A large number of poisonous plants have beneficial uses in both domestic medicine and magic. Needless to say, when utilising a toxic plant in magic, we are adding certain extra deadly or potent energies into the mix and it is inadvisable to start messing about with deadly poisons unless we’ve made a thorough study of the subject - and not just by glancing at a paragraph in a book on herbal preparations!
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
WOW! What a great reference... every witch should own a copy! ~ Lisa Schmitt, Foxy Reads
Melusine Draco’s latest book By Wolfsbane & Mandrake Root is a great introduction into the world of baneful plants. I would recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about this subject. Coming in at only 96 pages, the book is brief and to the point. She starts the book off by giving a fairly thorough introduction into the historical, mythological and fictional worlds of poisons. This section is full of interesting information; from political assassinations, the Gospel of Aradia, Shakespeare, J.K. Rowling, women poisoning their husbands, the flying ointment of witches and much more. As a traditional witch she places emphasis on the connection of poisons with that of witchcraft, sorcery and cunning folk traditions.
The second part of the book discusses historical methods of detecting poison and trying to counteract it. The information about how people would use stones to detect poisons was really interesting. Some gemstones were believed to neutralize poisons and were placed on the goblets of Royalty as a protective measure. Other stones were believed to ward off poisoning just by wearing them or having them on your person. Certain imagery and amulets as well as prayers and incantations were also used to help ward off poisoning. The historical use herbs to combat poisoning is also examined - most being herbs that induce vomiting.
The third section of the book is a very well researched encyclopedia of baneful plants and fungi including every day plants and herbs around us that aren’t normally discussed or thought of as such. The magickal uses of these plants are also briefly mentioned afterwards.
The last chapter of the book discusses using these plants for cursing or bottling. Melusine has one of the most balanced views I’ve seen on cursing. She does not dismiss cursing as ethically wrong while placing emphasis on the seriousness of doing so and the magickal coin that such a working may cost the witch in the long run. She also warns that a curse cannot be undone by the one who’s cast it. Her preferred method is bottling, which seems to be somewhere between a curse and a binding which she believes can be undone by unbottling the spell itself. She then concludes the book by giving a good number of her bottling spells to stop various forms of harassment, incorporating the use of baneful plants. ~ Mat Auryn, The Astrarium
By Wolfsbane & Mandrake Root takes the reader through the histories and lore of a number of poisonous plants and then offers some thoughts on possible applications in modern magic or witchcraft. Brief monographs feature select botanicals with descriptions of identification, an overview of their poisonous qualities, and how they might be useful in a binding or curse.
I enjoyed the book, particularly the history and the chapter on bottling. I'd recommend this for plant geeks and pagans alike. ~ Amy Kreydin, GoodRead
There's been a lot of buzz in the occult world of late about the poison path: the use of poisonous plants for spirit work, journeying, trance and generally altering one's mind and perception. Melusine Draco's new book lays out a concise history of the usage of toxic plants by poisoners, physicians, and green men/women (cunning folk), illustrating the cyclical waxing and waning of the plants' popularity and usage over the centuries. Peppered throughout are numerous interesting historical facts. Did you know that during the Renaissance the nobility used various gemstones and crystals suspended from a "Proving Tree" device to detect the presence of poisons in food? Or that they also used narwhal horns? I sure didn't!
I really enjoyed the chapter on common plants that will kill you. Some I knew were toxic (Lily of the Valley, mistletoe, holly) others were a surprise to me; buttercups, box hedges, columbine. All acquired from local greenhouses and garden departments. It might not be news to botanists, but to the layperson it was very eye opening. Like learning the pretty zoanthid corals in your reef aquarium contain palytoxin that can kill you painfully. Listed after each plant description are its magical properties and usages. I grinned when I reached the listing for black nightshade (Solanum nigrum) and saw Melusine's note that, "contrary to Grieves and Cunningham, black nightshade is NOT another name for henbane."
The last chapter contains a multitude of ideas for using those poisonous plants in your spellcraft. Unsurprisingly, cursing and bottling spells go hand in hand with toxic flora, and Melusine's got some good ones in her arsenal. There was a bottling spell utilizing mistletoe for neutralizing sexual harassment that I thought was particularly clever.
I would say give this book a try, even if you have no intention of ever using toxic plants in your craft. There are so many nifty pieces of information that it's worth the price of admission for that alone. It also makes a nice companion volume to Daniel Schulke's "Veneficium." ~ Rachel Karfit, NetGalley/GoodReads
The dark side of me loves reading about poisons and I suspect I’m not alone in this... Draco’s book is a very good introduction to the ancient arte and history of poisons which goes back certainly beyond 4,500 years and probably throughout human history. I like Draco’s writing style which is both authoritative and accessible; I feel as if she’s talking with me over a cup of tea and I really like that... Altogether an excellent little book. Thoroughly recommended ~ Elen Sentier, author and shaman
Melusine Draco's Pagan Portal; By Wolfsbane and Mandrake Root. The Shadow World of Plants and their Poisons provides an addictive read, not only for us writers of dark fiction researching the often grim historical and literary aspects of poison, but the curious, tempted to experiment with an array of natural ingredients to mitigate against life's often damaging assaults. Draco's erudite introduction into the crime of poisoning - or veneficium - leads to four fascinating chapters from A touch of Poison to Cursing v. Bottling, with practical advice on Methods and Spells. Here, the intriguing subtitles which include Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil, are all delivered in an accessible, almost inviting way, yet carrying necessary warnings.
A gem of a book to be treasured by those wanting to expand their horizons. Very highly recommended. ~ Sally Spedding, author of How to Write a Chiller Thriller
The dark side of me loves reading about poisons and I suspect I’m not alone in this. The Poison garden at Alnwick Castle gets a lot of visitors each year in testimony of our, perhaps sometimes furtive, interest. Draco’s book is a very good introduction to the ancient arte and history of poisons which goes back certainly beyond 4,500 years and probably throughout human history. I like Draco’s writing style which is both authoritative and accessible; I feel as if she’s talking with me over a cup of tea and I really like that. After the history there’s a fascinating chapter on “The Proving Tree”, about both cooking up and neutralizing poisons, including magical methods. It reminds me of Sir George Ripley the 15th century Yorkshire alchemist, a favourite of mine. Then there’s a very useful chapter on the plants followed by a fascinating one on cursing and bottling, with reminders that you’re responsible for everything you do! And a short but useful bibliography. Altogether an excellent little book. Thoroughly recommended. ~ Elen Sentier