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Rachel and Jacob at the well

Rachel was the favorite wife of Jacob, and is considered one of the four Matriarchs in Judaism. Most Jewish sources list her age at the time of her death as 36 but others list it as 45 and most estimate her death to be c. 1553 BCE.

Despite her struggle with infertility, she eventually became the mother of the celebrated oneiromancer and hydromancer Joseph. Rachel’s father Laban was a master of forbidden magic who refused to give Rachel the inheritance she was due. As retribution, she stole her father’s teraphim or idols. Her husband Jacob, not knowing that they were in his wife’s possession, put a death curse upon whoever had them. Because of this curse, Rachel died while giving birth to her second son, Benjamin, who grew up to be a skilled diviner and astrologer. In chapter 30 of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, it is said that Rachel used a mandrake preparation to enhance her fertility. Because of her struggle with infertility, she is the spiritual figure of choice for Jewish women having difficulty conceiving and who wish for assistance at childbirth.

In the Jewish holiday called Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles, which is described in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus, four different plants symbolize the four Matriarchs. Rachel, who died the youngest of the four, is symbolized by the willows of the brook, which live the shortest lives of the trees. Devotees of Rachel wind red cords or string around her tomb outside of Bethlehem as they petition her. The cords, cut into convenient lengths, can be used as wicking for candles that are set as lights or as protective amulet bracelets in the tradition of the Kabbalah and Jewish folk magic.

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