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Le Club des Hashischins: How Hash & Hallucination Dazzled Western Culture

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Le Club des Hashischins
PHOTO | Le Club des Hachichins

When Napoleon Bonaparte’s army arrived at the great pyramids in Egypt, they were met by a fleet of 10,000 soldiers on horseback. Sometimes described as a mad man, Bonaparte is famous for his exhaustive crusades into foreign lands with superior militaries and home advantage. In the mid-1790s, Bonaparte had already defeated Austrian armies against the odds on behalf of his country. After claiming new territory for the French government, Bonaparte set his sights on Egypt.

The goal of the French invasion in Egypt was to disrupt the trade routes of a dreaded rival, the British. While the French achieved a degree of success in their Egyptian military endeavors, the nation’s expansion into the East sparked a new, oft undiscussed cultural shift back home — Napoleon’s crusade introduced 19th-century France to psychedelic drugs.

A Forbidden Herb at Le Club des Hachichins

According to Robert Clarke and Mark Merlin, authors of Cannabis Evolution and Ethnobotany, archeological researchers estimate that the use of hashish in Egypt dates back to the 12 century C.E. In its early days, archeologists suggest that hashish was most often eaten, with its active chemicals absorbed underneath the tongue and digested when swallowed. If historical records prove accurate, the cannabis paste was cheaper than other substances and was unrestricted by Islamic religious authorities at the time.

As such, hashish consumption rose in popularity until the 20th century, inspiring feelings of euphoria, provoking a meditative state of mind, and promoting sociality. The herb was particularly popular among the lower classes, who arguably consumed it as a more economical alternative to alcohol or opium. When French soldiers arrived on the scene, they were quick to introduce themselves to such a pleasant and unique social custom, much to the dismay of Bonaparte. For the first time in the modern history of France, cannabis was banned.

In October of 1800, Bonaparte issued a decree to his troops:

“It is forbidden in all of Egypt to use certain Moslem beverages made with hashish or likewise to inhale the smoke from seeds of hashish. Habitual drinkers 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.”

Unfortunately for the General, however, the ban was a lost cause. The march into Egypt opened the first doors to the cannabis drug trade in France, and it was the educated elite that warmly welcomed the intoxicating herb into their social and intellectual lives. The primary attraction? Hallucinations.

Hash Eating Hallucinations

Without television or the radio, Victorian-era elites resorted to more unusual forms of entertainment. For prominent French writers, artists, and scientists of the time, that entertainment came in the form of a hash-eating club. Attended by famous names like Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, and Charles Baudelaire, Le Club des Hachichins was formed in 1844. Writers and artists attended out of creative curiosity, while at least one doctor attended to study mental illness and drug-induced mental alterations.

Inspired by new imports from Egypt, the group famously mixed hashish into coffee, along with pistachio, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, sugar, and other flavorful spices. The end result was, apparently, downright hallucinogenic. After consuming a lump of hashish rumored to be the size of an adult thumb, writer, journalist, and philosopher Théophile Gautier reports spiraling into a world filled with visionary creatures, ones which had only previously come to life in the visual arts.

“An enigmatic personage suddenly appeared before me,” writes Gautier in Le Club des Hachichins. “His nose was bent like the beak of a bird, his green eyes, which he wiped frequently with a large handkerchief, were encircled with three brown rings, and caught in the knot of a high white starched collar was a visiting card which read: Daucus-Carota, du Pot d’or….. (a reference to the fairytale writing of E.T.A. Hoffmann).”

“Little by little,” he continues, “the salon was filled with extraordinary figures, such as are found only in the etchings of Callot or the aquatints of Goya; a pêle-mêle of rags and tatters, bestial and human shapes.”

These visions, it seems, continued into Gautier’s dreams. According to a 1974 paper by Harry Cockerham, during the hash eater’s dreams, senses seem to blur into one another — a synesthesia that confuses taste, color, scent, and sound. Gautier writes in a local newspaper: “I had the most bizarre dreams: I heard flowers singing, I saw blue, green, and red musical phrases which smelled of vanilla.”

And yet, not all effects of hashish were frightening. In fact, Gautier articulated that the herbal concoction was far superior to alcohol. “I could no longer feel my body,” he writes in Le Club des Haschichins, “the bonds of mater and spirit were loosened […] I imagine this is how souls must be in the world of essences […] I understood, then, the pleasure felt by spirits and angels moving in the ethereal regions.”

Exploration Persists

After observing Le Club des Hachichins for several years, Dr. Jacques-Joseph Moreau, an influential figure in modern psychology, reported in his several-hundred-page investigation Hashish and Mental Illness, “I saw in [cannabis] a mean of effectively combatting the fixed ideas of depressives, disrupting the chain of their ideas, of unfocusing their attention on such and such a subject.”

They say history repeats itself. With cannabis, this common aphorism is proven true again and again. In 1800, cannabis products were banned by Bonaparte. Yet, the desire to explore the mind and test the boundaries of consciousness was too appealing for soldiers and civilians alike.

This same desire to explore persists today, despite decades of tension between policymakers hoping to control, and spirited wanders breaking laws to find freedom of mind.

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Network in Paradise at the CanEx Jamaica Business Conference & Expo

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CanEx Jamaica
PHOTO | Konstiantyn

According to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc, the global legal cannabis market is expected to reach USD 66.3 billion by the end of 2025. Helped in part by the increasing acceptance of cannabis to treat numerous medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer, arthritis, and neurological disorders, along with the lucrative revenue created by legal cannabis sales, there has never been a more crucial time for entrepreneurs and businesses to network and expand their businesses on a global scale.

As one of the leaders in international business-to-business (B2B) events, the CanEx Jamaica Business Conference and Expo brings together top cannabis industry experts from around the globe including the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and the Caribbean.

Taking place September 26-28 at the Montego Bay Convention Center, in beautiful Montego Bay, the fourth annual CanEx Jamaica Business Conference & Expo features addresses, panel discussions and presentations on a variety of topics — from advocacy, cultivation, science and medicine to investment, banking and finance, and the business of cannabis including women entrepreneurship.

Over 70 world-class speakers and panelists will provide insights into the direction of the global cannabis industry to over 3,000 delegates.

Steve DeAngelo, founder of Harboride dispensary and the Last Prisoner Project, is speaking on two panels — “Post Decriminalization of Cannabis: Towards Restorative Justice” and “Strategic Approaches to Cannabis Investments” to how the investment landscape is evolving.

Bruce Linton, founder of Canopy Growth Corp, the first cannabis producing company in North America to be listed on a major stock exchange, will host a fireside chat with CanEx founder, Douglas K. Gordon.

Former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, will host “The Global Cannabis Movement” that will explore what globalization means in practical terms for the industry, where things stand presently and the future of the global market.

Cam Battley, Chief Corporate Officer of Aurora Cannabis Inc., will be speaking on the panel “CEO Roundtable: Roadmap to Sustainable Profitability for the Industry” to discuss the global challenges and opportunities facing the cannabis Industry.

Plus, over 200 exhibitors and sponsors, from cultivators to investment firms and media experts will provide attendees opportunities for networking, business expansion and identify new areas of growth within the legal industry.

Held for the first time in 2016, CanEx Jamaica is responsible for connecting cannabis experts, researchers, business professionals, creating new strategic partnerships in a truly memorable and vibrant setting.

For more information, visit canexjamaica.com.

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After 25 Years, Supreme Closes Iconic Lafayette Store

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PHOTO | Supreme

In a move that has shocked through the streetwear community, Supreme has closed its original space on Lafayette after 25 years of business.

Back in February, the brand announced that its famous Lafayette location would be under renovation. Now, due to the unforeseen closure, the 190 Bowery location in Manhattan will now be the brand’s main location in the Big Apple.

 

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Celebrating 25 years. Pooky, Lafayette Street, New York City 1995 📷 @suekwon_

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Off the Record, It’s National Expungement Week

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National Expungement Week

“Would you like to know an absolutely crazy fact? There are 77 million people in the United States who have a criminal record.” This crazy statistic that instantly grabs your attention is how Seth Rogen opens the PSA for National Expungement Week.

Rogen also asks, “What does ‘expungement’ mean?” ‘On the record’, expungement means, clearing or sealing the record of a person’s prior arrest, criminal charges or conviction.

That’s a possibility for some of the 77 million people with criminal records — a large amount being minor offenses — which make up nearly a quarter of the population of the United States. Having a criminal record seriously impedes the ability to live for millions of people. It restricts access to jobs, housing, education, and the right to vote.

National Expungement Week aka N.E.W. is the initiative of Cage-Free Repair (the non-profit section of Cage-Free Cannabis) Cannabis and Equity First Alliance.

Cage-Free Cannabis is rooted in three kinds of justice, from reparative, to economic and environmental. Equity First Alliance works to bring reparative justice to, and be a voice for, those who have been most harmed by the War on Drugs.

The initiative will see over 40 events held in 30 cities, which will host workshops, allowing people to meet with lawyers and experts who can help them clear records, from September 21-28.

Among other company’s and businesses, N.E.W. is supported by Houseplant, the cannabis company launched by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, in the hopes of exposing the social injustices associated with cannabis convictions.

With 18 events in 15 cities that helped nearly 300 people begin the process of changing their records, the inaugural National Expungement Week in 2018 was clearly a success and led to the initiative returning this year.

If you’re interested in clearing your record or helping someone else do the same, you can find further information — including the dates and details of specific events — on the official site of N.E.W.; offtherecord.us.

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