Flying Ointments: Witches' Salves and Oils to Take Flight
Often witches have been depicted throughout history as ugly old crones flying around on broomsticks sucking the lives out of babies and such. Perhaps part of these depictions are truth, but mostly exaggerated truth. The idea that witches can fly is one of those exaggerated truths, one of those stretched tales that has made its way through the history books and into mainstream Hollywood media and Halloween stores all over the country. But where did this idea come from? This notion that women could fly on broomsticks?
Witches were not exactly what the books and media tell us. And there are many women today who still claim to be witches. Witches, to put it simply, were nothing more than wise women in touch with their intuition and in touch with the Earth on an intensely deep level. They used the natural resources around them to gain things that they needed and desired, including prophetic dreams and visions. Some of those natural resources used in a witch's magic or energy-bending were herbs and plants. This is where the original flying ointment comes in.
Flying Ointments and Broomsticks
What is a flying ointment and what does it have to do with flying witches on broomsticks? The original flying ointment was an herbal salve, ointment, or oil that witches used in order to anoint themselves and produce a trance-like state of consciousness. This state of consciousness gave them the ability to induce visions of flying high in the sky, over the forest, towns, and rivers, in order to meet up with other members of their coven or group or to commune with the old gods and the spirit world. Some state that these are not visions so much as they are experiences with astral travel or projection (which is the soul leaving the body and traveling elsewhere on this plane or the next). Sometimes flying ointments were used to induce experiences of shapeshifting (shifting/changing into the likeness of an animal). Flying ointments were used for other intentions that are too numerous to list off here.
So we've briefly explained the definition and purpose behind flying ointments, but what's with the broomsticks? Well, think about it. Pretty much all of the women accused of witchcraft in the medieval times and before were women who tended house. They were wives, housekeepers, midwives, servants, etc. And what do all of these people have in common? A broom, of course. So it was only natural and easy for the accusers to say that the witches were flying around on their brooms. There is another theory that witches anointed their broomsticks and then anointed their mucus membranes (as absorption into the body is quicker through the mucus membranes), but we won't go into any further detail in that matter. Let's keep it PG.
There are flying ointment recipes dating back to the Medieval Times that many modern day witches know well and even create. There are even hints towards flying ointments dating back to before the birth of Christ. Most of the old flying salve recipes include an animal fat of some kind that is used as the base of the salve and infused with one or more herbs that are considered toxic or poisonous by today's standards.
Some of those flying herbs include but are not limited to:
- fly agaric
If you begin studying herbalism as the witches of old times did, you will run into a lot of folks who warn you to stay far away from these herbs as they are not only dangerous but extremely deadly.
Flying Ointments: Herbal Infused Oils Recipes
DISCLAIMER: Always proceed with caution when using these herbs (and any herbs you are not familiar with for that matter). If you have any medical conditions at all, it's probably best to refrain from using the herbs from traditional flying ointments (and as listed above). You are responsible for your own decisions and health. Potentially poisonous herbs are marked with an asterisk * below.
Flying Ointment Recipe: Herb Infused Oil #1
Infuse three herbs in pure olive oil or sweet almond oil for at least two weeks, for up to a month (in an air-tight glass jar such as a Mason jar). You'll want to use 1/4 herbs to 3/4 oil as a general rule for herbal infused oils. Be sure to shake the jar every day, twice a day. At the end of the 2-4 weeks, you'll want to strain out the herbs and bottle the flying ointment oil. Anoint your chakras or your power points (third eye and back of neck/tip of spine) to induce a trance and take flight.
This next recipe is not traditional or out of any ancient grimoire or Book of Shadows, it is one that I have made up and used. The herbs are a little less worrisome to most and yet still can aid in giving one over to trance and flying.
Flying Ointment Recipe - Herbal Infused Oil #2
- Bay leaves
Infuse three herbs in sweet almond oil or jojoba oil for 2-4 weeks in an air-tight glass jar. Follow instructions in first recipe above. Anoint power points on body: third eye, back of neck, under arms, tops of feet, chakra points, etc. Especially helpful to anoint before bed-time, as you may experience intense astral travel.
Flying Ointments: Herbal Salve Recipe
If you are looking for a flying ointment that is a little closer to the original flying ointments, you might be more inclined to choose an herbal salve flying ointment instead of an herbal infused oil. Herbal salves take a little more work to create but they are worth the extra effort. The consistency is much thicker and will not drip or rub off as easily as an oil flying ointment. Just remember, if you are using more intense herbs such as datura, henbane, etc. you will want to actually wash the salve off after a few hours of flying (don't leave it on overnight unless you want to fly to Antarctica and never return).
Herbal Salve - Flying Ointment
- herbal infused oil of your choice (see recipes in section above)
- beeswax or carnauba wax
- glass jar or tin container
- optional: vitamin E (to preserve) and essential oils (to add extra scent/energy)
Combine the wax and herbal oil and set it on low-heat to warm over a double-boiler on your stove. Remove it from the stove and add your optional Vitamin E and Essential Oils. Pour into glass or tin container. Allow your salves to cool totally before storing. You'll want to store it somewhere that is cool and dark, so as to avoid heating and re-solidifying the salve.
Consistency of the salve depends on how much wax you use in your flying ointment. More wax equals a thicker consistency, less wax equals a looser consistency. The choice is yours.
Create Your Own Flying Ointment Recipe!
If you're just learning herbalism, or even if you are an experienced herbalist, you have the ability to create your own flying ointment...just like the witches of olde. Oils, salves, ointments, etc. All of these are yours to experiment with and modify to your liking.
May I first suggest to try making an herbal infused oil first. I find these to be the most simple when you are just starting out. Do your research. Find which herbs you want to try, starting with the mildest herbs to induce psychic visions and trances (i.e. bay leaves, mugwort, etc.) You don't have to pull out the big guns and make a flying ointment out of belladonna first time. Ease yourself into flying ointments. Study and study and study the ways of herbalism and the herbalism of our ancestors.
Once you've gotten a grip of the herbs used to induce trance, you can try out different kinds...move on to using flying ointments in the form of salves, liniments, etc. If something doesn't work, don't keep using it...try something different...milder. Never drive during meditation/trance-work. I can't stress enough that you need to do your research and that you are responsible for yourself.
If you are among the brave and the called to study flying ointments and the ways of olde, you are one of few. But you are indeed unique.
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© 2013 Nicole Canfield