Absinthe, the Green Goddess

By enquirewithin · Nov 12, 2009 · ·
  1. enquirewithin
    This is an extract from Crowley's essay on absinthe. The essay is typically verbose and and not easy to read, so I have tried to extract the relevant parts. I am dubious about the effects of absinthe but Crowley waxed lyrical about it.


    Ah! the Green Goddess! What is the fascination that makes her so adorable and so terrible? Do you know that French sonnet "La legende de l’absinthe?" .....

    "The Legend of Absinthe"

    Apollo, who mourned at Hyacinthe's demise,
    Refused to concede this victory to Death.
    Much better that the soul, adept in transformation,
    Had to find a holy alchemy for beauty.
    Thus with his celestial hand he drained and crushed
    The subtlest harvest of the garden goddess,
    The broken bodies of the herbs yielding a golden essence
    From which we measure out our first drop -- of Absinthe!
    In lowly hovels and in glittering courts,
    Alone, in pairs, drink up this potion of desire!
    For it is sorcery -- as one might say --
    When the pale opal wine ends all misery,
    Opens beauty's most intimate sanctuary --
    - Bewitches my heart, and exalts my soul in ecstasy!

    What is there in absinthe that makes it a separate cult? The effects of its abuse are totally distinct from those of other stimulants. Even in ruin and in degradation it remains a thing apart: its victims wear a ghastly aureole all their own, and in their peculiar hell yet gloat with a sinister perversion of pride that they are not as other men.

    But we are not to reckon up the uses of a thing by contemplating the wreckage of its abuse. We do not curse the sea because of occasional disasters to our marines, or refuse axes to our woodsmen because we sympathize with Charles
    the First or Louis the Sixteenth. So therefore as special vices and dangers pertinent to absinthe, so also do graces and virtues that adorn no other liquor.

    The word is from the Greek apsinthion. It means "undrinkable" or, according to some authorities, "undelightful." In either case, strange paradox! No for the wormwood draught itself were bitter beyond human endurance; it must be aromatized and mellowed with other herbs.

    Chief among these is the gracious Melissa, of which the great Paracelsus thought so highly that he incorporated it as the preparation of his Ens Melissa Vitae, which he expected to be an elixir of life and a cure for all diseases, but
    which in his hands never came to perfection.
    Then also there are added mint, anise, fennel and hyssop, all holy herbs familiar to all from the Treasury of Hebrew Scripture. And there is even the sacred marjoram which renders man both haste and passionate; the tender green angelica stalks also infused in this most mystic of concoctions; for like the artemisia absinthium itself it is a plant of Diana, and gives the purity and lucidity, with a touch of the madness, of the Moon; and above all there is the Dittany of Crete of which the eastern Sages say that one flower hath more puissance in high magic than all the other gifts of all the gardens of the world.

    It is as if the first diviner of absinthe had been indeed a magician intent upon a combination of sacred drugs which should cleanse, fortify and perfume the human soul.

    And it is no doubt that in the due employment of this liquor such effects are easy to obtain. A single glass seems to render the breathing freer, the spirit lighter, the heart more ardent, soul and mind alike more capable of executing the great task of doing that particular work in the world which the Father may have sent them to perform. Food itself loses its gross qualities in the presence of absinthe and becomes even as manna, operating the sacrament of nutrition without bodily disturbance.


    Let then the pilgrim enter reverently the shrine, and drink his absinthe as a stirrup-cup; for in the right conception of this life as an ordeal of chivalry lies the foundation of every perfection of philosophy. "Whatsoever ye do, whether ye eat or drink, do all to the glory of God!" applies with singular force to the absintheur. So may he come victorious from the battle of life to be received with tender kisses by some green-robed archangel, and crowned with mystic vervain in the Emerald Gateway of the Golden City of God....


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  1. enquirewithin
    Just to give a contrary view of Absinthe from a subjective, contemporary source-- Branlyn Lancourt:

  2. thebige
    There is a guy swim recently read about out in Cali USA and he started a production distillery,and he had the same questions about the effects of the green fairy drink.
    As he tells it.....he went to France or somewhere and obtained 100+ year old bottles of the stuff (at considerable cost) unopened from private wine cellars.
    He had the contents broken down by a lab..........
    And he started making the stuff after that.......

    Swim believes that it would take very extended time
    drinking in large quantities to achieve any type of poisoning to obtain any type psychosis where one would hallucinate.
    Swim will not name the brand name because swim is not here to promote the guy.....he can do that himself.

    By the way he gives alot of credit to the original distillers as he says it can be hard to produce a quality product.

    Swims own experience with Irish and US moonshine would always leave him with with hardcore blackouts,same thing with a one time pseudo-absinthe experience ....he can only muster the thought that it is due to high alcohol content...........and again an acquired taste.
  3. usedagain
    Interesting sonnet. In the US, the wormwood content is low, I've heard, so you don't get the same effects as the absinthe of the old days. I like the process of drinking it, the fire. Swim passed flat out the other night after drinking some (well,about half a bottle) and didn't remember doing so the next morning.
  4. Sushi

    With flowers, and with women
    With absinthe, and with this fire
    We can divert ourselves a while
    Act out our part in some drama

    Absinthe, on a winter evening
    Lights up in green the sooty soul;
    And Flowers, on the beloved
    Grow fragrant before the clear fire

    Later, kisses lose their charm
    Having lasted several seasons;
    And after mutual betrayals
    We part one day without a tear

    We burn letters and bouquets
    And fire takes our bower;
    And if sad life is salvaged
    Still there is absinthe and its hiccups

    The portraits are eaten by flames
    Shrivelled fingers tremble
    We die from sleeping long
    With flowers, and with women
  5. enquirewithin
    "The Absinthe Drinker" by Arthur Symons. Nice.
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