Ah, hash. To know it is to love it. Hash oil was my first experience with hash, and I still remember the extreme clarity of vision and thought that filled my brain. I’ve always wondered about the history behind hash, and where the practice of dabbing came from – so I looked into it.
Where Did Hash Come from?
The word “hashish,” which is the longer form of “hash,” is an Arabic word which means “grass.” According to the Schaffer Library of Drug Policy, cannabis survived in the desert lands of the Middle East through the years by “producing a thick, sticky resin that coats its leaves and flowers,” and keeps the plants’ moisture from evaporating into the air. This resin is hashish. Some believe it came from Asia. There are numerous stories out there describing the men (who knows, it was probably a woman who found it) who discovered hashish – although pre-Islamic Arabian, Egyptian, Babylonian, and Greek people often consumed it.
One story is about the founder of the Sufi or Tasawwuf religion, one Haydar. It is rumored that Haydar discovered hashish in 1155 A.D.E. Since Sufis usually take vows of celibacy and poverty, strict self-control is a major part of accessing spirituality within – all ideas that might go well with enlightening hashish consumption. According to Patheos.com, “some of the most beautiful literature in the world has been written by Sufis,” who often focus on philosophy and rituals like writing poetry and music; Rumi, Hafiz, Ibn ‘Arabi, and Anne Marie Shimmel are all famous Sufi writers. You may be familiar the whirling dervishes of the Turkish Sufi orders – meditation through constant spinning. (I don’t know about you, but I could compare the feeling of dizziness I get when spinning with the feeling of consuming hashish pretty easily.)
Hashish: From Revered to Sin
La Mota Grow Shop in San Sebastian, Spain, notes that consuming cannabis is a sin for 1.3 billion Muslims today, but during Islam’s Golden Era, it was an “instrument of worship.” Fakirs, ascetic men who travelled, encouraged the use of “pressed cannabis resin,” consumed through the mouth instead of smoked – fakirs believed the high helped them get closer to God. According to La Mota, Shayk Haydar survived by eating cannabis and nothing else during the last 10 years of his life. I don’t know if that’s possible, but that’s what the legends say. Of course, altered states are a favorite among the poverty-stricken; escaping into alternate realities is a great way to stop thinking about overdue bills bearing down on your head and the fact that you have nothing to eat. The Green Prophet Al-Khadir was an old fakir who dressed in green and could be found in solitary desert locations to help travellers and mystics meet with God.
The Hassasins of the 11th Century
Hassassins (as they were known by those who feared them), possibly the origin of all negative hashish associations, were an “army of orphans” that controlled the Fatimí Caliphate during the 11th century. These Persians were raised from children to serve their leader and were rumored to have been fed enormous amounts of hashish, plied with women, and trained as assassins. When their leader, Hassan-i-Sabbah (a Sufi) died, he was a very powerful man. The hassassins were ultimately hashish’s downfall for Muslims (and eventually the rest of the world), who began to associate its use with the criminal element – Muslim legal scholars, or ulamas, banned hashish and cannabis consumption in the 13th century and made it a sin. According to the Abbot Arnold of Lubeck, Hassan’s followers (known as fidai which means “devoted ones”) were given hashish to raise them “to a state of ecstasy or falling…their sorcerers draw near and exhibit to the sleepers phantasms, pleasures, and amusement. Then they promise that these delights will become perpetual if the orders given them are executed with the daggers provided.” Fidai were patient “daggermen,” or assassins, who were feared throughout the Middle East.
Scheherazade and the Sultan
Scheherazade lived from A.D.E. 1000 to 1700 and is the character that The Thousand and One Nights is based on; one wife of a sultan who was to be put to death following her wedding night. She outsmarted the Sultan by telling him the “The Tale of the Hashish Eater.” The story follows a man who squanders his money on drugs and women, but escapes to a fantasy world by consuming hashish in a public bath and journeying to a world where he is a rich, handsome man attended by a “sensuous slave girl.” Every male hasheater’s dream, right? His dreams were lucid, meaning that he was able to guide them and was still aware of his surroundings. In the Middle East, hashish was not, and is still not, considered the evil that it was in the United States for a little over a century.
Today, of course, hashish is becoming more widely accepted in United States society, and many other places in the world. It can still be a bit of a mystery, however, and you may be confused by conflicting stories about its effect and side effects, as well as how best to consume it. There are several popular ways to consume cannabis resin, or hash, and they include dabbing, vaping, eating, and smoking. According to The Cannabist, “the most accessible way for new users to consume concentrates is by crumbling them up on top of a pipe bowl or into a joint.” There are many different types of hash, and I’ve most often encountered the blond hash or the dark brown types of hash. (Also, hash will not dissolve if you put it in water, so if it does what you have is not hash.)
If you find that you enjoy consuming hash, you may try it on its own, say with a glass hash pipe, a vaporizer, or dabbing. A hash pipe is budget-friendly and easy to come by at a cannabis paraphernalia shop, while a vaporizer or vape pen is a slightly more expensive option, and one that does not actually burn the product (better for your lungs, in theory) but just heats it up until it vaporizes. Vape pens can be expensive or inexpensive, and you generally get what you pay for. By that I mean that if you go pricey, your pen probably won’t break after a bit of use, and it will evenly and correctly vaporize the hash, resulting in the best possible effect. Most vape pens only work with wax, shatter, or oils, not water hash or cannabis flowers.
What Are Dabs?
And finally we come to dabs, the serious hash consumer’s favorite. A dab uses an oil or dab rig, which is kind of like a bong, to vaporize the hash on a hot surface. Dab rigs include a ceramic, quartz, or titanium “nail,” which is the surface the hash is vaporized on (usually with a butane torch or electricity with “e-nails”; then the vapor is inhaled through the glass of the rig. Dabs were known as “knife hits” of “hot knifing” in the old days, according to Ry Prichard. If vaporized at a lower temperature, the flavor of the hash shines through, whereas the higher the temperature, the more hash is evaporated = a stronger hit. Dab rigs range in price depending on the artisanship, size, and effectiveness, kind of like bongs do.
In essence (no pun intended), dabs are considered the purest, cleanest, and most effective way to consume hash, although this assumes that no solvents are used in the extraction practice. Never assume because…well, you know. Shatter, wax, butane hash oil (BHO), and other forms of hash can all be dabbed. According to Brandon Lee, the “hippie mafia” began importing hashish into the U.S. in the late 70s, and BHO were apparently called “honey oil” back then, but the explosion of a Kabul-based hash refinery stopped the influx for a while. Using a dab rig as opposed to older methods like simply heating up a knife with hash on it and inhaling the vapor gets as much of the vapor into your lungs as possible, resulting in very little waste. Many people use an e-nail (it plugs in so the temperature is perfect and constant for dabbing at all times) to avoid possible contamination with butane torches and feeling like a crackhead.
And there you have it! The quick and dirty version of hash through history. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little history lesson, and that I didn’t get anything wrong. Of course, the history of anything that has been illegal for a while is always questionable – as are the sources that provide information on it. Let me know if I got anything wrong, and enjoy dabbing, vaping, or eating your hash.