Poppy, a plant extensively cultivated in France, Belgium and Germany for the oil it produces. The oil expressed from the poppy sees is perfectly healthy, and is much used in France as article of food. The seed yields about forty percent of oil, and the oil cake is useful for manure and for feeding cattle. It is believed that fully one-half of the oil used for cooking in France is of this kind. Among the ancients the poppy was sacred to the goddess Ceres. Large quantities of opium are also made from the poppy.
Ceres(Ceremony) is the Roman goddess who protects agriculture and the fruits of the earth. Her first temple in Rome was built in 496 B.C., to ward off a famine with which the city was threatened. A great festival with games, called Cerealia, was set up in her honor. Among the more poetic Greeks she was worshiped under the name of Demeter, as the symbol of the prolific earth. To her is attributed the institution of the Eleusinian Mysteries in Greece, the most popular of all the ancient initiations.
Opium is the dried juice of the unripe seed vessels of a kind of poppy. The poppy is cultivated in India, Persia and China, in Turkey and in Egypt. It requires a very rich soil, and irrigation is often used as a help in its cultivation. The main opium district in India is a large tract on the Ganges, about 600 miles long and 200 broad. In India the seed is own in November, the plant blossoms in January or later, and in three or four weeks after, when the poppy heads, or capsules, are about as large as a hen's egg, the field is ready for work.
The collector takes a small instrument made of four little knives tied together, looking like the teeth of a comb, and with this cuts or scratches the poppy heads. This is done in the afternoon, and the next morning a milky sap can be collected from the heads by scraping with a kind of scoop into an earthen vessel. The vessel is kept turned on its side so that any watery fluid may drain out, and as the juice dries it is turned often so that it will dry equally. It takes three of four weeks before it is thick enough to be used in the factories and kneaded, and made into balls or cakes, which are dried and packed in chests for the market. Opium has a bitter taste and a peculiar heavy odor.
It is poisonous but makes a most valuable medicine, in which form it is used to allay pain and produce sleep. The habitual use of the drug is known as opium eating or the opium habit, and usually begun to relive pain or sleeplessness, very soon becomes a habit very difficult to overcome. The amount usually taken is about three grains day, though DeQuincy says that he used sometimes 8,000 drops of laudanum (a form of opium) daily. It acts as a stimulant, followed by feelings of depression and nervousness, requiring a fresh dose to remove them. Another way in which it is used is in smoking, a practice most common in China and India. The opium prepared for smoking is called "chandu," and is watery extract about twice as strong as the drug.
A piece of opium as large as a pea is placed in a small cup at the end of a pipe and lighted, and the smoke inhaled. The opium is distilled by the process, and there is very little morphine in the smoke. There are said to be a million opium smokers in the United States. Its excessive use wrecks the constitution and seems to destroy also the moral faculties. See Opium and the Opium Appetite, by Calkin; Opium Smoking in America and China.
In the mysteries of the ancients, the poppy was the symbol of regeneration. The somniferous qualities of the plant expressed the idea of quiescence; but the seeds of a new existence which it contained were though to show that nature, though her powers were suspended, yet possessed the capability of being called into a renewal existence (i.e. genetically engineering slaves from previous DNA). Thus the poppy planted near a grave symbolized the idea of resurrection. Hence, it conveyed the same symbolism as the evergreen or sprig of acacia does in the Masonic mysteries.