Fez Inkwright’s Folk Magic and Healing now has a darker sibling! Botanical Curses and Poisons looks at the folklore and science behind evil, cursed, and poisonous plants in a book just as beautiful as its companion.
Book: Botanical Curses and Poisons: The Shadow Lives of Plants by Fez Inkwright
Read before: No
Publication date: 11th February 2021
Ownership: Review copy sent free of charge by Liminal 11. All opinions my own.
Content warnings: Discussions of death, murder, poisoning, injury, medical symptoms, miscarriage and other medical grimness.
This is absolutely as gorgeous as I had hoped it would be. It’s a wonderful match for Folk Magic and Healing, with the same lovely canvas hardback, this time highlighted with copper foil, heavy paper, and matching ribbon bookmark. It feels luxurious to hold, like a book of magic and secrets, and I love the creepy twist to the cover artwork with bones entwined amongst the plants. Fez’s gorgeous illustrations fill the book, as before, depicting all the plants described in her intricate signature style. This is the kind of book that really feels like a treat to yourself to read – it makes you want to savour the experience.
The first section of the book is split into several parts, which look at aspects of the darker sides of plants in a general way, from their associations with witchcraft to their use as poisons. There’s also a brief discussion of the Doctrine of Signatures, a now defunct medical practice that thought plants could treat illnesses in organs which they looked like, which was a really interesting peek into medical history! After this section of essays, which are engagingly written and full of great tidbits of info, the book moves onto its plant dictionary, looking at a wide array of plants known for their poisonous nature or their role in folklore. This is wonderful stuff – there are loads of tales from history mentioned that I’d never heard of, and the plants discussed are found all over the world, so there were plenty I was unfamiliar with. Many of the bits of folklore would make wonderful writing prompts, too – I found my imagination fired up by nearly every entry, and I know I’ll be back to research more.
Whether you dip into this book at random, or read it cover to cover as a kind of overview of plant-lore, there’s so much information in this beautiful book. The pair of them should be on any witch, herbalist, or plant enthusiast’s shelf – five out of five cats!