Witches’ weeds—Datura plants are often mentioned along with henbane…

[Witches’ weeds—Datura plants are often mentioned along with henbane, belladonna, mandrake and nightshade as plants used by witches for the sensation of flight and other things. All of those plants are closely related—and as closely related to the potato. While it appears the Datura (and Brugmansia) species are almost entirely American, and would have been unavailable before the fifteenth century in Europe, Datura metel was apparently known in Eurasia before Columbus, possibly since the first millennium.1

We worry about people taking Datura as a way to find God/god(s). Taking Datura is especially dangerous and unpleasant. That’s an understatement. Not referring specifically to Datura, but particulalry relevant to Datura, here’s part of what you might expect from a bad trip (according to Wikipedia):]

“… states of unrelieved terror.”

[That, and the oh-God-let-me/don’t-let-me-die physical effects including death, are worth contemplating beforehand. We think anybody thinking they’d like to meet the Devil has the wrong idea of the Devil. That probably explains why adolescents toy with Devil fantasies—innocence, ignorance and impulsiveness. Word to adolescents toying with Devil fantasies – you have to ask yourself why adults don’t do certain risky things and then consider it might be wise to wait and find out why not rather than rushing into it. You’re sure not the first try to (blank) and then (blank) with some (blank) and then (blank). Wait six years and then find out why you shouldn’t.]

Also from Wikipedia:

“All parts of Datura plants contain dangerous levels of poison and may be fatal if ingested by humans and other animals, including livestock and pets. In some places it is prohibited to buy, sell or cultivate Datura plants.”

Pasted from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datura_inoxia>

“Datura inoxia, like other Datura species, contains the highly toxic alkaloids atropine, hyoscine (scopolamine), and hyoscyamine. The Aztecs called the plant toloatzin, and used it long before the Spanish conquest of Mexico for many therapeutic purposes, such as poultices for wounds where it acts as an anodyne. Although the Aztecs warned against madness and “various and vain imaginings”, many Native Americans have used the plant as an entheogen for hallucinations and rites of passage. The alkaloids of these plants are very similar to those of mandrake, deadly nightshade, and henbane, which are also highly poisonous plants used cautiously for effective pain relief in antiquity.

Datura intoxication typically produces a complete inability to differentiate reality from fantasy (delirium, as contrasted to hallucination); hyperthermia [rise in body temperature]; tachycardia [fast heart rate]; bizarre, and possibly violent behavior; and severe mydriasis [pupil dilation] with resultant painful photophobia that can last several days. Pronounced amnesia is another commonly reported effect. There can easily be a 5:1 variation in toxins from plant to plant, and a given plant’s toxicity depends on its age, where it is growing, and local weather conditions. These wide variations make Datura exceptionally hazardous to use as a drug. In traditional cultures, users needed to have a great deal of experience and detailed plant knowledge so that no harm resulted from using it. Such knowledge is not widely available in modern cultures, so many unfortunate incidents result from ingesting Datura. In the 1990s and 2000s, the United States media contained stories of adolescents and young adults dying or becoming seriously ill from intentionally ingesting Datura.”

Pasted from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datura_inoxia>

“All Datura plants contain tropane alkaloids such as scopolamine, hyoscyamine, and atropine, primarily in their seeds and flowers. Because of the presence of these substances, Datura has been used for centuries in some cultures as a poison. There can be a 5:1 toxin variation between plants, and a given plant’s toxicity depends on its age, where it is growing, and the local weather conditions. These variations makes Datura exceptionally hazardous as a drug.

In traditional cultures, a great deal of experience with and detailed knowledge of Datura was critical to minimize harm. Many tragic incidents result from modern users ingesting Datura. For example, in the 1990s and 2000s, the United States media contained stories of adolescents and young adults dying or becoming seriously ill from intentionally ingesting Datura. There are also several reports in the medical literature of deaths from D. stramonium and D. ferox intoxication. Children are especially vulnerable to atropine poisoning.”

Pasted from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datura#Toxicity>

[Having said all that, we’re not informed about any actual history of witches using Daturas or any other plants to gain the sensation of flying. Since there’s a Wikipedia page on flying ointments, and since the ingredients list is impressive enough that it must do something appropriate, we don’t doubt the stories and we expect someone’s tried it, but we don’t know who. Let us know, but for the love of God, don’t come knocking on our windows.]

Footnotes
  1. Geeta, R., and Waleed Gharaibeh. “Historical Evidence for a Pre-Columbian Presence of Datura in the Old World and Implications for a First Millennium Transfer from the New World.” Journal of Biosciences 32.S3 (2007): 1227-244. Web. []

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