Karen Harrison of Isis Books and Gifts on The Herbal Alchemist's Handbook

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Isis Books and Gifts is one of the best metaphysical stores we've ever seen: Between the walls and walls (and walls!) of books, the singing bowls, the dozens of essential oils and comprehensive collection of herbs for all your spellworking needs, it's deservedly popular among the metaphysical community. And owner Karen Harrison has a lot to do with that: The woman is incredibly knowledgeable about her herbs, and now you can bring some of Harrison's knowledge home with you. The Herbal Alchemist's Handbook is now available; we caught up with Harrison to talk about the tome.

"People have been asking me, 'So, how long did it take you to write this book?'" Harrison notes. "And on one hand, because I have been writing about herbs and using herbs and all that kind of stuff for the last forty years, it's taken me forty years! But writing the book itself -- because I'd already written a lot of articles that include that subject matter -- it took about six months."

Harrison was at a book trade show a couple of years ago and was talking to someone at the Red Wheel/Weiser booth -- that's the imprint known for publishing such metaphysical classics as Isaac Bonewits's Real Magic. "And I was whining," Harrison laughs, "and saying, 'You know, we don't buy nearly as many titles directly from you anymore, because you've been putting out such lightweight stuff that's not interesting to us.' I didn't realize I was talking to an acquisitions editor!"

That editor went to the Isis Books and Gifts website and saw some of the dozens of articles on herbology and ritual available on the site. And then Harrison was approached: Would she like to write a book?

About two years later, the book is out, and "I have been so pleased with the response," Harrison says. "I guess I wrote the book the way that I teach classes, and I'm pretty down-to-earth, I'm pretty organized, I like to present information in ways that are practical and usable for people. And that's how people have been responding to it."

It's not like every other herb book on the shelves, either. "I do talk about the process of herbal alchemy in the book, and there's not much information out there about that," Harrison notes. "What I find to be the most gratifying and the most fun is to put together custom formulas to see what types of energies I want to bring together to achieve a particular goal, so I devote the last half of the book to how to create your own formula."

And this fall, Harrison is planning some classes on herbology where people can come to create their own custom herb spells. Head to Isis to purchase the book, and you can sign up for the store mailing list on the website, which will keep you up-to-date on all the goings-on.

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