Saturday, March 22, 2014

Maud Gonne: Mystic, Revolutionary, Hashish Taker

UPDATE 10/15: Gonne is included in the new book Tokin' Women: A 4000-Year Herstory.

Spotted in Downton Abbey Season 3, episode 4: Lady Sybil and her Irish revolutionary boyfriend get into trouble, over which her father pulls strings to get them off the lam. "They're afraid with Sybil they'll have another Maud Gonne on their hands," he says.


"I had never thought to see in a living woman so great beauty. It belonged to famous pictures, to some legendary past," is how William Butler Yeats described the young Maud Gonne (1866-1953). Yeats proposed marriage several times to Gonne, and the two remained lifelong friends and compatriates in the Irish nationalist cause despite her refusals.

A young sophisticate who attracted the attention of the Prince of Wales at her coming-out party (pictured) and traveled throughout Europe. Shortly afterwards Gonne had her political awakening, and schooled herself in Irish history and Gaelic when she "witnessed with her own eyes, the brutal evictions, the unjust imprisonment of some of her friends" in Ireland under English rule. After her father died when she was 20, the statuesque (six-foot-tall) beauty tried her hand as an actress to earn a living until she discovered she was a wealthy heiress.

She traveled to Constantinople where she wished to experience the "real life of the East," but found it closed to her as a woman. In France, "she developed an oratorical style remarkable even in a country famous for its rhetoric," wrote Nancy Cardozo in Lucky Eyes and a High Heart, The Life of Maud Gonne. "She wrung tears from cynical politicians and sous from the pockets of students who adopted the eloquent young beauty and carried her off to speak to Republican and Catholic societies in the provinces...A thousand people gave her a standing ovation in Bordeaux." Over 2000 articles were published about her speeches in 1892 in France alone.

"What a singular scene," Yeats wrote that year. "This young girl of twenty-five addressing that audience of politicians, and moving them more than all their famous speakers although she spoke in a language not her own." Yeats compared her to Oscar Wilde's prodigious mother, known as Speranza.

Yeats took Gonne to a meeting of the Theosophical Society and introduced her to Madame Blavatsky, near the end of her life. Together Gonne and Yeats took hashish in Paris in 1894 in "an attempt to make themselves telepathic"; later they experimented with mescal given to Yeats by Havelock Ellis.

"I have to thank you for the dream drug which I have not tried as yet being very busy & having need of all my energy & activity for the moment but I mean to try it soon," Gonne wrote Yeats in April or May 1987. She was probably referring to hashish, or mescal.

Gonne's image was used in an ad for Vin Mariani, the coca-laced wine that had many famous enthusiasts. She said of it, "Your coca-wine by fortifying my voice will allow me make my beloved country better known." She used chloroform for insomnia, and the story goes that, substituting cannabis for her insomnia instead, had awoken one night to find herself apparently translated to the bedside of her sister Kathleen.

At one point, Gonne had a vision of she and Yeats in a past life "when they were brother and sister, sold into slavery in the Arabian desert and traveling together across endless sands." Having lost a child, Maud hoped her son might be reincarnated and asked Yeat's friend, the painter known as AE, how soon after its death a child might be reborn. Using cabalistic rituals Yeats had learned in the Golden Dawn, Maud "had a vivid encounter. She had been a priestess in ancient Egypt and had given false oracles for money under the influence of a priest who was her lover...AE received a similar vision of her in Egypt....Maud did not question her own clairvoyance."

Gonne raised two children and her "concern for her children and pleasure in sharing her love of children with her women friends is very evident in all her correspondence," wrote her biographer Margaret Ward.

On Easter 1900, Gonne founded the Daughters of Ireland, a revolutionary women's society for Irish nationalist women who, like herself, were considered unwelcome in male-dominated societies. In 1918, after the Irish Free State was established and Yeats named a Senator and a Nobel laureate, Gonne was arrested in Dublin and imprisoned in England for six months. "The day before her arrest she wrote to say that if I did not denounce the Government she renounced my society for ever," wrote Yeats. Gonne participated in a hunger strike while incarcerated, and used her experiences to further publicize the scandalous prison conditions.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Streisand Smoked With Sellers, But Not with Seth

UPDATE 11/23: Streisand's new memoir My Name is Barbra contains the revelation that she lost her virginity after smoking marijuana, something she claims she did only "rarely" before and after. The affair didn't end well, but the experience was illuminating. She writes, "At least it gave me some more material to work with....When I sang about wanting someone, for the first time I actually understood it." 

10/15: Streisand is included in the new book  Tokin' Women: A 4000-Year Herstory.

"It's still illegal?"
On Wednesday's Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, Seth Rogen was praised for being brave enough to come out of the closet as a pot smoker, and was asked about others he'd smoked with: Snoop (check); James Franco (no); Paul Rudd and Sarah Silverman (yes, "a lot"). Rogen hadn't smoked weed with Willie, he said, but Cohen said that he had.

Perhaps the most surprising answer came when Rogen was asked if he'd smoked with Barbra Streisand, who played his mother in 2012's The Guilt Trip.

"No, but we talked about it a lot," Rogen said, adding, "She smoked weed with Peter Sellers though. That's the craziest shit ever!"

It's rather too bad Rogen and Streisand didn't toke up, on or off screen, in their "for airplanes only" movie, in which Streisand's character drinks when she needs to blow off steam, instead of using something more interesting (and less harmful, according to our President).

La Streisand tells George Segal, "Now I'm going to make you happy" as she lights a joint to share with him in the 1970 film The Owl and the Pussycat

She recounted to Rolling Stone in 1971:
"Since I get nervous in places like Vegas, it occurred to me to do this funny little routine - actually telling the audience about my hangup. The point was, you shouldn't rely on emotional crutches. It was almost a sermon - no crutches, people; crutches are a no-no. Then at the end, I'd take out a joint and light it. First, just faking it. Then I started lighting live joints, passing them around to the band. It was great - it relieved all my tensions. And I ended up with the greatest supply of grass ever. Other acts up and down the Strip heard about what I was doing - Little Anthony and the Imperials, people like that - and started sending me the best dope in the world. I never ran out."

Barbra, The Way She Is by Christopher Anderson (2006) says Streisand's role in The Way We Were was dependent on her appearing at a McGovern rally organized by Warren Beatty on April 15, 1972 at the LA Forum (pictured above). According to David Crosby's book, Stand and Be Counted, after a second standing ovation at the McGovern event, Barbra stopped to talk to the crowd, reprising her Vegas act.

Speaking of her stage fright, she said, "I was even more scared until I spoke to friends of mine, also performers you know, and they were telling me. . . that in order to conquer their fear. . . some of them drink. But I really hate the taste of liquor so I can't do that. Some of them take pills, but I can't even take aspirin." At that moment she took an exaggerated drag of what appeared to be a joint. After huge laugher and applause, she made a confused face and asked, "It's still illegal?" Taking another toke she spoke through clenched teeth (as though holding the smoke in) she said, "We should face our problems head on."

She then sang, "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" (with the trippy lyric, "You'll feel part of every mountain, sea and shore / You can hear, from far and near, a world you've never heard before.") She received a total of six standing ovations. Listen to a recording of her marijuana monologue.

Streisand's current husband, James Brolin, played a pivotal role as an outgoing drug "czar" in the anti–drug war movie Traffic (2000). Her first husband, Elliot Gould, said in 1974, "I have no problem with drugs." Not even marijuana? he was asked. "No one has a problem with marijuana," he replied. The actor told Playboy in 1970 (while married to Streisand), "I'm able to switch into certain inner places with marijuana. I've also taken a couple of trips that have been incredible." Gould puffed pot in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and appeared in the pot-friendly "Oceans 420" movies.

ADDENDUM 3/20: Streisand has published a HuffPo piece on carbon farming as a solution for climate change.

4/16: Anderson now claims Streisand had an affair with Prince Charles, who's been pretty open to medical marijuana. In December 1998, Charles surprised a Multiple Sclerosis sufferer by suggesting she try medical marijuana. Karen Drake, 36, said: "He said he had heard it was the best thing for relief from MS. In February 2000, Charles visited Trench Town, Jamaica, the neighborhood of late reggae legend Bob Marley, and was greeted by Marley's widow, Rita, and former bandmate Bunny Wailer. Mrs. Marley gave Charles a red, yellow and green Rastafarian knit hat with false dreadlocks, and the prince put it on.

11/15: Streisand has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, along with Congresswoman Barbara Mikulski, who introduced an amendment in June to prohibit the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration from using money to interfere in state medical marijuana laws.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Return of Ishtar the Healer on 4/20

UPDATE 10/15: Ishtar is included in the new book Tokin' Women: A 4000-Year Herstory. Easter will be on 4/20 again in 2025.

Many are posting around the news that Easter falls on 4/20 this year, with photos of goofy bunny rabbits smoking joints. But the joining of these two high holy days -- 4/20 and Easter Sunday -- has much greater significance.

Easter, the celebration of Jesus's resurrection, is the most sacred day of the Christian year. In ancient Babylon, around the spring solstice, people celebrated the resurrection of their god Tammuz, who was brought back from the underworld by his mother/wife Ishtar (pronounced “Easter” in most Semitic dialects). Flowers, painted eggs, and rabbits were the symbols of the holiday then, as now.

"In ancient Sumaria, Ishtar was held in high esteem as a heavenly monarch," writes Jeanne Achterberg in Woman as Healer. "Her temples have been found at virtually every level of excavation." The Ishtar Gate to the inner city of Babylon was considered one of the ancient wonders of the world.

Also called the Queen of Heaven, Ishtar was a compassionate, healing deity. A song to her follows:

Where you cast your glance, the dead awaken, the sick arise;
The bewildered, beholding yor face, find the right way.
I appear to you, miserable and distraught,
Tortured by pain, your servant,
Be merciful and hear my prayer.

A clay pot likely used for distillation of plant essences into medicines was found at a Sumerian grave site circa 5500 BC. At least until the Semitic invasions circa 2600 BC, "women were allowed to practice healing with little or no restriction. Female occupations included doctor, scribe, barber, and cook."  After 1000 BC women were excluded from formal education and by 700 BD, neither scribe nor doctor were listed as women's occupations, but rather several types of entertainer, midwife, nurse, sorceress, wet nurse, and two kinds of prostitute.

As the land of Sumer became a perpetual battlefield, Ishtar became the goddess of war and destiny, "and slowly, insidiously, there crept in more praises for her sexuality, and fewer for her healing nature," writes Actenberg. "As Ishtar was seen as more sexual and promiscuous, the holy women were transformed into harlots and associated with decadence and orgies, devoid of any holy significance."

In mankind's first written story The Epic of Gilgamesh (circa 2000 BC),  the cruel king Gilgamesh calls Ishtar "a predatory and promiscuous woman, and rebukes her advances" just before taking off with his buddy Enkidu to chop down the great cedar forest. Even Spark notes tells us, "Gilgamesh’s repudiation of Ishtar, some scholars say, signifies a rejection of goddess worship in favor of patriarchy in the ancient world." 

In the bible, Ishtar or her (sometimes) mother Asherah are called Ashtoreth, the supreme goddess of Caanan and the female counterpart of the gods called Baal or Bel. "The immoral rites with which the worship of Ishtar in Babylonia was accompanied were transferred to Canaan and formed part of the idolatrous practices which the Israelites were called upon to extirpate," says

Among those pagan, idolatrous practices was the burning of incense. Polish anthropologist Sula Benet, whose 1936 doctoral thesis ''Hashish in Folk Customs and Beliefs'' won her a Warsaw Society of Sciences scholarship for graduate study at Columbia University, theorized that the biblical incense kaneh bosm, meaning "sweet or good cane" was cannabis, mistranslated as "calamus" in the modern bibles.

Throughout the Old Testament, prophet after prophet warns the children of Israel that God will bring misery upon them unless they cease to worship Baal/Bel and Ashtoreth, to whom “burnt offerings” were made. In Jeremiah 44, the women tell him they will continue to secretly burn incense to the Queen of Heaven. One who did so was King Ahab's wife Jezebel (whose name meant "worshipper of Bel" but still means "harlot" today).

Some have tried to debunk the Ishtar/Easter connection, saying the holiday is only named after the German goddess Ostara (pictured), "the divinity of the radiant dawn" (Grimm), doubtlessly a reincarnation of Ishtar, who the Babylonians called "the morning star" and "the perfect light."

Ladies, and gentlemen: it's time to resurrect Ishtar, and all that our healing goddess stood for.

UPDATE 3/16: CBS This Morning had a male commentator say it was "doubtful" that there was a connection between the German goddess Ostara and the Easter Bunny, yet he traced the source of the hare to German immigrants to the US.

ADDENDUM 3/17/14: This year just keeps getting holier. Yesterday I attended a Purim celebration, in honor of the Jewish heroine Esther, who delivered her people from a Persian king with her beauty and a really great wardrobe. According to Wikipedia, Esther's name may be derived from Ishtar: "The Book of Daniel provides accounts of Jews in exile being assigned names relating to Babylonian gods and "Mordecai" [Esther's uncle] is understood to mean servant of Marduk, a Babylonian god." Purim, it turns out, is a big party day in the Jewish calendar, with food, drinks, masks and merriment.

And today I learn of another coincidence this year: St. Patrick's Day and India's "High Holiday," Holi.

4/17/14: Researcher Chris Bennett found this reference: "Ishtar... may be identified with Eostre of the Germans, or Easter. To this goddess our Saxon or German ancestors sacrificed in April...from thence arose our word Easter, which the Saxons retained after their conversion to Christianity, so that our Easter-day is nothing more nor less than Ishtar's day." 

Also these: "the herb called Sim.Ishara 'aromatic of the Goddess Ishtar,' which is equated with the Akkadian qunnabu, 'cannabis,' may indeed conjure up an aphrodisiac through the association with Ishara, goddess of love, and also calls to mind the plant called Istar, equated with the Akkadian term qunnabu..." -Assyriologist Prof. Erica Reiner (Source.)

"…[T]he multifaceted goddess Ishara. She does not appear to be a native Mesopotamian deity, but was worshipped by many people throughout the ancient Near East… she was a goddess of love with close affinities to Ishtar, whose sacred plant cannabis (qunnabu) was known as the aromatic of Ishara… from her widespread worship she is also known as the queen of the inhabited world."
An Illustrated Guide to the Star-lore and
Constellations of Ancient Babylonia (Source.)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

International Women's Day: A Celebration of Activism

This year, I'm celebrating International Women's Day with a tribute to women who make things happen in the human rights realm.

My week started with the news that California Governor Jerry Brown said essentially on "Meet the Press" that "potheads" aren't productive members of the workforce and in this competitive world we can't afford to legalize marijuana.

I started designing an ad featuring productive "potheads" like Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Carl Sagan and Barack Obama. Casting about for a woman to add to the mix, I hit upon the perfect addition in Jennifer Aniston. "I wouldn't call myself a pothead. I mean, I enjoy it once in a while. There's nothing wrong with that. Everything in moderation," Aniston told Rolling Stone in 2001, before it was vogue to make such an admission.

Commenting on anonymous reports in the tabloids about Aniston and then-husband Brad Pitt's "drug use," Aniston said, "You see something like that--me and my husband, hooked on drugs. Then you read the story, and it says you smoke pot. It's not even cocaine or shooting heroin. Pot!"

Obviously, occasional indulgence in marijuana hasn't impeded Aniston's career, or harmed her health. Her comments about moderation and the differences between hard and soft drugs are important messages seldom heard in the lock-step 'just say no' repression we live under. For this Aniston received the first "Outie" award, presented by the tongue-in-cheekly-named site

It hasn't been noted here that Susan Sarandon, a champion of human rights, has made some brave admissions of her own (right) in the new issue of AARP.  She's dating a younger man, dancing the night away, and still finding time to be a mother, a career woman, and a human rights advocate.

I recently saw the documentary PoliWood, exploring the role of celebrities in politics, and in it Sarandon asked the most intelligent questions of all. For giving us the pot-smoking savant Annie Savoy in Bull Durham, and for acting on her conscious conscience in all aspects of her life, Sarandon is celebrated here today.

I'd like to celebrate the difference one young woman made in her community of Shasta county, California and to acknowledge the work  Kerry Reynolds from KMUD radio is doing with her excellent weekly cannabis news reports and monthly Cannabis Consciousness show. Attorney Jennifer Ani is working tirelessly to protect mothers' right to raise their children, and another attorney, Kathleen Bryson of Eureka, California, is hosting an environmental forum for marijuana farmers today in Humboldt county. Diane Goldstein has been representing LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) across California, and Cheri Sicard of LA NORML Women's Alliance has been highlighting people serving life sentences for marijuana.

Last but certainly not least, I'd like to mention the original, pioneering female cannabis activist Michelle Aldrich, who was featured in the Washington Post's remarkable article and video about the history of marijuana law reform. (The Post also recently reported on the "Mommy Lobby.") And here's a special shout-out to the Sacramento NORML Women's Alliance for their support of this project.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has," said Margaret Mead (who testified in favor of marijuana legalization in 1969 and said she'd tried it too).

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Oscar Winner Jared Leto Thanks Pot-Smoking Mom

As expected, Jared Leto won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of a transsexual in the "Dallas Buyers Club" (pictured). He thanked his mother, his date for the night.

"Thank you for teaching me to dream," said Leto.

When asked recently what was his favorite smell, Leto replied, "The smell of bonfires. And of marijuana. My mom's friends always smoked that."

Matthew McConaughey—who broke out in the stoner flick "Dazed and Confused" and arrested in 1999 for smoking pot and playing bongos in the nude—won Best Actor, also for "Dallas Buyers Club." The Best Actress awards went to Cate Blanchett in "Blue Jasmine" and Lupita Nyong’o in "12 Years a Slave."

Spike Jonze, who directed "Being John Malkovich" and produced "Jackass" won best original screenplay for "Her," about a man's relationship with an  operating system "designed to meet his every need." Thus faux women took as many Oscars as did real ones.

The event was hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, who recently Tweeted about pot being available in The Ellen Shop and told a pot joke the last time she hosted the show (and this year delivered munchies).

Pink did a fantastic job singing "Over the Rainbow" in front of images of the poppy fields and the Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz. In 2002, the singer-turned-mascara-model said, "I don't consider pot a drug. It's a plant. It comes from the earth. George Washington smoked pot." [Not necessarily true, but he did grow hemp and encourage others to "sow it everywhere."]

Female empowerment song "Let It Go," with the trippy lyric: "My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around" won best song. Bette Midler, who just played pot-loving Hollywood agent Sue Mengers in a one-woman play, sang "The Wind Beneath My Wings" for the yearly memorial tribute, which omitted screenwriter and drug war activist Mike Gray

Angelina Jolie was given the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her "courageous, compassionate work" to aid women and children throughout the world. (She's smoked pot, but said she didn't like it.) "The Great Gatsby" won deserved Oscars for Best Costumes and Production Design; I think there was more to it than that.

Steve Martin, who "poked smot" with Meryl Streep and was "feelin' groovy" in 2010's "It's Complicated," received an honorary Oscar. He made no comment tonight like he did when he got the Mark Twain Prize for Humor in 2006, when he joked, ""If [Saturday Night Live producer] Lorne Michaels had told me I'd receive this award one year after him, I'd have said, 'Let me have a hit of that.'" When he appears with his Bluegrass band, the banjo-playing comedian jokes about the downside of touring without a drummer: "No pot!"

This was not the case for attendees, according to TMZ, which reported some LA cannabis delivery services had to hire more drivers to service the celebs during Oscar week. Portable vaporizers were particularly popular.

Leto said upon accepting his award, "This is for the 36 million people who have lost their battle with AIDS, and to those of you out there who have ever felt injustice because of who you are or who you love. I stand here in front of the world with you and for you."

Another Buyers Club connected with the AIDS crisis was Dennis Peron's Cannabis Buyers Club, which opened following San Francisco's passage of the first-ever medical marijuana law in 1992. We wouldn't have medical marijuana in California or the other 20 states where it's now legal if it weren't for AIDS activists who fought for their right to life-saving medicines of all kinds. A recent study found that, as with cancer, marijuana may not only help with the symptoms AIDS, it may cure it.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bewitched, Bhang-ered and Bewildered

The Colorado NORML Women's Alliance has posted this photo (right) of Agnes Moorehead as Endora in TV's Bewitched smoking a hookah.

The shot is from episode #69 of the series, titled "Divided He Falls," which first aired on  May 5, 1966. In the story, Endora splits her daughter Samantha's straight hubby into his fun and work sides, so that the fun Darrin can accompany Sam on vacation.

When Endora works her magic, the screen is filled with green smoke. (Her character is introduced every week in a cartoon as black smoke.) Witches throughout the centuries have been associated with herbal medicine and persecuted for it.

The splitting of Darrin's personality is a rather apt metaphor for our divided culture: we simply can't accept that people can be hard working by day and smoke something fun at night. In the end of the episode, Darrin is re-integrated (as should be our society). 

According to the website "The Prop is Familiar" the same hookah was also smoked by Endora in episodes 71 ("The Catnapper," shown left) and 154 ("Samantha's Super Maid").

Dr. Bombay, the family's warlock doc, gets in on the hookah action in episode 107 ("There's Gold in Them Thar Pills"). The Old Man of the Mountain, the historic character who converted his assassins with hashish, smoked a larger hookah in episode 217 ("Return of Darrin the Bold").

Episode #163, called Tabitha's Weekend, which aired on March 6, 1969 has an interesting exchange after Endora is offered cookies by Darrin's (straight) mother:

"They're not by chance from an Alice B. Toklas recipe?" Endora asks. When told they were not, "Then I think I'll pass," is her answer. Tabitha, the junior witch, then turns herself into a cookie. Mrs. Stevens suffers from headaches and gulps the more prosaic sherry.

Moorehead, who had a long career on stage and in films, died of cancer in 1974. She was one of several cast members of the 1956 film The Conqueror who contracted cancer after being exposed to radiation while filming in Utah 137 miles downwind of the United States government's Nevada National Security Site. Three years earlier, extensive above-ground nuclear weapons testing occurred at the test site. The cast and crew totaled 220 people. By 1981, 91 of them had developed some form of cancer and 46, including John Wayne, had died of the disease.

Ironically, the government that assured filmmakers the site was safe also withhold the herb that not only relieves the effects of cancer and chemotherapy, it may well halt the progression of the disease. Yes, Dr. Bombay should recommend it. 

UPDATE 1/5/2015: TV's The Addams Family, from the same era, also regularly featured a hookah.