In all honesty, it has been really hard to write this post: it has taken us more than 2 years. We have never been really fond of reading lists, and thus we expect this article will not be seen like that. We have received lots of enquiries regarding recommended books in herbalism and the Poison Path so we have decided to write this reflection, but bear in mind that this is a really delicate matter.
We don’t find the books that change our life, but books find us, and it is no point on giving you an exhaustive list on what to read or not, because, if you have to read a book, in the end, it will come to you just when it is necessary, and when you open it you will surely know from page one that you are reading what you’re supposed to, as if you were accomplishing your fate.
Thus, allow us to be a bit deceitful in this. We will just give you the categories and types of books that might be useful in each of the stages of practice and insight with some linear recommendations. This is something we have been reflecting on for some time, and, of course, it is not definitive, so allow it to change and evolve as years go by.
Perhaps the first thing we should do is gather information about the area we live in and our natural territory. To do so, it would be advisable to get hold of a local compendium of the local flora and fauna, to know what kind of plants can grow in the area, their medicinal appications. Also a book on the customs, folk beliefs, remedies and folk magic, in order to see how the ancient inhabitants of your area interacted with their surroundings.
The category would then include:
- maps on the local area
- books on local flora and fauna
- books on local folk herbalism, herbal remedies, and magic
- books on local folklore, legends, and folktales
These shall provide you with an adequate mindframe to approach your territory. Please, never underestimate the importance of a local botanic compendium, as simple as it may look, remember it is the result of years and years of interaction with the land.
The second type of resources would include books on etnobotany and botany, anthropology, philosophy, or history. These kind of books allow you to place the information you found in the local area into a broader context of ideas. They allow you to understand the reasons behind all what you have experienced and understand that you are not alone, they give you the necessary resources to deal with the great schools of thought, with philosophical and spiritual paths.
The category would then include:
- books on ethnobotany: Christian Rätsch’s work, Terence McKenna, Schultes and Ott, Escohotado’s work…
- books on anthropology: Carlo Ginzburg’s work, Claude Lecouteux’s, Emma Wilby’s…
- books on folklore
- books on spirituality
Resources of the third kind are those which have a hermetic, mysteric, or non-divulgative goal, those books and texts that do not intend to teach you anything, but they allow you to read something you already know using someone else’s words, and make it possible for the ineffable to be expressed . These kind of books are hard to read, and even harder to understand, but they are not meant to be understood but to be lived. These are books like the Pharmako trilogy by Dale Pendell, some books by Daniel Schulke and by Andrew Chumbley, old magical treatises like Agrippa’s, Paracelsus’, etc.
These books are not to be taken as dogma, these are books are the result of a deep, crucial, spiritual work, and thus, they tend to give some previous training for granted. They do not need to justify their statements, they just tell you “THIS IS THAT THING”, and this makes sense, as those claims are often the result of enlightenment and revelation.
All this may look pretty difficult, maybe overly complicated, but that’s what we get when dealing with books, they are but recipients of wisdom and experience written by someone that is not us. But that does not make them worthless, as, in the end, books become spiritual beings on their own, acquiring their own animus, and that animus may or may not be in tune with our spirit, and so, the only important thing is knowing when to approach them, and not forcing an organic process.
We do not need to read books in order to learn, but texts just help us understand and organise what we thought in the first place. The real wisdom will be found if we dare to venture in the unexplored and still unwritten paths of the woods, the coast, and the mountains, Nature will provide you with the teachings you need. Books, like companions, will make sure you won’t forget those teachings.