Marijuana has been used for thousands of years in various cultures and religions. Richard E. Schultes a prominent researcher in the field of psychoactive plants said in an article he wrote entitled: Man and Marijuana:
“That early man experimented with all plant materials that he could chew. Upon eating hemp, the euphoric, ecstatic and hallucinatory aspects may have introduced man to an ‘other-worldly’ plane from which emerged religious beliefs, perhaps even the concept of Deity. The plant became accepted as a special “gift of the gods,“ a sacred communion with the spiritual world and as such it has remained in some cultures to the present. ”
The Ritual Use of Cannabis Sativa L., by William A. Emboden:
“Shamanistic traditions of great antiquity in Asia and the Near East have as one of their most important elements, attempting to find God without a vale of tears; that cannabis played a role in this, at least in some areas, is born out in the philology surrounding the ritualistic use of the plant. Whereas western religious traditions generally stress sin, repentance, and mortification of the flesh, certain older non-Western religious cults seem to have employed cannabis as a euphoriant, which allowed the participant a joyous path to the ‘ultimate’, hence such appellations as ‘heavenly guide.’”
India appears to be the place with the most reference to the religious use of cannabis. Marijuana continues to be used religiously down to modern times. Bhang is the joy-giver, the sky-flyer, and the heavenly guide, the Poor Man’s Heaven, the Soother of Grief. Other ancient names for marijuana were sacred grass, hero leaved, joy, rejoice, desired in the three worlds, god’s food, fountain of pleasures and Shiva’s plant. Shiva is known as the Lord of Bhang.
Cannabis is mentioned as a medicinal and magical plant as well as a sacred grass in the Atharva Veda, (2000-1400 B.C.) which also calls Hemp one of the Five Kingdoms of Herbs which releases us from anxiety and is a source of happiness, joy giver and liberator.
Early Indian legends maintained that the angel of mankind lived in the leaves of the marijuana plant. It was so sacred that it was reputed to deter evil and cleanse its user of sin. In Hindu mythology, hemp is a holy plant given to man for the welfare of mankind and is considered to be one of the Divine Nectars able to give man anything from good health, long life, to visions of the gods.
Tradition says the god Indra gave marijuana to the people to attain elevated states of consciousness, delight in worldly joy and freedom from fear.
In modern India, it is taken at Hindu and Sikh temples and at Mohammedanshrines. Among fakirs (Hindu ascetics), bhang is viewed as the giver of long life and means of communion with the Divine Spirit.
In ancient China the Chinese referred to their country as the land of Mulberry and hemp. Hemp was a power over evil and in the pharmacopoeia of Shen Nung known as the liberator of sin. It was known as a superior immortality elixir, eating hemp flower tops it says, makes one become a ‘Divine Transcendent’.
It is recorded that the Taoists in the first century recommended adding cannabis to their incense burners as a means of achieving immortality.
A fifth century Japanese booklet stated: Hemp and Mulberry have long been used in worshipping the gods.
When white men first went to Africa, marijuana was a part of the native way of life. Marijuana was an integral part of religious ceremony. The hemp pipe assumed a symbolic meaning for the Bashilenge somewhat analogous to the significance, which the peace pipe had for American Indians. No holiday, no trade agreement, no peace treaty was transacted without it.
In South Central Africa, marijuana is held to be sacred and is connected with many religious and social customs. Some sects regard marijuana as a magic plant possessing universal protection against all injury to life and is symbolic of peace and friendship. Certain tribes consider hemp use a duty.
It is said that the Assyrians used hemp as incense in the seventh or eighth century before Christ and called it ‘Qunubu,’ a term apparently borrowed from an old East Iranian word ‘Konaba’ the same as the Scythian name cannabis. Marijuana may have been the first incense in the ancient East, according to Edwin Morris in: Fragrance: The Story of Perfume from Cleopatra to Chanel.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica: Pharmacological Cults, “The ceremonial use of incense in contemporary ritual, is most likely a relic of the time when the psychoactive properties of incense brought the ancient worshipper into touch with supernatural forces.”
In the Judaic world, the vapors from burnt spices and aromatic gums were considered part of the pleasurable act of worship. In Proverbs it is said that ‘Ointment and perfumes rejoice the heart’.
Perfumes were widely used in Egyptian worship. Stone altars have been unearthed in Babylon and Palestine that have been used for burning incense made of aromatic wood and spices.
While the casual readers today may interpret such practices as mere satisfaction of the desire for pleasant odors, this is almost certainly an error. In many or most cases, a psychoactive drug was being inhaled in the islands of the Mediterranean 2,500 years ago and in Africa hundreds of years ago. For example, leaves and flowers of a particular plant were often thrown upon bonfires and the smoke inhaled: The plant was marijuana (Licit and Illicit Drugs).
As George Andrews, editor of the classic texts, ‘The Book of Grass’ and ‘Drugs and Magic’ wrote after some thirty years of research into the subject;
“In recent years many eminent scholars have expressed the opinion, that far from being a minor or occasional ingredient, hashish was the main ingredient of the incense burned in temples during the religious ceremonies of antiquity.”
Part 2 will deal with the use of incense in the Bible; more on the Rasta religion and why we say marijuana is the spirit of God.
For more about the story on how marijuana is used as a spiritual plant and the sacrament that Christ used Google – Marijuana and the Bible by Jeff Brown.
For those interested in the story and can’t afford to buy the book send me your e-mail address and I will e-mail you a copy.
one love Jeff Brown
Originally published in Weed World Magazine 101