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Raskovnik, Razkovniche or Mandrake is a magical herb in South Slavic (Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Macedonia, and Montenegro) mythology. According to folklore, the Raskovnik has the magical property to unlock or uncover anything that is locked or closed. However, legends claim it is notoriously difficult to recognize the herb, and reputedly only certain chthonic animals are able to identify it.
There are three types raskovnik, Slatinski (lat. Peucedanum officinale (L.)), male (lat. Laser trilobum) and ordinary (lat. Laserpitium sealer) Raskovnik. The stem is spindle-shaped, longitudinally grooved, hollow and branches are green in color. The height is 60 to 100 centimeters.
According to the legend, the Raskovnik could unlock any gate or padlock, regardless of its size, material or key. It could also uncover treasures buried in the ground. In Bulgarian beliefs, it could split the ground at the place where a treasure lay so that people could locate it. In Bulgarian sources the Raskovnik is sometimes described as a grass resembling a four-leaf clover. It grows in meadows and may be picked either while green and blooming or in hay, when it is already dry. While it is not necessarily rare, nor does it thrive only in remote locations, it is nevertheless impossible to recognize by the uninitiated.
According to Bulgarian mythology and some other traditions, tortoises were the only beings who knew the appearance of the herb and the location where it grows. In Serbia, one would also have to be quick to take the Raskovnik, as a hedgehog would swallow it after use. In any case, turtles, snakes and hedgehogs are all animals with chthonic characteristics which were often associated with the underworld in South Slavic tradition. It is probably a herb that has medicinal properties and uses that were mistaken as magic.
While the tricking of a tortoise was the most popular method in Bulgarian mythology, in Dalmatia (Croatia) the legend refers to snakes, and among Serbs another version involves the locking of young hedgehogs in a box for their mother to unlock. In Serbia, one would also have to be quick to take the raskovnik, as the hedgehog would swallow it after use. In any case, turtles, snakes and hedgehogs are all animals with chthonic characteristics which were often variously associated with the underworld in South Slavic tradition.