The Garden is Overgrown

The garden is overgrown—do we cut it back, or do we remove the fence that constricts it? Perusing the markets of witches, one is sure to happen upon a vast array of greening ointments and menstruums of flight, built upon the bodies of the Verdant Green and oils of tallow, often referred to as a Flying Ointment. 

A Flying Ointment is a fat or oil-based infusion of trance-inducing herbs, especially plants in the Solanaceae family such as Atropa belladonna, Hyoscyamus niger, Datura inoxia or stramonium, and the infamous babe of the gallows, Mandragora officinarum. These plants contain the alkaloids Atropine, Scopolamine, and Hyoscyamine, among several others, although these are usually the most noted and sought after. These alkaloids are classed as deliriants which can be absorbed transdermally, making them especially useful for entering the altered states of trance for spiritual communion. Flying ointments have been used historically since at least 800 BCE as a proponent of witches' rituals of flight to the Sabbath, rites of ecstatic spirit communion and sexual congress, shapeshifting, and far more as intoxicants worked in tandem with magic, as well as being keyholders of the gate to various witchcraft initiations and greening mysteries. We find references to flying ointments and oils of flight in Homer’s Iliad, Apollonius Rhodius’ The Argonautica, Roland of Cremona’s Theological Summa, and in countless other historical texts 

Magic ointments...produced effects which the subjects themselves believed in, even stating that they had intercourse with evil spirits, had been at the Sabbat and danced on the Brocken with their lovers...The peculiar hallucinations evoked by the drug had been so powerfully transmitted from the subconscious mind to consciousness that mentally uncultivated persons...believed them to be reality(Lewin, 1924).

It was once uncommon to explore these ointments, especially within the broader spheres of public occultism. Now, it is not at all difficult to find an ointment containing one or all of the plants mentioned above, usually combined with Poplar, Vervain, Aconite, Birch, and a myriad host of others across websites and  markets today. It is common for many, in the perpetual striving to appear profound, authentic, and sorcerously trendy, to tout the sacred natures of these allies, particularly those in the Solanaceae family, to sell them to occultists and make a name for themselves. 

It is essential to stress that an amount of Belladonna, Henbane, Datura, or Mandrake infused into the oil without communion or instruction by the hissing root of the Man-dragon, the dual caress of the dead green sun given by Henbane, the blade to the throat held alongside a mirror to the face in the dark clutches of the beautiful Belladonna, or the siren’s song sung in the angels knotted throat by our beloved Datura, will result only in an ointment  far too sparse in spirit. These creations, so faint of the life-blood of the Verdant Green, are then mixed with waxes - most often beeswax that took a community to build - yet even that too is overlooked and stripped of its voice. This lack of passion and spiritual communion illuminates a symptom of a deprivation of a genuine connection with the plant allies at best - or a sign that the ointments creator cared only for the money they would make from it, profiting off of, yet another, commercial trend within occult spheres at worst. 

The Trickster Among the Blind

From the split tongue of serpents often comes some form of the half-truth phrase “apply this ointment and you will fly off in spirit”. This is a lie - unless it is not. A Flying Ointment, as my own spirits have taught me, is not a tool that you use, rather, it is  an ally - an enemy - a path - a block in the path - a key to a door that will only truly open when you remove the glossy film created by the world of man from over your eyes. These spirits are double-edged swords - Poison and Medicine - that few have the patience and ability to hear and to see, often falling victim to the many thorned paths of poisons. You will not fly off in spirit from a simple lathering of yourself with these allies, as you could not sew a gown simply because you own a needle and thread. These allies must be worked with; to use and abuse them is to fall prey to their poison-spitting thorns. Remember, always, that the potential of these spirits extends far beyond spirit fight alone. 

Methods of Spirit Flight

Often, Flying Ointments are regarded as the method and instigator for spirit flight, especially in the West. Beyond its hegemony, there are numerous and prolific traditions and methods of flight found in both history and living lineages. Here, I seek to illuminate some of these methods for context, to inspire further research and practice among those who hold an interest in these subjects, and to un-hinder the notion that flying ointments are the end-all-be-all of spirit flight companions.

In her essay ‘Meteoric iron in Ancient Egyptian and Chinese Cultures: Pyramids, Meteorites and Circumpolar Stars’, Amelia Carolina Sparavigna speaks of meteorite shoes, blades, and staffs worn to traverse the heavens by both gods and humans. 

In many cultures, the meteorite is often considered heavenly, being referred to in Sumerian texts as “Fire from Heaven”, while being referred to in other cultures as being the very thing that the vaulted heavens are made of. In many European traditions, such as in Balkan folk magic and witchcraft, Meteorite is worked to fly outward, to go up and out into the heavens, with other counterparts such as fulgurites utilized to come back down or to go down into the earth and the upturned worlds it holds beneath its black soils.

One may also find themself in a pact with a plant spirit that may allow one to ride or be ridden by the spirit of the plant. Nuances to plant riding and being ridden by a plant spirit are most easily seen when one consumes or smokes a plant that alters our capacities and functions for a time, replacing part of our human spirit with the plant spirit. This is seen surrounding Tobacco, Cannabis, Blue lotus, Psilocybin containing mushrooms, and many more where the plant or mushroom is consumed with proper preparation and communion with the substance which produces altering effects that can allow one to more easily slip from the fleshy confines of the skin, to inspire, to destroy, to work directly with the plant spirit through your own body, lending the properties of the plant to your spirit for a time. This method can be tailored to a variety of workings, whether one wishes to ride the plant spirit out of the body, to become an arboreal serpent amongst the branches of the trees, and to other places, or one can be ridden by the spirit to accomplish various feats of magic.

The Yanghai people (1260-48 BC) of Xinjiang, China are believed to have used Cannabis in shamanistic manners according to archaeological studies performed in The Yanghai Cemetery. The cannabis found here is believed to be from 900-200 BC with evidence of only branches and fruits with a lack of finding any hemp fabric would suggest uses of this plant for reasons other than oil or fiber production. According to funerary objects found during these archeological pursuits, the Cannabis plant is believed to have been pulverized in a mortar and pestle and then worked with by a shaman for its psychoactive properties to facilitate communication with gods.

Trance is another common and effective practice found across the world where one enters into an altered state of consciousness existing in both this world and others. These states are induced through myriad modalities such as ritual drumming, dancing, movement, intoxication, prayer, fasting, and countless others. Trance states are a vehicle of oneself to a multitude of places, allowing one to blend in and out with spirits when their hands are required to work in this world and to do much the same in theirs. These states have also been seen across much of the world in living practices, folklore, and magical traditions, such as in the case of the Bulgarian Kukeri and their related Balkan cousins that scare away evil through implement of trance, costume, and dance.

As we see, there are many methods of spirit flight and communion with plants, but just as importantly, this goes for all spirits and all people. Our relationships with flight should come foremost through our relationship with the allies we approach in those endeavors; to do anything less would be a detriment to the limitless potential of our abilities and the lessons that arise through spirit relations. 

Expanding The Garden

As part of my pacts with these spirits, ever under their tutelage and instruction, and an expansion upon The Cult of the Witches Ointment that has grown in immeasurable size in the odd course of recent years, Unguentum Nocturna - known otherly amongst its playful hosts and guises as ‘The Lawless and the Unbound - given trolls gold’ will be offered to the public in a heavily limited quantity - never to be repeated, in an exploration of what an ointment can be when the nature of its pneuma is adhered to and communion held with such.

In creating this ointment, I had to sit down and ask myself why I was being so heavily called to birth the recipe I was given. Why did I want to dedicate the time of multiple lunar cycles, every night, on my hands and knees in dirt for an hour while performing the necessary work? I have always held an enduring and deep fondness for flying ointments; they have for many years, and certainly always will, woven a tight web of painfully-healing love in my heart - for their sheared hands are many. 

In doing this, I knew that I could not simply limit Unguentum Nocturna’s introduction to spirit flight alone, as the web of potentials that lie waiting within a properly-created flying ointment are boundless. One may find themselves lathering poppets or taglocks with Unguentum Nocturna, which, along with proper communion and work with the unguent, will loosen the spirit of your target, leaving to the imagination what may be pulled out or put inside and then worked upon for your own purposes; lathering the hinges of doors and all of their many holes can allow oneself and those called to slip in and out more easily, this too leaving to the imagination the potential for such uses in Witchcraft; tools and images may be marked to be spirit-ridden by yourself or those spirits to whom you allow such a thing; words whispered into the jar before marking them on yourself or others, or even places, will become alive in the skin or place as serpents bite at the ankles, pining to be fed. The possibilities of potential are *truly* limitless.

In the black earth sat a silver plate topped with a silver bowl. The winter air was enveloping my body, inspiring frigid lucidity, and in that little bowl sat the stone of the moon and pieces of a falling sky surrounded by the plate full of water and a single stalk of wheat to be replaced each moon, reserved after each night wrapped in white. Those that power this ointment worked through my hands each night, for 84 nights, on 84 stalks of wheat and numerous stones, plants, and animal materia, with the addition to the mixture of a here unnamed oil on Good Friday during one of this unguent’s primary workings of influence. At the culmination of this 84-night cycle, I braided together in song with the attending spirits three lengths of wheat, each comprised of 28 stalks - one from each night of their respective lunar cycle - which was itself bathed in oils of Owls, Bats, and Brilliant Others, before being added into the mother bottle. Infused oils and fats - Jojoba, Sunflower, Duck, and Pig - of each of our attending Nightshades in their chosen bases, given offerings of a private incense blend, tobacco smoke, and the birthing of pacts held with them and their mothers, were then poured over the braided wheat, but not before a portion of each fat and oil were worked in a smaller silver bowl with the feathers of duck and others, the talons of birds of prey and birds of a psychopomp nature, and a gift given to each of the Nightshades: 

To Henbane, given the fat of a pig and a crushed green stone; to Mandrake, a flame and a pouch of serpent leather filled with with the glass one finds in places where fire descends from the heavens, its core stuffed and filled with powders; to Datura, with her flowers, was wrapped in red thread that had been run through a private oil and knotted 84 times with words of power; to Belladonna and her black eyes of fruiting bodies were given a pair of new silver scissors and a length of cord; each of these, in that little silver bowl, sealed with flame and breath, was added then to the mother bottle which again was allowed to sit undisturbed for one final lunar cycle. Other allies, and those who are there yet are not quite allies, that can be found within Unguentum Nocturna are Poplar, Blackthorn, Dirt from the Crossroads, various serpent skins, wing tips, black horse hair, a whip, and the heart of a little green devil, but they are not limited to this list. 

The unguent was strained and mixed with beeswax from a local apiary, by the light of a single candle, and poured into their jars, sealed each with a whisper from a serpent. They are each provided with a large instructional and suggested usage writeup on a cloth scroll, limited to a one-time-only quantity of 21 jars being offered. You may purchase Unguentum Nocturna here.

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