tobacco history

Today, when we think of U.S. fads and fashions for India, we tend to focus on the recent mass popularity of yoga and Bollywood films or on narratives of self-discovery in the East such as Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling Eat, Pray, Love. The hippie counterculture of the late 1960s, with its obsessions for Indian music, fabrics, and spiritualities, also remains strong in the public memory. It is largely forgotten that at the turn of the twentieth century the United States was in the grips of a craze of India and “the Orient” that was, in some ways, larger and more pervasive than anything that has occurred since. Between the 1880s and 1920s, Americans from all classes and walks of life were drawn to an “India” that was, in essence, a collective fantasy. Elites of cities such as New York, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia explored Vedantist philosophy and attempted the contortions of “tantrik" yoga. A young Isadora Duncan performed her interpretations of Eastern dance, in bare feet and flowing robes, on the lawns of Newport, Rhode Island’s finest mansions, while Ruth St. Denise performed in Indian-style on Broadway, bedecked with jewels and wrapped in a colorful silk sari. The New Thought writer and publisher William Walker Atkinson built a national audience for his mail-order books on clairvoyance, mind control, and the “Hindu-yogi science of breath,” published under pseudonyms such as Swami Panchadasi, Yogi Ramacharaka, and Swami Bhakta Vishita.

Meanwhile, the sexualized figure of the Indian “nautch” dancer became a stape of American burlesque theaters. Southern growers marketed tobacco under brand names such as Hindoo, Mecca, Mogul, and Bengal, with labels that depicted Ameers and maharajahs, palaces, hookas, and dancing girls. Tin Pan Alley songwriters churned out show tunes such as “My Hindoo Man” and “Down in Bom-Bombay,” which middle-class Americans sang to amuse themselves in the piano parlors of their homes. Circuses and exhibitions competed to present ever-larger menageries of Indian elephants and camels and ever-more spectacular recreations of Indian, Sinhalese, and other “native” villages. Such exotic public spectacles reached new heights in 1904, when the owners of Coney Island’s Luna Park turned fifteen acres of the Brooklyn amusement park into a replica of the city of Delhi and “imported” three hundred Indian men, women, and children, forty camels and seventy elephants to live there for the summer season. Several times a day the “natives” and their animals marched through Luna Park, performing a re-creation of the Delhi Durbar—the grand procession that had occurred in India the year before to mark the ascendance of King Edward VII of England to the imperial throne. By 1909, even the Wild West showmen Buffalo Bill Cody and Gordon “Pawnee Bill” Lillie joined in the craze, touring a “Far East Show” across the U.S. Midwest and South that featured Arabian horseman, a troupe of Sinhalese dancers, a “Hindu fakir,” and a “nautch dance ballet.”


Vivek Bald in Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America

Some history of cultural appropriation. 

“Down in Bom-Bombay”

Ruth Denise

Hindoo Tobacco tin

Cigarettes & Witchcraft

I feel like I’m morally obliged to condemn smoking – what with the weird unicorn commercials and whatnot trying to deter teen smoking. However, I find them far more horrifying than the prospect of smoking, so I don’t know what their aim is. I digress – the uses of cigarettes in the craft are many. This is a guide to how I use cigarettes in my craft, to be adapted by my fellow smokers out there however you see fit.


Many entities (especially those of the Afro-Caribbean – and some Native American, I understand – faiths) accept cigarettes, cigars and varying tobacco products as offerings. In this regard, it is best to follow tradition or intuition. Some Spirits/Deities are particular – favoring cigars over cigarettes, vice versa, or other smoking methods such as pipes – and which you should use is reliant on what you know of the spirit in question or what you feel the spirit will enjoy. Another handy note, I think is that other herbs can easily be added to cigarettes (already rolled or otherwise) to render and lovely aromatic or flavorful blend. I, particularly, have a fondness for blending rose, cinnamon and cocoa with the loosened tobacco and then packing it back into the tube. They’re lovely to smoke, but also make great offerings (I’ve found) to Pomba Gira. It’s very much a matter of taste – both personal and that of the spirit.

Personal Affects

Many spells call for something belonging to your intended target – cigarette butts are particularly suited to such, as they must be discarded after use, already imbued with the thoughts (and saliva) of he/she smoking it. Simply lift the butt from an ashtray at your convenience and voila! Personal affect. And with bodily fluid, nonetheless! One of the strongest personal affects and easily the most difficult to ascertain.


This is what I use cigarettes for most often – a means by which to channel my intention into a physical medium. It’s merely a matter of lighting the cigarette and using the smoke to charge something. Admittedly, I very rarely use incantations in my practice, but when I do, rest assured there is always a cigarette hanging on my lips. Every part of the cigarette can be used, nonetheless! The smoke is exhaled as an expression of your will and might charge an object or diffuse into the air. The ashes might be collected and added to any number of powders or herb blends or oils. The butts make nice additions to things like witches bottles – especially in great numbers as the tar will set up into this disgusting, gelatinous ooze (most probably what my lungs look like: best not to think about it too much). I usually use them for chanting or mantras as well, as I simply continue repeating the phrase or mantra until I run out of smoke.

Trance Work

This brings us back to something I mentioned in the first point, that smokes can be personalized – and while no longer technically a “cigarette” they are quite effective for things like trance work or influencing your own energy. Needless to say, I advise refraining from adding poisonous herbs to your blends… considering. However, I have been known to smoke wormwood, though I wouldn’t classify it as poisonous, per se… Obviously, check the rap sheet of any herb before ingestion/inhalation. And then do so at your own accord – though I can say, I’ve never had any unpleasant side effects. Wormwood, mugwort and mullein are my personal favorites for spirit work. Rose, cocoa and cinnamon for works with PG or just for my own enjoyment – in fact, cocoa and tobacco have a long history together. Of course, we could also talk about marijuana – which can be added, though I’ve never been particularly invested. It does nothing spiritual for me, but I understand it does for some, so more power to you – it might be helpful for trance work, but I just use an ordinary cigarette for that most times. WARNING: While in trance, don’t forget to ash, otherwise you’ll come out wearing an entire cigarette. Trust me. I know.

In loving memory of your lungs,


This Blog is Brought to you by,

Nigger Hair Tobacco

As a white man do you get that craving for nicotine and racism?  Then perhaps you need a can of Nigger Hair Tobacco.  Smoke it, chew it, doesn’t matter, no other tobacco on the market will give you that perfect blend of cancer and bigotry. Nigger Hair Tobacco, racism never tasted so good!

“Nigger Hair Tobacco” was an actual brand that sold from 1878 up to the 1950’s.  During the 1950’s, the brand was renamed “Bigger Hair Tobacco” after being pressured by the NAACP.

Basics for the Wards: A Psych HPI

While the HPI is generally the same across the board, every specialty will have it’s own particular spin on it depending on what it is. Psychiatry is no different. 

Why is the patient at the doctor’s office or hospital. Asking the patient this can give you some insight into their thought process and perception. However, sometimes it will be necessary to ask the patient’s family, friends, or whomever brought them there (EMS, police, etc). Include any pertinent information about the current episode (what led up to it, what happened), any previous episodes, how is this affecting the patient’s life, assess the patient’s support system, symptoms, and evaluate patient’s functioning.
Ex: 45 year old gentleman brought to ER by police, was found wandering in street at midnight yelling incoherently. The patient states he is here because his family is trying to kill him and take his fortune. This is the patient’s fifth visit at this hospital in the last two years, and is well known to the treatment team. In the ER the patient was visibly responding to internal stimuli.

- Past psychiatric history
Have they ever been diagnosed with a psychiatric illness, and if so, when? If there were any prior suicide attempts, include when they occurred and the methods used.
Ex: Patient was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia 25 years ago. He denies suicidal or homicidal ideations.

- Past medical history
The usual drill.

- Medications
Many psych patients are on medications, be sure to ask if they miss doses and how often. Include supplements.
Ex: risperidone, metformin, lisinopril. Patient has not picked up prescriptions in 2 months per pharmacy, patient states he does not need medicines.

- Allergies
The usual drill.

- Family history
Specifically interested in family psychiatric history, don’t forget to ask about suicides.
Ex: Per medical record, patient’s mother had bipolar disorder and his father committed suicide when the patient was 7.

- Social history
Ask about what a patient does for a living, how far they went in school, where they live, who else is in the home with them, how their childhood was, specifically ask about physical, sexual, verbal, and emotional abuse in their lifetime, ask about specific drugs (marijuana, coke, heroin, meth, etc), tobacco use and history, and alcohol use and history.
Ex: patient is homeless and is on disability, he reports snorting heroin in the last two months, he smokes a pack of cigarettes a day (started smoking at age 13) and drinks a fifth of whiskey when he can get it. After his father’s suicide he was sexually abused by his mother’s boyfriend until he was placed into foster care at 12. His only family contact is a sister, who states she has not seen or heard from the patient since February. 

- Review of systems
Still important to ask, but can be basic. I ask about dizziness, headache, runny nose, sort throat, cough, chest pain, heart racing, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, trouble urinating, and muscle or joint pains. 

- Physical exam
Most psych patients are very healthy and will have exams within normal limits. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO STILL EXAMINE THEM LIKE YOU DO ANY OTHER PATIENT.

- Mental status exam
This is the most important part other than the history. Also remember this is just a snapshot of the patient’s mental status at the time of questions, it can- and frequently does- change during the course of the patient’s treatment.
+ Appearance: physical (hygiene, posture), behavior (cooperative/noncooperative, eye contact good/fair/poor), attitude (guarded, hostile)
Ex: Patient appears disheveled and malodorous, poor eye contact, guarded but cooperative)
+ Speech: rate (pressured/fast/regular/slow), volume (loud/average/soft), tone (angry/sad)
Ex: Speech is slow, soft, and lacking intonation. He answers questions mostly in monosyllables.
+ Mood: what does the patient say about how they are feeling?
Ex: Patient states he is afraid.
+ Affect: How does the patient’s mood appear to you? Is it congruent with what the patient says (the patient says they are the saddest they’ve ever been but they are smiling and laughing)? Assess quality (flat/none, blunted/shallow, constricted/limited, full/average, and intense/greater than average) and motility (how fast they shift emotional states, sluggish/supple/labile).
Ex: Patient’s affect is flat with sluggish motility
+ Thought process: How the patient thinks and puts ideas together. Examples of descriptions can be loosing of associations (no logical connections), flight of ideas (fast stream, tangents), thought blocking (lack of communication, unable to get thoughts out), tangentiality (goes off on tangents without returning to questions), and circumstantiality (goes off on tangent but returns to question eventually).
Ex: Patient demonstrated thought blocking.
+ Thought content: How the patient expresses their ideas. Examples of description can be poverty/overabundance of thought, delusions (fixed false beliefs not shared by patient’s culture), suicidal and homicidal ideations, phobias (irrational fears), obsessions (intrusive recurring thoughts), and compulsions (repetitive behaviors, often linked to obsessions).
Ex: Patient demonstrates poverty of thought with paranoid delusions.
+ Consciousness: alert, drowsy, stuporous
+ Orientation: person, place, and time
+ Calculation: add/subtract simple equation (2+4, 10-5)
+ Memory: Assess immediate (can they remember 3 repeated words after 5 minutes), recent (what happened in the last week), recent past (what happened last few months), remote past (events from years and years ago)
+ Fund of knowledge: Who is the President/leader of country? Be sure to stay within bounds of patient’s culture and education level.
+ Attention/concentration: The dreaded serial 7s or spelling a short word backwards (world, apple, whatever)
+ Reading/writing: Can they read a sentence and copy it?
+ Abstract concepts: Explain connections or similarities between objects or understand simple proverbs.
+ Insight: Is the patient aware of their mental illness? Do they blame it on someone else? Can be absent, limited, or normal.
+ Judgement: Does the patient understand the effect of their actions and decisions? Ex: what would you do if you found a wallet on the ground? 

Good luck!

This is Even Olsen. He was a convicted felon, serving a lifetime sentence at Akershus Prison in Oslo, Norway. The reason this man is on display in the museum is what is interesting about him. During his time in jail he was addicted to tobacco, always smoking a cigarette. At one point he ran out of his beloved tobacco, and what he did goes down in history as one of the weirdest actions of the prison. He went to the prison guard and asked for tobacco, in exchange he would donate his skeleton to the museum. Therefore, the museums section for homo sapiens displays this convicted felon.