Article by Chris Bennett, Cannabis Culture
I think today’s, October, Friday the 13th, may in fact be the 100th anniversary since the Templars were rounded up and arrested on that date, in 1307! In celebration of this onerous date, I thought I’d release a little taste of what I have been working on in regards to the Templars relationship with cannabis and some of the claims that have been made about it from various sources, that I have been putting together for my forthcoming book Liber 420: Cannabis, Magical Herbs and the Occult.
The history of the Templars is clouded in controversy, and the bad luck associated with Friday the 13th, is thought to have originated with the October, Friday the 13th, 1307 simultaneous raids of Templar properties. On this date there were arrests of all Templars who could be found, including the Grandmaster Jacques de Molay, their fleet of ships, and all possessions of the order were immediately seized, and strict inventories were kept of all items taken. At their peak, the Templars counted 15,000 members, an impressive number for the early medieval period, they had numerous properties throughout Europe and the Mid East, and they had acquired legendary wealth, which they controlled like bankers. Many where burned alive for their alleged crimes of heresy. The court records, and the legitimacy of the arrest of this mysterious order of medieval knights, is still hotly debated, through this controversy, they have become legends of the Occult world.
A relationship between cannabis and the Templars, is something I have mulled over, investigated and speculated about for about a quarter century, and I am far from alone in that speculation. I wrote a little about this in my first co-authored book Green Gold the Tree of Life: Marijuana in Magic and Religion (1995). At that time, I relied almost completely on libraries and physical books, since then, access to information has become much more accessible due to the development of the internet and access to rare material, and I have been revisiting this area for my new book, Liber 420: Cannabis, Magical Plants and the Occult.
It has long been suggested that there was considerable “cultural exchanges” between the Islamic cannabis cult, the Hashishins or “Assassins” and the controversial heroes/anti-heroes of the Crusade era, the Knights Templar. Such a connection could explain many of the so-called crimes of heresy that the Templars were accused of. We also know that the Hashishins, were accused by their own enemies of heresy as well as drug taking, licentious sexual orgies,and sorcery. The Hashishin, like the Nosairiyeh, with whom they shared a common heritage, were also suspected by “Muslims… and Crusaders alike… that they practiced the pagan and Gnostic sexual rites of antiquity” (Deveney, 1997). As well as the preservation from ancient times of the “sacred libation (the Haoma)” (Conder, 1886). Haoma being the Persian counterpart of the Indian Soma, a sacred drink that inspired the devottees who partook of it. A strong case for cannabis as an ingredient can be made for both Haoma and Soma. (In fact a group associated with the Hashishin was thought to be partaking of cannabis as “homa” well into the 19th century). And recent archeological finds have indicated this role in the ancient world as well.
In their initiations, the Hashishin were said to have have used a potent hashish preparation.
There can be no doubt that the use of hemp as an intoxicant was encouraged by the Ismailians in the 8th century, as its effects tended to assist their followers in realizing the tenets of the sect:
“We’ve quaffed the emerald cup, the mystery we know,
Who’d dream so weak a plant such mighty power could show!” (Dymock, 1890)
Most interestingly, in regards to this study, are the little known references to hashish infused wine, in the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
….I will therefore place this hashish in my cup of wine and thus I will strangle the serpent of my grief.
The drinker alone can understand the language of the rose and of the vine, and not the faint-hearted, and the cheap of wit. To those who have no knowledge of hidden things, ignorance is to be pardoned, for the drunkard only is capable of tasting the delights which are an accompaniment thereof.*
*as translated in (McCarthy, 1889).
The references from Omar Khayyam, indicate that his close friend, Hassan I Sabbah, the first ‘Old Man of the Mountain’, and Leader of the Hashishin, would have been familiar with hashish by proxy alone. Further elements of the Zoroastrian cosmology inherent with the beliefs of the Hashishin, indicates that the mystic use of hashish, had come through Persian Zoroastrian sources, which had a history of mystic use of cannabis infused wines, and the Assassins were the carriers of this earlier tradition.
In both cases, the ancient Zoroastrian situation and the Hashishin accounts, the preparation was potent enough to induce a deathlike coma, where both witnesses and participant believed they had died and left their bodies.
In the Zoroastrian tale “…the Artak Viraz Namak… Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, the rewards bestowed on the good, and the punishment awaiting the sinner are here described in a vision induced by hashish” (Campbell, 2000). As Herbert Gowen explained in A History of Religion, some centuries after the time of Zoraoster, when the people had grown sceptical and began to loose faith it was decided by the “the dasturs (an order of priests) to send one of their number, through the use of hashish, to the other world, that he may report on his return as to the realities of future reward and retribution.”