12 Days until #samhain “Double, double toil and trouble
Fire burn and cauldron bubble” – Macbeth IV, i
The historical depiction of witches riding broomsticks has its origins in hallucinogenic plant pharmacology, as popularized by Shakespeare, but the indigenous knowledge predates even him.
Hallucinogenic chemicals called tropane alkaloids are made by a number of plants including Atropa belladonna (deadly nightshade), Hyoscyamus niger (henbane), Mandragora officinarum (mandrake) and Datura stramonium (jimsonweed). During the Middle Ages, parts of these plants were used to make “brews,” “oyntments” or “witches’ salves” for witchcraft, sorcery and other nefarious activities.
Somewhere along the line, the observation was made that the hallucinogenic compounds, hyoscine in particular — also known as scopolamine — could be absorbed through sweat glands in the armpit or via the mucus membranes of the rectum or vaginal area. As compared to eating the plants or drinking their extracts, axial, rectal and vaginal routes of administration also bypassed the first cycle of rapid metabolism by the liver (and severe intestinal discomfort). Broomsticks
Just how did the alleged witches apply said ointments? According to Mann, the earliest clue comes from a 1324 investigation of the case of Lady Alice Kyteler: “In rifleing the closet of the ladie, they found a pipe of oyntment, wherewith she greased a staffe, upon which she ambled and galloped through thick and thin.” And from the fifteenth-century records of Jordanes de Bergamo: “But the vulgar believe, and the witches confess, that on certain days or nights they anoint a staff and ride on it to the appointed place or anoint themselves under the arms and in other hairy places.” These passages account for why so many of the pictures of the time depict partially clothed or naked witches “astride their broomsticks,” Why Flying?
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13 days until #samhain 🙌🏼 The Witches New Year🕯 everyday we will count down with a fact, spell, or lessons on Samhain. (For a full course on Samhain visit our site, and enroll in the course Samhain which comes with full DIY, facts, history and more!
🍁Throughout history, many people have believed that Samhain has dark and demonic roots. This misconception is largely due to Charles Vallancey, a British military surveyor and amateur historian who first visited Ireland in 1762 while on a surveying mission. Vallancey became fascinated with the region, and he wrote a massive, three-volume work on its history and culture. But in his opus, the clueless scholar erroneously claimed that linguists had mistranslated the word “Samhain.” Instead of meaning “summer’s end,” Vallancey argued it actually referred to a Celtic god alternately named “Balsab”—bal meaning lord, and sab meaning death.🍂
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