Tuesday, May 13, 2008

History: The Western Lands

William Burroughs, Techno Animal, and Iggy Pop: The Western Lands


From Spiritus-Sempris:

"Hassan-i-Sabbah (in Persian / Arabic حسن بن صباح or حسن صباح ) (circa 1034 - 1124), or "The Old Man of the Mountain", was an Iranian Ismaili missionary who converted a community in the late 11th century in the heart of the Elburz Mountains of northern Iran. The place was called Alamut and was attributed to an ancient king of Daylam. When Hassan discovered Alamut in the late 11th Century, it was in the hands of a Seljuk subject. Hassan prepared the takeover of the castle by secretly converting its staff. With the household on his side, he was smuggled into the castle and began to establish his rule at Alamut. When the castle's residents realized they were no longer in control it was too late. Hassan graciously allowed the former tenant leave of his castle in addition to a draft of 3,000 silver dinars in payment for the castle. From this point on his community and its branches spread throughout Iran and Syria and came to be called Hashshashin or Hashshishin or Assassins, an Islamic mystery cult."

When I first came across the legends of Hassan-i-Sabbah, in the writings of William S. Burroughs, I assumed he was just another character that Burroughs invented. He was certainly an audacious enough type. Turns out the guy was real, though. If you check out the link to Spiritus-Sempris, up top, you can get the full story, so here's the short and fast:

After Hassan took over the mountain fortress of Alamut, he began assembling his forces. Local youths from neighboring tribes would be abducted and drugged. When they woke up, they found themselves surrounded with beautiful women and delicious foods and pretty much everything else an impressionable soul might determine to be just like paradise. Hassan explained to the drugged youths that they had been allowed a glipse into heaven, and if they would do his bidding (carry out assassinations against the enemies of Hassan-i-Sabbah), they were guaranteed admission to heaven for all eternity. The youths were trained in the art of assassination then sent to live in cities near and far, awaiting their orders...