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Interview with... Angela Paine

Originally published 31 August 2016

Name: Angela Paine

What authors/ books influenced you in your early days of being a Pagan/following your spiritual path?

I suppose the first books that influenced me in my early days of following my spiritual path were some of the ancient Indian scriptures - the Upanishads. I did not go to India until I was in my early thirties but once there I found that I had a spiritual connection with India which explained how I’d been drawn to these ancient Indian texts. Around the same time that I was reading the Upanishads, I had a friend who was psychic. We studied music together at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. On one occasion I went to visit her mother’s house in the Romney marshes and the three of us set out a ouija board. Anne and her mother asked some silly questions and the glass moved about the table spelling out silly answers. Then they asked what Anne’s father’s girl friend was doing. The glass under our finger spelled out “He’s making her work” without the apostrophe of course! Then Anne’s mother left the table and went out of the room. Then Anne got up and left me with two fingers on the glass, which continued to move about the table, spelling out words. I knew than that the spiritual world existed.

What drew you to your path?

When I was twenty I went to Italy to work as a teacher. One day I took a train to Florence. I stepped out of the train and walked down a street until I came to the river Arno. I looked across the river at all the ochre coloured houses reflected in the water and realised that I recognised this place. In that moment I realised that I must have lived in Florence in a past life. I ended up living in Italy for ten years.

When I was thirty two I was cured of salpingitis by a herbalist, after the doctors who had been treating me had not only failed to cure me but had caused allergic reactions to three classes of antibiotics. I was so impressed by this herbal cure that I embarked on a course in herbal medicine. To help with my studies I did a first degree in Human Physiology and Ecology, followed by a PhD in medicinal plant chemistry.

When I completed my PhD I left London and academia and went to live on the borders of Wales, where I started growing and researching the native medicinal plants. Before long I was teaching a small group of interested students, one of whom became a hedge witch. I toured the country giving talks and holding workshops on medicinal plants, showing people how to make ointments, oils, teas and where to find the wild plants. Everywhere I went people asked me to write a book about Celtic medicinal plants, so in the end I did. The Healing Power of Celtic Plants was published by John Hunt : O books, about six years ago.

Where do you find inspiration for your books?

Over the past year I have been inspired by all the recent research carried out along the west coast of Spain and Portugal that has revealed that the Celts were a far more ancient people than anyone thought. It appears that Celtic languages and customs evolved thousands of years ago along the west coasts of Spain, Portugal, France, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, spreading eastwards through Britain and into the rest of Europe.

I was so excited by the thought that the British Celts were far more ancient than anyone had realised that I was inspired to start writing a second book about the Healing Power of Celtic Plants.

How did you become an author? Was it something you intended to do or was it by accident?

I was always a writer, a letter writer when I was younger, travel diarist, note taker and latterly a blogger and website contributor, but it was not until people started asking me to write a book about Celtic medicinal plants that I became an author.

What do you feel makes a book worth reading?

The kind of book I write has to be informative, well researched and factually accurate but it must also entertain with some colourful anecdotes. It should be both inspired and easy to read and flow.

Are you working on a new book right now and if so what is it?

Yes. A second book about the Healing Power of Celtic Plants. I’m also writing a memoir that covers my life growing up on a farm in Kent, washing books in the National Library of Florence after the 1968 great flood and the lives of my uncles, who all grew up on the same farm but went on to fight in the second word war, one in Waziristan and Manipur, the other as a navigator over France.

Do you write part or full time?

I try to write every day but spend a lot of time gardening, growing fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers.

What's the hardest thing about writing?

The research for my books is hard. There’s such a lot of it that it’s hard to know when to stop. At first I had trouble finding the right sources. Now I’m drowning in source material, from which I have to choose the most relevant facts. My research is multidisciplinary. I’m looking at archeological research, scientific papers on the chemistry of plants, pollen records but also myths and magical practices.

How can other readers discover more about you (website/facebook links etc)?

My website is somewhat unfinished. But I have a twitter account @angelampaine

I have a facebook account with the same photo as the twitter account as Angela Paine.

My book is available on Amazon.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write every day. Practice makes perfect. Join a writing group so that you get some feedback.

If you do write a book edit, edit and re-edit until you achieve perfection. Let other people read what you have written. They may have useful comments.

There are tons of pagan books on the market, what do you think makes you stand out from the crowd?

I try to be very scientific. But I’m also inspired by the ancient Celts and their mystical shape changing art and practices. I don’t think anyone else has written a thoroughly scientific book about the medicinal plants used by the ancient Celts - although of course the choice of plants involved a certain degree of conjecture. But the properties of the plants is well researched.

Which one of your books are you most proud of?

I only have one book published - The Healing Power of Celtic Plants.

It has sold over two thousand copies, so for such a niche subject I’m quite proud of that.

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