Paganism and modern witchcraft are nature religions, honouring the wheel of the year and the cycles of life. Tending a garden is one of the best ways to keep in touch with nature and experience the elements, as well as being a relaxing and rewarding hobby.
Witches frequently use herbs in rituals and for spells. If you want to cultivate your own, to make them that bit more personal and effective, Bud, Blossom, Leaf: The Magical Herb Gardener's Handbook, by Dorothy Morrison, tells you pretty much everything you need to know to grow a perfect witch's garden.
The book is in two parts. The first half is on how to make your garden grow, while the second is what to do with your harvest.
As well as covering the basics of gardening - how to prepare soil, plant seeds, tend saplings, weed, prune and harvest your crop - the first half of the book explains things like the magical symbolism of herbs and the importance of planting and harvesting at the correct moon phase. It also includes magical chants to say while you are gardening, and rituals to consecrate your tools, bless your garden and give thanks for the harvest.
One of the things I think I might find particularly useful is the very large section given to natural deterrents for pests and vermin. Last summer, my home was plagued with slugs and the advice in this book would have been very welcome. Herbal treatments for plant diseases are covered too - including the simple remedy of cold chamomile tea as a fungicide.
The second half of Bud, Blossom, Leaf explains how to make use of herbs for cooking, first aid, beauty and spellcasting. The recipes are varied and practical, including insect repellents, bath fizzies, face masks, cough syrup, herbal vinegars, incense cones and herbal wine.
One I think I might try is peppermint lip gloss. To make it, you heat 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of dried peppermint leaves. Allow it to cool for 10 minutes before straining out the leaves. Then, add 1 tablespoon of beeswax, reheat and stir to mix. Finally, remove from the heat, stir in 1.5 teaspoons of honey and put into small jars.
Spring is the perfect time to start a garden and this book has plenty to help a complete novice begin a simple project or an experienced gardener - or witch - develop a wonderful outdoor enchanted space.
My only reservation is that my copy is an American edition, so often gives measurements in cups. A useful conversion table can be found at http://www.pioneerthinking.com/measure.html. It explains that 1 cup is 16 tablespoons, as well as offering other useful equivalents.
Bud, Blossom, Leaf: The Magical Herb Gardener's Handbook, by Dorothy Morrison, is published by Llewellyn and costs £12.99 through Amazon