Mandrake roots The first item my eye fell upon was Mandragora roots, resembling rather wrinkled greenish beetroots, packed in a black plastic tray that might have held avocadoes in Sainsbury's and wrapped in clingfilm, the whole labelled carefully with price, barcode and best-before date.

I knew from my studies that Mandragora officinarum was a powerful herbal remedy, often indicated to increase fertility in women, and had several uses in the Wiccan crafts, although it was not on my shopping list for today. I had vaguely expected that magical plants would be obtained by furtive under-the-counter transactions in out-of-the-way parts of obscure country markets, not pre-washed, packaged and displayed in a style which would put Marks and Sparks to shame. My mind swirling, I finally focussed on the sign attached to the front of the shelving. 'Special offer,' it read, '50 pence off fresh Mandrake.'

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