Veneficium: Magic, Witchcraft and the Poison Path by Daniel Schulke was partially what I was expecting it to be yet was still refreshingly full of surprises in its contents. What I was expecting was fantastic insights on poisonous plants through a lens that only someone like Schulke can. However, the book’s scope is so much more than just baneful flora within a magical context and included toxic and poisonous elements found within the corpses of humans and animals along with their effects.
Schulke provides a history of the poison path throughout time, touching upon ancient civilizations like Egypt and Sumer, shamanic cultures, the pharmakos of Greece, the veneficus of Rome, the alchemical traditions, medieval necromancy, sabbatical witchcraft, and modern folk practices. Schulke explores the power of the concept of venom through the myth of Samael, thought in some traditions to be the serpent in the garden of Eden. This is a great symbol to work into Veneficium as Schulke explores the occult knowledge, ecstatic states of gnosis, as well as cures often overlooked in toxic and dangerous ingredients.
Veneficium itself is short in size, coming in at a little under 200 pages. However, it’s almost 200 pages of information so captivating that you most likely not want the book to end. Like most books through Three Hands Press, the layout and artwork within the book is stunningly done and Schulke’s eye for aesthetic is a rare treat when it comes to occult books. The book also contains several full colored pages of images in the middle of the book from different manuscripts, museums, and woodcuts. This version of the book I have a second edition of the book and is supposedly revised with an extra chapter included that wasn’t in the first edition. However, having not read the first edition I can’t compare the differences.