Today we use visit a cannabis dispensary medicinally and recreationally. In times past, and in some places still today, folks consider it sacred, a spiritual herb. It forms part of certain ceremonies and rituals over several centuries and worldwide too. Societies from today’s Rastafarians to ancient Taoists in China recognized its spiritual effects. As more and more folks use weed, they can easily understand why.
The Spirituality of Weed
Marijuana has many spiritual uses, all related to psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. THC causes several psychological and physiological effects, which include euphoria, calm, relaxation, and a sense of wellbeing. The U.S. National Library of Medicine says folks have been using it since the third millennium BC in meditation, ceremonies, rituals, and other spiritual practices. We still feel these effects today.
Around two decades ago, farmers in Xinjiang province, western China, found the mummy of a man. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the discovery provides the earliest evidence of marijuana used in ancient China as a sacred herb. Well dressed and clearly respected, perhaps a shaman, his grave held interesting items, including a bow, harp, and even 789 grams of marijuana.
Scientists dated him 2,700 years old, yet his weed preserved so well that scientists were able to both identify it as cannabis and even find THC still present in its leaves. Researchers believe it used for its psychoactive effects, likely to aid in shamanistic ritual, such as possibly divination. Despite being in China, the man was Caucasian, of the Indo-European tribe Gushi. They were nomads.
They were also not alone in their love for weed back then. Cannabis listed as a medicinal herb in the first century AD already. Described as having many therapeutic uses, the author also made note of its psychoactive and spiritual effects, claiming, “Prolonged consumption frees the spirit light and lightens the body.” He said it made users see ghosts. Must have been especially potent buds.
Taoism also has strong ties to cannabis. The ancient spiritual practice relies heavily on using marijuana to progress on their spiritual path and beyond into the mortal plane. They used cannabis incense, but in today’s China, the Uighurs still consider it integral to their culture. Originating from the western province, the Uighurs now dot the entire Chinese country and are famous for dealing hashish.
As the Chinese were embracing cannabis, the rest of Asia was also discovering its spiritual uses. It was particularly widespread in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, and India. As its popularity grew, the U.S. National Library of Medicine explains its import in Hinduism. In fact, the Atherva Veda, an ancient Hindu text from 1,200 BC, listed it among four other plants as having spiritual and medicinal properties.
It remains part of Hinduism today, associated with Shiva, the Hindu god who uses it for meditation. Hindus today mix it with milk and drink it, called bhang. They also smoke it, called Ganga, and make charas, a hash made by rubbing resin between the fingers. Charas is especially special, smoked in chillums and essential at Hindu festivals, such as Holi. It is also popular among the nomadic Sadhus.
From southern Siberia and central Asia come the Scythians of old. Skilled archers, warriors, and nomadic horse folk, their history shows they loved a good toke. Herodotus wrote of their cannabis use, saying they would build a tent, vaporize marijuana on hot stones, and breathe in its smoke. It was likely a spiritual cleansing ritual. Rumor has it they would “howl with joy” when inhaling its vapors.
Other proof of Scythian reverence for weed includes seeds found in leather pouches buried with them. More rumor has it that the Scythians brought cannabis to Europe, being the first to introduce it there. Cannabis history in Europe is scarce. We know only that they saw it mostly as a medicinal plant. However, Norse pagans used it plenty, and it has links to Freya, the love, beauty, and fertility goddess.
Folks in the Middle East used weed too. The Zoroastrians were first, an ancient Persian religious group around long before Islam. You find cannabis mentioned as the “good narcotic” in the sacred Zoroastrian text: The Avesta. Then, the Assyrians began using it in incense, with notes of this in books dating from as far back as the 7th century BC. You also find mention in the Jewish Talmud, which notes its euphoria.
Cannabis was popular and widespread in the Middle East by the 11th century. Islamic mystics used it extensively, particularly the Sufi. Even the famous novel 1001 Arabian Nights mentions marijuana. The large Muslim population in this area at the time is likely why it was so popular. Islamic law forbids the use of alcohol, so folks living there use copious amounts of cannabis instead.
Some see reference of cannabis in the Bible, and heavily too. Kaneh bosm, which is the Hebrew word for cannabis, might have been a mistranslation of calamus, a plant with closer relation to the iris than marijuana. If true, then the Old Testament mentions cannabis several times, in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Song of Songs. There are other references too.
God tells Moses in Exodus to infuse a sacred oil from kaneh bosm with olive oil as the carrier oil and other herbs, including cassia, myrrh, and cinnamon. King Solomon also has ties to cannabis. The man possessing great knowledge and wisdom had marijuana growing on his grave many years after he died, as the legends claim. Certainly, the bible speaks highly of cannabis.
Rastafarianism is undeniably the religion most associated with the spiritual use of marijuana. Based on Old Testament teachings, the Rastafari are a relatively new religious group. Weed is the core element of their beliefs, which they deem necessary from their interpretation of many Biblical passages. God’s instruction to eat all herbs in the land must include cannabis. God specifically put it here for human use.
For Rastafari, marijuana brings them closer to God, whom they call Jah. They use it ceremoniously; in rituals, which they call “reasonings.” A reasoning involves peer discussions, debates, prayer, and deep meditation, and these affairs are very serious. The stereotype of Rastafari smoking weed all day with reggae music blaring in the background is far from their actual reality.
Religions around the world have been using cannabis centuries now. Tribes used it, nations too. Because of the psychoactive properties of THC, many believe it awakens their spirituality. Regardless your reasons for using it, nobody can deny its extraordinary effects. To see for yourself, search “cannabis dispensary near me.” You can even order weed if you live in California.