A Bit of Recommended Reading
There are countless herbals out there on the market, and a diversity of writings on the spirits of psychedelic mushrooms and plants. What I’d like to highlight here are a few books that I particularly like. Whether they involve individual plant and fungus spirits, or venture into totemic territory, I feel they make good complements to this book if you’re interested in exploring plant and fungus totemism further.
Nature-Speak: Signs, Omens & Messages in Nature by Ted Andrews: While many people are familiar with Andrews’s classic on animal totems, Animal Speak, this text on how to work with plant and fungus (though mostly plant) totems, as well as landforms and the like, is underappreciated. I am not personally a fan of totem dictionaries that are mainly made of the author’s experiences with and interpretations of various totems, but if you prefer to have that sort of information to peruse when studying up on totems, this is a solid one. Additionally, Andrews, who sadly passed away in 2009, was always a strong advocate for the environment and its inhabitants, and his love for them shone through in his writing.
The Plant Spirit Familiar: Green Totems, Teachers & Healers on the Path of the Witch by Christopher Penczak: Penczak has some of the most accessible writing out there, whether it’s his Temple of Witchcraft books, or this wonderful text on a European-witchcraft-based approach to working with not only the totems of plants and fungi, but also individual spirits and the like. While he emphasizes those plants and fungi particular to his tradition, the material in the book is quite easy to adapt to others.
Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham: Another author the world lost too soon, Cunningham was well known for his books of correspondences, and many a new Pagan picked them up as a way to familiarize themselves with some magical and spiritual qualities of herbs, stones, and other natural things. This book is a good read if you’re interested in the Correspondences model of fungus and plant totemism. If you would like to be inspired, this is a nice starting point.
The Private Life of Plants by David Attenborough: Both this book and its companion documentary are incredible windows into just how amazing flora can really be. While totemism isn’t involved, there’s still a lot of inspiration for those of us who find wonder and awe at the natural world and its inhabitants. A nice way to ground your spiritual practice in the earthy reality of plants.
Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets: There are several good intro books to layperson’s mycology, but this is my favorite. Along with some basic info on what fungi are and how they’re put together, there are some nice profiles of more popular edible and other fungi. However, my favorite parts are where he talks about mycoremediation (using fungi to undo environmental damage) and other ways that, well, mushrooms may very well be able to save the world after all.
Lichens by William Purvis: Stuck in between fungi and plants, and containing a little of both, lichens sometimes get neglected in discussions of natural beings. This little book, published by the Smithsonian Institute, gives these unusual living things their due. It’s not the flashiest book, but it’s a solid reference guide, and by the end of it you’ll probably know more about lichens than you had ever thought about.
The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age by Richard Louv: One of my favorite books ever, it’s not specifically about totems or even plants and fungi. Instead, it’s a salient argument in favor of getting outside more and learning to re-engage with the natural world. Too often our spiritual practices are rooted in abstracts and symbols and indoor altars, and this is a reminder to take everything outside, spiritual or not.