Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/153

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126
PERSIA.

intoxication forty days, by which time he became so disgusted with the practice, that he begged to revoke his command

Notwithstanding, the example set by the court, drinking to intoxication seems to be no uncommon vice among the Persians. Mr. Mofier informs us, that when they wish to have a debauch, instead of sitting down to it in the evening, as is customary in Europe, they rise early and esteem the morning the best time for beginning to drink wine; by which means they have the whole day before them, and carry on their excess until night. He once saw a party seated not far from the road, in the open air, and apparently much intoxicated, by seven o'clock in the morning.

It is worthy of remark, that the nations, not excepting the most savage, to which the use of wine is unknown, have liquors or preparations which serve as substitutes for that beverage.

Thus the pious Musulmans, though they abstain from wine, intoxicate themselves with the popy. From this plant they make various preparations, the most common of which, called hashembegui, is the juice of the poppy made up into pills. They begin with taking a pill of the size of a hemp-seed, and gradually increase it till it is as large as a pea. At this quantity they are obliged to stop, or the dose would be fatal. To this preparation the Persians attribute virtues which make them extremely fond of it. According to them, it places agreeable visions before the mind, and produces a sort of enchantment. It is remarked, that those who make use of it manifest, after a certain time, an uncommon flow of spirits; on the cessation of which, the body becomes cold, and the mind sullen and stupid; sleep commonly ensues, and puts an end to this species of intoxication.


CHAPTER IX.

SUPERSTITION OF THE PERSIANS.

The Persians are perhaps the most superstitious nation in Asia. Among them, the remnants of ancient superstitions are not confined to the vulgar, as they are with us: even the present king will not leave his capital, undertake any expedition, or receive an ambassador, till he has had intimation from his astrologer of the fortunate hour for the act. Before all minor transactions, the people in general take what they call a fal; namely, in the old fashion of dipping into Virgil, opening the Koran, Hafiz, or any venerated author, and governing their actions by