Book Review – The Witches’ Ointment: The Secret History of Psychedelic Magic


In The Witches’ Ointment: The Secret History of Psychedelic Magic, Thomas Hatsis takes you on a roller coaster ride through history in search for the mysterious origins of the legend of the witches’ flying ointment. Through story telling and by using primary historical sources, Hatsis presents the way in which the village healers and folk medicine practitioners of the Middle Ages became the most hated and feared of creatures to Christian Europe–witches! This book explores the historical use of psychoactive substances in both medicine and magic, and sheds much light on the Inquisitors who reacted to these practices with fear. Thomas Hatsis’ academic work, shown expertly in this book, is truly, truly impressive. Did he find the fabled recipe for magical flight? You will have to read to find out!

Magical Resistance Through the Ages

In 1588, with tensions between Philip II of Spain and Elizabeth I at their peak, Philip launched the 130 warships, known as the dreaded Spanish Armada, in an attempt to invade England. According to popular legend, the privateer turned explorer Sir Francis Drake had sold his soul to Satan to become a master of the sea. In the summer of that year, Drake gathered with a mysterious group of witches at Devil’s Point, Devon where they raised a mighty storm that would destroy half the ships and leave the Armada running back to Spain with its tail between its legs. Locals say the witches can still be heard chanting there to this day.

Others like Gerald Gardner, claim that witches were instrumental in preventing Napoleon from invading England, possibly even lending their aid at Waterloo. For a fun alternative history take on the English using magic against Napoleon, see Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel.

In 1940, again England was under the threat of invasion, this time by none other than Hitler’s Third Reich, who each and every day were dropping bombs on London and other English towns. It was largely expected that a land invasion from Nazi forces was imminent, who sources say were already waiting on the other side of the Channel for their invasion orders. Enter the witches, again. This time a coven of 17, joined by Gerald Gardner and other residents of Highcliffe-on-Sea, who joined on Lammas night to engage in Operation Cone of Power. Here the witches performed a powerful ritual to raise a cone of power against Hitler himself, according to Gardner in Witchcraft Today:

“Witches did cast spells, to stop Hitler landing after France fell…They met, raised the great cone of power and directed the thought at Hitler’s brain: ‘You cannot cross the sea’ … just as their great-grandfathers had done to Boney and their remoter forefathers had done to the Spanish Armada …

Which brings me to the present day. Since 2016 witches have been working together in the thousands against the multi-headed hydra that is the Trump Administration, and now in 2018 against all the evils of the GOP in the Blue Wave movement. Though the culture, place and times have all changed, the theme remains the same: empowering ourselves with magic to fight against tyrannical powers. Though much evil has been committed by Trump and his minions, I like to think that the collective binding is doing what it can in keeping the presidential usurper powerless to destroy us. And now with the noted success of the Blue Wave movement (though much work still needs to be done), the corrupt GOP will no longer hold full power over our government. That is a sign of our success.

This time it’s not as simple as protecting an island from an invading force—we are working against powers of evil that are woven into the fabric of our own society, and that is much more difficult than shooing away some wooden ships. When people feel helpless and disenfranchised, they turn to magic for empowerment. That is why I have always admired the magic of Afro-Carribean traditions: Voudon, Yoruba, Santeria, Conjure, and so on. The struggle of those peoples, the anger of oppression, the cries for justice and the devoted appeal to their gods for help are what gives their magic such power! That is the caliber of magic we will need in America to defeat these bastards who have stolen our political machinery for their own gain.

These examples from history serve to inspire me when the battle gets tough. If you’re not pissed off by now, why not?! Get the fuck up and keep hexing the Right!

Flying Witches – Flemish Miniature

Details from “L’Adoration du bouc” (The Adoration of the Goat) from Jean Tinctor’s, Traité du crime de vauderie, ca. 1470. It was during this period that witches and the Waldensian heretics became associated with the stereotype of flying on broomsticks and beasts to their Sabbats. Thanks to the widespread fabrication of false testimonies obtained under torture, priests and inquisitors were able to literally demonize witchcraft, cementing this type of imagery into the minds of the Christian believers with the help of witchhunting manuals such as Malleus Maleficarum and Compendium Maleficarum, among many others. 


Babylon the Great

And I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication. And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. – Apocalypse, Ch. 17

The Whore of Babylon, Hortus Deliciarum (XII Cent.)

Hail Persephone. Welcome Autumn.

ORPHIC HYMN TO PERSEPHONE (29)

Persephone, Daughter of Zeus, blessed
Only begotten, gracious Goddess, receive this good offering,
Much honoured, you, overpowered by Pluto, you are beloved and lifegiving,
You hold the doors of Hades under the depths of the earth;
Transactor of Justice, your beloved hair the sacred olive branch of the enemy
Mother of the Eumenides, Queen of the Underworld, You, maiden from Zeus through secret begetting.

Mother of loud-shouting, many-shaped Bacchus.
Playmate of the moving seasons, lightbringing, of beautiful form,
Holy, ruler of all, maiden, showering fruits,
Radiant, horned, you alone are longed for by mortals.
You are Spring, delighting in fragrant meadows
Your sacred body appears to us in growing fruits and branches.

Raped into your marriage bed in the late autumn
You alone are life and death to distressed mortals.
Persephone. You are forever the nourisher and the death bringer.

Listen, blessed Goddess and send up fruits from the earth
In peace, flourishing in health from your soothing hand;
And, in life abundance, leading to richness of old age
Then to your realm O Sovereign, and to powerful Pluto.

Translated. A. P.Long.

Murdering Toads to Make Wizard Dust

13th century alchemist Michael Scot in his work Liber luminis luminum, gives us a recipe for a “miraculous powder” which when used “can bring wisdom, joy and all manner of blessings from God above.” The only catch? You have to get a family of toads drunk and high, then burn them to a crisp!

Take ten poisonous toads, and let them be live, and put them in in a special vessel that they can’t escape from. Later take fresh asphodel [or daffodil] and white hellebore in good measure, extract as much of their juice as you can, put the juice in the vessel with the toads and let them drink it for nine days.

Then stick the toads into a clay pot, and place it into an oven so that the animals are burnt to ashes with sufficient heat. And thence remove them and carefully grind them up. And when that work is done, take Salt of Wisdom (alembroth), alkali, and just as much ammoniac. And then carefully grind ,mixing it with the (sap?) [lit. “urine”] of a yew tree. And dry it and grind it again. Do that nine times and you’ll make a miraculous powder.

Decem bufones tenentes venenum et fiant vive et ponantur in aliquo vase unde non valeant exire. Postea accipe anfodillos recentes et eleborum album in bona quantitate extrahe inde succum cum eis quantum pones, pone succum in vase illo in quo sunt rane et dimitte eas bibere per ix dies. Tunc accipe eas et pone in olla rudi et luta eam luto sapientie et pone ipsam in furno ita ut animalia comburantur combustione sufficienti et extrahe inde ea et tere diligenter et cum opus fuerit de illo pulvere accipe 3 – 1 de sale alebrot,3 – 1 de sale alkali, 3 – 5 de sale armoniaco tantundem et teras diligenter permiscendo cum ea urinam tassi et iterum exsicca et tere et hoc nonies fiat et de illo pulvere poteris facere mirabilia.

Witch feeding a cat with toads, 1630’s woodcut

Whether God will bless you if you try this, I can’t say. But I’m sure mixing 5-HO DMT with other alkaloids, along with ammonia and other things from under the kitchen sink that you’re not supposed to mix together, is going to definitely make you feel special, perhaps permanently. DO NOT TRY.

Bibliography

Brown, Rev. James Wood. (1897). An enquiry into the life and legend of Michael Scot. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/enquiryintolifel00browrich

Hatsis, T. (2015). Witches ointment – the secret history of psychedelic magic. Inner Traditions Bear And Comp.