An old woman came to my notice. . . who promised of her own accord to bring me answers in a short while. She ordered all of us who were gathered there with me as witnesses to go outside, Then she stripped off all her rags and rubbed herself very thoroughly and heartily with some ointment (she was visible to us through the cracks of the door). Then she sank down form the force of the soporific juices and fell into a deep sleep. We then opened the doors and gave her quite a flogging; the force of her stupor was so great that it had taken away her senses. We returned to our place outside. Then the powers of the drug grew weak and feeble and she, called from her sleep, began to babble that she had crossed seas and mountains to fetch these false answers. We denied; she insisted; we showed her the black-and-blue marks; she insisted more tenaciously than before - Giovanni Battista Porta, 1589
Have you ever wondered why witches actually need a broomstick to fly on? Is it so they can sweep the cobwebs off the sky
? No, not exactly!
The witches broomstick was the implement for applying the 'magic' salve. A blend of mandrake, henbane and deadly nightshade would have been boiled with fat (whether from babies or not is unknown) to make a salve capable of producing deep sleep with euphoric dreams and hallucinations. The salve would have been applied to the mucous membranes, quite likely to have been the walls of the vagina, using the aforesaid broomstick. It's no wonder that the witches were said to dance with the devil!
The active ingredients of the salve are the alkaloids hyoscyamine, atropine, and scopolamine, each one alone being very powerful and dangerous. The witches of the time were very knowledgeable as to how much they could get away with using. Very small doses are capable of affecting the central nervous system producing feelings of restlessness and hallucinations. The heart, lungs and gastrointestinal tract are also effected, heart rate is altered, bladder and gut function slow down, speech becomes slurred and pupils dilate.
Many of these properties are used in medicine today, but the active chemicals are carefully extracted and measured so that poisoning from overdose is extremely unlikely.
Do not try this at home, folks!