Nose enema, or snuff
Shortly after tobacco was introduced into Europe, snuff
taking was invented, that is the sniffing of
powdered tobacco leaves. This was not an entirely new concept, as powdered herbs had previously been consumed this way under the advice of doctors and
barber-surgeons. Various aromatic herbs such as marjoram, mint, pigweed,
ginger, celandine as well as others have been used this way. The taking of medicines through the nose was
mysteriously called 'Clystrium nasi', which simply means nose enema. This tradition dates back to mythological Greek times when
Prometheus brought to life a man made of dirt by placing a small bottle full of sunshine under his nose. Today we are more likely to do a similar thing with ammonia to
There were many followers of the nose enema, and snuffing became a kind of
social habit with its own rules, rituals and etiquette. When in company, one would
ostentatiously pull out their snuff-box and offer it to the other guests. One would then take the snuff-box in two fingers, hold it awhile, and then
inhale deeply. The reaction was immediate - the snuffer would redden and begin to sneeze loudly. Sneezing, coughing and even spitting after
snuffing was something that was accepted and obvious. Snuff-boxes themselves varied greatly. The great people of this world would have snuff-boxes that
were real art works and even jewelry. Some kings personally created artistic
snuff-boxes and presenting them to subjects was considered as the highest decoration.
They were also higly valued collectabilia reaching enormous prices.
Most snuff users had more simple snuff-boxes. Sometimes they were fine-wrought boxes, sometimes
horns, and sometimes personal knick knacks. My uncle had a snuff box made from a
cartridge he brought from Verdun, where he defended the glory of Prussia. He
used to tip the snuff onto the hollow that appears between a lifted thumb and
wrist, than he would ceremonially lift
his hand to his nose and ... sneezed so loudly that my aunty would block her ears with whatever she
had in hand - it could be a ladle, when she mixed soup, or a darning egg, when
she darned socks..
A huge snuff user was the Emperor of French, Napoleon I (1769-1821). It was estimated that he would use three kilograms of tobacco monthly. He did it often
during the day, as in his time, there was not yet a way of consuming enough tobacco to last a whole day. It was a year before his death that the snuff double
barrel pistol was invented . The amunition chamber was filled with tobacco and
the barrels was placed under the nose, the trigger was pulled, and the shot delivered enough
tobacco to the nose to last for an entire day. I wounder if it ever occurred to any clown to replace a snuff gun with a real gun..
A great lover and collector of snuff-boxes was Frederick the Great of Prussia (1721 - 1786). Among his collection he
had some real works of art and jewelry. He gifted these to some of his most faithful
subjects which was the greatest honor for a Prussian. The George III, king of
England (1738 - 1820), treated his hobby somewhat differently, he not only collected snuff boxes, he also created them with great skill and artistic talent.