The Witches' Ointment: the Secret History of Psychedelic Magic - Thomas Hatsis
Rochester, Vermont: Park Street Press (Inner Traditions Internation), 2015. 286 pages. Paperback. New
As the title suggests, this book takes as its starting point the fabled witches' ointment of medieval legend, said to give medieval witches the ability to fly. Hatsis argues that a genuine European herbalist tradition - one that had a deep knowledge and understanding of the use of psychoactive, psychedelic plants - was demonized by the dominant Christian culture of the early modern period and given the narrow and literal attributes of a 'flying ointment.'
Hatsis has examined numerous primary sources, consulting mediaeval manuscripts held in European libraries dealing with magical recipes, spells and potions that utilise herbs and plants. He has also studied relevant witch trial testimonies and transcripts -such as that of Matteuccia de Francesco, the Italian 'Witch of Ripabianca' who was famous for her love potions and medicines.
With current academic thought (Wilby, Klaniczay, Pocs et al, following on from the work of Carlo Ginzburg) exploring the idea of European witchcraft as a Western form of shamanism, this is a timely and exciting book.