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Early Modern Witch Ointments and Intoxication

Fri, April 1, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Park Plaza, Floor: Fourth Floor, Tremont Room

Abstract

In this paper I examine some infamous witchcraft cases of the Jacobean period, in particular the case of the Belvoir Witches. Many of the ointments used by those branded witches are now known to have contained herbs and plant matter which produce both hallucinations and, in some cases, psychotic behaviour. I attempt to explain some of the claims made by both the witches and also by those who had imbibed their products that they were 'flying' or had seen various supernatural ‘happenings’, by analyzing the content of these potions in a retrospective historiographical way to examine the constituent parts of the products to see if it is possible to make the case that they were in fact hallucinating and/or experiencing psychotic episodes rather than simply being untruthful or overly imaginative. Examining original source documents, I seek tangible evidence that those affected were not mistaken, merely intoxicated unintentionally by these products.

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