Monday, June 24, 2024

Book Review: Be Your Own Shaman by Jane Barlow Christensen

Book Review: Be Your Own Shaman by Jane Barlow Christensen
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

If one thing is for sure, I spend my summer vacations reading up a storm. I am almost done with the books I have been asked to review and once these last few are complete, I am going to take some time to meditate on where I want my practice to go. With that will come new guides, spells, rituals, altars, and more, which I am sure all of you want to see. I apologize for how repetitive my blog has become lately, but unfortunately, this is where my practice is at the moment, and if I posted on other things, it would be disingenuous. The last thing I want is to be fake and my content forced. The reason so many of you have followed me all of these years is because I have been authentic. I want to continue to be that space and that means admitting when I am in a slump! With this in mind, know that I have 2 more books to review after this and then I am free to pursue new avenues. I'm going to take a break from book reviews for a couple of months (unless something awesome comes across my desk that I can't pass up), to really focus on my spiritual practice as a whole.

As you are all well aware, I have an affinity towards plants, herbalism, and natural witchcraft. I have always been fascinated by natural medicine and plants as a whole, which inspired my Herbarium posts and many of the spells and rituals featured over the years. So when Skyhorse Publishing reached out asking if I would like to review their upcoming book Be Your Own Shaman: A Field Guide to Utilize 101 of the World's Most Healing Plants by Jane Barlow Christensen, I immediately said yes! Unlike The Herbalist's Guide: How to Build and Use Your Own Apothecary by Mary Colvin, RHBe Your Own Shaman focuses almost entirely on plant profiles, 101 of them in fact, organized by use, instead of alphabetically. I really appreciate how this book is organized as it allows the reader to quickly find plants that can aid in specific instances, such as anxiety, respiratory infections, diabetes, inflammation, insomnia, or an upset stomach. This is the first book that I have that is designed this way, which will make preparing herbal remedies and treating different ailments a breeze!

Book Review: Be Your Own Shaman by Jane Barlow Christensen

Each plant profile contains the same basic information: common name, botanical name, parts uses, where it's found, time of day to collect, time of year to collect, medicinal properties, medicinal uses, preparation, dosage, general information, and extra tips which address additional beneficial information. Under medicinal uses, Christensen further elaborates on different methods of preparation, such as infusions, tinctures, decoctions, poultices, salves, ointments, powders, and more. Each profile also contains full-colored photographs of the plant and a line drawing showing the entire plant from root to flower. I absolutely adore this setup and can't wait to spend more time reading through the information and using it to create my own remedies. These profiles will also greatly aid in the preparation of my Herbarium posts, allowing me to give more complete medicinal profiles!

The last section or chapter of the book contains all the additional information one would need to identify, harvest, and prepare plants to make herbal remedies. This section includes such information as plant morphology, how to collect, dry, and preserve plants, how to prepare poultices, salves, powders, infusions, and more, how to dose, and even common methods of field preparations in case you don't have access to your tools in emergency situations. There are tons of line drawings explaining different flower shapes, leaf arrangements, leaf types, and even root types to help you correctly identify the plants in question. This information is incredibly important to make sure you are harvesting the correct plant. The object is to heal, not poison, and there are plenty of lookalikes out there to trick you! This section also includes a few recipes but encourages the reader to create their own using what they have learned.

My favorite section, however, is section or chapter 14 which covers psychedelics and sacred plants. As a hedgewitch, using plants to reach an altered state of consciousness is common practice, and understanding the ritual uses of such plants is incredibly important to choosing the right plant for the right occasion. This section does not contain dosing information nor how to prepare these plants and for a good reason. Many of the plants found in this section are illegal and potentially deadly. I will never suggest using such plants without the guidance of an expert.

My only gripe with the book is the title. I don't believe "shaman" is the appropriate word to use in this context and continues to perpetuate cultural appropriation. "Herbalist" would be a better term to use, but if you can forgive the title, Be Your Own Shaman: A Field Guide to Utilize 101 of the World's Most Healing Plants by Jane Barlow Christensen is an excellent book to add to your collection if you are interested in learning more about plants and their medicinal uses.

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