I am totally botany obsessed! I'm particularly interested in the poisonous plants and flowers known as "Baneful Herbs". Such herbs, including Henbane, Hemlock, Hellebore, Mandrake, Datura, and Belladonna, were popular in Renaissance magic for inducing visions, creating the illusion of psychic awareness, drawing love, tormenting the mind and even alleviating pain. The most famous use of baneful herbs was in the preparation of the "flying ointments." The ointment was rubbed onto the body, and the anointee often laid before a fire and hallucinated. The hallucinations often contained the incredibly realistic sensation of flying. I've also experimented with many plants which contain thujone, such as Mugwort. It makes a great divination tea due to the fact it is slightly hallucinogenic! Shaman's herbs like Salvia Divinorum produce visions too when smoked properly. More of that later though...
I want to tell you about Colin Stimptson! He was commissioned to illustrate a book called The Poison Diaries, written by Jane, the Duchess of Northumberland. She has long researched poison gardens. She is responsible for creating the Poison Garden at Alnwick Gardens in England, which opened in 2004 to worldwide acclaim. The Poison Garden is the culmination of her life’s goal to teach children and adults alike the curative and lethal properties of poisonous plants. Colin Stimpson worked as an animator at Steven Spielberg’s Amblimation studio in London and then at Disney Feature Animation in California.
This truly gothic tale—a “facsimile” of Weed’s journal found at Alnwick Castle, in England—is not only a story of the battle between good and evil, but an educational parable of the curative and lethal properties of plants.
Weed—an orphan boy who apprentices with an evil old apothecary—is both used and abused. His journal is part botanical workbook and part diary of his own relationship with poisonous plants.
Weed discovers that he is one of the few people whom the plants talk to, and they try to persuade him that, with their help, his master can easily be disposed of. Although he refuses at first, after Weed’s first love, Marigold, experiments with the poisons and dies, he is pushed over the edge and plots to kill his master with a taste of his own evil medicine.
Each chapter of the story begins with Weed’s botanical notes: a plant’s appearance and properties, where it is found, how it should be cared for, the most poisonous parts, and how poison is extracted and administered. Accompanied by Weed’s sketches of the plants in their natural form, his diary also reveals the “real” personalities of the plants.