Notes from the Apothecary: Book Recommendations
Hi all! Summer is here, and we might all need to take a break from the heat every now and then. With that in mind, I thought it might be good to give you a little insight into the books I use to help me craft each month’s Notes from the Apothecary. Then you’ll have some light reading to do while you’re sat in a nice air-conditioned room somewhere- or out in the park!
I love plants of all types, and often my research comes from experience. However, when looking at the medical uses, particularly from bygone eras, I refer to many different volumes. I also have a few go-to manuals when it comes to magical interpretations of plants. Here are a few of my favourites.
Mrs Grieve’s A Modern Herbal, 1931
This book is an absolute treasure trove. She references so many older naturalists and botanists and makes it really easy to cross reference and find the original sources for the information she’s providing. The wealth of plants in here is astonishing, and the fact that the whole book is available online too makes it invaluable to anyone with an interest in herbs. She includes snippets of folklore as well as medicinal uses for all the plants, and includes many different common names to make it easier to find the plant you are looking for.
Born in 1616, Culpeper’s work is still surprisingly relevant in many ways. His Complete Herbal, originally known as The English Physician, is an astonishing catalogue of hundreds of herbs, all with medicinal uses. He took pride in his combination of experience, reason, diligence and honesty, and had a healthy respect for nature. His work is so interesting to us because it is due to his descriptions of medicinal plants and their uses that many were shipped to the New World to be used as medicines there. The world might be a very different place, botanically speaking if not for the writing of Nicholas Culpeper.
A Kitchen Witch’s World of Magical Plants and Herbs by Rachel Patterson
This book from experienced Kitchen Witch Rachel Patterson explains about the different magical energy plants have and how to harness them. It helps novices grow their own plants and explains the best ways to harvest and store leaves, seeds, and flowers. It’s a wonderful reference for any witch, with plenty of correspondences.
Cunningham’s Encyclopaedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham
It’s important to note that I don’t agree with everything Mr Cunningham has to say. Regular readers will infer my written roll of the eyes at yet another reference to a plant that automatically has water-Venus-feminine energy. I find this volume often over simplified and lacking in detail which can be easily extrapolated from older herbals or items of folklore. However, it has an astonishing range of folk and common names to cross reference, and is an amazing starting point for anyone wanting to know what the magical significance of any plant may be. The inclusion of snippets of folk magic for each plant are useful and exciting to both the casual and serious researcher. Cunningham’s is often my starting point before delving deeper into any particular plant.
By Wolfsbane and Mandrake Root by Melusine Draco
The tagline for this book is “The shadow world of plants and their poisons”. That’s exactly what this book is: a focus on the plants we often try to avoid, but which are, obviously , incredibly magically and spiritually significant. The books explores poisons which can also be medicines as well as looking at the uses of poisonous plants in various types of magic. An engaging read and a great reference.
I hope you enjoy my recommendations, and please drop me a line (Twitter: @Mabherick) if there’s a particular plant you’d like me to explore- whether that’s a herb, flower or tree. Until next time!
About the Author:
Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.