Today, I had a great deal of things I wanted to say, but I’ve got the image of that hot teacher in my mind that had sex with her 14 year old student, and I keep asking myself why we prosecute these ladies for doing things that us men only wish could have happenned to us when we were that age.

Damn she’s hot.

Anyways, instead of trying to muddle through the news with that image in my head the whole time, I’m going to talk about the origin of a word that’s very pertinent to our time: the word assassin.

Some say that Shakespeare originated the word, and while it is true, he is the first person to use the word in written English, the word is actually much older than that. In fact, we learnt the word from our Arabic friends — it comes from the Arabic original hashshashin (or hashishiyyin) both meaning “eaters of hashish“.  Yes, it was plural.  Foir some unkown reason it was the plural form of the word which took hold in Europe.

The first assassins were followers of a minor Islamic sect called the Ishmaeli.  The Ishmaeli, who had around the time of Marco Polo (circa 1273 C.E.) gained a widely known reputation for their stock and trade, achieved political power by murdering their opponents (although it should be noted that the time of al-Hassan was most likely closer to 1090).  Their leader was a man called Hassan bin Sabbah, who was known to some western travelers as “The Old Man of the Mountains”.  The title comes from the unasailable castle in what is now Syria that went by the name Alamut.  Alamut was surrounded by bone dry mountains and desert, and was never taken by either Crusaders or Arabs.

Candidates for admission to his sect, on arrival at the gates of his mountain fortress, were fed quantities of a drug concoction (which probably included hashish) and promptly passed out.  They awoke in a delightful garden where they were regaled with choice foods and exquisite drinks by beautiful young women.  After a while, they were then fed more of the drug and awoke to find themselves outside the fortress once more.  Hassan convinced them that what they had seen was a glimpse of the paradise to which they would go if they died while carrying out his orders.  Naturally they became fearless.

Hassan and his sucessors would send their acolytes to join anonymously the courts of sultans and kings, and once in place enabled the Ishmaeli leader to order an assasination at any time. Legendary for their fanatacism and willingness to martyr themselves for their leader and cause, they were usually killed immediately after an assassination.

Now these guys didn’t just murder people straight away, they gave them plenty of warning.  First a stealthy assassin would leave a bag of gold on someone’s pillow while they slept.  If the “victim” didn’t get that hint, a little later a dagger would be left.  It is said that one mullah in Baghdad was vociferous in his opposition to Hassan and his murderous crew until one day no negative words were spoken against them anymore.  When asked why this was, he said, “They have convinced me with arguments which were both weighty and pointed.”  People knew what he meant.

In another incident a thousand years ago, a boat rammed into the barque of the Grand Vizir on the Tigris and a killer successfully leaped aboard, which is noteworthy only because of the similarity to attack on the USS Cole.

The passing of Hassan bin Sabbah did not end the threat of the assassins by any means.  In the following millennium, his heirs claimed the semi-divine status of Imam themselves, and their followers spread to Syria where they fought with the Crusaders and the Knights Templar.  They roamed further afield, to India and even to Afghanistand, and were remarkably transformed in the process.

The word hashish is a concentrated form of Cannabis and in Arabic, the word means “dried herb.”

/rizzn