The Making of a Flying Ointment
The creation of flying ointments is quite the process for me. To share a bit of the magic and practical side of it I will be taking you through the crafting of the Sabbat Flying Ointment from start to finish. “Sabbat: is one of the most intense flying ointments I make and, though I don’t usually recommend it for beginners, it is one of my most popular ointments due to it being such a classic traditional recipe — inspired by the recipes recorded by Giambattista della Porta, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, and Honorius.
First I head to the farm market up the street to buy bulk pig fat from the butcher. When I get home I carefully slice away any remaining traces of meat and then cut it into small cubes with my very sharp hand forged ritual knife. The smaller the fat is cut up, the faster and more evenly it renders. I hone my knife before and after each use, wash it right way when I’m finished butchering, and oil the blade now and then to always keep it sharp and in its best condition.
I put the fat on the stove starting on medium heat to get it going for about 10-15 min and then reduce it to a low heat so it doesn’t burn. I use the dry rendering method as I tend to get the same quality as the wet method. How long it takes depends on the quantity of fat you’re rendering. A big batch takes about 2-4 hours. I can tell it’s ready when the fat is a clear yellow-gold liquid and the little cubes of fat have been reduced to crispy gold cracklins. At this point I strain the fat through a sieve into a sterile stainless steel bowl and then strain again through a much finer sieve into sterilized canning jars.
You can sprinkle the cracklins with salt and bake them until extra crispy as a naughty snack, but my stomach can’t handle the grease, so I usually feed them to the crows who gobble them up like crack candy.
Once the fat cools, it becomes solid and creamy white. It now has a shelf life of about two years if stored properly in a cool, dark place. I store my rendered fats in the fridge when I’m not using them to make ointments in order to prolong their shelf life. There are currently the rendered fats of bear, duck, pig in my fridge (rendered fat also makes an excellent base for homemade soap).
As an added bonus, I’ve learned in my years of rendering fats that the scent attracts men better than any perfume or lingerie – especially duck and bacon fats. They swoon!
Once the fat is ready and the quantity measured out, it’s time to add the herbs. I carefully weigh the portions of belladonna, datura, henbane, and mandrake root on my scale, grind them, and add them to the canning jar of fat. I also add some home made balm of gilead oil as a natural preservative and for it’s magical associations with astral travel and flying. There are many different methods for herbal infusions; I tend to use two: the oven method and the double boiler method. I use the oven method for large quantities of flying ointments and the double boiler for when I’m just making one batch of ointment. The jars of oils and herbs are placed in the oven at 120°F for about 5-8 hours, stirring them every 30 min if I can.
Afterward, I strain out the herbs, pour the infusion into a new clean canning jar, measure the quantity of liquid again (the herbs absorb some of the fat reducing the amount), and weigh out the shaved beeswax accordingly (1 cup of liquid per 1 ounce of beeswax). Then it goes back into the oven at 200°F to melt the beeswax for 1-2 hours. When the wax is completely melted, the infusion appears clear. I then heat up my big glass measuring cup in the oven, lay out clean ointment tins on my workbench, and then proceed to pour the flying ointment into the tins. Then I allow them to cool for a few hours before adding the lids and labelling them. I will usually consecrate the jars to their purpose while they are cooling and all in one place by whispering a blessing over them while burning incense in offering to the plants and pig used to craft it.
And that’s how an animal fat-based flying ointment is made. The whole process takes about three days from start to finish.