Ex Libris: Viridarium Umbris

Viridarium Umbris, The Pleasure Garden of Shadow, Which treats of the Secret Knowledge of Trees and Herbs. Deliver’d by the Fallen Angels unto Man.

Daniel A. Schulke, Xoanon Ltd., 2005.

The Verdelet and current Magister of the Cultus Sabbati has introduced a lifetime of work with plant lore and magic in this volume.

It is clear that Mr. Schulke is a master of his chosen field. The amount of research and practice that combine to make up VU is staggering. In addition to reliably drawing on folklore from a broad range of traditions, both of the New and of the Old World, the author also details valuable experiential exercises and practices to bring the reader and aspiring Green Witch in contact with the ultimate teachers, the plants themselves.

The book is organized into categories of herb lore, and each follows the same basic pattern. The section on the Wand for example, begins with a poem to engage the right side of the brain and to introduce the subject in broad and arcane terms.  Following this he reviews the folklore in general before describing a specific practice relating to the exploration of the qualities and powers of the tree branch. From here he supplies a charm or consecration script and a detailed description for the making of a wand by the practitioner. Next he describes the uses of particular species of tree from which one might fashion a wand, and to finish the section, Mr. Schulke describes several practices using wands and staves from his own tradition, along with a more detailed exploration of a particularly significant species used as a wand, namely the Hazel.

This pattern provides a thorough introduction to a host of aspects of Plant Magic ranging from one’s first approach to the Green World, it’s important inhabitants and the taboos associated with them, the values and qualities of various kinds of land ranging from Wild to Cultivated and that which lies In-Between. The Fertile and the Desolate, the Healing and the Harming are all dealt with. Invisibility, shapeshifting, necromancy, herbal medicine, the making of potions, incenses, dusts and other preparations are woven in with the worldview and approach of the Cultus Sabbati, of whom the author is the current Magister. The writing style of VU is typical of the publications of the Cultus, done in a quasi-archaic English with liberal use of Latin and Greek derivatives. I think it both admirable and appropriate to the subject matter as well as to the purpose of the book. Magic shouldn’t be written in language easily accessible to the uninitiated and the careful use of words reveals a careful consideration of the subject and requires a careful, conscious reading on the part of the audience.
The one thing that would make the book even more useful to me would have been the proper referencing of the author’s sources. I recognize many of the descriptions of constituents and correspondences, but it would have been invaluable for further study and research to know which sources Mr. Schulke drew from in those cases where the sources have been published. I have read other reviews which were critical of ambiguity or lack of detail regarding specific quantities in recipes or instructions but I do not share this criticism. I read VU as an herbal grimoire, not a cookbook. Further experience on the part of the reader and further publishing outside the scope of this very thorough introduction will see any gaps well-filled.

The Pleasure Garden of Shadow is tremendously valuable for anyone desiring to interact wisely and magically with the Realm of Plants, and is a broad and solid foundation on which to build one’s own knowledge and practice. It will be required reading for my students in the future, as will future Cultus publications from Mr. Schulke’s pen which will provide greater depth and detail in more specific areas of plant lore and practice – clearly his first love and area of greatest expertise.

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