The Tao Of Cannabis

By John Walker

The use of cannabis in spiritual and religious rituals and ceremonies has taken place since the 5th to 2nd centuries BC. Ancient Hebrews of Judeo-Christian heritage used cannabis anointing oil to confirm priests and later kings and prophets. The anointing oil was called Kaneh Bosom and is referred to in the Torah as an incense from “Heaven’s Tree.” In Islam, the Sufi order has historically engaged in cannabis use for spiritual exploration and expression as well.

Virtually all cultures, whether African, Asian, European, or Middle Eastern, have included the use of cannabis in religious ceremony and referred to it in spiritual texts and historical documents.

Cannabis was used in Indian and Hindu cultures as early as 5000 years ago. It is mentioned several times in the three oldest writings of Hinduism, the Vedas. It is prized for its aromatic quality and is considered a gift to the god Shiva when burned.

In some ancient African cultures cannabis was used spiritually and in conjunction with healing practices, which were typically one in the same. Smoking weed and entering a trance-like state would calm the soul allowing restoration of one’s appetite or even cure hemorrhoids, for example. A healthy body was part of the path to spiritual enlightenment and cannabis aided in this path.

In early historical writings, the Greeks documented cannabis use during religious expression over 2500 years ago. The Greek writer and philosopher Herodotus wrote about citizens taking cannabis steam baths for detoxifying and for cleaning the pores of the skin. Again, a healthier body promoting spiritual progression.

Cannabis has been used in ancient China during Taoist rituals and also alongside health practices. The belief was that cannabis-induced euphoria allowed one to communicate with the supernatural.

Early Germanic tribes utilized cannabis in an erotic harvest festival focused on the Norse goddess Freya. She was the goddess of hemp and her satisfaction; through worship, she ensured a good crop and many children.

The Celts included cannabis during religious activity, usually in the form of hashish. Archaeological evidence unearthed in Halstatt, the birthplace of Celtic culture, has indicated these practices.

We have seen the use of cannabis in a religious and spiritual context repeatedly throughout history and even into modern times. The flower children of the hippie movement in the American 1960’s is a good example. Getting high, sitting on the cushion and chanting om provided an alternative to religions stuffy old rules and opened the mind to the divine.

By far the largest and most familiar modern use of cannabis in religious practice is the Rastafari movement of Jamaica, which began during the 1930’s. The Judeo-Christian based belief system has spread throughout North and South America taking spiritual marijuana use with it. Smoking or ingesting Ganja is considered worshiping God in and of itself. It is used during prayer, Bible study, and meditation.

The use of cannabis during religious and spiritual activity has a long and heavily documented history. Whether getting high on pot is an avenue to the spirit is beyond this writer’s expertise. I can say, however, that when I use marijuana, I notice an expansion of thought and I seem to at least be more open to the possibility of spiritual enlightenment. Through anecdotal and archeological evidence it appears our ancients, the women, and men of the past, had learned about the positive use of cannabis for spiritual fulfillment and found that it worked for them. They have passed their sacred knowledge to us and it is for the brave souls that we are,  to discover whether or not The Tao of Cannabis is indeed our divine way.