Ecstasies of Darkness at Wynd Museum, London

Ecstasies of Darkness, the history of Witches Ointment
Raymond Salvatore Harmon
Oct 25th 2016 7pm

The shapeshifting narrative of the use of medical ointments in the history of Europe stands as a parable for today’s war on drugs and the societal suppression of women’s rights. Raymond Salvatore Harmon explores the history of ointments and unguents used in folk medicine from the late Greco-Roman period to the modern day via the historic documentation surrounding this ancient form of drug use. From its early shamanistic role in Europe, through its common use in post Roman times, to its survival in contemporary witchcraft practices Harmon traces the outline of ointments intended to transform, to transfix, and to transport the user.

From wild drug orgies to common medical treatments the witches ointment is a little understood and yet fascinating barometer of the cultural acceptance and disapproval of the use of certain drugs throughout history. Harmon outlines the specific herbs used, their active chemical components, and the forms of preparation required, cutting through the superstition to the marrow of actual practical use throughout the past two millennia.


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