Scott Cunningham,
Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs
(Llewellyn, 1985; revised 2002)

Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, currently in its 15th printing, is the authority on herbs that are used in magic. In his preface, the author explains that no volume of this type is ever complete because there will always be new information discovered.

The book is divided into three parts: "The Basics," "The Herbs" and "Tables & Appendices." The first part contains four chapters providing a well-rounded introduction to using herbs in magic, the tools and techniques of magic, and the basic types of spells.

The herbal section has a list of health codes at the end that warn against using certain herbs if you have specific medical conditions. This is crucial information that should be included in all herbals, but often is not, especially in such easy-to-locate means. Each listing gives the common names, scientific name, gender, ruling planet, ruling element and primary powers. When the herb has been used in religious activities, the information is given under a "ritual uses" heading. But the bulk of information falls into the narrative under "magical uses." There are illustrations with each listing. These drawings are fabulous. They make you want to grab a set of colored pencils and bring life to the plants.

The appendices are well-organized quick references that allow you to find exactly what you want to know quickly. The herbs are listed under their gender, ruling planet, ruling element and magical intentions. The magical intentions list has subheadings for each type of need: astral protection, to promote healing, to aid meditation, to cause rain to fall, to instill strength and so forth. There is a glossary, a list of the properties of oils and an extensive cross-reference list of folk names.

This book is widely praised within the herbal world. It can be found in the botanical sections of most colleges and universities. It provides sound information about herbs from several angles, including magical, folklore and scientific. Whether you are interested in magic or just have an interest in plants, this is a great read. You will learn much about the associations of plants and their interactions with humanity. It is a sound reference on plants for any personal library.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 12 April 2003

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