The History of the Club Des Hashischins. The Paris Hashish Club

Hashishins Club

n the 1840s in Paris, a select group of prominent French writers and artists, such as Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire, Eugène Delacroix, Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo, ventured into experimentation with the hashishinspired by accounts of French soldiers in North Africa and the stories of The Thousand and One Nights.

Fascinated by mystical experiences and the possibility of transcending reality through hashish consumption, they founded the Club Des Hashischins. This artistic elite held monthly sessions, recording their experiences, both positive and critical, in various articles and books. This is a true story.

History of the Hashish Club: A gathering of restless souls

It was a cold December night in Paris, when, after receiving a letter with mysterious overtones, I decided to head for an address unknown to me. Curiosity gripped me with every step I took towards the Île Saint-Louis, one of the two natural islands in the heart of the city, in the middle of the Seine, where time seemed to have frozen.

Upon arrival, an ancient mansion, the Hôtel Pimodan, stood majestically before my eyes, like a memory of the past resisting the onslaught of the present. That was the secret place of the famous Club des Haschischins in Paris.

After walking through its doors, I was immediately embraced by an atmosphere charged with mystery and emotion. There they were, seated in a circle and engrossed in lively conversation, the literary and artistic geniuses of the time: Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Charles Baudelaire, Eugène Delacroix, Gustave Flaubert, Théophile Gautier, Honoré de Balzac, Gérard de Nerval, Arthur Rimbaud and others whose works had adorned the bedside tables of many readers.

Club members shared a common passion: the exploration of the mind and soul through hashish-induced experiences.

At that time, thanks to Napoleon’s expeditions to Egypt in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and the French conquest of Algeria between 1830 and 1847, hashish had begun to gain popularity in Europe, especially among literary, artistic and scientific circles.

With the caution and respect due to any perception-altering substance, we were presented with a small amount of dawamesc, an edible greenish paste made of cannabis resin mixed with fat, honey and pistachios, traditional from Algeria. The taste was bitter but sweet, and soon, that delicacy began to work its magic in our minds.

The walls of the Hôtel de Lauzun began to vibrate with changing colors and shapes, while the conversations became increasingly deep and philosophical. The boundaries between reality and fantasy were blurred, and everyone shared their dreams, fears and deepest desires.

In the midst of this euphoria, I recalled the words of Dr. Jacques-Joseph Moreau, who, after studying the effects of hashish during his travels in Egypt, Syria and Asia Minor, concluded that this substance offered a window into sleep, hallucination and delirium.

But despite the wonderful experiences, the club was also reminded of the importance of keeping a clear mind. As Gautier mentioned, “the true writer needs only his natural dreams”.

Henri Fantin-Latour. Coin de table, in 1872
Un coin de table (A table corner), by Henri Fantin-Latour, 1872. Some members of the Des Hashashin Club appear.

The legacy of the Hashischins Club

With the passage of time, the Hashish Club disbanded, but its legacy persists. It is not so much about the substance itself, but about the human being’s constant quest to understand himself, to connect with others, and to transcend the barriers of everyday reality.

Today is a good time to remember the spirit of that private club in Paris in the mid-19th century: curiosity, respect, connection with people and with oneself, and discovery through experimentation .

In an atmosphere charged with mystery and creativity, these visionaries sought to transcend the conventional limits of perception and plunge into unknown depths of the mind. Inspired by the exoticism of the orient and the desire to understand human nature from an altered perspective, the Hashischins Club became a symbol of the intellectual desire to break boundaries, not only in art and literature, but also in the understanding of the self and the world around us.

The sessions and experimentations with hashish of the Club des Hashischins left a mark on the works of its members. Théophile Gautier detailed his experience in “The Hachichins Club” (1846). Charles Baudelaire, in “Les Paradis Artificiels“explored the world of drugs, highlighting both their dangers and their sensations. In 1845, Dr. Jacques-Joseph Moreau, for his part, made one of the first scientific analyses of hashish in “The Hashish of the Hashish”.Hashish and mental allyship“.

Gaetano Previati painted The Hashish Smokers in 1887, a vivid and colorful visual depiction of people engaged in the act of smoking hashish, with a color palette and style that captures the ethereal and dreamy atmosphere associated with the drug’s effect. Although not directly related to the club, it is an example of how the theme of hashish consumption and altered perceptual experiences captured the imagination of European artists and writers during the 19th century.

Previati Gaetavo - Hashish smokers
The Hashish Smokers, Gaetano Previati, 1887.

This painting reflects the period’s interest and fascination with exotic and mystical subjects, and aligns with the trend of the time to explore and represent the Oriental and the unknown in art.

The interest in exploring and narrating the effects of hashish was a phenomenon that transcended borders in the 19th century, bearing witness to the curiosity of many artists to explore the confines of the mind and consciousness. On the other side of the ocean, a few years later, Fitz Hugh Ludlow published “The Hasheesh Eater” in 1857, which also narrates his experiences after consuming it.

Get inspired

The next time you get together with friends, whether to share a moment of relaxation or simply to chat, remember the spirit of the Club des Hashischins. Dive into the depths of your mind, listen with your heart and be amazed by the moment.

After all, as Baudelaire said, “One must always be drunk. Of wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But get drunk. And if that intoxication comes from a good conversation, even better. We hope this story has inspired you. See you soon, Cannactivist!

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