Cannabis and religion
From Southeast Asia to North America.
Cannabis was (and is) a sacred plant for many people and has historically been used in religious ceremonies in many cultures.
After M. Gabriel Ferrier, Smoking Kiff, 19th century. Etching.
Cannabis and religion
Cannabis is one of the most important plants to be regarded as sacred by humankind. When the plant is used in religious ceremonies and practices, or when it is regarded as sacred or significant by a particular religion, it is defined as sacramental.
It is probable that the connection between cannabis and religion began with its use as ceremonial incense along with other naturally pungent herbs. When thrown upon a fire or smouldering coals, clouds of smoke rich in the active ingredient THC would be released to be inhaled by those present. The enhanced perception of colours, sounds, and the passage of time would all have underlined the belief that they were in touch with their deity.
Ecstatic cries of delight
There is a famous report by the Greek historian Herodotus, written around 440 BCE, about ancient funeral rites practised by the Scythians, a nomadic people from central Asia. They would sit in closed tents where cannabis seeds were thrown onto hot stones to smoulder. It is highly probable that the seeds still carried enough pollen-bearing plant matter to give a psychoactive element to the smoke, as Herodotus writes that inhaling the fumes causes them to “shout for joy”.
This is by no means the earliest evidence of sacramental use of cannabis. In western China, in the grave of a shaman dated to 2700 BCE, the flowers of a psychoactive strain of cannabis were found along with seeds, stems and leaves. The flowers and seeds, weighing a total of 789 grams, had been placed in a basket and a bowl which were laid beside the head and feet of the shaman. Interestingly, there is no evidence that his people – the ancient culture of the Turpan Basin – used cannabis for food, seed oil, or fibre; its presence in his tomb clearly points to sacramental purposes.
Cannabis as a sacred plant
The use of cannabis a religious sacrament predates written history and evidence of its place as a sacred plant can be found in most ancient religions, including Buddhism, Shintoism, Sufism and Christianity; and among the Bantu, Pygmy, Zulu and Hottentot tribes of Africa. Several modern religions still practice the ceremonial consumption of psychoactive cannabis, for example Rastafari, while others consider it holy due to its many other properties, revering it as a symbol of strength, purity or wellness.
There are obvious reasons for this widespread use as a religious intoxicant. Cannabis grows easily and abundantly in almost every climate and is active in its natural form, requiring no processing other than heating to harness its mood-altering qualities. Most importantly, it inspires contemplation instead of mere intoxication.
Better understanding of life
Many contemporary cannabis users recount feelings of ‘oneness with God’, ‘peace and tranquility’, ‘reduced anxiety’, ‘a greater understanding of life’ and a ‘greater appreciation of music and art’, showing that although the shared religious frameworks surrounding its use may have fallen away or altered almost beyond recognition, the positive transcendental effects remain the same on an individual scale.
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Cannabis and religion From Southeast Asia to North America. Cannabis was (and is) a sacred plant for many people and has historically been used in religious ceremonies in many cultures.
Religions that use marijuana
And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, and the herb yielding seed…
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…
-The United States Constitution
In many different cultures and religions that predate the United States or Christianity, the cannabis plant has been used as a spiritual and religious sacrament. Much like the use of wine in Christianity, cannabis has also been used as part of spiritual rituals and ceremonies. From Hinduism to Rastafarianism to Christianity, many cultures and religions have adopted this plant.
By Rich Michaels
Hindus have used cannabis in religious ceremonies as early as 1000 BCE. The plant has been consumed in a ritual observing the goddess Shiva. Also, during the festival of Holi, the plant is consumed in a religious drink called bhang. According to the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report: “there is abundant evidence… which shows not only that ganja[cannabis] is offered to the god and consumed by these classes of worshippers, but that these customs are so intimately connected with their worship that they may be considered to form in some sense an integral part of it.” To outlaw the use of cannabis would be to outlaw traditional Hinduism, which is essentially what the U.S. has done.
While Hinduism (one of the worlds largest religions) is the most obvious example of religious cannabis, there are many other religions in the U.S. that have a history with the plant. In Christianity and Judaism, the “holy anointing oil” mentioned by the Old Testament had cannabis as one of the main ingredients. The more modern religion of Rastafarianism (recognized by the Supreme Court as a religion) is quite popular among youth and african-american culture. Bob Marley, a famous supporter of Rastafarianism explained cannabis as a symbol of religious freedom in his popular quote “The more man smoke herb, the more babylon fall.” Babylon is seen as an oppressive government that limits religious freedom… in other words, the exact government that the Founding Fathers did not want to make.
Even more recently has been the emergence of an entirely new religious philosophy: cantheism. Cantheism is a word that signifies any and all attitudes towards the cannabis plant as a religious experience. While not technically a religion itself, it is a philosophy that examines the inherent religious nature of man’s interaction with the cannabis plant. The current legal argument in the U.S. against cannabis is that the laws are constitutional because they prohibit no specific religion from growing or consuming this plant. The fact is, they are openly prohibiting all religions from performing an ancient religious action: interacting with the cannabis plant. My conclusion is that all laws that prohibit cannabis in any way contradict the Constitution of the United States on behalf of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and especially Rastafarianism and Cantheism.
Not only that, but the Constitution itself was written on hemp!
Religions that use marijuana And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, and the herb yielding seed… Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting