A couple of responses to the recent post about charas at the Real Seed Co blog have objected that it’s unduly harsh on Clarke and Merlin or even misrepresents what they wrote. So I’ve made a few changes aimed at removing any potential for misunderstanding. Clarke and Merlin use the names charas and hashish interchangeably to refer to resin, but state that ‘Charas refers more accurately to resin collected by hand-rubbing the ﬂowers of living or freshly harvested plants.’ They strongly imply that they believe the name originates in ‘Hindu India’ (their phrase), and that this is because the etymological root of the term goes back to Sanskrit.
I’ve tried to explain as best I can why this is likely to be wrong on several counts. One explanation that I think could be made is that what the authors were aiming to do is tailor the terms according to the misunderstandings of their predominantly Western audience (ie. charas, hand-rubbed only; hashish, more properly for sieved). Clearly, the problem with that would be that ethnobotany should not be about catering to the mistaken beliefs of your readers. But the above already demonstrates why it’s unlikely that’s what was going on. They seem to have simply made a genuine mistake, and in the context of ethnobotany a pretty serious one in the way it obscures Islam and its crucial role in this chapter of the history of cannabis culture.
To be clear, the slim possibility can’t be excluded that the metonym charas was indeed coined in India. But, if so, then the circumstantial evidence would be overwhelming that this occurred in the medieval Muslim period in the context of qalandars, Afghans, and Turkestanis importing and popularizing Khorasani cannabis culture. Regardless, everything points to Islam and Khorasan.
There's more at https://therealseedcompany.wordpress.com and more photos from a 2018 trip to Afghanistan https://www.instagram.com/lucaswiseup/