Liebeszauber is a late 15th century painting which portrays a young, naked witch

‘Liebeszauber’ (love charm) is a late 15th century painting which portrays a young, naked witch. The painting is by the master of the Lower Rhine (that is, attributed to a specific painter whose works are known, but whose name is not known), around 1470-80.

According to “Sexy Witch” (whose blog page is now password protected) this is a painting about love, witches, potions, and eroticism. Note the voyeur peering from behind the door at back; her nakedness, youth and beauty. Our own view (as he/she notes) is much better: we see all of her secrets. We are voyeurs, too. This witch is young and lusty and entirely exposed to us – both her body and her desires. “Sexy witch” goes on to point to her poulaines (pointy shoes) on her feet. This is about arousal, and sexual feminine aggression. Men wore Crakows with poulaines (the long, pointy bit) and used them under the table to wriggle between women’s thighs opposite, “prodding their private parts.” She is prepared to return the favour, though maybe it’s wishful thinking on the part of the artist. Wikipedia says women didn’t tend to wear poulaines, and we don’t think many men would find being stabbed in the crotch erotic.

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The Witch’s Kitchen – an excerpt from Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

[An excerpt from Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in which we meet a witch, and Mephistopheles acquires a potion for Faust’s edification. Perhaps it will bring him youth and renewed vigour. Faust reveals his prejudice and contempt for an obvious charlatan. He is an educated man, superior. These tricks are beneath him. Faust is not a witch and the things of witches – like potions – are not to his taste. Would he consider an entheogen as a legitimate route to God? Like this potion, it would surely just bring him closer to the Devil.]

Wherein, Sirs, can I be of use?

Give us a goblet of the well-known juice!
But, I must beg you, of the oldest brewage;
The years a double strength produce.

With all my heart! Now, here’s a bottle,
Wherefrom, sometimes, I wet my throttle,
Which, also, not the slightest, stinks;
And willingly a glass I’ll fill him.
Yet, if this man without due preparation drinks,
As well thou know’st, within an hour ’twill kill him.

He is a friend of mine, with whom it will agree,
And he deserves thy kitchen’s best potation:
Come, draw thy circle, speak thine adjuration,
And fill thy goblet full and free!

(with fantastic gestures draws a circle and places mysterious
articles therein; meanwhile the glasses begin to ring, the
caldron to sound, and make a musical accompaniment.
Finally she brings a great book, and stations in the circle
the Apes, who are obliged to serve as reading-desk, and to
hold the torches. She then beckons FAUST to approach.

Now, what shall come of this? the creatures antic,
The crazy stuff, the gestures frantic,–
All the repulsive cheats I view,–
Are known to me, and hated, too.

O, nonsense! That’s a thing for laughter;
Don’t be so terribly severe!
She juggles you as doctor now, that, after,
The beverage may work the proper cheer.
( He persuades FAUST to step into the circle .)

( begins to declaim, with much emphasis, from the book )
See, thus it’s done!
Make ten of one,
And two let be,
Make even three,
And rich thou ‘It be.
Cast o’er the four!
From five and six
(The witch’s tricks)
Make seven and eight,
‘Tis finished straight!
And nine is one,
And ten is none.
This is the witch’s once-one’s-one!

She talks like one who raves in fever.

Thou’lt hear much more before we leave her.
‘Tis all the same: the book I can repeat,
Such time I’ve squandered o’er the history:
A contradiction thus complete
Is always for the wise, no less than fools, a mystery.
The art is old and new, for verily
All ages have been taught the matter,–
By Three and One, and One and Three,
Error instead of Truth to scatter.
They prate and teach, and no one interferes;
All from the fellowship of fools are shrinking.
Man usually believes, if only words he hears,
That also with them goes material for thinking!

THE WITCH ( continues )
The lofty skill
Of Science, still
From all men deeply hidden!
Who takes no thought,
To him ’tis brought,
‘Tis given unsought, unbidden!

What nonsense she declaims before us!
My head is nigh to split, I fear:
It seems to me as if I hear
A hundred thousand fools in chorus.

O Sibyl excellent, enough of adjuration!
But hither bring us thy potation,
And quickly fill the beaker to the brim!
This drink will bring my friend no injuries:
He is a man of manifold degrees,
And many draughts are known to him.
( The WITCH, with many ceremonies, pours the drink into a
cup; as FAUST sets it to his lips, a light flame arises.
Down with it quickly! Drain it off!
‘Twill warm thy heart with new desire:
Art with the Devil hand and glove,
And wilt thou be afraid of fire?

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Another – speculative as always – mention of Syrian Rue as an ancient entheogen

[Another—speculative as always—mention of Syrian Rue being used as an entheogen in ancient times. In this case, in the Eleusinian Mysteries.]

First a short description of the Eleusinian Mysteries:

“The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiation ceremonies held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times, these were held to be the ones of greatest importance. These myths and mysteries, begun in the Mycenean period (c. 1600 BC) and lasting two thousand years, were a major festival during the Hellenic era, later spreading to Rome. The name of the town, Eleusís, is a variant of the noun έλευσις, éleusis, arrival.

The rites, ceremonies, and beliefs were kept secret, as initiation was believed to unite the worshipper with the gods and included promises of divine power and rewards in the afterlife. There are many paintings and pieces of pottery that depict various aspects of the Mysteries. Since the Mysteries involved visions and conjuring of an afterlife, some scholars believe that the power and longevity of the Eleusinian Mysteries came from psychedelic agents.”

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From Wikipedia on the Greek possibly-entheogenic ritual drink Kykeon which was drunk toward the climax of the Eleusinian Mysteries:

“Another theory is that the kykeon was an Ayahuasca analog involving Syrian Rue (Peganum harmala), a shrub which grows throughout the Mediterranean and also functions as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. The most likely candidate for the DMT containing plant, of which there are many in nature, would be species of Phalaris (grass) and/or Acacia.

Other scholars however, noting the lack of any solid evidence and stressing the collective rather than individual character of initiation into the Mysteries, regard entheogenic theories with pointed skepticism. While this may be true, the Mysteries are generally accepted to be associated with the consumption of some substance(s), possibly as a beverage, that induced visions and a feeling of oneness with at least mankind, if not the universe. This made the event particularly reliable, necessarily secret, in addition to special and certainly subject to strict sanctions if the secrecy were violated.”

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[Barley contaminated with the LSD-ish-containing ergot fungus has also been suggested as the enthogenic substance in Kykeon. Kykeon was also known as a harmless (harmala-less?) barley-containing peasant’s drink.

Moses may have been under the influence of a hallucinogenic substance when he witnessed the burning bush

[We are intrigued by the idea that religion owes its origin to highly-convincing drugs like those found in Acacia. It’s hard not to make the connection once you read that the burning bush was supposed to be an Acacia, well known for containing DMT.

Peganum harmala is Syrian rue. Syrian rue is a plant which grows in the Middle East and has long been used (thousands of years) for multiple purposes, including as a food, a red dye and as an incense.]

‘Benny Shanon, professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem wrote a paper, “Biblical Entheogens: a Speculative Hypothesis”, in the philosophy journal Time and Mind, which suggests Moses may have been under the influence of a hallucinogenic substance when he witnessed the burning bush. In the abstract, Shanon states that entheogens found in arid regions of the Sinai peninsula and in the south of Israel (i.e. Negev) were commonly used for religious purposes by the Israelites though he says “I have no direct proof of this interpretation,” and such proof cannot be expected.” The plants he suggests may have caused the vision are Peganum harmala, used by the Bedouin people in present times but not identified with any plant mentioned in the Bible, and acacia, mentioned frequently in the Bible, and also used in traditional Bedouin and Arab medicine. The effects of certain species of acacia are comparable to the effects of ayahuasca, which can cause users to “see music”.’

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Aqua Tofana was a well-known poison from 17th century

[Aqua Tofana is a well-known poison from 17th century Italy]

From Wikipedia’s Aqua Tofana:

“Aqua Tofana (also known as Acqua Toffana, Aqua Tophana, and Aqua Tufania and “Manna di San Nicola”) was a strong poison that was reputedly widely used in Naples and Rome, Italy. During the early 17th century Giulia Tofana, or Tofania, an infamous lady from Palermo, made a good business for over fifty years selling her large production (she employed her daughter and several other lady helpers) of Aqua Tofana to would-be widows.

Aqua Tofana (literally meaning “Tofana water”) was either the creation of Giulia Tofana or an older recipe that had been refined by Tofana and her daughter, Girolama Spera, around 1650 in Rome. The ‘tradename’ “Manna di San Nicola”, i.e. “Manna of St. Nicholas of Bari” might have been a marketing device intended to divert the authorities, since the poison was openly sold both as a cosmetic and a devotionary object in vials that included a picture of St. Nicholas. Some of her customers claimed to have used it for its advertised purposes and only caused deaths accidentally. Over 600 victims are known to have died from this poison, mostly husbands of unhappy spouses. Tofana was arrested and confessed to producing the poison, and she implicated a number of her clients, claiming that they knew exactly what they were buying. She was executed in July 1659. There was much disquiet throughout Italy and many of her clients fled, while others were strangled in prison, and indeed many were publicly executed. Between 1666 and 1676 the Marchioness de Brinvilliers poisoned her father, two brothers, amongst others, and was executed on July 16, 1676.

The ingredients of the mixture are basically known but not how they were blended. Aqua Tofana contained mostly arsenic and lead and possibly belladonna. It was a colorless, tasteless liquid and so easily mixed with water or wine to be served during meals.”

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[St Nicholas, of course, is the patron saint of gift-giving – Santa Claus.]

Long life – the Eighteenth century Comte de St. Germain

[The secret of long life. The Eighteenth century Comte de St. Germain came from nowhere, but was a favorite of kings. The mystery grew as it was rumoured that he was impossibly old. He was an adventurer with an assumed name and a supposed noble-but-tragic-and-dangerous past, not unlike Cagliostro. Unlike Caglisotro, he was never exposed, never revealed to be a charlatan. On the contrary, his knowledge and talents gained him respect. He is one (Nicolas Flamel (13thC.) and Fulcanelli (20th C.) are among others) who was thought to have found the secret of eternal life or the Philosopher’s Stone sought by the alchemists.]

“One can, I think, well assert that a portion of his miracles is due to his knowledge of physics and chemistry, in which sciences he is well grounded. At all events it is palpable that his knowledge has laid the seeds for him of sound good health; a life which will, or which has, overstepped the ordinary time allotted to men; and has also endowed him with the means of preventing the ravages of time from affecting the body. Among other statements concerning the Count’s astounding qualities, made to the Favorite by Mme. de Gergy after her first meeting with the Count, after a lapse of years, was that during her first stay in Venice, she received from him an elixir which for fully a quarter of a century, preserved unaltered the youthful charms she possessed at 25. Elderly Gentlemen whom Madame de Pompadour questioned concerning this peculiar incident, gave the assurance that the standing still of time in the aging and preservation of the youthful appearance of Mme. de Gergy, supported by the testimony of these old men, would make it appear still more probable.”

The Comte de St. Germain: The Secret of Kings
By Isabel Cooper-Oakley. Milano, 1912. Reprinted by P17.

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[From Goethe’s Witches’ Kitchen scene we have Mephistophele’s recipe for naturally living for a long time:

Take yourself off to the nearest field,
To scratch around, and hoe, and dig in,

Maintain yourself, and constrain
Your senses in a narrow sphere:

Feed yourself on the purest fare,
Be a beast among beasts: think it no robbery,

To manure the fields you harvest, there:
Since that’s the best of ways, believe me,

To keep your youth for eighty years!

Faust isn’t impressed.]

All witchcraft comes from carnal lust

[All witchcraft comes from carnal lust]

[This chapter in Gordon Rattray Taylor’s Sex in History discusses sex, sexual repression, and witchcraft. He quotes the infamous Witches Hammer (Malleus Maleficarum) in regards to hysteria: “All witchcraft comes from carnal lust,” it says. Here, he speaks of the phenomenon of witches flight.]

“We find cases where people are accused of, and even confess to, being present at sabbat when eyewitnesses state that they were in their bed the whole time. Evidently we have to do here not with actual pagan worship, but with an illusion. The witches applied an ointment which was supposed to make it possible to fly through the air; the formula is known and it has been made-up and analysed. It contains atropine and belladonna, which induce beatific visions.”

6. Sex And Heresy
From Sex In History by Gordon Rattray Taylor (1954)

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Oscar Wilde quote: “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.”

Carlyle considers Cagliostro’s curative cosmetic cream career

[The great Cagliostro was an 18th century European adventurer, sorcerer, freemason, doctor, conman, forger, mystic, revolutionary, and thief (etc.) who also sold his own miracle rejuvenators to ageing rich women. Caglisotro was a curiosity to Goethe, who on his travels through Italy sought out and interviewed Cagliostro’s worried mother back in the slums of Palermo, Sicily. Cagliostro was a curiosity to just about everybody. He claimed to be nobility, others said he was a clown. It is possible that Goethe had Cagliostro in mind when writing Faust.

The author of this article excerpted from Fraser’s Magazine of 1833 (38 years after Cagliostro’s death in an Italian prison) is Thomas Carlyle who calls him the “Quack of Quacks.” Carlyle was a historian, essayist and satirist. In writing, he was as grandiose as Cagliostro was reputed to have been in speech. Carlyle’s prose style justifies the two-installment’s subtitle “in two flights,” as he writes like a swallow flies: with acrobatic swoops and turns.]

Count Cagliostro

Fraser’s magazine, Volume 8:

“For it is to be observed, that the Count, on his own side, even in his days of highest splendour, is not idle. Faded dames of quality have many wants: the Count has not studied in the Convent Laboratory, or pilgrimed to the Count Saint-Germain, in Westphalia, to no purpose. With loftiest condescension he stoops to impart somewhat of his supernatural secrets,— for a consideration. Rowland’s Kalydor is valuable; but what lo the Beautifying-water of Count Alessandro! He that will undertake to smooth wrinkles, and make withered green parchment into a fair carnation skin, is he not one whom faded dames of quality will delight to honour ? Or again, let the Beautifying-water succeed or not, have not sucli dames (if calumny may be in aught believed) another want ? This want too the indefatigable Cagliostro will supply,— for a consideration. For faded gentlemen of quality the Count likewise has help. Not a charming Countess alone; but a ” Wine of Egypt” (cantharides not being unknown to him), sold in drops, more precious than nectar; which what faded gentleman of quality would not purchase with any thing short of life ? Consider now what may be done with potions, washes, charms, love-philtres, among a class of mortals, idle from the mother’s womb; rejoicing to be taught the Ionic dances, and meditating of love from their tender nails! Thus waxing, waning, broad-shining or extinct, an inconstant but unwearied Moon, rides on its course the Cagliostric star. Thus are Count and Countess busy in their vocation; thus do they spend the golden season of their youth, —” for the Greatest Happiness of the greatest number?” Happy enough, had there been no sumptuary or adultery or swindlery Law-acts; no Heaven above, no Hell beneath ; no flight of Time, and gloomy land of Eld and Destitution and Desperation, towards which, by law of Fate, they see themselves, at all moments, with frightful regularity, unaidably drifting.”

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[What good is reading an article by Carlyle if you can’t explain it to someone?—Rowland’s Kalydor was an English skin lotion that had been sold since the late 1820s. “Eld” is elderly – gloomy land of old age; and a cantharide is Spanish Fly – an infamous sexual stimulant. Sumptuary laws attempted to limit extravagant consumption.

Incidentally, skin rejuvenating compounds were often corrosive face peels and bleaches. Not incidentally, the real Faust was said to have traded a hair removal compound to a prison chaplain in exchange for wine, but the salve contained arsenic which burned his flesh. As it turns out, later on—in the mid-nineteenth century—arsenic became a popular beauty treatment, both applied externally, and eaten to lighten the complexion. It is a testament to Faust’s intimacy with the Devil that he was 300 years ahead of the rest of the cosmetics industry.]

Charles MacKay-The Slow Poisoners

Charles MacKay:
Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds

[Extraordinary Popular Delusions is a well-known book written some years back—in 1841—that is still recommended to open the eyes of those who want to think for themselves and be aware of crowd and mob psychology. In these few excerpts, he writes about the past popular passion for poison.]

Vol. II – Peculiar Follies
Chapter 16 – The Slow Poisoners

“The atrocious system of poisoning, by poisons so slow in their operation, as to make the victim appear, to ordinary observers, as if dying from a gradual decay of nature, has been practised in all ages. Those who are curious in the matter may refer to Beckmann on Secret Poisons, in his “History of Inventions,” in which he has collected several instances of it from the Greek and Roman writers. Early in the sixteenth century the crime seems to have gradually increased, till, in the seventeenth, it spread over Europe like a pestilence. It was often exercised by pretended witches and sorcerers, and finally became a branch of education amongst all who laid any claim to magical and supernatural arts. In the twenty-first year of Henry VIII. an act was passed, rendering it high-treason: those found guilty of it, were to be boiled to death.”

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“But it was in Italy that poisoning was most prevalent. From a very early period, it seems to have been looked upon in that country as a perfectly justifiable means of getting rid of an enemy. The Italians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries poisoned their opponents with as little compunction as an Englishman of the present day brings an action at law against any one who has done him an injury. The writings of contemporary authors inform us that, when La Spara and La Tophania carried on their infernal trade, ladies put poison bottles on their dressing-tables as openly, and used them with as little scruple upon others, as modern dames use Eau de Cologne or lavender-water upon themselves. So powerful is the influence of fashion, it can even cause murder to be regarded as a venial peccadillo.”

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“In process of time, poison vending became a profitable trade. Eleven years after this period, it was carried on at Rome to such an extent that the sluggish government was roused to interference. Beckmann, in his “History of Inventions,” and Lebret, in his “Magazin zum Gebrauche der Staaten Kirche Geschichte,” or Magazine of Materials for a History of a State Church, relates that, in the year 1659, it was made known to Pope Alexander VII. that great numbers of young women had avowed in the confessional that they had poisoned their husbands with slow poisons. The Catholic clergy, who in general hold the secrets of the confessional so sacred, were shocked and alarmed at the extraordinary prevalence of the crime.”

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“The corrupt Government of the day, although it could wink at the atrocities of a wealthy and influential courtier, like Penautier, was scandalised to see the crime spreading among the people. Disgrace was, in fact, entailed, in the eyes of Europe, upon the name of Frenchman. Louis XIV, to put a stop to the evil, instituted what was called the Chambre Ardente, or Burning Chamber, with extensive powers, for the trial and punishment of the prisoners.”

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