Pagan Portals - By Wolfsbane & Mandrake Root

Pagan Portals - By Wolfsbane & Mandrake Root

The shadow world of plants and their poisons

A study of poisonous plants, many of which have beneficial uses in both domestic medicine and magic.


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!


What a totally fascinating read, from the history of poisonings to the herbs and such used to do so. Plenty of references to take note of, as well as terminology, stepping back centuries. The Alnwick Castle's Poison Garden in England has long been on my bucket list of must see's and this book has just reinforced that desire tenfold. The chapters are laid out splendidly with history, alphabetical herbs of caution, with effects, properties and magical elements noted, how to avoid them and how to utilize them. I had not heard of "bottling" prior to reading this and as far as curses go, that's the ticket! (Not that I would, mind you!) Plenty of book references for later reading. This is a very concise, well-planned and exceptionally informative book I think is a must for any gardener, if just for the symptoms of poisoning, given so many of these plants are most likely sitting pretty in your own yard. ~ Cheryl Townsend,

5/5 Stars. A very powerful book on not just poisonous plants, but how they can affect our lives, especially when used in magic. Whether used with good intentions or bad, ingested or in magic spells, poisonous plants are powerful and not to be trifled with. This book is an amazing study on the subject with advice on safely and wisely using poisonous plants. ~ Lily Greer, Faerie Review

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

Who isn't drawn to the exotic beauty of poisonous plants? This was an introduction to some of these plants but instead of just focusing on the bad this book focuses on the good as well. Many of these deadly plants can be used for medicine for many things. Draco has written a fascinating book about the these amazing plants which will be enjoyed by many! ~ J.M. Night, NetGalley

Melusine Draco is an author to watch out for. While this is a very short book, there's definitely substance here. I feel that her bibliography was one of the stars of this book. You can tell she did her homework. They say a witch who can't hex, can't heal...this book will help there (wink). And thank you a thousand times for the chapter on cursing. I may not agree with her thoughts on undoing a crossing, but she makes a good case for her position. This is one of those "need to own" books. Well done! ~ Stephanie Arwen, Tarot By Arwen

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

I was browsing NetGalley looking for books that would expand my knowledge base on magick and the craft. The title of this book immediately peaked my interested, and when I read the description, I knew I had to request it. I have only recently started to learn about herbology and plants. I have also recently read Llewelyn’s Herb Magic for Beginners by Ellen Dugan. While Dugan’s book gives a lot of information on a variety of herbs and their magical uses she barely touches on poisonous plants. By Wolfsbane & Mandrake Root focuses solely on plants that are poisonous. I have to admit there is something intriguing about plants and poisons. I would very much like to visit the poison gardens in Alnwick. The author, Melusine Draco, starts us off with a bit of historical information and intersperses more historical details throughout. There have been some reviewers that didn’t care for this, but I for one, found the historical information fascinating and felt it added to the factual information about the various plants – including what type of poison they contained and what would happen to the person who came into contact with or ingested these plants. Melusine also adds a bit of magickal use information to each plant – not as much as contained in Dugan’s book – but a good beginner’s amount of knowledge. I enjoyed reading this book and it took little time, weighing in at only 96 pages. I feel that this book is great for someone who is interested in the basics of poison plants. Those that have more advanced knowledge may find it too elementary for their tastes. Reading this book has inspired me to seek out more books on historical poisons, as I found that information intriguing. I would like to visit an actual poison garden and perhaps read Wicked Plants. I am not sure that I will use the Magickal and factual information on these plants at this point in my life other than to stay away from them – as it’s definitely outside of my comfort level. ~ Jennifer Cunning, GoodReads

I do think that the author does have solid magickal insight, and the book is very informative and well researched. The first part of this very short book was mostly history. The history included how and why witches were often linked to poison, but the majority of the history included use by ordinary people, including popes, nobility, and common people from classical times on... This first half, the history of poisons, and the magickal and superstitious belief that concerned them, really could have been a book in itself... The second half read a bit like Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, which includes the more popular botanicals featured in the second half of this book. The second half is simply a listing of some poisonous plants, how their poisons work to some extent, and if the plant has any magickal propensities it is listed. A section on mushroom poisons is also included. Lastly, there's a discussion on cursing vs. 'bottling' or binding, with some brief spells and magickal explanation/theory... it is packed with information, and I'd certainly recommend it to anyone with an interest in poisons. Even people with no interest in witchcraft at all might find the history in the first section informative. A time limited digital copy was provided free of charge for purposes of review. ~ Kristi Gilleland, Total Witch

Informative and interesting, I loved it and would recommend it to everyone. This book hooked me up from the beginning. I loved it. ~ Rubina Bashir, Booklove blog

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

I loved Pagan Portals - By Wolfsbane & Mandrake Root! This one was a natural draw! I've always found poison usage interesting from a historical standpoint. It seems so many well known figures in history used poison to get rid of folks who stood in their way! And of course witches were often blamed for using poisons (herb women get blamed for everything!)when some died. Unfair. or maybe not. Doesn't matter, Draco writes a wonderfully informative book on the subject and one I enjoyed reading! I can think of a few people who will appreciate this as a gift ~ catherine hankins , NetGalley

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

Melusine Draco
Melusine Draco Mélusine Draco originally trained in the magical arts of traditional British Old Craft with Bob and Mériém Clay-Egerton. She has been a m...
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