Swedish 1909 Cannabis Enthusiasm

i-fb875d597f1b7c4ec14c28626df4cbd7-victorianteadrinker.jpgThe excruciatingly witty and multi-talented David Nessle has been alerted by his erudite father to a long enthusiastic article about cannabis in the classic Swedish 1909 dictionary Nordisk Familjebok (uggleupplagan). This dictionary was in every home with any pretentions to literacy and social respectability. A stoner among the dictionary’s contributors, pharmacology professor Oskar Teodor Sandahl (1829-1894), has clearly done a lot of pot to be able to report the way he does (note that he mentions the munchies), and the editorial board has then felt it proper to devote an entire page to the subject. I translate:

Hashish. 1. H a s h i s h (Arab. herb, especially hemp, being the foremost of all herbs, due to its pleasurable, anaesthetic and calming properties, and finally preparations made of this herb), pharm. […]

[Description of how to make cannabis extract using butter and rose-petal oil] 3-4 g of such extract is ingested, usually in a small cup of black coffee, when one wishes to attain a pleasurable intoxication.

[…] Truly wonderful are in many cases the effects of hashish, but they vary according to individual and dosage. After the ingestion one’s head always becomes heavy, sometimes with headache, a sensation of warmth is felt and vertigo and a ringing in the ears. One’s pupils dilate, and long-sightedness ensues. During hashish intoxication, many report that objects appear enormously elongated, as if they had no end: a road you wander seems endless, and your goal constantly slips away into the distance. Painted pictures appear stereoscopic or seem to take corporeal form and begin to move, so that they appear to free themselves living from the canvas. Sensoric acuity is dulled, while the poisoned person’s impressions appear exceptionally vivid. Usually a subjective sense of heightened intensity and power in one’s mental faculties is felt, along with a highly cheerful air, a considerable impulse to laughter, and indeed irrepressable eruptions of loud laughter, without apparent reason, but usually inspired by bizarre visions or more correctly illusions. Under the influence of a strongly heightened imagination, the shapes and colours of these illusions often become exceptionally sumptuous and engrossing. (Even more glorious colours are summoned by a poison in certain cacti, see C a c t a c a e). One’s consciousness is sometimes entirely intact, at other times more or less fogged, so that no memory of events during intoxication remains afterwards. One’s sense of time becomes highly skewed: everything appears hasty and fleeting, but minutes nevertheless feel like hours. The ground disappears under your feet, you experience a not unpleasant sense of floating in the air, and you fly through wide expanses of space. In many is seen, however, a great inertia in their movements, an uncertain gait and trembling hands, while others display an impetuous tendency to noisemaking, raving and destruction, everything under at least partial consciousness.

With time, a tendency to calm and sleepiness makes itself felt. Usually, however, the hashish intoxication does not cause sleep directly, but only makes the following night’s sleep uncommonly deep, with or without remarkable dreams. In everyone does hashish stimulate a considerable heightening of the appetite afterwards; otherwise there are no or no notable side effects. Hashish does not cause constipation.

[Stuff about fakirs and assassins, speculation about how the drug’s effects arise.]

People who use hashish often and in large doses can of course damage themselves seriously with it. Particularly, some are said to become insane, while death from hashish poisoning is very rare. Compared to opium, hashish is far less dangerous; in particular, it lacks opium’s damaging effects on the digestive tract and general state of nourishment.

Professor Sandahl’s article appears to have been re-printed with some revisions from the late-19th century edition of the dictionary. Sandahl was into altie treatments and ran a “Medico-Pneumatic Clinic” in Stockholm from 1860 to 1882, where patients sat in sheet-iron cupboards and breathed “condensed air” to cure their ailments. I wonder if the stoner professor sent medical marijuana smoke into those curative cupboards.

Funnily, I find that O.T. Sandahl owned a property on Baggensstäket’s Skogsö shore, not far from the battlefield of 1719 where I have helped with metal detecting. “Despite being for many years one of the capital’s most sought-after practicioners, the prominent and exceptionally friendly physician found time to write many dissertations, travel books etc. His beautiful plantations at Stäket were famous.”

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Comments

  1. #1 Abbie
    September 24, 2007

    Oh awesome.

    Pity that it’s bad because it’s illegal and illegal because it’s bad.

  2. #2 Ken Mareld
    September 24, 2007

    That dictionary article was probably the reason my Swedish grandmother was not too excited about the rise of Cannabis consumption among her American grandchildren in the sixties. On the other hand my Swedish parents were very distressed by what their teenager sons were doing. Did later editions of Nordisk Familjebok (1930’s) have a very different take on Cannabis and Hashish?
    Tak sa mycket.

  3. #3 Tanya
    September 24, 2007

    We could definitely learn a thing or two from the Dutch. I have to admit that I have never used hash or eaten oil and have only ever indulged in the smoked product. *sigh*

  4. #4 Martin R
    September 25, 2007

    Ken, your surname is so cool! “Luminescent plankton”!

    Somewhere between 1909 and my early-80s school years, Sweden decided (as did much of the Western world) that cannabis was actually the road to perdition. Meanwhile, hard liquor enjoys continued legality and popularity.

  5. #5 paddy
    September 25, 2007

    I wonder what the hell happened between then and now. I was shocked when I came to Sweden with the level of ignorance about Cannabis, and the almost funny anti-Cannabis sentiment.

    Perfectly reasonable people still tell me to this day how it gives you a psychosis or leads you to heroin and ruins lives and blah blah blah. Quite funny in a country where you cannot have a meal without pulling out a bottle of snaps.

  6. #6 Thinker
    September 25, 2007

    Usually a subjective sense of heightened intensity and power in one’s mental faculties is felt, along with a highly cheerful air, a considerable impulse to laughter, and indeed irrepressable eruptions of loud laughter, without apparent reason, but usually inspired by bizarre visions or more correctly illusions.

    Sort of like reading ScienceBlogs?

  7. #7 Savon
    September 25, 2007

    Or to be a Noaidi (AND even without drugs)…

  8. #8 Martin R
    September 25, 2007

    ScienceBloggers don’t do drugs: we are drugs.

  9. #9 Savon
    September 25, 2007

    Oh, that was what Thinker meant? I agree!

  10. #10 Savon
    September 25, 2007

    And that’s why it is so inspiring to read ScienceBlogs for a Noaidi!

  11. #11 Martin R
    September 25, 2007

    “ScienceBlogs: Blowing Minds Since 2006″

  12. #12 Savon
    September 25, 2007

    Sadly enough, I didn’t discover you by that time. I´ve lost at least a whole year :-)!

  13. #13 Thinker
    September 25, 2007

    Savon:

    I’ve lost at least a whole year

    Don’t worry about that lost year – what matters is that you’re here now! After all,

    One’s sense of time becomes highly skewed: everything appears hasty and fleeting, but minutes nevertheless feel like hours.

    Finally: exactly what plants do you suppose the dear doctor had in his “beautiful plantations” that made them so famous? Any clues during your search of the area, Martin? Perhaps that “metal detecting” of yours was actually a front for finding something completely different…?

  14. #14 Martin R
    September 25, 2007

    All I can really tell you is to picture yourself in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies. Somebody calls you and you answer quite slowly — a girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

  15. #15 Savon
    September 25, 2007

    Iron(y)wood, perhaps?

  16. #16 Savon
    September 27, 2007

    …she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China…you know that she’s halfcrazy, but you touched her perfect body with your mind…

    Leonard Cohen?

  17. #17 Savon
    September 27, 2007

    Suzanne takes you down to her boat near the river…

  18. #18 Martin R
    September 27, 2007

    Everybody’s got something to hide except for me and my monkey!!!

  19. #19 Tengill Rex
    September 27, 2007

    Saamiqueen!
    You are here at last!

    …and I always want to be there, because…

    Tengill
    The King of the Scritofini

  20. #20 funkspiel
    December 20, 2009

    I wonder what accounts for Scandinavians in general having negative attitude towards cannabis?

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