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Hemp references (LONG)

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  • Alastair Millar
    Aha! Here we go... From Renate Rolle s well-known The World of the Scythians (Univ. of Calif. translation, 1989, ISBN 0 520 06864 6). I give the whole
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 11, 2001
      Aha! Here we go...
      From Renate Rolle's well-known "The World of the Scythians" (Univ. of Calif.
      translation, 1989, ISBN 0 520 06864 6). I give the whole passages, as it's
      got all sorts of interesting things in it ;-)

      Scythian 'incense'

      In his dictionary written in the fifth century AD the Greek grammarian
      Hesychio of Alexandria gives the word 'hemp' a synonym which translates as
      'Scythian incense'. The author is referring here to a well-known episode
      from Herodotus.

      After his impressive account of a Scythian royal burial, Herodotus describes
      an activity which he assumes to be a particularly effective kind of vapour
      bath (Book IV,73): the Scythians crawl into little felt tents, in the middle
      of which are red hot stones. On to these they throw hemp seeds, which they
      cultivate themselves, and inhale the smoke. Presumably the heat inside the
      little tents caused the participants to sweat, which Herodotus (or his
      informant) found particularly noteworthy.

      This account reveals that the 'Father of History' had never smoked pot
      himself: his interpretation of events would otherwise have seemed less
      naive. The fact that the Scythians "howled with pleasure" would not have
      been attributed by him to their enjoyment of the 'vapour bath'; he would
      have realized that they were simply high.

      Ever since, whole sets of hemp-inhaling equipment were found in the frozen
      tombs of the Altai, proving Herodotus' account to be accurate, his account
      has not be questioned. Evidence was found there of a culture directly
      related to that of the Scythians ('Altai Scythians'); it corresponds down to
      the last detail to the ancient description:

      Tents approximately 4 1/2 ft (1.2m) high constructed of a frame with six
      poles tied together at the top, which could be erected quickly and easily;
      finely decorated felt or leather rugs to cover the frame; bronze cauldrons
      which contained the hot stones, as can be seen from the heat cracks on their
      surfaces. To prevent scorching, the handles of the cauldrons were thickly
      bound with birch bark.

      A leather bag filled with hemp seeds, and more seeds among the stones, some
      of them charred, lead us to conclude that the 'incense' vessels were
      actually smouldering when the mourners left the tombs, so that the dead
      remained behind wreathed in hemp smoke. Besides hemp seeds (cannabis
      sativa), seeds of melilot (melilotus) indicate further use of intoxicants.

      The question of course arises as to whether this practice had a purely
      ritual purpose or whether it was an everyday pleasure enjoyed by the
      Scythians. The ingenious (sic) interpretation that only priests indulged in
      hashish-inhaling during the funeral rites, can no longer be accepted with
      its limiting implications. Since it was clearly a matter of course for both
      men and women to be buried equipped with working apparatus for
      hemp-inhaling, it is obvious that this intoxicant was also used deliberately
      for non-religious purposes. The inhaling of hashish - pure hemp seeds at
      that! - with its manifold effects such as time distortion and the deadening
      of pain could, amongst other things, have been a useful substance to take
      during preparations for battle.

      We know from written sources that the Thracians, from the country bordering
      on the west of Scythia, went into battle under the influence of intoxicants.
      A neighbouring tribe on the eastern border - the saka haumavarga
      ('hauma-drinking' Sakas) - probably used fly agaric sediment which may have
      had intoxicating effects similar to the frenzy of the berserker (sic).
      Reports of hemp-growing come from Scythia itself, and we know of miniature
      tents found in the Altai, complete with the necessary burning equipment. It
      is clear that the modern stigma attached to drug-taking did not apply in
      antiquity, and their use before battle (similar to that of the later
      assassins) may have played an important role, possibly even contributing to


      Rolle also provides drawings of "Hemp-inhaling equipment from the Pazyryk
      kurgans" - tent poles, a round bronze cauldron with handles wrapped in birch
      bark, and what looks like a small square brazier on four feet. The source
      sited for this is Artamonov, M.I.: 'Goldschatz der Skythen in der
      Eremitage', Prague, 1970.

      I shall risk fanning the flames of controversy a little by adding this from
      T. Sulimirski's "The Scythian Age in the USSR" (Bulletin of the INstitute of
      Archaeology no.10, 1970,pp99-140), essentially a literature guide.

      Several Soviet scholars are of the opinion that the indigenous agricultural
      population of ancient Scythia, subdued by the nomad Scythians, was
      proto-Slavonic. Such views were expressed by A.I. Terenozhkin in his several
      articles, in particular in the paper read at the Warsaw Congress of Slavonic
      Archaeology ('Tezisy', pp24-26, MKAS pp225-228 in Russian and English). In
      this context\ the work by L.Zgusta, 'Die personennamen Griechischer Stadte
      der noerdlichen Schwarzmeerkueste' (Prague, 1955) should be mentioned. In
      the study of a few thousands of personal names recorded in Greek North
      Pontic colonies, only names of Greek, Scytho-Sarmatian and Thracian, and a
      small number of other origin, appear, but definitely none which in any way
      could be derived from the Slavonic. This fact fact entirely dismisses any
      theories considering as Slavonic the indigenous population of ancient
      Scythia. I have commented on this question (in English) in Acta
      Baltico-Slavica V (Bialystok, 1967, pp1-17).


      Incidentally, the recently published 'Encyklopedie slovanskych bohu a mytu'
      (Profant & Profantova, 2000, Prague, Libri, ISBN 80-7277-011-X) has entries
      neither for drugs nor for hemp (Cz. konopi), although other plants are
      mentioned, e.g. Valerian (Cz. Kozlik lekarsky, Lat.Valeriana officinalis),
      used to produce a drink that guarded maidens against corruption or unwanted
      love, and known under then name 'odolan' from as early as 1088. (Note that
      it is now used as a sedative, to treat sleeplessness and as a painkiller...
      not usre how far this agrees with its perceived use at the time!!!).

      Yours aye


      Alastair Millar
      Alastair Millar BSc (Hons)
      Translation & Consultancy for the Heritage Industry
      P.O. Box 685, CZ 111 21 Praha 1, Czech Republic
      E-mail: alastair@... url: http://www.skriptorium.cz
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