Cannabis has been utilised by humans for thousands of years. It has a long-standing history of importance in different traditions, faiths and cultures. It has been widely used in the field of medicine by ancient people due to its healing properties. And it also served as a powerful medium in ancient cannabis spiritual traditions.
With the numerous healing and spiritual benefits from Cannabis, various philosophical traditions and religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Sufism used Cannabis for spiritual practices.
Here’s a compilation of where our ancestors started with their Cannabis spiritual traditions and performed healing with Cannabis for thousands of years.
Cannabis Use in India
Cannabis in India has a long history, dating back 2000 to 1400 B.C. The earliest writings about Cannabis was found in The Vedas, the ancient text of Hinduism. It was mentioned in the script that Cannabis is one of the five sacred nectars that has been a source of happiness, compassion and courage. According to The Vedas, Cannabis frees us from anxiety. And when used in meditation practices, Cannabis enables the mind to enter a state of intense concentration, also called the Samadhi.
According to legend, Cannabis was frequently associated with the god, Shiva. It had been the favorite of the god after sampling some leaves from the Cannabis plant and was instantly rejuvenated. God Shiva became popularly known as the Lord of the Bhang. During the Holi Festival, Bhang is offered to Shiva statues and images all over India.
Bhang is made from the leaves and flowers of the Cannabis plant. This is the most common preparation of Cannabis in India. It is often prepared as a brewed drink and sometimes rolled and consumed in small balls.
The city of Benares is the main city of Shiva worship and cannabis has been an important part of their culture. Cannabis products are sold in government-run shops for pilgrims and common people to use, being part of their cannabis spiritual tradition as well as healing.
In medicine, Ayurvedic, the oldest healing system, and Indian doctors recommend healing with Cannabis. It has been in the Indian medicine history for thousands of years treating various health conditions such as nausea, indigestion and wasting syndrome. Cannabis is also being used in training to build strength and gain muscle mass.
Cannabis Use in China
In Chinese history, Cannabis has been known to be a symbol of power over evil. Hemp was the most popular cannabis plant variety among ancient Chinese, it was highly prized that China was regarded as the land of mulberry and hemp.
The hemp plant was primarily used in China’s industrial society as a source of cloth, food, oil and paper. And also, due to its durability, hemp was used in warfare. Chinese archers made stronger bowstrings with the use of hemp, this gave Chinese a big advantage in war.
However, when ancient China suffered from different health conditions, emperor Shen Nung made it his life’s goal to find cures from plants. According to legend, the emperor tried numerous poisons and antidotes on himself and made a medical encyclopedia of his test results known as the Pen Ts’ao. The Pen Ts’ao has a list of hundreds of drugs derived from animals, minerals and plant sources and one of them is the Cannabis plant, also known as “ma”. It was believed that the legendary emperor Shen Nung, the Father of Chinese medicine, was the first to teach hemp farming in the 28th century B.C.
“Ma”, Cannabis in China, was considered as a multipurpose and unique drug. In ancient China, it was believed that “ma” or Cannabis is both yin and yang, female and male. And when both yin and yang are in balance, it will bring forth harmony and good health to our bodies. However, ancient China discovered that yin is more beneficial during cannabis healing, thus, cultivated the female plant instead of the male plant. From then on, cannabis has been used in treating malaria, beriberi, gout, constipation, rheumatism and gout in ancient China.
As for the Chinese cannabis spiritual traditions, in the 15th century B.C. a Chinese Taoist priest recorded that Cannabis was used in combination with ginseng to predict the future. Cannabis has also been used in incense burners for Chinese Taoist ritual to achieve immortality and the fumes and odors provide mystic bliss and well-being.
Cannabis Use in Japan
In Shintoism, a Japanese indigenous religion, cannabis was used in exorcism due to the belief that it has cleansing abilities. And around 10,000 BC to 300 BC, Cannabis plants were used in making clothes, fishing lines and bow strings.
In the early 20th century, Japanese practiced Cannabis healing. The herb was used in relieving muscle aches, pain and insomnia.
Cannabis Use in Ancient Europe
According to Prof. Nikolaas J. van der Merwe of the University of Capetown in South Africa, Department of Archeology, the peasants of Europe practiced healing with Cannabis, as a ritual material and smoke and chew the herb as part of their tradition.
Based on the writings of a known Greek philosopher, Herodotus, Cannabis has been a fundamental part of the Scythian cult. Cannabis was used when paying honor to their departed leaders. After the burial of their king, Scythians would inhale fumes from hemp to purify themselves. Hemp seeds were placed in small tepee-like structures and thrown into red-hot stones to produce fumes.
Cannabis Use in Islam
Cannabis has been part of many Muslim-majority countries around the world for centuries. Many historical Muslim groups believed hemp as a “Holy Plant”.
In the Medieval period, Arabian doctors used hemp as a sacred medicine for healing and called Cannabis as Kannab. In the 18th century, the Sufis of Persia, one of the Muslim mystics, used hashish to stimulate mystical awareness and admiration of the nature of Allah. And it was also claimed that hashish gave them increased music appreciation, happiness and reduced anxiety.
These different traditions and religious groups all over the world simply showed us how Cannabis played an important role in their healing and spiritual practices. Indeed Cannabis is a versatile and a unique herb, that enables us to connect within ourselves and nature and at the same time provides significant human health benefits.