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The Herbal Lore of Wise Women and Wortcunners


Stacey

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Finally finished it so here is my review!

 

The Herbal Lore of Wise Women and Wortcunners

 

The Herbal Lore of Wise Women and Wortcunners: The Healing Power of Medicinal Plants by Wolf D Storl (cultural ecologist) is an interesting look at the history of herb lore and those who practiced throughout the larger history of this world. It’s an extensive book despite only being 384 pages long, looking at various herbal traditions from around the world. Storl has apprenticed with many different herbalists, learning and amassing a large amount of knowledge on plants and plantlore.

 

He looks at herbalism from many different angles and challenges the reader to think beyond the ‘medical’ and look to the spiritual when working with plants. He presents the argument that our ancestors (including the Neolithic) were very much in tune with the spirit of the plant and therefore acted more intuitively when gathering plant material. He also argues the benefits of whole plant medicine instead of the isolating of one particular gene or element to treat a person, the book presents the idea that holistically speaking, the whole is better when dealing with herbs for medicine, I would venture this is not particularly far removed from the way herbalists practice today.

 

He presents the idea that the wise women and wortcunners of old were not just herbalists in their own right, not just botanists and pharmacologists but also shamanic practitioners and keepers of the occult knowledge about the powerful properties of herbs and plants. He delves into the world of shamanism, looking at how ancient peoples interacted with the natural world around them and the abundance of plant life. Plants are an important part of any life, whether it is for the shamanic practitioner, indigenous person or the individual using them to flavour food – which he also addresses in his chapter on medicine as food. He encourages connecting with the plant and giving offerings in honour of the material it provides.

 

Storl explains how to become a herbalist today, looking at the different areas such as collecting the material, distillation, administering the medicine and more. He also encourages people to become gardeners, to understand the cycle of the plants and to know what it is they are using which is common sense to me. A part I found particularly interesting was the chapter exploring herbs as dyes and fabrics. It’s not always something you consider, and given the abundance of nettle where I live, looking at that as a possible fiber is quite interesting. He of course discusses hemp as a material and the succession of local dyes and plant material being lost as an artform as more glamorous colours (saffron to mention one) came in from other countries.

 

He also discusses the Banes and their place in herbal history, the information is quite rounded and full given the subject manner. There are a couple of historical recipes used in context to explain the use of Banes such as the Solanaceae family, Henbane, Hemlock and Aconite (to name a few). He discusses witchlore and the place it plays in history and even to this modern day. I found the information helpful, especially as some one exploring the poison path themselves; he touches on a lot of different areas, even the herbs of Hecate’s Garden.

 

Overall it’s a fantastic book, one I would recommend anyone with an interest in herblore to acquire. I didn’t agree with some of the things he said, like his analogy of a modern herbalist, it was slightly odd to say the least, however I was able to get past that and fully appreciate the information he presented. Some parts I did skip because they didn’t interest me, and oftimes he does get quite scholarly, especially when he gets into etymology of words, but generally it is an enjoyable book with something for everyone. If you’ve been considering purchasing it, I would say make the investment because I don’t think you’ll be sorry for it.

Edited by Stacey
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Thanks for the honest review. This book was at the top of my want list for a while now. I'll just skip of his little analogy when I finally get it, haha! Thanks Stacey!

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I found this review really useful too, thank you Stacey! I'll nose about a bit, but from what you've said it's a really good introduction to herbalism.

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  • 1 year later...

I am seriously considering buying this book, and I think this review may have tipped me over into definitely getting it, because I love etymology. Thank you so much for the extensive review. No one else mentions that aspect.

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