Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

Magical flying is featured in stories about fairies, wizards, and witches, but differently in each case. Fairies, who in authentic folklore are never imagined as winged, were generally thought of as sweeping along in the wind by their innate power, but are sometimes said to utter the magic words ‘Horse and Hattock!', to need a magic cap, or to ride on straws, sticks, or plant-stems. Wizards, such as Jack o'Kent, achieve flight simply by forcing the Devil to carry them on his back, for the point of such tales is to show the hero domineering over evil beings. But witches, both in legend and in real-life trials, were thought to fly by sitting on some household object such as a broom, pitchfork, hurdle, or pig-trough, having smeared it (or themselves) with magic ointment. According to Francis Bacon's Silva Sylvarum (1608), it was made from the fat of children's corpses, mixed with the juices of sleep-inducing plants, ‘Hen-Bane, Hemlock, Mandrake, Moonshade (or rather Nightshade), Tobacco, Opium, Poplar-leaves, etc.’ There are many such recipes; all include at least one highly poisonous, soporific, and hallucinogenic plant. It has been repeatedly noted by commentators that these ingredients, absorbed through the skin, could cause hallucinations.

Reference entries