The Devil’s Weed and The Luciferian Freemasonry Hoax of Leo Taxil

CANNABIS CULTURE – In the 19th century European Tabloids were run amuck with stories about a newly revealed form of Luciferian Freemasonry, known as ‘Palladian Masonry’ that allegedly involved cannabis and opium infused initiations and Satanic worship! But was it true?

by Chris Bennett, excerpted from Liber 420: Cannabis Magickal Herbs and the Occult

Main Image: Advertisement for Les Mystères de la franc-maçonnerie dévoilés – The Mysteries of Freemasonry unveiled by Léo Taxil (1895), showing Taxil’s use of Eliphas Levi’s Baphomet, but here wearing a Masonic Apron.

Rumours of drug use in Masonic rituals was often suggested by their critics. Above we see in illustrations from Le Diable au XIXe siècle: ou, Les mystères du spiritisme, la Franc-Maçonnerie luciférienne (1892-1894) an anti-Masonic French publication by the controversial figure Leo Taxil, showing an initiate drugged on opium, indicating that at least in the mind of their critics, this sort of use was part of the secret rites of Masonry at the time. As Taxil notes “…while the intoxication of opium has annihilated you, and you are completely at the mercy of these unknown brothers; There is no other way to get the introduction” (Taxil, 1894). The Chinese men in the picture bring to mind Waite’s references to a Palladian Initiation which took place via a Chinese school of Occultism “the San-Ho-Hei, an association ‘parallel to high grade Masonry,’……” (Waite, 1896). As Waite describes in Devil-Worship in France, “When a Palladian Mason seeks admission for the first time to one of its assemblies, he betakes himself to the nearest opium den, carrying on his person the documents which prove his initiation; he places his umbrella head downwards on his left side, and stupefies himself with the divine drug. He is then quite sure that he will be transported in a comatose condition to the occult reunion” (Waite, 1896).

Taxil warned that “ecstasy can… be produced artificially, and we find here, in these means employed by magicians, sorcerers, a natural way of communicating with the devil…” (Taxil, 1892-1894). Among such methods, he warned of “Certain beverages and certain liniments”.

These include: the stupefying pollen of the temples of Aesculapius; nepenthe that the beautiful Helen held the polydamna Egyptian; the hashish of the Old man of the Mountain; opium of the San-ho-hoeï; The beans of the priests of the Great Spirit, among the Nadoëssis of North America; The Kava of Pacific fetishists; The liqueur of pastinaca, of the Kamstchadales; The cohobba juice of the caciques, among the Incas; The l’asserol [hashish]of the Turks; The bacca [cannabis]of the Hollentots; The ointment of the sorcerers of the Middle Ages; The fetid ointment of the Aztec priests of Mexico. (Taxil, 1892-1894)

Taxil, portrayed the use of opium and hashish as evidence of the sort of dangerous multiculturalism that Masonry taught and used this to tap into the racism of his day. As Maurice Magre explained in Magicians, Seers and Mystics,‎ “many secret societies, Persian, Indian and Chinese, have made and still make use of beverages based on hashish, opium and many other plants, in order to promote the emergence of the astral ‘double’ and the attainment of the early degrees of ecstasy” (Magre, 1932). We can be sure that such stories caught the attention of both Masonic enthusiasts and detractors alike.

Taxil’s work always came accompanied by some classic art work 

Leo Taxil, is a fascinating character. Born Marie Joseph Gabriel Antoine Jogand-Pagès (1854-1907), he took the writing name Leo Taxil, to at first write a variety of pieces mocking Catholicism and the Bible throughout the 1880s such as La Bible Amusante ‘The Amusing Bible’ (1882); Les Maîtresses du Pape ‘The Pope’s mistresses’ (1884) and others. He then went on to pull one of the greatest hoaxes of the 19th century….

Luciferian Masonry, Cannabis Infused Wine and the Taxil Hoax

After writing numerous tracts condemning and mocking the church for years, Taxil renounced his former activities and faked a very public conversion to Catholicism. Not long after this, he then went on to create a hoax over a 12 year period, about a Luciferian form of Freemasonry. According to some sources Taxil was himself at one time a low level Mason, and he did have some knowledge of Freemasonry. As Sibley explained in The Story of Freemasonry:

In 1881 he had been made an Entered Apprentice, but was soon after expelled from the fraternity because of indiscretions of which he was guilty. With reckless disregard for facts, and unrestrained by his ignorance of Masonry, he gave his extraordinary imaginative powers full play, and with a fecundity of detail and illustration truly remarkable, represented the rites of the craft to be a hideous form of Devil-Worship. One entire volume he devoted to Female Masons, on which impossible foundation he constructed a shameful edifice of fiction, full of shockingly scandalous and beastly fabrications that were received with delight by the papal authorities, who saw in them perfect justification for the attitude of their church toward Masonry. (Sibley, 1913)

On April 20, 1884, Pope Leo XIII released his notorious anti-masonic encyclical, Humanum genus, that said that humanity was “separated into two diverse and opposite parts, of which the one steadfastly contends for truth and virtue, the other of those things which are contrary to virtue and to truth. The one is the kingdom of God on earth, namely, the true Church of Jesus Christ… The other is the kingdom of Satan… At this period, however, the partisans of evil seems to be combining together, and to be struggling with united vehemence, led on or assisted by that strongly organized and widespread association called the Freemasons.” Knowing the long standing concerns of the Papacy with Freemasonry, and particularly the then Pope  Leo XIII’s concerns with this, Taxil fabricated a number of characters and wrote under them as pseudonyms, and with the aid of at least two close allies, and his created aliases, he perpetrated various false stories about a form of Satanic masonry, that corroborated each other. These periodicals, although sensational ,caught the eye of both the public and the Holy Sea of the Vatican, at the highest levels, all of whom were all too willing to believe the vilest atrocities of their perceived arch-enemies, the Freemasons.


An 1891 cartoon in Puck shows Pope Leo XIII doing battle with Freemasonry

In his creation of this Luciferian Freemasonry we can see that Taxil was deeply influenced by von Hammer-Purgstall’s Templar/Baphomet/Freemason conspiracy as found in Mysterium Baphometis Revelatum, if not directly, then through its filtration in the works of Eliphas Levi, by both his borrowing of Levi’s imagery and descriptions of Baphomet, and also utilizing the cannabis infused wine that appears in the same chapter of Levi’s work with the description of Baphomet. We find this situation in the writings attributed to one of Taxil’s characters ‘Diana Vaughan’ an alleged descendant of the Rosicrucian alchemist Thomas Vaughan, who had been swept up into a form of Luciferian Masonry that was taking place in the American South, and being led by none other than the noted Mason and Scottish Rite figure Albert Pike!

An 1890 Illustration by Taxil of an alleged Masonic invocation of Baphomet.

Léo Taxil’s Diana Vaughan: Mémoires d’une Ex-Palladiste, ‘Memoirs of Miss Diana Vaughan,” (Palladiste is the name Taxil gave his hoax form of Luciferian Masonry) instalments of which were published in France from 1895 to 1897.

A. E. Waite Summarized much of this French material and released it just before it was all exposed as a complete hoax, as his book about  Luciferian Freemasonry, Devil-Worship in France: with Diana Vaughn and the Question of Modern Palladism in 1887, written it would seem,with tongue firmly placed in cheek. Waite describes Vaughan’s alleged initiation with indications of drug use, as well as the sort of wire pulling trickery used in the phantasmagoria. So rather than realizing the whole thing was a complete hoax, Waite seems to have believed that Vaughan may have been victim to the sort of stage trickery that was used by the phantasmagorists, and intoxication with cannabis.

Miss Vaughan began her preparations by a triduum, taking one meal daily of black bread, fritters of high-spiced blood, a salad of milky herbs, and the drink of rare old Rabelais. The preparations in detail are scarcely worth recording as they merely vary the directions in the popular chap-books of magic which abound in foolish France. At the appointed time she passed through the iron doors of the Sanctum Regnum. “Fear not!” said Albert Pike, and she advanced remplie d’une ardente allegresse, was greeted by the eleven prime chiefs, who presently retired, possibly for prayer or refreshments, possibly for operations in wire-pulling. Diana Vaughan remained alone, in the presence of the Palladium, namely, our poor old friend Baphomet, whom his admirers persist in representing with a goat’s head, whereas he is the archetype of the ass. (Waite, 1887)

We can be sure that Waite’s reference to “the drink of rare old Rabelais” is a reference to a cannabis infused wine, as the regime given of “fritters of high-spiced blood” and “salad of milky herbs”  is the exact same as that given by Levi in Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (1856), which Waite had translated the year before, in a description of a ritual for invoking the devil: “this repast must be made off black bread and blood seasoned with unsalted spices, or off black beans, and milky, narcotic herbs ; every five days, after sunset, one must get  drunk on wine in which five heads of black poppies and five ounces of bruised hemp have been steeped…” (Levi/Waite, 1886). As well, in the French original of the Taxil/ Vaughan account, there is no mention of Rabelais and cannabis appears quite clearly in this context, alongside numbers of references to hashish use by these Luciferian characters throughout the tale. As Taxil’s Diana Vaughan: Mémoires d’une Ex-Palladiste, describes: “It is obvious that Miss Diana Vaughan was only a subject between hands of criminals Charleston operators. Autosuggested… and exhausted by the deprivation of food and sleep, excited by an infusion which possessed the narcotic properties of hashish, she fell into a state of dream and thought she saw Lucifer as she had desired. This vision fascinated the poor woman and troubled her. for many years.” (Vaughan/Taxil 1895-1897). It is worth noting here, that Waite’s use of the “drink of rare old Rabelais”, although not appearing in Taxil’s works, seems to have been used in a way, that those in the know would be aware of the reference to cannabis infused wines in this sort of ritual context.       

Taxil’s depiction of Diana Vaughan’s cannabis infused “masonic” initiation and introduction to Baphomet! In The Story of Freemasonry, Sibley included a translation of an account of Diana’s fanciful experience in a  Masonic “Black Mass”:

“In a thick cloud of perfumes the priest ascends the altar of Satan’s Synagogue.

“On the table is seen a goat with a human face already excited by some preliminary homages, intoxicated by perfumes and adoration.

“The priest opens a box and takes out some wafers.

“The rites performed and the words spoken during the continuance of the magical ceremony are blasphemous in character, and the sacred vessel and its contents are subjected to insult and mockery. The goat plays the infernal part, cursing and reviling, and lastly the following incantation is delivered: Master of the Esclandres, dispenser of the benefits of crime, intendant of sumptuous sins and great vices, sovereign of contempt, preserver of old hatreds and inspirer of vengeance and misdeeds.” (Sibley, 1913)

Taxil’s account of Satanic and cannabis infused Masonry, was completely embraced by the foes of the Craft, particularly the Vatican, where even the Pope was excited to read the latest account from Diana Vaughan, or reading one of Taxil’s works on the diabolical secrets of Freemasonry! Taxil was entertained at the Vatican on a number of occasions after his public conversion and redemption, and the whole farce continued for some 12 years, before public outcry as to the authenticity of the writings attributed to Diana Vaughan forced a press conference. However, on the date of what was supposed to be Vaughan’s long awaited public appearance, April 19th, 1897, Taxil showed up alone, wearing a Fez, and gave one of the most hilarious press conferences of the century. The French prankster completely admitted his hoax, to the various members of the press, clergy, freemasons and public who had gathered to meet the mysterious Vaughan, and the crowd reacted with laughter, cheers, boos and anger throughout Taxil’s unveiling. In conclusion Taxil thanked the press, clergy, and Masons for playing the all too willing dupes of his hoax. As Taxil was quoted in a later interview with America’s National Magazine in regards to the whole escapade:

The public made me what I am, the arch-liar of the period, for when I first commenced to write against the Masons my object was amusement pure and simple. The crimes laid at their door were so grotesque, so impossible, so widely exaggerated, I thought everybody would see the joke and give me credit for originating a new line of humour. But my readers wouldn’t have it so; they accepted my fables as gospel truth, and the more I lied for the purpose of showing that I lied, the more convinced became they that I was a paragon of veracity. (Taxil, 1906)

Marie Joseph Gabriel Antoine Jogand-Pagès (1854-1907) aka Leo Taxil

Taxil went back to publishing parodies of the Christian faith, after his elaborate Satanic Masonic hoax, with works such as La Vie de Jesus ‘The Amusing Gospel of Jesus’ (1890)

Curiously, despite Taxil’s publicly admitting to the hoax, many key elements of it still persist in modern conspiracy theories about Freemasonry being Luciferian, and its association with Baphomet. Words falsely put into the mouth of Albert Pike by Taxil, are still quoted as verbatim fact by modern conspiracy theorists who have still managed to gobble, hook, line and sinker, Taxil’s fraudulent bait. Complicating things further quasi masonic organizations like the Ordo Templi Orientis and their seeming embarkment of the sort of  Templar Masonic cosmology laid out by von Hammer-Purgstall, make it difficult to completely separate fact from fiction for some. Some OTO members seem to have embraced the whole Diana Vaughan and Paladin Masonry as actual history. In Frater Shiva’s Inside the Solar Lodge – Behind the Veil, he relates how. Author Louis T. Culling  “was in possession of a formal Charter for The Order of the Paladin that had originally derived from Diana Vaughan” (Shiva 2007).

This Charter had been historically, formally, and sequentially transferred over the years until it came into his name. Culling generously signed it over, transferring the Grand Mastership of The Order of the Paladin into Frater Luna’s name.

Frater Luna appeared at Solar Lodge, grinning like the cat ate the canary, with his Charter and his new Grand Master status. But he also readily agreed to sign it over to the “O.T.O.”…. (Shiva, 2007).

I have no idea if Culling was in on the dupe, or part of a chain of dupes, that helped link this nonsense to the O.T.O. in the modern day, but I can not help but think of Taxil giggling from the grave over the longevity of his hoax and ‘Frater Shiva’s’ embracement of it.

Even the current Catholic Pope seems to share his predecessor, Leo XIII’s concerns, warning about the Freemason infiltration of the Knights of Malta and commenting as recently as 2015 on the Vatican website  On this earth at the end of the 19th century freemasonry was in full swing, not even the Church could do anything, there were priest haters, there were also Satanists…. It was one of the worst moments and one of the worst places in the history of Italy” (Pope Francis, 2015).

One can only imagine how much this hoax, contributed to the demonization of cannabis likely contributing to its concept as the Devil’s Weed’ as reefer madness gripped America!

Part of the longevity of Taxil’s hoax is due in part to his knowledge of the occult and cleverly mixing together fact and fiction… which part cannabis may have played in that recipe, is a subject that is fully explored in my forthcoming book Liber 420: Cannabis Magickal Herbs, and the Occult.

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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.