Images relating to witchcraft and potions from the Wellcome Library

[A sample of images relating to witchcraft and potions from the Wellcome Library. The Wellcome Library consists of a large collection of books, manuscripts and images, particularly concentrating on the medicine and the history of medicine. Many of the images are available for public use, and the Library has contributed a large number of images to Wikimedia Commons.

From their website:

“The Library was founded on the collections of Henry Solomon Wellcome (1853-1936).

Born in Almond, Wisconsin, Wellcome became a pharmaceutical salesman and moved to London in 1878 at the encouragement of Silas Burroughs, with whom he entered into partnership to create the firm of Burroughs Wellcome. The business flourished, and Wellcome became sole owner after Burroughs’s death in 1895.

After the death of Burroughs, much of Wellcome’s energy was directed towards developing his collections. His main interest was focused on the history of medicine, including ancillary subjects such as alchemy, witchcraft, anthropology and ethnography.”

The online collection contains thousands of images of historical interest which you can browse to your heart’s content. Here, we provide a few images to whet your appetite:

“Ortus Sanitatis (English: The Garden of Health), also known as the Hortus, is the first natural history encyclopaedia, published by Jacob Meydenbach in Mainz, Germany on 23 June 1491. It describes species in the natural world along with their medicinal uses and modes of preparation. It is in part an extended Latin translation of the German Herbarius published in 1485 but, unlike that earlier work, also deals with animals, birds, fish and stones. The author does not restrict himself to dealing only with real creatures, but also includes accounts of mythical beasts such as the hydra, phoenix, harpy, dragon and zitiron.”

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L0029212 Credit: Wellcome Library, London
A plant with two children growing out of the buds.
Coloured Woodcut 1491
From: Ortus sanitatis
By: Arnaldus de Villanova,
Published: Jacob MeydenbachMainz 1491
Collection: Rare Books
Library reference no.: Slide number 7658 and EPB Incunabula 5.e.13
Full Bibliographic Record Link to Wellcome Library Catalogue


L0004340 Credit: Wellcome Library, London
A witch placing a scorpion into a pot in order to make a potion. Etching by F. Landerer after M. Schmidt.
By: Martin Joachim Schmidt after: Ferdinand Landerer
Published: s.n.[S.l. :
Collection: Iconographic Collections
Library reference no.: ICV No 26014
Full Bibliographic Record Link to Wellcome Library Catalogue


V0025806ET Credit: Wellcome Library, London
A witch holding a plant in one hand and a fan in the other. Woodcut, ca. 1700-1720.
Woodcut ca. 1700-1720
Size: sheet 9.9 x 8.5 cm.
Collection: Iconographic Collections
Library reference no.: Iconographic Collection 603070i
Full Bibliographic Record Link to Wellcome Library Catalogue


V0044812 Credit: Wellcome Library, London
A witch, raising her arm above a cauldron, is making a potion; a young woman is kneeling in front of the cauldron; book and skeleton in the background.
1773 By: John Hamilton Mortimer after: Dixon.
Published: J. Boydell & J. Dixon,[London] (Kempes Row Chelsea) : 20 July 1773.
Size: platemark 60.8 x 48.4 cm.
Collection: Iconographic Collections
Library reference no.: Iconographic Collection 576063i
Full Bibliographic Record Link to Wellcome Library Catalogue

Here’s a link to their witchcraft collection, from which many of the above images were taken:

witchcraft collection

Terence McKenna on Drugs:

Terence McKenna on Drugs:

[More from Terence Mckenna. We’ve said he was credulous, he says we’re hearing him wrong.]

Terence McKenna — Tree of Knowledge:

“…I feel like I should say this. Its more for my ease rather than yours. I’ve reached the conclusions I now espouse through skepticism, reason, rationalism and tough argument. So it may sound bitsy, flakey and soft-headed, but that just because you’re hearing it wrong. The guiding input was experience, and in a way what we’re gathered here to talk about tonight is an experience. Which is not only rare, transformative, challenging, but, also, for reasons which we’re probably get around to, illegal.

So it’s a very peculiar situation. Very few experiences are illegal, and our models of the world are built up based on our experience. So if you make an experience illegal, you’re essentially saying it is off-limits for model building. You can’t include that in your model because it isn’t really there in some sense. And this is the situation in western society vis-à-vis the psychedelic experience. To my mind the psychedelic experience is as much a part of being human as sexuality, personal independence, child rearing. These are the things which are scripted into us as opportunities for exercising our peculiar situation vis-à-vis the phenomenon of being, and a society which would deny that is a society whose secret, or maybe not so secret, agenda is the infantilization of its citizens.

I mean if we’re not capable of dealing with these things, then, who is? And are the people who made the rules; did they carefully, conscientiously and at depth explore these dimensions and decide they were unfit for human consumption? Or was it done more hastily, more mindlessly and with more fear? I would submit to you that it’s the later.”


“Well, my notion to legitimate the importance of psychedelics is by showing, and I think one can show in fairly short order, that these things are not alien to the human experience, or ancillary, or the province of uneducated little brown people down in the rain forest, or anything like that. I submit to you that the psychedelic experience and the impact of psychedelic plants on human beings is central to understanding who we are and how we got this way. And if we can explore this issue and convince ourselves that there’s some merit in this point of view, then it will simply, it will do more than rewrite the annals of a staid science like anthropology. It will actually change how we relate to each other and to the planet that we’re in the process of grinding into pollution.”

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@ ~ 4:40 in
Terence K. McKenna (1992) Search For The Original Tree Of Knowledge.
Recorded live in Boulder, Colorado May 29-31, 1992.

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“There’s light at the end of the tunnel. The problem is that tunnel is in the back of your mind, and if you don’t go to the backside of your mind, you will never see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

@ ~ 59:00 in
Terence K. McKenna (1992) Search For The Original Tree Of Knowledge.
Recorded live in Boulder, Colorado May 29-31, 1992.

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Hermeticism & Alchemy (Terence McKenna)

Hermeticism & Alchemy (Terence McKenna)

[Good old Terence McKenna, psychonaut. He had some good insights and died too soon. He wrote a lot and there’s stuff on Youtube. He believed in entheogens. He believed the drugs had something to say to him, and he gave them every chance he could. Maybe he was a little too enthusiastic and credulous, but he was open-minded. If a mushroom speaks to you, listen.]

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“There is a problem that we are manipulated and we are not empowered – and those who are empowered – it wouldn’t be so bad if they had a plan, but their plan is another house, another Mercedes, a deeper swimming pool. This is no plan. And so it’s up to the creativity of ordinary people and the strongest weapon to support and augment the creativity of ordinary people is the psychedelic experience because it allows you to put information together in new and exciting ways, and this is to be then the basis of a new political order – it has to be – and if we don’t react then um… the mushroom said to me once, it said to me: ” If you don’t have a plan, you become part of somebody else’s plan. Because there are only planners and plan-ees. You know? So what do you wanna do?” Do you want to be part of somebody else’s plan or get your own agenda together?”

[… 4:20]

McKenna at Wikipedia.

Rodrigo Lopez was Queen Elizabeth’s physician during the time of

[Rodrigo Lopez was Queen Elizabeth’s physician during the time of Christopher Marlowe, and is mentioned in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus—but not by Marlowe.]

From Wikipedia on Rodrigo Lopez:

“Rodrigo Lopez (c. 1525 – June 7, 1594) was physician to Queen Elizabeth, and may have been an inspiration for Shakespeare’s Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.”

He was born in Crato, Portugal and raised as a New Christian. He was driven away from Portugal by the Portuguese Inquisition and was known to be a Marrano (a hidden Jew).

He made London his home in 1559 and successfully resumed his practice as a doctor, soon becoming house physician at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. He developed a large practice among powerful people, including Robert Dudley and Francis Walsingham. His success was less due to his medical skill and more to his skill at flattery and self-promotion. A 1584 libelous pamphlet attacking Dudley suggested that Lopez distilled poisons for Dudley and other noblemen as well. In 1586, Lopez reached the pinnacle of his profession; he was made physician-in-chief to Queen Elizabeth. Lopez earned the queen’s favour for in 1589 she granted him a monopoly on the importation of aniseed and sumac. His success continued as he neared retirement. He was viewed, at least outwardly, as being a dutiful practicing Protestant.

In October of 1593, Lopez was wealthy and generally respected. At that time, he owned a house in Holborn and had a son enrolled at Winchester College. However, also in October, a complex web of conspiracy against Dom António, Prior of Crato began to come to light. Subsequently, Robert Devereux accused Lopez of conspiring with Spanish emissaries to poison the Queen. He was arrested on January 1, 1594, convicted in February, and subsequently hanged, drawn and quartered on June 7. His trial at London’s Guildhall was referred to by Charles, Prince of Wales in his Guildhall address to the Board of Deputies of British Jews on 5 July 2011.

The Queen herself was uncertain of his guilt and delayed his execution. Lopez maintained his innocence and his true conversion from Judaism to Christianity. According to the 16th century historian William Camden, just before Lopez was hanged, he said to the crowd that he loved his queen as well as he loved Jesus Christ. The crowd laughed at this statement, taking it for a thinly veiled confession.

Some historians and literary critics consider Lopez and his trial to have been an influence on William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. “Many Shakespearean scholars believe Dr. Lopez was the prototype for Shylock,” which is believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. There is also a mention of Lopez in the posthumously published text of The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, comparing him to the titular hero: “Doctor Lopus was never such a doctor!” This reference was presumably added after Marlowe’s death in 1593.

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[If the final point was missed: Marlowe was dead by the time Lopez’s problems began, so clearly he didn’t write it. Like other works of the time Doctor Faustus was written for the stage and could have had several contributors as well as multiple revisions for performances over time. See further:]

From Old English Drama

Old English Drama. Select Plays: Marlowe’s Tragical History of Doctor Faustus; Greene : Honourable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, Edited by A. W. Ward. Clarendon Press series. Edition 2. Clarendon Press, 1887.

Download the PDF at
…Or see it at Google Books:

As Christianity grew in influence…

[An herbalist (for example) might recite a short prayer before collecting a plant. Before Christianity, his/her ancestors would have used a traditional folk invocation. After Christianity, the herbalist would replace the old formulae with something more suitable and more powerful (since Chrstianity was the “true” faith, and the old ways, while good, were fatally misguided).

By “Christianizing” old spells and rituals and incantations, people expressed their Christian faith, but at the same time maintained and protected the old ways—and themselves. Old way=evil. New way=good. However genuine your faith, you didn’t want to attract the wrong kind of attention from the Church. The Church, for its part, made ingratiating inroads in the other direction, consenting to consecrations of grounds and buildings, blessings of animals and property, and allowing the continuation of the old holy days and sacred grounds, with a new Christian understanding.]

“As Christianity grew in influence, a tension developed under the church and folk-medicine, since much in folk medicine was magical, or mystical, and had its foundation in pagan sources that were not compatible with Christian faith. Spells and incantations were used in conjunction with herbs and other remedies. Such spells had to be separated from the physical remedies, or replaced with Christian prayers or devotions. Similarly, the dependence upon the power of herbs or gems needed to be explained through Christianity.”

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[We’d like to say that in the end the solution was to separate the spells from the physical remedies, but we’ve learned we can’t just rely on chemicals to heal us. In healing, set and setting are also important. Spells and incantations were part of a ritual which formalized (and standardized) the healer’s routine and manipulated the patient’s mental state toward good health.]

A discussion of the place of the Acacia in Freemasonry….

[A discussion of the place of the Acacia in Freemasonry. Acacia is mentioned in the Bible and attracts attention because some species contain the so-called “spirit molecule,” DMT. Of all psychoactive drugs, DMT can provide most convincing religious experiences, including experiences of God. Is it mere coincidence that links religion and DMT?

Acacia is not a single type of plant. It’s a genus name and there are a number of Acacia plants in the world (not all of which contain DMT, and others are contested) and there are other sources of DMT, many of which are important religious sacraments for their psychoactive properties outside of Christianity.]

From Wikipedia on Acacia (this information had been removed by Oct 2016. The Acacia genus has been re-arranged):

Symbolism and ritual

The Acacia is used as a symbol in Freemasonry, to represent purity and endurance of the soul, and as funerary symbolism signifying resurrection and immortality. The tree gains its importance from the description of the burial of Hiram Abiff, the builder of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.

Several parts (mainly bark, root and resin) of Acacia are used to make incense for rituals. Acacia is used in incense mainly in India, Nepal, and China including in its Tibet region. Smoke from Acacia bark is thought to keep demons and ghosts away and to put the gods in a good mood. Roots and resin from Acacia are combined with rhododendron, acorus, cytisus, salvia and some other components of incense. Both people and elephants like an alcoholic beverage made from acacia fruit. According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, the Acacia tree may be the “burning bush” (Exodus 3:2) which Moses encountered in the desert. Also, when God gave Moses the instructions for building the Tabernacle, he said to “make an ark ” and “a table of acacia wood” (Exodus 25:10 & 23, Revised Standard Version).

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As mentioned previously, Acacias contain a number of organic compounds that defend them from pests and grazing animals. Many of these compounds are psychoactive in humans. The alkaloids found in Acacias include dimethyltryptamine (DMT), 5-methoxy-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) and N-methyltryptamine (NMT). The plant leaves, stems and/or roots are sometimes made into a brew together with some MAOI-containing plant and consumed orally for healing, ceremonial or religious uses. Egyptian mythology has associated the acacia tree with characteristics of the tree of life (see the article on the Myth of Osiris and Isis).

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Goethe’s Faust – Faust is about to drink a glass of poison

[Faust is about to drink a glass of poison – this excerpt is from the beginning of Goethe’s Faust as he contemplates his failures and limits. Should he just end it all now? This is from Tony Kline’s own translation of Faust, available at his website,]

I salute you, phial of rare potion, I lift you down, with devotion!
In you I worship man’s art and mind,
Embodiment of sweet sleeping draughts:
Extract, with deadly power, refined,
Show your master all his craft!

I see you, and my pain diminishes,
I grasp you, and my struggles grow less,
My spirit’s flood tide ebbs, more and more,
I seem to be where ocean waters meet,
A glassy flood gleams around my feet,

New day invites me to a newer shore.
A fiery chariot sweeps nearer
On light wings! I feel ready, free
To cut a new path through the ether
And reach new spheres of pure activity.

This greater life, this godlike bliss!
You, but a worm, have you earned this?
Choosing to turn your back, ah yes,
On all Earth’s lovely Sun might promise!
Let me dare to throw those gates open,

That other men go creeping by!
Now’s the time, to prove through action
Man’s dignity may rise divinely high,
Never trembling at that void where,
Imagination damns itself to pain,

Striving towards the passage there,
Round whose mouth all Hell’s fires flame:
Choose to take that step, happy to go
Where danger lies, where Nothingness may flow.
Come here to me, cup of crystal, clear!

Free of your ancient cover now appear,
You whom I’ve never, for many a year,
Considered! You shone at ancestral feasts,
Cheering the over-serious guests:
One man passing you to another here.

It was the drinker’s duty to explain in rhyme
The splendour of your many carved designs
Or drain it at a draught, and breathe, in time:
You remind me of those youthful nights of mine.
Now I will never pass you to a friend,

Or test my wits on your art again.
Here’s a juice will stun any man born:
It fills your hollow with a browner liquid.
I prepared it, now I choose the fluid,
At last I drink, and with my soul I bid

A high and festive greeting to the Dawn!

(He puts the cup to his mouth.)

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A few references to potions from Goethe’s Faust

[A few references to potions from Goethe’s Faust:]

Goethe’s Witch’s Kitchen:

“With this drink in your body, soon you’ll greet
A Helena in every girl you meet.”

[A potion is given to Gretch to give to her mom. But the difference between a medicine and a poison, they say (Paracelsus said), is in the dose ( target=”_blank”> It doesn’t go well. It kills her:]

Margaret. Ah, if I only slept apart!
For you I’d gladly leave the bolt undrawn tonight,
But then my mother’s sleep is light;
And were we found by her, dear heart,
I would fall dead upon the spot!

Faust. No need of that! You angel, fear it not!
Here is a little phial Only three
Drops in her drink, and pleasantly
Deep slumber will enfold her like a charm!

Margaret. For your sake what would I not do?
I hope it will not do her harm!

Faust. If so, my love, would I thus counsel you?

The ancient and revered emblem of the Mysteries….

[This is from Manley-Hall’s famous 1928 book, The Secret Teachings Of All Ages:

“Among the ancient Egyptians and Jews the acacia, or tamarisk, was held in the highest religious esteem; and among modern Masons, branches of acacia, cypress, cedar, or evergreen are still regarded as most significant emblems. The shittim-wood used by the children of Israel in the construction of the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant was a species of acacia. In describing this sacred tree, Albert Pike has written: “The genuine acacia, also, is the thorny tamarisk, the same tree which grew around the body of Osiris. It was a sacred tree among the Arabs, who made of it the idol Al-Uzza, which Mohammed destroyed. It is abundant as a bush in the desert of Thur; and of it the ‘crown of thorns’ was composed, which was set on the forehead of Jesus of Nazareth. It is a fit type of immortality on account of its tenacity of life; for it has been known, when planted as a door-post, to take root again and shoot out budding boughs above the threshold.” (See Morals and Dogma.)

It is quite possible that much of the veneration accorded the acacia is due to the peculiar attributes of the mimosa, or sensitive plant, with which it was often identified by the ancients. There is a Coptic legend to the effect that the sensitive plant was the first of all trees or shrubs to worship Christ. The rapid growth of the acacia and its beauty have also caused it to be regarded as emblematic of fecundity and generation.

The symbolism of the acacia is susceptible of four distinct interpretations: (1) it is the emblem of the vernal equinox–the annual resurrection of the solar deity; (2) under the form of the sensitive plant which shrinks from human touch, the acacia signifies purity and innocence, as one of the Greek meanings of its name implies; (3) it fittingly typifies human immortality and regeneration, and under the form of the evergreen represents that immortal part of man which survives the destruction of his visible nature; (4) it is the ancient and revered emblem of the Mysteries, and candidates entering the tortuous passageways in which the ceremonials were given carried in their hands branches of these sacred plants or small clusters of sanctified flowers.”

The Secret Teachings Of All Ages
By Manly P. Hall

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[This was written in 1928… some Acacia/Mimosa/etc. species contain highly psychoactive DMT. We wonder what Manley-Hall might have made of that.]