Wednesday September 18, 2019

Discussing Pearl with students, I find myself wondering why the poem — a “visio” or “dream-vision” from the late-fourteenth century — begins and ends in a “garden of herbs.” An hour later, a book turns up in a bin at Goodwill: Paul Beyerl’s The Master Book of Herbalism. The book includes a long midsection titled “The Herbalist as a Magical Practitioner.” What do we moderns know, I wonder, about the medieval psychopharmacopeia? Beyerl helped to found an Earth-focused Wiccan organization called the Rowan Tree Church, legally incorporated in 1979. Members study and practice a tradition known as Lothloriën (named, I assume, after one of the Elven homelands in Tolkein’s Middle-Earth). In another book of his called A Wiccan Bardo, Revisited, Beyerl notes that the Lothloriën tradition works with archetypes and symbols that are compatible with Buddhist and Native American traditions as well as Neo-Paganism. Reading Beyerl is a bit like reading M.C. Richards: one senses in the wisdom of his prose the presence of a teacher in service of the Good.