On this day each year we take a breather and celebrate the noble art of pipe-smoking and the noble spirit which pervades the brotherhood/sisterhood of the briar.
We will put into practice the time-honored and ancestral traditions of raising our pipes in toast to each other in the evening in unison and, thus, share a bowl together.
Pipes being used as a friendship is nothing new to us, there have been many occasions threw out history were pipes have been smoked to keep the peace of friendships burning. The peace pipe was and still is used by the Native American’s in ceremony or also used in medical purposes. The pipe would be lit and passed around, each and every person would be required to take a puff of the cool smoke. It however was not just the native American’s who were doing this. There are many African peace pipes too, some of them look like large clay pot or sculpted ivory. These pipes were made for the soul purpose of being used as an friendship pipe or peace pipe.
For those of us that smoke a pipe know there is more too it than just filling a bowl and lighting it. For many of us it is a ritual and sometimes an deeper sense of meaning and a comfort. One very famous pipe smoker Sir Walter Raleigh took his clay pipes with him to his execution on the 29th October 1618 for treason under the rule of King James I. His leather tobacco pouch was found in his prison room with a few clay pipes and tobacco in it, written on the leather in his own hand it said ‘Comes meus fuit in illo miserrimo tempore’ ‘He was my companion during that very unhappy time’. We as pipe smokers have a lot to thank to Sir Walter Raleigh as he opposed the law that King James had against tobacco and smoking. It was in may 1607 that a man named John Rolfe planted the first tobacco seed in James Town in Virginia. The Company expected the colonist to start industrial enterprises in Virginia that would return profits to the Company. The colonists in Virginia tried a number of different enterprises: silk making, glass making, lumber, sassafras, pitch and tar, and soap ashes, with no financial success. It was John Rolfe’s experiments with tobacco that developed the first profitable export. The Spaniards later found the natives and took the tobacco seed to the Mediterranean and it spread to other countries. Sir Walter Raleigh is credited with introducing tobacco to England, now perhaps he didn’t introduce it, but he certainly played a vital role in smoking and trading with it and therefore is remebered as one of our greatest pipe smokers.
I am sure many of us can related to a time like this where we have used our pipes not as a tool for smoking, but a tool for comfort when there has been nobody else around, perhaps a tool to relax and think. I never like too think of my pipe as just something used to stuff tobacco in and puff tobacco with. I think of my pipe as a friend, as an work of art and tribute to nature and craftsmen, as a tool to help me think and to relax, as a way of making conversation and a way of bringing friends together. For me personally I own many pipes that are attributed to some of the best and hardest times of my life. Some of these pipes were gifts and some of them I have personally bought but have shared in these times.
It is threw smoking a pipe that some of my greatest ideas have come to pass. I tribute that to the fact that a pipe calms you down and your thoughts . It clears your mind helping you focus and see the end result. There are many great people who can attribute there achievements due to pipe smoking J RR Tolkien, Albert Einstein all have used a pipe to calm there thoughts. The greatest of things can be achieved threw a pipe. A pipe is also a great tool to start a conversation wanted or not, there have been many times I have smoked a pipe and somebody says ” You don’t see that very often, my granddad used to smoke a pipe “. People are curious and want to know more which automatically starts an conversation. It sometimes what I like to call as an ice breaker, it breaks the ice between you and somebody else. Pipes are something we also engage in with other pipe smokers bringing us sometimes to one place from all corners of the earth. I talk in particular about pipe shows, and pipe smoking clubs where some of us gather together to talk, to share about pipes and tobaccos, and also to have a drink. It is I believe one of man’s simplest made objects put together to smoke something this earth has given us, yet is so complicated in it’s use. It’s a wonderful, fantastic object that if used wisely you will get great pleasure from.
We are dawning at a time where smoking is a taboo, governments crashing down on us telling us smoking is bad, harmful and is being banned. However the more I look into it the more I see that smoking has all been put into one page. We all know smoking cigarettes is unhealthy, however what about pipes and cigars? One of the the biggest killers at the moment is Stress. Nowadays people seem to be too busy. Some of us take working holidays, we try to juggle a family life with our careers. Smoking a pipe or cigar is something you don’t do when in a rush. You take the time to prepare the smoke, kick back and puff away for what can be 15 minutes to over an hour, it’s an focus and a stress relief. Many pipe smokers actually can live longer than even none smokers. It is something that can be truly enjoyed to it’s best. One of the best things about tobacco is you can age it like you can with a fine wine, and the older it gets the more refined the flavor is. This also stands true to the art of pipe smoking the longer you have practiced and refined the art the better you will become at it.
There was a time in the past were a boy would come of age at 16. In the eyes of the law he was a man. Just like his father would have him to shave, his father would have bought him a pipe, showed him how to pack it, smoke it and clean it. That pipe would have been treasured and is art passed down threw generation to generation. Sometimes noble families had large Meerschaum pipes that were carved with there family coat of arms and would be mounted in silver with amber stems. These pipes would be heirlooms and perhaps only smoked on the specialist of occasions. There was an old practice once which used to be found in England, Holland and America ( you can still find this practice in some parts of America ) where you would be given in a tavern a clay pipe, after you had smoked it your name would go on and it would be hung in the tavern. When you returned to the tavern your pipe would be awaiting you. These pipes are known as tavern pipes.
For some of us pipe smokers and none pipe smokers we have memories which may involve a pipe. Granddad smoking Captain Black in a Dunhill, and all of a sudden you can remember the smell of his pipe as if it was yesterday. Or perhaps some us have memories of those Christmas times after the dinner smoking a pipe with the whole family around beside the wood burning fire, or the Christmas after dinner walk. What ever it maybe for some us, there memories sparked up by a pipe and sometimes those memories are the happiest we have.
So let us today celebrate this ancient art of smoking. Let us remember the people around us or the people that have passed away that share in our passion for the finer things in life. We should be sharing in friendship, knowledge and respect for each other of all walks of life. It is a passion that I smoke and learn about tobacco’s and pipes and a passion many of us share. In times of peace and in times of hardship your pipe will always be ready for you. For me that’s a great comfort and joy to know. There many things we should celebrate in life and the art of pipe smoking is one of them. And as laws get tighter together we must stand, for it is up to us to keep the art of pipe smoking alive. It is a day to celebrate our pipe artisan’s and tobacco blenders, and up to us to support them for without them the art would be lost. I personally would like to make this article a tribute to a few people whom are pipe smokers and have support me. To Mr John Hines ( Pipe artisan ) , Benyumin Mechel Haselton ( pipe.org ) , Angela Meek ( Corncob maker ) and Jacquie Love ( pipe smoking friend ) AND of course to everyone else whom I have not mentioned it does not mean your not as important for it is all of us that makes these groups and sites work.
P. A van de Gevel