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!

A Vision of Satan, A Night of Magic

Sunday, November 11th MMXVIII. Waxing Moon in Capricorn.

Our group has a powerful tradition of nocturnal witchcraft. When we determine the times and seasons are correct, we go out hiking deep into the wilderness where we have free reign to wander the woods under the cover of darkness. This is a mixed group of experienced psychonaut-witches and others new to our craft. This night was S’s initiation into our Mystery. After hiking a few hours, we arrived at our gathering place: a small clearing at the foot of a dense cypress dome. By sunset, our camp was set up, the sacred fire lit, and the tall pines stood watch as they were beautifully silhouetted against the twilight sky. As the slender crescent moon loomed low over the horizon, it was time again to take the mushroom potion I had so diligently prepared months ago.
We each bring our own different intentions to the rites. Some were there for guidance, others for healing or communicating with nature. My specific intention was to grow in magical knowledge and personal power. The group dynamic was just right, so I felt brave enough to take a very large dose. As we sat around the fire waiting for the arrival of the Mushroom Spirit, that old familiar indelible sensation of a subtle unveiling passed over us, wave after wave after wave. By the time we were each in a fully altered state, a strong wind passed us and we came to attention. Almost in unison we rose to walk. As we traveled silently in the darkness, the world became new again. Our sense of separation from nature was replaced by profound harmony. We slowly and carefully crossed a patch of swampland and into a scrub field. By this point, we had all been babbling to each other in endless streams of consciousness, roaring with raucous laughter and profound joy. When I peered through the darkness towards T and C (the other two experienced witches), we had been visibly transformed. T with his wavy golden locks, and wearing a cloak of stars became to me like the god Apollo! C with her bright blue hair and wearing a cape with a dark, colorful mandala, became like Gaia. I looked at myself and had become like Hades.
We decided to lay down and rest together a moment (the Mushroom always creates an alternating need to move and then to stop moving). I told the group it was time to be silent and listen to the world. The sudden quiet covered us like a blanket. After a moment (or maybe an hour? Time was becoming so difficult!), I went up to “Apollo” and asked him to walk with me alone. A short distance later we were shocked and surprised to find a crossroads in our path. This was the sign I needed! In many western traditions, a lonely crossroads is a particularly powerful place, and one especially where Satan is known to present himself.
Remembering my original intentions, I asked “Apollo” to guard my body. I did not know what I should do. By this point I was at the peak of altered consciousness. I stood at the edge of the crossroads and whispered into the darkness ahead of me, “Please, show me what to do.” Again the wind picked up and seemed this time to carry on it the whisper of a voice. I sensed the presence of a mighty and dread spirit. “Satan,” I said, “Here am I. If you would grant me the fantastic powers I’ve heard about, which you are known by men to offer those of us who call on you, I would freely give you whatever price you would ask of me!”
Then by an impulse I dropped to my knees, my arms spread out and my eyes looked up to the vast cosmos. Suddenly the sky itself rippled open into a terrible vortex! It was a swirling kaleidoscopic tunnel reaching into infinity from some other dimension. Fangs, bones, flames of Hellfire, glowing texts in an unknown language that revealed secrets unfathomable, hideous demonic faces with burning eyes staring through me, all rotating and ever changing before my dumbfounded self. I felt waves of new power crashing down on me, penetrating deep into my bones! My chest heavy with this power, I felt like I could become anything, do anything! A burning orange light rose out of me like a red-hot ball of iron. I knew this was my soul ascending towards the vortex. Out of the whirlwind appeared a terrible black claw with a singular reptilian eye. It was slowly coming down to snatch up my soul like the prize in an arcade claw machine. Then to my complete disappointment, the trance was broken with the sound of my name, which clashed and roared like thunder! “Gaia” appeared behind me, radiantly, standing next to our Apollo, to intervene and save my soul from being taken away.
The empty silence of the woods surrounded me again, and the vortex was gone, leaving only the countless stars sparkling down on us. I was equally grateful for their concern as I was desperate to go back into that trance. I appreciate my friends’ intervention, I know they meant well. But who knows what could have become of me had I not been interrupted.  Twenty-four hours later I can still feel that power dwelling in me, so perhaps something was given to me after all?
The night continued, the trip was the most visually intense experience I have ever had. We eventually returned to our camp to rest by the fire, but the visions just would not stop. The group’s mad ravings and fits of laughter and wailing continued through the whole night. Ever restless, we broke into smaller groups here and there to explore the more familiar parts of our woods, rapidly exchanging our disjointed thoughts, sharing our visionary experiences, and gazing out at constellations and wishing on shooting stars. Sleep would not come to us till just before the dawn.
Was my encounter with Satan real? On a psychological level I may rationalize the experience in terms of brain chemistry and the power of suggestion. But on a spiritual level, I know my soul was touched that night, and had that infernal transaction been completed, I can’t say what would have happened to me. The experiences that night were real enough that we will be forever changed.

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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.

Christian Spells for Abstinence

With the current events surrounding the 300 priests in Pennsylvania who sexually abused more than 1,000 children, talk of priestly celibacy has the internet all abuzz again, as well as people like the Catholic League, The Church Militant, and more than one archbishop trying to shove the blame back onto this “gay cabal” that has taken over the church. Gee it’s almost as if no change has been made between today and 2002, when clerical sexual abuse cover-ups first became widely known.
Fear not, you faggoty confrères, for I have found for you some fascinating, fitting and fortuitous magical formulae to help fulfill the fondness you feel for fornication with the fledgling young fellows in your flock!
Yes, while flagellation, castration and public denial are some of the oldest tricks in your book, I went digging and found older tricks from older books. Let’s look at some!
Petrus Hispanus, who may have also been known as Pope John XXI, wrote in his Thesaurus pauperum about an ointment made of hemlock and mandrake that could be slathered on your testicles to take away sexual desire (Here translated into English by Humfrey Lloyd in the 1500’s):

13th Century Remedy Against Male Desire

“Hemlockes bound to a mans stones, take vtterly away all desyre of copulacion. If Opium, Henbane sede, & mādrage be mynglid wyth wax & oyle, in the whyche they haue soden, and the members therwith be anoynted and a plaster therof beyng made, & bound vnto the coddes, it taketh awaye the desyer of copulacion. Anoynte oftentymes the mem∣bres, with the ioyce of Nyght shade Singrene, and vyneger. Al men and inespecially Diosco∣rides sayeth that P•per, Rue, Tut∣sayne, Calamint, Castoreum, waste the s•de of generacyon, (by driuing it vp) of there p•opretie and stronge heate. Item let the yarde be anoyntyd wt oyle, wherin Camfore hath ben re∣solued, and he shall haue no feruent desyre to it. I a man eate the flowers of a sal∣low or wyllowe tree, or of a Poplet tree, they wyl make cold al the heate of carnall lust in hym. Bene flouer made in forme of a plaster and bound vnto the pryuye members of a boy, quenchith al con¦cupiscence and sufferth not heares to growe ther. Lettys sede dryethe vp the seede, & quenchith the desyer of copulacon. Anonte the priuie members wyth •he ioyce of Hēbane, and the carnal concupiscence shalbe quenchid ther¦by.”

FYI this book also includes instructions and remedies on contraception and menstruation as well—a lot to ask from a pope!

Now that is one sexy plant!

This may be a case of fighting fire with fire, as the 12th century abbess and polymath Hildegard of Bingen writes that the mandrake is a lusty plant which… “because of its similarity with Man’s image, lies in wait with the Devil’s temptations more than other plants. Whence, according to his pleasures, whether it be good or bad, Man is aroused, just as once he romped with pagan gods.”
Elsewhere in her book Liber subtilitatum diversarum natuarum creaturarum (I-56), she gives us a counter spell for those men who, because of magical influence, couldn’t keep their cocks in their pants. They should wash a FEMALE (or male if he liked boys) mandrake root and tie it to their abdomen for three days and three nights, then remove the root, split it in two, and tie it then to his thighs for three more days. He would then pulverize the right arm of the root and swallow the powder.
A small sample of early Christian Shamanism can be found in the story of the mandrake, which was also used by lay folk for insomnia as well as invigoration, but which could easily be taken too much resulting in death. The sexual powers of mandrake were not unknown during the Middle Ages, as even Agrippa noted its use among pagan and early Christian potioneers as a potent aphrodisiac, and an offering by Grecian whores to the goddess Venus (De incertitudine et vanitate scientiarum liber, 203)

Are you burning with lust yet?

References

Agrippa, Heinrichus Cornelius. (XVI century). De incertitudine et vanitate scientiarum liber. Retrieved from Google Books

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

Lloyde, Humphrey. (XVI century) [Manuscript]. The treasury of healthe conteynyng many profitable medycines gathered out of Hypocrates, Galen and Auycen, by one Petrus Hyspanus [and] translated into Englysh by Hymfre Lloyde who hath added thereunto the causes and sygnes of every disease, wyth the Aphorismes of Hypocrates and Iacobus de Partybus redacted to a certayne order according to the membres of mans body, and a compendiouse table conteynyng the purginge and confortatyue medycynes, wyth the exposicyo[n] of certayne names [and] weyghtes in this boke contayned wyth an epystle of Diocles vnto kyng Antigonus. Retrieved from Early English Books Online

von Bingen, Hildegard. (XII century). Physica: Liber subtilitatum diversarum naturarum creaturarum. Retrieved from Google Books

The Coming Storm – Psilocybin Madness

Here in the South, summer is in full swing. It is punishingly hot, the air hits you like a sauna even at night. Each and every afternoon is visited by a temporary but impressive thunderstorm that rolls in from the mainland and out towards the Gulf. The unforgiving weather keeps me feeling languid and sluggish, but the free time I have now in between semesters means I can pursue more of my occult interests, usually indoors. Except when it comes to my lessons with the Golden Teacher, the flesh of God, Teonanacatl, psilocybin cubensis.
Each year around this time I produce my annual crop of mushrooms. I love giving them out to friends and strangers alike–in fact, it’s one of the things I’m known for here. Many a good trip has been had here thanks to my “community service”. I consider it a true vocation to promote the proper use of mushrooms for spiritual, psychic and emotional development.
At our annual trip, our party leaves the urban sprawl to retreat in a vast preserve, a land set apart with pine forests, marshes, river swamps and dark open skies. Last year my boyfriend had his first trip, while I served in a shamanic capacity as guide. It was a deeply spiritual experience, but also resulted in such an opening of our hearts for each other, we talked for hours with such honesty and truth. It was one of the most important nights of my life.
Despite its ease of use, each trip becomes more difficult for me as I try to penetrate more the mystery, and learn difficult, sometimes painful lessons from the Spirit of the Mushroom. Often the lesson is not something I wanted to hear but I know would be to my benefit. I admit I sometimes still struggle with the Spirit and I know there are some lessons I have been postponing, and that soon the Mushroom will not allow me to postpone any further. Each trip is a lesson in dying, a face to face confrontation with Life and Death–my life, my death, the world’s, the Universe’s. While there are many plant teachers in my life, the Mushroom reigns supreme.
Apart from the crazy theories and visions worthy of science fiction that it has shown me, it always leaves me with a greater sense of wholeness, wisdom and lasting peace. For that reason, and realizing my need to push deeper each time, this year I will finally be taking the “Heroic Dose” so often mentioned by Terence McKenna. Let us see what vistas the mind can truly fathom!

“There is a tradeoff for border crossing and trespassing. Both pain and pleasure are required to harrow and heal the souls art: if fear were to deter, rather than to invigorate and illuminate shadow, there would be no path beyond the trees…
It is often required to leave behind one’s mundane world, persona, assumptions, comforts, habits and securities in order to comprehend with all the senses required. May the teachings that come from nature’s adversarial and opposing forces serve to illuminate the layers of black earth and sky, where roots and stars are in union, that place where the Devil and the Witch meet.” – Plants of the Devil, Corinne Boyer

“O sacrament most holy, O sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving, be every moment thine”