Tag Archives: Melusine Draco

By Wolfsbane & Mandrake Root

One of the things I particularly like about author Melusine Draco is her willingness to look at the darker side of things. There can be a tendency to try and airbrush Pagan history, to sanitise us for reasons of both personal comfort and wider public presentation, despite all the evidence that the human history of magic is not all peace, love and rainbow unicorns.

Poisoning and witchcraft have long been linked, and one of the things the book does is to explore those connections and whether it’s a fair point.

Wolfsbane & Mandrake Root explores the use of poisons in magic and in healing. Often plants with the capacity to heal are potentially poisonous as well – with much depending on the quantity deployed. It’s something of an antidote to amateur herbalism as it really demonstrates how easily a person can get this wrong, and some of the anecdotal tales about herb use recommended by the internet is truly hair-raising!

This is not a book designed for people to use it as a herbal workbook. It’s a good reference book, and because it’s what I do, l read the whole thing flat out, cover to cover. It was surprisingly entertaining and readable for a text clearly designed for the greater part to be dipped in and out of. If you like this sort of thing, it’s exactly the sort of book to read. If you firmly believe that all herbs are benevolent and that nature is kind, this book is going to give you some serious headaches.

More about the book here – http://www.moon-books.net/books/pagan-portals-by-wolfsbane-mandrake-root

If you like peering into the darker side, I can also recommend Melusine’s By Spellbook and Candle (hexing and cursing) – http://www.moon-books.net/books/pagan-portals-by-spellbook-candle


Great books and an awkward reviewer

I’ve got two books to review and the same problem with both of them. I thought I’d try waiting for a day when I feel more positive, but it’s not coming, so, here we go. Great books do get bad reviews because the reviewer was in a bad place – I’ve had it happen to me and its monstrously unfair, so I’m going to try and handle this well. Bear with me.

The Coarse Witchcraft Trilogy, Melusine Draco. This is a funny and clever book, that reads like fiction but to some degree isn’t. There’s a lot of experience and insight underpinning it, so that, without really revealing anything, it gives the newbie or wannabe witch a chance at spotting the fakes and fraudsters. It is also a really funny and engaging book. The problem? That unsettled feeling of being outside of the secret knowledge, outside of the tradition, a bit unrooted. Seeing the fluffier, more permissive Pagans, the ones who lack substance, and feeling much more identification with that, than with the ‘real’ stuff. My insecurity, and my truth, such as it is. And of course it’s the desire to be more real, more worthy of taking seriously, more important that turns a subset of the Pagan community into fraudsters and fakes, lying to get attention. It’s as well to be alert to these things. I am at least honest fluff.

More about the book here – http://www.moon-books.net/books/coarse-witchcraft-trilogy

Iona, Mary Palmer. It’s a really beautiful poetry collection, full of vivid imagery and soulfulness, challenge, quest and difficulty. One of my problems with it was technical – that it is both a poetry collection, and a kind of story. The story is told through little asides that frame the poems, and feature two characters. I had trouble engaging with the characters, and might have done better with the poetry had it not been framed in this way. The problem could well be me – that I’ve not coped with something unfamiliar in a poetry book and just didn’t know how to read it. More experienced readers of poetry may well find this far easier to navigate. It is perhaps the case that I’m too easily swayed by narrative, and that someone more invested in the poetry would not get waylaid in the same way.

More about the book here – http://www.awenpublications.co.uk/iona.html

What really threw me – and this is entirely personal and not a flaw in the book at all – was the biographical content at the end. Poet Mary Palmer died in 2009 and the biography at the end of the collection sums up her life and work. It’s written with deep affection and respect, charting what she did and who she did it with, the context for writing, and the life around the work. There are glowing endorsements from others who love and value what she did.

Creative jealousy is a terrible thing. But, in writing this blog I’ve made a commitment to honesty, and to talking about things that aren’t much talked about. It’s an exposure of self to admit the degree to which I’ve been uncomfortable with both books because of the enormous sense of personal inadequacy I feel in face of this work. I think it’s important to air it though, and to look at how it distorts behaviour, because it can be a major factor in terms of how books are reviewed. Titles that cause us to see ourselves in an unflattering light can easily be blamed for the feelings they evoke. It’s hard to face up to it and say yes, this author is more than I will ever be. Perhaps if more of us were able to do it, it would take some of the sting out of the fact that most of us will never be all that we hope to be.