So THIS is why witches smile so much!

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This week I heard, for the first time, the origin of the iconic witch-on-a-broomstick image – and it’s AWESOME!

Halloween background with witch flying in the skyI have often wondered what the whole broom thing was about. I idly mused that it might be a phallic thing. Then I’d dismiss that, assuming that my brain was going off trying to find sex at the bottom of everything –  #typicaltherapist…

But hurrah for the radio! I caught a snippet of an interview on NewstalkFM where a guy was talking about witches, broomsticks and female masturbation. I missed most of it but my interest was piqued, naturally, so I decided I’d try the Google machine. It didn’t take much to find a few pieces written on this topic. Those witches – what amazing women, and what fun they had! When they weren’t being shunned, mistreated and murdered for being, well, women.

Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ rolling –  or riding, or whatever…

From our modern viewpoint, female drug use and sexual pleasure are not quite so shocking as in the middle ages. Although it could be argued (and I do argue it, all the time) that people still seem to have enormous difficulty with women enjoying sex as much as men. Dare I say even more? The female arousal experience is one I’d love for men to experience – oh yes guys, you are missing out.  Apparently though, we all have similar orgasms – apart from ours being longer (a lot longer, but it’s not a competition so I won’t go on about it. But if it were, we’d win, just saying).

But I digress…

In enlightened and civilised circles, female enjoyment of sexuality is now seen as liberating. But witches were “invented” at a time when a woman choosing to do what she wished with her own body or mind was so unthinkable as to be synonymous with the devil himself. This might have echoes of a more recent discussion we had here in Ireland. Sometimes, OK often, I shudder at how little has changed.

In the “olden days” as we well know, women were tortured and killed because they dared to explore such personal liberties. And as we also well know, that still happens, although not here thankfully. Not in the literal sense at least.

The Science Bit (NSFW)

“Double, double toil and trouble
Fire burn and cauldron bubble” – Macbeth IV, i

You might be wondering – what has this has got to do with broom sticks?

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Well, it turns out that the historical depiction of witches riding broomsticks has its origins in hallucinogenic plant pharmacology.  Shakespeare knew this, but the indigenous knowledge predates him.

Hallucinogenic compounds called tropane alkaloids are produced by several plants:

  • Atropa belladonna (deadly nightshade)
  • Hyoscyamus niger (henbane)
  •  Mandragora officinarum (mandrake)
  • Datura stramonium (jimsonweed).

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You’ll have heard of some of these and their effects. During the Middle Ages, parts of these plants were used to make erm… ointments… for witchcraft, sorcery and other nefarious activities. Somewhere in their evolution, these crafty ladies discovered that these ointments could be absorbed through the armpits or via the mucous membranes of the anus or vagina – also bypassing intestinal discomfort which might y’know, ruin the mood.

And just how did they apply this ointment?

According to Mann, the earliest clue comes from the case of Lady Alice Kyteler (1324):

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“In rifleing the closet of the ladie, they found a pipe of oyntment, wherewith she greased a staffe, upon which she ambled and galloped through thick and thin.”

And from the 15th century records of Jordanes de Bergamo:

“But the vulgar believe, and the witches confess, that on certain days or nights they anoint a staff and ride on it to the appointed place or anoint themselves under the arms and in other hairy places.”

Other hairy places. Isn’t that brilliant?! Ann Summers eat your heart out.
And the flying? Well, they were high!!
So there you have it. All my favourite boxes ticked – a drop of drugs education, a sprinkling of sex education and dollop of female liberation all in the one post. No wonder witches are smilers.
Happy Halloween!! #wink
Now, hmm….does that floor need sweeping?

Have you been hurt by an addicted parent?

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There’s a “syndrome” called ACOA – are you familiar with it? It means Adult Child of Alcoholic, or, as experience has taught me, Adult (or teen) Child of any Addict.

I came across it years ago, before I trained actually. Before I really understood what alcoholism was, or how common it is. I was lucky, I know.  Since then I’ve learned how the idea of ACOA as a collection of “habits” really helps to explain a lot of the thought patterns and behaviours that thousands of adults experience and struggle with every day – every hour maybe. And the people who love them struggle too.

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Is Suicide Selfish?

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Some people woke up this morning feeling dark, empty, hopeless. Maybe they didn’t sleep, again. They feel desperate, crazy even, from lack of sleep. Not being able to think straight, not even knowing that they’re not thinking straight. Some people today can see no value, no point in being alive. There is no joy, not even peace. A quiet mind would be enough. But how to get that…

 

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We’re all gone Mango Mad!

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I was talking my niece who lives in Australia last week. We whatsapp regularly which is great, but we have only small windows during which we’re both awake and alert enough to be super witty and entertain each other – or indeed support each other as the need arises. (We’re only 8 years apart for anyone who might be concerned I’m leaning on a child for my entertainment and emotional needs!)

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A mum’s letter to her sons: Don’t settle for consent

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I have a friend – well, I know and admire a woman who might yet be a friend –  and this morning I woke to find an email from her in my inbox, with a recording attached. She’s a journalist and normally an email from her means she’s writing a piece and is interested in my professional opinion on the topic. We’ve been back and forth-ing for a couple of years and, as you do, we’ve been rearranging the boundaries a little more each time.

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Happy International Womens’ Day!

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Yay us – what a year! A lot has happened this year. A lot of it really, really terrible. We’ve talked about Weinstein, #MeToo, Rape Culture, Porn, Women and the church, our own entertainment industry and its grim history of sexual misconduct.  Our next challenges are to respectfully debate Repeal the 8th, to continue to #changetheconversation, to keep up the momentum of reform for ourselves, our partners, our children. It’s clear that terrible things have happened.

But on the other hand:

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