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Over the past few weeks, our many uses of hemp series has covered the use of the cannabis plant in Fuel, Paper, Textiles, Building Materials, Food and Medicine.

Finally, we come to cannabis and its use in spirituality.

Lots of people use cannabis because they enjoy how it makes them feel – and this is the case because our bodies are programmed to respond to cannabinoids with our endocannabinoid system.

Millions of people in the UK alone use cannabis on a regular basis.  People from all walks of life use it to chill out, relax and feel good about themselves. However this feature is going to take a look at cannabis use in different religions from across the planet and across time:

Cannabis and Rastafarianism

Some people take the belief of cannabis’ spiritual use very seriously – namely Rastafarians (a form of Christianity originating in Jamaica).  This religious movement which embraces cannabis is now recognized worldwide, thanks in part to the popularity of reggae musicians such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, amongst many others.

Rastafarians believe that cannabis brings them closer to Jah (God), and according to Wikipedia, “They are not surprised that it is illegal, seeing it as a powerful substance that opens people’s minds to the truth — something the Babylon system, they reason, clearly does not want.  They contrast it to alcohol and other drugs, which they feel destroy the mind…  They hold that the smoking of cannabis enjoys Biblical sanction, and is an aid to meditation and religious observance.”

There are several parts of the bible which Rastafarians believe show God’s justification for ‘herb’:

Genesis 1:11 “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit-tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.”

Genesis 1:29 “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb-bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat (taken from Wikipedia).

Cannabis and Other Religions

Cannabis smoked through a Chilum in India

Taoist shamans used cannabis with other herbs like ginseng as they believe it showed them the future – cannabis was reserved for religious use and not for the public. This was abandoned around 200 C.E. along with Taoism.

Around this time (200 C.E.) hemp’s use was becoming popular in India. Leafly reports that “It is said that the gods sent hemp out of compassion for the human race so that they may attain delight, lose fear, and increase sexual desires. Other Hindu stories suggest cannabis originated from a spot of nectar dropped from Heaven. More popular is a theory that both gods and demons churned the milk ocean to obtain amrita, Sanskrit for immortality, and received cannabis as a result. Whichever story you believe, there’s no doubting that cannabis holds a sacred spot in the Hindu faith. ”

Buddha is sometimes depicted holding a bowl of “soma” or cannabis leaves, and in Tibet Buddhist practitioners would often consume cannabis to facilitate meditation or heighten awareness during religious ceremonies. (Source – Leafly)

Herodotus - The Father of History
Herodotus – The Father of History

There’s a Greek historian from the fifth-century B.C.E called Herodotus that wrote that Scythians burned hemp on wooden tripods and inhaled the smoke for ritualistic and euphoric purposes. Cannabis was also used as an incense by the Assyrians to ward off evil spirits

Cannabis and Cantheism

Cantheism is a word that signifies any and all attitudes towards the cannabis plant as a religious experience. While not technically a religion itself, it is a philosophy that examines the inherent religious nature of man’s interaction with the cannabis plant. -Masscan.org

There’s also a relatively new Church of Cannabis in the US, applying cannabis’s spiritual use to Christianity.

Conclusion

Cannabis is has been used spiritually for thousands of years and many people today still find religious and spiritual benefit from using the cannabis plant.

As demonstrated, the cannabis plant can be used in a multitude of ways which could help mankind, and it is an injustice that hemp is not recognised by many as a safe alternative to currently popular methods of production of things like Fuel, Paper, Textiles, Building Materials, Food and Medicine.

I hope that with these articles I can raise some awareness for hemp, and persuade people that it can be used safely as an alternative to industries that are currently doing untold amounts of damage to our planet. Oh, and let’s not forget that cannabis has not been responsible for a single direct death throughout recorded history.

Free the hemp plant – free cannabis!

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