Flying Witches on Broomsticks or Rye Mold and Horny Stoners?

Today’s Halloween images of ugly old hags flying on broomsticks derive from a few interesting witchcraft practices. Brooms have a long history of connection with witchcraft,  almost universally regarding female witches.

In the middle ages, all households owned a broom for purely practical purposes. Witches would, disguise the wand or staff they used for magical purposes by binding twigs around the end, to hide the carving on it which might betray its magical function.

But what was this magical function? Flying high or getting high? The “flying” practiced by real witches was closer to what we call “tripping.” “Flying ointment” was administered by rubbing it on a smooth wooden pole such as a broomstick, and then “riding” the pole.

In these days rye bread was a staple. In the right conditions rye breads can have a mold called “ergot”.  Consuming ergot can have fatal consequenses, but taken in controlled dosages, it is a hallucinogenic similar to LSD. Word of the effects spread among herbalists and it soon became popular with witches. Ergot is included in many books about witchcraft and even makes an appearance in some of Shakespeare’s plays.

When eaten, ergot mold is actually quite unpleasant, with cramping, nausea and vomiting being typical reactions. Clever and determined, witches soon discovered another delivery mechanism —  absorbing the ergot toxin through the thin tissues of the female genitals.The unpleasant side effects were all but eliminated and the hallucinogenic effects were heightened.

Today’s familiar figure of a witch on a broomstick was no doubt inspired by witches rubbing themselves against their brooms that were coated with the ergot drug, squirming in their hallucinations and the throes of orgasms too.

The addition of  the witch’s black hat and cloak is a modern addition that makes the witch more acceptable for mass consumption. A “Disneyfication” if you will. “Trick or treat” might otherwise have an entirely different implication.