The Hallucinatory Effect of Damp Rye Bread is why Witches are on Broomsticks By BARBARA STEPKO

Witches, dressed in black, flying through the night skies on broomsticks, casting spells and conjuring mayhem for mere mortals down below. It’s a big part of Halloween—as well as supernatural—lore, for sure. But how exactly did this legend come to be?

In a word: bread. In Europe, during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the doughy stuff was usually made with rye grain, which, under the right—or, rather, wrong—conditions can become a host for ergot, a fungus that grows on rye in damp weather. When consumed in high doses, ergot can be downright fatal. In smaller doses, it acts as a potent hallucinogen. (Witness LSD, which is a derivative of ergot.)

Dancing mania on a pilgrimage to the church at Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, a 1642 engraving by Hendrick Hondius after a 1564 drawing by Pieter Brueghel the Elder.

Records from 14th to 17th century Europe mention an affliction with “dancing mania,” with groups of people dancing through streets, often babbling gibberish, and foaming at the mouth until they collapsed from sheer exhaustion. Those who experienced this “mania” firsthand would later describe the wild (and, apparently, wonderful) visions that accompanied it. It was only a matter of time before resourceful types figured out how to use ergot (along with other plants such as nightshade) for hallucinatory, see-the-pretty-colors purposes.

Halloween postcard

But here’s the rub: When consumed orally, these hallucinogens can display nasty side effects – nausea, vomiting, and unsightly rashes, among them. Even so, our intrepid party animals weren’t about to give up their good times that easily. After some trial and error, they set out to find a way to partake in the same purple haze, without the unpleasant side effects. The solution, they discovered, was letting ergot absorb into the skin. And the best parts of the body for absorption were the sweat glands in the armpits and the mucus membranes of the “nether regions”.

Illustration of a witch

So these makeshift pharmacists developed ergot-infused balms—or “witches’ brews.” But here is where they got really crafty. To deliver those salves with maximum effectiveness (and, one would imagine, the least amount of mess), people turned to the most common of household items: the broom. In short, they used ointment-soaked broomsticks—or, more specifically, the handle of the brooms—to reach into the nether regions and get high, or “fly.” Another reason brooms may have been employed for intoxication: They were commonly used in pagan rituals, such as marriage ceremonies since they were believed to possess “energies,” both male (the phallic handle) and female (the bristles).

Here, however, is where things get really interesting. Ergotism, or ergot poisoning, has been traced to other outbreaks of bizarre behavior. In fact, Massachusetts in the late 17th century may have been the unknowing victim of an outbreak of rye ergot.

A Witch riding a broomstick with a black cat

Some believe that those same convulsive symptoms may have led to charges of witchcraft and the subsequent hysteria leading to the Salem witch trials in 1692 and 1693. In all, 19 women and men were convicted as witches after they, or children in their presence, acted as

READ MORE HERE:  https://www.thevintagenews.com/2018/05/24/witches-on-brooms/

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How to Use Grave Dirt in Pagan Magic and Rituals by Patti Wigington

Hands Holding Soil WIN-Initiative / Getty Images

Mention graveyard dirt in a magical context, and chances are good you’ll get a lot of strange looks or questions. After all, it sounds a bit creepy! Who goes around scooping up soil out of cemeteries?

The use of graveyard dirt isn’t all that odd in some magical traditions. In certain forms of folk magic, for example, the magical connection of the dirt to the deceased person buried beneath it is more significant than its being from a grave. Dirt from the grave of someone you loved can be used in love magic, while dirt from the burial site of a very wicked person might be incorporated into malevolent workings or curses. In other words, grave dirt is a physical object that some believe possesses the traits of the person it was used to bury.

Historical Uses

The use of soil from a graveyard isn’t new. In fact, ancient texts indicate that the ancient Egyptians may have used dirt and other items from funeral sites (such as

READ MORE HERE:

https://www.learnreligions.com/graveyard-dirt-in-magical-workings-2562513