Reviews & Interviews

Book Review – The Sacred Herbs of Spring: Magical, Healing, and Edible Plants to Celebrate Beltaine by Ellen Evert Hopman

Book Review

The Sacred Herbs of Spring

Magical, Healing, and Edible Plants to Celebrate Beltaine

by Ellen Evert Hopman

376 Pages


….The month of May is a time of great spiritual power for those who are attuned to natural cycles. In the northern hemisphere the sap is rising in the trees and medicinally beneficial new leaves and flowers are reappearing. For Druids, Witches, and other followers of the Nature Religions, May is the time to celebrate love, fertility and the new growth of summer, and most of this book is dedicated to these magical aspects of the May Day festival…. (Introduction)

Call it wishful thinking or the reality that we are not that far from Spring’s gentle hand, but when I saw this book advertised I knew I wanted to dive in and review it…

The Sacred Herbs of Spring: Magical, Healing, and Edible Plants to Celebrate Beltaine by Ellen Evert Hopman begins with sixty-nine (69) glossy photo plates of beautiful and delicate herbs. A feast for the eyes on first opening and definitely a great way to draw the reader in. The remainder of the book is thoughtfully separated into an Introduction relating the “Origins of Beltaine” and Three Parts that provide the reader with everything necessary (and more) to incorporate a focus of herbal lore and affinities for a meaningful and nature filled celebration of Beltaine.

Part One: Useful Primers for This Book takes the reader through the basics of Celtic Cosmology, Faeries and Herbal Preparations. Beltaine is notably a time for the green world and its inhabitants. This is the space of celebrating not only the union of the Maiden and the Youth but also those Spirits of Nature and the Kingdom of the Fae. The section regarding “Herbal Preparations” is a great resource for any budding herbologist and it’s a generic source of practical technique and knowledge for any season. I particularly liked the instructions on making “Plant Spirit Charms” (p.21) as a way of communication and deepening a connection to the spirits of the plants/herbs you may choose to work with. I also learned that these charms can be carefully preserved and gifted from parent to child over generations, keeping the traditions alive and the craft handed down.

Part Two: The Magical Herbs of Beltaine separates out those herbs and woods that call to the intention of Beltanine’s quickening fires and are favored by the Fairies and nature spirits that may be the onlookers of your sacred rite. These are further broken down into their properties in stimulating Connection to Other Realms, Courage, Clarity, Love, Fertility and Abundance, to name a few. This section concludes with information about Edible Herbs and Flowers making the incorporation of specific and intentional herbal additions to our feast foods, meade or other edible Sabbat endeavors doable with confidence and clarity.

The Sacred Woods for the Beltaine Fires (Part Two) takes the reader back in time to the Celtic rites, the Druid’s groves and the reason why wands and tools are crafted from specific woods, the Celtic Tree Year and the study of the Oghams as a tool of nature’s divination.

Choose the Willow of the streams,

Choose the Hazel of the rocks,

Choose the Alder of the marshes,

Choose the Birch of the waterfalls,

Choose the Ash of the shade,

Choose the Yew of resilience,

Choose the Elm of the brae,

Choose the Oak of the Sun.

(Traditional Scottish Verse- p. 30)

This was by and far my favorite section and I filled with the lore of the trees and recounts of the Beltaine fires and the use of the sacred woods. Each tree is lovingly detailed and concludes its section with specific uses during Beltaine. Recipes grace some of the descriptions and Birch is exemplifies the use of its wood for divination and the alphabet of the Oghams.

Part Three: Traditions, Rites, and Foods of Beltaine ties everything together giving samples and ideas for crafting beautiful ritual, lasting traditions and recipes that enhance your celebrations. Information about the Beltaine rites as celebrated In Ireland, England, Wales and throughout other countries gives the reader a lovely overview of the diversity, yet underpinnings of similarities, of celebration. Many of the recipes are easy to make and I definitely found a few I would like to incorporate into my Beltaine feasts to come.

The Sacred Herbs of Spring: Magical, Healing, and Edible Plants to Celebrate Beltaine concludes with a Notes, two indexes, 1 for the Common Name and another for the Scientific Name of the herbs. This is a nice touch that makes the herbs more accessible for everyone. The Notes section is a bibliography of works cited and researched and fills the needs of both the novice and the adept in exploring this herbal study in more depth.

Would I Recommend?

The Sacred Herbs of Spring: Magical, Healing, and Edible Plants to Celebrate Beltaine by Ellen Evert Hopman is definitely one I will add to my recommended reading list for coven and community. Even if you consider yourself to not be interested in exploring herbals as part of your practice, the information is digestible and interesting to stimulate the seeds of how these applications may be used as minimally or extensively as is wished. In fact, I was so impressed by the format and easily accessible wealth of information that I just pre-ordered this title and was pleased to see that this is perhaps an intended series. I also ordered The Sacred Herbs of Samhain: Plants to Connect with the Spirits of the Dead by Ms.Hopman (published in August 2019) and will add to this with future volumes.

About Ellen:

Ellen Evert Hopman has been a teacher of herbalism since 1983 and is a professional member of the American Herbalists Guild. A member of the Grey Council of Mages and Sages and a former professor at the Grey School of Wizardry, she has presented at schools and workshops across the United States and Europe. A Druidic initiate since 1984, she is a founding member of The Order of the White Oak (Ord Na Darach Gile), a Bard of the Gorsedd of Caer Abiri, and a Druidess of the Druid Clan of Dana. A former vice president of The Henge of Keltria, she is the author of A Druid’s Herbal of Sacred Tree Medicine; A Druid’s Herbal for the Sacred Earth YearWalking the World in WonderBeing a Pagan; Tree MedicineTree Magic; and Priestess of the Forest. She lives in Massachusetts.

You can Read an Excerpt of The Sacred Herbs of Spring Magical, Healing, and Edible Plants to Celebrate Beltaine by Ellen Evert Hopman in this Issue! Click Here.

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About the Author:

Robin Fennelly is a Third Degree Initiate within The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel Tradition and serves as High Priestess of Coven of the Mystic Path, the 12th Coven within the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel Tradition. She teaches and facilitates classes for the Pagan Experience Study Group that serves as foundation for membership within Coven of the Mystic Path.  

Her spiritual journey is strongly rooted in both Eastern philosophy and the Western Magickal systems from which she has formed a core foundation that is diverse in knowledge and rich in spiritual practice.  A life-long learner, her practice has evolved from the classical and philosophical teachings of books, practical experience and enrichment of this knowledge base by attending workshops of various spiritual traditions presented by master teachers.

Robin formally came to the Wiccan path in 1994. Following practice as a solitary for 2 years, she dedicated to Oak and Willow Coven of The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel Tradition in November of 1996. She received her 1st, 2nd and finally 3rd degrees within the Assembly Tradition and has served as High Priestess of Oak and Willow since Samhain of 2001.

As a teacher of esoteric and magickal studies she has used Energetic Anatomy, Tarot, Astrology, Hermetic Qabala, Eastern Philosophy, and Numerology as the foundations of her diverse selection of workshops and writings for more than 25 years. Exploration of varied energetic protocol has been the focus of her work for some time now and the information gained through direct experience informs all of her magickal and spiritual work.

Robin’s writings have been featured online, and in print Internationally.  She has authored several books incorporating her unique style of writing making use of poetry, prose and pathworking to enhance the concepts presented.  She has taught extensively throughout the Pagan community, including Sacred Space Conference, Spring Magick, Between the Worlds Interfaith Conference and Free Spirit Gathering Festival this Summer. Her most recent project is hosting an online blogging community entitled The Pagan Experience.

Robin is the owner of Holistic Embrace providing services for mind, body and spirit such as Tarot readings, Astrology reports, Spiritual Guidance and other related offerings.  She lives in Eastern Pennsylvania and her life is blessed by a 40+- year marriage, five children and the opportunity to work in the field of public education.

Robin’s Books

The Inner Chamber, Vol. 1 It’s Written in the Stars-Astrology

The Inner Chamber, Vol. 2 Poetry of the Spheres-Qabalah

The Inner Chamber, Vol. 3 Awakening the Paths-Qabalah

The Light of SELF: Consciousness, Spiritual Practice and Learning to Breathe

Magickal Verse: A Collection of Poetry and Prose

A Year of Gaia: The Eternal Cord

The Elemental Year: Aligning the Elements of SELF

Temple of the Sun and Moon: Luminous Devotions

Sleeping with the Goddess: Nights of Devotion

A Weekly Reflection: Musings for the Year

The Magickal Pen: A Collection of Esoteric Writings

The Enchanted Gate: Musings on the Magick of the Natural World

For more info: http://www.robinfennelly.com/books.html

Robin’s Website: www.robinfennelly.com

Coven of the Mystic Path, ASW: www.covenofthemysticpath.org