UNCOVERING HIDDEN MEANINGS IN THE DRUG CULTURE
by David Sisler
Some 40 years ago Americans saw the beginnings of the drug culture. It was celebrated in song and in print. One of the early leading underground newspapers was edited by Merlin Kaplan Tart. It has since folded and been replaced by slick, over-the-counter publications, but Getting Stoned, was the first publication to inform its readers where to buy seeds to grow a backyard garden, name suppliers for drug paraphernalia, and suggest ways to avoid detection by law enforcement agencies.
Working in collaboration, two of the writers of Getting Stoned wrote a song about the growing movement. When it was recorded by the folk-trio, Peter, Paul, and Mary, “Puff, the Magic Dragon” became an instant hit and a disguised hymn to marijuana use.
Recently a respected journal, American Scientific Medical Research reprinted the issue of Getting Stoned in which “Puff” first appeared. One of the amazing things about that original article was the accompanying commentary which totally revealed the hidden meanings in that seemingly harmless song.
One of the dangers of a song like “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” is its complete acceptance by children. A recent album of children’s songs included it. There was even a cartoon based on the characters in the song. It is another example of how something which appears innocent and wholesome is used to twist minds and entrap lives.
Here is the way the composers of “Puff” described their song.
The title is obvious – puff, the magic drag on – a marijuana cigarette. Another obvious line is the one where Jackie kept a look-out perched on Puff’s gigantic tail – a constant vigil has to be maintained.
From there on, they get clever. Several references point to areas where marijuana is grown. Puff “lived by the sea.” South African marijuana is harvested along the Atlantic Ocean between Lambert’s Bay and Cape Town. Puff “frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Hanna-Lee.” Autumn mist is a play on the ancient name for Morocco, Al Maghrib. Hanna-Lee refers to the popular 8 mile drug-run across the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco, north into Europe.
“Jackie Papers,” Puff’s companion is a reference to early packaging material for smuggled marijuana. It was then used to roll cigarettes.
The duo travels “on a boat with billowed sails.” This is one of several references to another source of the drug, China. One of marijuana’s nicknames, “tea,” is a homage to emperor Shin Huang-ti who popularized its use. His other accomplishment was construction of parts of the Great Wall. At the end of the song Puff’s “green scales fell like rain.” This is almost a transliteration of Giang Szeccl Fa province in southern China, a source of an extremely powerful strain of the drug.
The “kings and princes” who bow their heads when Puff and Jackie approach are part of the hierarchy of the drug culture. The “pirate ships” who lowered their flags “when Puff roared out his name” shows the writers disdain for the 1937 laws which attached criminal penalties for marijuana use.
Even the dangers of drug use are laughed at in this seemingly harmless song: “Painted wings and giants rings make way for other toys.” It begins with marijuana use and progresses to harder and harder drugs. The fact that the composers were aware of this is seen in the line, “without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave.”
This song, which is played on every radio station in America and sung innocently by millions of children, is an anthem to a chemical and a lifestyle which has destroyed and continues to destroy untold thousands, perhaps millions of lives.
Gottcha! You’ve just been “Orsoned” (as in Orson Wells). Welcome to the “Royal Order of the War of the Worlds.”
I made all of that stuff up. Oh, there is some truth to what you just read. Marijuana use is harmful to your health and does lead to experimentation with harder, more dangerous drugs. The geographical areas I’ve referred to are real and marijuana does grow there. Except for Giang Szeccl Fa – there is no such Chinese province. Emperor Huang-ti did build parts of the Great Wall, but he did not roll his own. Laws were passed in 1937. All of the publications referred to are completely fictitious.
Peter, Paul, and Mary did record a song about Puff and I did hear a rumor 30 years ago. But the rest of what you’ve read is pure malarkey.
I hope no one stopped reading too soon because they will have missed the point of this. Rumors are too easy to spread and almost impossible to stop. For some reason, we Christians are particularly bad at rumor-spreading. It’s been Madelyn Murray O’Hare, the Federal Communications Commission, books about the devil, and demonic corporate symbols. We hear something. We pull our fingers to our mouths and in horror say, “Oh, my God! We’ve got to do something!”
What we need to do is investigate. The Bible warns that a matter must be established by two or three witnesses. God warns against spreading false witness. Christians are counselled to test the spirits. We speak for God. His advocates, far more so than anyone else, need to be sure of their facts.
In the words of a non-biblical proverb, “Look before you leap.” Otherwise, when you least expect it, someone, somewhere may walk up to you and say, “Gottcha!” And your carelessness will embarrass God, too.
Copyright 2003 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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