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Herodotus - The Histories - On hemp seed



Type of Spiritual Experience


The experience is that of the Scythians

A description of the experience

Herodotus - The Histories

On a framework of tree sticks, meeting at the top, they stretch pieces of woollen cloth.  Inside this tent they put a dish with hot stones on it.  Then they take some hemp seed, creep into the tent, and throw the seed on the hot stones.  At once it begins to smoke, giving off a vapour unsurpassed by any vapour bath one could find in Greece.  The Svythians enjoy it so much they howl with pleasure.

From the British Museum Exhibition on the Scythians

They anoint and wash their heads; as for their bodies, they set up three poles leaning together to a point and cover these over with woollen mats; then, in the place so enclosed to the best of their power, they make a pit in the centre beneath the poles and the mats and throw red-hot stones into it… The Scythians then take the seed of this hemp and, creeping under the mats, they throw it on the red-hot stones; and, being so thrown, it smoulders and sends forth so much steam that no Greek vapour-bath could surpass it. The Scythians howl in their joy at the vapour-bath. This serves them instead of bathing, for they never wash their bodies with water.’ (Histories, Book 4)

The Scythians realised the pain relieving effects of marijuana, which no doubt came in useful if they had been in a riding accident or a fierce battle.


The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Steam inhalation


Cannabis and marijuana


Sweat lodge