.. ommending the latter against nodes and wennes and other hard tumors, the former for a host of uses from curing cough to jaundice. They cautioned, however, that in excess it might cause sterility, that it drieth up.. the seeds of generation in men and the milke of women’s breasts. An interesting use in the sixteenth century — source of the name Angler’s Weed in England — was locally important: poured into the holes of earthworms [it] will draw them forth and..fisherman and anglers have use this feat to bait their hooks.
The value of Cannabis in folk medicine has clearly been closely tied with its euphoric and hallucinogenic properties, knowledge of which may be as old as its use as a source of fiber. Primitive man, trying all sorts of plant materials as food, must have known the ecstatic hallucinatory effects of Hemp, an intoxication introducing him to an other-worldly plant leading to religious beliefs. Thus the plant early was viewed as a special gift of the gods, a sacred medium for communion with the spirit world. Although Cannabis today is the most widely employed of the hallucinogens, its use purely as a narcotic, except in Asia, appears not to be ancient. In classical times its euphoric properties were, however, recognized. In Thebes, Hemp was made into a drink said to have opium-like properties.
Galen reported that cakes with Hemp, if eaten to excess, were intoxicating. The use as an inebriant seems to have been spread east and west by barbarian hordes of central Asia, especially the Scythians, who had a profound cultural influence on early Greece and eastern Europe. And knowledge of the intoxicating effects of Hemp goes far back in Indian history, as indicated by the deep mythological and spiritual beliefs about the plant. One preparation, Bhang, was so sacred that it was thought to deter evil, bring luck, and cleanse man of sin. Those treading upon the leaves of this holy plant would suffer harm or disaster, and sacred oaths were sealed over Hemp.
The favorite drink of Indra, god of the firmament, was made from Cannabis, and the Hindu god Shiva commanded that the word Bhangi must be chanted repeatedly during sowing, weeding, and harvesting of the holy plant. Knowledge and use of the intoxicating properties eventually spread to Asia Minor. Hemp was employed as an incense in Assyria in the first millennium B.C., suggesting its use as an inebriant. While there is no direct mention of Hemp in the Bible, several obscure passages may refer tangentially to the effects of Cannabis resin or Hashish. It is perhaps in the Himalayas of India and the Tibetan plateau that Cannabis preparations assumed their greatest hallucinogenic importance in religious contexts. Bhang is a mild preparation: dried leaves or flowering shoots are pounded with spices into a paste and consumed as candy — known as maajun — or in tea form.
Ganja is made from the resin-rich dried pistillate flowering tops of cultivated plants which are pressed into a compacted mass and kept under pressure for several days to induce chemical changes; most Ganja is smoked, often with Tobacco. Charas consists of the resin itself, a brownish mass which is employed generally in smoking mixtures. The Tibetans considered Cannabis sacred. A Mahayana Buddhist tradition maintains that during the six steps of asceticism leading to his enlightenment, Buddha lived on one Hemp seed a day. He is often depicted with Soma leaves in his begging bowl and the mysterious god-narcotic Soma has occasionally been identified with Hemp.
In Tantric Buddhism of the Himalayas of Tibet, Cannabis plays a very significant role in the meditative ritual used to facilitate deep meditation and heighten awareness. Both medicinal and recreational secular use of Hemp is likewise so common now in this region that the plant is taken from granted as an everyday necessity. Folklore maintains that the use of Hemp was introduced to Persia by an Indian pilgrim during the reign of Khrusu (A.D. 531-579), but it is known that the Assyrians used Hemp as an incense during the first millennium B.C. Although at first prohibited among Islamic peoples, Hashish spread widely west throughout Asia Minor. In 1378, authorities tried to extirpate Hemp from Arabian territory by the imposition of harsh punishments. As early as 1271, the eating of Hemp was so well known that Marco Polo described its consumption in the secret order of Hashishins, who used the narcotic to experience the rewards in store for them in the afterlife.
Cannabis extended early and widely from Asia Minor into Africa, partly under the pressure of Islamic influence, but the use of Hemp transcends Mohammedan areas. It is widely believed that Hemp was introduced also with slaves from Malaya. Commonly known in Africa as Kif or Dagga, the plant has entered into primitive native cultures in social and religious contexts. The hotentots, Bushmen, and Kaffirs used Hemp for centuries as a medicine and as an intoxicant. In an ancient tribal ceremony in the Zambesi Valley, participants inhaled vapors from a pile of smoldering Hemp; later, reed tubes and pipes were employed, and the plant material was burned on an altar.
The Kasai tribes of the Congo have revived an old Riamba cult in which Hemp, replacing ancient fetishes and symbols, was elevated to a god — a protector against physical and spiritual harm. Treaties are sealed with puffs of smoke from calabash pipes. Hemp-smoking and Hashish-snuffing cults exists in many parts of east Africa, especially near Lake Victoria. Hemp has spread to many areas of the New World, but with few exceptions the plant has not penetrated significantly into many native American religious beliefs and ceremonies. There are, however, exceptions such as its use under the name Rosa Maria, by the Tepecano Indians of northwest Mexico who occasionally employ Hemp when Peyote is not available.
It has recently been learned that Indians in the Mexican states of Veracruz, Hidalgo, and Puebla practice a communal curing ceremony with a plant called Santa Rosa, identified as Cannabis Sativa, which is considered both a plant and a sacred intercessor with the Virgin. Although the ceremony is based mainly on Christian elements, the plant is worshipped as an earth deity and is thought to be alive and to represent a part of the heart of God. The participants in this cult believe that the plant can be dangerous and that it can assume the form of a man’s soul, make him ill, enrage him, and even cause death. Sixty years ago, when Mexican laborers introduced the smoking of marijuana to the United States, it spread across the south, and by the early 1920s, its use was established in New Orleans, confined primarily among the poor and minority groups. The continued spread of the custom in the United States and Europe has resulted in a still unresolved controversy. Cannabis Sativa was officially in the United States Pharmacopoeia until 1937, recommended for a wide variety of disorders, especially as a mild sedative.
It is no longer an official drug, although research in the medical potential of some of the cannabinolic constituents or their semi-synthetic analogues is at present very active, particularly in relation to the side-effects of cancer therapy. The psychoactive effects of Cannabis preparations vary widely, depending on dosage, the preparation and the type of plant used, the method of administration, personality of the user, and social and cultural background. Perhaps the most frequent characteristic is a dreamy state. Long forgotten events are often recalled and thoughts occur in unrelated sequences. Perception of time, and occasionally of space, is altered.
Visual and auditory hallucinations follow the use of large doses. Euphoria, excitement, inner happiness — often with hilarity and laughter — are typical. In some cases, a final mood of depression may be experienced. While behavior is sometimes impulsive, violence or aggression is seldom induced. In relatively recent years, the use of Cannabis as an intoxicant has spread widely in Western society — especially in the United States and Europe — and has caused apprehension in law-making and law-enforcing circles and has created social and health problems. There is still little, if any, agreement on the magnitude of these problems or on their solution.
Opinion appears to be pulled in two directions: that the use of Cannabis is an extreme social, moral, and health danger that must be stamped out, or that it is an innocuous, pleasant pastime that should be legalized. It may be some time before all the truths concerning the use in our times and society of this ancient drug are fully known. Since an understanding of the history and attitudes of peoples who have long used the plant may play a part in furthering our handling of the situation in modern society, it behooves us to consider the role of Cannabis in man’s past and to learn what lessons it can teach us: whether to maintain wise restraint in our urbanized, industrialized life or to free it for general use. For it appears that Cannabis may be with us for a long time. A fifteenth-century manuscript of Marco Polo’s travels depicts the Persian nobleman Al-Hassan ibn-al-Sabbah, who was known as the Old Man of the Mountain, enjoying the artificial paradise of Hashish eaters.
His followers, known as ashishins, consumed large amounts of Cannabis resin to increase their courage as they slaughtered and plundered on behalf of their leader. The words assassin and hashish were derived from the name of this band The Cuna Indians of Panama use Cannabis as a sacred herb. This mola of applique work depicts a Cuna council meeting. An orator is shown addressing two headmen, who lounge in their hammocks and listen judiciously; one smokes a pipe as he swings. Spectators wander in and out, and one man is seen napping on a bench.
The Cora Indians of the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico smoke Cannabis in the course of their sacred ceremonies. Rarely is an introduced foreign plant adopted and use in indigenous religious ceremonies, but it seems that the Cora of Mexico and the Cuna of Panama have taken up the ritual smoking of Cannabis, notwithstanding the fact that, in both areas, it was brought in by the early Europeans. In the nineteenth century, a select group of European artists and writers turned to psychoactive agents in an attempt to achieve what has come to be regarded as mind-expansion or mind-alteration. Many people, such as the French poet Baudelaire, believed that creative ability could be greatly enhanced by the use of Cannabis. In fact, Baudelaire wrote vivid descriptions of his personal experiences under the influence of Cannabis.
At the upper left is Gustave Dore’s painting Composition on the Death of Gerard de Nerval, inspired probably by the use of Cannabis and Opium. At the upper right is a contemporary American cartoon humorously epitomizing the recurrence of this belief (it shows caveman around a fire, one saying Hey, what is this stuff? It makes everything I think seem profound.). It was not only among the French literati that psychoactive substances raised expectations. In 1845, the French psychiatrist Moreau de Tours published his investigation of Hashish in a fundamental scientific monograph Du hachisch et de l’alienation mentale. Moreau de Tours’s scientific study was on the effects of Cannabis.
He explored the use of this hallucinogen in Egypt and the Near East and experimented personally with it an and other psychoactive plant substances. He concluded that the effects resemble certain mental disorders and suggested that they might be used to induce model psychoses. This marvelous experience often occurs as if it were the effect of a superior and invisible power acting on the person from without…This delightful and singular state..gives no advance warning. It is as unexpected as a ghost, an intermittent haunting from which we must draw, if we are wise, the certainty of a better existence. This acuteness of though, this enthusiasm of the senses and the spirit must have appeared to man through the ages as the first blessing. English Essays.