“Arabians, Indians, Sabeans,
Sing not, in hymns and paens,
Your incense, myrrh, or ebony:
Come here a nobler plant to see;
And carry home at any rate,
Some seed, that you may propagate.
If in your soil it takes, to heaven
A thousand thousand thanks be given
And say, with France, it goodly goes
Where the Pantagruelion grows!
— Francois Rabelais
Discovering the the healing virtue in plants has always been a large part of alchemical process. Many alchemists hoped to discover the holy grail, the prima materia within the different herbs and plants they worked with. Being an alchemist was many different things to many different people and many medieval alchemists pursued the Philosopher’s Stone as herbalist apothecaries in an attempt to find the very essence of creation.
In his books, Liber 420: The Cannabis Arcanum and Green Gold: the Tree of Life, Marijuana in Magic and Religion, author Chris Bennett highlights the many ways that the hemp plant appears in the works of such prominent alchemists as Zosimos, Avicenna, Paracelsus and Cardano, and Francois Rabelias. He notes that cannabis played a very important role in alchemy and that indeed, it helped to develop modern medicines through alchemical works.
For instance, Francois Rabelais wrote frequently about hemp, which he termed Pantagruelion, so as to avoid persecution by the government. Rabeleis studied the alchemical texts of the Sufi’s and was familiar with the writings of Zoroaster who is said to have attained ecstasy through hemp. Zoroaster had a very large influence on the world of alchemy and is rumored to be responsible for the earliest mention of hemp's use as a sacrament. In the text, the Zend-Avesta, Zoroaster mentions over 10,000 medicinal plants, praising hemp above all.
In his article, The Cannabis Arcanum of Paracelsus, Bennett was able track down one of Paracelsus’ recipes for what appears to be, an epilepsy and seizure medicine. The recipe appears in the Arcanum Compofitum, ‘secret composition’. The instructions suggest the concoction be used topically, which reminds one of the many CBD oils and balms we have in use today.
The relationship between cannabis and alchemy (or spagyrics) continues to influence the world today with a host of concoctions from oils to tinctures to soaps and salves.
A very popular healing agent, CBD which stands for Cannabidiol is a non-intoxicating component of the cannabis plant with numerous healing benefits. It has been used to treat a wide range of conditions – chronic pain, cancer, Crohn’s, diabetes, better sleep, rheumatoid arthritis, PTSD, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, antibiotic-resistant infections, multiple sclerosis, and more.
Liber 420 author Chris bennett notes, “The reintroduction of cannabis based medicines, has resulted in a modern day interest in cannabis tinctures and preparation, and many craft business are marketing themselves as Apothecaries. With all the extraction possibilities, there has also been a revival of cannabis alchemy, and elaborate looking extraction equipment that looks like something out of a renaissance alchemical manuscript....”
As the society moves ever more towards natural and homeopathic remedies many people are becoming increasingly interested in the spagyric preparation of herbs, alchemy, and plant chemistry, continuing the centuries long legacy of cannabis and alchemy.
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