The use of the holy herb can certainly lead to an experience that profoundly changes one’s outlook on life and the world around them. When an experience helps one gain insight into the soul and feel inner peace, it is no wonder that it would be considered integral in many cultures to the path of enlightenment and built upon as a cornerstone of faith. This seemingly innocuous herb has been cultivated alongside civilization for millennia, and along the way, has been adopted into many faiths. Here are 5 religions that have embraced the beneficial psychological aspects of cannabis for spiritual purposes.
The Atharva Veda is estimated to have been written between 2,000 and 1,4000 BCE. It lists cannabis as one of the “five sacred plants.” Some tales say that cannabis was created by Shiva from his own body to cleanse the waters of the ocean to create the elixir of life, resulting in the epithet angaja or “body-born.” The word ganja most likely originated from this term. Others say that when the elixir spilled onto the earth, cannabis sprung up from where the drops fell.
There are three types of cannabis used in India and Nepal. Bhang is a milky, spicy drink made from the leaves and buds, Ganja is the smoked buds, and charas or hashish is the resinous glands of the plant removed and smoked by themselves.
During the festivals of Holi (the Festival of Colors) and Maha Shivaratri (The Great Night of Shiva), bhang is consumed to purify the body and soul, cleansing one of sin. While drinking of bhang with religious intent is considered a holy act, foolish drinking of it without rites is considered a sin. It is because of cannabis that Shiva is often referred to as the “Lord of the Bhang”.
2. Germanic paganism (Norse mythology)
The cannabis plant, according to Norse mythology, has ties to the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility: Freyja. It was believed that the divine feminine energy of Freyja resided within the plant itself and consuming the flowers of the plant would allow her essence to enter one’s own body.
Often called the “beginning and the end”, cannabis and hemp were considered an integral part of the cycle of life, from the essence of the mother, to swaddling clothes, in spirituality, and finally, as a death shroud. The harvesting of cannabis was celebrated with an erotic festival. Burial sites have been unearthed that revealed hemp cloth and cannabis seeds placed with the dead.
The belief system most easily recognized as being embodied by the Yin and Yang symbol, Taoism dates back as far as 4th century China. Taoist texts have noted the effective use of cannabis incense as a cleansing tool. Cannabis was said to help one achieve the state of “naturalness”, by relieving the anointed of selfish desires and aiding in the appreciation of beauty and simplicity. Taoist teachings emphasize
Cannabis was said to help one achieve the state of “naturalness”, by relieving the anointed of selfish desires and aiding in the appreciation of beauty and simplicity. Taoist teachings emphasize harmony and balance of all things within the universe.
Undoubtedly the most well-known association with cannabis comes from the Rastafari religion, which praises cannabis and uses it religiously in various ceremonies. The red, gold, and green colors of the religion harken back to both the first three chakras on the human body, and the flag of Ethiopia, where the belief system originated.
Used to heighten consciousness, increase pleasure in life, relax, and dispell negative energies, the smoking of cannabis is a regular practice. It is believed through its use, Man may be brought closer to the Creator, Jah. Often cited is Revelation 22:2
“The river of life proceeded to flow from the throne of God, and on either side of the bank there was the tree of life, and the leaf from that tree is for the healing of the nations.”
5. Modern religious sects
Within the last century, several modern faiths and New Age sects have embraced cannabis as a sacrament. Among them are THC Ministries, Temple 420, Green Faith Ministries, Cantheism, The Cannabis Assembly, The Church of the Universe, The Free Marijuana Church of Honolulu, and The First Church of Cannabis, to name a few.
What would you feel if your sincerely held religious belief suddenly found its sacrament to be illegal? If Communal wine were outlawed? If the bread was forbidden? Share your views on social media or in the comments below.