Here’s the 411 on everyone’s favorite little smoke helper. Chillums are clay, glass, stone, or wood cone or straight tube pipes that function like a one hitter. Or you can choose to smoke them in a more ritualistic and traditional fashion.
Chillums throughout the World and Ages
Used in spiritual practices by holy men or “Sudhu”. Often readymade chillums are sold on the street. After smoking these traditional clay pieces you are to throw the pipe down on the street and let it return to its origin, the ground.
Used in sacraments. Usually in the form of a cow horn.
In Egypt, glass vessels were used as early as 1500 BC for smoking and storage. Clay pipes have been found on archeological digs in Uganda and random spots all over Ancient Mesopotamia.
- South America
Clay pipes have been found in anthropologic excavation sites across the region.
- America and Europe
Hippies of 1960s counter-culture fame popularized chillums in Western culture. Soon after, one hitters and smaller sneak a toke pipes became fashionable and trendy in a widespread way.
Opium and other narcotics were used in clay and bamboo pipes throughout history in chillums until glass construction and smoking tobacco substances were introduced. A traditional chillum mix nowadays is 1 cigarette and a tiny bit of hash.
How to Chillum Traditional Style
- Ensure your pipe is clean of resinous residue. These black tar-like blobs can stain your hands and clothing something fierce, so be aware and vigilant to stay clean.
- Check to see if your stone or screen is in place. This will act as an ash catcher. The body of a chillum is typically very short, so the likelihood of getting a mouthful of gross is high. If a stone or screen is not available, you can wrap a thin yet durable scarf (think those traditional kefi scarves) over the mouthpiece area to catch any unwanted ash excess.
- Load the bowl end of the chillum and hold that side up.
- Position your hands so that your fingers aren’t too close to where you will be lighting the top end of the pipe.
- Light and take a couple of short puffs then a long drag, keeping the chillum at a 45 degree angle upwards. This is bowl spill insurance!
- Keep smoke in your lungs as long as possible to feel the full effects of your rip.
Maintain Your Chillum
Use a poker or pipe cleaner to grind meticulously rid your piece of nasty resin. A strip of cloth or string can be used as well.
Chill Chillum Facts
- Before the advent of screens or custom stones, chillum users would search the ground for the perfect sized stone to block ash and resin inside the single tube apparatus.
- When holy men were done smoking chillums, invoking Shiva (The Hindu “Destroyer” or “transformer”) is key. Simply murmur “Bom Shankar” as you point the chillum to your forehead and then the sky.
- When smoking a chillum in a group, it is bad manners to pass the pipe to your left. Always pass to the right, as the left hand is traditionally used to wipe your bottom after using the restroom.