Zosimos the Alchemist’ 300 AD references to cannabis infused Beers and Wines

CANNABIS CULTURE – Gnostic and Zoroastrian influences on later Alchemy have been long suggested. An important figure in this transition, is Zosimos, the Alchemist, who lived on either side of 300 AD. Interestingly, surviving translation of Zosimos work, have the ancient sage identify references to cannabis infused wines and beers. “…wines can be made in a multitude of ways, [as shown]through many accounts that authors have left to us, and nature, and art such things, that is, grown wines from the vineyard and medicinal, or by adding various spices like palm, cannabis seed, etc …”; “Certainly brewers of Egyptian beer [‘zythi’], which is more powerful [then our beers]are not lacking in the false and wicked arts, and might be better used for intoxication. This [concoction]includes: borage, cannabis seeds and leaves, helenium, ivy leaves, strychnine, and darnel.”* As Tom Hatsis has noted of this :

“Interestingly, he uses “lolium temulentum” for “darnel” (a known psychoactive), which specifically draws attention to the intoxicating powers of the plant (temelentum means “intoxication”)! He is also comparing the addition of things like cannabis, darnel, and strychnine to the magical arts!!! I mean, he calls them “false and wicked arts,” but that is EXACTLY how writers commented on magical works. He is OPENLY recognizing the use of cannabis and darnel in potions by magicians!” (Hatsis, 2016)

Zosimos is particularly known for his use of Zoroastrian and Gnostic themes in his surviving texts. It has been suggested that Zosimos, took the group initiations of Gnosticism, and turned them into the personal initiations, of alchemy, which he saw as a symbolic technique of spiritual refinement, rather than a purely chemical process directed at things like making lead into copper, or silver into gold. The Visions of Zosimos, describe a series of astral voyages that are reminiscent of the cannabis infused out of body ascents of earlier Zoroastrian and Gnostic figures, but with clear alchemical overtones.

*Translated by Tom Hatsis, from the Latin De Zythorum confectione fragmentum (Gruner, 1814).

Chris Bennett
Chris Bennett

Chris Bennett has been researching the historical role of cannabis in the spiritual life of humanity for more than a quarter of a century. He is co-author of Green Gold the Tree of Life: Marijuana in Magic and Religion (1995); Sex, Drugs, Violence and the Bible (2001); and author of Cannabis and the Soma Solution (2010); and Liber 420: Cannabis, Magickal herbs and the Occult (2018) . He has also contributed chapters on the the historical role of cannabis in spiritual practices in books such as The Pot Book (2010), Entheogens and the Development of Culture (2013), Seeking the Sacred with Psychoactive Substances (2014), One Toke Closer to God (2017), Cannabis and Spirituality (2016) and Psychedelics Reimagined (1999). Bennett’s research has received international attention from the BBC , Guardian, Sunday Times, Washington Post, Vice and other media sources. He currently resides in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.