When you were a kid, you probably wished that you could zip around the world with a magical flying vehicle from your favorite movies and books. Everyone knows about witch brooms, Aladdin’s magic carpet, and Santa’s sleigh, but it turns out that throughout the course of human history, people have been dreaming of all sorts of magic vehicles that can take them to far-off places. Some of them are seriously out of this world.
10. Thor’s Goat Chariot
Today, when people think of the Norse thunder god Thor, they think of the Marvel character with a hammer who can defeat just about anyone… well, except Thanos. (Too soon?) In the original mythology, Thor had his own magical vehicle too. It was a chariot pulled by… goats. That’s right. Two garbage-munching goats, named “Tooth Grinder” and “Gap-Toothed.” The idea was that since goats can climb up mountains, these magical goats could carry Thor to any height. The chariot was thought to be made of wood and wicker, and the wheels were made of iron. The goats were held by silver chains.
One of the other perks of these goats was that they could regenerate at Thor’s will. In one story, Thor meets a starving family, and he slaughters Tooth Grinder and Gap-Toothed without hesitation to feed the humans some goat stew. Afterwards, he took their skin and bones, and used his magic hammer to bring them back to life.
9. A Witch’s Broomstick
Witch brooms are usually an old-fashioned form of something called a “besom,” which was made from small, thin twigs tied to a stick. In Wicca, they use a besom to clean away any dust or herbs before they do their rituals. This is partially why broomsticks have become associated with witches, but the full story isn’t something you would want to tell children before they go trick-or-treating.
Historians believe that the broomstick and flying may be related to a psychedelic drug called scopolamine that Wiccans would create called “flying ointment.” They believed that it helped aid them in astral projection, or their soul leaving the body. In order for their bodies to hallucinate using this ointment, it would have to enter the body through the skin. This only works in areas of the body where there are sweat glands with a mucus membrane, which only works in your armpits, or, well… the nether regions.
This knowledge of “witches using brooms to fly” must have been taken literally, at some point, and it morphed into the image of a witch holding a broom stick between her legs that we know today. This idea has become so ingrained in society, that in early America, people took precautions to prevent witches from flying their brooms into their homes. In Vermont, “Witch Windows” were installed in nearly every house, because people believed that the window would be so small a witch’s broom couldn’t possibly fit.
8. The Flying Canoe
In the 1600s, entrepreneurial French fur traders would hunt in Canada, and bring the wares back to Europe. They were known as “Coureur des bois” and they were admired for being a mix of rugged mountain men with business savvy. Many of these traders would exchange stories with natives from the First Nation tribes. One of their legends was about a magical flying canoe.
In the 1800s, a writer blended the First Nation and French-Canadian legends together to write La Chasse-galerie, or The Bewitched Canoe. There are several different versions of the story. In one, a nobleman named Gallery was rich from selling furs, and he was so busy working and hunting that he never went to church on Sunday. He was cursed to fly through a ghost canoe in the night sky, chased by the ghosts of horses and wolves.
Another version of the story involves a group of fur trappers who are partying on New Year’s Eve. They all talk about how much they miss their wives and girlfriends, and wish they could spend the holiday with them, just for one night. The only problem is that their homes are 300 miles away. They decide to make a deal with the Devil in order to make their canoe fly, so they can get to their lovers and return back home before work the next morning.
While this may not be a popular fairy tale today, there is still a Flying Canoe Festival in Edmonton, Alberta every year. People wear canoe costumes, and they party under bright lights with food and drinks. There was even a movie made in 2016, based on the legend.
7. Baba Yaga’s Flying Mortar and Pestle
Baba Yaga is a well-known character from a Slavic fairytale. (Although you probably know the name from John Wick.) The name literally translates to “Grandmother” or “elderly woman.” She is a witch that lives in a house supported by giant chicken legs. The mortar and pestle that Baba Yaga uses for her herbs and potions grows to be big enough where she can fit inside of it, like one of the teacups in Disneyland, and fly away. She uses a broom like a paddle in a boat, sweeping the air to erase any trace that she was ever there.
In most stories about Baba Yaga, she eats children who have wandered off alone in the woods. In some stories, adults will go to her for help. But, of course, her magic comes with a price. Every time she helps another person, she gets an entire year older. So, she mostly just tries to trick people into doing things for her in exchange for her magic, and attempts to eat them.
6. Freya’s Cat Chariot
Freya was a goddess of beauty, love, and fertility in Norse mythology. She was remembered for being one of the most beautiful women in existence. At the same time, she was also remembered as a goddess of war, because she was the leader of the fierce female warriors called the Valkyries. Whenever a human would die, Freya and the god Odin would divide the souls amongst themselves. Some would go to Valhalla, which is where the Vikings typically aspired to go when they died, while others would go to a more peaceful afterlife in Freya’s heavenly field called “Folkvangr.”
Just like all of the Norse gods, Freya needed a sweet ride. She got around in a magical chariot that was pulled by a team of cats. While we all know you usually can’t get a cat to do anything, these felines were actually very obedient and loyal. Freya loved her cats very much, and since she had so much power over life and death, she gave each of her cats 9 lives.
5. The Flying Dutchman
The Flying Dutchman is a maritime legend that originated in the 1700s. According to legend, there was a ship approaching a harbor during a storm, Unfortunately, the storm was so bad it sank, even though land was still in sight. Every so often, people claimed that they could see the ship that sank. Cleary, the “ghost” of the ship that sank was haunting their conscience, but the story was spun that these spirits were doomed to sail forever, and the captain and crew are never allowed to return back to land. They say if you spot the Flying Dutchman, it is a sign that you are doomed, and that something terrible is about to happen.
While this is a supernatural vehicle that you don’t exactly want to be on, it is still a legend that has circulated among sailors for hundreds of years, and it has been used in movies and TV shows like Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean and Spongebob Squarepants.
4. The Magic Carpet
Yes, we know that Aladdin’s flying carpet is really a rug, but that’s beside the point. Flying carpets can be found in several of the stories from the arabian tales of a Thousand and One Nights. King Solomon was said to have a magic flying carpet in the 13th Century AD. He claimed that the gift came from God himself, and that it could carry up to 4,000 men at once.
The magic carpet even crossed over into Russian folklore, with the story of Ivan Tsarevich, who used his magical flying abilities in combination with his pet wolf and firebird. He uses his powers to rescued a beautiful tsarina who had been kidnapped, and they eventually get married. When you think about it, the story of Ivan Tsarevich sounds a lot like the plot of Aladdin. So it’s possible that it served as an inspiration.
3. The Flying Throne
For countries that have histories that span across thousands of years, the legends of ancient kings can become exaggerated by epic proportions. Kay Kavus was the Shah of Iran who supposedly ruled for 150 years. He also apparently built a flying throne that was carried by a team of trained eagles. He was planning to have the birds carry him all the way to China.
Apparently, he made it all the way to China just in time for the eagles to get so exhausted from the flight. They dropped Kay Kavus, and he fell. He was rescued, and somehow survived the crash.
While this story sounds completely ridiculous, the idea of having eagles carry a throne isn’t too far off from the countless number of ideas ancient people tried in their attempts to achieve flight. The real myth, though, would be the story that he actually succeeded.
2. Flidais Deer Chariot
In Irish mythology, Flidais is the goddess of fertility, and oddly enough, cattle. We’re not really sure why the two should go together, but she was described as having long, beautiful hair, and resembled as woodland fairy. She was considered to be the Queen of all the gods, but she married a human king, named Ahamhair. He took on “Flidais” as his surname, which was a sign that she was the more powerful one in the relationship.
It was said that by praying to Flidais, one could protect their cattle from harm. In ancient Ireland, the number of cows a chieftain owned were a sign of his overall wealth and status, so it was very important for people to keep them alive. Flidais didn’t just have her own herd of cows. They were also magical, and produced a huge amount of milk.
Even though Flidais was so clearly involved with cows, she was known for being a master of taming all kinds of animals. Her chariot was pulled by a herd of deer.
1. Santa’s Sleigh
In the original legend about Saint Nicholas, he would walk door to door to leave children presents in their shoes. In the Netherlands, he rode a grey horse named Slecht Weer Vandaag to deliver gifts from house to house.
The first publication to ever mention Santa’s Sleigh was a in a short story written by an anonymous author in New York City in 1821 called “Old Santa Claus with Much Delight.” The illustration that accompanied the story showed Santa Claus in a sleigh, led by one nameless reindeer. Two years later, in 1823, the idea of Santa having a sleigh and reindeer was expanded in the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” which is now popularly known as “The Night Before Christmas.”