CANNABIS CULTURE –  Nepenthe was an historical natural infused wine, that seems in Homer’s well-known story The Odyssey. Its use to quell grief in a funerary setting has brought on many researchers to establish it with hashish.

The Odyssey of Homer (Ninth-Eighth century BC) describes the Nepenthes which got here to the Greeks from Egyptian Thebes:

“Then Helen, daughter of Zeus… cast a drug into the wine whereof they drank, a drug to lull all pain and anger, and bring forgetfullness of every sorrow. Whoso should drink a draught thereof, when it is mingled in the bowl, on that day he would let no tear fall down his cheeks, not though his mother and his father died, not though men slew his brother or dear son with the sword before his face, and his own eyes beheld it. Medicines of such virtue and so helpful had the daughter of Zeus, which Polydamna, the wife of Thon, had given her, a woman of Egypt, where earth the grain-giver yields herbs in greatest plenty, many that are healing in the cup, and many baneful. There each man is a leech skilled beyond all human kind…”

The historian Diodorus Siculus, who lived within the 1st century B.C., famous that also in his time, greater than 7 centuries after the composition of Homer’s Iliad, “people say that the Egyptian women make use of the powder (of this plant, scil. the nepenthes) and they say from ancient times only those women who lived in the ‘Town-of-Zeus’ [i.e. Thebes, which was also known as Diospolis] had found medicines which cure wrath and grief” (1, 97, 1-9; Eus. PE 10, 8, 9-12; cf. additionally Ps.Iustinus, Cohort. advert gent. 26e).

As Prof Carl Ruck has famous “It is generally assumed that the drug, which Helen is supposed to have learned in Egypt, was opium, but the effects as described in the poem are much more like Cannabis, which was also widely employed in Egypt and throughout the Near East” (Ruck, et al., 2007). Numerous researchers have seen nepenthe as a hashish concoction. An concept first put forth by the French Pharmacist Joseph Virey (1775—1846) who recommended in 1813 that hasheesh was Homer’s nepenthe (Bulletin de Pharmacie). Many others have since concurred: “The opinions entertained by the learned, on the nature of the Nepenthe of the ancients have been various. By Th. Zwinger, and… by Sprengel, in his history of botany, it is supposed to be opium… But the best authorities, with whom our author coincides, are of opinion that the Nepenthe was derived from the Cannabis sativa of Linnaeus” (Christen, 1822); “the famous nepenthe of the ancients is said to have been prepared by decocting the hemp leaves” (Watt, 1853); “nepenthe which may reasonably be surmised was bhang from the far east” (Benjamin, 1880). As the authors of The Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians additionally concluded: “Nepenthes… Perhaps the Bust or Hasheesh, a preparation of the Cannabis sativa” (Wilkinson & Birch, 1878). See additionally (Walton, 1938; Burton, 1894; Lewin, 1931; Singer and Underwood, 1962; Oursler, 1968; Wills, 1998). It is clearly the Nepenthe that Prof Richard Evans Schultes and Prof. Albert Hofmann are referring to after they wrote in a chapter on hashish “In ancient Thebes the plant was made into a drink with opium like effects” (Schultes & Hofmann, 1979).

Coptic amphorae from Sˇaruma, which held black natural residues inside containing the pollen of hashish.

In A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, Yule and Crooke word an fascinating connection between a Coptic (Greek-Egyptian) time period and the nepenthe; “Bhang is usually derived from Skt. Bhanga, ‘breaking,’ but [Sir Richard] Burton derives both it and the Ar. Banj from the old Coptic Nibanj, ‘meaning a preparation of hemp; and here it is easy to recognize the Homeric Nepenthe’” (Yule, et al., 1903/1996). As Abram Smythe Palmer additionally notes in Folk-etymology: “Nepenthe, the drug which Helen brought from Egypt, is without doubt the Coptic nibendj, which is the plural of bendj, or benj, hemp, ‘bang,’ used as an intoxicant” (Palmer, 1882). When one returns to the up to date Avestan time period for hashish, b’aŋ’ha, the similarity on this context, ne- b’aŋ’ha, brings us to a fair nearer to the cognate pronunciation ‘nepenthe.’

One can even word a similarity to the Indian time period ‘panga,’ which refers to a paste constituted of pounded hashish leaves combined with water (Watt, 1908). (It must be famous that by the point the pyramids had been constructed, there had already been massive cities in India’s Mohenjodaran-Harappan in India, [geographically close to Mesopotamia and Scythian southwest Asia], for some centuries). The Hebrew time period ‘pannag,’ which Dr. Raphael Mechoulam believes identifies a preparation of hashish (Mechoulam, et al., 1991) can be similiar. Interestingly, as nepenthe was a powder it’s notable that each of those phrases are believed to establish ready types of hashish as properly.

“At this place the Institute of Egyptology of the University of Tubingen is excavating a graveyard which was used from the 6th Dynasty until the Roman period… Here some wine amphorae were excavated, from the bottom of which we obtained samples of organic material for pollen analytical investigations…. The useful plants, Cerealia and Humulus/Cannabis were present.” (Rosch, 2004)

However it must be famous that the samples remoted within the “black organic residues inside containing pollen” discovered on the backside of the amphora, could point out what was rising within the space, and characterize issues caught within the air, so at this level not conclusive proof of an Egyptian hashish infused wine. “Bearing in mind the low pollen concentration and the composition with a high amount of airborne pollen, we suppose that a large part of the pollen content reflects contamination of the amphora during its filling or opening.”

Feature Image: Homer Odyssey Bk IV: Helen mixes wine w/ an “anti-sorrow drug” or νηπενθές [nepenthes], a pharmakon “that stilled all pain, quieted all anger & brought forgetfulness of every ill” after seeing Menelaus,Telemachus & Nestor’s son Peisistratus weeping over the useless of the Trojan War.

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