Wednesday, 22 October 2014

C & H Gluttony

As we don't have the parental control on here, we can access all the usual sites and so we can bring you up to date with the antics of C & H from the past week.  They are in order top to bottom and boy, have we missed them.

Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes

PC Rescue

BBC

A Siberian man has the march of technology to thank after fighting off a charging bear with a discarded computer, it's been reported.

The encounter occurred at a rubbish dump in a village near Tomsk in western Siberia, where both man and bear were scavenging, the Moscow Times reports. The villager was searching for metals to sell, and was charged by the animal which was looking for food. Local ranger Sergei Yelnikov says the unnamed man threw the old computer, which was the first thing that came to hand, causing the bear to flee. "The villager hardly suffered at all; he injured his hand when throwing the device at the bear," Mr Yelnikov says. According to the RT television channel, a 24-hour search found no trace of the animal.

It's not unusual for hungry bears to cross into human settlements when food is scarce, RT says. "There is not enough food for bears as the year is lean," Mr Yelinkov tellsthe TASS news agency, noting that some animals are so hungry they are resorting to cannibalism. "I know four bears that were killed by their own species in our district," he says.

Earlier this year a man was saved from a bear attack in the north-eastern Sakha Republic thanks to his mobile phone, the Moscow Times adds. The device switched itself on mid-mauling, scaring the bear away.

Oscar Wilde

IMAGE CREDIT: 
GETTY IMAGES
Today Earlier this week was the 160th anniversary of Oscar Wilde's birth. Celebrate with some of his best quips.
1. I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.
2. The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast.
3. Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.
4. It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.
5. The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself.
6. Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.
7. What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
8. A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.
9. When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is.
10. There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.
11. Work is the curse of the drinking classes.
12. Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.
13. True friends stab you in the front.
14. All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his.
15. Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.
16. There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.
17. Genius is born—not paid.
18. Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.
19. How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being?
20. A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.
21. My own business always bores me to death; I prefer other people’s.
22. The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything.
23. I like men who have a future and women who have a past.
24. There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope.
25. Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit.
And one bonus quote about Oscar Wilde! Dorothy Parker said it best in a 1927 issue of Life:
If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.
Mental Floss

Fit to Work

A formerly paralysed man has celebrated the success of a pioneering therapy with an ATOS mandated appointment at the jobcentre.
Darek Fidyka, who was paralysed from the chest down in a knife attack in 2010, can now walk using a frame and can therefore do just about any job going, according to his latest ATOS assessment.
The treatment involved transplanting nasal cells into his spinal cord, and letting them regrow nerves which directly reduces benefit payments.
The successful treatment – a world first – has been hailed as a goldmine by ATOS who insist disability benefits could soon become a thing of the past.
An ATOS spokesperson told us, “Disability benefits are the genuine claimants only, not for those lazy buggers who have had their spinal cord severed and then repaired to the extent they can walk with the frame.”
“People will point to his potentially lengthy rehabilitation programme, but I would say that’s what his evenings and weekends are for.”
“Monday to Friday, nine to five, he’s got to find a job, or a least a zero hours contract that looks like a job.”

Paralysed man walks again

Darek himself spoke of his joy at regaining some use of his legs, and how he is looking forward to his hastily arranged interview to be a postman over the Christmas period.
He told us, “I got a lovely letter from ATOS informing me that a severed spine was no longer considered a ‘disability’, and that I should start booking job interviews – which was nice.”
“I asked for something where I could at least sit down, but they told me beggars can’t choosers, and reminded me that I’ve surely got plenty of shoes that have hardly been used.”
NT

Spare a Thought

Dilbert

The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

Misheard


Pistorius gets five years
Oscar Pistorius has been sentenced to five years in prison, and will finally have the opportunity to find out what it actually sounds like when a criminal is using your toilet.
Pistorius has been given five years in jail for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, and will serve his time alongside actual burglars who are going to need the toilet with alarming regularity.
Former resident of a South African jail, Simon Williams, spoke of the experiences that are now ahead of Pistorius.
He told us, “The sound of a burglar using what you could loosely described as ‘your bathroom’ is a sound Oscar will come to know intimately during his time inside.”
“There will be absolutely no mistaking it. I still hear it in my dreams now – and the smell, of dear jesus the smell.”
“Funnily enough, a burglar in your bathroom sounds a lot like a thief, rapist or a con man in your bathroom, too.”
“I imagine he will lie awake listening to it, right next to him, wondering how he ever mistook it for the sound of his girlfriend.”
“It’s not a sound you could easily mistake for your girlfriend in the bathroom, unless she’s got a thing for prison food and poor personal hygiene?”
“He won’t have a pleasant time in there, obviously – but on the bright side, I doubt he’ll ever make the mistake of shooting another girlfriend in the exact same circumstances.”
NT

Maple Syrup

1. IT TAKES ROUGHLY 40 GALLONS OF SAP TO MAKE 1 GALLON OF MAPLE SYRUP.

What’s with the skewered conversion rate? Fresh sap has a very low sugar content, yet high-quality maple syrup is composed, at minimum, of 66 percent sugar. Also, consider this: Most trees only yield 5 to 15 gallons of sap per season. Now that’s one labor-intensive liquid!

2. WHAT’S FAKE MAPLE SYRUP MADE WITH? YOU MIGHT NOT WANNA KNOW.  

Brands like Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth use such ingredients as high fructose corn syrup, cellulose gum, and caramel coloring to create an inexpensive substance which only somewhat resembles the genuine article. Thus, their bottles are usually labeled “original,” “breakfast,” or “pancake” syrup. 

3. THERE’S AN INTERNATIONAL MAPLE SYRUP INSTITUTE.

Founded in 1975, the organization works “to promote and protect pure maple syrup and other maple syrup products.” Among other things, the IMSI is working to develop universal standards for syrup quality and consistency. Naturally, their meetings often include memorable breakfast buffets and, sometimes, this guy: 

4. IT COMES IN SEVERAL COLOR-BASED GRADES.

Canada’s system includes four hue-related categories: Extra Light (AA), Light (A), Medium (B), #2 Amber (C), and #3 Dark (D). Meanwhile, in the U.S., Grade A syrup is lighter in color while the Grade B variety is considerably darker and used largely for baking. However, Vermont has its own rubric which breaks down into the following brackets: “Golden Color with Delicate Taste,” “Amber Color with Rich Taste,” “Dark with Robust Taste,” and “Very Dark with Strong Taste.”

5. TODAY, ABOUT 80 PERCENT OF THE WORLD’S SUPPLY COMES FROM CANADA.

American producers once dominated this industry, but the Great White North’s since taken control: Quebec alone generates two-thirds of the globe’s syrup.

6. IN KOREA, SAP IS USUALLY PREFERRED TO SYRUP.

The gorosoe, or “tree good for the bones,” is a Korean maple that’s been tapped by southern villagers since at least the ninth century. Locals consume its sap in huge quantities; drinking over 5 gallons in one sitting is a common practice.

7. SAP-GATHERING PUMPS HAVE REPLACED TRADITIONAL TAPS AND BUCKETS THROUGHOUT NORTH AMERICA.


“A vast number of maple operations are using tubing and vacuum sap collection,” says the Proctor Maple Research Center’s Dr. Abby van den Berg, who’s been developing a new suction-based method that targets saplings as opposed to fully-grown trees for harvesters with limited acreage.  

8. $18 MILLION WORTH WAS RECENTLY STOLEN FROM QUEBEC.

Just as OPEC maintains huge oil reserves, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producerskeeps a tightly-guarded stockpile of maple syrup that’s dipped into and redistributed to various participants during lean production years. In 2012, shiftless crooks invaded the federation's primary warehouse and lifted 6 million pounds of the sweet stuff, making it one of the largest agricultural thefts ever perpetrated. Since then, 23 people have been arrested in conjunction with the case but, sadly, a third of the stolen syrup remains unaccounted for.

9. ALFRED UNIVERSITY’S OFFERED A MAPLE SYRUP COURSE.

This Western New York school’s catalogue has, at times, included “Maple Syrup: The Real Thing." As the official course description explains, “The method of producing maple syrup is one of the things in our society that has endured even in today's culture of constant change ... This class will explore the history of maple syrup production, discover the ins and outs of making syrup, create (and eat) some sweet confections, and take field trips to local producers, restaurants and festivals. No prior experience expected.”

10. MCDONALD’S AND THE STATE OF VERMONT ONCE GOT INTO A LEGAL TUSSLE OVER FALSE SYRUP.

Vermonters definitely weren’t lovin’ it when a misleading snack called “Fruit & Maple Oatmeal” emerged from the Golden Arches in 2011. Local law dictates that it’s illegal to “use the word ‘maple’ on a product unless the sweetener is 100 percent pure maple." McDonald's’ new dish didn’t exactly meet this criteria, and the authorities cried foul. “The word 'maple' has a very specific meaning to Vermonters,” explained state Agriculture Secretary Chuck Ross. “Vermont maple products are renowned not only for their flavor, but for their quality.” In an ensuing settlement, Mickey D’s agreed to start offering Green Mountain staters the option of coating their oatmeal orders with certified, honest-to-goodness maple syrup or sugar.
Mental Floss

DYK?

did-you-know-1054

Saintly

Sister Cristina performing on The Voice
Sister Cristina dazzled Italy with her performances on The Voice earlier this year
A singing nun who won the Italian version of the The Voice has released a cover of Madonna's Like a Virgin for her debut single.
Sister Cristina Scuccia, who won the singing contest in June, says she chose the song herself "without any intention to provoke or shock", but says she is ready for any criticism. "It's a song about the ability of love to make people new. To redeem them from their past. And that's how I wanted to interpret it," she tells the Catholic newspaper Avvenire.
Far from copying the original upbeat pop song, the 26-year-old Sicilian has turned the track into a ballad. And where Madonna's video saw her writhing around in a Venetian gondola while apparently being pursued by a lion, the Italian's effort is a more sedate affair. Sister Cristina says she doesn't think Madonna has heard this new take on her song. "But I'd love to see her face when she does, and when they tell her it's a nun singing."
BBC

Viz Bits

viz comic magazine dirty hands wash shit shite

Halloween Habits

No one knew how to party like the Halloween hosts of yesteryear. They sent weird invitations, with the text rhyming, written backward, or encased in a walnut shell. And from the moment their guests arrived, the spook factor was turned way up. One book from 1912 recommended hosts “have the hall totally dark with the door ajar and no one in sight to welcome the guests. As they step in they are surprised to be greeted by some one dressed as a ghost who extends his hand which is covered with wet salt.” Another from 1903 instructed hosts to dress like a “shade,” or a resident of the underworld, to welcome guests:
As guests enter house, barn or cellar, they are welcomed by a Shade who introduces them to another Shade by saying: "This is the shade of my grandfather” ... The Shade to whom the guest is introduced conducts the guest to waiting-room and introduces guest to Ghost: "Permit me to introduce the ghost of this room, she died ten years ago" ... Each time a guest is introduced there should be a lot of moans, sighs, groans, clattering noises, and raps. … After guests have removed wraps they are ushered into the first entertainment room by a band of Ghosts who close around them.
And things only got weirder from there. Here are a few fun, creepy activities from historical All Hallow’s Eve parties that you might want to incorporate into your own spooky shindig.

1. PLAY A GHOSTLY VERSION OF MUSICAL CHAIRS.

This game, as described in 1937’s The Jolly Hallowe’en Book, calls for chairs—one less than the number of participants—to be arranged in two lines; one chair should be covered in a white sheet. But unlike musical chairs, which eliminates the person still standing without a chair, "whoever was forced to sit in this chair when the weird music stopped suddenly was proclaimed a ghost and had to drop out of the game. Each time a player dropped out a chair was taken away. When the last player became a ghost he was commanded to howl as he thought a ghost might do.”

2. MAKE WALNUT BOATS TO DETERMINE YOUR FUTURE.

Forget the magic eight ball or the Ouija board; instead, use the shells of English walnuts to determine your future, as described in 1912’s Games for Hallowe’en. Step one: Open up some walnuts, remove the meat, and in each half “fasten short pieces of differently colored Christmas candles, each of which is to be named for a member of party.” (Alternatively, you can pour melted wax into the shells and stick in short strings to use as wicks.) Next, light them and put them in a large tub of water, after which your destiny will be revealed:
The behavior of these tiny boats reveals future of those for whom they are named. If two glide on together, their owners have a similar destiny; if they glide apart, so will their owners. Sometimes candles will huddle together as if talking to one another, while perchance one will be left alone, out in the cold, as it were. Again, two will start off and all the rest will closely follow. The one whose candle first goes out is destined to be old bachelor or maid.
In another version of this game from the 1903 book Hallowe’en Festivities, guests use a toothpick and slip of paper to make a tiny sail in their walnut shell boats: “On paper each one writes his initials and another's; revealing name to no one. Boats are all launched at same time; water is agitated to make miniature waves; those whose boats are overturned will not win their lovers and sweethearts, but owners of boats that override the troubled seas will get their hearts' desires.”

3. DO SOME GARDENING.

Kale is very good for you, and, according Halloween Festivities, can even help you determine some very important things about your future life partner. Party guests are blindfolded and taken down to the garden, either singly or in pairs, and, “groping about they pull up first stalk of kale or head of cabbage. If stalk comes up easily the sweetheart will be easy to win; if the reverse, hard to win.”
The shape of the stump will hint at your future partner’s figure, and the length will suggest his or her age. There are other things that can be determined by what you’ve pulled up out of the ground, too: “If much soil clings to it, life-partner will be rich; if not, poor.”
Lastly, the guest should take the stump home and hang it over their door; the “first person outside of family who passes under it will bear a name whose initial is same as that of sweetheart.”

4. HAVE A “WITCHES’ DANCE.”

To pull off this activity, as described in Hallowe’en Festivities, you’ll need a stage, “Tam O’Shanter” on your iPod, and eight ladies who can learn both choreography and stage direction and have the ability “[constantly hiss] … as if lots of cats were present.” Here’s just a portion of the action:
Enter eight Witches riding brooms and dancing around stage in a circle … After Witches have completed one circle, they reverse and go around stage in opposite directions. (Stage is lighted with white light.)
Witches straighten into one long line at each side of stage with brooms at side. They whirl brooms in air and lines swing into one long line facing audience with hissing sound. (Stage is lighted with red light.)
Witches clump handles of brooms on stage three times and meow. (Stage is lighted with green light.)
Witches whirl brooms in air again; line divides at C. and swings back to sides with hissing sound. (Stage is lighted with white light.)
Witches clump brooms on floor three times and meow. (Stage is lighted with green light.)
Witches drop broom ends on floor and drag them; lines approach each other and pass each other to opposite sides on tiptoe saying "sh-uh sh-uh" in most witchly fashion.

5. PAINT AND BLOW UP BALLOONS.

This one from The Jolly Hallowe’en Book requires some prep work—namely, painting grotesque faces on balloons. To freak out your guests, “[turn] the lights very low again and [give] each guest a balloon to blow up as large as possible. These balloons were all dark in color and had previously been inflated long enough to have hideous faces painted on them with phosphorescent paint. As they were blown up the faces shone out weirdly and an occasional explosion added to the effect.”

6. PLAY GAMES WITH APPLESEEDS.

Games for Halloween notes that “apple seeds act as charms on Hallowe'en” and, as such, there are a few games you can play with them. One simple game is to stick one seed on each eyelid; one is home and the other is travel, and “if [the] seed named ‘travel’ stays on longer, you will go on a journey before year expires. If ‘Home’ clings better, you will remain home.”
In another game, the seeds can be used to predict how much mail you’ll get. All of the apple seeds are placed in the palm of the left hand, and “with loosely clenched right hand strike palm of left. This will cause some, if not all, of seeds to fall. Those left on hand show number of letters you will receive the coming fortnight. Should all seeds drop, you must wait patiently for your mail.”

7. SING SPOOKY SONGS.

The Jolly Hallowe’en Book is full of songs you can sing at your party, most set to the tunes of other songs I’ve never heard of. But “Halloween is Lots of Fun” is sung to the tune of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” so it should be easy for everyone to sing along at your party:
1. Hallowe'en is lots of fun! E-I-E-I-O!
(Repeat this sentence after each verse.)
With Jack-o'-Lanterns everywhere ! E-I-E-I-O !
With a Jack, Jack here, and a Jack, Jack there !
Here a Jack, there a Jack, everywhere a Jack, Jack !
2. Hallowe'en is lots of fun ! E-I-E-I-O !
Yowling cats are everywhere ! E-I-E-I-O !
With a Meow, Meow here, and a Meow, Meow there!
Here a Meow, there a Meow, everywhere a Meow,
Meow!
3. Hallowe'en is lots of fun ! E-I-E-I-O !
Squeaking bats are everywhere ! E-I-E-I-O !
With a Squeak, Squeak here, and a Squeak, Squeak there !
Here a Squeak, there a Squeak, everywhere a Squeak,
Squeak !
4. Hallowe'en is lots of fun ! E-I-E-I-O !
Spooky ghosts are everywhere ! E-I-E-I-O !
With an Ooo, Ooo here, and an Ooo, Ooo there !
Here an Ooo, there an Ooo, everywhere an Ooo, Ooo !
5. Hallowe'en is lots of fun! E-I-E-I-O!
Witches ride then everywhere! E-I-E-I-O!
With a Cackle, Cackle here, and a Cackle, Cackle there!
Here a Cackle, there a Cackle, everywhere a Cackle,
Cackle !

8. MAKE A “DUMB CAKE.”

What makes the cake dumb? According to Halloween Festivities, it’s because the whole cake is made without anyone saying a word. Each participant “places handful of wheat flour on sheet of white paper and sprinkles it over with a pinch of salt.” Then, someone makes it into dough, “being careful not to use spring water.” Next,
Each rolls up a piece of dough, spreads it out thin and flat, and marks initials on it with a new pin. The cakes are placed before fire, and all take seats as far from it as possible. This is done before eleven p.m., and between that time and midnight each one must turn cake once. When clock strikes twelve future wife or husband of one who is to be married first will enter and lay hand on cake marked with name.
The aim of these games was obviously a little different back in the day, but this is still a fun challenge to undertake if you and your friends are lovers of baked goods!

9. GRAB TREATS FROM AN OPEN FLAME.

In “Snapdragon,” from Games for Halloween, the dragon is a half-pint of brandy or some other alcohol in a dish—which should be placed “middle of bare table, for drops of burning spirits are often splashed about.”
Light the brandy, extinguish all other lights, and “freely sprinkle” salt in the dish, “imparting a corpse-like pallor to every face. Candied fruits, figs, raisins, sugared almonds, etc., are thrown in, and guests snap for them with their fingers; person securing most prizes from flames will meet his true love within the year.”
Alternately, write verses on slips of paper and wrap them tightly in tin foil, then place them in the dish. Pour on the brandy and ignite it; “the verse each person gets is supposed to tell his fortune.”

10. STICK A PIN ON A PUMPKIN.

This one is kind of like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, only you’re sticking a pin on a pumpkin carved with every letter of the alphabet. Let Halloween Festivities explain:
Hostess enters with small round pumpkin on old pewter platter. On pumpkin are carved all letters of alphabet. One guest is blindfolded and given a hat-pin, then led to pumpkin, where she is expected to stick pin into one of the letters on the pumpkin.
Whichever letter she picks indicates what initial her future life-partner’s name will start with. 

11. GIVE OUT PRIZES.

Halloween Festivities recommends putting your guests' gifts in a “Hallowe’en Pie,” which “consists of upper and lower crust of dough and looks like any large deep pie. Dish is deep and round. Bake under crust and upper crust. When cool, fill with sawdust and dainty knick-knacks. Have knick-knacks evenly scattered throughout sawdust. Then put on top pie crust and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Knick-knacks should consist of things pertaining to occasion, as witches on brooms, tiny jack-o'-lanterns, ghosts, apples, etc., — souvenirs of the occasion.” Presumably, your guests have to dig in to discover the prizes inside.
Games for Hallowe’en, meanwhile, suggests making them a little harder to get:
Suspend apples by means of strings in doorway or from ceiling at proper height to be caught between the teeth. First successful player receives prize. These prizes should be Hallow-e'en souvenirs, such as emery cushions of silk representing tomatoes, radishes, apples, pears, pickles; or pen-wipers representing brooms, bats, cats, witches, etc.

12. DO A BIT OF PERFORMANCE ART.

This bit from The Jolly Hallowe’en Book would be right at home in a performance artist’s showcase. Called simply “Hallowe’en,” it should be “recited slowly with much dramatic feeling. When the underscored words are spoken, suitable accompaniments are heard from the background.”
Hallowe'en !
Witches ride on broomsticks ! (Clatter of wood.)
Black cats ! (Meows.)
Snakes ! (Hisses.)
Black bats ! (Flapping noise and squeaks.)
The world is full of ticktacks ! (Sound of ticktacks.)
Ticktack! (Sound of ticktacks.)
Ticktack! (Sound of ticktacks.)
Witches ! (Cackling laughter.)
Goblins ! (Noise of turkey gobbler — speaker looks back sternly.)
Goblins, not Gobblers !
Small boys! (Chatter.)
Whistles ! (Whistles.)
Catcalls ! (Catcalls.)
Witches ! (Cackling laughter.)
Cats ! (Meows.)
Snakes ! (Hisses.)
GHOSTS ! (Long drawn out sepulchral groan OHoooo.)
HALLOWE'EN !

13. TELL (TERRIBLE) JOKES AND RIDDLES.

After all of these strenuous activities, your guests will probably want to relax a little bit. These ones from Games for Hallowe’en are technically for children, but they’re bound to elicit groans among adults, too.
Why does a sculptor die horribly?--Because he makes faces and busts.
Why is it certain that "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was not written by the hand
of its reputed author?--Because it was written by Mrs. Beecher's toe
(Stowe).
If all the seas were dried up, what would everybody say?--We haven't a
notion (an ocean).
Why is a fishmonger never generous?--Because his business makes him
sell fish (selfish).
If a man who is carrying a dozen glass lamps drops one, what does he
become?--A lamp lighter.
Why did Eve never fear the measles?--Because she'd Adam.
See? We told you they were bad.
Mental Floss

Set the Alarm

You're about to get an extra hour in bed this weekend.

26 Oct 2014 - Daylight Saving Time Ends
When local daylight time is about to reach
Sunday, 26 October 2014, 02:00:00 clocks are turned backward 1 hour to 
Sunday, 26 October 2014, 01:00:00 local standard time instead
Sunrise and sunset will be about 1 hour earlier on 26 Oct 2014 than the day before. 

Jumping the Broom

Why do witches fly on broomsticks?
witch-broomstickWe’ve heard this one. To get high, of course! But seriously, it’s thought the idea of witches flying around on broomsticks came from the practice of concocting “witches flying ointment” (read  hallucinogens) and then using a broomstick to administer the drug to certain sensitive regions, thereby bypassing some of the negative side effects these hallucinogens cause when taken orally.
Until quite recently, rye was the primary grain from which bread was made. Susceptible to a disease known as ergot, caused by the fungus, Claviceps purpurea, rye was so commonly infected with it that until the 1850s, people thought the purple ergot that grew on the rye was actually a part of the plant.
Notably, ergot contains a number of compounds including some hallucinogens. Thus, when a supply of rye became contaminated with ergot, those who consumed it sometimes also got a strong hit of the LSD-like fungus. Not everyone who experienced ergot poisoning minded the experience, and in fact many people, including women, actively worked with a variety of other plants for the express purpose of inducing sleep, as well as hallucinations.
Popular plants experimented on included several tropane alkaloids like henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), jimsonweed (Datura stramonium), mandrake (Mandragora officinarum), and deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna). Together, these intrepid researchers discerned a variety of poisons that, in lesser quantities, could produce a desirable hallucinogenic effect.
Most of these hallucinogens also produced unwanted side effects when ingested, including rash, nausea and vomiting. Fairly early on, the pioneers of getting high realized they could bypass this discomfort by simply absorbing the drug through the skin.
Many well-respected members of society (read: non-witches, usually men) were investigating the properties of these potions, including court physician Andres De Laguna, who in the 16th century studied such a substance after taking it from the home of a woman accused of being a witch. He then tested it on another woman with the following result: “No sooner did I anoint her than she opened her eyes wide like a rabbit, and soon they looked like those of a cooked hare when she fell into such a profound sleep that I thought I should never be able to awake her… However … after the lapse of thirty-six hours, I restored her to her senses and sanity.”
He also revealed that the substance was composed of “soporific herbs such as hemlock, nightshade, henbane, and mandrake,” and that the woman was not at all pleased about being woken up.  She reportedly said, “Why did you awaken me, badness to you, at such an inauspicious moment? Why I was surrounded by all the delights in the world.
Laguna then noted that, “From all this we may infer that all that those wretched witches do and say is caused by potions and ointments which so corrupt their memory and imagination that they create their own woes, for they firmly believe when awake all that they had dreamed when asleep.
Yet another account by Giovanni Della Porta in the 16th century also affirmed that the application of this witches salve had the result of a woman he saw use it adamantly claim that “she had passed over both seas and mountains.”
Back to the absorption method- it was quickly discerned that two of the most effective places on the body to rub an ointment for maximum hallucinogenic absorption were the mucus areas of the genitals and sweat glands of the armpits. This topical means of drug delivery gave rise to thicker potions, balms and salves.
For ladies who wished to partake, since brooms were readily available, it was a no-brainer to dip a broom handle into the ointment, and then straddle the broom. Contemporaneous accounts indicate that as the balm began to have its effect, riding the broom became even more fun. For instance, Raphael Holinshed noted concerning the accused witch, Lady Alice Kyteler, in 1324: “In rifleing the closet of the ladie, they found a pipe of ointment, wherewith she greased a staffe, upon which she ambled and galloped through thick and thin.”
In a 15th century account, Jordanes de Bergamo notes, “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.
Confessed witch Antoine Rose claimed that it was the Devil who gave her the concoction and that to use it, she would, “smear the ointment on the stick, put it between her legs and say ‘Go, in the name of the Devil, go!’”
So how did we get from salve covered broomsticks to flying around on them? After all, most of the early artwork depicting witches and their broomsticks tends to just show them on the ground and using the broomsticks (often in the nude) as described above. In the 16th century book De praestigiis daemonum (On Witchcraft), Johann Weyer noted that once one of these ointments was applied to the genital area, it produced “a sensation of rising into the air and flying,” which caused many to believe this was done in order to “meet for devil worship at the sabbat.”
About a century earlier, in 1453, the French male witch Guillaume Edelin confessed to this practice of flying on broomsticks, including mentioning watching his “aged mother straddle a broomstick and whisk up the chimney and out of the house.” Needless to say, in this instance his aged mother likely wasn’t the only one partaking in the hallucinogens. And, as Andres De Laguna noted above, people under the influence of these drugs seemed to firmly believe what they were seeing in their hallucinations was real, even after it was all over.
This “rising” effect mirrors the more modern exploits of Gustav Schenk, who described his experience with one of the seemingly common witches flying ointment ingredients, henbane, in the 1960s: “I experienced an intoxicating sensation of flying . . . I soared where my hallucinations . . . were swirling along.” He didn’t say how the drug was administered, or whether or not a broom was involved…
In the end, it’s difficult  to determine how widespread the literal practice of using broomsticks for this purpose was given many of the accounts concern people who were being interrogated, often in brutal fashion. Further, the accounts were recorded and analyzed by inherently biased observers. Nonetheless, these accounts are thought to be where the idea of witches flying around on broomsticks came from. So the age old joke of “Why do witches fly on broomsticks? -To get high!” is actually also surprisingly accurate.
    Bonus Facts:
    • Before the idea of flying around on broomsticks became the standard, early depictions from around the 15th and 16th centuries showed witches flying around on all sorts of household items besides just the broom, such as cooking forks, stools, and even cupboards.
    • It has been broadly estimated that between 50,000 and 200,000 people were executed during the various witch hunts.
    • A number of religions use hallucinogens as part of their rituals. In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that taking hallucinogenic ayahuasca by members of the O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal religion was a protected religious practice.
    TIFO