Book Review – Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs & The Herb Book
Herbs have long been a staple in witchcraft, and in human existence in-general. Many of our modern day medicines are still derived from plants essences and extracts, and there is an intrinsic truth to the notion that forests, meadows, and gardens constitute a fresh pharmacy. Besides thier medicinal properties, herbs are used for their beauty, flavor profiles, and thier aromatic qualities. Herbs can decorate our homes and green spaces, season our home cooked meals, cleanse and scent the air that we breathe, as well as curing what ails us. Herbs are a powerhouse of good for our enjoyment and our health, healing, and longevity, and the myriad uses and applications is a long-held fascination of mine… So today you’re getting a two-fer book review, as I feel these two books pair so very well together on the topic of herbal botany and lore – if you are mainly interested in reading about one of the others, I have bolded the title that each paragraph addresses for easy reference.
The Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs starts out by addressing the ways with which to work with herbs magickally, with advice for harvesting, enchanting, and attunement, along with various preparations to be used in ritual work. The main body of the book then lists various herbs using thier common and botanical names, thier folk names, correspondences (gender, planet, element, and deity associations) the energies/powers that are typically assigned to the herb, and thier ritual and magickal uses. Each entry also supplies reference to an alphabetical key that pertains to health code warnings, and of course lists whether the herb is poisonous and should be avoided. There are line-art illustrations supplied with most of the herbal entries. The Book also supplied a glossary, and a very helpful list of cross-referenced folk names.
The Herb Book is a tome of accurate botanical information on an astonishingly wide variety of plant life. The book is broken into three parts, with Part 1 introducing historical and background information, and a preliminary reference of plants and thier properties. Part 2 covered the entries on each herb, along with line art illustrations. Each entry details the common and botanical names of the herb, the medicinal part of the plant, the botanical description, properties, uses, and dosages, along with any cautions to take note of. Part 3 covers various herbal preparations and dosages for medicinal purposes, as well as nutritional, culinary, cosmetic, aromatic, and decorative uses in the form of natural dyes; and continues with astrological correspondences, legend and folklore, and other historical notes.
I have to admit that at first I was disappointed with the Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. I found its content on the herbs too basic and rudimentary, and the illustrations to be next to useless. The first chapter on magickal preparations is enjoyable if also fairly basic, and the list of folk names at the back of the book is invaluable for cross-referencing (for instance, the revelation that “wing of bat” refers to a leaf of holly) but the actual meat of the book I felt was rather lacking. Since that time, I have come around to see the book in a more favourable light, and accept it for what it is. It has become a reference that I value, and refer to often, especially in conjunction with any kitchen witchery I may be undertaking. There are still some entries that are obviously lacking – milkweed comes foremost to mind – but overall it is a helpful book, and the information it contains will be easily accessible to anyone just starting out down a witchy path. While the Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs has found a valued place on my bookshelf, I am still in search of more complete book on the magickal properties of plants and herbs.
As I’m sure the photo hints, The Herb Book has been my herbal companion for many years. Passed down to me by my mother, I’ve been studying and browsing its pages ever since I was in my late teens. I honestly have to say that there is yet a book on the subject that covers the breadth and depth of information contained within it’s pages. Unlike the Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, The Herb Book contains enough botanically accurate information as to be used as a field guide. It also contains a large assortment of different preparations, recipes, and dosage levels prescribed to treat various ailments. This is my go-to book on herbalism, and is a must-have for anyone who enjoys working with herbs. Good news for those who wish to add The Herb Book to thier collection: Amazon offers an updated version so you needn’t scour the used bookstore in search of it.
The Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs is a decent starting place for those who wish to incorporate herbs into thier ritual work. The chapters on working with the herbs in magickally are well written and informative. Herb entries are concise, although the list of different herbs is in no way complete, with some major specimens having not made it into the book at all. Listings of magickal properties is very helpful and easy to put to good use. Illustrations are inconsistent, in some cases inaccurate, and at other times they are missing altogether. Not suitable as a field book, or for the identification of specimens. The list of cross-referenced folk names at the very end of the book is invaluable, and that alone makes adding this book worthy of any library.
The Herb Book is branded as “the most complete catalogue of herbs ever published” for good reason: with over 2,000 entries on various plants, numerous preparations, and botanically accurate information, The Herb Book serves as a most comprehensive collection on herbal properties, identification, and applications. Illustrations are accurate, and although missing for some entries. Suitable as a field book, or for the identification of specimens. Scientific in its approach, The Herb Book includes folklore and astrological correspondances, but does not investigate the magical properties of the herbs. A glossary and information on the various botanical terms is included, as are numerous referencing systems to look up herbs by name, use, or by which ailment one of looking to prescribed herbs towards.
For the magickal practitioner, these two books belong together, but if there is only room in the budget to start with one, The Herb Book is likely the better candidate given its extensive and scientifically accurate content.
Where to Purchase:
Both the Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs and The Herb Book are available online from Amazon, or check with your local occult/metaphysical shop and ask to have them ordered in for you!