From The Cuming Museum: The Screaming Mandrake Of Barking

By M@ Last edited 116 months ago
From The Cuming Museum: The Screaming Mandrake Of Barking


Presenting the first in a series of curious objects from our Museum of the Month: the Cuming Museum.

This knobbly object is a Mandrake root from Surrey, bent into the shape of woman holding a child. It was acquired by Edward Lovett, an Edwardian collector of charms and magical items. The strange talisman is carved from black briony — a hedgerow plant also known as 'mandrake' root. Mandrake was a cure-all charm, which would be hung in homes. Mandrake roots that grew into recognizable shapes were especially prized. Edward Lovett obtained this figure from a Romany near Barking in 1912. He told Lovett that when he pulled it from the ground it 'screamed like a child'. Mandrakes live on in popular imagination thanks to their appearance in the Harry Potter books and films.

You can learn more about Lovett and his collection of charms at a special talk at the Cuming Museum on 29 July at 6.30. A tag team of Ross Macfarlane of the Wellcome Library and Chris Roberts of One Eye Grey fame will regale the audience with tales of local folklore. Not to be missed.

Last Updated 17 July 2009