Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Flying Ointment - Witches

Flying ointment, also known as witches' flying ointment, green ointment, magic salve and lycanthropic ointment, is a hallucinogenic ointment said to be used by witches in the Early Modern period (first described by Johannes Hartlieb in 1456)

The generally accepted theory about the origins of witches and flying with their brooms is based in a ritual involving a psychoactive drug trip.[1] The witches would prepare a flying ointment to aid them in their journey. There are many recipes for this ointment all having a base of either Atropa belladonna or Mandragora officinarum, both highly psychoactive drugs producing visions and encouraging astral projection.[2] The ointment was rubbed all over the body using the broom. A personal account is given by one witch who described the act of rubbing the ointment on her hands and feet, which provided a sensation of flying. Witches mounted broomsticks and would leap around the fields, smeared with the flying ointment, in order to "teach the crops how high to grow". The ointment would give them hallucinations, which made them believe that they flew distances.[3]

It was said that witches were able to fly to the Sabbath on their brooms with help of the ointment. Likely the riding of the broom has a different origin.

It was happening simply as part of the practice of women and men wise in the rural magic arts and healing based on arcane plant knowledge. The people who became identified as “witches” by the Church were in actuality simply the continuation of an ancient tradition of “night travellers.” In northern Europe they were called qveldriga, “night rider,” or myrkrida, “rider in the dark.” In Scandinavia, there was the tradition of seidhr, in which a prophetess or seidhonka would travel around farmsteads and hamlets with a group of girls to give divinatory trance-sessions. She wore a ritual costume and carried a staff. The goddess Freya, who taught Odin the secrets of magical flight, was the patronal mistress of seidhr. “Night travellers and the later witches are carelessly lumped together,” Hans Peter Duerr warns.

The real boundary was that between the conscious, waking mind – “civilisation” – and the dark, fearsome and unknown regions of the unconscious – “wilderness.” It was simply literalised and projected onto the physical environment. In reality, the night-traveller’s flight into the wilderness was a trance “journey” into the deep reaches of the unconscious mind, a “spirit flight” caused, usually, by hallucinogens in the flying ointments.

The night-riders and “witches” often thought of themselves as flying animals – owls, farmyard beasts, and, quite often, wolves. Harner has commented that perhaps the ancient and widespread European belief concerning humans turning into wolves – lycanthropy – resulted from hallucinogenic experience, and suggests that the inclusion of animal fat, blood and body parts in witches’ ointments may have been for the purposes of creating the suggestion of becoming an animal.


No comments:

Post a Comment