The Thirteen Houses Project: Mandrake

[Once a month for the next twelve months, I will be doing a post on the 13th of each month based on one of the Thirteen Houses of the Court of Night-Blooming Flowers from Kushiel’s Legacy.]

It’s Friday the 13th and a full moon, and because it’s the thirteenth of the month, you know what that means! It’s time for another entry in the Thirteen Houses Project.

This month’s House is Mandrake. Mandrake’s canon is dominance and sadism and its motto is “Yield all.” Unusually, we don’t learn what they hold occurred when Naamah slept with the King of Persis, but we do learn that they believe Naamah “chose her patrons like victims and whipped them to violent pleasures, leaving them sated and half dead”. At the Midwinter Masque during Kushiel’s Dart, the adepts are costumed as the Court of Tartarus.

When I started this project I had an idea for a topic for Mandrake but now that I’m almost finished it I can’t think of what to write at all, especially since, in my mind, Mandrake and Valerian are so intertwined that they’re two halves of the same coin. I have more headcanons about Valerian and Mandrake than I do for any of the other houses, or, well, every other aspect of the series besides the deities themselves.

So, for today, Mandrake’s lesson is about control and assertion. Mandrake House demands that its patrons give up control in its very motto. To give up control is something that frightens a lot of people, but that’s going to be explored in the next–and final–entry in the Thirteen Houses Project.

I have a confession to make, I am absolutely the least assertive person in the world. I’m very shy and withdrawn and I still find it difficult to look people in the eye. I get really nervous when calling someone on the phone for the first time, about the only place I feel free to express myself is the Internet, which is why this blog exists. People can say what they like about how the Internet is horrible and ruining everything, but for me, the Internet is the most comfortable way I have to communicate with other people.

A Mandrake adept, I imagine, is someone who, either naturally or through training, learns how to take control of their assignations. This is something I was never really taught to do, and I suspect this is true for many women. We are not taught to be assertive, we’re told that we’re being “bossy”, “bitchy” or “ball-busters”, even within kink, it’s often assumed that submissives are women, in fact books on kink are one of the only places where I’ve seen writers default to feminine pronouns when discussing submissive partners (rather than using androcentric or gender neutral pronouns). Even if it does accurately reflect the dominant dynamic in kink, it’s still pretty messed up when you think about it?

Mandrake’s lesson is a very hard one to learn, for me, maybe at this point it’s impossible to learn, at least, not without unlearning a whole slew of things. It’s tough to unlearn things that institutions and the people around you have pretty much drilled into your head from day one. This is something I discussed previously in the entry on Alyssum House. It’s interesting how I’ve essentially come full circle since then.

Next month marks the final entry in the Thirteen Houses Project, Valerian House! I’m excited that I’m close to being done, but in a way it’s kind of sad. Oh well, there’s still the Companions Project to do.

“Mandrake roots” by Spacedive (via Wikipedia)

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