How Did Witches Come To Ride Brooms?


A view from about Witches and brooms. If you have another view please share.



During the time leading up to the witchcraft trials in Europe, the staple bread was made with rye. In a small town where the bread was fresh baked this was just fine, but as Europe began to urbanize and the bread took more time to get from bakery to grocer, the rye bread began to host a mold called "ergot.

Ergot, in high doses, can be lethal, a fact that led to the rise in popularity of wheat bread, which is resistant to ergot mold.

In smaller doses, ergot is a powerful hallucinogenic drug. And because the enjoyment of such things is not confined to this age alone, it became quite popular among those who were inclined towards herbalism and folk cures. It's mentioned in Shakespeare's plays, and turns up in virtually every contemporary writing of the witchcraft age. In particular, it is the inevitable central ingredient in the ointment that witches rubbed their broomsticks with.

You see, when eaten, there was the risk of death, but when absorbed through the thin tissues of the female genitals, the hallucinogenic effects were more pronounced with less ill-effects. The modern image of a witch riding a broomstick was inspired by the sight of a woman rubbing herself on the drug coated smooth stick of her broom, writhing in the throes of hallucinations, and no doubt, some intense orgasms as well. To her unsophisticated neighbors, such a sight would have been terrifying. The lack of an equivalent mechanism for men is one reason why "witchcraft" was seen as a predominantly female phenomenon. The addition of clothing to the witch is a modern embellishment to protect 'Family Values'."

In any event, what follows is a brief expansion on witches, brooms, and ergot, illustrated by woodcuts from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.

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Brooms have a long history of connection with witchcraft almost universally regarding female witches.

Some people speculate that in the Middle Ages women publicly accused of being witches (or at least women with knowledge of herbology did "ride" brooms. They applied a layer of paste made out of trance inducing plants (such as belladonna) to the broomstick and "rode" it, as a way of applying the hallucinogenic herb to the thin skin of the labia where it might be quickly absorbed into the blood stream. However, due to the witchhunts and the general beliefs of the time, little to no reliable information exists to corroborate this belief.

I had never heard of the connection between witches, ointments, and how they came to be known for riding their broomsticks...this article inspired a search.. and another interesting story..

Do Witches Ride Broomsticks?

   The popular image of a hag flying through the air astride a broomstick derives from not one but from several practices of the craft.

   Firstly, in the past, all households owned a broom for purely practical purposes. Wtiches would, indeed, disguise the wand or staff they used for magical purposes by binding twigs around the end, to hide the carving on it which might betray its magical function.

   Secondly, at certain times of the year country folk would perform a dance around the cornfield in order to increase the rate of growth, mimicking the rising of the corn by leaping into the air. This is not as absurd as it may seem. We have now discovered that plants respond to human emotion, that cows give more milk when played music and that all kinds of plants flourish when they are talked to. The witches' leaping dance, astride a pole which simulated the straightness and strength of the corn, therefore makes a good deal of sense. This dance would normally be performed by the light of the full moon, which affects the world of nature as it also affects man (the word "lunatic", derived from the Latin luna, the moon, stems from the observation that the full moon has a disturbing effect on the psyche). Thus anyone observing the leaping broomstick dance of witches at the full moon could be expected to think of flying.

   This broomstick dance became confused with other accounts of witches flying through the night to take part in meetings and orgies. A number of witches have testified to this night-flying, which was achieved by rubbing a magical ointment on the body. It is now clear that the ointment was hallucinogenic and caused fantasies not dissimilar to those caused by LSD and other fashionabl drugs of our century, and that the hallucinations were shaped by the witches' own minds. There is evidence of witches swearing that they have flown, when they have been under observation the whole time, apparently asleep, but sometimes cearly experiencing orgasm.

   Many recipes have been suggested for this ointment, which is rubbed on the pulse of the wrists and elsewhere. Some of the materials suggested are aconite, belladonna, cinquefoil, parsley, watercress, henbane, oil and absurdly, the fat of boiled babies and human flesh; bats' blood is also mentioned. The trouble is that none of these mixtures, however organized, can get into the bloodstream through unbroken skin. It has been suggested that in the past witches were so fleabitten that the drug could penetrate through those open wounds. It seems unlikely.

   One recipe, when the element of the grotesque is removed, makes sense. This calls for a mixture of babies' fat (for which one must read port fat, mutton fat, goose-grease, lard of any kind), black millet and boiled toad. Black millet is a fungus found on millet and is ergot, which is a hallucinogenic. Witches kept toads as pets, and when toads are excited or frightened, they exude a milky substance called toads' milk, a substance which was, as we know, once used by witches. From toads' milk (and from toadstools) scientists have extracted a drug called Butotenine, an alkaloid which, though insoluble in water, is soluble in alcohol and in dilute acids and alkalis. (The ordinary household is rarely short of seak acid as a solvent if it is needed. Urine would do. So would vinegar.) It has the property of penetrating the skin and going stright into the bloodstream, producing the same hallucinogenic effects as LSD but with brighter color effects. It works rapidly, producing its effects in fifteen to thirty munites, and these last for between one and two hours. It produces not only hallucinations but contractions of the intestinal and uterine muscles, so it seems clear that it could easily induce orgasm and that the orgasm itself would induce sexual fantasies.

   Existing accounts of night-flying by witches make it clear that the latent periond between the application of the ointment and the beginning of the halluciantion is not long (as it is with many hallucinogenics), and the flight does not last more than an hour or so. It seems clear therefore that Bufotenine, in its original form as toads' milk, is the missing element in all the recipes that have so far been handed down, and that boiled toad is simply a disguised reference to this.

   Contemporary witches do not use fly-ointment. If they wish to use hallucinogenics, they use those made in laboratories. Most witches, however, are not drug-users. They are able to have visions without that kind of stimulus.



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