Elizabeth, age 9, and niece Abigail Williams, age 11, started having “fits.” They screamed, threw things, uttered peculiar sounds and contorted themselves into strange positions, and a local doctor blamed the supernatural.
Another girl, Ann Putnam, age 11, experienced similar episodes. On February 29, under pressure from magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne, the girls blamed three women for afflicting them: Tituba, the Parris’ Caribbean slave; Sarah Good, a homeless beggar; and Sarah Osborne, an elderly impoverished woman.
Read on via A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials | History | Smithsonian.