MARIJUANA IN INDIA
India appears to be the place where the most direct reference to cannabis use in religion is recorded. Very early in history there are references of trade with Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China.
In Indian tradition marijuana is associated with immortality. There is a complex myth of the churning of the Ocean of Milk by the gods, their joint act of creation. They were in search of Amrita, the elixir of eternal life. When the gods, helped by demons, churned the ocean to obtain Amrita, one of the resulting nectars was cannabis. After churning the ocean, the demons attempted to gain control of Amrita (marijuana), but the gods were able to prevent this seizure, giving cannabis the name Vijaya (“victory”) to commemorate their success.
Other ancient Indian names for marijuana were “sacred grass”, “hero leaved”, “joy”, “rejoicer”, “desired in the three world”, “gods’ food”, “fountain of pleasures”, and “Shiva’s plant”.
Early Indian legends maintained that the angel of mankind lived in the leaves of the marijuana plant. It was so sacred that it was reputed to deter evil and cleanse its user of sin. In Hindu mythology, hemp is a holy plant given to man for the “welfare of mankind” and is considered to be one of the divine nectars able to give man anything from good health, to long life, to visions of the gods. Nectar is defined as the fabled drink of the gods.
Tradition maintains that when nectar of Amrita dropped from heaven, that cannabis sprouted from it. In Hindu mythology, Amrita means immortality; also the ambrosial drink which produced it. In India hemp is made into a drink and is reputed to be the favorite drink of Indra (the King of the Indian gods). Tradition maintains that the god Indra gave marijuana to the people so that they might attain elevated states of consciousness, delight in worldly joy, and freedom from fear.
Ambrosia: a name given to anything that confers immortality. 1.)The food of the gods. 2.) The ointment of the gods, which preserved even the dead from decay (Peck, Harry Thurston. Harper's Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities, Harper and Bros. 1896, 1923.)
“According to shamanic tradition, Indra....discovered cannabis and sowed it in the Himalayas so that it would always be available to the people, who could then attain joy, courage, and stronger sexual desires by using the plant.....hashish is also called indracense, 'incense of Indra.' (Ratsch, Marijuana Medicine, 2001)
According to Hindu legends, Shiva, the Supreme God of many Hindu sects, had some family squabble and went off to the fields. He sat under a hemp plant to be sheltered from the heat of the sun and happened to eat some of its leaves. He felt so refreshed from the hemp plant that it became his favorite food, and that is how he got his title, the Lord of Bhang.
“Shiva is always represented with three eyes, the third being the eye of wisdom, which man opens on the realization of divinity” (Avalon, 1964).
Cannabis is mentioned as a medicinal and magical plant as well as a “sacred grass” in the Atharva Veda (dated 2000 – 1400 B.C.). It also calls hemp one of the five kingdoms of herbs . . . which releases us from anxiety and refers to hemp as a “source of happiness”, “joy-giver” and “liberator”. Although the holy books, the Shastras, forbid the worship of the plant, it has been venerated and used as a sacrifice to the deities.
Indian tradition, writing and belief is that the “Siddhartha” (the Buddha), used and ate nothing but hemp and its seeds for six years prior to announcing (discovering) his truths and becoming the Buddha.
Cannabis held a preeminent place in the Tantric religion which evolved in Tibet in the seventh century A.D. Tantrism was a religion based on fear of demons. To combat the demonic threat to the world, the people sought protection in plants such as cannabis which were set afire to overcome evil forces.
The Rudrayamal Tantra, from the eighth century relates that a drink made from cannabis and other herbs, makes humans 'equal to the gods and immortal's (Ratsch, Marijuana Medicine, 2001)
In the tenth century A.D., hemp was extolled as indracanna, the “food of the gods”. A fifteenth-century document refers to cannabis as “light-hearted”, “joy-full”, and “rejoices”, and claimed that among its virtues are “astringency”, “heat”, “speech-giving”, “inspiration of mental powers”, “excitability” and the capacity to “remove wind and phlegm”.
Today in Tantric Buddhism of the Himalayas of Tibet, cannabis plays a very significant role in the meditative ritual to facilitate deep meditation and heighten awareness. In modern India it is taken at Hindu and Sikh temples and Mohammedan shrines. Among fakirs (Hindu ascetics) bhang is viewed as the giver of long life and means a communion with the divine spirit. Like his Hindu brother, the Musalman fakir reveres bhang as the lengthener of life and the freer from the bonds of self.
The students of the scriptures at Benares are given bhang before they sit to study. At Benares, students of the Ujain and other holy places, yogis, bairagis and sanyasis take deep draughts of bhang that they may center their thoughts on the Eternal.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, set up to study the use of hemp in India, contains the following report:
“. . . It is inevitable that temperaments would be found to whom the quickening spirit of bhang is the spirit of freedom and knowledge. In the ecstasy of bhang the spark of the Eternal in man turns into the light the murkiness of matter.
“. . . Bhang is the Joy-giver, the Sky-flyer, the Heavenly-Guide, the Poor Man’s Heaven, the Soother of Grief . . . No god or man is as good as the religious drinker of bhang . . . The supporting power of bhang has brought many a Hindu family safe through the miseries of famine. To forbid or even seriously to restrict the use of so gracious an herb as the hemp would cause widespread suffering and annoyance and to large bands of worshiped ascetics, deep-seated anger. It would rob the people of a solace in discomfort, of a cure in sickness, of a guardian whose gracious protection saves them from the attacks of evil influences and whose mighty power makes the devotee of the Victorious, overcoming the demons of hunger and thirst, of panic, fear, of the glamour of Maya or matter, and of madness, able in rest to brood on the Eternal, till the Eternal, possessing him body and soul, frees him from the haunting of self and receives him into the Ocean of Being. These beliefs the Musal man devotee shares to the full. Like his Hindu brother,, the Musalman fakir reveres bhang as the lengthener of life, the freer from the bonds of self. We drank bhang and the mystery I am He grew plain.”
Indian medical works dating back to 1300 A.D. list among the effects of cannabis that it “sharpens the memory”, “sharpens the wits”, “creates energy”, 'stimulates mental powers' and is an elixir vitae. Indian Commission witnesses testified that cannabis is “refreshing and stimulating”, alleviates fatigue, creates the capacity for hard work and the ability to concentrate, and gives rise to pleasurable sensations, so that one is at peace with everybody”. (Great Britain 1969:174-175, 191-192)
Moslems as well as Hindus share the belief that ganja is a “holy plant” (Chopra, article Man and Marijuana , 1969:216-218.
Much of the holiness of bhang (marijuana) is due to its virtues of clearing the head and stimulating the brain to thought. Among ascetics, the sect knows as Atits are specially devoted to hemp. No social or religious gathering of Atits is complete without the use of the hemp plant; smoked in ganja or drunk in bhang. To its devotee, bhang is an ordinary plant that became holy from its guardian and healing qualities.
According to one account, when nectar was produced from the churning of the ocean, something was wanted to purify the nectar. The deity Mahadev supplied from his own body, and so it is called angai or body-born.
According to another account, some nectar dropped to the ground and from the ground the bhang plant sprang. It was because they used this child of nectar or of Mahadev in agreement with religious forms, that the seers or Rishis became Siddha, or one with the deity.
He who, despite the example of the Rishis uses no bhang, shall lose his happiness in this life and in the life to come. In the end he shall be caste into hell. The mere sight of bhang cleanses from as much sin as a thousand horse-sacrifices or a thousand pilgrimages. He who scandalizes the user of bhang shall suffer the torments of hell so long as the sun endures. He who drinks bhang foolishly or for pleasure without religious rites is as guilty as the sinner of sins. He who drinks wisely and according to rule, be he ever so low, even though his body is smeared with human ordure and urine, is Shiva (a man of God). No god or man is as good as the religious drinker of bhang. (HEMP DRUGS REPORT).
In India, the pipe is known as a chillim (sometimes spelt chillum or chillam) which derived from the Hindu chilam, meaning chalice. Cannabis pipes today are sometimes known as chillums and have given rise to the colloquilism 'chill out', meaning to take it easy and relax. (Martin Booth CANNABIS A HISTORY)
MARIJUANA IN CHINA
China called cannabis “Ta-Ma”, or “great hemp” to differentiate it from the minor fiber plants. The Chinese pictogram for true hemp is a large “man”, indicating the strong relationship between man and hemp.
The Shen Nung pharmacopoeia, compiled during the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) classifies ta ma among the “superior” immortality elixirs. Eating hemp flower tops, it says, makes one “become a divine transcendent. (Dr. M. Aldrich, HIGH TIMES ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RECREATIONAL DRUGS)
Hemp was so highly regarded in ancient China that the Chinese called their country “the land of mulberry and hemp”. Hemp was a symbol of power over evil and in Emperor Shen Nung’s pharmacopoeia was known as the “liberator of sin”. The Chinese believed that the legendary Shen Nung first taught the cultivation of hemp in the 28th century B.C. Shen Nung is credited with developing the science of medicine from the curative powers of plants. So highly regarded was Shen Nung that he was deified and today he is regarded as the Father of Chinese medicine. Shen Nung was also regarded as the Lord of fire. He sacrificed on T’ai Shan, a mountain of antiquity.
A statement in the Pen-ts’ao Ching of some significance is that Cannabis “grows along rivers and valleys at T’ai-shan, but it is now common everywhere.” Mount T’ai is in Shangtung Province, where the cultivation of the hemp plant is still intensive to this day. Whether or not this early attribution indicates the actual geographic origin of the cultivation of the cannabis plant remains to be seen. (An Archaeological and Historical Account of Cannabis in China by Hui-Lin Li)
A Chinese Taoist priest wrote in the fifth century B.C. that cannabis was used in combination with ginseng to set forward time in order to reveal future events. It is recorded that the Taoist recommended the addition of cannabis to their incense burners in the first century A.D. and that the effects thus produced were highly regarded as a means
of achieving immortality. In early Chinese Taoist ritual the fumes and odors of incense burners were said to have produced a mystic exaltation and contribution to well-being.
Webster’s New Riverside Dictionary defines marijuana: 1. Hemp; 2. The dried flower clusters and leaves of the hemp plant, esp. when taken to induce euphoria. Euphoria is defined as a strong feeling of elation or well-being.
One of the later Chinese names meant “delight giver”. A fourth century report asserts that eating hemp causes the user to see spirits, and several hundred years later the Chinese were taking cannabis for the “enjoyment of life”. (Man and Marijuana -Richard E. Schultes)
So important a place did hemp fiber occupy in ancient Chinese culture that the Book of Rites (second century B.C. ordained that out of respect for the dead, mourners should wear clothes made from hemp fabric, a custom followed down to modern times. (Earnest L. Abel, MARIHUANA:THE FIRST TWELVE THOUSAND YEARS. )
Like the practice of medicine around the world, early Chinese doctoring was based on the concept of demons. The only way to cure the sick was to drive out the demons. The early priest doctors used marijuana stalks into which snake-like figures were carved. Standing over the body of the stricken patient, his cannabis stalk poised to strike, the priest pounded the bed and commanded the demon to be gone. The cannabis stalk with the snake carved on it was the forerunner to the sign of modern medicine (the staff with the entwined serpents).
MARIJUANA IN JAPAN
Hemp was used in ancient Japan in ceremonial purification rites and for driving away evil spirits. In Japan, Shinto priests used a gohei, a short stick with undyed hemp fibers (for purity); attached to one end. According to Shinto beliefs, evil and impurity cannot exist alongside one another, and so by waving the gohei (purity) above someone’s head the evil spirit inside him would be driven away. Clothes made of hemp were especially worn during formal and religious ceremonies because of hemp’s traditional association with purity.
By the first century A.D., Taoists in Japan used cannabis seeds in their incense burners. A fifth century Japanese booklet stated that “hemp and mulberry have long been used in worshipping the gods.” (Chris Conrad, HEMP, LIFELINE TO THE FUTURE, quoting S. Beal, Fosho-Hing-Tsan-King, 1882; and M. Joya, things Japanese, 1963)
MARIJUANA IN EUROPE
According to Nikolaas J. van der Merwe (Department of Archaeology, University of Cape Town, South Africa), the peasants of Europe have been using cannabis as medicine, ritual material, and to smoke or chew as far back as oral traditions go.
The date on which marijuana was introduced into western Europe is not known; but it must have been very early. An urn containing marijuana leaves and seeds, unearthed near Berlin, Germany, is believed to date from 500 B.C.
Marijuana was an integral part of the Scythian cult of the dead wherein homage was paid to the memory of their departed leaders. This use of cannabis was found in frozen Scythian tombs dated from 500 to 300 B.C.. Along with the cannabis, a miniature tripot-like tent over a copper censer was found in which the sacred plant was burned.
It is interesting to note that two extraordinary rugs were also found in the frozen Scythian tombs. One rug had a border frieze with a repeated composition of a horseman approaching the Great Goddess who holds the “Tree of Life in one hand and raises the other hand in welcome.
In a famous passage written about 450 B.C. Herodoutus describes the funeral rites that took place when a king died among the Scythians---a normadic tribe that roamed the steps from Turkestan to Siberia. After burial, he wrote, the Scythians would purify themselves by setting up small tepee-like structures covered by rugs which they would enter in to inhale fumes of hemp seeds thrown on red-hot stones. “It sends forth such billows of smoke that no Greek steambath could surpass it comments Herodotus . The Scythians howl with pleasure at these baths. “
During the Roman Empire, Galen, writing in the second century A.D., comments that this herb was often passed around at banquets to promote hilarity and joy. Some hashish, still said to be potent, was recently found in an airtight container in the wreck of a Carthinian warship thought to have been sunk in the Second Punic War (218-201B.C.) off the coast of Sicily.
According to Professors Graeme Whittington and Jack Jarvis of the University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland, hemp was grown agriculturally in tenth century Scotland. Sediment from Kilconquhar Lock, near Fife, had cannabis pollen. Cannabis from around
the same time has been found in East Anglia, Wales, and in Finland. The hemp was found to have been grown in areas occupied by religious groups of the time. Commented Jarvis in an Omni interview, '….the decline of these ecclesiastical establishments may have coincided with a decline in the growing of hemp.'
In 16th century Europe , Benedictine monk and qualified Bachelor of medicine, Francois Rabelais (1494-1553) was persecuted by both religious and civil authorities for the release of his books Garganauan and Pantagruel. The author claimed that secret knowledge could be found by study of this book. In the book 'Pantagruel', Rabelais gives a distinct description of hemp, which he referred to as 'The Herb Pantagruelion.'
“The leaves sprout out all round the stalk at equal distances, to the number of five or seven at each level; and it is by special favor of nature that they are grouped in these two odd numbers which are both divine and mysterious.
Rabelais goes on to describe hemps unmistakable uses:
“ ...all the cotton plants of Tylos on the Persian Gulf, of Arabia, and of Malta have not dressed so many people as this plant alone. It protects armies against cold rain, much more effectively than did the skin tents of old.....It shapes and makes serviceable boots, high boots, leggings, shoes, pumps, slippers, and nailed shoes. By it bows are strung, arbalests bent, and slings made.
Rabelais ends a chapter devoted to the herb Pantagruelion with the following message;
'….and marry our Goddesses ; which is their one means of rising to be gods. In the end, they decided to deliberate on a means of preventing this and called a council.”
In the 19th century, Charles Baudelaire writes of his magic-religious experiences with hashish in Artificial Paradise in 1857. The religious tone of this work is evident, as the first chapter is titled “The Taste for Infinity”. (The Anointed Ones)
MARIJUANA USE BY THE MOSLEMS
It is interesting to note that the use of marijuana was not prohibited by Mohammed (570-632 A.D.) while the use of alcohol was. Moslems considered hemp as a “Holy Plant” and medieval Arab doctors considered hemp as a sacred medicine which they called among other names kannab.
The Sufis (a Moslem sect) originating in 8th century Persia used hashish as a means of stimulating mystical consciousness and appreciation of the nature of Allah. Eating hashish to the Sufis was “an act of worship”. They maintained that hashish gave them otherwise unattainable insights into themselves, deeper understanding and that it made them feel witty. They also claimed that it gave happiness, reduced anxiety, reduced worry, and increased music appreciation.
According to one Arab legend, Haydar, the Persian founder of the religious order of Sufi, came across the cannabis plant while wandering in the Persian mountains. Usually a reserved and silent man, when he returned to his monastery after eating some cannabis leaves, his disciples were amazed at how talkative and animated (full of spirit) he seemed. After cajoling Haydar into telling them what he had done to make him feel so happy, his disciples went out into the mountains and tried the cannabis for themselves. So it was, according to the legend, the Sufis came to know the pleasures of hashish. (Taken from the Introduction to A Comprehensive Guide to Cannabis Literature by Earnest Abel).
The mystical Sufi Muslims believed spiritual enlightenment was attainable through a state of ecstasy or altered consciousness and used hashish specifically for that purpose. To them, hashish was sacramental, a portal through which to commune directly with Allah and therefore not a substance to be regarded lightly. Haydar, its supposed discoverer, had warned his disciples to keep it from the ignorant for fear they would abuse it. Yet the secret was not kept. It is said, as he was dying, Haydar requested cannabis be planted round his grave and, through this, pilgrims learnt of it, spreading the knowledge. Additionally, the Sufi poets whose mystical didactic verse is central to Islamic literature referred to cannabis infusions as the 'cup of Haydar'. It is hardly surprising, with such publicity, the secret leaked out. (Martin Booth, CANNABIS, A HISTORY)``
That its psycho-active properties were well known is indicated by the metaphors by which it was referred to in early Arabic texts; the 'bush of understanding', the 'shrub of emotion', the 'blissful branches' and the 'morsel of thought'. (Martin Booth, CANNABIS, A HISTORY)
“God has granted you the privilege of knowing the secret of these leaves. Thus when you eat it, your dense worries may disappear and your exalted minds may become polished. “-Abu Khalid, 632 A.D.
MARIJUANA IN THE NEW WORLD
According to Richard L.Lingeman in this book Drugs from A to Z, page 146, “Marijuana smoking was known by the Indians before Columbus.”
After the Spanish conquest in 1521, the Spaniards recorded that the Aztecs (Mayans) used marijuana.
The book “Great American Hemp Industry,” by Jack Frazier, has references about pre-Columbian use of hemp in the Americas.
Section entitled “Hemp Discovers America” is the following:
The earliest report of wild hemp in North America is from an expedition to Virginia in 1524 by John De Verrazzano, a Florentine, sailing under a French flag. Jaques Cartier, the French explorer, made three voyages to Canada, in 1535, 1536 and 1541. He reported seeing hemp on all three occasions. When Richard Jakluyt compiled his classic “Divers Voyages Touching the Discovery of America” in 1582, he included hemp in a list of plants found growing in North America.
In the Section entitled: Pipes, Bowls, and Joints-
We know from archeological discoveries that stone pipes were used ritually in the ancient Near East. Such pipes consist of a bowl and stem carved out of one stone. Some have animal heads on the bowl and some have a hand (with all five fingers) carved in relief on the bottom of the bowl.
It is interesting, says Gordon, to note that American Indian pipes sometimes have animal heads carved on the bowl, as well as hands with all five fingers carved beneath the bowl. The heads indicate that the bowls were personified, while the hands not only suggest that the fragrant smoke was being offered, but also that the whole cultic object was called a hand (Kaf-hand is the name of such an object in Hebrew).
Historical and archeological evidence seems to indicate the marijuana cigarette or joint originated somewhere in Mexico, Central America, or the Island of Hispanola (Haiti). One of the early reports from the Caribbean of 1561` sounds suspiciously like
an early version of the cigarette. Most historians have assumed , wrongly I think, that the writer was talking about the tobacco plant:
In this island, as in some other provinces of these countries, there are certain bushes, not very large , like reeds, which produce a leaf like that of the walnut , but a little larger, which is held in high estimation by the people of the country where it is used and very much prized by the slaves which the Spaniards brought from Ethiopia.
There are reports of awe struck Englishmen who saw Indians sit in counsel and pass the “Peace Pipe” from one chief to the next. When asked by an inquisitive whiteman, “What is in the pipe?” They said , “the Sacrament of the Father Creator.”
(GREAT AMERICAN HEMP INDUSTRY by Jack Frazier, 1991, Solar Age Press)
On page 16 of Sparetime Magazine, Aug. 28, 1985, an article by Judi Martin on the excavation site of a 500 year old Indian village in Ontario, Canada;
“Among the collection of artifacts taken from the Morrision dig site are stone and ceramic smoking pipes which contain traces of hemp and tobacco that is five times stronger than the cigarettes smoked today.”
When the Spanish 'discovered' Mexico in the 1500's , they found the Aztecs smoking a reed type cigarette. The Aztecs were famous for their 'perfumed' reed cigarettes. It wasn't until the 1890's that an American archeologist discovered what they were. Dr. Walter Fewkes, in his investigation of the Hopi of New Mexico, found what answered completely that described as being used by the Mexicans.
These cigarettes are found in large numbers in the sacrificial caves in the vicinity, and appear to be a survival of one of the most primitive of smoking arrangements. The natives of Mexico are found with a weed called marijuana, for mixing with tobacco in their cigarettes, which when it is smoked and inhaled by them, is said to produce a hilarious spirit in the smoker.” (J.D. Mcguire, REPORT OF NATIONAL MUSEUM [Washington, D.C. 1897])
According to the Marijuana Medical Papers by David Solomon, marijuana plays a role in certain primitive South American tribes. (CANNABIS A REFERENCE, Dr. William H. McGlothlin, phd. Harvard.)
The present day Cuna Indians of Panama use marijuana as a sacred herb and the Cora Indians of the Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico smoke marijuana in the course of their sacred ceremonies.
In the Ritual Use of Cannabis Sativa L by William A. Emboden, Jr. pages 229 and 231, is the following:
A particularly interesting account of a Tepehua (no relationship to Tepecanna) Indian ceremony with cannabis was published in 1963 by the Mexican ethnologist Roberto William Garcia of the University of Veracruz, Mexico. The Tepehua belong linguistically and culturally to the Totonac of Veracruz, northermost branch of the Maya language family.
In his account of Tepehua religion and ritual, William Garcia (1963; 215-21) describes in some detail a communal curing ceremony focused on a plant called Santa Rosa, 'The Herb Which Makes One Speak' which he identified botanically as Cannabis Sativa. According to Garcia it is worshiped as an earth deity and is thought to be alive and comparable to a piece of the heart of God.
In 1890, Carl Lumholtz, a Swiss ethnologist, studied many of the tribes in the Sierra Madra Del Norte. He discovered that the Tepecano often substituted marijuana for peyote.
The Tepecano always kept their cannabis in votive bowls or in nitches together with cotton balls. The cotton symbolizes rain clouds which were the ultimate blessing to the Indians. The cannabis absorbed the nature of the clouds and the use of it became a prayer for rain (blessing).
The Lipan Apache are known to use cannabis in their ceremonial breakfast.
By the middle of the nineteenth century the medicinal uses of cannabis passed from Europe to North America. Many cannabis preparations were available at the corner drugstore. In 1857, Fitz Hugh Ludlow acquired a tincture of the Indica variety while living in Poughkeepsie, N.Y...He paid six cents a dose for it in the form of 'Tilden's Extract.' Ludlow , then only 16 and with his imagination inflamed by The Thousand and One Nights, declared hemp “the drug of the traveler', which allowed him to journey mentally around the globe as well as into the higher, more mystic regions. His experience eventually led him to write The Hashish Eater, America's first native contribution to the literature on hemp highs.