Osculum Infame Ritual

OBSCENE KISS. The osculum infame or obscene kiss refers to the kiss witches were often thought to have to give the devil on his buttocks or anus as a sign of their homage and subservience to him while he presided over a witches' sabbath. A kiss was a typical sign of reverence in medieval society, and a kiss on the anus symbolized the profound inversion and obscenity entailed in witchcraft. Similar actions such as kissing demons or animals (the devil was often thought to preside over a sabbath in animal form) had earlier been attributed to medieval heretical groups.

OBSESSION. See POSSESSION.

OINTMENTS. Supposedly magical ointments might consist of almost any grease-like substance spread over the body or some object. Historically, witches were thought to use ointments in many of their magical operations. The two chief uses of ointments were as poison to kill people or cause disease, and for night flight. Witches were commonly thought to know many recipes, often supposedly learned from the devil in the context of a witches' sabbath, for making poisonous ointments that they would then spread on peoples' skin to injure or kill them. Witches were also often thought to anoint themselves or various instruments such as brooms with other ointments in order to fly. Use of such ointments has led to speculation on the part of some scholars that at least some aspects of witchcraft can be attributed to the use of hallucinogenic compounds. Recipes for certain ointments supposedly used by witches are recorded in treatises on witchcraft. Some of these would clearly be toxic. Others, if spread on the skin, could produce a trance-like state and delusions of flight.

ORGIES. In medieval and early-modern Europe, witches were thought to be sexually driven and sexually promiscuous people. One of the main features in descriptions of the witches' sabbath was the participation of witches in sexual orgies with each other and with demons who were also present at these gatherings. The notion of people gathering in secret and engaging in wild, orgiastic rites was a common element of medieval clerical diatribes against most forms of heresy, carried over and applied also to witches when the concept of a diabolically organized, heretical cult of witches developed in the late Middle Ages. Certain aspects of the stereotype might have derived from surviving descriptions of ancient pagan fertility festivals, such as the Roman Bacchanalia. Within modern witchcraft, or Wicca, certain groups perform some rituals nude (skyclad, as it is often termed). This is thought to reduce inhibitions within the group and promote the flow of magical energies. Some critics of Wicca, however, fixate on such practices and continue to associate modern witchcraft with sexual immorality.

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