Looks like Andrew Sullivan is getting medieval… in a good way. He recently posted an image from the Bodleian Library’s MS Ashmole 1431, apparently a late 11th/early 12th century manual of herbal medicinal use that includes canapus silvaticus, aka “dry hempe,” aka “The Assassin of Youth.” That’s right, I’m tallking about muggles, Indiana ditchweed, snop, vipe, Alice B. Toklas,* the infamous giggle smoke.
In other words, people in the Middle Ages–not necessarily very many people, but some people in the vicinity of Canterbury literate in Latin and able to afford a fancy illustrated manuscript–were aware of the medicinal benefits of marijuana. From the Ashmole guide, Sullivan concludes:
Decriminalizing cannabis would not be a radical departure from the norm of human history. It would be a return to it.
This blog is officially neutral on the subject of drug decriminalization, but it is very positive on the idea of driving some High Times-originating web traffic its way. So, I poked around the Ashmole collection a little more, and what do you know, I found this:
The image comes from a Tudor pattern book (MS Ashmole 1504). A pattern book is exactly what it sounds like it’d be–a handy visual reference guide to things a manuscript illuminator (in this case, one living in the sixteenth century) might want to draw. As you can see above, thanks to a happy accident of alphabetization, the vegetative sources of two of man’s great vices occupy the same page in the pattern book: hemp and hops.** It’s a tee-shirt waiting to happen, it is.
[Update] Actually, glancing over the rest of the book, it seems it’s not arranged strictly alphabetically. Instead, the pages are grouped thematically, then alphabetized within the theme. The image above is preceded in the manuscript by two medicinal w’s (weybrode [now called plantago] and wyld tansy) and followed by two stout arborial a’s (alder and aspen trees). In other words, this page was probably intentionally meant to depict something we might label “two high-producing plants starting with h.”
In fact, since it seems that the use of hops was something of a scandal in England around the same time this pattern book was produced, we might even further label this picture “two illicit high-producing h’s.” Apparently, hops were a controlled substance in England around the turn of the sixteenth century, banned for use by common ale brewers (but not beer brewers) because they were seen as a “wicked and pernicious weed.”***
*I really hope this slang is still in use somewhere. Gertrude Stein’s lover’s name being casually dropped by potheads thrills me to no end.
**Or hempe and hoppis, to use the original spelling.
***Like all good quotes, the truth of the matter is more complicated, and there’s a fair amount of qualification that needs to be made. Go elsewhere