Review – Botanical Curses and Poisons. The Shadow Life of Plants by Fez Inwright.

Discover the folklore and history of our most malignant, toxic plants.

If you drink much from a bottle marked poison , it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later. Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Poisonings are among the most memorable deaths in history, from the Roman Empire to the Medieval era and beyond. Concealed and deliberate, it s a crime that must be planned in advance. And yet there is a fine line between healing and poisoning Paracelsus argued that only the dosage matters!

In Botanical Curses and Poisons, Fez Inkwright – author of Folk Magic and Healing – returns to folkloric and historical archives to uncover historical uses and the fascinating, untold stories behind deadly plants,witching herbs and fungi.

Beautifully illustrated by Fez Inkwright, this treasury of folklore is packed with insight, lore and the revealed mysteries of everyday flora perfect for gardeners, writers, folklorists, witches and general knowledge buffs alike!

Many of us know that some of the plants we grow in our gardens are poisonous, the Foxglove for example.  But I for one didn’t know that these majestic plants had a folklore connected to them, connected to humanities long standing history of cursing those we dislike and poisoning those we hate.

Reading this beautifully written and illustrated book, I learnt that in Wales ink made from the leaves of Fox Gloves had been painted on the floors of cottages to keep witches away, opening my eyes to the history of botany and the rich folklore of so many plants around the world.  Within it’s pages is contained a fascinating history of plants and poisoning from the Roman use of them as a tool of political assassination, through and beyond Henry VIII’s paranoia of falling victim himself. The most fascinating sections for me were where the writer explores the historical connection to women, healing and alleged witchcraft, their persecution and the hysteria around events like the Salem Witch trails. She opened up and expanded on a fascinating subject I thought I knew so much about and yet she filled gaps in my knowledge, I was not aware, where there.

Add to the breath-taking level of information we are treated to, there are beautiful illustrations that not only compliment the writing, but bring it to life. Ink illustrations can be found all through the book, which I felt were extremely beautiful and it has a a cover that not only looks extraordinary, but is a work of art in itself. But this is not all, scattered throughout the text are excerpts of poetry, for example

Lilies for a bridal bed-

Roses for a matron’s head-

Violets for a maiden dead.

Percy Shelley, Remembrance   

When you combine all of these together, you have a book that is not only fascinating, but is a work of art as well. Between the authors deep knowledge of both botany and its rich history in human society and politics and the inclusion of illustrations and poetry and you a book that an absoulute treasure and one I will proudly display on my shelf in years to come.

You can purchase this book from Amazon, Waterstones and your local Indie Bookshop!

About the author

 Fez Inkwright is an illustrator, author, and folklorist. For the past decade she has produced work for children’s books, greetings cards, and tattoo design, and, when not working as Liminal 11’s Head Designer, she now spends her time working in conservation and wildlife rehabilitation.

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