Vuelo de brujas de Francisco de Goya

Flight of witches by Francisco de Goya

Francisco López Muñoz, professor of Pharmacology and director of the International Doctoral School of the Camilo José Cela University and full academician of the Royal European Academy of Doctors-Barcelona 1914 (RAED), has published together with Francisco Pérez Fernández, professor of Psychology Criminal, Anthropology and Criminal Sociology of the University Camilo José Cela the study “Las brujas y sus calderos: ¿adoradoras del diablo o drogodependientes?” (The witches and their cauldrons: worshipers of the devil or drug addicts?”). The article was first published in the Spanish edition of the specialised website “The Conversation”.

Capricho nº 68, Francisco Goya y Lucientes

Capricho nº 68, Francisco Goya and Lucientes

“Medieval stereotypes about witches made them a figure with a strong folkloric root that populated local legends throughout Europe, almost always from a negative point of view, saturated with topics and scarcely realistic -the authors begin their study-. Among these topics we can mention the signing of diabolic pacts with corporal marking (stigmata diaboli), the periodic assistance to covens to reverence the devil, in the form of a goat, and celebrate in community, through dances, banquets and sexual orgies, the ability to attend the meetings flying on brooms or barrels, metamorphosed into animals or on the backs of beasts, the practice of anthropophagy, especially children…”.

López Muñoz and Pérez Fernández reveal that what was hidden behind all these rites and gave them a magical meaning is no other that psychotropic substances that were used in their rituals, most easily reached thanks to common plants. “Among the herbs that were used in the cooking of some of those considered witches there are the plants of the Solanaceae family, endowed with psychotropic and hallucinogenic properties, such as henbane, belladonna, mandrake, jimson and hellebore, plus of other species, such as verbena or opium”.

These untreations were applied, among other parts, in the genital region and its effects were almost immediate, as the hallucinogenic active ingredients were rapidly absorbed through the vaginal mucosa, causing hallucinations (feeling of air transport, sexual fantasies…). Then, a deep dream ensued, in which what was dreamed, upon awakening, was confused with reality, explain the authors. Among the effects of henbane is to induce, thanks to its richness in alkaloids, such as hyoscyamine and scopolamine, a strange sensation of lightness and weightlessness, which can explain the vivid certainty of being flying.


Sábado de brujas en el monte Brocken Michael Herr

Witches’ Sabbath on Mount Brocken Michael Herr