Would you believe that cannabis usage dates back to BC/BCE in every single religion?
It may seem strange to connect religion to cannabis, but there’s a surprisingly deep connection. Through the lens of religion, everything created on this earth is made for us to use. Keep reading to find out how cannabis relates to different religions and cultures.
But, before reading, understand that this information is based on research, evidence, and well… passion. To avoid misconceptions, doing your research is advised. Also, this is information-heavy and mind-boggling too, so prepare for the ride, folks.
Jumping into learning about cannabis and religion, first, we’ll be looking through the lens of Christianity. A Polish etymologist, Sula Benet, reviewed the Old Testament and noticed a discrepancy when cannabis was mentioned in the Bible. It was mistranslated when it was originally translated from Hebrew to Greek as a plant to make fragrances.
Moses was said to make a holy oil consisting of myrrh, sweet cinnamon, kaneh-bosm, and cassia. These ingredients were said to be added by Moses himself. But, since the original text was changed from Hebrew to Greek, incorrect translation changed word meaning. What was once cannabis in Hebrew, became simply “a plant for fragrances” in Greek.
To dive deeper into this, the religion of Judaism as we know dates back thousands of years, and in addition to the Psalm, Moses spoke of the same plant: kaneh-bosm in Exodus 30:22-30: Then, in the 16th century Cairo, Rabbi ben Solomon ibn Abi Zimra also shined light upon this plant and how it can be of benefit.
Psalm 104:14, states that God created herbs for humanity. To this day those trying to diminish stigmas on CBD also say this. The epic thing is, in all three Abrahamic religions, Cannabis is not shunned or looked down upon but is said to be used for its benefits and aid. It could be used in instances needed to heal or relieve pain. Moreover, there are more mentions in Genesis as well.
Finally, although there is no historical mention of cannabis in Islam, some scholars have deemed medicinal cannabis as okay. Intoxicating amounts aren’t, which is the same as all the other Abrahamic religions.
Moving onto Buddhism, similar things are said about cannabis. In Buddhism, there are the Five Precepts also known as the Pancha Sila, and they consist of “pillars,” for Buddhists to follow. The fifth one is: “I observe, refraining from taking any intoxicant or drug.” Now, although the teachings of Buddha did not specifically prohibit the use of cannabis, it did warn its believers about intoxication. Somewhere must not go to the point where they might be unable to properly follow the teachings. Throughout time, many monks have been found smoking marijuana for its therapeutic effects, but there has been an up-and-down discussion on whether it should be legal or not, and for that, the battle continues today. To wrap up the religious aspect, many have depicted that Buddha might have been holding cannabis in the bowl of soma.
Finally, taking another one of the major religions into account, Hinduism has quite a history with cannabis. Interestingly enough, some Hindus believe that cannabis was sent as compassion from God so that humanity could decrease their fear and feel the joyous aspects of life. Some individuals believe that it was a drop of nectar that was sent from heaven.
Many people, also state that the two, Gods and Demons, whisked the milk in the ocean to obtain amrita (amrita is Sanskrit for immortality). From there a drop touched the earth, and from there sprouted a plant of cannabis. Shiva and other gods in Hinduism took part in this, and Shiva himself has been historically known to smoke cannabis as well as be in deep meditation while smoking the plant.
Nowadays, cannabis drinks are widely ingested in parts of India during religious festivals such as Maha Shivaratri, during which Nepal lifts its ban every year for the festival.
Countries, Culture, and Religion
Touching upon the countries now, the consumption of cannabis in China ended around 200 C.E., but by then it was just being introduced to India, as China borders India. Cannabis in India and Hinduism can be popular, but in China, it was historically popular too. Taoist Shamans used cannabis with ginseng because it was believed their spirit would have a positive effect from it. And, as some say, it would help cast their spirits to the future.
However, cannabis was something that was looked at from the lens of being high in power, which is why only religious officials could use it for a certain time. However, by 200 C.E., the Han Dynasty had left Taoism for Confucianism, and the use of cannabis was abandoned.
Touching a bit upon Ancient Greece, it can be seen that Herodotus, who was a Greek Historian, took part in religious ceremonies. Tents would be set up with hemp leaves burning in the center of them. This has been happening since the 5th century B.C.E. And not just in Greece, but Assyrians used cannabis as incense for general purposes. Such as for funerary rituals, which have been happening since the 9th century B.C.E.
What About Now?
So much history, are you tired of it? Let’s talk about something that took place fairly recently compared to these historical instances. Bob Marley, a Jamaican singer was a significant reason cannabis became popularized in America. Shockingly, the use of cannabis was looked down upon for many years, in many places, no matter how much exposure and popularity was spread by Bob Marley and other advocates. Then, in 1993 when the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act came into play, was when under the legal law, cannabis use would be allowed for spiritual and religious purposes. Though it simply stated that every person can practice their religion freely, it did not say anything specific about cannabis. However, starting earlier, especially for Hinduism, if someone is incorporating cannabis into their life for religious reasons, then that would be okay.