Citation: David Uruquhart. "Hashish near the Pillars of Hercules: An Experience with Hashish (exp111216)". Erowid.org. May 30, 2018. erowid.org/exp/111216
[Erowid Note: Transcribed from The Pillars of Hercules, or, A narrative of travels in Spain and Morocco in 1848
, by David Uruquhart. The first-hand experience and experiential notes comparing hashish to opium begin around "The first time I took it..."
This plant seems to have been known and used, as at present in Morocco, in very ancient times, from the confines of China to the Western Ocean. It appears as the potomantes of the Indus, the gelatophylis of Bactria, the achimenes of the Persians, the ophisnu of Ethiopia, the nepenthes of the Greeks. The apparently contradictory qualities ascribed to these may all be found in the hashish: like the ophisnu, it recalls consciousness of the past and inordinate fears, on account of which it was given as a punishment to those who had committed sacrilege; but, above all, it brings too that forgetfulness for which Helen administered to Telemachus the nepenthes, and which no doubt she had learned in Egypt. Equally does it become a poison which absorbs all others. It will explain the incantations of Circe, and the mysteries of the cave of Trophonius. When taken without suspicion, its effects would appear as the workings within themselves of the divinity. It goes some way to account for the long endurance of a religious imposture, so slightly wove and so incessantly rebelled against. Here was a means at the disposal of the priest, diviner, and thaumaturgist, and beyond all appeals to the mere imagination. The epithets which the Hindoos apply to their bangue might equally serve for the hashish -- assuager of sorrow," "increaser of pleasure," "cementer of friendship," "laughter-mover." Bangue, however, when often repeated, " is followed by catalepsy, or that insensibility which enables the body to be moulded into any position, like a Dutch jointed doll, in which the limbs remain in the position in which they are placed, and this state will continue for many hours ."
It seems from an early period to have been used in China medicinally. Fifteen hundred years ago, it was employed there as chloroform recently has been in Europe ; so that it may truly be said, "there is nothing new under the sun." The following passage occurs in "The Compilation of Ancient and Modern Medicines," published in China at the beginning of the sixteenth century : --
"If the complaint is situated in parts upon which the needle, the moxa, or liquid medicaments cannot produce any action -- for instance, in the bone, stomach, or intestines -- there may be given to the patient a preparation of hemp (ma-yo), and in a very short time he becomes so insensible that he seems intoxicated or deprived of life. Then, according as the case may be, the operations are performed, of amputations, &c., and the cause of the malady is removed. Subsequently, the tissues are brought together by sutures, and liniments are employed. After some days the patient is restored to health, without having felt, during the operation, the least pain ."
Among the ancients off our part of the world, it appears to have been employed by the mystics only, and not to have been in common use ; whereas, in China there was no more mystery attending it than in the exhibition of any other drug; consequently, from China and from India the Saracens may have got it. The term hashish  means plant in general, but the reparation is called mujoun -- perhaps from the Chinese ma-yo.
It was in Egypt, between the tenth and the fourteenth centuries, that hashish was in its glory. He who wishes to know to what excess of passion the use of this narcotic can inspire, may find his curiosity gratified in an account, by Makrizi, of the "Herb of the Fakirs" and the notes appended to it by Mr. Silvestre de Sacy .
In Mr. Von Hammer's History of Hassan Saba, hashish figures as nerving the arm of his followers to strike at ministers in the midst of their guards, and at monarchs in the centre of their capitals . The terror with which these fanatics inspired the nations reached even to this island, and the Commons of England obtained, as an antidote for the hashish , the sergeant-at-arms and the mace.
To this sect was given the name of Assassins. According to the highest authorities, it comes from ashasheen, or eaters of hashish. But a real existence is now denied to those enchanted gardens of Alamoot, and they are explained as merely the visions created by the intoxicating plant . Visionary speculation! The preparation requisite for such deeds was not opium or alcohol, far less a plant, the effect of which exceeds intoxication, and approaches insanity.
The Ismalian departed on his journey of death alone. He followed his victim for months and years ; he traversed deserts and sojourned in populous kingdoms and cities. It was an intoxication of the spirit, not of the senses, that could so dare and so endure; neither softened by intercourse, nor dismayed by solitude, and proof alike against the virtues and the vices of our nature. If such deeds were the product of this drug, they would appear when it was used.
Hassan Saba was one of those men, who being incomprehensible, is the source of fables, devised by those who do not understand the results they would account for. He combined leadership of men with the priesthood of a sect, and inspired his followers with that boundless awe and affection, which made them appear under the influence of a supernatural agency. When he answered the demands of Malik Shah by ordering two of his followers to cast themselves from a precipice, he prepared them by no drug. The Ismalians, acting as men out of their senses, would be called hashasheen, just as we would say Bedlamite. If any set of men in Barbary were so conducting themselves, they would be called hashishlee, though they had never tasted majoun.
I was led to take an interest in this plant from the following circumstance. A lady, suffering from spasms, arising from an affection of the spine, had obtained some years ago a small portion of hashish (at the time a name unknown), when all other narcotics had failed: it afforded her an almost miraculous relief. Medical men had been applied to in India to procure the bangue, but it failed. The hemp of England had been tried in vain. I wrote to Mr. Lane, then in Egypt, requesting him to obtain some, but he found it a disgraceful thing to make inquiries on the subject.
I wrote to Mr. Lane, then in Egypt, requesting him to obtain some, but he found it a disgraceful thing to make inquiries on the subject.
All these endeavours ended in disappointment. Still I remained satisfied that there was such a plant.
At Tangier I observed a diminutive pipe, about the size of a thimble ; I asked what kind of tobacco they were smoking. I was answered, kef (literally, enjoyment), it was the hashish. I found that it was also taken inwardly. Either the leaves are swallowed with water, after being crushed, or it is prepared, and boiled with sugar or honey, and butter, like horehound, a great variety of seeds and spices entering into the composition, which is thus said to vary in its effects, and to be gifted also with medicinal powers. This preparation is the majoun. Its effects were described as those of the laughing gas, except that, instead of a few minutes, it lasts for many hours.
Some cry, some laugh, some fall into drowsy listlessness ; some are rendered talkative and funny. They see visions, imagine themselves reduced to poverty, or become emperors and commanders of armies, the natural disposition predominating in the derangement. Men under its influence were pointed out to me in the streets. They walked along with fixed eye, heedless of all around them. Some take it daily in small quantities, producing, as one of them described it to me, "a comfortable state of mind," without appearing to impair the general health. Under its influence the mouth is parched; it is not in their power to spit. Their eyes become red and small. They are ravenous for food. Everything that one hears of it has the air of fable; and I should have been inclined to treat it as such, but for the evidence of my own senses.
Finding that I could not understand from description either the mode of preparing it, or the effects, I determined to get those who were accustomed to make it to bring the materials, and prepare it before me, and then to try it myself, and on as many others as I could. I was so engaged for a week after my return to Rabat, for I had successively the three most noted confectioners to try their skill against each other. They have not a regular or uniform process, and the majoun is consequently of very unequal strength and efficacy. Our first attempts were failures.
The first proof of the success of our preparation was in the case of a young English clergyman, to whom some of it had been given as a sweetmeat. Some hours passed without any visible effects, when a musician, who had the faculty of strangely distorting his features, came in, dressed as a mummer. The Englishman took him for the devil, and a most laughable scene ensued. Next morning, on inquiries after his health, he said he had slept soundly and agreeably, "as the windows and doors were bolted." Later in the day the effect disappeared entirely, and he seemed to recollect the circumstances with a confused pleasure, describing various things that had never happened.
The first time I took it was about seven in the morning, and in an hour and a half afterwards I perceived a heaviness of the head, wandering of the mind, and an apprehension that I was going to faint. I thence passed into a state of half trance, from which I awoke suddenly, and much refreshed. The impression was that of wandering out of myself I had two beings, and there were two distinct, yet concurrent trains of ideas.
Images came floating before me -- not the figures of a dream, but those that seem to play before the eye when it is closed, and with those figures were strangely mixed the sounds of a guitar that was being played in the adjoining room: the sounds seemed to cluster in and pass away with the figures on the retina. The music of the wretched performance was heavenly, and seemed to proceed from a full orchestra, and to be reverberated through long halls of mountains. These figures and sounds were again connected with metaphysical reflections, which also, like the sounds, clustered themselves into trains of thought, which seemed to take form before my eyes, and weave themselves with the colours and sounds. I was following a train of reasoning; new points would occur, and concurrently there was a figure before me throwing out corresponding shoots like a zinc tree; and then, as the moving figures reappeared, or as the sounds caught my ear, the other classes of figures came out distinctly, and danced through each other.
The reasonings were long and elaborate; and though the impression of having gone through them remains, every effort has been in vain to recall them. The following scene was described by me, and taken down at the time:
A general, commanding an army, and doubting whether he should engage the enemy, consulted the oracle. The oracle answered, "Go with the fortune of Caesar." He gave battle, and was beaten; his king ordered his head to be cut off, but the general accused the oracle: the king said, "The oracle is not in fault; it did not tell you that you were Caesar; you were twice a fool to mistake its meaning, and your own worth." The general answered, "Then is the fault his who sent a fool to command his armies." " Nay," answered the king, "thou shalt not twist one phrase to thy benefit, and another to my loss." This scene seemed to pass before me, and in the region of Carthage, which was all familiar, though I had never been there. The general was an Abyssinian, the king a white man with a black beard.
The next time I tried it, the only effect was to make me lose a night's rest; the first time, it had given me a double portion of sleep: on both occasions it enormously increased my appetite. It was followed by no depression. The third time I took it, at half-past four, and after it, a liqueur glass of caraway spirits to hasten the effect. An hour afterwards, walking on the terrace, I began to experience the effects. I did not feel cold, while those who were walking with me, and wrapped in mantles were complaining of it. They profess to be able to prepare it, so that it shall serve a man instead of clothing. Then came an unsteadiness of gait not that of one who fears to fall but of one who tries to keep down, for I felt as if there were springs in my knees, and was reminded of the story of the man with the mechanical leg, that walked away with him. I sat down to dinner at half past six o'clock. There was a glass between me and the rest of the company, and an inch or two interposed between me and whatever I touched. What I ate, or how much, did not matter; - the food flowed like a river through me. There was a wind going by, blowing over the table, and carrying away the sounds, and I saw the words tumbling over one another down the falls. There is a dryness of the mouth, which is not thirst. The dryness radiated from the back of the throat, opposite the nape of the neck. It was a patch of dark blue colour; the food, as it reached this point, pouring down, and taking the colour of the patch. I was under the impression that I described all this at the time, but was told that I would not say anything about myself, or describe what I experienced.
I should have been relieved if some one present had been under the same influence. The bursts of laughter to which I gave rise were not at all pleasing, except when they were excited by any observation I made which was not connected with myself.
The bursts of laughter to which I gave rise were not at all pleasing, except when they were excited by any observation I made which was not connected with myself.
I never lost the consciousness of what was going on; there were always present the real objects, as well as the imaginative ones ; but at times I began to doubt which was which, and then I floated in strange uncertainty. It came by fits at - as I thought - hours of interval, when only minutes could have elapsed. Sometimes a week seemed to pass between the beginning and the end of a word. I fancied my head an inverted pendulum, which it cost me a great deal of labour to keep straight, when I could resist no longer, and let it go, and it went back as if a blow had been discharged.
I struggled against each relapse, out of a sense of politeness towards the company, of which I did not fail to inform them, notwithstanding their roars of laughter. The back of my neck was the pivot; there was a heavy upper weight on the top of my head, and the pendulum was swinging between my legs; but the pendulum was attracted upwards to the table, and I had to struggle to keep it down by keeping my head up. The swinging fit was accompanied by bursts of laughter. I derived great pleasure from allowing my head to go back; but the laughter was unlike any mortal merriment; it seemed as never to end, and to press me, and to lead up to a mountain-top. When any one put his hand behind my head, fearing the effect of the jerks, or that I should throw the chair over, I was very much annoyed, because it disturbed, as I said, "the isochronism of the oscillations."
I afterwards saw a similar effect produced on a European who did not know what he had taken. He was constantly throwing back his head and looking at the ceiling, and exhibited no other symptom, which only made this the more ludicrous.
After keeping the party for four hours in a state of continual convulsion, I became irresistibly drowsy, and was moved away to bed. This operation sickened me, and brought on a slight vomiting. The instant I was in bed I fell asleep, and slept without intermission for nine hours; I then awoke, perfectly recovered, and fresh, with a feeling of lightness, and in high spirits.
One of the most remarkable effects was, that it seemed to lay bare your inmost thoughts, and to present a mirror, on which was reflected every act of your life, and that you were constrained to reveal and confess it all; which exactly agrees with effects attributed to the ophisnu.
The Jews are in the habit of taking hashish on Saturday, as it ensures, they say, their doing no work on Sunday. A party of them will agree to take it together, and go out to a garden. One of them, being asked to describe a scene of that kind, said, "We were eight, and seven took to laughing, and one to crying, and the more he cried the more we laughed, and the more we laughed the more he cried, and so we spent the night, and in the morning we went to bed."
After being satisfied with my preparation, I devoted a day to the trying of the experiment on a number of patients. Two or three took it in the morning, and each as he had taken it became exceedingly anxious to administer it to others, so that patients were sought in every place and by every means. Many who took it went away, so that I did not see the effect on more than a dozen. On the whole I was disappointed: there was not one interesting case, though there were not two alike.
The master of a Portuguese vessel, to whom it was given without his being aware of its nature, thought himself bewitched, and his crew were on the point of securing him as deranged. He saw a ship stranded on the bar, and ordered out his boats to her assistance; he then saw the devil cooking in the caboose, and with the demeanour of an insane person, was all the while reasoning on the evidences of his insanity.
*Hashish and Opium Compared*
Having at one time been in the habit of taking opium, I am able to compare the effects. The idea of a strong resemblance has been generally admitted; but in this I cannot agree. In De Quincy's "Confessions of an Opium-Eater" there are passages which might pass for a description of hashish, but they do not appear to me to be descriptive of opium: opium does not give the double identity, and the hashish draws towards insanity: the hashish does not affect either the nervous system or the viscera. The length of time that elapses before it begins to act, shows that it has first to be taken into the blood. I have witnessed its effects in relieving pains and spasms, which differ from those of ordinary narcotics . It is an anodyne and an anti-spasmodic, producing intoxication without its consequences, and dispelling its effects.
The French have become intoxicated with hashish. A number of works and essays have been published on the subject in Paris. Multitudes of experiments have been made, and endless visions seen or described. From these I select one specimen, which to him who has eaten hashish bears intrinsic evidence, pour le fond, of being genuine.
"It appeared that his body was dissolved, that he had become transparent. He clearly saw in his chest the hashish which he had swallowed, under the form of an emerald, from which a thousand little sparks issued. His eyelashes were lengthened out indefinitely, and rolled like threads of gold around ivory balls, which turned with an inconceivable rapidity. Around him were sparklings of precious stones of all colours, changes eternally produced, like the play of the kaleidoscope. He every now and then saw his friends who were around him disfigured half men, half plants; some with the wings of the ostrich, which they were constantly shaking. So strange were these, that he burst into fits of laughter; and to join in the apparent ridiculousness of the affair, he began throwing the cushions in the air, catching and turning them with the rapidity of an Indian juggler. One gentleman spoke to him in Italian, which the hashish transposed into Spanish. After a few minutes be recovered his habitual calmness, without any bad effect, without headache, and only astonished at what had passed. Half-an-hour had scarcely elapsed before he fell again under the influence of the drug.
On this occasion the vision was more complicated and more extraordinary.
On this occasion the vision was more complicated and more extraordinary.
In the air there were millions of butterflies, confusedly luminous, shaking their wings like fans. Gigantic flowers with chalices of crystal, large peonies upon beds of gold and silver, rose and surrounded him with the crackling sound that accompanies the explosion in the air of fireworks. His hearing acquired new power: it was enormously developed. He heard the noise of colours. Green, red, blue, yellow sounds reached him in waves. He swam in an ocean of sound, where floated, like isles of light, some of the airs of 'Lucia di Lammermuir,' and the 'Barber of Seville.' Never did similar bliss overwhelm him with its waves: he was lost in a wilderness of sweets; he was not himself; he was relieved from consciousness - that feeling which always pervades the mind; and for the first time he comprehended what might be the state of existence of elementary beings, of angels, of souls separated from the body: all his system seemed infected with the fantastic colouring in which he was plunged. Sounds, perfume, light, reached him only by minute rays, in the midst of which he heard magnetic currents whistling along. According to his calculation, this state lasted about three hundred years; for the sensations were so numerous and so hurried, one upon the other, that a real appreciation of time was impossible. The paroxysm over, he was aware that it had only lasted a quarter of an hour."
The Mooors have long been in possession of Dr. Hunter's idea , that certain qualities are conveyed by certain kinds of food: his notion is, however, limited to corporeal effects. Thus, a person with an affection of the liver should eat the liver of animals - the heart, etc. The Moors imagine that the mind can in like manner be affected, and that the quality of the animal is conveyed to the eater. The flesh of the fox gives cunning, the heart of the lion inspires courage. Probably it was to improve her complexion that the African Cleopatra ate pearls. To designate a stupid person, they say, " He has eaten the head of a hyena; "and as the hyena is very fond of hashish, his fixed eye and stupid look are attributed to the effect of that plant, for he will sit in the bottom of his den and allow it to be entered by a man who shoots, stabs, or nooses him. They give it also to horses, as it was told me first, to make them fiery; but on further inquiry, I found that it was given to them as a purge, and that afterwards they leave them in repose like men, as they are unable to keep their feet.
There are several other plants which they employ for producing similar effects -- that which I afterwards found at Medea, and which is there described as the surnag , which is found in the Atlas, and which is used for the same purpose; also the nuts of a species of the Palma Christi, which they mix with food, and the effect of which lasts but a few hours. This is said to be used to make people speak the truth, and discover their inward thoughts .
Extensive as is the use of this drug, it is not used by the gentleman. On him observances are heaped which the vulgar escape, and indulgences denied which they enjoy. A Moorish gentleman is more constrained and more observed than the same class in any other country: he must be punctual in the discharge of his religious duties, which are neglected by the mass of the people; he must pay the regular alms to the poor; he abstains from all kinds of fermented liquors: he does not smoke or take snuff.
 Dr. Thompson's Notes to M. Salvert's Occult Sciences, vol. ii. p. 10.
 Kou-kin-I-Tong, as quoted by M. S. Julien, in a recent memoir to the Academy of Sciences.
 The proper name in Morocco is shazar. The young plant just sprouting is called nucla.
 Chrest. Arabe, torn. i. p. 210. See also Sonnini, Voyages, vol. iii. p. 103; Kiempfer, Amoenit. Exoticae, Fasc. iii. ob. xv. p. 638.
 Hassan Saba founded the Ismaelians of Persia at Kudbor in 1090. Their most illustrious victims were, Ameer Billah, Calif of Egypt, A.H. 524; Mostarschid, Calif of Bagdad, A.H. 529; Nezam al Mulk, the celebrated Vizier of the Seljucks, 485.
 See " Merchant and Friar," by Sir W. Palgrave.
 "L'effet du hachich etoit de leur procurer un etat extatique, une douce et profonde reverie, pendant laquelle ils jouissaient, ou s'imaginaient jouir de toutes les voluptes que embellissent le paradis de Mahomet. Les jardins enchantes, ou le Vieux de la Montaigne fasait porter les jeunes gens, etaient un fantome produit par l'imagination de ces jeunes gens enivres par le hachich, et qu'on avait long temps berces de I'image de ce bonheur." -- Silvestre de Sacy.
 In an interesting article in Chambers's Magazine of November 1848, the writer says : -
"It is the nervous system that is affected, no other part of the body being acted upon; hashish thus materially differing from opium, whose power is marked upon the muscular and digestive systems, retarding the action of the organs, and leaving them in a complete state of inaction. The circulation does not seem to be affected; but it is not with impunity that the brain becomes disordered with frequent indulgence in the delicious poison: it becomes incapable at last of separating the true from the false."
 See his Cookery Book.
 Marmol, vol iii. p. 4,
 In Hunter's "Captivity" there is an interesting account of the plants used by the Red Indians for smoking, inhaling, and also for sweating.
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