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Related: pot - drugs

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, the word assassin derives from the Arabic word Hashshashin, an Islamic sect of militants founded by Hasan-i Sabbah who were supposedly avid hash-eaters. This is also the view expressed by Charles Baudelaire in his Artificial Paradises of 1857. [Apr 2006]

The Club des Hashischins

The Club des Hashischins (sometimes also spelled Club des Hashishins or Club des Hachichin), was a Parisian society dedicated to the exploration of drug-induced experiences, notably with hashish.

It was active from about 1844 to 1849 and counted the literary and intellectual elite of Paris among its members, including Dr. Jacques-Joseph Moreau, Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire, Gérard de Nerval, Eugène Delacroix and Alexandre Dumas.

Gautier wrote about the club in an article entitled "Le Club des Hachichin" published in the Revue des Deux Mondes in February 1846, recounting his recent visit. While he is often cited as the founder of the club, in the article his says he was attending their monthly "séances" for the first time that evening and made clear that others were sharing a familiar experience with him. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Club_des_Hashischins [Jan 2006]

See also: 1840s - drugs

In 1798 Napoleon invaded Egypt, the first step on his campaign to establish a French kingdom there and, in time, to drive on to India. He was expelled in 1801. Before then, however, his troops had made a new discovery - hashish - possession and consumption of which was soon banned. But the ban had no real effect, and when the troops came home, they brought cannabis with them. The upshot was its gradual popularisation in Europe, particularly in France.

Regular imports of hashish, the dried leaf form of cannabis, followed and it could soon be bought at any pharmacy. It was not suprising that the medical establishment, particularly Dr Jacques-Joseph Moreau (1804-84), began to take an interest in its properties. In 1840, Moreau swallowed some cannabis, with the intention of reporting on its intoxicating effects. He experienced a mixture of euphoria, hallucination and incoherence, and an extremely rapid flow of ideas. He realised that experimenting on oneself with a drug whose nature was to distort sensations and impressions was not enough. He needed guinea pigs.

In 1844 Moreau met the French philosopher, writer and journalist Théophile Gautier (1811-1872), a man at the heart of Romanticism - the current intellectual movement - and whose manifestos were among its primary underpinnings, epitomised by the slogan "art for art's sake". Gautier was impressed by Moreau's theories, especially perhaps his description of cannabis as "an intellectual intoxication", preferable to the "ignoble heavy drunkenness" of alcohol.

Gautier brought with him a number of leading Parisian littérateurs: Alexandre Dumas, Gérard de Nerval, Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, Charles Baudelaire, Eugène Delacroix and many others. The group, calling themselves the Club des Hachichins (Hashish Club), would gather regularly between 1844 and 1849 at the suitably gothic Pimodan House, also known as the Hôtel Lauzun.

Here, ritualistically garbed in Arab clothing, they drank strong coffee, liberally laced with hashish, which Moreau called dawamesk, in the Arabic manner. It looked, reported the members, like a greenish preserve, its ingredients a mixture of hashish, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pistachio, sugar, orange juice, butter and cantharides. Some of them would write of their "stoned" experiences, although not all. Balzac attended the club but preferred not to indulge, though some time in 1845 the great man cracked and ate some. He told fellow members he had heard celestial voices and seen visions of divine paintings.

This is an edited extract from Cannabis by Jonathon Green, published by Pavilion, price £20 --http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,12084,809622,00.html

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