The alraun is a root that has formed in a roughly human shape. The root may grow this way naturally, or may be carved to resemble a human figure. The alraun is traditionally a mandrake root, as these have the unique habit of growing in a vaguely humanoid shape. Any root may be used, however, as it is the virtue of the cthonic properties of the root that provide the necessary magical energies. Ash and briony are popular choices.
Alraun (also Alraune, Alruna, Alrune) is a German word that means simply “witch”. It derives from the same linguistic root as “rune” and “rowan”.
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
A mandrake alraun from Pan’s Labyrinth
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. Sarah Lawless adds: “[The Alraun] 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.”