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.