Rick's World of Hashish, Part 1: A bit of hashish history

January 4, 2017

Those of you relatively new to the world of cannabis most likely tend to take the availability of your weed for granted.  You can venture out to your favorite retailer and buy what you like or have a vast array of choices if you want to try something new.  It hasn't always been that way and so as with most things that are readily available we tend to take them for granted and in the process might lose perspective of where it came from and how it got from there to here.

 

In this first installment of my writings on hashish I will try to give you a history of this substance from its beginnings where all we know is what is found in ancient buried forms into literate times where we can get a true sense of human interaction with this gift of nature.

 

If we are going to understand hashish we need to get an idea of how long man has been in this relationship with the plant Cannabis Sativa and take it from there.  Very early on, somewhere between 12 to 10,000 years ago humans had already discovered the usefulness of this plant at least in two forms.  The fiber from the stalks were found to make strong rope and woven fabric while the seeds were a nutritious source of oil and protein.  As anyone who has been able to grow cannabis in its natural environment knows,with just a little water and sunlight the plant will thrive and if allowed to pollinate produce thousands of seeds.  So early agriculturalists had this vigorous plant that took very little care that could provide many of their needs.  It is not known for certain whether cannabis was discovered simultaneously in multiple regions but most of the earliest evidence of the plant appears in Central and Eastern Asia.

 

There are some writers that will speculate that at this time people discovered the psychoactive effects of the flowers of cannabis but from my research I believe that that is all it is, speculation.  Nonetheless there are early records of cannabis being used in rituals that would point to its abilities to bring on altered states of consciousness.  Between 2000and1400 BC cannabis is mentioned in the Atharvaveda scripture from India where it is referred to as Bhang (sacred grass),in the legend of Lord Shiva.  A low grade form of cannabis is still referred to today as Bhang and is usually consumed by drinking during Bhangra festivals.  Other records of cannabis use as either medicine or as an entheogen appear in the Zorastrian book, Zend Avesta around 700BC, placing it in what is now the country of Iran.  Also in his "Histories", Herodotus refers to the Scythians of Central Asia  as using cannabis both ritually and recreationally.  Excavations of Scythian Kurgans(burial mounds), have yielded hemp fiber and seeds as well as evidence of burnt cannabis residue.  Herodotus describes the Scythians throwing cannabis on to burning coals,breathing the fumes and reacting ecstatically.  Sounds to me like they were on to something.

 

The first writings that refer to the medical or psychoactive properties of cannabis appear in the Pen T'sao attributed to the Celestial emperor Shen Nung dating back to around 2000 BC. in China.  Although alleged to going this far back in history the earliest surviving copies date only to about 50AD.  Prescribing what is undoubtedly the flowering tops of the female cannabis plant for many uses, there is still no direct reference to what we call hashish.

 

From the early Christian Era on we begin to find evidence of reference to the concentrated dried resin crystals that we know today as hashish.  These come from places in Central Asia, Persia and Arabia.  In the story of Hassan I Sabah and the Assassins to the tales from The Arabian Nights it is easy to see that hashish is now in common use in this part of the world.  Through trade moving both East and West the drug and it's culture spreads to many lands and from this point on is a source of intoxication and controversy as to the harm or benefit it has on the population.  After Napoleon's conquest of Egypt in 1798 hashish moved into to area of Western Europe and begins its life in the culture of the West and its place in our lives today.

 

Though praised by some and demonized by others, modern society seems to look upon hashish as hindering its  efforts to contain the mystical aspects of human nature that threaten the rational world view.  Users of the drug have been characterized as wild fiends of unpredictable behavior that drag down the whole of mankind into an ever deepening decline.  This has been the case from about 1910 on up to the present day.  Could this attitude have anything to do with why there is so little history available that shows the uses of hashish in lives of the mystics, poets, musicians and artist?  In a world where productivity is everything, a system has no room for dreamers who can achieve this mindset by simply planting a seed.

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