|Alicia Bailey, Atropa Mandragora, 2003,|
Glass book with box, pages etched and fired
glass, coptic binding, edition of five, box dimensions
10" x 8" x 3", courtesy of the artist
Atropa Mandragora takes its name from a plant that has featured prominently in folklore for centuries. Harry Potter fans will not be surprised to read the roots of the mandrake plant resemble human bodies. While the form of the mandragora root does not resemble humans as literally as the plants described in Ms. Rowling's books, there is an undeniable resemblance between humans and mandrake roots. While, certainly, the mandrake/mandragora offers up paths into creation stories and the weirder bits and pieces of folklore, it also draws our attention to the idea of multiplicity--the idea that one thing can be many and vice versa. In addition to being both plantlike and human in form, the mandrake has acquired a reputation for being everything from an aphrodisiac to an hallucinogenic capable of inducing a coma. Quite a powerful plant, don't you think? The hallucinogenic properties, in addition to summoning up images of the psychedelic sixties, reveal the mandrake's status as a symbol of multiplicity. When hallucinating, one can mistake any ordinary object for an infinite number of other people, places, and things. Indeed, given the mandrake's reality-bending powers, it isn't hard to understand how many of the legends surrounding the plant came to be. Simply ingesting a mandrake root can cause a person to lose touch with reality and enter a state of...*ahem*...expanded consciousness--or, as the look and book people might say, a new way of receiving ideas.