Spiritual use of cannabis

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This article is about cannabis used as an entheogenic drug in a spiritual or religious context and in contrast to drug abuse.

Cannabis has an ancient history of ritual usage as an aid to trance and has been traditionally used in a religious context throughout the old world. Herodotus wrote about early ceremonial practices by the Scythians, which are thought to have occurred from the 5th to 2nd century BCE. Itinerant sadhus have used it in India for centuries, and the Rastafari movement has embraced it in modern times. Anthropologist Sula Benet claimed historical evidence and etymological comparison show that the Holy anointing oil used by the Hebrews contained cannabis extracts, "kaneh bosm" (קְנֵה-בֹשֶׂם), and that it is also listed as an incense tree in the original Hebrew and Aramaic texts of the Old Testament. The early Christians used cannabis oil for medicinal purposes and as part of the baptismal process to confirm the forgiveness of sins and "right of passage" into the Kingdom of Heaven. The Unction, Seal, laying on of hands, the Counselor, and the Holy Spirit are all often synonymous of the Holy anointing oil.[1] Early Gnostic texts indicate that the Chrism is essential to becoming a "Christian." [2][3] Some Muslims of the Sufi order have used cannabis as a tool for spiritual exploration.


[edit] Ancient shamanic use

Several of the mummies found near Turpan in Xinjiang province of Northwestern China were buried with sacks of marijuana next to them. Based on this, archaeologists concluded that they were shamans: "The marijuana must have been buried with the dead shamans who dreamed of continuing the profession in another world." The mummies were dated to circa 1,000 BCE.[4]

Herodotus wrote: "The Scythians, as I said, take some of this hemp-seed, and, creeping under the felt coverings, throw it upon the red-hot stones; immediately it smokes, and gives out such a vapour as no Grecian vapour-bath can exceed; the Scyths, delighted, shout for joy."[5] What Herodotus called the "hemp-seed" must have been[original research?] the whole flowering tops of the plant, where the resin is produced along with the fruit ("seeds").

[edit] Ancient Pagan use

The Egyptian goddess Seshat, crowned with what is now believed to be a cannabis leaf.

In ancient Germanic culture, cannabis was associated with the Norse love goddess, Freya.[6][7] The harvesting of the plant was connected with an erotic high festival.[6] It was believed that Freya lived as a fertile force in the plant's feminine flowers and by ingesting them one became influenced by this divine force.[8] The Celts may have also used cannabis, as evidence of hashish traces were found in Hallstatt, birthplace of Celtic culture.[9]

Emerging evidence has also linked Seshat, the goddess of wisdom and writing in the ancient Egyptian pantheon, to cannabis; though long believed to be a papyrus plant, the plant usually depicted above her head has been recently identified as the leaf from a cannabis plant.[citation needed] Also, parts of the ancient Coffin Texts link Seshat to the plant's psychotropic effects.[citation needed]

[edit] Hindu use

Sadhu offering charas to Shiva.

Cannabis was used in Hindu culture as early as 1500 B.C.E., and its ancient use is confirmed within the Vedas (Sama Veda, Rig Veda, and Atharva Veda).[10]

Cannabis or ganja is associated with worship of the Hindu god Shiva, who is popularly believed to like the hemp plant. Ganjais offered to Shiva images, especially on Shivratri festival. This practice is particularly witnessed at at temples of Benares, Baidynath and Tarakeswar.[11]

Ganja is not only offered to the god, but also consumed by Shaivite (sect of Shiva) yogis. Charas is smoked by some Shaivite devotees and cannabis itself is seen as a gift ("prasad," or offering) to Shiva to aid in sadhana.[12] Some of the wandering ascetics in India known as sadhus smoke charas out of a clay chillum.

During the Hindu festival of Holi, people consume a drink called bhang which contains cannabis flowers.[11][13] According to one description, when elixir of life was produced from the churning of the ocean by the gods and the demons, Shiva created cannabis from his own body to purify the elixir (whence, for cannabis, the epithet angaj or body-born). Another account suggests that the cannabis plant sprang when a drop of the elixir dropped on the ground. Thus, cannabis is used by sages due to association with elixir and Shiva. Wise drinking of bhang, according to religious rites, is believed to cleanse sins, unite one with Shiva and avoid the miseries of hell in the after-life. In contrast, foolish drinking of bhang without rites is considered a sin.[14]

[edit] Ancient Hebraic use

According to Aryeh Kaplan,[15] cannabis was an ingredient in the Holy anointing oil mentioned in various sacred Hebrew texts. The herb of interest is most commonly known as kaneh-bosem (קְנֵה-בֹשֶׂם; the singular form of which would be kaneh-bos[16]) which is mentioned several times in the Old Testament as a bartering material, incense, and an ingredient in Holy anointing oil used by the high priest of the temple.

The Septuagint (300BCE) translates kaneh-bosem as calamus, and this translation has been propagated unchanged to most later translations of the Torah (1500BCE+). However, Polish anthropologist Sula Benet published etymological arguments that the Aramaic word for hemp can be read as kannabos and appears to be a cognate to the modern word 'cannabis',[17] with the root kan meaning reed or hemp and bosm meaning fragrant. Both cannabis and calamus are fragrant, reedlike plants containing psychotropic compounds. While Benet's conclusion regarding the psychoactive use of cannabis is not universally accepted among Jewish scholars, there is general agreement that cannabis is used in talmudic sources to refer to hemp fibers, as hemp was a vital commodity before linen replaced it.[18]

[edit] Muslim use

Generally in orthodox Islam, the use of cannabis is deemed to be khamr (intoxicant), and therefore haraam (forbidden).[19][20] As with most orthodoxies, early practices differ in this. Some say that, as hashish was introduced in post-Koranic times, the prohibition of khamr (literally, "fermented grape" but generally understood to mean anything that clouds consciousness) did not apply to it.[21] Others point to various hadith, which equate all intoxicants with khamr, and declare them all haraam, "if much intoxicates, then even a little is haraam". [22] [23] Because some Muslims have attributed the cannabis state of consciousness with higher states of awareness, whether its effects are even considered intoxicating is controversial. Before the demonization in the West (e.g. United States) cannabis was generally never looked down upon.

Although cannabis use in Islamic society has been consistently present, often but not exclusively in the lower classes, [24] its use explicitly for spiritual purposes is most noted among the Sufi. An account of the origin of this:

According to one Arab legend, Haydar, the Persian founder of the religious order of Sufi, came across the cannabis plant while wandering in the Persian mountains. Usually a reserved and silent man, when he returned to his monastery after eating some cannabis leaves, his disciples were amazed at how talkative and animated (full of spirit) he seemed. After cajoling Haydar into telling them what he had done to make him feel so happy, his disciples went out into the mountains and tried the cannabis for themselves. So it was, according to the legend, the Sufis came to know the pleasures of hashish. (Taken from the Introduction to A Comprehensive Guide to Cannabis Literature by Ernest Abel.[page needed])

[edit] Sikh use

The Sikh religion developed in the Punjab in Mughal times. The common use of bhang in religious festivals by Hindus carried over into Sikh practice as well. Sikhs were required to observe Dasehra with bhang, in commemoration of the founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak.[25]

The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report[11] describes the traditional use of cannabis in the Sikh religion.

Among the Sikhs the use of bhang as a beverage appears to be common, and to be associated with their religious practices. The witnesses who refer to this use by the Sikhs appear to regard it as an essential part of their religious rites having the authority of the Granth or Sikh scripture. Witness Sodhi Iswar Singh, Extra Assistant Commissioner, says :"As far as I know, bhang is pounded by the Sikhs on the Dasehra day, and it is ordinarily binding upon every Sikh to drink it as a sacred draught by mixing water with it. Legend--Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth guru, the founder of the Sikh religion, was on the gaddi of Baba Nanak in the time of Emperor Aurangzeb. When the guru was at Anandpur, tahsil Una, Hoshiarpur district, engaged in battle with the Hill Rajas of the Simla, Kangra, and the Hoshiarpur districts, the Rains sent an elephant, who was trained in attacking and slaying the forces of the enemy with a sword in his trunk and in breaking open the gates of forts, to attack and capture the Lohgarh fort near Anandpur. The guru gave one of his followers, Bachittar Singh, some bhang and a little of opium to eat, and directed him to face the said elephant. This brave man obeyed the word of command of his leader and attacked the elephant, who was intoxicated and had achieved victories in several battles before, with the result that the animal was overpowered and the Hill Rajas defeated. The use of bhang, therefore, on the Dasehra day is necessary as a sacred draught. It is customary among the Sikhs generally to drink bhang, so that Guru Gobind Singh has himself is said to have said the following poems in praise of bhang: "Give me, O Saki (butler), a cup of green colour (bhang), as it is required by me at the time of battle . "Bhang is also used on the Chandas day, which is a festival of the god Sheoji Mahadeva. The Sikhs consider it binding to use it on the Dasehra day-The quantity then taken is too small to prove injurious." As Sikhs are absolutely prohibited by their religion from smoking, the use of ganja and charas in this form is not practised by them. of old Sikh times, is annually permitted to collect without interference a boat load of bhang, which is afterwards. distributed throughout the year to the sadhus and beggars who are supported by the dharamsala.

[edit] Rastafari use

Members of the Rastafari movement use cannabis as a part of their worshiping of God, Bible study and Meditation. The movement was founded in Jamaica in the 1930s and while it is not known when Rastafarians first made cannabis into something sacred it is clear that by the late 1940s Rastafari was associated with cannabis smoking at the Pinnacle community of Leonard Howell. Rastafari see cannabis as a sacramental and deeply beneficial plant that is the Tree of Life mentioned in the Bible. Bob Marley, amongst many others, said, "the herb ganja is the healing of the nations." The use of cannabis, and particularly of large pipes called chalices, is an integral part of what Rastafari call "reasoning sessions" where members join together to discuss life according to the Rasta perspective. They see cannabis as having the capacity to allow the user to penetrate the truth of how things are much more clearly, as if the wool had been pulled from one's eyes. Thus the Rastafari come together to smoke cannabis in order to discuss the truth with each other, reasoning it all out little by little through many sessions. They see the use of this plant as bringing them closer to nature. In these ways Rastafari believe that cannabis brings the user closer to Jah, Haile Selassie I, and pipes of cannabis are always dedicated to His Imperial Majesty before being smoked. While it is not necessary to use cannabis to be a Rastafari, some feel that they must use it regularly as a part of their faith. "The herb is the key to new understanding of the self, the universe, and God. It is the vehicle to cosmic consciousness" according to Rastafari philosophy,[26] and is considered to burn the corruption out of the human heart. Rubbing the ashes from smoked cannabis is also considered a healthy practice[27].

[edit] Other modern religious movements

Elders of the modern religious movement known as the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church consider cannabis to be the eucharist,[28] claiming it as an oral tradition from Ethiopia dating back to the time of Christ.[29]

Like the Rastafari, some modern Gnostic Christian sects have asserted that cannabis is the Tree of Life.[30]

Other organized religions founded in the past century that treat cannabis as a sacrament are the THC Ministry, the Way of Infinite Harmony, Cantheism, the Cannabis Assembly, the Church of Cognizance[31], the Sinagogue of Satan and the Church of the Universe.[32][33]

Modern spiritual figures like Ram Dass[34] and Eli Jaxon Bear openly acknowledge that the use of cannabis has allowed them to access "another plane of consciousness" and use the drug frequently.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ McClintock,John; Strong, James; Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature; 1867; Harper Inc.; p. 241
  2. ^ Cook, John Granger; The Interpretation of the Old Testament in Greco-Roman Paganism; 2004; (Mohr Siebeck publishers), page 78; ISBN 3161484746, 978316148474
  3. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/jan/06/science.religion
  4. ^ "Perforated skulls provide evidence of craniotomy in ancient China," China Economic Net, January 26, 2007
  5. ^ Herodotus, Histories 4.75
  6. ^ a b Pilcher, Tim; Spliffs 3: The Last Word in Cannabis Culture?; 2005; page 34; (Collins & Brown publishers) 2005; ISBN 1843403102, 9781843403104
  7. ^ Vindheim, Jan Bojer, The History of Hemp in Norway
  8. ^ Rätsch, Christian, The Sacred Plants of our Ancestors, published in TYR: Myth—Culture—Tradition Vol. 2, 2003–2004 - ISBN 0-9720292-1-4
  9. ^ Creighton, John; Coins and Power in Late Iron Age Britain; Cambridge University Press, 2000; page 52; ISBN 0521772079, 9780521772075
  10. ^ Marijuana - The First Twelve Thousand Years. Ch. 1. Cannabis in the Ancient World - India: The First Marijuana-Oriented Culture
  11. ^ a b c Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, 1893-94. Simla, India: Government Central Printing House, 1894, 7 vols., CHAPTER IX, SOCIAL AND RELIGIOUS CUSTOMS
  12. ^ Starting The Day With The Cup That Kicks, Hindustan Times; 4 Nov 2007
  13. ^ The History of the Intoxicant Use of Marijuana
  14. ^ Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report - Appendix
  15. ^ Kaplan, Aryeh. The Living Torah New York 1981. p. 442.
  16. ^ CC11: Cannabis and the Christ: Jesus used Marijuana
  17. ^ kanehbosm
  18. ^ Encyclopedia Judaica. Volume 8. p. 323.
  19. ^ Abdul-Rahman, Muhammad Saed; Islam: Questions and Answers - Pedagogy Education and Upbringing; MSA Publication Limited, 2003; page 123; ISBN 1861792964, 9781861792969
  20. ^ Pakistan Narcotics Control Board, Colombo Plan Bureau; First National Workshop on Prevention and Control of Drug Abuse in Pakistan, 25-30 August 1975, Rawalpindi: Workshop Report; 1975; page. 54
  21. ^ United Nations Dept. of Social Affairs UN; Bulletin on Narcotics United Nations Division of Narcotic Drugs; (Division of Narcotic Drugs [publishers]); 1972; pg. 15
  22. ^ Buyukcelebi, Ismail; Living in the Shade of Islam: A Comprehensive Reference of Theory and Practice; page 340; Tughra Books, 2005; ISBN 1932099212, 9781932099218
  23. ^ University of Glasgow (Gran Bretaña); Archivum Linguisticum; Scolar Press., 1977; page 114;
  24. ^ New York Academy of Medicine; Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine; The Academy (publishers), 1982; pg. 824
  25. ^ Marijuana - The First Twelve Thousand Years - 6
  26. ^ The Watchman Expositor: Rastafarianism Profile
  27. ^ Joseph Owens Dread, The Rastafarians of Jamaica
  28. ^ Marijuana and the Bible
  29. ^ Erowid Cannabis Vault : Spiritual Use #2
  30. ^ http://www.iamm.com/man-cu.htm#_ABRIDGED_THEOLOGICAL_DISCUSSION
  31. ^ Innes, Stephanie; Pot-Deifying Duo Guilty, Confident They'll Avoid Prison; 5 Sep 2008
  32. ^ Jackson Hayes; "Appeal Date Set For Pot Priests"; Hamilton Spectator; 2008
  33. ^ Church of the Universe (web site)
  34. ^ Ram Dass: Longtime Spiritual Leader, Opponent of the 'War on Drugs' March 8, 2004

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