Guest Blogger: The Rhino
CANNABIS: BETWEEN RELIGION, RITUAL & CULTURE
To the uninitiated, the associations between drugs and religion stop at their equal tendency towards the occasional controversy. However, these 2 issues of life and culture have closer and more ancient ties than many may think. Cannabis is so closely meshed with some religious practices that it is effectively rooted into the foundations of the very belief system.
To bridge the gap between cannabis and religion you have to distance yourself from the modern societal preconceptions about its uses. Cannabis has its place in many cultural and religious practices and here are just a few both modern and ancient
Hinduism is one of a few common religions that supports a multi-deistic belief system. That is to say that there are multiple gods whom have influenced life and humanity in different ways. As such there are a plethora of traditions and festivals to celebrate each individually.
The deity Shiva is widely associated with the hemp plant and in the Shivrati festival celebrated in many areas of both India and Nepal, cannabis is widely used as parts of the festivals standard practice. Consumed in the form of Bhang (a tea brewed from marijuana seeds, flowers or leaves), it is symbolic of a cleansing elixir created by Shiva and is believed to cleanse sins and unite one with Shiva to avoid hell in the afterlife.
CULT USE IN ANCIENT & MODERN AFRICA
Traditionally smoked through gourd pipes, cannabis has in the last 100 years mostly been associated with its use as an antiseptic and for treatment of a variety of ailments. However, a 19th century expedition found a cult that was formed through the cultivation and use of hemp and its worship.
Unlike many of the negative connotations that come from the word ‘cult’, this was a positive religious formation that promoted bonds of friendship and life. The Bashilenge were growing cannabis in vast quantities of cannabis and each tribesman would smoke it regularly to prove their devotion.
Often used before a long journey or to seal an agreement, the hemp pipe of the Bashilenge carried a similar meaning to the peace pipe of the Native Americans.
Clearly this is the religious belief system that most closely bonds itself with cannabis. Indeed, the 2 are so intrinsically intertwined that cannabis is sacred and essential to the practice of the beliefs.
Founded in 1930’s Jamaica, Rastafarianism followers worship their King Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, and cannabis is used as an aid for meditation. Not only that, cannabis is also seen as the tree of life referenced in the Bible (Revelations 22:2 “… the herb is the healing of our nations.”
While cannabis is not essential to the practice of Rastafarianism it is believed to act as the catalyst for clear thinking and enlightenment bringing users closer to god (Jah) and absolute truth.
There are many other religious and cultural sects that believe that cannabis has a place in our belief systems with the most common believing much like Rastafarianism that that Tree of Life in the Bible has always referred to the cannabis plant. This includes that Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church and even a variety of modern Christian sects.
The Rhino is a medicinal cannabis advocate. He works with a leading marijuana seeds retailer and some of the world’s top seed banks who work legally in the UK and mainland Europe.