The story behind …

Pagan Portals: By Wolfsbane & Mandrake Root by Melusine Draco

 Every book has a story behind the story of how it came to be written. It may be about a life-long passion, a personal journey, the need to share an experience or knowledge. It may have been fermenting in the brain for years, or sprung fully formed from a blinding epiphany.  Whether it be fact or fiction, sometimes the story behind the story is almost as interesting as the published book itself …

 Pagan Portals: By Wolfsbane & Mandrake Root

The shadow world of plants and their poisons

by Melusine Draco

Elsewhere I’ve likened the Pagan Portals (and Shaman Pathways) series published by Moon Books as the equivalent of the ‘Ladybird’ books we had as children and which, more often than not, were the titles that sparked our life-long passion for nature, history and travel.  Weighing in at just 25,000 the author has to make every magical word count and cram as much information as possible into the hundred or so pages to whet the appetite of the pagan seeker after knowledge.

By Wolfsbane & Mandrake Root The Shadow World of Plants and Their Poisons was written as a companion title to By Spellbook & Candle – Cursing, Hexing, Bottling & Binding since both are generally glossed over by contemporary pagan writers on the grounds that witches don’t curse and don’t poison people. Nevertheless, in classic books on Craft there is always the heavy emphasis on both as being the province of the witch and often used as proof of their ‘guilt’. Like cursing, however, when we really start to dig deeper into the subject, we find that most of the famous poisoners had no connection with witchcraft.

All magic is dangerous, especially when coupled with poisonous plants and therefore it would be fool-hardy for any beginner to think themselves capable of handling such powerful and unfamiliar energies merely on the strength of reading a book on the subject. Although the study and knowledge of poisonous plants is an integral part of witch-lore, it is important to fully understand what we are dealing with both magically and medicinally. Needless to say, ‘leave well alone’ is the watch-word when studying poisonous plants, and while learning to recognise them, a careful washing of the hands should be an automatic response if handling them.

And yet it should be evident that although there are a considerable number of poisonous plants in the witch’s store cupboard, every one of them have both medicinal as well as magic uses, in addition to their toxic qualities.  It would have been a very unwise witch indeed who administered herbal healing and not made sure the dosage was correct – because the newly emerging profession of physicians were waiting in the wings, ready to denounce them to the Inquisition if and when anything went wrong.

Anyone it seems, could acquire natural poisons on the pretext of needing its medicinal properties; the fallacy of witchcraft and veneficium being synonymous with each other points to a blend of fact, fiction and fabrication, aimed at discrediting genuine practitioners of the Craft. In truth, long before the Romans came to Britain, traditional knowledge of healing plants was extensive; in Wales, medicine was a highly-regarded skill.  The venerable traditions of the native priest-healers, from whom it is believed witchcraft descended, dated back to a thousand years before Christ.

So … witches as history’s poisoners? …  I think the jury’s still out.

Pagan Portals: By Wolfsbane & Mandrake Root by Melusine Draco is published by Moon Books in e-book and paperback versions.  ISBN: 978 1 78099 572 4  Price: UK£6.99/US$10.95


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