It’s no secret that cannabis facilitates spiritual moments. Therefore, it is not surprising that numerous world faiths have used and continue to employ the plant in some capacity. On sacred days, Hindus consume cannabis-infused bhang, Scythians used to hotbox tents as a funeral rite, and Sufi Muslims used cannabis to lift their spirits. Let’s see how cannabis is used in world religions.
Cannabis’ psychoactive properties affect our perspectives on the world. It nourishes our creative abilities, enables us to view things from a new perspective, and evokes profound philosophical issues. It is therefore not surprising that faiths throughout history have used cannabis to facilitate a closer relationship with the divine.
When one stops to consider it, the genuine nature of reality jolts the mind. There are no definitive explanations for our existence. On a lump of rock, we are cruising through an infinite cosmos. Contrary to all chances, our cosmic chariot created a narrow slice of atmosphere that allowed millions of species of fungi, plants, and animals to evolve and flourish.
Then, humans evolved. Indeed, we are odd animals. Along the way, a bipedal apelike mammal with self-awareness evolved. This attribute not only contributed to the development of language and the capacity for self-reflection, but it also led to abstract thoughts of other realms, superior entities, and intelligent design.
THE ORIGINS OF RELIGION
Our forefathers were more attuned to the magical essence of reality thousands of years ago. The majority of their lives were guided by natural phenomena, the will of the gods, and spiritual superstitions before the advent of modern diversions. Humans all around the world created religions as a means of making sense of their perplexing environment.
Some scholars assert that religion is the product of evolutionary processes. Academic dissidents offer more contentious origins. Terence McKenna refers to his stoned ape theory, which holds that the consumption of psilocybin mushrooms gave rise to abstract ideas about gods and spiritual realms.
Others, such as evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar, attribute the emergence of religion to a societal adaptation. Religion, according to Dunbar, arose as a “group-level adaptation” that served as a “sort of glue that ties society together.”
Regardless of the genesis of religion, cannabis plays an essential role in numerous ancient belief systems. However, the spiritual usage of cannabis is also prevalent nowadays. Examine how many religions have utilized cannabis in their rituals, rites, and offerings throughout history.
CANNABIS IN TRADITIONAL CHINESE SPIRITUALITY
how cannabis is used in world religions? Ancient China was the birthplace of cannabis use in human history. Prior to the emergence of more organized faiths, the inhabitants of this region had shamanistic and animistic worldviews. In the Yellow River Valley, religious traditions of the Yangshao culture provide evidence of this. Here, tombs dating from 4,500–3,750 BCE include burial goods indicating a belief in the afterlife.
Animism, the worship of nature’s personifications, was a component of ancient Chinese religious systems. This primitive system eventually evolved more order and a pantheon of over 200 gods. People of the era also had a significant believe in the supernatural, with a focus on ghosts, ancestor worship, dragon spirits, and divination.
There were also shamanic practitioners in ancient China. These mythical creatures, known as “wu,” are described as having control over the weather, the ability to converse with spirits, and spent a great deal of time gathering magical herbs to alleviate illness.
It is unknown how cannabis is utilized in this world of spirits, gods, and magic. Nonetheless, research implies that marijuana and spirituality have some sort of relationship. Archaeologists discovered cannabis leaves, stems, and flowers in the Yanghai Tombs, located in the northwest of contemporary China and dating back 2,500 years. Unbelievably, the cellular structure and trichomes of these samples have stayed intact over the centuries.
The discovery of cannabis in tombs shows a spiritual usage of the plant, boosting the possibility that the herb was utilized in ancient China’s shamanic and animist systems. However, non-preserved samples would have perished thousands of years ago, making it hard to tell precisely how and where these ancient people utilized cannabis for spiritual purposes.
TAOISM AND MARIJUANA
The primary tenet of Taoism is to go with the flow. The Taoist philosophy views the universe as a single, interconnected conscious force. The “Tao” is the source, substance, and basic energy that permeates and animates all things. From this perspective alone, it appears that a lot of marijuana was used in order to reach this cosmic conclusion.
Taoism emerged in China at least as early as the fourth century BCE. The ancient Chinese philosopher and author Lao Tzu, who may or may not have lived, is credited by historians as the religion’s founder. Those who follow the Tao strive to live with spontaneity, naturalness, and simplicity. Followers also prioritize compassion, frugality, and humility, known as the Three Treasures.
Taoists practice alchemy in an effort to attain immortality. They engage in rituals, exercises, and intense spiritual excursions, which they think link them with cosmic energies and prolong their biological lives.
Given that ancient China is the cradle of historical cannabis use and that Taoist rituals are so surreal and psychedelic, it is logical that cannabis played a role in the religion. It turns out that the Taoists were not exactly averse to the herb.
Certain religious sects even deified cannabis. The cult of Magu (Miss Hemp) equated this Toaist xian (immortal) with the elixir of life during the Tang dynasty. According to Taoist tradition, Magu inhabited the sacred Mount Tai, where devotees gathered cannabis on the seventh day of the seventh month in conjunction with Taoist banquets.
Additionally, Taoist scriptures demonstrate the significance of cannabis within this worldview. The 570 AD Taoist compendium Wushang Biyao (“Supreme Secret Essentials”) describes the usage of cannabis in incense burners during rituals as well as the Taoist propensity to experiment with mind-altering smoking.
Let’s keep our reading and learn how cannabis is used in world religions.
SHINTOISM: THE EARLY SPIRITUALITY OF CANNABIS IN JAPAN
The hemp plant has a long history in Japan. Indigenous peoples on the island used the plant to produce clothing and baskets, as well as eat its seeds. It is therefore not surprising that the ancient religion of Shintoism regarded cannabis highly.
Shintoism, or “the way of the gods,” the indigenous religion of Japan, is as old as the nation itself. Shintoism is notably distinct from other religions due to its decentralized belief structure. The religion was not created by a single individual, and services and preaching are uncommon. Shintoism originated instead from Japan’s indigenous culture and people. Shinto adherents believe in sacred spirits known as kami, which assume the shape of natural elements, species, and buildings such as trees, mountains, and the wind.
Shinto has no objective morality and no precise philosophy on right and wrong, but it admits that there is no such thing as a flawless human. The worldview of the religion is superstitious and spiritual. Although humans are viewed as innately virtuous, they are susceptible to the actions of evil spirits.
But what can a mere mortal do against such a foe? Grab some cannabis, naturally! In Shintoism, cannabis has spiritual value. The herb is regarded by adherents as a cleaning plant capable of driving away evil spirits. Shinto priests wave bundles of cannabis over afflicted people in order to banish these annoying evil spirits.
BUDDHISM AND MARIJUANA
Regarding cannabis, Buddhists hold differing viewpoints. Some groups are more accepting of cannabis use, while others denounce it vehemently. On his way to enlightenment, Gautama Buddha ate one hemp seed per day for six years.
Buddhism began in ancient India during the sixth and fourth centuries BCE. Over time, the teachings of Gautama Buddha evolved into a vast body of spiritual traditions and practices. Buddhism’s core tenets include karma, rebirth, freedom from the cycle of rebirth, and the attainment of nirvana (the transcendence of suffering).
Buddhists also adhere to a series of tenets called the Five Precepts. The Fifth Precept particularly prohibits alcohol and drug intoxication. It would appear that this criteria should fully exclude cannabis from consideration. However, the pages of the Mahakala Tantra (an eight-chapter book) discuss the medical use of cannabis and other mind-altering substances.
Cannabis is seen differently by the three principal schools of Buddhism.
Buddhism rooted in Theravada
As the oldest current Buddhist school, Theravada (School of the Elders) retains a conservative view of cannabis and takes the Fifth Precept far more seriously than other branches, resulting in a more stringent anti-drug attitude.
how cannabis is used in world religions? Mahayana (Great Vehicle) acknowledges the primary Buddhist scriptures and early teachings, but has added its own concepts and texts to its branch. Mahayana places a greater focus on the bodhisattva road (the path to Buddhahood) and has a more lenient stance on cannabis. Their ethical code emphasizes that anything beneficial to a person should be welcomed, suggesting at the very least a tolerance for medical marijuana.
The Vajrayana school (Way of the Diamond) asserts that it provides a quicker road to enlightenment and holds karma in high respect. This institution is the most tolerant of marijuana and other taboos. It urges adherents to find the essence of purity in everything, even sex and narcotics like marijuana.
ANCIENT EGYPT: PROOF OF CANNABIS AND SPIRITUALITY?
The ancient Egyptian religion was centered on a pantheon of gods that ruled both nature and human culture. Followers deified energies and living forms in the surrounding environment, including elements and some animal features. Others centered on the pharaohs, who were thought to possess divine abilities.
The ancient Egyptians used cannabis for industrial and therapeutic uses, but the herb’s exact religious and ceremonial applications are unknown. Nonetheless, in studying mummified pharaohs, researchers have uncovered signs of cannabis use. Due to their holy status, these results show that the herb is utilized in a religious context. In addition to cocaine and nicotine, researchers discovered a considerable amount of THC in a mummy going back to 950 BCE. Cannabis pollen was also discovered on the 1213 BCE mummy of Ramesses II.
HINDUISM AND MARIJUANA
Cannabis and spirituality go hand in hand throughout Hinduism. As one of the world’s oldest religions, the faith dates back more than 4,000 years. Reincarnation, karma, the belief in the soul (atman), and salvation that terminates the cycle of rebirth are fundamental Hindu beliefs (moksha).
Cannabis is revered by Hindus as a sacrament, an offering, and a material derived from the blood of Shiva, one of the religion’s three deities. Even the sacred books of the religion, known as the Vedas, praise cannabis as holy. The pages provide descriptions of five sacred plants. Cannabis is a member of this group, and some Hindus believe a guardian angel inhabits its leaves. Additionally, cannabis is described as a “liberator” and a “spring of enjoyment” in the Vedas.
Bhang also plays a vital role in Hindu celebrations. During Shivratri (the night of Shiva) and Holi, this psychoactive beverage prepared from cannabis, milk, and flavorful herbs induces an altered state of awareness (the festival of colours).
JUDAISM AND MARIJUANA
Christianity and the monotheistic religion of Judaism share many similarities. Jews deny that Jesus is the messiah, which is one of the key beliefs that separates them from Christians, but they also emphasize the value of forgiveness, prayer, fasting (ta’anit), and obedience to God’s rules.
how cannabis is used in world religions? Well. the usage of cannabis in ancient Judaism is still a matter of contention. In 2020, Israeli investigators discovered signs of the herb on artifacts from a Tel Arad shrine from the seventh century BCE. Some academics think that the name “kaneh bosem” (קנה בושם) relates to cannabis, a plant used in the holy anointing oil in the Book of Exodus. Others, however, dispute this interpretation and claim that it relates to other plant species.
Despite the traditional use of cannabis in Judaism, contemporary rabbis have a varied position on the subject of marijuana. In 1978, the Orthodox rabbi Moshe Feinstein reminded his congregation of the banned status of cannabis under Jewish law and how the herb hinders the faithful’s ability to pray and study the Torah. Other contemporary rabbis hold a contrary viewpoint. Some proponents of medicinal cannabis claim that the plant is kosher for Passover.
CHRISTIANITY AND MARIJUANA
Similar to Judaism, Christians share divergent opinions on marijuana. The use of cannabis is condemned by more conservative religious groups, including the Orthodox, Catholic, and some Protestant religions. However, other Protestant denominations, including the Presbyterian Church, the United Church of Christ, and the Episcopal Church, approve the use of medical marijuana.
Some historians assert that the Bible indirectly references cannabis: “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed on the face of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall consume them as food others refute this alleged excuse for cannabis use by citing scriptures such as 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober-minded; be vigilant.” Your opponent, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion in search of someone to devour.”
Some biblical scholars have carried the argument in favor of cannabis one step further. On the basis of the kaneh bosem allegation, they argue that Jesus and his disciples included cannabis in their healing ointment.
ISLAM AND MARIJUANA
Cannabis falls into a gray area, despite the fact that Islam endorses what are regarded as traditional customs. The major religious source, the Quran, employs the term “haram” to condemn various behaviors, including alcohol usage. Although the Muslim prophet Muhammad acknowledged that alcohol had some medical use, he asserted that its propensity for sin much outweighed its benefits.
Why then did Muhammad not prohibit the usage of marijuana? Evidently, he was unaware that it existed. Although cannabis was used as an intoxicant in India and Iran as early as 1000 BCE, the Middle East did not experiment with hashish until 1,800 years later, two centuries after the death of Muhammad.
Muhammad, however, remarked in one of his hadiths (sayings): “If much intoxicates, then even a small amount is forbidden” It is possible that, had he been aware of cannabis, he would have classified it as haram alongside alcohol.
Cannabis served a spiritual function within the mystic branch of Islam. This technique is known as Sufism, and its adherents live an ascetic existence. Through fasting and prayer, they aim to purify the soul and reject all material possessions.
Qutb ad-Dn Hayder, a Persian Sufi mystic, was enamoured of cannabis and sparked a surge in its popularity throughout the Islamic world. Supposedly, while roaming through the countryside, Haydar stumbled upon cannabis and realized the divine and joyous essence of the plant. Haydar went to his followers after what seemed like a wonderful day and told them, “Almighty God has bestowed upon you as a particular favor the benefits of this plant, which will dispel the shadows that cloud your souls and lift your spirits.”
According to scholars, Haydar wished to conceal the divine effects of cannabis. However, word soon got out. The spiritual usage of cannabis expanded to Syria, Egypt, and Iraq, where it came to be known as “Haydar’s Lady.”
THE SCYTHIAN CULT AND MARIJUANA
how cannabis is used in world religions? These are the Scythians. Those Scythians! Those with a penchant for history will enjoy studying this Dothraki-like civilization. This culture of horse-riding Aryan warriors thrived on the Pontic steppe, which stretches from the northern Black Sea coast to western Kazakhstan.
When Scythian tribes were not inventing more lethal arrows or conquering neighboring civilizations, they put up hotboxes and smoked. However, their cannabis use has a somber tone. The herb was utilized during funeral ceremonies. Scythians would purify themselves after burials by sitting in tents filled with cannabis smoke.
Herodotus, an ancient Greek author, described this practice as follows: “…the Scythians have taken some of these hemp seeds, crept under their garments, and placed them on red-hot stones.” He further discussed the apparent results of this behavior, stating, “The Scythians, carried by this smoke, shout loudly.”
MARIJUANA IN GERMANIC HEATHENRY
how cannabis is used in world religions? Germanic paganism is the religion practiced by Germanic people from the Iron Age to the Middle Ages. Germanic peoples venerated a vast pantheon of gods, including Odin, Thor, Balder, Loki, and Freyja. Ofttimes, appeasing these gods necessitated evil practices, including as human sacrifice in various ways.
There is little evidence linking cannabis usage to spiritual practices within this religious system. Nonetheless, practitioners may have connected cannabis to Freyja, the Norse goddess of love and fertility.
MARIJUANA IN RASTAFARIANISM
how cannabis is used in world religions? Rastafari must be mentioned in any article about marijuana and religion. This cannabis-friendly religion, also known as Rastafarianism, shares many similarities with both Judaism and Christianity. The Bible is revered as a holy text by adherents of the faith. They are monotheists who worship Jah, the biblical abbreviation for Jehovah. Moreover, Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974, is viewed by Rastafari adherents as the second coming of Christ, which distinguishes it from Christianity.
Rastafarians adhere to a number of essential practices. Numerous devoted followers adhere to an Ital diet, which emphasizes locally and organically cultivated food. The majority of Rastas adhere to the dietary requirements outlined in the Book of Leviticus and avoid eating pork and crustaceans, while others opt for a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Cannabis is also an integral part of Rastafari’s spiritual activities. Rastafarians consume cannabis in a ritualistic fashion. They frequently employ the plant during “groundings.” These gatherings foster bonds amongst followers with similar beliefs. Typically, they feature drumming, smoking cannabis, and singing hymns.
Rastafarians believe that biblical texts that seem to allude to cannabis actually pertain to the plant. They regard the plant as a sacrament that induces sentiments of serenity and love, promotes introspection, and aids in the realization of one’s inner divinity.
CANTHEISM AND MARIJUANA
Although cannabis played a minor role in ancient religions, modern spiritual systems have elevated it to the theological center. how cannabis is used in world religions? Cantheism, a new religion, employs cannabis as a sacrament to foster community and connection.
Cantheism, founded in 1996 by cannabis activist Chris Conrad, lacks dogma, has only flexible rituals and regulations, and combines marijuana and spirituality. Participants in a Cantheist service gather on a Sunday afternoon, each brings a flower to offer, and the altar incorporates a living plant and hemp twine.
To begin the ceremony, participants sit in a circle and recite the creed. The leader of the ritual states, “I value Cannabis Hemp as a sacrament that connects me to my community and to myself,” to which the attendees respond, “Therefore, we share it with gratitude and reverence for its resinous powers.”
We hope this article has given you information about how cannabis is used in world religions.
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