This section is from the book "Aphrodisiacs And Anti-Aphrodisiacs", by John Davenport. Also available from Amazon: Love Stimulants, Aphrodisiacs and Anti-aphrodisiacs.
"And here also we considered how that the said pretended marriage betwixt the abovenamed King Edward and Elizabeth Grey, was made of great presumption, without the knowing and assent of the Lords of this land, and also by sorcery and witchcraft committed by the said Elizabeth and her mother Jaquet Duchesse of Bedford, as the common opinion of the people and the public voice and fame is thorow all this land".
* See Warburton on Shakespear's Othello, Act I., Scene 8, "By spells and medicines bought of mountebanks".
(From the"Address of Parliament to the high and mightie Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester.") *
Modern writers, as might be expected, have taken a very wide range in their inquiries as to what kind of plant the Dudaim really was, some regarding it as lilies, roses, violets, snowdrops, and jasmine; others, as melons, plaintain fruits, whirtleberries, dwarf brambles, the berries of the physalis or winter cherry, grapes of some peculiar kind, or even underground fungi, as truffles, etc. Many have supposed the word to mean the ingredients, whatever they might have been, of a charm or love potion, and hence have recurred to the mandrake, celebrated, as already said, thoughout antiquity, for its supposed virtues, and whose history has been tricked out with all the traditionary nonsense that might be imagined to confirm that report of such qualities.
Liebentantz, † in 1660; the younger Rudbeck, ‡ in 1733, and Celsius,§ in 1745, have displayed much erudition and research in their inquiries; but the first of these writers arrived at the conclusion that nothing certain could be come to on the subject; while the second proposed raspberries as the Dudaim; and the third maintained that they were the fruit of the Zizy-phus, the Spina Christi of the disciples of Linnaeus.
Maundrell, who travelled in the East in the 17th century, informs us that, having asked the chief priest of Aleppo what sort of a plant or fruit the Dudaim, or (as we translate it) the mandrakes) were which Leah gave to Rachel for the purchase of her husband's embraces, the holy man replied "that they were plants of a large leaf bearing a certain sort of fruit, in shape resembling an apple, growing ripe in harvest, but of an ill savour, and not wholesome. But the virtue of them was to help conception, being laid under the genial bed. That the women were wont to apply it at this day, out of an opinion of its prolific virtue."*
* See Speed's Historie of Great Britaine. Richard III. Book II., page 913 folio edition, 1632.
† Exercitatio de Rachelis Deliciis, 410, 1678.
‡ Atlantica illustrate, 1733, § Hierobotanicon, 1745.
Some writers have supposed the Dudaim to be neither more nor less than the truffle. Virey asserts it to be a species of Orchis; and, indeed, considering the remarkable conformation of the root of this plant, † the slightly spermatic odour of its farinaceous substance, as well as that of the flowers of another one belonging to the same family, an odour so similar to the emanations of an animal proverbial for its salaciousness, and to which its bearded spikes or ears give additional resemblance, the almost unbounded confidence which the ancients reposed in its aphrodisiacal virtues cannot appear surprising.
One of the most extraordinary aphrodisiacs upon record is that reported to have been employed by the Amazons. The "Amazons," says Eustathius, ‡ "broke either a leg or an arm of the captives they took in battle, and this they did, not only to prevent their attempts at escape, or their plotting, but also, and this more especially, to render them more vigorous in the venereal conflict; for, as they themselves burnt away the right breast of their female children in order that the right arm might become stronger from receiving additional nutriment, so they imagined that, similarly, the genital member would be strengthened by the deprivation of one of the extremities, whether a leg or an arm. Hence, when reproached by the Scythians with the limping gait of her slaves, Queen Antianara replied, "àρισra χωλόs ονφεί," "the lame best perform the act of love".
* "Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem at Easter, a.d., 1697".
† Orchis is a Greek word signifying testicle, a name given by the ancients to this plant 011 account of the supposed resemblance of its root to that organ. ‡ Eustathii Commentarii ad Homerum, Vol. I., p. 325, 403 - 9. Editio Lipsae, 1827.
Among the ancient Romans, it was impossible that philters, or love-potions, should not be introduced amid the general depravity so common in every class; and hence we meet with frequent allusions to them in their writers. Thus, the emperor Julian, surnamed the Apostate, writing to his friend Callixines, observes "At enim inquies, Penelopes etiam amor et fides erga virum tempore cognita est. Et quis, tandem, inquam, in muliere amorem conjugis sui religioni ac pietati anteponet quam can timid mandragora bibesse judicitur?"*
"But you, Callixines, observe that Penelope's love to her husband was always thus manifested. To this I answer, who but he that has habitually drunk Mandragora can prefer in a woman conjugal affection to piety?"
The over excitement caused in the nervous system by such potions frequently proved fatal. Such, according to Eusebius was the fate of the poet Lucretius, who, having been driven to madness by an amatory potion, and having, during the intervals of his insanity, composed several books, which were afterwards corrected by Cicero, died by his own hand, in the 44th year of his age. † It should, however, be remembered that this.
* Juliani Calixenae Epistola.
† "Amatorio poculo furorem versus, quum aliquot libros per intervalla conscripserat," account has been questioned by the poet's translator and anno-tator, the late Mr. Mason Good, in these words: