Flying Ointment (or flying oil as we say in the south) has gotten a bad name. It’s unclear how many people have actually been poisoned and how much is urban legend but we have all heard cautionary tales of what might happen to you if you go down the witchy way 🙂 making true flying ointments hard to come find.
When creating my regular flying oil I made sure that every ingredient was non-toxic and had therapeutic benefits before releasing it on the store. Though I had made a more traditional ointment with mandrake I was very hesitant to share it for obvious reasons.
Mandrake is poison, just as peyote, alcohol, or cigarettes are. The altered state created by mandrake is your body responding to something unnatural to prevent you from consuming more. I am very direct about this because I believe it is critical to understand what you are dealing with so that there are no misunderstandings.
That being said mandrake need not be the Big Bad if handled responsibly. If you look back throughout history mandrake has been used for anything from surgery to sex magic. In Wicca mandrake is traditional this time of year for a variety of reasons and I particularly find it helpful in spirit contact. You are bright witches and I trust you to be responsible and smart with the tools available to us.
The success of Ancestor Rituals ultimately comes down to you. You can have the greatest oil, the most powerful crystals and the most wonderful incenses and candles; if you are not able to let your mind relax fully, however, you will never connect with the spirit world (also known as the death current). Flying ointments help our mind enter the meditative state necessary to really connect but the art of creating them is being lost. That is why I wanted to share this overview with you. Even if you never make it, isn’t it neat to learn?
The first thing you want to think of when you make a flying ointment is the form you want it to be in. More traditional ointments are just that, a gooey ointment. This consistency is easy to apply but it can be messy and generally requires the use of animal products. I like to do a salve with an organic beeswax and shea butter to make it creamy but with a good shelf life, a self-contained neatness (ointments can melt and leak out of their container only to congeal in a yucky mess in inconvenient places), and avoid animal rights issues. I’m sure that various petroleum bases could also provide that ointment consistency but I try to use products that are natural when you consider your skin is an organ that absorbs whatever you rub on it into your body. This tutorial will be for the salve format but I’m sure you could find youtube videos for ointment making and just transfer that basics over.
The second consideration would be the dominant powerhouse – what are you delivering. This is a mandrake salve so that’s where we want to start 🙂 The root is what you want to use and it does not smell great. It reminds me of the psychedelic mushrooms we had back in college. That scent is not what you to predominate so when I work with the mandrake root I want to include ingredients right off the bat to balance the harshness. Any root should be heated with water or oil to extract their plant benefits and in this case I want to heat the mandrake root with other roots or herbs in a fractionated coconut oil to infuse it with alkaloids and other phytochemicals that encourage meditation or at least a more pleasant smell.
To effectively get the most of an herb, root or plant you want to rough it up a little before heating it. This can be squeezing leaves in your hand, using a mortar and pestle or grinding it with a coffee grinder. I use a couple of grinders dedicated to specific types of difficult ingredients. Grinding a root exposes more of the surface area so that the planty goodness is more easily absorbed into the oil. I use the same technique for incense as well – powder or fine grind gives a better burn.
Once the herbs have simmered for at least 45 minutes strain the oil. Throw the excess plant material in an outdoor area where it can fertilize the earth. Once you are working with the strained oil you want to add your plant butter (shea or mango) and once that is fully blended, add your wax. Putting a spoon that was dipped in the moisture to the side for a few minutes will show you when you have added enough wax to cool at the consistency you desire.
When you feel comfortable with wax levels I add essential oils and preservatives. This may seem counter intuitive but both are very sensitive to heat and you don’t want them exposed to higher temperatures any longer than necessary. Overheating a preservative such as sorbic acid will burn this lesson into your mind; the smoke and smell will never let you forget to keep it at a very low temperature. On a side note for salves I like to use two preservatives, rosemary extract to prevent oxidation and sorbic acid to prevent microbial growth. Fractionated coconut oil is very stable and has a long shelf life and many of the essential oils are natural antimicrobials but you don’t want to take any chances. Did I mention that your skin is your body’s largest organ? Also this is not a fast process. Make sure that the hours you spend create as high quality a product as possible.
Transfering the salve to containers can be tricky. Be careful because a spill or splash of hot waxy oils can cause a nasty burn. It’s also very messy so I like to cover my area with parchment paper.
Depending on the size of the containers that you are distributing the ointment into a pipette can be your best friend. Large containers may result in the wax hardening inside the pipette so you’ll want to use this for smaller containers but this approach can reduce spillage and burns.
After portioning out the ointment try to create a little space between your containers for even cool down. As soon as you see a solid layer formed on the top cap your ointment to protect it from contamination. When the tubs are sufficiently cool you can wipe down all the containers and label them – as in any practice or ritual you’ll want to note the date.