Review: Under the Bramble Arch

Under the Bramble Arch by Corinne Boyer is the second book in a trilogy, after Under the Witching Tree.  Being more partial to weeds and plants of the hedge than I am trees, I started with this book rather than beginning with the first in the series.  Because of the nature of the book, which dedicates a chapter to each plant, it’s safe to do this if one wishes or even to skip around and use it as more of a reference for specific plants, if desired.  To not enjoy it in its entirety, however, would be missing out on a wonderful read.

Under the Bramble Arch compiles folklore, medicinal uses, poems, recipes, etc for twenty-one plants.  Each chapter begins with a beautiful plant illustration, followed by an equally beautiful introduction to each.  In addition to the vast amounts of lore and folk medicinal uses, the author also gives a heaping amount of uses and insight into each plant from her personal practice (complimented by a collection of black and white photos in the center of the book). At the end of the book is perhaps the first appendix I have ever cared to look at as well, giving general practice information for creating ones apothecary, water extraction, poultices and compresses, folk tinctures, infused honey, and infused vinegars and oxymels.  I should perhaps note here that the first book, Under the Witching Tree, has an equally helpful appendix, but teaches different topics/preparations than this book’s appendix, complimenting and expanding upon each other.

One really great thing about this book is the specific plants discussed.  Boyer here writes about a truly wonderful -and accessible- collection of plants.  Of the twenty-one plants, seventeen of them can be found in my own yard, and all but one (I’ve never seen wild-growing mistletoe) can be found within a mile of my house.  Many of these plants are either passed off as weeds, or overlooked entirely in daily life, so it’s nice to see such a practical assortment rather than exotic plants that one would have to order or spend a lot of time growing.  An herbalist or witch should learn to connect to their own bioregion, and Boyer gives a good start with the selection here.  In addition to being practical with what is commonly found in the land, she even arranges the plants to follow the flow of the seasons.

It’s a beautiful book and beautifully written, but there is so much information that at times some folk medicinal uses and lore can almost feel as though one is reading a list, occasionally and briefly.  This is less to say anything bad about Boyer’s writing, moreso just to say that she has really collected a large amount of information on these plants, from a variety of countries and cultures.

I got the special edition of the book (the standard hardcover for the first book in the series was sold out and I wanted to have the same sort of edition for the entire series).  Bound in a dark green cloth with gold spine-matter and a gorgeous flower-adorned goat on the cover, it looks and feels very nicely made.

Boyer does a great job at compiling a great deal of practical information in this book, and it is one of the most enjoyable books I have read in probably a year or more.  She remains one of my favorite authors, and I cannot wait to now read Under the Witching Tree and eventually get to read the final book in the series when it is released.  Under the Bramble Arch is a book I would definitely recommend to those interested in plants or herbalism, and it feels balanced and down-to-earth enough, that I would likely recommend it even to more mundane friends who wanted to learn more about native plants.


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