Witch, Beware: The Dangers of Flying Ointments

Witch, Beware: The Dangers of Flying Ointments January 25, 2019

Who doesn’t want to experience a taste of ecstatic witchery? While there are many plant spirits willing to take us on a fabulous astral broom ride, there are serious risks of purchasing prepared flying ointments. The dangers include not knowing what you are purchasing, having a bad trip, allergic reactions and getting ripped off. There’s no need to spend big bucks to take your broom riding to new heights. Plants like mugwort and yarrow offer usually safe, but powerful effects. 

She definitely looks like she’s having a bad trip. Perhaps it was the flying ointment. Canstock photo.

Flying ointments are so trendy these days. It seems like I see a new advertisement for one daily. I also get asked about their use. The availability of flying ointments online is something that deeply troubles my witch’s soul. While I’m certain there are many ethical retailers out there, I’m equally sure there are just as many who are selling products that aren’t what they seem.

Purchasing a Flying Ointment

The lure of flying ointments to expand our understanding of the mysteries of witchcraft is very real, just like the dangers. If you are considered purchasing such a preparation, here are some questions to ask the seller:

  • How was the product prepared? You want products prepared in a clean, magickally charged environment. Ask about the purity of the product.
  • Are the ingredients of high quality? Wild harvested sounds great, but the quality and accuracy of plants from the wild is subject to the expertise of the person doing the picking. In addition, plant species vary by region, influencing what spiritual properties they can have. These differences can be subtle or profound. Sage is an excellent example. The white ceremonial variety is indigenous to the south western U.S., so if a retailer is claiming to have wild harvested this exact variety in northern New England, it’s probably not. Organic crops are usually best, but there’s also no way to guarantee the veracity of such claims, unless the seller supplies the names of their suppliers. It’s the same for ingredients that sellers claim to have grown themselves. There’s absolutely no guarantee that the products listed are actually in the flying ointment.
  • How were the plant spirits activated? Evoking the magickal properties of plants is necessary when preparing them for witchery, including flying potions. Yes, mandrake will still have some effects without being summoned as a spirit into a preparation, but plant spirits can be uncooperative and unhappy if they aren’t treated properly both in mundane and magickal ways. This is a similar problem to the situation with the selling of crystals. There’s a difference between crafting an herbal product and a magickal one.
  • What is the recommended method for using the flying ointment? The minimum instructions should include the need to test a very small amount on the inside of the wrist before hopping on your broom. If no sensitivities occur from this test, then gradually increase the dose. Never consume, never put on any mucous membranes, your private bits, or someplace you can’t easily wash it off if you have an adverse reaction.
  • What can a user expect? If I was to spend money on a prepared flying ointment, I would want specific indications based on the ingredients. There should be a description of how each botanical will behave and how they work in synergy.
  • What parts of the botanical were used? Different parts of plants have different properties. For example, with mandrake the root is used. The product should say this.
  • What are the amounts of each botanical used? This can be vague in order to protect the seller’s recipe, but the descending order from greatest to least amount should be provided. In fact, it’s the law that ingredients are listed this way. Since flying potions, and many other magickal botanical preparations, are sold by “on the fly” retailers, they don’t have to (and often don’t bother) to follow basic regulations like this, or have a proper preparation area. You don’t know how much of that “belladonna” is in there, nor what else could have been added.
  • What fixatives were used? Oil olive, beeswax, coconut oil, shea butter and other products are used to create the base for the ointment. You want these to be high-quality as well.

Those are some of the questions I recommend asking before purchasing a prepared flying ointment. If you’ve already got one on hand, do the wrist test to check for sensitivities.

Avoid products just because they sound cool. While having a flying ointment with nightshade in it might give you witch points on social media, when it comes right down to it there are safer botanicals that will get you flying even higher. Opoponax might sound super-witchy, but this resin can consist of a variety of common plants or be a type of sweet myrrh.

Using a Flying Ointment

A flying ointment with entheogenic properties can help open the path to altered states of consciousness. The experience will vary based on the ingredients and the individual. If you passed your self-check for sensitivity, the next step is to try a slightly larger dose without going into full trance. Like taking it for a test ride. Honestly, puking up my guts during a trance isn’t my idea of expanding consciousness. Mandrake, belladonna, datura, aconite, foxglove and other poisonous pretties can have nasty effects, including death and disability. Liver failure, respiratory damage and brain trauma can all occur. Even when applied only to the skin. I’ve burned my fingers on aconite a few times just by forgetting to put on super heavy gloves before tending to her. Take it easy.

You can completely forego applying them topically and instead release the plant spirits by gently melting the product. Proceed with caution, though, inhaling certain botanicals can cause respiratory damage. Use just a tiny amount to experiment. Open a window.

The best approach for novices to trance botanicals is to take your flight under the supervision of an experienced practitioner. If this isn’t an option for you, have someone with you who isn’t flying high, at least until you’re comfortable with the effects both astral and physiological. If you’re flying solo, let someone know what you are doing and arrange a check-in time for after.

Do your research so you know the likely type of flight you’ll be taking. Hallucinogens, deleriants and psychedelics all have different effects. A nightshade trip is not the same as a mandrake one. If you’re determined to go on either, be careful. There are gentler ways to have powerful transcendent experiences, such as this deathwalking oil.

Applying the ointment should be done following the sellers recommendations. In general, pulse points on the wrist, inside elbows, feet, and behind the knees are good locations. Be in a safe environment. Extinguish candles and incense before you fly. Stay warm and hydrated. Any quality product will come with all these instructions and more. There’s a lot that goes into activating the ointment with your energetic field and these points that’s far beyond the scope of this article. In my courses, I teach how techniques for safely using poisonous pretties and entheogens, from drawing the moon into them for potent activation to self-care afterwards. I really feel that this is how these botanicals should be approached, with detailed instructions and support. There’s too many risks for flying ointments to be casually sold, unless they don’t actually contain the ingredients listed.

Starting on the Trance Path

I get how strongly the call of the poison path can be, and that buying prepared products for trance is appealing. Generally, I define the poison path as working with baneful plants that are highly toxic, but beneficial as well, such as for trance. The ingredients in commercial flying ointments often have poisonous pretties in them, at least partly because they seem so cool. However, they are very dangerous. Aconite, for example, is for the advanced practitioner only, while black poplar cones are suited to the novice. Plants have personalities: willful foxglove and saucy datura. Get to know the plant spirits that speak to you through purely energetic connections before inviting them into your spirit and body.

Truth of the matter is starting with one botanical and learning how to work with it will lead to better results. Of course, the placebo effect is real as well so even completely non-entheogenic products can be associated with profound spiritual experiences if the person using them believes it to be so. I like my botanicals to be effective, not supporting actors in a false psychodrama. To get started on the path, begin with relatively safe botanicals.

Mugwort is a common one that has a myriad of properties. Burning mugwort in a closed environment will open your third eye and get you feeling dreamy. That’s why I would never recommend it for purification. Learning how to make a decoction of mugwort, then trying different methods, from drinking it to making a psychic patch, will connect you to the plant spirit, thereby opening the gateway to stronger psychic and astral experiences. If you’ve got an allergy to ragweed, mugwort may not be for you. Always check for sensitivities.

Mugwort. Simple and powerful.

White yarrow, the tops especially, are usually safe for consuming, anointing, smoking as incense, and even bathing in. Properties include beginnings, challenges, emotions, fear, death, emotional strength, protection and witchcraft. Yarrow is also known as bloodwort for it’s ability to heal wounds. Associated energies: Lower Self, Under World, Upper World (death aspect), Higher Self (astrological magick, ceremonial workings). Note that some people with a ragweed allergy are also allergic to yarrow. Test a small patch of skin with a few drops of the potion to test for reaction.

Yarrow and ginger for an energizing healing experience

These are just two examples of powerful trance inducers that probably won’t leave you dead or disabled. Read, take courses, and practice plant spirit magick. That’s the way to having powerful trance experiences, far better than buying a risky flying ointment.

A good sign of a trustworthy botanical is detailed info like this on the proper sort of bag for the specific plant. In particular, plants shouldn’t be in clear plastic.

I often include recommendations for botanical witchery in my articles. If you have any questions about any recommendations I make, get in touch.

Connect with Keeping Her Keys on Facebook, Instagram or even Twitter. I love Pinterest, check out Keeping Her Key’s many boards on witchery.

Apply to join one of my groups: The Witches’ Realm of Hekate’s Cave.

Purchase Keeping Her Keys: An Introduction to Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft.

Botanical information is provided for educational use only.


About Cyndi
Cyndi Brannen is a witch and spiritual teacher, a trained energetic healer, psychic and herbalist. Merging together her training in shamanism, Tarot, past life work, meditation and psychology, she teaches and writes about better living through witchcraft. Keeping Her Keys: An Introduction to Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft explores Hekate from her ancient origins to modern understanding through magic and personal development is available now for pre-order from Moon Books. True Magic: Unleashing Your Inner Witch uses the magic of the elements and the three realms to activate your true witch powers and will be available later in 2019 from Moon as well. Connect with her on Facebook or at keepingherkeys.com to learn more about her teaching and writing. Cyndi lives in rural coastal Nova Scotia with her two sons where she can often be found wandering the cliffs or wild foraging plants. She lives what she teaches: fierce love, emotional courage and true magic. You can read more about the author here.

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  • Brianne Raven Wolf

    Loved this article…gave me a insight into some things I wasn’t aware of. I do harvest mugwort and yarrow from a place I know for certain is free of pesticides, and no farming is done there. I’m still drying mugwort I harvested early fall last year. Yarrow same time..and soon will be stopped from the stalks and put away. I have some mugwort that I dried almost 2 years ago by hanging the stalks upside down on the blinds in my apartment. I usually dry small batches of yarrow in paper bags…works for me anyway. I have a lot to learn about herbs..working on it! And..footnote..I’m not about to try anything from a source I don’t know…

  • JudithAnn L

    Great information, Cyndi. I myself am lured by the poisoners – but I have studied under a naturopath and master herbalist who insists her students know every plant extensively, including the plants spirit. Anybody working with plants and herbs should know what a medica materia is and how to use it and how to create their own for the plants they work with. I hit the jackpot with this teacher/mentor, because she also has up to date information about small business in complimentary alternative medicine (CAM), including regulations, accurate recording of all sourced materials, listing ingredients, etc.
    The firs rule for witches is “To Know.” It especially applies if you’re going to work with the poisoners, even more so if you consider selling or sharing them.

  • kenofken

    Flying ointments should be approached with an abundance of caution as should all entheogens/hallucinogenic tools. At the same time today’s Pagans too readily dismiss the power and utility of these tools and imply that they’re too dangerous for almost anyone to use. There are reputable, ethical and highly skilled makers and sellers of things like nightshade ointments, if you know where to find them. There are also excellent, highly trained traditional shamans who work with ayahuasca and peyote (to each their own, but for those I really do recommend having these professionals administer and guide your journey).

    The risks of these plants like belladonna is real, and it is not to be taken lightly. But those risks can be understood and mitigated. And at the end of the day, each of us has to do some honest analysis of benefit vs risk for what we are trying to achieve. Whether attained by the most malevolent alkaloids or the alternatives you list, shamanic/trance work is not “safe”. Not if you want to get any real work done. Real journey work is very often not gentle. You will find yourself confronting things within yourself and the spirit world that you wished you’d never encounter, and will never be able to unsee. Sometimes puking is the price of admission. Sometimes puking is the easiest part of the session.

    The journeys induced by compounds like flying ointments or powerful entheogens is not simply a deeper version of meditation. I often hear it said, with no basis in fact, that anyone can achieve a full-on hallucinogenic state with meditation. It’s simply false. Even to the extent some may have achieved it with meditation, 99.9% of people will never get there by that route. Nor are plants like mugwort equal substitutes. They are fine plants in their own right, but they are in no way interchangable.

    My advice to people is use the right tool for the job. Sometimes that requires the biggest, sharpest and most dangerous tool in the box. Most of the time it will not. Educate yourself widely and deeply. Don’t dose yourself with some recipe some random person posted in an online forum, don’t slug down a tea from plants you picked in the woods which you’re “pretty sure” of their identity. Use good sense and take care of yourselves and others in the work.

  • Totally agree. Thanks for your comments.

  • How do you know you’re in a witches’ home? Answer: there are plants hanging on the blinds. I have an entire wall in the kitchen that I use.