Monday, August 30, 2010
Another documented account is known as the New England witches and dates back to 1692. Two selfprofessed witches including a Mary Osgood, confessed to riding on a pole and being carried through the air to five-mile pond and back again. Wonder where to? Why, pray, a witches meeting of course.
Other stories reveal even juicier details. There's even one detailing a flight accident. Not only did the two of the witches named in this documented story independently of each other confess to being carried through the air by the Devil, but both confirmed that they experienced a crash because one of their broomsticks broke. One witch apparently hung about her fellow colegue's neck for a while and then dragged both of them down. They were injured and one of them was bed ridden for months afterwards.
If the possibly quite strange body position that broomstick flying was likely to have required would have been viewed with utmost suspicion at the time, the punishment of witches might have mimicked such bizarre bodily positioning. Many accounts reveal that the preferred punishment for suspicion of witchcraft (which often ended in death) was a water ordeal in which a person was tied with his right thumb to the left big toe and the left thumb to the right big toe and then thrown in the water. If the person sank, they were considered innocent, but if they somehow kept floating, they could end up being killed. The test would be conducted not by the masses (something that happened in many other circumstances, when hoards of people would turn against a person suspected of being a witch, usually after an incident) but by a few high placed people, in England usually the minister of the parish and other highly regarded persons.
There are some scientific explanations for the act of flying on a broomstick or "tree riding" as the activity is known in historic records too. Witches were said to fly through the window or up a chimney. Murray's study documents that one of the earliest cases on record of stick-riding does not definitely state that the witch flew through the air they way you still read about in fairy tales or Harry Potter stories. She cites the case of Lady Alice Kyteler. Historic texts reveal that a pipe with ointment was found in this lady's closet, apparently for the use of greasing a stick "upon the which she ambled and galloped through thick and thin, when and in what manner she listed". Similar accounts are found elsewhere in the U.K. and the wording is also quite close to the way the stick-riding of Arab witches is described.
The potion stories are most believable and scientifically correct. Historic records of confessions of witches also include other means of flying, including simple sticks, pitchforks, poles, faggots, shovels, flying goats, heads of strange animals, cats, bats and humans transformed into animals.
Scientists say that the recipes for potions or unguents that had been given to the witches by no one less than the Devil himself, are sufficient proof to explain the phenomenon. Apparently, there are the natural herbs mixed together to form the secret ingredients for the "flying" ointments that were said to be applied to the broomsticks, which are really rather phallic, include parsley, water of aconite, poplar leaves, and soot, sweet flag, cinquefoil, bat's blood, deadly night shade, and oil and baby's fat.
Scientist say that its the mixing together of these ingredients and their effect that likely created the flying stories. Because if you mix up these goodies, you are sure to end up with a pretty hefty poison. "These prescriptions show that the society of witches had a very creditable knowledge of the art of poisoning: aconite and deadly nightshade or belladonna are two of the three most poisonous plants growing freely in Europe", say Murray.
To bee continued.....part three!!!