Wednesday, September 17, 2008

flying ointment

From: Linda

Is wolfsbane similiar to Deadly Nightshade?

No. Wolfsbane aka aconite aka monkshood is quite different from deadly nightshada aka belladonna. However (thanks Michelle) according to Stephen Pollington's Leechcraft: Early English Charms, Plantlore and Healing:

"Aconite (known as Monkshood or Blue Rocket) is known to have been collected for use both fresh and dried (mainly the root) for many centuries and is now used in very dilute form as a pain-killer. However, it is such a fierce and deadly poison that it is unlikely to have been used so successfully in ancient times. Under the name Wolfsbane it formed a poisonous bait for wolves. Aconite is also believed to have been an ingredient in witches 'flying ointment', a potent blend of stimulants and narcotics that may have induced 'out-of-body' experiences. Monkshood (aconitum anglicum) is peculiar to the British Isles, confined in the wild to the western counties." p. 95-95.

Many years ago I started making notes for a novel I'll never write about the Old Religions, about women and goddesses and witchcraft. I developed a nifty theory about flying ointment and broomsticks.

Think about it. Women living together, using unguents and ointment to 'fly' on their 'broomsticks'--and one of the best ways to deliver something like belladonna is via the mucus membrane. Please don't make me draw a picture. (I did draw a picture for an editor once who, reading the first sex scene in "Yaguara," said, 'That's impossible'! I said, 'Nope, here, look...')

I'm just not convinced that wolfsbane would have been used--its active ingredient reduces sensitivity and makes you sweat, among other things, as well as being massively, dangerously toxic, whereas belladonna makes your pupils enormous (very attractive to the other witches), gives you hallucinations, delirium, and a kind of spacial disorientation--a big, huge rush, in other words. (It can also give you a big, huge rash, apparently, but it's not as scary as aconite and, hey, some sacrifices might be worth it.)

Anyway, it struck me as a fun theory.

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