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The Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe (two-volume box set) (Used)

by De Cleene, Marcel


Binding: Hardcover with dust jacket

Book ID: U10411, U10411


MENS & CULTUUR Uitgevers 2003. isbn 9077135049. Two volumes, Fine in Fine jackets, slipcase is cracked along top edge.



This is the first academic encyclopedic compendium of plants in Western mythology, religious ceremony, secular ritual and artistic symbolism. Until now, this information has lain scattered throughout the specialist literature: either one particular group is examined, such as biblical or hallucinogenic plants, or else the focus is on plants with some folkloric value (often local). Moreover, most cultural literature on this subject is substandard from a botanical point of view. This reference work, by contrast, is based on a long and co-ordinated study of the work done by historians, ethnologists, archaeologists, art scholars, anthropologists, botanists and medical practitioners.

Extending to almost 1600 pages, this voluminous treatise is comprised of over one hundred chapters on trees and shrubs (Vol. I) and on herbs (Vol. II). Organised alphabetically, each entry is presented under multiple subheadings, with extensive coverage being given to myth, art, magic, superstition and folklore, and with reference to the pertinent region and/or period. Broadening the scope even further, the authors have also covered applications of ritual plants in pharmacy, cosmetics, industry, agriculture, crafts, cooking and so forth. Each entry is therefore exquisitely detailed, as well as being scientifically accurate. It is fully referenced, with over 12,000 footnotes.

The authors opted to restrict themselves to ritual plants that are either indigenous or have become established in Europe, or which are exotic but have ritual uses in Europe. In each particular case, they have drawn upon their botanical expertise to ensure the correct identification of the plant named in the folkloric sources.

Format: 17 x 24 cm. Volume I: 888 pages, including extensive footnotes and bibliographic apparatus and an index of thousands of entries. 139 drawings and 179 colour plates. Volume II: 700 pages with footnotes, bibliography and index as before, and with 109 drawings and 136 colour plates. Paper: low wood-content satin, 80 g. Hardcover, cloth-bound, gold printing and inlaid photo. Sturdy box with printed paper overprinted in gold and covered with plastic foil. Cover photo: Cris Brodahl. Concept and design: Vandekerckhove & Devos, Ghent. Styling and typesetting: Aanzet/Making Magazines, Ghent. Printer: New Goff NV, Ghent. Finishing: Scheerders Van Kerckhove's, St Niklaas. ISBN: 90-77135-04-9.


MARCEL DE CLEENE, PhD. (1946 - ) is Professor of Science Communication and Ethnology/Ethnobotany at Ghent University. He has written and co-written 130 publications and is a member of numerous international associations, including the Steering Committee of the Association of European Universities Public Relations and Information Officers (EUPRIO). He headed three projects on rice diseases at the International Rice Research Institute, and coordinated an EU study on physical weathering and bioreceptivity.

MARIE CLAIRE LEJEUNE, MSc. (1955- ) graduated from Ghent University with an M.Sc. in botanical sciences in 1977. She has a passionate interest in music and folk dance, plays the violin and guitar and conducts the Cantilene choir in Zandvoorde, Ostend. Together with Marcel De Cleene she wrote the Compendium van Rituele Planten in Europa, published by Stichting Mens en Kultuur, Ghent, 1999 (reprinted 2000, 2003).

Press Reviews

SCIENCE MAGAZINE vol. 302, 7 November 2003, p. 981

"… the first full modern survey of the role of plants in Europe's religions, traditions and medicine"

JOURNAL OF ETHNO-PHARMACOLOGY (Elsevier), 2004 -- by Susanne Hammacher

"The Compendium of Ritual Plants in Europe is the result of 20 years research of two Belgian botanists from Ghent University. ... Their ambitious attempt resulted in a unique interdisciplinary reference work giving an exciting account of the role of often forgotten European ritual plants. ... Who should consult this book? Historians, anthropologists, ethnobotanists, archaeologists, art historians, medical practitioners, pharmacists, librarians, culture, language and literature teachers and anyone interested in cross-cultural linguistic, onomastics and folk studies or just curious about people and plants -- warmly recommended as compact and valuable reference book for any library."

PLANT TALK, Issue 35 – January 2004, page 44-45 by John Akeroyd

"Diligently researched, sumptuously produced and profusely illustrated, for the species covered this book provides a sound and thorough source of information. The 12,000 references cited bring together a wealth of diffuse sources, and bear witness to the meticulous questing of the authors and their picking through the works of classical writers such as Pliny the Elder."

THE GARDEN, Journal of the Royal Horticulture Society, Vol. 130 -- November 2005, page 827, by Sue Minter, Director of Horticulture at the Eden Project

"This is an academic work by two Belgian authors, but fully accessible to the layman. One should not expect a comprehensive treatise on economic and cultural botany, but rather an academically sound, comprehensible, broad and exhaustively-referenced compendium. As this, it succeeds admirably."

THE GUARDIAN, Saturday October 30, 2004 by Stephen Moss

"Why do we give a red rose to the one we love? Or touch wood when we make a wish? When did Christmas trees become popular in Britain, and what is the origin of the word 'marzipan'? The answers to these and countless other questions about the interactions between people and plants can be found in this extraordinary work. Do not be put off by the rather daunting title, the long lists of academic references, or the price. For The Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe offers a near-perfect mix of scholarship and readability, being not just informative, but entertaining too."

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, Saturday December 11, 2004 by Peter Parker

"This compendium is a rich plum pudding of a book. Put in your thumb anywhere and you will pull out some fascinating fact or story. Which fruit tree really grew in the Garden of Eden? Why did Napoleon's supporters wear violet waistcoats? Why did no keys appear on the ash tree of England in 1648? What is the botanical origin of the word 'bachelor'? Why do we describe something that is secret as sub rosa? It answers these and other burning questions. You don't have to believe everything you read in this marvellous – if austerely presented – book, but you will learn a huge amount."

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC NEWS, January 21, 2001 by James Owen

Europe's Ancient "Magic" Plants: New Drug Sources?
"Two Belgian botanists ... combed thousands of sources, including old travellers' tales, fairytales, Greek classical writings, and medieval herbals to produce The Compendium of Symbolic and Ritual Plants in Europe. The result of a 20-year investigation ... Western man is probably baffled by this use of plants in religion, as he is no longer aware of the crucial part nature played in pre-Christian religions."

HERBS: The Journal of the Herb Society, February 2004 Vol.29 No.1, page 12-13

"This extraordinary two-volume work ...The authors explain that the thread running through the compendium is man’s innate fear of losing his grip on his own environment and the ensuing escape into all manner of spirits and strange powers. ... an introduction to the immense wealth of fact and myth is to be found in its pages."

GARDEN DESIGN JOURNAL, issue 33, September 2004, p. 42.

"Knowing more about the meaning and uses particular plants have had for man makes me aware that there are occasions and places where plants need to be selected more advisedly. It is going to be very interesting using this work as a reference in future planting schemes, and being able to pass on some of the stories."

PHENOMENA Altered States, Friday, February 6, 2004 by Greg Taylor, Phenomena News Editor Source: National Geographic. New Book "Magic Plants" Compendium

"This book provides an academically well-founded survey of the knowledge of ritual plants over the centuries, in a broad view, with a critical look at the correctness of the plant species named in the literature. It is written in layman's terms but with plentiful references for those who wish to further explore the terrain."

REVIEW CENTRE (Books / Mind, Body & Spirit Books / Mythology)

"The compendium is a unique, interdisciplinary compendium on shrubs and trees in mythology and religious and profane rituals in Europe, and on the symbolism that derives from them. Many customs that 21st-century man finds perfectly normal once had a far deeper significance. It is an academically sound survey of the knowledge of ritual plants over the centuries, taking a broad view, plus a critical look at how correctly plant species are named in the literature. More than 12000 footnotes help those who want to go further."

NHBS.COM (Natural History Book Store)

"Originally published in Flemish, this magisterial survey of the part played by trees, shrubs and herbs in mythology and religious and profane ritual reflects the deep bond between man and the natural world ... Finally an English version. This book will satisfy anyone looking for more information on the subject. The book is easy to understand and nevetheless of a very high scientific level. Do not compare thes publication with the many books treating 'baked air' (magic, alternative healing, homeopathy ...) and not giving any reference or bibliography to sustain their claims. The reader will be astonished by the number of references and the size of the index. A must for anybody interested in ethnobotany, man-nature relation, etc."

ACSGARDEN.COM (Australian Correspondence Schools), Spring 2004

"This is one of those publications that will be hunted down by herbal and medicinal plant enthusiasts as a comprehensive reference."

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