It's a common Halloween image, a witch riding on a broom. But where did this notion come from? Well, apparently there were a few individuals back in the Medieval times and later who practiced witchery; and sometimes this included the use of Witches' Brews. Now among the ingredients used in these Witches' Brews included some psychoactive substances such as belladonna, henbane, mandrake, and nightshade, and others. These substances are rich in powerful alkaloids such as atropine. These were often used in their 'flying ointments,' so-called because they gave users a sense of flying. These Witches' Brews were also highly toxic if ingested. However, they can also be absorbed into the skin in locations such as underarms, the rectum, or the vagina. The mode of application was to have the substances in an ointment that was in turn applied to the handle of a pitchfork or broom. Atropine can be poisonous in stronger doses. However, this method of application avoids some of the negative symptoms that oral intake would provide. In short, by being astride a broomstick, and a little judicious friction, the witches could really get airborne in their witches' sabbats!