When I was living in the Golden Valley, on the borders of Wales, I began studying and growing Celtic medicinal plants. Gradually I began to teach a small group of students, then to run workshops on Celtic herbs. My students frequently asked whether there were any books on the subject and when I told them that there were not, they asked me to write one. So I wrote The Healing Power of Celtic Plants.
What makes you stand out as an author?
I came from an academic background : PhD in medicinal plant chemistry, so when I left London and academia my ambition was to write about well researched scientific facts in clear, intelligible English that anyone could understand. I had long wanted to bridge the gap between the scientific, artistic and spiritual worlds.
Who or what inspires you?
When I began my research into the ancient Druids I was impressed by the breadth and thoroughness of their training, which went on for twenty years, according to Julius Caesar, who admired the Druids of Britain, before he decided to invade the country. I find Carl Young inspiring for the depth of his research into ancient traditional systems of divination, such as tarot, astrology and alchemy, his work on symbolism, archetypes and dream interpretation. I’m inspired by a multitude of people, books, writings, events, places and so on. Something inspiring seems to occur almost every day.
Who are your books for?
I hope to inspire people, especially women, who were often traditional healers in Britain, before the Romans invaded and later the church suppressed native traditional healing practices, accusing healers of being witches, burning and drowning them. I hope to inspire people to explore the healing power of our native plants, to grow them, pick and preserve them and use them to treat minor ailments. My books are for anyone who is interested in the healing properties of plants, especially the Pagan community. My books are for teachers interested in teaching children how to grow plants as food and herbs for healing. My books are for lovers of trees, many of which contain powerful medicine and all of which hold the earth, absorb the rain, prevent flooding and mitigate the climate. My books are for people who want to take control of their health and live in harmony with their environment.
What do you do when you are not writing?
In winter I travel on a shoestring in India. The rest of the year I dig and delve in my allotment, where I grow vegetables, fruit and herbs, in a somewhat haphazard fashion. I make tons of compost, drag barrow loads of manure along narrow pathways, dry and collect seeds for the following year, harvest and cook my lovely vegetables.
How long does it take you to create a book?
It takes me far too long to create a book. My first book took six years. I’ve been writing my second book for two years now and hope to finish it this year. So hopefully I’m speeding up. But I have another project on a back burner that’s been brewing for a number of years and will probably take even longer to write.
Do you like working collaboratively ?
I love working collaboratively. But I have never had the opportunity to collaborate on a book. I was very nearly involved in a collaborative project for a book on lone parenting. I and another author met the publisher (who shall remain nameless) hammered out the terms of the agreement, started interviewing lone parents, then the publisher decided not to go ahead.
I have, however, collaborated on several art projects in Italy, writing copy for the catalogues which accompanied exhibitions such as Noble Explosion, a photographic documentation of Alfred Nobel’s abandoned dynamite factories in Italy; and The Wreck of the Stella, an exhibition about a ferry from Southampton to Guernsey that sank off the coast of Alderney. I have collaborated on many other art projects, some of which came to fruition, such as the one concerning libertarian education in Rome, and others which did not, such as the one about radioactive shipwrecks off the coast of Italy, for which I did a great deal of research.
What are you hoping someone will ask you to do?
I would love to be asked to collaborate on a documentary about Celtic medicinal plants, or travel in the wilder parts of India.
Describe your reading habits
I was a bookworm from the age of four. As a child I read indiscriminately. I grew up in a house with thirteen rooms, where every wall was lined with books. I read my way through Richard Burton’s One Thousand and One Nights, whose many volumes filled a whole shelf. I read Keats, Shelley, the complete works of Shakespeare, the Kama Sutra, the Old Testament, the Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, Swallows and Amazons and so on.
By the time I was a teenager I was reading Dostoevsky. In later life I spent several years reading books on Alchemy, including all four volumes by Jung on Alchemy. I read books on psychology, transpersonal psychology, libertarian education, travel.
Today I subscribe to Le Monde Diplomatique, I read Italian newspapers, Italian novels in Italian, English, American, Australian, Canadian novels, historical novels and all sorts of non fiction. I always have a book with me wherever I go. Recently I lost my kindle – a major tragedy, since I hadn’t yet read the books that I’d loaded up to read during my travels.
How much have you changed as an author since you started out?
I have become far more efficient at carrying out my research. And everything I write involves research of some kind. My writing has gradually loosened up. It was stilted and academic when I started out – well it had to be for my PhD theses! It took years of writing practice in a writing group to get the creative juices flowing, to find my inner voice.
What do you worry about?
I worry about the horrible narrow minded, racist atmosphere in Britain at the moment. My children are half Italian, my daughter is married to a French man and my son to an Italian. I have friends all over the world and I hate the idea of fortress Britain, cut off from Europe. I fear for the future of Britain.
What makes you happy?
Music makes me happy, especially world music, music that brings people together from many different parts of the world, ecstatic Sufi music, African music, jazz, traditional Irish music. Film from all over the world makes me happy. Meeting new and inspiring people during my travels, and when I’m at home in Stroud, discovering wonderful ancient places, meeting up with my family after long absences, digging up the first new potatoes, reading something that I’ve written and worked on and feeling that it’s good. Surprisingly, since I’m so concerned about the future of my country, a multitude of things make me happy. I long discovered that one can feel several different emotions at once, happiness sometimes being the dominant one.
Angela Paine is the author of The Healing Power of Celtic Plants