I am continuing my foray into history, specifically hemp history. My favorite read? The Emperor Wears No Clothes (Jack Herer). And surprisingly, the Middle Ages also saw politics and the church controlling/banning/ostracizing hemp.
“The Politics of Paper
The masses of people, “the commons,” were kept in check through a dual system of fear and enforced ignorance. All learning except the most rudimentary was controlled and strictly regulated by the priests.
The commons (about 95% of the people) were forbidden to learn to read or write – not even an alphabet – and often were punished or put to death for doing so.
The people were also forbidden to learn Latin, the language of the Bible. This effectively enabled the few priests who could read to interpret the scriptures any way they pleased for about 1,200 years, until the Reformation in Europe, circa 1600.
To prohibit knowledge, people were literally kept in the dark, without a piece of paper to write on. The monasteries preserved and guarded hemp’s secrets. They saw that cannabis held two threats to this policy of absolute control: papermaking and lamp oil.
Something had to be done.” (The Emperor Wears No Clothes, Jack Herer)
My first thought after reading this was, “Wow. This sounds so familiar!” If you saw my previous articles about the Rockefellers, Hearst, oil, timber, and the prohibition of hemp, you will remember that they did the same thing. Hemp was a threat to their investments, so they (and their lobbyists and their money) succeeded in running rampant propaganda against hemp which ultimately led to hemp farming in the U.S. being banned without a permit from the DEA (the permit being nearly impossible to get). The underlying factors were: 1) Money and 2) Control.
“Cannabis Medicines Forbidden
While embracing wine as a sacrament, and tolerating beer and hard liquor, the Inquisition outlawed cannabis ingestion in Spain in the 12th century, and France in the 13th. Many other natural remedies were simultaneously banned. Anyone using hemp to communicate, heal, etc. was labeled “witch.”
Saint Joan of Arc, for example, was accused in 1430-31 of using a variety of herbal “witch” drugs, including cannabis, to hear voices.” (The Emperor Wears No Clothes, Jack Herer)
Again, sound familiar? Natural remedies were banned, yet beer and hard liquor were tolerated. Read on:
“Church Sanctioned Legal Medicines
Virtually the only legal medical cures allowed the people of Western Europe by the Roman Catholic Church Fathers at this time were:
1. (a.) Wearing a bird mask for plague. (b.) Setting fractured bones or cleaning burns.
2. Bleeding pints and even quarts of blood from all flu, pneumonia or fever patients (victims) which was the most used treatment in Europe and America by doctors until the beginning of the 1900s. It does not work! And did not work no matter how much blood they took.
3. Praying to specific saints for a miraculous cure, e.g., St. Anthony for ergotism (poisoning), St. Odilla for blindness, St. Benedict for poison sufferers, and St. Vitus for comedians and epileptics.
4. Alcohol for a variety of problems.
In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII singled out cannabis healers and other herbalists, proclaiming hemp an unholy sacrament of the second and third types of Satanic mass. This persecution lasted for more than 150 years.” (The Emperor Wears No Clothes, Jack Herer)
Now, back then they didn’t replace natural remedies with chemical drugs like we do today, yet, as you can see, the remedies that WERE allowed were just as dangerous (or more), or ineffective, as chemical drugs. (Have you actually read the 3-page list of warnings and side-effects that come with chemical medications today?) You can also see that they didn’t look for specific causes of illness (when applicable), but that’s another story.
They say history repeats itself. And I am definitely seeing that today.
I am looking for ward to the day when (like our own previous history in the U.S.) hemp will be embraced for the wonderful economic, health, and medicinal properties that it possesses. Perhaps soon, our history will repeat itself and hemp will be legally grown in the U.S., used as ‘money’, used as medicine, fuel, paper, and more.