Wednesday, 14 September 2016

What I Am Doing In September: Flying Ointments

Following on from the previous post in my 'What I Am Doing In September' series, it is time to move on to something occupying my time at the moment...

Flying ointment. 

These have a lot of history and evoke images that stem more from fantasy and the imagination than from actual practices. Some described are phenomenally dangerous, and on the other hand, some being sold on the internet and around various sources have nothing in them at all with pharmacological effect and are thus entirely ineffective and something of a waste of money.

Traditional Flying Ointments

Almost all of the 'traditional' flying ointments make use of various plants in the Solanaceae family (on one hand containing all the poisonous nightshades, and on the other the third most economically important group of plants such as potatoes, chillies, tomatoes and tobacco amongst others). The poisonous members of this family DO have chemicals with psychoactive and pharmacological effects; this isn't the placebo we are taking about. These plants can be turned into effective flying ointments, but to my mind this really needs to be done with a lot of experience and practice rather than something for someone to give a go out of interest. So, rather than go on about them here, this is a link to a talk I gave at a conference on entheogenic plants and fungi. Drop a message in the comments if it doesn't work - I will sort something out.

So, moving on...the other entheogenic compound of interest is the one I have done more work with and have had plenty of success with to boot.


Thujone inhibits the activation of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors in the nervous system, as GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter, this means that by inhibiting these receptors, nerve transmission flows more freely and rapidly. Much like adjusting the timings on traffic lights to allow for a faster and greater low of traffic along roads. It is this effect that is of interest here for Artemisia flying ointments.

In practical terms, and based on my own and other people’s experiences using this type of ointment, the overall effect is to enhance ritual and trance work. Sounds, movements and sensations are more intense and heightened. That being the case, this ointment works really well as an aide to fully immerse yourself in the work being done.

Thujone is not without its toxicity though. Too high a dose will lead to muscle spasms and convulsions. Based on lab experiments, the toxicity really starts to kick in when you get above 30mg/kg and it becomes pretty fatal at 60mg/kg. To put this into context, an average person weighing 80kg would need to consume more than 2.4g of thujone to begin getting into realms of spasms, above 3.6g and convulsions are likely and once you reach 4.8g of thujone you are looking at death. 10ml of essential oil of wormwood is about 4ml thujone, so drinking a whole 10ml bottle is likely to lead to serious adverse effects.

All of the above in mind, the flying ointments I have made have not been close to risking those sorts of concentrations and that much exposure.

My current recipe looks like this;

A 1litre la parfait jar is filled just over half full with lightly packed dried mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), about 700ml of sunflower oil is poured in and it is given a bit of a mix.

This is left for 3-4 months out of the way to infuse; not too warm and not in direct sunlight. It can be done in sunlight over a shorter time period, or in a very low oven for a few hours. It works for me to leave it longer - mainly because I am lazy.

After a few months the oil has gone a deep emerald green colour (very pretty), strain out the mugwort, this might take a couple of goes to get a clear oil. Add in 20ml of wormwood essential oil (Artemisa absinthum) and place in an ovenproof jug or bowl. This goes in the oven set to 50-60° C, just enough to warm it up for the beeswax to melt. Then the wax goes in! This bit will take some trial and error. For 100ml of oil infusion, it might need 10-15g of beeswax. Add the beeswax to the warm oil and leave for an hour or so in the low oven for the wax to melt.

At this point I would decant it into the jars it will be kept in, and keep these in the oven but turn it off and leave the door slightly ajar. This means it cools slowly and sets (the first time I put it in the fridge and it formed a hard wax layer on top and an oily slurry underneath), so this will probably take overnight. The next day, try it out and see if it can be scooped out and rubbed into the skin. My first batch wasn’t firm enough so I melted it again in the low oven – in the smaller jars – and added another pinch of beeswax to each. Once cooled this was fine. As I said, it might require trial and error.Anyway, that initial batch set perfectly and was easy to rub onto-into the skin.

To use it, first of all apply a small amount to the inside of your wrist to do an allergy test. Leave it all day or overnight and be sure it doesn’t cause itching, redness or other symptoms. If all goes well you are ready to rock!

About 30 mins before you begin whatever it is you are doing, apply about as much as a walnut half/level teaspoon/end of your thumb sized blob. Soft and thin skin areas on the body are best; behind the ears, temples, inside of the forearms, behind your knees. You can even go the whole hog and get a bit more intimate – some people I know did this and there were no…problems shall we say.

Next up in the 'What I Am Doing In September...ritual!

Thursday, 8 September 2016

What I Am Doing In September: I

Inspired by John Beckett’s Patheos blog post and by then ensuing challenge by Dver, I thought this might be a simple and easy way to get a couple of more day-to-day blog posts done about the things I am doing at the moment with ‘my polythesim’. It should be a good way to have a few simple and short blogasms covering a range of things I get up to.

First off, the autumn equinox is coming up and I am writing the ritual for our coven. As we continually cycle who is writing and leading each ritual we get the chance to work on all of the festivals and bring a flavour of our own praxis to a Wiccan setting. Normally the equinoxes and solstices are ‘open’,  in that we can invite non-initiates along to get a sense of what we do if they are interested in joining and working towards initiation, or guests can come along who are simply keen to be a part of it or experience it (family members for instance). Now, a case can and has been made that as these are open we should ‘tone down’ for want of a better phrase; these aren’t initiates and we don’t want to get too full on. My view on this is rubbish…of the two rituals I have prepared I haven’t held back at all, and in the case of the previous one at Samhain (open again, but for different reasons) we blew everyone’s socks off with a Seidr focussed ritual.

This equinox, we are going to enact the Horse Sacrifice. When it I done I will post up a summary of the ritual and thoughts on how it went.

Yesterday I started off a new batch of flying ointment. I realise I haven’t written about these or how I make them and use them. I suppose it might be good to do that in the future some time. The ointments I make don’t use any of the ‘traditional’ Nightshade family (the Solanaceae) as after some research (handy having access to a huge botanical library) they are very risky and potential for catastrophic damage or death is too large. So I make an ointment using Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) and Wormwood (Artemisia absinthum), the active ingredient in this is thujone. It is safer than the nightshades, though not without its own toxicity at high doses, and is simple to make. I made about 300g earlier this year for use at a large ritual (60 witches) and everyone got to use it and had good results. No adverse reactions to the ointment either. Rather than induce hallucinations or an out of body experience, thujone has the effect of ‘enhancing’ experiences making them more intense. Kind of like adding a turbo-boost button to ritual and trance work. Anyway, more on that in another post when things are progressing with the making process, for the moment the mugwort will be infusing in sunflower oil for the next couple of months.

Dried mugwort in 1.5 litres of sunflower oil

Inspired by some people I met over the summer I have also started getting a bit craftier; I have started making some devotional items with clay with a view to making a lot more. On top of that I have had a stab at linocut printing to make some bits and pieces for a few projects. Again…maybe a separate blog post when I have something I am happy to show off.

Next up will be some ritual practice.