A History of Hemp
by Robert A. NELSON
The Early History of Hemp
(2) Korea & Japan
(4) Middle East
(8) Rome & Italy
The fiber of Cannabis, the "True Hemp", is tightly woven into the tapestry of human life. Since earliest times, this great plant ally has provided people with cordage, cloth, paper, medicine, and inspiration.
Cannabis Hemp probably evolved in northern China, and was the first fiber plant to be cultivated there at the dawn of human society. Cotton from India and Mediterranean flax were not introduced until thousands of years later. Silk fabric was a luxury of the wealthy. The peasants wore hemp clothing. Ma (hemp) and mulberry were such important crops that the phrase "land of mulberry and hemp" was a synonym for cultivated fields and the land of China.
An abundance of archaeological evidence proves the continuous cultivation of hemp from prehistoric times. A 12,000 years old Neolithic site unearthed at Yuan-shan (Taiwan) included coarse, sandy pottery with hempen cord marks covering the surface, and an incised, rod-shaped stone beater used to pound hemp. Among the items excavated from a late Neolithic site (ca. 4000 BC) in Zhejiang province, several textile articles were found made of hemp and silk. The Kung-shan culture of about 4000 years ago also left samples of hemp cloth. The agricultural tribes of the Lianghzu culture (3300 BC-2300 BC) left proof that they consumed hemp in two pottery vessels on the floor of a house in Lin-chia. Some carbonized fruits of cannabis were found, indicating that the resinous bracts were burnt and the seeds left behind. Remains of hemp have been found at sites of the Ch'i-chia, a culture of advanced farmers who also raised livestock in eastern Kansu. Excavations of four burial pits of the Microlithic Culture of Inner Mongolia recovered remains of objects of leather, silk, and hemp. (1-4)
One of the most ancient books, Shu Chingi (dated ca. 2300 BC) states that the land in Shantung province is "whitish and rich... with silk, hemp, lead, pine trees and strange stones..." Its people paid tribute to their rulers with hemp. The warlords' armies were dressed in armor sewn with hemp cord, and their bows were strung with hemp strings that were far superior to the bamboo fiber they replaced. Coats, bucklers and helmets were made of hemp prepared with vinegar to strengthen it. Hemp was grown around every lord's castle to provide for their military needs. (7)
The Shang culture (1400-1100 BC) on the flood plain of the Huangho River was a self-sufficient agricultural economy that developed a hemp-weaving industry. Excavation of the Shang site at Taixi (Hebei province) produced fragments of burnt hempen fabric. Analysis revealed that the Shang people had developed better methods of preparing the fiber by soaking it in ponds.
A number of clay and stone spinning whorls were found intact at the Taixi Shang site. A spindle was inserted through a center hole and the implement was held in the left hand and spun while fiber was fed onto it with the right hand. The technology was so advanced that several types of whorls were used to make different hempen fabrics. A roll of hemp cloth in 13 pieces also was recovered. Tombs of the Western Chou period (110-770 BC) at Yuntang village (Shaanxi) were found to contain a spindle whorl made from an earthenware shard, and a jar decorated with fine hemp fabric markings.
More than a thousand mortuary objects were recovered from a Chou tomb site at Hsin-Ts'un near An-Yang. The inventory included articles of hemp among those of gold, jade, marble, silk, lacquer and other valuable materials. The inner coffin was made of wooden planks reinforced with bands of hemp cloth that were fastened to the coffin with lacquer. A late Western Chou dynasty grave discovered in Shansi province contained bronze vessels, weapons, jade, pottery, and a tightly woven fragment of hemp cloth. Bronze objects protected with silk and hemp wrappings were found at other Chou cemetary sites.
Archaeologists discovered a tomb at Chengjiao (Hubei) containing charcoal and some decomposed fragments of a fabric mixture of silk and hemp laying on top of a layer of red cinnabar, revealing an awareness of alchemy. Chinese alchemists performed rituals to prepare for their experiments, especially with cinnabar. One such rite was a solemn dance titled "Method of Steaming Hemp according to Su Nu". The 6th century Taoist collection Wu Shang Pi Yao (Essentials of the Matchless Books) states that alchemists added hemp to their incense. A text by Ko Hung gives warning, that "Hemp seed oil spoils wine."
During the Eastern Chou period (770-481 BC), the territory of the Yangtze and Han rivers were developed, and an early historian noted that the people there had to "labor in wooden carts and tattered hempen cloths to bring the hills and forest under cultivation."
The oldest pharmacopia in existence, the Pen-Ts'ao Ching (ca. 100 BC) was compiled from ancient fragments attributed to the legendary Emperor Shen-Nung (ca. 2300 BC). The book mentions that "hemp grows along rivers and valleys at T'ai-shan, but it is now common everywhere." Mount T'ai (Shantung province) is one of the oldest locations where hemp was grown in historical times. The book also mentions ma-pho, a term that means a sudden change of mood, such as intoxication. At the same time the word can be explained as dehisence, the sudden blooming of male hemp. The ancient Chinese naturally discovered the medicinal and psychic properties of the resinous bracts, which they called ma-fen. Another find from the Eastern Chou dynasty (Shansi province) contained several hundred pieces of jade and stone "oath documents" with red inscriptions that mention ma with the character for "negative" attached to it. This suggests that the undignified psychoactive effect of the plant was well known to them. (8, 9)
Western Han tombs at Yinqueshan (Linyi) were found to contain pottery filled with hempseed and other grains. The well-preserved body of a Han woman, discovered in a tomb in Changsa (Hunan) was accompanied by more than a thousand funeral items, among them jars of hempseed.
The ancient Chinese farmers utilized their best land to grow food, and the rest was cultivated with hemp for its fiber, seed and medicine. Men harvested the crop, and during the winter the women wove the fiber into cloth.
In the Shih Ching (Book of Odes), a compilation of 305 songs composed between 1000-500 BC, hemp is mentioned 7 times. One poem states that to soak hemp to remove the glue is a woman's task. Another poem says, "The pond at the East Gate, can be used to soak the hemp." Four variations for ma are given in the first dictionary, Shuo-wen chieh-tzu, compiled by Hsu Shen in the Eastern Han period. The Chi-chiu-pien, a primer composed in the first century BC for teaching and writing, lists rice, millet and hemp in one sentence. Government records of the Han period show that a roll of rough to medium hemp cloth cost about 300-400 cash, and plain silk cost slightly more than medium hemp fabric. (10)
The invention of vegetable fiber paper emerged during the Han dynasty when people became frustrated with the bulk and weight of wooden and bamboo tablets and the expensive rarity of zhi (proto-paper). The dynastic history Hou-Han Shu attributes the invention of paper in 105 AD to Marquis Cai Lun, who was prefect of the masters of Techniques during the reign of Emperor He Di. Archaeologists, however, have recovered older specimens of hemp paper from the Western and Eastern Han periods in Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and Shaanxi, so it is apparent that Cai Lun actually supervised the art of papermaking by craftsmen, though he also worked to promote its use in the imperial bureaucracy. According to the Hou-Han Shu, "He submitted the process to the emperor in the first year of Yuan-Hsing and received praise for his ability. From this time, paper has been in use everywhere and is universally called 'the paper of Marquis Cai'". (11, 12)
The Hou-Han Shu relates the apocryphal story of Cai Lun's attempts to introduce true hemp paper in a memorial to the court. With the help of some friends, Cai Lun pretended to die and was buried alive. The coffin was fitted with a secret bamboo tube that allowed Cai Lun to breathe while he waited. His friends announced that if paper was burned, it would resurrect the dead man. The mourners were dubious but did as was suggested; then the coffin was exhumed. Cai Lun thanked the astounded witnesses for their faith in his miraculous paper, and its subsequent acceptance was thus assured. The Chinese customarily burn paper over graves during burial ceremonies. (13)
Perhaps the oldest specimens of paper extant, dating more than a century earlier than Cai Lun, were discovered in a tomb near Xian (Shensi). The pieces were found under three bronze mirrors that were wrapped in hemp cloth. The tomb is dated no later than the reign of Wu Di (Western Han Dynasty, 140-87 BC). Several archaeological finds support the literary evidence of the Hou-Han Shu. The excavation of a ruined watchtower in Tsakhortei unearthed a specimen of paper bearing writing contemporary with Cai Lun. Another piece from the Late Han period was found with a mummy in a tomb in Min-feng (Sinkiang). Other remarkable specimens were nailed in three layers with wooden strips on the side of an ox-cart. The samples are white and much thinner than earlier examples.
Other common papermaking materials in the Han period included paper mulberry and ramie. Rattan was introduced in the Chin period, but hemp remained the primary material for paper manufacture. After the T'ang period, however, the use of hemp in paper declined and was replaced by bamboo. Su I-Chien, author of Wen Fang Su Phu, the first treatise about paper, wrote that "hemp was used in Szechuan, bamboo in Chiangsu, mulberry bark in the north, rattan in Shan-chi, and seaweed by people of the south." Later periods also used jute and China grass. But hemp paper is pliable, tough, fine and waterproof, and these characteristics made it popular and preferred for use in official documents, books and calligraphy. The book Hsin Thang Shu says that the Chin dynasty court provided the scholars in the Academy of Assembled Worthies with 5000 sheets of hemp paper each month. Hemp paper made in I-Chou (Szechuan) was used for all the books in the imperial library in the Khai-Yuan period (713-742 AD) (Ref. 8)
According to the Li Chi (Record of Rites, ca. 150 BC), in ancient times people wore skins and feathers until sages invented hemp and silk fabric. The record states that hempseed was used by kings in a ritual diet during certain months. The Li Chi ordained that people mourning the death of a parent should wear hemp clothing. In the ancient Chinese cult of the dead, tradition requires a surviving son to put the father in a hempen sack and consume a portion of his flesh, but the practice changed and put the bag over the son instead, without cannibalism. Now it is customary for a mourning son to wear coarse hemp (ma-po) on his head. Other mourners must wear other kinds of cloth such as silk or muslin. (Ref. 14)
The use of hempseed as a food staple diminished greatly by the 6th century AD, though it persisted at least until the 10th century. Eventually hempseed was replaced by less oily grains, and its nutritional value was largely forgotten. The Southern Ch'i dynasty (470-502 AD) history Nan-Ch'i shu mentions a porridge made of hempseed.
Because of disastrous flooding in 10 AD, the ruler Wang Mang instituted the so-called "Six Controls" to fix the prices of several commodities including hemp. After the downfall of his regime, hemp, silk and grains were used as money.
The excavation of a group of tombs in Astana (Turfan) in 1973 turned up pieces of hempen paper money dating to the 6th century.
Ma also figured in the early development of medicine. The great physician Hua Tuo (141-208 AD) formulated ma-yo (hemp wine) and ma-fei-san ("hemp boiling powder") with cannabis and aconite for use as an anaesthetic for the surgeries he performed. (Ref.16)
The Chinese Materia Medica Pen Ts'ao, attributed to Emperor Shen Nung, classifies ma as both yin (female, chu-ma) and yang (male, i-ma). He advises that the Chinese cultivate only the female plant because it provides more of the medicinal virtue, which he prescribed for mental weakness, menstrual problems, constipation, gout, rheumatism, beri-beri and malaria. He also classified chu-ma as one of the Superior Elixirs of Immortality. A late edition of the Pen Ts'ao adds this note:
"To take much makes people see demons and throw themselves about like maniacs. But if one takes it over a long period of time one can communicate with the spirits, gain insight, and one's body becomes light."
The 7th century physician Meng Shen advised that one should eat hempseed for at least 3 months so as to see spirits. The 6th century Wu Tsang Ching (Manual of the Five Viscera) attributed to Chang Chung-Ching states:
"If you wish to command demonic apparitions to present themselves you should constantly eat the flowers of the hemp plant."
T'ao Hung-Ching, the most eminent Taoist magician of the 5th century, noted hemp in his Ming-i pieh-lu:
"Hempseeds are little used in medicine, but the magicians say that if one consumes them with ginseng it will give one preternatural knowledge of events in the future."
The majority of Chinese people, however, were under the sobering influence of Taoist and Confucian religions and considered such a state of intoxication to be shameful. The shamanic use of Cannabis fell into neglect while the more tranquil opium rose in favor instead. Traditional Chinese medicine uses the Mung bean (Semen Phaseoli radiatus) as an antidote for cannabis intoxication.(17)
Historian Joseph Needham attributes the establishment of Mount Shao as the first center of Taoist practice (ca. 350 AD) in part to the use of cannabis by the sage Yang Hsi; he enjoyed a series of visions of Lady Wei, the Mao brothers, and other members of the pantheon who transmitted sacred texts through him. (8)
Hemp is mentioned in the Lun Yu (Analects) of Confucius. A fragment of the Lun Yu written in 716 AD on bleached white hemp paper was found in a cemetary at Tirfan in Sinkiang province. The same site also yielded a beautiful pair of hemp paper shoes sewn with hemp threads. Despite other religionists attitude toward the resin, in 770 AD they deemed to publish the first printed book, Dharani, a collection of prayers, on hemp paper.
The peerless fibers of hemp remain at the very core and epitome of Chinese culture, in their lacquerware. Chinese lacquer is the sap of the Rhus verniciferas tree, which is strained through a sheet of hempen cloth to purify it. Then it is heated and stirred to homogenize and thicken it for application over a core of hemp fiber. Most lacquer xu cups were made in this way. Excavation of an Early Western Han tomb at Lao-fu-shan (Kiansi) uncovered over 200 grave goods including several winged cups on hemp cloth cores. Dozens of realistic clay sculptures were found in a T'ang monastery in Shansi, made on wooden cores reinforced with iron wire and nails, hempen cords, and minced straw. (18)
Cotton did not arrive in China until the 9th century AD, when female ambassadors from Indochina presented the Emperor with tribute made from "refined water fragrant hemp" that probably was cotton, not cannabis. (19)
The cultivation of cotton was slow to spread throughout China. According to the account by Wu T'seng-ch'eng, the Chinese exiles who fled into Manchuria about 1600 found that most of the indigenes used animal skins for clothing. Only the wealthy among them wore hemp cloth and padded their dresses with it during the winter.
Babur, the first Mongol and a descendant of the Mongols Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, occasionally ate hemp sweetmeats and drank a tincture of hemp and opium. Babur began his regimen at age 25 (ca. 1505 AD). When using hemp, Babur abstained from alcohol, which he called his "death in life".
Chinese fishers and traders sailed along the rivers and coast of China in boats rigged with hemp. In 1979 a 7th century Sui ship was found at Pingdu (Shandong), caulked with hemp bark rope.
(2) Korea & Japan ~
Korean papermakers used materials and technologies similar to those of the Chinese hemp, paper mulberry, bamboo, rice straw, and seaweed. A few fragments of early Korean hemp paper have been recovered by archaeologists, including a thick, strong, bleached and glossy piece of Chi-Lin chih (Paper from the Silla Kingdom). This was an item of tribute to the Chinese, whose scholars and artists prized its fine quality. The Fei Fu Yu Lueh notes that the Ming artist Tung Chi-Chang used Chi-Lin for his paintings.
Sailors brought hemp to Japan, where it was called asa, and plays a part in many rituals and stories. For example, according to Japanese legend, the earthworm has a white ring around its neck because of hemp. Once there were two women who both wove hemp cloth, which was called nuno or jofu. One woman worked very slowly and produced fine fabric, while the other woman worked quickly to produce coarse cloth. When market day arrived, the slow woman had not woven enough fine cloth to wear, so she insisted that her husband carry her on his back in a huge jar. She went naked except for the hemp fibers around her neck. But the slow woman foolishly mocked the dress of coarse fabric produced by the fast woman. She in turn exposed the nakedness of the slow woman, who buried herself in the earth to hide in shame; she turned into the earthworm. The hemp fibers became the worm's white ring.
According to Japanese tradition, hemp is associated with purity and plays a symbolic role in their customs of courtship. In earlier times, the man's family would send hempen articles as gifts to the woman's family to show that she was acceptable to them. Strands of the fiber were arrayed at the wedding to symbolize the wife's obedience to her husband. Hemp is easily dyed, and Japanese men expected their wives to take on any "color" the man chose. (13)
(3) India ~
Cannabis hemp apparently was brought to India from the Chinese Turkestan by migrants about 3500 years ago. The Mahabharata tells of the Sakas (Scythians from Turkestan) bringing gifts of hemp thread when they visited India. The earliest Aryan name for hemp is bhanga, derived from the Aryan word an or bhanj (to break, transitive). The modern term "cannabis" developed from the Sanskrit sana or cana. The name of Bengal means "Bhang Land" (Bangala); Bangladesh means "Bhang Land People".
The bhang plant is said to have been produced as a shape of Amrita nectar when the gods churned the ocean with Mount Mandara. A drop of nectar spilled onto Earth and bhang sprouted on the spot. It is the favorite food of the deity Indra, and its nectar has been called Indracana. According to myth, Indracana had different colors in each age or cosmic cycle. At first bhang was white, then red, then yellow. In this Kali Yuga, it is green.
The 17th century Hindu text Rajvallabha describes it thus:
"Indracana is acid, produces infatuation and destroys leprosy. It created vital energy, increases mental powers and internal heat, corrects irregularities of the phlegmatic humor and is an elixir of life... Inasmuch as it is believed to give victory in the three worlds and to bring delight to Shiva, it was called victorious. This desire-fulfilling drug was believed to have been obtained by men on earth for the welfare of all people... To those who use it regularly, it begets joy and diminishes anxiety. [They] attain insight, lose all fear, and have their sexual desires excited."
The oldest known reference to bhang in India is found in the Atharva-Veda (Science of Charms) circa 1400 BC:
"We speak to the five kingdoms of the plants with Soma as the most excellent among them. The dharba-grass, hemp, and mighty barley; they shall deliver us from calamity!" (Book XI)
"May the bhang and may the gangida protect us against diseases and all the Demons! The one is brought hither from the forest, the other [bhang] from the sap of the furrow." (Book II.4.5) (20-22)
Throughout Asia, vagabond mendicants dressed only in loincloth eat drink, and smoke bhang to warm themselves against cold weather. Hindu sanyasia mahanta and mantra-data gurus, yogis and fakirs are well respected despite their regular use of ganja for the express purpose of enhancing their meditations. A Buddhist legend claims that Gautama Buddha ate only one hemp seed each day for six years during his ascetic period. (13, 23)
The yogic system of Tantra Sastra has the primary objective of regulating the functions of the mind, and certain drugs, including cannabis, are prescribed for the purpose. Tantric texts divide the plant into four types and say a different mantra for each one. The Brahmana type is white, the Ksatriya is red, the Vaisra is green, and the Sudra is black.
The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report (1893-94) summarized the Hindu opinion of cannabis most eloquently:
"To the Hindu the hemp plant is holy. A guardian lives in the bhang leaf... To meet someone carrying bhang is a sure omen of success... To see in a dream the leaves, plant, or water of bhang is lucky; it brings the goddess of wealth into the dreamer's power... A longing for bhang foretells happiness... No good thing can come to the man who treads underfoot the holy bhang leaf.
"Yogis take deep draughts of bhang that they may center their thoughts on the Eternal... By help of bhang, ascetics pass days without food or drink.
"Besides being a cure for fever, bhang has many medicinal virtues... It cures dysentary and sunstroke, clears phlegm, quickens digestion, sharpens appetite, makes the tongue of the lisper plain, freshens the intellect, and gives alertness to the body and gaiety to the mind. Such are the useful and needful ends for which in his goodness the Almighty made bhang... It is inevitable that temperaments should be found to whom the quickening spirit of bhang is the spirit of freedom and knowledge. In the ecstasy of bhang the spark of the Eternal in man turns into light the murkiness of matter... Bhang is the Joygiver, the Skyflier, the Heavenly Guide, the Poor Man's Heaven, the Soother of Grief... No god or man is as good as the religious drinker of bhang. The students of scriptures at Benares are given bhang before they sit to study. At Benares, Ujjain and other holy places, yogis, bairagis and sanyasis take deep draughts of bhang that they may center their thoughts on the Eternal... By the help of bhang, ascetics pass days without food or drink. The supporting power of bhang has brought many a Hindu family safe through the miseries of famine. To forbid or even seriously to restrict the use of so holy and gracious an herb as the hemp would cause widespread suffering and annoyance and to large bands of worshipped ascetics, deep-seated anger. It would rob the people of a solace in discomfort, of a cure in sickness, of a guardian whose gracious protection saves them from the attacks of evil influences... So grand a result, so tiny a sin!
"These beliefs the Musalman devotee shares to the full. Like his Hindu brother, the Musalman fakir reveres bhang as the lengthener of life; the freer from the bonds of self. Bhang brings union with the Divine Spirit."
The Report studied the feasibility of imposing a tax on hemp products, but abandoned the idea as unprofitable. One of the commissioners, Raja Soshi Roy, argued that Moslem law and Hindu custom, and the Vedas forbid the taxation of anything that gives pleasure to the poor. (49)
In the Rig-Veda (XI, 61.13), bhang is called "the healing herb."
In ancient times the preparation of hemp resin was a secret of the Brahmin priests, who restricted its public use by allowing bhang to be used only occasionally and in limited quantities as an offering in religious celebrations such as the Kali, Durja-Puja, and Vijaya Dasmi festivals. Among his myriad epithets, Shiva is known as "Lord of Bhang". On the final day of the Durja-Puja the idols are thrown into water and the Hindus visit their friends and relatives. It behooves the host to offer a cup of bhang drink and a dish of majoon sweets to the visitors, or be considered unsociable. (25-28)
The 17th century German physician Englebert Kaemper, who was a fleet surgeon for the Dutch East India Company, observed the use of bhang in a spectacular ritual performance for the god Vishnu:
"At the time of the sacrifices in honor of Vishnu, virgins pleasant to behold and richly adorned, were brought to the temple of the Brahmins. They came out in public to appease the god who rules over plenty and fine weather. To impress the spectators, these young women were previously given a preparation with a basis of hemp and datura, and when the priest saw certain symptoms, he began his invocations. The Devadessy (the term for these girls) then danced, leapt about yelling, contorted their limbs, and foaming at the mouth, their eyes ecstatic, committed all sorts of eccentricities. Finally, the priests carried the exhausted virgins into a sanctuary, gave them a potion to destroy the effect of the previous one, and then showed them again to the people in their right mind, so that the crowd of spectators might believe that the demons had fled and the idol was appeased." (29)
The Dutch East India Company made contracts for "Himalayan hemp", paid advances to the cultivators, and purchased the fibers at a fixed rate. It was concluded:
"The system worked well, and should a demand arise in the future, it might be resumed as the best mode of dealing with a community of very poor cultivators" (emphasis added) (30)
Garcia Da Orta (1501-1568) was a Portuguese military surgeon who retired to the island of Goa and wrote his classic Colloquies on the Simples and Drugs of India. Therein he brought bhang to the attention of Europeans:
"Bangue... makes a man laugh foolishly and lifts him above all cares and worries... I hear that many women take it when they want to dally and flirt with men... I've heard it said, although it may not be true, that the great captains, in ancient times, used to drink it with wine or opium so that they could get some rest from their work, banish their cares, and get to sleep." (31)
Da Orta's colleague Cristobal Acosta (1524-1594) also wrote of hemp in his textbook On the Drugs and Medicines from the East Indies (1578):
"Some take it to forget their worries and sleep without thoughts; others to enjoy in their sleep a variety of dreams and delusions; others have become drunk and act like merry jesters; others because of love sickness." (32)
The Irish physician Sir William O'Shaughnessy, a professor of chemistry at the Medical College of Calcutta (1838-1842), helped introduce cannabis to European medicine. He described it thus:
"The Majoon or hemp confection, is a compound of sugar, butter, flour, milk and siddhi or bhang. The process has been repeatedly performed before us by Ameer, the proprietor of a celebrated place of resort for hemp devotees in Calcutta and who is considered the best artist of his profession... Almost invariably the inebriation is of the most cheerful kind, causing the person to sing and dance, to eat food with great relish, and to seek aphrodisiac enjoyments. In persons of a quarrelsome nature it occasions, as might be expected, an exasperation of their natural tendency. The intoxication lasts about three hours, when sleep intervenes. No nausea or sickness of the stomach succeeds, nor are the bowels at all affected; next day there is slight giddiness and vascularity of the eyes, but no other symptoms worth recording." (33)
The people of India prepare bhang in several ways, for eating, drinking, or smoking: Bhang (or, siddhi) consists of the dried leaves ; it is smoked alone o mixed with tobacco. Bhang also is the name for a drink made from the leaves, and usually includes spices. The more potent ganja consists of the flowers of the female plant. Charas is the resin, collected from ganja by rubbing it onto cloth or leather aprons worn by the harvesters. Just after sunrise, while dew is on the plants, the men pass through the field and crush the plants against them. The accumulated resin is scraped off and consolidated by kneading it into various forms. Sometimes the flowers are rubbed between the hands or beaten over a cloth. The grey-white power that falls is collected and compressed into cakes.
Over the centuries, the people of India and their neighbors have developed hundreds of recipes containing bhang. Other powerful psychoactive ingredients sometimes are mixed into hashish, and they strongly influence the effects that are produced. Some of the negative effects attributed to hashish are caused by other substances including large doses of opium, datura, betel nut, aconite, nux vomica, and spices such as nutmeg, mace, and even cantharides ("Spanish fly"), arsenic or mercury. (34)
The traditional Hindu method of cultivating bhang is a complex ritual process. Select seeds which have been kept in the mouth of a snake are sown during an auspicious day during the waxing moon in July. The person who has performed the appropriate rites (nyasa and acamana) must face north or east and meditate. Water mixed with milk is sprinkled over the seeds. When they begin to sprout, they are sprinkled with water mixed with milk. When they sprout, water mixed with clarified butter is used. When the first leaves appear, the plants are sprinkled with salt water. During flowering, they are sprinkled with water mixed with alcohol and meat, then with water and honey, and finally with water and alcohol. Four rites are performed at the harvest (stepana, sevana, tantubandhana, and lavana). The third rite (Tantubandhana, "tieing the tree with fibers") should be performed on the 14th day of the waning moon in Phalguna (February-March) by a person who has bathed, dressed in clean clothing, applied perfume and sacrificed meat and alcohol to Bhairava. The plants are tied with red, yellow, black and white threads. Then the Aghora mantra should be recited for a week. On the fifth day of the waxing moon, the cultivator should meditate on the bhang and imagine her as a deity. Finally, when the seeds are fat, the plant is harvested while again reciting the Aghora mantra.
Cultivators of bhang in India hire a podddar ("ganja doctor") to inspect their plants and rogue all the males before flowering commences. Only the virgin female madi are allowed to mature. On his first visit to a field, the poddar looks for anomalous female flowers on male plants or vice versa. Sometimes the farmers stick a knife through the stem near the base of the plant and insert a wooden wedge or a nail. Sometimes opium, mercury, sulfur, arsenic, or asafoetida is stuffed into the crack to increase the potency of the resin. It is a widespread practice to bury a dead snake under the hemp plants when transplanting them, because it is believed that the venom makes the resin more potent. (26, 35, 36)
The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission found that after deducting for fiber production, the total area under cultivation for resin scarcely exceeded 6000 acres. By 1936, hardly 1600 acres were under cultivation. By 1945, the area was reduced to about 650 acres, and the estimated yield was one million kilograms of leaves and flowers. There was no need to cultivate hemp for fiber:
"[In Kashmir,] the bhang is known as kathiya bhang, is weak in narcotic and is used only for its fiber and for burning. The wild growth is very abundant. It supplies all the wants of the people, and there is consequently no cultivation." (37)
(4) The Middle East ~
The Aryans who invaded India also penetrated the Middle East and Europe, sowing hempseed everywhere they went. Someone else, however, introduced cannabis to Mesopotamia at a much earlier date. One of the oldest archaeological relics in existence is a fragment of hemp cloth found in Catal Hayuk and dated to about 8000 BC. The plant is mentioned in Assyrian texts, where it is called qu-nu-bu in a "a drug for grief". Other formulas used qu-nu-bu as a stomachic, aphrodisiac, poultice for swelling, and as a fumigant. The Phrygian tribes who invaded the Hittite empire about 1100 BC also wove with true hemp fiber. Excavation of the Phrygian city of Gordion near Ankara (Turkey) produced hempen fabrics from the late 8th century BC. According to Dr Robert Walton, cannabis is mentioned in cuneiform tablets dating from 650 BC that are generally regarded as obvious copies of much older texts"; the tablets were found in the library of Babylonian emperor Ashurbanipal. Hemp also was known as azallu in the Akkadian tongue, cognate with the Syrian azal ("To spin"). Hemp is called kanfai in Syriac and Aramaic. In Persia the seeds were called Shahdanah ("Emperor's seeds"). (38, 39)
There is some confusion concerning of the names of hemp in the cultures of the Middle East, particularly with the Old Indic bhanga or Sanskrit sana (hemp) and the Avestan banha ("an abortive plant", henbane), which also is called bang in Middle and New Persian, and banj in Arabic. The Sumerian term for hemp is gan-zi-gun-na; in Persian it is called grgainj. Hemp as qu-nu-bu was mentioned in letter written to the mother of the Assyrian king Esarhaddon circa 680 BC and preserved in the royal archives. (43)
Even as in China and India, cannabis has had a profound influence on the development of human spiritual sensibilities. In the Middle East (Persia and south). One surviving book of the Persian prophet Zoroaster's Zend Avesta (7th cty. BC), titled Vendidad ("The Law Against Demons"), praises bhanga as "Zoroaster's good narcotic". The Book of Artay Viraf tells us of Gustaph and Ardu Viraf, who drank wine and the "narcotic of Vishtasp" (thought to be hemp, or perhaps opium) and were "transported in soul to the heavens. The highest mysteries were revealed to them" during a sleep that lasted seven days. (40, 41)
The use of bhanga to induce euphoria and "righteous action" is mentioned in Din Yast, a devotional book dedicated to the goddess Kista:
"To whom the holy Hvevi [Zarathustra's wife] did sacrifice with full knowledge, wishing that the holy Zarathustra would give her his good narcotic, bhanga... that she might think according to the law, speak according to the law, and do according to the law."
In the Din Yast, god Ahura Mazda is said to be "without trance and without hemp". The Fravasi Yast mentions one who is a poura-bangha ("a possessor of much hemp").
Ibn Wahshiyah (10th cty. AD) wrote of hashish, the potent preparation of cannabis resin in his book On Poisons, and he claimed that the "odor" (vapor) is deadly. His description, however, bears no resemblance to hashish intoxication. Some exotic formulas for the preparation of cannabis (especially as an aphrodisiac) include admixtures of dangerous substances that produce toxic reactions such as he described.
The Aqrabadhin of Al-Samarqandi, an early Arabic medical formulary, recommends hempseed as a "purging clyster" (enema) to be administered in cases of cold colic. (44)
The Persian saint Haydar, founder of the Sufi Hadari set, is given legendary credit for discovering the mental effects of hemp resin in 1155. Haydar was an extreme recluse who for ten years never left his mountain monastery in Persia. Then one day the hermit became very depressed and went for a walk to be alone from his disciples. When he returned, he was very happy and even invited his pupils into his private rooms for the first time. They asked him what had brought about this change of temperament. Haydar explained that while he was walking he noticed one plant that seemed to dance in the sweltering heat while all others stood torpid. His curiosity aroused, Haydar picked and ate a few leaves of the plant and thus discovered the surpassing pleasure that is in hemp. Before he died in 1221 AD, Haydar requested that cannabis be planted around his sepulcher so that his spirit could rest in the shade of the blessed herb that had graced his life. Thus hashish became a sacrament to the Sufis. Sometimes they call it 'the wine of Haydar". One Moslem sect considers benj to be the incarnation of Kizer, spirit of the prophet and the patron saint of water.
The Moslem faith forbids the use of alcohol but allows for cannabis (Koran, ch. 5). The rich indulge in alcohol anyway, though it is expensive. The poor resort to cannabis to mitigate their plight. A Turkish poet expressed the sentiment thus:
"Hashish is the friend of the poor, the dervishes and the men of knowledge, that is, all who are not blessed with earthly goods and social power."
The sage al-Is'rid advised likewise:
"Do not listen to what the critics may say with respect to it. They want to keep you away from it. Disobey any old censor."
Bhang and hashish figure in several tales in the wonerful Book of the Thousand and One Nights, a collection of Arabic stories compiled between the 11th and 18th centuries. One of the anecdotes, "The Tale of the Hashish Eater", is about a beggar who wandered into a bath-house when no one else was about. He ate some hashish, fell asleep, and dreamed that he had a girl in his arms:
"When lo! He heard one saying to him, 'Awake, thou ne'er-do-well! The noon hour is come and you are still asleep'. He opened his eyes and found himself lying on the marge of the cold-water tank, amongst a crowd of people all laughing at him; for his prickle was at point and the napkin had slipped from his middle. So he knew that all this was but a confusion of dreams and an illusion of Hashish and he was vexed and said to him who had aroused him, 'Would thou hadst waited till I had put it in!' Then said the folk, 'Art thou not ashamed, O Hashish-eater, to be sleeping stark naked with stiff-standing tool?' And they cuffed him till his neck was red. Now he was starving, yet forsooth he had savored the flavor of pleasure in his dream..."
On the 835th night, Sharazad told the story of Khalifah the Fisherman of Bagdad, who had earned 100 dinars and was trying to keep it a secret. He devised a plan to pretend that he had been robbed:
"He lay one night in his lodging much bemused with hashish... And his Hashish said to him, 'Rise, doff thy dress.' So he stood up and putting off his clothes, took a whip he had by him... then he fell to lashing himself..."
In "The Sleeper and the Waker", bhang was used as a knockout drug:
"The Caliph crowned a cup, and putting therein a piece of Cretan Bhang, gave it to his host and said to him, 'My life on thee, O my brother, drink this cup from my hand!' and Abu al-Hasan answered, 'Ay, by thy life, I will drink it from thy hand.' So he took it and drank it off; but hardly had it settled in his stomach, when his head forewent his heels and he fell to the ground like one slain..."
On the 503rd night (Supplemental), Sharazad told the tale of a clever woman who outwitted the 40 Thieves in the same manner:
"She brought them coffee which they drank, but hardly had it settled in their maws when the 40 Thieves fell to the ground, for she had mixed it with Banj al-tayyar [Flying Bhang], and those who had drunk thereof became like unto dead men."
"Flying Bhang" was so-called because it was "that which flies fastest to the brain."
Sharazad also told "The Tale of the Two Hashish-Eaters" on the 798th night, about a fisherman and a judge who ate hashish together and subsequently tried to urinate on the Sultan and his wazir, who were walking about the city in disguise:
"Next morning, that the jest might be complete, the Sultan called the kadi and his guest before him. 'O discrete pillar of our law,' he said, 'I have called you to me because I wish to learn the most convenient manner of pissing. Should one squat and carefully lift the robe, as religion prescribes? Should one stand up, as is the unclean habit of unbelievers? Or should one undress completely and piss against one's friends, as is the custom of two hashish-eaters of my acquaintance?'
"Knowing that the Sultan used to walk about the city in disguise, the kadi realized in a flash the identity of his last night's visitors, and fell on his knees, crying, 'My Lord, my lord, the hashish spake in these indelicacies, not I!' But the fisherman, who by his careful daily taking othe drug was always under its effect, called somewhat sharply: 'And what of it? You are in your palace this morning, we were in our palace last night.' 'O sweetest noise in all our kingdom,' answered the delighted king, 'as we are both Sultans of this city, I think you had better henceforth stay with me in my palace. If you can tell stories, I trust that you will at once sweeten our hearing with a chosen one.' 'I will do so gladly, as soon as you have pardoned my wazir,' replied the fisherman; so the Sultan bade the kadi rise and sent him back forgiven to his duties..." (45, 46)
Much of the bad reputation endured by Cannabis sativa in the past several centuries has been due in part to an unfortunate similarity between the terms hashishin ("Hashish-eater) and assassin, an uncertain word which may be derived from the Arabic hassa ("to kill"). The confusion (in European minds) was generated primarily by the 13th century Venetian explorer Marco Polo. When passing through northern Persia in 1271, he heard the tale of Hasan-al-Sabah and his cult of fidais ("faithful"). Marco Polo told the story to a scribe and other enthralled visitors while he was imprisoned in Genoa:
"Concerning the Old Man of the Mountain ... The Old Man was called in their language Aloadin. He had caused a certain valley between two mountains to be enclosed, and had turned it into a garden, the largest and most beautiful that ever was seen, filled with every variety of fruit. In it were... palaces of the most elegant that can be imagined, all covered with gilding and exquisite painting. And there were runnels too, flowing freely with wine and honey and water; and numbers of ladies and of the most beautiful damsels in the world, who could play on all manner of instruments, and sung most sweetly, and danced in a manners that was charming to behold. For the Old Man desired to make his people believe that this was actually Paradise... And sure enough the Saracens of those parts believed that it was Paradise!
"Now no man was allowed to enter the Garden save those whom he intended to make his Ashishin... He kept at his court a number of youths of the country, from 12 to 20 years of age, such as had a taste for soldiering, and to these he used to tell tales about Paradise... Then he would introduce them into his garden, some four, or six, or ten at time, having first made them drink a certain potion which cast them into a deep sleep, and then causing them to be lifted and carried in. So when they awoke, they found themselves in the garden...
"When therefore they awoke... they deemed that it was paradise in very truth. And the ladies and damsels dallied with them to their hearts' content, so that they had what young men would have; and with their own good will never would quitted this place.
"Now this Prince whom we call the Old One... made those simple hill-folks believe firmly that he was a great Prophet. And when he wanted one of his Ashishin to send on any mission, he would cause that potion whereof I spoke to be given to one of the youths in the garden, and then had him carried into his Palace. So when the young man awoke, he found himself in the castle, and no longer in that Paradise; whereas he was not over well pleased. He was then conducted to the Old Man's presence... The Prince would then ask whence he came, and he would reply that he came from Paradise! and that it was exactly as Mahomet had described it in the Law. This gave the others who stood by, and who had not been admitted, the greatest desire to enter therein.
"So when the Old Man would have any Prince slain, he would say to such a youth: 'Go thou and slay So and So; and when thou returnest my Angels shall bear thee into Paradise. And shouldst thou die, natheless even so will I send my Angels to carry thee back into Paradise." So he caused them to believe; and thus there was no order of his that they would not affront any peril to execute, for the great desire they had to get... into that Paradise... And in this manner the Old One got his people to murder any one whom he desired to get rid off." (Ref. 47)
Marco Polo did not name the drug used in his verson of the legend, yet other writers have assumed that hashish was meant, or perhaps opium or a mixture of the two. The 12th century abbot Arnold von Lubeck also wrote of the Assassins, thus:
"Hemp raises them to a state of ecstasy or falling, or intoxicates them. Their sorcerers draw near and exhibit to the sleepers, phantasms, pleasures and amusement. They then promise that these delights will become perpetual if the orders given them are executed with the daggers provided."
This and other errors of transmission have assured legendary status and the circumstantial-guilt-by-association of hashish and assassins. It has no basis in historical fact. The Old Man was an extreme ascetic who executed his own son for having committed a minor frivolity.
(5) Israel ~
It was thought until recently that cannabis was not mentioned in the Bible. Scholars have argued about the etymology of kinebosm (or, kannabosm) and related words such as qineh, which means hemp. Previously the word was translated as sugarcane or calamus. In 1903, the British physician Dr Creighton was the first to determine that several references to cannabis can be found in the Old Testament. Sara Bentowas (Inst. of Anthrop. Sci., Warsaw) compiled over 100 synonyms for the plant, and found that in the Aramaic translation of the Old Testament, Targum Onculos, the word kaneh or kene (cane) is linked with busma ("aromatic") to mean cannabis. According to scholars at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, it has been confirmed (as of 1980) that the editors of the King James Bible apparently mistranslated the word kineboisin for calamus -- a tragic error that haunts Christians, Jews, and their victims to this day. In 1860, M'Meens noted:
"Some high Biblical commentators maintain that the gall and vinegar, or myrrhed wine, offered to our Savior immediately before his crucifixion, was in all probability a preparation of Indian hemp, and even speak of its earlier use." (48)
The Bible makes several references to hemp, such as Ezekiel 34:29 ("a plant of renown"), Ezekiel 27:19 ("bright iron, cassia, and kaneh], were in thy market"), Solomon's Song 4: 14 ("Spikenard and saffron; kaneh and cinnamon..."), Isaiah 43: 24 ("Thou hast brought me no kaneh with money...") etc.
The Bible also gives fair warning against the modern prohibition in Paul 1 and Timothy (4:1):
"In later times, some shall... speak lies in hypocrisy... commanding to abstain from that which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth."
The Babylonian Talmud states in Abodah Zarah that mats made of hemp fiber should be placed on top of grapes when pressing them for winemaking, and the mats can be used again if they are carefully cleaned. But if the mats are made of another fiber, they cannot be used again for another year. The book Kil'ayim says:
"Hemp is not kil'ayim, but the sages say it is kil'ayim." (49)
In 1993, Joe Zias and his colleagues reported their find of skeletal remains of a 14-year old girl from the 4th century AD buried in a family tomb in Beir Shemesh near Jerusalem. The archaeologists found the skeletal remains of a full-term fetus in the girl's pelvis, which was too small to allow the birth and caused her death by hemorrhage. Several grams of gray, carbonized matter was recovered and proved to be cannabis. Perhaps it had been administered in an attempt to stop the uterine bleeding, or burnt for a ritual purpose, or inhaled for analgesia. (50, 51)
(6) Africa ~
By the 3rd millenium BC, the true hemp plant was known in Egypt. The ancient Egyptian word for hemp (smsm t) occurs in the Pyramid Texts in connection with ropemaking. Pieces of hempen material were found in the tomb of Pharoah Akhenaten (Amenhopis IV) at el-Amarna, and the pollen of the mummy of Ramses (ca. 1200 BC) has been identified as cannabis. The Ramses III Papyrus (A. 26) offered an opthalmic prescription containing smsm t, and the Ebers Papyrus gave "A remedy to cool the uterus", an enema, and a poultice to an injured toenail, each containing smsm t. (52)
Sir W. Flanders Petrie found a large mat made of palm fiber tied with hemp cordage at el-Amarna, and other digs have unearthed hempen grave clothes of the Badarian, Predynastic, Pan and Roman periods.
The Punic people dominated the Mediterranean Sea from the 11th to 8th century BC and continued as a lesser power until the Romans destroyed them in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. A Punic warship found off the coast of Sicily yielded a large quantity of hemp stems that might have been used for caulking, etc. (53)
The use of cannabis as a fiber was not so basic or widespread an industry in Africa as it had been in China. There is no archaeological evidence that the early Egyptiaans knew of the mental effects of smsm t, and they did not use the fiber to any significant extent. The consumption of cannabis for spiritual reasons or for pleasure, the consumption of cannabis for spiritual or hedonistic reasons eventually became a common practice. When the 13th century Moorish botanist Ibn al-Baytar passed through Egypt on a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, he observed the use of hashish by Sufis and noted in his diary, Al-Mukhassas:
"People who use it habitually proved its pernicious effect... it enfeebles their minds by carrying them maniac affections; sometimes it even causes their death. I recall having seen a time when men of the vilest class alone dared to eat it, still they did not like the name hashishin applied to them."
Hemp embodies the spirit of freedom, and for that it has been a convenient scapegoat for petty tyrants throughout history. In 1253 the Garden of Cafour, a very popular hashish center in Cairo, was close by the army and all of the plants growing there were destroyed in a huge bonfire that was visible for miles around. In 1378, Soudan Sheikhoumi, the Emir of Joneima, made a futile effort to abolish the use of hashish by searching out and destroying all the hemp plants in Cairo and vicinity. The farmers of qinnab were hunted down and executed or imprisoned. The known users were rounded up and had their teeth yanked out with tongs by soldiers before the horrified view of the assembled citizens. Despite such gruesome suppression, cannabis continued to entice and entangle people, as the Egyptian historian Maqrizi wrote in 1393:
"As a consequence, general corruption of sentiments and manners ensued, modesty disappeared, every base and evil passion was openly indulged in, and nobility of external form alone remained in these infatuated beings." (54)
Many North African people smoke kif, which they carry in a mottoni (pouch). Each compartment contains a different grade of Kif that is offered to guests according to the degree of respect or friendship due to them. Kif is smoked in chquofa, clay pipes designed for the purpose.
An ancient Arabic proverb asserts that, "A pipeful of kif before breakfast gives a man the strength of a hundred camels in the courtyard". Another proverb warns, "Kif is like fire: a little warms, a lot burns." (55)
The earliest archaeological proof of hemp-smoking in Africa outside of Egypt was found in an Ethiopian site near Lake Tana, dated to 1320. Two ceramic pipe bowls contained traces of cannabis. The cultivation of dagga (hemp) spread southward, but the practice of smoking was forgotten along the way and not learned again until the Dutch arrived with their pipes in the 17th century. Previously the Hottentots and other tribes had only eaten the leaves, and the pipe was a welcome addition to their cultures. Many new forms were developed; most common were "earth pipes", small holes in the ground that were filled with a mixture of dried dagga and smoldering dung. The smokers placed their mouths over the holes and inhaled. (56)
Other tribes developed sophisticated techniques. The explorer A. T. Bryant wrote thus of the Zulus:
"Every Zulu kraal had a few hemp plants growing inside its outer fence for smoking purposes. It was known as iNtsangu...
"Oft of an afternoon one might hear the soft deep boom of the signal-horn wafting over the veld. This was an invitation by some lonely man to all and sundry to come and keep him company with the hubble-bubble... The hubble-bubble (iGudu) was a hollow cow's horn (in the better brands, that of a kudu antelope), finely pared and polished, and used for hemp-smoking. It was fitted with a reed stem (isiTukulu), inserted at an acute angle halfway down its side, and carrying on its tip a small bowl (iMbiza), the size of an egg...
"We deem it hardly of sufficient importance to go further into the details of the less significant trades of various minor craftsmen -- how the maker of smoking-horns (iGudu) polished his cow or kudu horn, or carved his hemp-holder (iMbiza) out of a nicely carved and polished jade-like soapstone. The smoking horn having been filled with water (to just above the level of the stem-aperature), and the bowl with dry, rubbed-up hemp leaves (iNtsangu) bearing a tiny glowing ember on their top, the smoker (having first taken a sip of water and retained it in his mouth) placed the large open end of the horn to the side of his mouth and cheek (so as to close all ingress of air), and gave two or three strong draws, bringing the smoke from the hemp, through the water, and so into his mouth, where part of it found its way straight into his lungs. The consequence was a violent coughing and abundant secretion of saliva, which latter, mixed together with the water and the smoke (already filling his mouth), the smoker now discharged in the form of a bubbly foam through a small reed-like stem of the iNgwevu plant. As this foamy spittle passed through and out of this tube (uTshumo) on to the earthen hut floor, the smoker, by means of his forefinger, drew with on the floor various designs (kraals, mazes and the rest). While the one smoker was thus engaged drawing his picture, his companion would be having his pull at the horn. In a few minutes the while smoking party would be loudly coughing, each in the interval shouting out his own or his family's praises (iziBongo), and all of them enwrapt in a state of consummate bliss... Most Zulu men smoked hemp daily without apparent harm; but when indulged in to excess, especially by the young, the mental faculties became gradually and permanently blunted. In some individuals hemp-smoking caused extraordinary hilarity and irrepressible laughter; in others, extreme moroseness; in still others, dangerous and criminal incitement, and even delirium. Young warriors were especially addicted to hemp-smoking, and under the exciting stimulation of the drug, were capable of accomplishing the most hazardous feats. The hemp the Zulus smoked was home-grown in every kraal, the best quality leaves (soft and richly growing) being called uNota, the poorer kind, iQume." (57, 58)
Dr. David Livingstone wrote that before going into battle, Sotho warriors "sat down and smoked it [matokwane or lebake] in order that they might make an effective onslaught." But warriors of the Ja-Luo tribe in Uganda were forbidden to smoke dagga. (59, 60)
The Bergamma tribe of southwest Africa cultivated dagga for trade with other tribes, and they paid annual tribute to the Saan with dagga. In 1609 the Dominican priest Joao dos Santos observed that the proud people of Kafaria (near the Cape of Good Hope) also cultivated bangue, and customarily ate its leaves. The Bantus developed a dagga cult based on the belief that the holy plant had been brought to Earth by gods from the "Two Dog Star" (Sirius). (61)
The Pygmy people claim that they have "smoked hemp from the beginning of time". Scientist Carl Sagan has expressed a similar opinion:
"In defense of the Pygmies, perhaps I should note that a friend of mine who has spent time with them says that for such activities as the patient stalking and hunting of mammals and fishes they prepare themselves through marijuana intoxication, which helps to make the long waits, boring to anyone further evolved than a Komodo dragon, at least moderately tolerable. Ganja is, he says, their only cultivated crop. It would be wryly interesting if in human history the cultivation of marijuana led generally to the invention of agriculture, and thereby to civilization." (62)
This certainly was the case with the Bantu Bashilange tribe, according to the account given by the explorer Hermann von Wissman (1853-1905):
"One tribe with another, one village with another, always lived at daggers drawn... The number of scars which some ancient men display among ther tatooings gives evidence of this. Then... a hemp-smoking worship began to be established, and the narcotic effect of smoking masses of hemp made itself felt. The Ben-Riamba, 'Sons of Hemp', found more and more followers; they began to have intercourse with each other as they became less barbarous and made laws."
In the 1880s, the Balouba chief Kalamba-Moukengge acquired guns and subjugated the neighboring tribes. He then attempted to unify his kingdom by ordering the ancient fetishes to be burned in public. In their stead he adopted the custom of the Bantu, who believed that the ritual smoking of riamba enabled the soul to reincarnate. Some of the Balubas formed a Ben-Riamba cult. Riamba was the holy fetish of universal magic, protection, peace and friendship. The people smoked from communal gourd pipes up to a meter in circumference, which they carried with them from camp to camp. The Balouba men gathered in the center of the village each night to smoke together in a solemn manner. The Balouba also used hemp as a punishment; offenders were compelled to smoke until they lost consciousness. Recidivism was rare. (63)
Among the Fang tribe, yama (hemp) or inkot alok (dry herb) is smoked ritually after ingesting eboka (ibogaine). In Gabon, the pollen of hemp is eaten, because it is thought to be more potent than smoking leaf material. On the island of Madagascar, people smoke Somorona, a mixture of rongony (cannabis) and the vascular cryptogram of Lycopodium genus. It is said to make a person fearless and able to overcome fatigue. The use of dagga was encouraged among African mine workers because, "After a smoke the natives work hard and show very little fatigue", as C. Bourhill reported in 1913.
(7) Greece ~
Migrant humans carried cannabis from Asia through Greece and Russia into Europe, and later from Africa through Spain and other ports of entry on the Mediterranean Sea. Thanks to their love of the seed, birds also did their unwitting part to help hemp escape cultivation. One of the earliest and most famous accounts of the ancient use of hemp was written by the Geek Historian Herodotus (5th century BC), who described its part in the funeral rites of the Scythians, nomads who ranged the steppes from about 1300 to 600 BC. The Scythians were defeated -- and introduced to hemp -- by the Thracian Getae early in the 6th century BC. The Scythian chieftains were buried in a chamber with a wife and servants, each in their own compartment, all in splendid apparel and surrounded outside by dozens of slaughtered horses and former guards:
"When they have buried the dead, the relatives purify themsleves as follows: they anoint and wash their hands; as to their bodies, they set up three sticks, leaning them against one another, and stretch, over these, woolen mats; and, having barricaded off this place as best they can, they make a pit in the center of the sticks and the mats and into it throw red-hot stones.
"Now, they have hemp growing in that country that is very like flax, except that it is thicker and taller. This plant grows both wild and under cultivation, and from it the Thracians make garments very like linen. Unless someone is very expert, he could not tell the garment made of linen from the hempen one. Someone who has never seen hemp would certainly judge the garment to be linen.
"The Scythians take the seed of this hemp and, creeping under the mats, throw the seed onto the stones as they glow with heat. The seed so cast on the stones gives off smoke and a vapor; no Greek steam bath could be stronger. The Scythians in their delight at the bath howl loudly. This indeed serves them instead of a bath, as they never let water near their bodies at all..." (64)
In 1929, tents like those described by Herodotus were discovered in the tomb of a tattooed man and his mummified wife, buried in great Kurgan burial mounds in the Pazaryk Valley (Altai) during the 4th century BC. Russian archaeologist S. Rudenko also found hempen shirts and bronze censors filled with rocks and charred hempseed. The practice of fumigating with hemp was not just a funeral rite but a regular practice of the Scythians. In 1965, Russian archaeologists again uncovered Scythian tombs dating from 500-300 BC in the Pazyryk Valley; they too found hempseed in metal censors. Hempseed contains very little of the psychoactive principle (THC). Probably the Scythians actually burned hemp flowers under the guidance of a shaman. Aeschylus (525-456 BC) reported that the Thracians simply threw hemp into a fire and inhaled the smoke. Another account states that the herbs were thrown on hot rocks and covered with a large hide. The men stuck their heads underneath to inhale the vapors. (65, 66)
In 1993, Russian archaeologists found the 2000-year old grave of a young Scythian princess in the Siberian Umok plateau, containing a small pot full of cannabis among the other items in the chamber.
Herodotus also mentioned the use of hemp by the Massagetae (the Thracian Getae):
"[They were] reputed to be a numerous and warlike people and some suppose them to be of Scythian nationality... They have also discovered a use for another tree whose fruit has a very odd property: for when they have parties and sit around a fire, they throw some of it into the flames, and as it burns it smokes like incense, and the smell of it makes them drunk just as wine does us; and they get more and more intoxicated as more fruit is thrown on, until they jump up and start dancing and singing. That at least is how I am told these strange people live."
Hesychius said the Thracian women made sheets of hemp. The Greek biographer and moralist Plutarch (17-46 BC) wrote that after eating a meal the Thracians would throw the flowers of a plant ("which looked like oregano") into the fire inhale inhale the intoxicating fumes until they fell asleep. The Greek geographer Strabo (63 BC-24 AD) gave an account (VII.3.3: C. 296) of the Kapnobatai, ("Those who walk in smoke"), a shamanic cult of cannabists among the Mysian and Getae Thracian tribes who settled north of the Danube river circa 600 BC. (67)
Moscion (ca. 200 BC) left record of the use of hemp ropes by the tyrant Hiero II, who outfitted the flagship "Syracusia" and others of his fleet with rope made from the superior hemp cultivated in Rhodanus (Rhone River valley). Other Greek city states obtained much of their hemp from Colchis on the Black Sea.
Homer in The Odyssey (4: 219-232) mentions that Helen employed a mysterious drug called Nepenthe ("Against sorrow") to revive a party that had slipped into mourning over the lost hero Odysseus. It is believed that Nepenthe was cannabis resin and/or opium. Diodorus of Sicily (1st cty. BC) also mentions Nepenthe in his Histories (I.97.7):
"And as proof of the presence of Homer in Egypt they adduce various pieces of evidence, and especially the healing drink which brings forgetfulness of all past evils, which was given by Helen to Telemachus in the home of Menelaus. For it is manifest that the poet had acquired exact knowledge of the 'nepenthic' drug which he says Helen brought from Egyptian Thebes, given her by Polydamna..."
In the opinion of E. W. Lane, who edited The Thousand and One Nights. cannabis is nepenthe:
"Benj, the plural of which in Coptic is nibendji is without a doubt the same plant as the nepenthe, which has so much perplexed the commentators of Homer. Helen evidently brought the nepenthe from Egypt, and benj is there still reported to possess all the wonderful qualities which Homer attributes to it.
The Greek physician Pedacius Dioscorides (1st cty. AD) described Kannabis emeros (female) and agria (male) in De Materia Medica (3: 165):
"Kannabis emeros: Cannabis (some call it Cannabium, some Schoenostrophon, some Asterion, ye Romans Cannabis) is a plant of much use in this life for ye twistings of very strong ropes, it bears leaves like to the Ash, of a bad scent, long stalks, empty, a round seed, which being eaten of much doth quench geniture, but being juiced when it is green is good for the pains of the ears.
"Kannabis agria, Althea cannabina: Cannabis sylvestris (some call it Hydrastina, ye Romans Terminalis some Cannabis) bears little rods like to those of Althea, but blacker and sharpe and smaller; but ye leaves like to ye sative but sharper and blacker; ye flowers reddish like to Lychnis, but ye seed and roote like to Althea. The root being sodden, and so laid on hath ye force to assuage inflammations and to dissolve Oedemata, and to disperse ye obdurate matter about ye joints. Ye bark also of this, is fitting for ye twining of ropes."
(8) Rome & Italy ~
The Roman empire consumed great quantities of hemp fiber, much of whch was imported from the Babylonian city of Sura. The cities of Alabanda, Colchis, Cyzicus, Ephesus and Mylasa also were major centers of hemp industries. It was not a major crop in early Italy, but the seed was a common food. Carbonized hemp seeds were found in the ruins of Pompee, buried by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD. (68)
Galen (ca. 130-200 AD) observed in De Facultatibus Alimentorum that the Romans ate cannabis pastries at their banquets "to promote hilarity".
Pausanius (2nd cty. BC) apparently was the first Roman writer to mention hemp; he noted that it was grown in Elide. A surviving fragment of the satirist Lucilius (ca. 100 BC) mentions the plant. Lucius Columela elaborated on the topic in Res Rustica (II.vii.1; II.xii.21). Caius Plinius the Elder (23-79 AD) also wrote at length about hemp in his Natural History (XIX: 56; XX: 97). Several other ancient Roman and Greek writers also described hemp: Leo Africanus (The History & Description of Africa 3: 722) concerning the Lhasis potation in Tunisia; Plutarch (Of the Names of Mountains & Rivers); Alus Gellus (Noctes Atticae); Theophrastus (Dendromalache, the "herb tree"); Gasius Catullus (Codex Veronensis); Cato (De Re Rustica); Aetius, Cinegius, and Titus Livius, et cetera.
In An Abstract of the Most Useful Parts of a Late Treatise on Hemp (1766) by M. Marcandier, editor Thomas Painne wrote:
"He [Marcandier] likewise acquaints us from the most ancient historians of the Romans, that they consumed much Hemp in their land and sea service; that they had magazines of it in some of the principal cities of the eastern empire, great quantities of it being by the Emperor's orders amassed at Ravenna in Italy and Vienna in Gaul: the officer who superintended that matter on the further side of the Alps, being called the procurator of hemp manufactures in Gaul, and had his residence in Vienna; that their husbandmen used it in fixing their oxen to the yoke and other purposes of agriculture; that their laws and their annals were written on hempen cloth; that the use of it was very common in adorning their theatres, covering their streets and public places, their ampitheatres and their Arenas for the Gladiators, to shade those who assisted at their public shows; that the Romans had their table linen of hemp, and that each guest brought his napkin with him; whence we may infer that it was known to the ancients as a material of cloth for the common service of their families, as well as for the purposes of agriculture, shipping, etc." (70)
The second paper mill in Europe was built in Italy in 1276. In 1303, the Venetians established a ropewalk with which to outfit their ships, originally using hemp from Bologna until they developed high-quality industrial hemp cultivation, especially near Padua.
In April 1591, the Turks ordered an enormous quantity of hemp and flax from Transylvania for the sails and rigging of an armada. This news struck fear in the Venetians, as it could only mean war. Their own hemp industry was the basis of their considerable sea power. The Italians called hemp canappa, "the substance of a hundred operations" because it required so many processes to prepare the fibers for use. The effort was well worthwhile, however: a pound of hemp could be spun into nearly 250 miles of fine yet strong lace thread.
The Venetians eventually came to dominate the Italian hemp industry and they instituted a craft union and the Tana, a state-operated spinning factory with very high production standards. Their statutes required that all Venetian ships be rigged only with the best quality of hemp rope. Thus Venice built a superior fleet that controlled Mediterranean shipping until the city was conquered by Napoleon in 1797. The Venetian Senate issued a declaration:
"The security of our galleys and ships and similarly of our sailors and capital [rests on] the manufacture of cordage in our home of the Tana." (72, 73)
The Romans helped spread hemp through Europe, but it was well known to early Europeans long before then. The German archaeologist Herman Busse found an urn containing sand and an assortment of plant fragments, including hemp seeds and pericarps, when he excavated a tomb from the 5th cty. BC at Wilmersdorf (Brandenburg) in 1896. (74)
The Vikings relied on hemp for rope, sailcloth, caulking, fishline and nets for their daring voyages. Thus the Viking possibly introduced cannabis to the east coast of North America. Hempseed was found in the remains of Viking ships built about 850 AD. Equally ancient retting pits have been discovered in Denmark.
In 1753 the Swedish botanist Carl von Linn (Linnaeus, 1707-1778) classified hemp as Cannabis sativa in his Species Plantarum, and he described the resin as a narcotic. Linnaeus cultivated cannabis on his windowsill so he could study closely its sexuality.
(9) France ~
When the crypt of the Frankish Queen Arnemunde (d. 570 AD) was unearthed, her body was found surrounded by a spectacular treasure. She was wearing a silk dress and gold jewelry but the body was draped with hemp cloth, showing that the humble plant was held in high esteem.
Hemp figured in the Fire-Festivals of several European countries. In the French Ardennes, on the first Sunay in Lent, it was believed to the vital that the women be tipsy that night if one wanted the hemp to grow tall that season. In Swabia, the young men and women leaped hand-in-hand over a bonfire, yelling, "Grow, that the hanf may be three ells high!" It was believed that those who made the jump would not suffer from backache when they reaped their crop. Furthermore, the parents of the couple who jumped highest would enjoy the most abundant harvest. If a farmer failed to add anything to the bonfire, his crops were cursed in general and his hemp in particular was doomed. (75)
French farmers were wont to dance at the Carnival so their chanvre would grow tall. In the Vosges Mountain region, people danced on the roofs of their houses on Twelfth Day for the same reason. When sowing hempseed, farmers would pull up their pants as far as possible in the belief that the crop would grow precisely to the height of their britches. Other men jumped as high as they could in the field, believing that this activity made the hemp grow taller. In the Bean Festival of Lorraine, farmers predicted the height of the upcoming crop by comparing the King and Queen. If the King was taller than the Queen, then the male hemp would grow taller than the male, and vice versa.
Francois Rabelais (1483-1553?), the brilliant French priest, scholar, lawyer and doctor, also authored Gargantua and Pantagruel, the first great novel in French literature. He devoted three chapters to a botanical description of "Pantagruelion" (his nom-de-plume for hemp) and gave a most eloquent account of its many virtues:
"Pantagruelion also gets its name from its peculiar characteristics. For just as Pantagruel has been the ideal and symbol of all joyous perfection (I don't think any of you other drinkers doubts that for a moment), in Pantgruelion, too, I see such enormous potential, such energy, so many perfections, so many admirable accomplishments, that it its powers had been understood, back in the days when the trees (as Samual tells us) were choosing who would be king of the woods and rule the whole forest, surely Pantagruelion would have had most of the votes.
"Without Pantagruelion, our kitchens would be unspeakable, even if they were covered with all sorts of exquisite delicacies -- and our beds would offer no delight, even though they might be liberally adorned with gold, silver, platinum, ivory and porphyry. Without Pantagruelion, millers could not carry wheat to their mills, or bring back flour. Without Pantagruelion, how would lawyers over manage to bring their briefs to court? How, without it, would you ever carry plaster into workshops? Or draw water from wells? Without Pantgruelion, what would legal scribes do all day, and copyists, and secretaries, and other scribblers? Their documents would be destroyed, and landlord's leases too. And the noble art of printing would surely perish. What would we us to make window coverings? How would we ring our church bells? The priests of Isis are adorned with Pantagruelion, as are the statue-bearing priests around the world, and all human beings when they first come into this world. All the wool-bearing trees of India, the cotton vines of Tylos, in the Persian Sea, like the cotton plants of Arabia, and the cotton vines of Malta do not adorn as many people as this one herb. It covers armies against rain and cold, and certainly does it more comfortably than, once, skins and hides used to do. It covers theaters and auditoria against heat; it's tied to trees and bushes to make life easier for hunters; it drops down into water, fresh and salt alike, to help fishermen. It shapes and makes possible boots, and half-boots, and sea boots, spats, and laced boots, and shoes, and dancing shoes, slippers, and hob boots. Pantagruelion strings bows, pulls crossbows tight, and makes slings. And just as if it were a sacred herb, like verbena, worshipped by the souls of the dead, corpses are never buried without it...
"By the use of this herb, which captures and holds the waves of the air, great ships are sent hither and thither, at the will of those who command them -- cargo ships, and those that carry passengers, huge galleons, vessels carrying whole armies.
"Thanks to this herb, nations which nature seemed to keep hidden away, obscure, impenetrable, unknown, have now come to us, and we to them -- something even the birds could not do, no matter how light their feathers or what powers of flight they are given. Ceylon now has seen Lapland; Java has seen the Scythian mountains; the Arabs will see Theleme; Icelanders and Greenlanders will see the Euphrates. Pantagruelion has allowed the north wind to visit the home of the south wind, and the east wind to visit the realm of the west wind. And all of this has terrified the heavenly intelligences, the gods of sea and land, seeing that with the help of this blessed herb the Arctic peoples -- with the Antarticans watching -- have leaped over the Atlantic Ocean, swept past both tropics, vaulted down under the torrid zone, and measured the whole zodiac, frisking along under the equinoxes, with both the poles dancing on their horizon. So the frightened Olympic gods cried:
“Using this mighty herb of His, Pantagruel has given us something new and tedious to deal with -- worse even than those giants who tried to climb Olympus. Soon he'll be married; his wife will bear him children... They will sit at table with us, and take our goddesses as their wives -- the only way they can become gods...
"Arabs -- Indians -- Sabians --no more
Loud praise for myrrh, incense, ebony.
Come see what better things there are
In this herb of ours, and take its seeds,
And if you grow this handsome gift
In your lands, too, give thanks to God
And royal France, whose happy sod
Provided you so handsome a gift." (76)
The Arabs actually were far afield ahead of the French insofar as cannabis was concerned. The Moslems founded Europe's first paper factory in 1150, utilizing hemp cultivated around the city of Xativa (Alicante province, Spain). More Moorish hemp mills were established in Toleda and Valencia. The other countries of Europe soon followed suit, producing hempen rag paper in the same manner as the Chinese a millenium earlier.
The spinning of hemp cloth was an essential industry in France during the 16th and 17th centuries. The spinners kept lumps of sugar in their mouths to stimulate salivation, with which they moistened the fiber as it was spun.
Thomas Platter noted this of the French at Uzes in 1597:
"Each family spins its own wool at home, and then takes it to be woven and dyed for various uses. They use spinning wheels as we do... but distaffs are never seen, for it is only the poorest people who spin hemp. The cloth may be brought from merchants and is sold at a lower price than that sold by hand." (77)
When Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798, thousands of his bored soldiers immediately took to the use of hashish, due to the unavailability of alcohol in the Moslem world. Hashish had previously been but a foreign word known only to a few well-read Europeans. Suddenly it became a real experience that threatened military discipline. In October of 1800, Napoleon issued this order:
"It is forbidden in all of Egypt to use certain Moslem beverages made with hashish or likewise to inhale the smoke from the seeds of hashish. Habitual drinker and smokers of this plant lose their reason and are victims of violent delirium which is the lot of those who give themselves full to excesses of all sorts."
The French expedition was accompanied by 175 scholars, among them Desgenettes, Rouyer, and the eminent Silvestre de Sacy. They enjoyed hashish so much as to send a quantity of it to France for their colleagues to study. The first scientific report on solvent extracts of hashish was published in 1803 by Dr. Virey. When de Sacy addressed the Institute of France in 1809, he announced that the word Assassin was derived from Hashish. This pronouncement officially established the legendary guilt by etymology of cannabis and political murder, which has been discredited since then.
Humble hemp was instrumental in the downfall of Emperor Napoleon. In 1812, Bonaparte invaded Russia with the intent to destroy her hemp crops, in order to punish Tsar Alexander I for his violation of the Treaty of Tilset (1807). Russia had continued to sell hemp to England through American traders. Many such Americans were strongly "impressed" by the Royal Navy to serve as a flag of convenience for British interests. Russia's winter, however, utterly defeated the French army, and hemp has continued to flourish there. (78)
Louis Aubert-Roche became familiar with hashish while he was stationed in Cairo (1834-1838) and elsewhere during his extensive travels in the Orient. In his book De la Peste ou Typhus d'Orient... (1840), he reported that hashish was an effective treatment against typhus and plague.
Dr Jacques-Joseph Moreau de Tours was in Egypt at the same time, and later published his observations in Hashish and Mental Illness. Dr Moreau also supplied hashish as a pale green paste to the members of the Parisian Club des Hashishins, which included such famous writers as Charles Baudelaire, Victor Hugo, Charles Dumas, Honore de Balzac, and other artists. Theophile Gautier visited the gatherings on occasion, but usually he ate hashish privately at the house of his friend Louis Menard. The writers later extolled the wonders of hashish in various accounts of their experimental sessions, conduted in the baroque Hotel Pimodan amidst lavish settings with a banquet room and an orchestra. (79, 80)
Theophile Gautier (1811-1872) reported some salient features of a hashish fantasia in La Presse (10 July 1843):
"For many years, Orientals whose religion forbids the use of wine, have sought to satisfy by the use of various preparations their need for mental excitement common to all people, and that people of Western countries gratify by means of spirits and liquors. The aspiration toward an ideal is so strong in man that he tries to release the bonds that keep his soul within his body. Since ecstasy is not within the reach of all, he drinks his merriment, he smokes his oblivion, and eats his madness in the form of wine, tobacco and hashish... What a strange problem. a little red liquor, a puff of smoke, a spoonful of a greenish paste, and the soul, that intangible essence, is changed in an instant. Serious men do a thousand absurd things: words pour freely from the mouths of the taciturn: Heraclitus laughs heartily, and Democritus weeps.
"After a few minutes a general sluggishness overcame me. It seemed that my body was dissolving and becoming transparent. I could clearly see in my chest the hashish I had eaten, in the form of an emerald glowing with a million sparkles...
"I had never been so overwhelmed with bliss; I dissolved into nothingness; I was freed from my ego, that odious and ever-present witness; for the first time I conceived the existence of elemental spirits ¾ angels and souls separate from bodies...
"What is different about hashish intoxication is that it is not continuous; it takes you and it leaves you; you rise to heaven and you fall back to earth without transition. As with insanity, there are lucid moments...
"Thanks to the hashish I was able to sketch an authentic goblin. Up to now I had only heard them moaning and moving at night in my cupboard.
"But enough madness. To recall a complete hashish hallucination would require a large volume, and a mere author cannot take the liberty of rewriting the Book of Revelations."
Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) wrote about hashish in The Count of Monte Cristo. When Franz was entertained at a banquet in the underground palace of Sinbad the Sailor, hashish was served for desert.
(10) Britain ~
The Romans introduced cannabis to the British Isles. Pieces of hemp rope were found in the well of a Roman fort on the Antonine wall at Bar Hill in Dunbartonshire. The site was occupied from 140-180 AD, but analysis of the residues of cannabis pollen show that the plant was not cultivated and retted in Britain until about 400 AD. Then hemp and flax were grown at Old Buckenhan Mere. (81)
The Saxons who occupied Britain about 600 AD also cultivated hemp and incorporated it into their medical literature. The Commonplace Book (LXIII c., folio 147a) gives a "Rite for Salve, Partly Irish" that contains hemp. (82)
Young women would sow hempseed over nine ridges of a ploughed field on Halloween night while repeating, "I sow haenep seed, and he who is to be my husband, let him come and harrow it." A similar practice was observed on Valentine's Eve in Derbyshire; a maiden would go to a church at midnight and run around it twelve times nonstop while repeating her announcement:
"I sow hempseed, hempseed I sow;
He that loves me best,
Come after me and mow."
The superstition also was practiced on the Summer Solstice, and was memorialized in an old British love poem:
"An eve last Midsummer no sleep I sought,
But to the field a bag of hemp-seed brought;
Scattered round the seed on every side,
And three time, in trembling accent, cried
This hemp-seed with my virgin hand I sow,
Who shall my true love be, the crop shall mow." (83)
Pope Innocent VIII, however, was not convinced of hemp's innocence. In 1484 he issued a fiat condemning the use of hemp in witchcraft. The 16th century demonologist Jean Wier warned that hemp caused one to lose one's speech, to laugh without control, and to have magnificent visions. Demonologist Giovanni De Ninault (17th cty) named hemp flowers and seed oil as a principal ingredient in Satanic unguents.
Hemp also was a principal ingredient in the disposition of witches, as itemized in an invoice from Kirkcaldy (Scotland) in 1636:
"For tows [hemp hangman' rope] 6 shillings
For hurden [hemp fabric] to be jumps for them 3 pounds, 10 shillings
For making them 8 shillings..." [&c]
Peasants continued to believe in the magical powers of hemp, and practised their superstitions as ever. On St. John's Eve, farmers would pick the flowers from some of their hemp plants and feed it to their livestock, believing that it would protect them from evil and sickness. And indeed it did just that, for cannabis hemp is endowed with great medicinal and magical potency! Hemp was a popular folk remedy for toothaches, to facilitate childbirth, to reduce convulsions, fevers, inflammations, and swollen joints and to cure rheumatism and jaundice. Cannabis was found worthy of honorable mention as a healing plant in several medieval herbals, such as those by William Turner, Mattiolo, and Dioscobas Tabermontanus. (84, 85)
The British were utterly dependent on hemp to maintain their sea power and to preserve themselves from the French and Spanish. A early as 1533, King Henry VIII required all farmers to cultivate one-quarter acre of hemp or flax for every sixty acres of land under tillage. Queen Elizabeth repeated the order in 1563, but it was repealed in 1593. Farmers were reluctant to grow the crop because arable soil is at a premium in England, and hemp and flax were not thought to be profitable even with the incentive of bounties granted by the Crown. John Houghton commented on the situation it in 1682:
"How all this will please those whose land is not fit for it, or who think they can put it to a better use, I won't say; but most men love to do what they will with their own, and as yet it is not done." (86)
British farmers were not enthusiastic about hemp because they did not know much about the subtleties of its cultivation, and it did not pay well. They could not be confident of success with the crop, and most could not afford to experiment. Nor did they appreciate the labor and foul smell of retting hemp, as was expressed in Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandrie (1580):
"Now pluck up they hempe, and go beat out the seed,
And afterward water it as ye see need.
But not in the river where cattle should drink,
For poisoning them and the people with stinke." (87)
In its Answer to the Georgical Enquiries (1664) concerning the cultivation of hemp, the Royal Society did not have much more information to offer:
"We sow much hemp upon land made very fat, beginning to plow it about Candlemas and twice afterwards, choosing the largest, sound, and brightest seed." (88)
John Worlidge contributed a bit more information in hisSystema Agriulturae (1675):
"Hemp seed is much commended for the feeding of poultry and other fowl, so that where plenty thereof may be had, and a good return for fowl, the use thereof must needs be advantageous..." (88)
Others were not so certain:
"Hemp seed, as they say, giving an ill flavor to the flesh of the bird that feeds on it: but this is only upon report; if it prove otherwise, it would be one great encouragement to the planting or sowing of hemp, that the seed should be of so great use..." (88)
The Articles drafted by the Council of the North ordered the appointment of overseers who were to examine every household for their skills, and "to provide hemp, flax, or wool or some other thing for their wives, children and family to work upon..."
In order to provide relief to the poor, the Act of 1576 authorized the collection of stocks of hemp, wool, iron, etc, with which to employ people, but the law was unworkable. Roger North pointed this out in A Discourse of the Poor:
"Who, by these laws, are supplied with work? What country parishes have raised stocks of hemp, flax, etc, and kept them going as the law requires, whereby the poor may have a constant employment?"
John Norton offered his opinion in a pamphlet, How to Use All Land Profitably (1607):
"Many crofts, tofts, pightles, pingles and other small quillets of land, about farm houses and tenements, are suffered to lie together idle, some overgrown with... unprofitable weeds... where, if the farmer would use the means, would grow sundry commodities, as hemp, and mustard seed, both which are so strong enemies to all other superfluous, and unprofitable weeds, as they will not suffer any of them to grow, where they are sown. The hemp is of great use in a farmer's house...not only for cordage for shipping, but also for linen, and other necessities..." (88)
In 1611, King James I issued the Book of Rates, intended "to and forbear all such merchandise inwards... as serve for the setting the people of our kingdom on work (as cotton, raw silk and rough hemp)". He also issued Instructions to the Commission on Trade and requested them to study hemp:
"And because we understand that a great mass of treasure is yearly spent upon linen cloth, brought from beyond the seas at dear rates, and for that it is conceived, if the fishing so much desired by us be thoroughly undertaken, and our shipping increased, it will require much greater proportion of hemp... We commend unto your considerations the best ways how the sowing of hemp and flax may be encouraged and undertaken within this kingdom, whereby so much good would rebound to us and our people?" (88)
The failure of the Eastland merchant venture prompted James I to exhort the Commission in this long sentence:
"Further, whereas our Eastland Merchants in former tymes did lade their Shipps with Hempe and Flax rough dressed in great Quantities, which did not onlie helpe them much in their Retornes, but did also set great Numbers of our People on work with dressing the same, and converting the same into Lynnen Cloth, which kind of Trade we understand is of late almost given over, by bringing in of Hempe and Flax ready dressed, and that for the most part by Strangers, we commend unto your care, by what meanes this hurtfull Error in Trade may be reformed, to the Help of our Merchants and the Reliefe of our poor Subjects." (89)
In his comments On the Decay of Rents (1670), Sir William Coventry gave some wise advice that holds true today:
"For the changing he use of our land two things occur to me most reasonable and most desirable. The one to encourage the planting of wood and severely to punish... the destruction of it... The other is to encourage the sowing of hemp..." (88)
In his observations On the Decay of Trade (1674), Sir Richard Haines also pleaded with good reason for increased cultivation of hemp:
"Too true it is that we are very poor... and therefore I humbly apprehend the best means to prevent this growing evil, must be: First, it will improve the lands which are proper for hemp... Second, great numbers of poor families... might hereby most profitably be set to work constantly... Besides, a farther advantage by this planting of hemp, etc, will accrue towards making of sails, cables, and other cordage necessary for shipping, of which sufficient may be made at home, without being beholden to our neighbors for a commodity so important for navigation, parting with our money to strangers for it, as we usually do to a very great yearly value." (88)
In 1651, the desperate London hempdressers complained bitterly to Charles I about competition from the Dutch:
"The humble petition of the poor hemp dressers in the city of London... most humbly showeth that the dressing of hemp hath been used in this kingdom time out of mind...
"Now so it is within these five or six years last past the Netherlanders and some others have imported into this kingdom hemp ready dressed and tow, such as is converted into cloth, which daily increaseth their trading and decreaseth ours. And for a lamentable precedent, as they have already dealt with the flaxdressers which are by their means utterly decayed and brought to beggary...
"In pitiful consideration thereof... your humble petitioners humbly desire this most honorable assembly that you will be pleased that the importation of dressed hemp, tow, and twine may be prohibited, restrained, and forbidden by such wholesome laws, cautions, and provisions as to your grave and judcious censures shall be thought most meet and convenient, whereunto they humbly submit themselves and their suit. And daily pray for your long healths and everlasting happiness." (88)
Only a decade later, there were not enough hempdressers available, so the Crown passed An Act for Encouraging the Manufactures of Making Linen Cloth and Tapestry in 1663. The British invited alien workers "to set up and exercise the trade, occupation or mystery of breaking, hickling, or dressing of hemp or flax", enticing them with full citizenship within three years. In 1696, Ireland was permitted to export hemp yarn and cloth duty-free to England. (88)
Britain entertained hopes that her colonies would be able to supply hemp to increase her naval stores, and encouraged the cultivation with bounties, but all such efforts were in vain. Philip Miller complained about this in The Gardener's Dictionary:
"Of late Years the Inhabitants of the British Colonies in North America have cultivated this useful Plant, and a Bounty was granted by Parliament for the Hemp which was imported from thence; but whether the inhabitants of those colonies grew tired of cultivating it, or the bounty was not regularly paid, I cannot say; but whatever has been the Cause, the Quantity imported has by no means answered the Expectation of the Public, which is greatly to be lamented; because as this Commodity is so essential to the Marine, which should be the principle Object of this Kingdom, the being furnished with it from our own Plantations will not only save the ready Money paid for it, but secure for the country an ample Supply at all times, without being obliged to our Neighbors for it." (90)
In Holland, dozens of windmills provided power to crush the stalks of hennep. This enormous saving of manual labor enabled the Dutch to produce more canefas (canvas) and rope which they used to develop into a powerful seafaring mercantile nation. The Dutch also used advanced techniques of bleaching hemp that required six months of retting, washing, heating and watering, until the introduction of sulfuric acid in 1756 reduced the time to three months. (91)
Few other countries produced enough hemp to meet their own needs, so they traded with the Scandinavian and Baltic countries, and especially with Russia and Italy for their provisions of the strategic material. For that reason, in 1545 the Spanish planted hemp in Quillota Valley in Chile for the local military forces and to outfit the ships that sailed into Santiago. Other attempts were made to introduce hemp into Peru and Columbia, but they were unsuccessful. One of the conquistador Cortes' men, Pedro Cuadrado, established a very successful hemp plantation in Mexico, but the governor curtailed their operation in 1550 because the natives had quickly discovered the mental effects of hemp flowers. In 1564, King Phillip ordered that cannabis be cultivated throughout the Spanish empire to ensure the supply of cloth, rope and canvas. (92)
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