Witches ointment is an ointment or paste with which people (mostly women known as witches) are said to have rubbed themselves in order to fly to the witches sabbath in the late Middle Ages and at the time of the early modern witch persecutions.
The ointment is known by a wide variety of names, including witches’ flying ointment, green ointment, magic salve, or lycanthropic ointment. In German it was Hexensalbe (witch salve) or Flugsalbe (flying salve). In Holland, vliegzalf (flying salve) or heksenzalf (witches’ ointment). Latin names included unguentum sabbati (sabbath unguent), unguentum pharelis, unguentum populi (poplar unguent) or unguenta somnifera (sleeping unguent).
Witch ointments are ointment preparations made from psychoactive substances (especially from nightshade plants), the use of which can cause hallucinations or delusional dreams. To stigmatize “witches” as evil and demonic the “fat of children” is regularly mentioned by those who led the burning times to its horror climax.
The misogyne psychopath Heinrich Kramer (Institoris) describes in 1486 in the second part of his infamous Malleus Maleficarum (Hexenhammer, Hammer of the Witches) that witches could rise in the air because of an ointment made from children’s extremities. Even Francis Bacon listed as the ingredients of the witches ointment “the fat of children digged out of their graves, juices of smallage, wolfe-bane, and cinque foil, mingled with the meal of fine wheat.”
Highly toxic ingredients
Typical poisonous ingredients included belladonna or nightshade, henbane bell, jimson weed (Datura stramonium), black henbane, mandrake, hemlock, and/or wolfsbane, most of which contain atropine, hyoscyamine, and/or scopolamine. Scopolamine can cause psychotropic effects when absorbed through the skin.
Apart from these herbs mushrooms like the Amanita muscaria, commonly known as the fly agaric or fly amanita and ergot or the poison of toads (bufotenin) were used to trigger psychotropic effects, like out of body experiences, seeing Elemental and nature spirits, flying through the air or intense orgasms. Pigs fat was used instead of childrens’ fat.
In the ages these ointments were used frequently they made many casualties because of their toxicity and the problem that it is very difficult to estimate how much of the active psychotropic substance a herb contains. This differs due to ground quality, time of the year, weather, condition of the plant, moment of picking etc.. Even in modern times experimenting with these ointments can be fatal. The German historian, occultist and theosophist Carl Kiesewetter for exemple, author of Geschichte des Neueren Occultismus 1892 and Die Geheimwissenschaften, eine Kulturgeschichte der Esoterik 1895 died while testing an witches ointment recipe on himself.
To make a long story short: experimenting with witch ointment herbs is NOT advisable!
One possible key to how individuals dealt with the toxicity of the nightshades usually said to be part of flying ointments is through the supposed antidotal reaction some of the solanaceous alkaloids have with the alkaloids of Papaver somniferum (opium poppy). This is discussed by Alexander Kuklin in his brief book, How Do Witches Fly? (DNA Press, 1999).
This antagonism was claimed to exist by the movement of Eclectic medicine. For instance,
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