Cunningham and Magical Herbalism

Cunningham CoverSo I picked up a copy of Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbalism (link here). I picked it up because I’m interested in herbalism. It’s one of those subjects I want to research, even if the likelihood of actually using it is fairly slim. I just don’t have the room available to me to personally get to use it–at least not right now. But maybe some day down the line I might have some more room to at least have a small little storage of herbs I could use. That would be a nice little dream, to have room to have a small corner of a room at least set aside for my practice and beliefs. Right now though I am just researching for personal interest and no pressing belief that I’m going to practice soon. In any case – Cunningham is, by all accounts, a good starting point for this subject.

So I’m starting reading it.

Then I hit this, “Magical Principles”:

  1. Magic is natural.
  2. Harm none–not even yourself–through its use.
  3. Magic requires effort. You will receive what you put into it.
  4. Magic is not usually instantaneous. Spells require time to be effective.
  5. Magic should not be performed for pay
  6. Magic should never be used in jest or to inflate your ego.
  7. Magic can be worked for your own gain, but only if it harms none.
  8. Magic is a divine act.
  9. Magic can be used for defense but it should never be used for attack.
  10. Magic is knowledge–not only of its way and laws, but also of its effectiveness. Do not believe that magic works–know it!
  11. Magic is love. All magic should be performed out of love. The moment anger or hatred tinges your magic you have crossed the border into a dangerous world, one that will ultimately consume you.

I don’t really agree with a good portion of those. Obviously. I mean, I’ve written before a bit on my views. I don’t mind the comment about magic not being instantaneous–for me, I see it as taking some time (whether in preparation end, or on the end of giving time for results to manifest). And learning magic is a form of knowledge; you have to have knowledge of the parts of magic, and how to make it work–so that comment doesn’t bother me too much either. Except the last part: “do not believe it works; know it”. Because I’m the sort who will go in somewhat skeptical. I don’t see anything wrong with that. It’s fine for me. But this whole introduction section–before he gets into the associations and uses–is just full of this tripe. He keeps going on an on about don’t harm anyonenever attack anyone, etc. etc. And it grates on the nerves pretty severely. Because it’s shaming people who have different views of magic.

Magic for me is not some thing I should have to fret over harm others or not, or only for personal gain, but not at the cost of others; or my favorite–never for attack. If I want to use magic for that purpose, that is my prerogative. If my divination tells me that I’m good to go to use magic to curse the hell out of someone (example being my dad’s ex-wife), then you can bet damned well I’m going to use magic to curse that person. Sure it’s going to cause them harm somehow, but if they deserve it, I don’t much care.

So this whole introduction is grating on me pretty severely. I had to put the book down and walk away before I got into anything else.

After all, I know for a fact I’m going to have issues with the whole masculine/feminine energy association. And I’m going to probably have some grumbles about what planetary or other associations are listed. So I’m taking time to cool down and just look at the book objectively again.



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I'm a bibliophile who loves collecting books. Definite cat person. Amateur historian and major geek, who loves all things Tolkien and Star Trek. I'm also fluent in German.

3 thoughts on “Cunningham and Magical Herbalism

  1. Most of that “magic” stuff is a bunch of rubbish and is based on Gardnerian Wicca, which is CM done very light. And, yes, some Wiccans get real nervous when I get into their original orthodoxy. I still have problems with Wiccans who are polytheists. The attitudes of “using” and “working with” the Gods just upset me. There is no hint of piety or reciprocity. It’s like theology, if you claim a belief in one God, you have to acknowledge the existence of all the Others, otherwise you are committing a logical fallacy. If magic exists at all it has to encompass both so-called types (light & dark). The making of charms — or what I like to call them, prayers made physical — is not inherently magical, like spells. As long as you are not attempting to manipulate a divinity to do your will, these are no more than prayers (or should be). Most so-called generic “pagans” are into “feelsies.” Many do not really believe that the Gods are real (even some Heathens/Asatru). They don’t see how Fate works in their lives. I won’t go on with my rant. Please have a happy and healthy New Year!


  2. I actually practice some basic herbalism, not of the magic kind, and I can assure you it’s very relaxing, rewarding, and fun. I especially love brewing different teas, they can practically be cure alls if you have the right herbs.
    As far as your issue with magic and ethics , I’m not a praticitioner so I can’t be of much help, but maybe all of the views come from the views of a healer? I know how to poison people, and could probably get away with it, but as a healer I’m (mostly) against it. However if I want to then I should be able to, just so long as I understand what I’m about to do and the consequences that go with it.

    Or it could be written for the average Joe. Someone who wants to get into magic, but really doesn’t know where to begin. So this person is telling a new pratictioner that magic isn’t used to harm so that the new magic user doesn’t hurt themselves, or so it sounds more appealing to complete outsiders.


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