My very first Folkdays post was a review, of Shakespeare and the Folktale by Charlotte Artese. This was a book I had read, aside from simply for my own enjoyment, as preparation for my MA dissertation. Well, that dissertation is now underway, and so I have not had much time to dedicate to writing a Folkdays post this week!
I have wanted to do another review ever since that first post. This week seems as good a time as any to write down my thoughts on The Hedgewitch Botanical Oracle, by Siolo Thompson. Read about it below!
I first learned about The Hedgewitch Botanical Oracle when one of my poet friends started using it for daily writing prompts, and showcased it on her Instagram. I was immediately drawn in by the beautiful designs, as well as their subject matter: I love nature and plants, and learning about the folk beliefs and uses surrounding them.
Thompson defines a ‘hedgewitch’ as someone who dwells on the periphery, ‘beyond the hedge’: someone who feels they can step easily from the physical world to the spiritual; someone who’s interests and passions extend beyond that of ‘normal’ society; existing in the space between simple botany or herbology, and witchcraft. The term ‘hedgewitch’ also conjures up a practice which is centred on nature, foraging, and the hedgerows – precisely the habitat explored in the Oracle.
The Oracle contains a 192-page guide book, as well as a 40-card deck. The book outlines the intentions behind the project, and Thompson’s process of research; it offers commentary on the art of foraging, and the varied uses that hedgerow plants can be put to. It then offers insight into each of the 40 plants contained within the deck. A history of the beliefs and usage of each plant is explained, followed by some suggestions for modern uses such as teas, recipes, balms or ointments. Each plant is also ascribed an oracle property; in the book, the property of each plant is reasoned and explained.
The oracle property is a single word which reflects a feeling or process that the plant might be seen to symbolise. For example, the flower Calendula is given the oracle property ‘brighten’: it is a summer bloom with bright yellow petals, which opens with the sun and closes in darkness. Its natural colour can be used to dye food or fabric, and it has also been prescribed to help alleviate depression and ‘brighten’ one’s mood. The fungi Morel is given the property ‘regeneration’, as it grows on trees that are dead or dying, and experiences a growth boost after devastating forest fires.
In the guide book, Thompson offers some suggestions on how the oracle cards can be used. They could simply act as flash cards, helping you to learn to identify the plants by leaf, flower, fruit, and seed; they could also be a tool for learning other new things, like recipes or crafts. They could, as my poet friend found, be used to spark inspiration for writing, or they could be used to give a focus to your meditation or mindfulness on any given day. Thompson also suggests how oracle cards might be used in conjunction with tarot decks for divination purposes.
For me, the cards have been offering me a little bit of nature every day. The plants are often the humble species you might easily miss, as you walk past a hedgerow or patch of uncultivated earth. What The Hedgewitch Botanical Oracle is teaching me is that there is so much to learn about even the simplest of plants. Pulling one card every day is a like a little act of discovery. The oracle properties of each card give me something to think about, and try to apply as I work through my day – properties such as ‘adaptation’ (blackberry), and ‘soothe’ (chamomile) assure me of my ability to survive these challenging times, and remind me to relax and take care of myself too.
If anything in my description of the The Hedgewitch Botanical Oracle has piqued your interest, I do recommend them. The 40 cards are on sturdy card, and are finished with a gloss, as is the paperback guide book. The cards and book come in a sturdy gift box with a magnetic closing lid, keeping them safe and adding to the pleasure of opening them up and using them. The cards feature beautiful illustrations by Thompson, which when seen all together demonstrate the variety of plant life and the spectrum of colour they exhibit. The designs are simple: often with tarot or other decks, the cards are crowded with elaborate borders, symbols, and words, but these require no such embellishment. The beauty of nature speaks for itself.
Siolo Thompson’s website is here.
You can buy The Hedgewitch Botanical Oracle from the Book Depository here, or Llewellyn here.
You can find reviews of it on Goodreads, here.