Today’s psychonauts gather their herbs from all around the world, but often don’t know about the powerful psychedelic plants that can be found in their own backyard. Several herbs of the Nightshades family grow all around Europe. They cause somewhat 'dark' trips and have since long been associated with witchcraft. In the Middle Ages they were often listed as ingredients in witches’ salves and love potions.
Indigenous European herb lore contains many more plant remedies: from herbs to heal wounds or speed up birth, to parts of plants that could be carried as amulets. Herbcraft was interwoven with an animated world view and surrounded by ritual practices: harvest should occur at the right moon phase and uttering the right incantation was just as important as the administration of the herb itself.
The devil and the witch
With the rise of Christianity and later on scientific rationalism, these practices were more and more dismissed as 'superstition' and even forcefully suppressed. During the witch-hunts they were linked to devil worship: the witch was thought to fly on a broomstick to the witches’ Sabbath where her pact with Satan was sealed in a ritual orgy.
Obviously this idea functioned as an effective counter-image of the ‘good Christian’. But the myth had roots in actual practices of herbalists. The fabrication and use of so-called flying-ointment was quite common: applied to the skin it gave a sensation of flying and caused a trip that could last for days.
Read more about witch lore
Do you want to know more about European herb lore and its association with witchcraft? In our latest Encyclopaedia article you will discover the most powerful herbs and plants from European soil as well as more information on indigenous practices we would nowadays label ‘shamanistic’. So get on your broomstick and don’t try this at home. Why not? Read all about it here.
Written by: Juniper