The phenomenon has been attributed to pressure on the cerebellum created by the noose. Spinal cord injuries are known to be associated with priapism. Death by hanging, whether an execution or a suicide, has been observed to affect the genitals of both men and women. In women, the labia and clitoris will become engorged and there may be a discharge of blood from the vagina. In men, "a more or less complete state of erection of the penis, with discharge of urine, mucus or prostatic fluid is a frequent occurrence ... present in one case in three." Other causes of death may also result in these effects, including fatal gunshot wounds to the brain, damage to major blood vessels, and violent death by poisoning. A postmortem priapism is an indicator that death was likely swift and violent. It was common folklore in some countries that the ejaculate of a hanged man, dripped on the ground below, would seed the growth of a mandrake plant, to which various healing or magical powers were ascribed.
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