Reviews & Interviews

Book Review – Journeys with Plant Spirits by Emma Farrell

Book Review
Journeys with Plant Spirits
by Emma Farrell
Published by Bear & Company
288 pages
Publication date: October 26, 2021

 

 

In part one of Journeys with Plant Spirits, Emma Farrell delves into several broad spiritual and supernatural topics that are shared by many shamanic traditions, such as healing wounds from past lives and navigating shamanic journeys through the upper, middle, lower, and other worlds. This introduction takes a primarily animistic view of the plant spirits, with a heavy emphasis on using intuitive practices like meditation to connect to the spirits of the plants. While many of these notions are now well-trod traditional pathways of plant spirit medicine and healing, there is an interesting mixture of ideas presented, and a blend of many different traditions, ancient and modern, in one place.

Farrell discusses using plants for magical cleansing, addressing one’s shadow self through myth, getting in touch with the inner warrior, engaging with plant diets, and using the Celtic medicine wheel. Celtic shamanism is the primary cultural theme of the book, but the cultural influences in this book are extremely broad, including many different religious and ethnic influences, from curanderos to Dzogchen to John O’Donohue and more.

Part two of the book looks at thirteen plant and tree spirits: mugwort, oak, hawthorn, nettle, dandelion, alder, lady’s mantle, rosemary, fireweed, wormwood, angelica, elder, and yew. Each of these is explored in a general style and most of them are paired with a meditation to be explored with the plant. In addition to this, there are suggestions for ritual methods of working with the plants through the wheel and medicinal use. While there is a small amount of traditional medicinal information explored over the course of the book, it isn’t the main point of plant spirit shamanic practices, and so it isn’t discussed in depth here. There is no information about dosages, recipes, or medicine-making in this book.

The plant spirit practices involved in this book generally fall into the realm of meditation and personal experience. The book encourages intuitive practice and personal practice. In some ways this is great, but I fear that it does put some of the content at a disadvantage; there is a lot in the book that feels abstract and off-point, including some jabs at modern society and allopathic medicine which seemed unnecessary, along with some aspects of modern plant spiritualism that newcomers may find harder to understand, accept, or agree with.

One of the main methods of plant spirit work discussed in the book is the plant diet, which involves close use of an individual plant for a few days to a month through as many different methods as possible — tinctures, essential oils, teas, essences, salves, baths, and so on. Sitting and meditating with a live plant, or sitting and meditating on the spirit of the plant, is also a big part of this practice. In so doing, Farrell encourages the student of plant medicine to come to know themselves, to align to nature and earth, and to heal their trauma.

I’m left feeling a bit conflicted about this book. There is a lot going on here, and it’s going in a lot of different directions. I agree with a lot of what Farrell actually says, but at times it feels unfocused, and she asserts spiritual understandings as certainty which the casual reader may not be ready to accept with the same ease. Ultimately, intuitive practice and experiences are highly subjective, and this is both the strength and weakness of this book, since the personal experiences related by the author are of less interest to the reader than their own might be. Where Journeys with Plant Spirits shines is in the ways in which it encourages the reader to get out and work with these practices for themselves, to explore and come to their own conclusions, and have their own subjective experience.

The overall message of the book is good, and the practices are solid, if a bit fundamental. I’d recommend the book to anyone who is specifically interested in working with the Celtic medicine wheel, or in plant spirit work involving one of the thirteen plants discussed. I suspect the book won’t interest every herbalist, but it’s likely to be more interesting to those who take an animistic approach.


Emma Farrell is a plant spirit healer, geomancer, shamanic teacher, and the cofounder with her husband, Davyd, of the groundbreaking London event Plant Consciousness. She is a lineage holder of the White Serpent teachings and has been initiated into ancient magical practices of the British Isles. She currently runs a school of warrior healers and an apothecary of plant spirit medicine. She lives in Powys, Wales.

 

Journeys with Plant Spirits on Amazon

 

About the author:

Sarah McMenomy is a visionary artist, author, and witch. Pulling inspiration from trance states, dreams, auras, psychedelia, and the natural world, she weaves together themes of nature and the occult in her artwork and writing. She has created art and written for books, magazines, games, and more, as well as producing digital fine art prints and acrylic paintings. 
She is the creator of The Entanglement Tarot, a hex-shaped occult Tarot deck designed for spell-craft. 
She is co-runner of Pagan Pages, for which she also writes articles and book reviews, and she also publishes art on her Portfolio site and other work on her Tumblr.

Sarah McMenomy is a visionary artist, author, and witch. Pulling inspiration from trance states, dreams, auras, psychedelia, and the natural world, she weaves together themes of nature and the occult in her artwork and writing. She has created art and written for books, magazines, games, and more, as well as producing digital fine art prints and acrylic paintings. She is the creator of The Entanglement Tarot, a hex-shaped occult Tarot deck designed for spell-craft. She is co-runner of Pagan Pages, for which she also writes articles and book reviews, and she also publishes art on her Portfolio site and other work on her Tumblr.