The history of cannabis is a storied one, fraught with controversy and bad laws. Before that however- before western civilization decided this wondrous plant was being abused and needed impossibly harsher policing- there was a practice of ritual and religion around cannabis. The spiritual and medicinal have always been closely linked in pre-developed civilizations and communities, so marijuana became an ingredient embedded in ceremonial use.
Perhaps the most known and newest religious association to cannabis is Rastafari. The Abrahamic religion began in the 1930s in Jamaica, after Christian clergymen like Leonard Howell decided that Haile Selassie becoming emperor constituted as an incarnation of Christ. The guiding ritual of Rastafari is the consumption of ganja, referred to frequently as the holy herb. Rastas smoke it as much as possible, and especially ritualize its smoking during groundings. In these sessions, Rastas will roll a large spliff in conjunction with a prayer offering to Jah, then it can be smoked. Water pipes are called chalices, and when passed, tradition dictates a counter clockwise direction. They believe that cannabis is specifically cited Biblically in Genesis, Psalms, and Revelations, and claim the need for its healing properties, its internalization of peace, and of course, the unveiling of one’s inner divinity. With roots in early, prosteligic Christianity, it’s no surprise that Rastas commonly believe cannabis purifies corruption in humanity, including homosexuality.
Certain readings of the Samudra manthan, a Hindu script of philosophy that supposedly explains the origins of the nectar of immortality. It is understood that this elixir, amrita, was produced by the churning of the ocean by divine beings. The amrita needed to be purified, so Shiva, the supreme protector of the universe, born cannabis from his own body to do so. A slightly different reading suggests cannabis grew from a drop of the elixir of life being spilled upon the ground. During the Hindu festival Holi, bhang is commonly consumed- an herbal mixture of which the primary ingredient is cannabis. It is the festival of spring, colors, and love, representing the end of winter and blooming of love and positivity. Bhang is drunk and smoked, in celebration of renewing oneself.
Early 4th century texts mention cannabis being used as an incense by Taoists. Hallucinogenic smoking was described by Ge Hong as being able to “call down the Perfected Immortals” through the use of “purifying incense.” The Taoist Shangqinq School founded by Lady Wei Huacun based its scriptures on revelations told by immortals. These were dictated to Yang Xi through the consumption of cannabis. Taoise druggist and pharmacologist Tao Hongjing prescribed hemp seeds prepared with ginseng for prescient knowledge of the future. Another medical literature explains that the one can command the demonic apparitions by which they are visited by constantly consumed the hemp plant.
The recent surge of cannabis’ commodification in the west has also seen a rise in modern religions based on marijuana. Even traditional mainstream religions have updated stances on cannabis to fit the new age of acceptance. Orthodox Rabbis in the 2010s okayed cannabis for medical use as kosher. Islamic leaders have also greenlit its use for medical conditions. Protestant and Mormon churches have officially sanctioned medical use, too. Catholicism has remained unwaveringly firm in its anti-cannabis stance. Thankfully, only you can decide that you’ve had a spiritual cannabis experience, and no organization can tell you otherwise!