Thursday, November 29, 2012

Stimulant Powder: Tricks from “Mageia Sexualis.”

A while back, I was re-reading Mageia Sexualis by Paschal Beverly Randolph and Maria de Naglowska. Actually, on that matter I have a comment to make. I failed, upon my first series of consultations with the work, to realize that Maria Naglowska had inserted some of her own work into the text. Donald Traxler has recently translated three of her works and re-translated “Sexual Magic,” along with apparently expanding upon where she influenced the text. My copy is by Robert North (RIP, good sir) and I'll need to take a look at Mr. Traxler's work to get a better handle on what material is clearly hers.

Two steps forward, one step back. I guess that's to be expected.

Regardless, upon my re-reading of material, I stumbled upon something I'd missed. The section in question is entitled “Stimulant Powder,” and it's an altered variant of a Flying Ointment recipe. Regardless of whether the source is Ms. Naglowska or Paschal (I lean towards the later, due to the contents of the powder), it is very, very interesting.

The section occurs on pages 103-104 of Robert North's translation of the book. I've removed the dosages, but anyone interested is encouraged to consult the work. I can only assume it also appears in Mr. Traxler's newer translation. I have removed the dosages indicated in the text just to be careful, as the recipe is either somewhat safe (and presently very illegal) or possibly dangerous (but legal to make in the right circumstances).

The Powder
The stimulant powder that we use for our magical experiences is not new. One finds it in many receipts of the middle ages. The sorcerers of that era used it for traveling to the festivals of the Sabbat, among other things.

Accordingly, we have made some modifications, for the following reasons:
The stimulant powder was prepared in the middle ages by the maceration of plants in human fat. This bizarre procedure was motivated by the knowledge that various substances will more effectively penetrate the pores of the operator if the conductor that is on his skin is identical to that which is found under his skin.

Good results can be obtained, however, with the fat extracted from the sweat of the experimenter.

But in the face of the numerous difficulties of this preparation, we have replaced human fat with animal fat. First of all, we leave it in heavy cooking salt and then we wash it in cold, running water. We repeat this process and bath five times and then we plunge the fat into a hot bath. This bath must last for six hours.”

It continues:
“To the fat thus previously treated, we add the following:
Hashish, Henbane, Pommes d' epis, Belladonna, Hemp, Garlic, Sunflower Seeds, Kalmus, Poppy Flowers, Flakes of Wheat.”

I have no idea what “Pommes d'Epis” is supposed to be, but I have some colorful theories. Try as I might, I cannot find a reference point for that specific French word choice.

The inclusion of hashish is similar to its use in the Fluid Condensers cited in the text.

Upon consulting Mr. Harold Roth, it became clear that this recipe shares a more-than-passing resemblance with the one given in P-V Piobb's Formulaire de Haute Magie. Referred to as the Onguent Infernal, it contains: 
“human fat (replaceable by lard), superior hashish, marijuana flowers, poppy flowers (he informs me that these are Papaver Rhoeas), powdered hellebore root, and crushed sunflower seed.”
The similarity between the two recipes raises the question of whether the inclusion of “poppy flowers” refers to the flowers of Papaver Rhoeas or Pavaper Somniferum? The flowers of P. Rhoeas include alkaloids which are sedatives. However, the flowers of P. Somniferum contain codeine. The antagonism between Tropane alkaloids and their potential toxicity and certain opiates, such as codeine, is well-known and was the basis of Twilight Sleep. The two chemical families are somewhat more safe to use together, which would allow for the recipe in Mageia Sexualis to be used safely and is less likely to result in the death of the individual. There is no evidence that the alkaloids in P. Rhoeas act similarly, but that does not mean that they do not do so. It simply means that on that matter, I can only wonder.

Mr. Roth also noted that the Wheat Flakes – used to transform the Onguent into a Powder – also have a basis which we can trace backward in time. Francis Bacon, in fact, mentions wheat flakes being used in the construction of the flying ointment. Incidentally, I had just read the section of Sylva Sylvarum in which Bacon discusses the ointment. It is interesting and worth quoting:

And therefore, as diverse wise judges have prescribed, and cautioned, men may not too rashly believe, the confessions of witches, nor yet the evidence against them. For the witches themselves are imaginative, and believe oft-times, they do that, which they do not: And people are credulous in that point and ready to impute accidents, and natural operations, to witchcraft. It is worthy of observing that, both in ancient, and late times; (as in Thessalian witches, and the Meetings of Witches that have been recorded by so many late confessions;) the great Wonders which they tell, of carrying in the Aire; transforming themselves into other Bodies; & etc. are still reported to be wrought, not by Incantations, or Ceremonies; But by ointments, and Anointing themselves all over. This may justly move a Man to think that these Fables are the Effects of Imagination: for it is certain, that Ointments do all (if they be laid on any thing thicke,) by Stopping of the Pores, … and send them to the Head extremely. And for the particular Ingredients of those Magical Ointments, it is like they are Opiate and Soporiferous. For Anointing of the Fore-head­, Neck, Feet, Back-Bone, we know is used for Procuring the Dead Sleeps: and if any man say, that this effect would be better done by Inward Potions; answer may be made, that the medicines which go into the Ointments are so strong, that if they were used inwards they would kill those that use them: and therefore they work protently, though outwards.”*

Brand, in his Popular Antiquities of Great Britain, quotes Bacon on the nature of what was inside the ointment: 
“the ointment that witches use is reported to be made of the fat of children digged out of their graves; of the juices of smallage, wolfbane, and cinquefoil, mingled with the meal of fine wheat; but I suppose the soporiferous medicines are likest to do it, which are henbane, hemlock, mandrake, moonshade, or rather nightshade, tobacco, opium, saffron, poplar-leaves, &c.”

The “meal of fine wheat” that Bacon refers to is most likely the source the Wheat-flakes called for in the recipe in Mageia Sexualis. I would like to see the entire essay that the above recipe comes from, but I have not yet been able to track the entire thing down.

I still have questions, though. Such as:
If the recipe in Mageia Sexualis is from Paschal – and the inclusion of hashish in it may very will indicate that it is – where did he come across it?

There is a more-than-passing resemblance between Bacon's comments on the Materia Medica used in the Onguent and the recipe in Mageia Sexualis, which would suggest that Bacon may be the originator with either PBR or Maria Naglowska filling in the blanks. If such is the case, the the “poppy flowers” are more than likely to be Papaver Somniferum rather than P. Rhoeas, however we can't discount the similarity between the Onguent Infernal and it's inclusion of P. Rhoeas just yet.

What precisely is a “Pommes d'Epis”? It's very similar to the French term for the apple: “Pomme d'Apis,” but why not simply translate the term? Did Robert North have a moment of laziness, or was he also unsure? I'll have to cross-reference the translations between his version and Mr. Traxler's version to see if there are any differences, particularly in the case of the “Pommes d'Epis.”

Overall, however, the Stimulant Powder certainly presents one of the most interesting alterations of the flying ointment I've come across so far, and if we take “poppy flowers” to suggest Papaver Somniferum then the recipe is (somewhat) less dangerous than some of the other ones that I've seen float around, particularly the two directions found in Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft.**

Unfortunately Papaver Somniferum and it's opiates (like Codeine) remain controlled substances in the US. Papaver Rhoeas is not, however we can't trust that it will act as an antagonist against the hefty inclusion of Tropane alkaloid containing plants.

* [Swearing deleted]... that was a lot of commas.
** 'Eh. It's all relative to the dosages, plants, etc.


Harold Roth said...

Neat article! The reason why I believe that the Piobb recipe calls for P. rhoeas is because it uses the word "coquelicot." This means corn poppy, i.e., P. rhoeas:
I think there's a possibility that whatever is in those flowers could interact with other items in the recipe, but I don't know. I haven't seen much written on that plant.

Re the wheat meal, I was wondering if, in addition to acting like a base that allows for a more even distribution of the potent ingredients, whether the fat that is in the wheat meal helps in absorption of some of the ingredients. Re fat, from what I know about pharmacy formulas of the 19th C, washing fat was a typical task. Modern-day lard from the store would be clean. That's weird about the sweat. But it made me think of jojoba as another possibility. It's supposed to be the most like human fat of the oils. And it can be made solid.

Gordon said...

Well, you probably found pomme d'api... which appears to be an old apple varietal that has apocryphal links to the Peloponnese.

However, French has never had the same level of linguistic drift as English so perhaps keep that in the 'maybe' pile.

FWIW, mini-épis de maïs is baby corn in French... which leads me to speculate that épis is a kind of acorn or seedpod. (Little "things" of corn.) It's not in my Hachette as a standalone word.

Pomme d'Epis may well be the contents of this acorn/seedpod/"thing".

Don't know if that gets you any closer.

Bonus chaos factoid: "pomme de discorde" is 'bone of contention' in Frog... which amusingly recalls to Discordia and her "kallisti" apple.

Gordon said...

(Never is a strong word. French has drifted LESS than English in the last 500 years.)

Brother Christopher said...

I am totally reaching here, but perhaps pomme d'epis is the author (whoever that maybe) suggesting thornapple aka datura

Jack Faust said...

@Harold: I think the possibility of interaction is entirely plausible. I suppose the only way to be sure is to figure out a low dosage test... Which unfortunately, makes me nervous. LOL. Given the heavy-duty combinations we see above, until one can be certain with regards to an interaction, the Opium poppy seems a better default, though. Albeit with it's own issues.

Re: Even distribution via wheat: yes, I think that's very likely and a bonus element.

@Gordon: Hrm...

@Bro. Chris: Datura was suggested by someone else, and I consider it a definite possibility. In fact, as a new world inclusion it would be very, very nice, considering the other ingredients...