Secret Societies: Hashshashin


Excerpt From Essay “Secret Societies” by Paul Witcover

The Islamic world also has its secret societies. The Hashshashin – from whom we get the word “assassin” – were just that: a secret society of religious mystics devoted to the targeted killing of their enemies. The notion that these assassins rendered themselves impervious to pain, or indeed rational thought, prior to going into action, by smoking or otherwise ingesting the drug hashish is a popular conception that has never been proven. But there is no dispute that they were a feared and effective organization.

Artist rendering of Hassan-i Sabbah

The Hashshashin were founded by Hassan-i-Sabbah, a devout Shi’ite, in 1090, in response to persecution from the ruling Sunni ‘Abbasid Caliphate. From their stronghold in the Daylam Mountains of modern-day Iran, they spread terror throughout the Sunni world. But it was not only fellow religionists who had to fear their poisoned daggers; in 1271, Prince Edward of England, later Edward I, was gravely wounded, while crusading in the Holy Land, by one of the Hashshashin.

In 1256, the power of the Hashshashin was broken when their stronghold was overrun by the Mongol warlord Hulagu Khan. Even so, the legend of the Hashshashin-as well as their model of religiously sanctioned assassination-continues, unfortunately, to this day.

Katherine’s “Assassin” reading list:

As with the Templars and the Cathars, the history of Muhammad and Charlemagne and of the Assassins are all also inextricably interwoven with the story of the Crusades. Therefore, a more extensive book list on important topics about the Crusades will be posted later.

  • “The Assassins” Bernard Lewis (former Princeton professor of Near Eastern studies)
  • “The Templars and the Assassins” James Wasserman (Occult scholar and member of OTO)
  • “Arab Historians of the Crusades” Francesco Gabrieli
  • “Holy War” Karen Armstrong
  • “Saladin in His Time” P.H. Newby
  • “The Crusades” Henry Treece
  • “Chronicles of the Crusades” Joinville and Villehardouin (the two classic Christian accounts)
  • “A History of Secret Societies” Arkon Daraul (1961)
  • “The Secret Societies of All Ages and Countries”(2-vol) Charles William Heckethorn (1875)
    • (The above two books also discuss the Carbonari)


The Crusades through Arab Eyes – Amin Maalouf







Samarcande (a novel) – Amin Maalouf

The fascinating fictional story of three friends who were likely actually acquainted: Omar Khayyam, Vizier Nizam al-Mulkh, and Hassan Sabbah, the founder of the Order of Assassins.








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