Of all a witch’s tricks, flying could be the hardest to traction off. Bluster and also chance walk a long way when it pertains to spells and also potions, yet flying is pretty cut and dried. For centuries witches offered it their best shot, though, using a unique concoction recognized as a “flying ointment” — they’d apply it to their skin and later tell of having flown through the night sky to remote places.

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If you assume that the paris ointment didn’t actually permit flight, your vivid claims raise the question: What was yes, really going on? A while back, a clinical pathologist the review the most typical ingredients in these flying ointments and found that while the concoctions probably didn’t allow witches come fly, it’s straightforward to check out why witches believed they did.


Clive Harper, currently a retired professor in ~ the college of Sydney, the review scholarship on flying ointments, or “magic unguents.” these ointments were especially popular through witches in the 15th through 18th centuries. Harper discovered they were typically made from seven ingredients: plants and also herbs prefer deadly nightshade, aconite (otherwise known as Devil’s Helmet), sweet flag, cinquefoil, and smallage, add to bat’s blood and also young children’s fat. (Harper’s article, published in a 1977 post in the newspaper “Folklore,” was freshly released for free online by the publisher Taylor and also Francis as component of a repertoire of research articles related come witchcraft.)

You could imagine the list as a helter-skelter potion, yet Harper described that the consists of every ingredient make a how amazing amount the sense. Deadly nightshade has “powerful psychotropic effects,” and also aconite can be really toxic. More importantly, the two herbs balance each other: the atropine in nightshade tempers the potentially lethal affect of aconite.

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Cinquefoil was likewise thought to protect against toxins in the other ingredients, and also Harper figures the bat’s blood together a kind of “sympathetic magic.” together for the young children’s fat, various other sources state the the flying ointment was merely mixed with a fat base and applied topically — and what far better source that fat to case than the one the was going to most terrify your neighbors?


All told, Harper concluded the the paris ointment would have acted as a “potent hallucinogen,” which add to an interesting twist to the standard relationship between culture and witches. When we consider episodes choose the Salem witch trials, we think of innocents being falsely accused; witches, however, endured plenty that their very own delusions.