The Flight of the Sorceress

The Flight of the Sorceress
Front and Back Covers

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Medical marijuana: A mummy tells all

My dear friend, Justice Gus Reichbach, has caused a stir with an Opp Ed in the New York Times advocating for the legalization of medical marijuana in New York. His piece reminded me that there is a scene in The Flight of the Sorceress about medicinal use of marijuana in ancient times. Indeed my scene (recounted here in brief) was the result of research.

In this scene, Glenys, a Celtic healer and herbalist is attending to the labor of a young girl whose pelvis is too small. She is unable to deliver. The baby is stuck. They will both surely die unless something drastic is done. Glenys instructs the husband to retrieve some cannabis from her treatment rooms.
"Go to the great pool. At the far end there’s a hall. The first door you come to will be my treatment chamber. Inside you’ll see shelves. Upon the top shelf, in a blue basket, there you’ll find herbs. The one you are looking for has leaves of dark blue-green and the smell will remind you of a skunk. Bring me that basket in all haste!” 

The thatcher snatched the key and rushed from the cottage.

“What herb is that?” asked the old crone. (The midwife.)

“A rare herb,” said Glenys. “I obtained it from a Jew in Clausentium who

trades with Palestinia. It should relax the girl so that I can manipulate her baby.” 

The old woman fussed with the wattle beneath her chin. “From Palestinia, you say? I’ve heard of this herb. You will burn it, yes? The girl will breathe the smoke
and lose her senses? Is this the herb?”

Glenys scrutinized the woman before responding. “Perhaps, I’ve not used it

before. But this is an emergency and I’ve been told that in Egypt they use this herb for difficult childbirths.”

I obtained the raw material for this scene from a May 20, 1993 report in the Albany Times Union.  

“The first physical evidence that marijuana was used as a medicine in the ancient Mideast was reported Wednesday by Israeli scientists who found residue of the drug with the skeleton of a girl who apparently died in childbirth 1,600 years ago. The researchers said the marijuana probably was used by a mid-wife trying to speed the birth, as well as ease the pain.   Until now, the researchers wrote in a letter to the journal Nature, "physical evidence of cannabis (marijuana) use in the ancient Middle East has not yet been obtained." The seven researchers -- from Hebrew University, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the National Police Headquarters forensic division -- said references to marijuana as a medicine are seen as far back as 1,600 B.C. in Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek and Roman writings.   But physical evidence that the hemp weed, cannabis sativa, was used for that purpose has been missing. The researchers' examination of an undisturbed family tomb near Jerusalem dating to the fourth century AD indicated the girl, about 14, died because her pelvis was too small to permit normal birth."

We hear a lot about how there hasn't yet been enough research. Well, you'd think that with all the written medical accounts over the lady four thousand years, plus this kind of forensic evidence, there would be enough to go on, at least to permit its use palliatively by terminally ill patients. We hear a lot about pot being a gateway drug. So be it, if the gateway we are talking about is the pearly one.  

1 comment:

  1. Barry,

    Two gateway drugs are legal: cigarettes and alcohol. Both can be abused, both can be bad for a person's body, but both are legal. What's the difference between marijuana and them? I don't know. I don't do any of them, but I do not see how marijuana can be any worse for a person than the other two. Anything abused will cause health issues. Even food.

    Just my two cents.