Cannabis use is involved in spiritual rituals all over the world, weed itself is even celebrated and regarded highly as sacred plants in certain cultures. Join us as we dive into the connection between cannabis and spirituality and the rich history that goes along with it.
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The History of Cannabis and Spirituality
Many religions and several religious works of literature mention the marijuana plant being cultivated and used for medicinal and spiritual practice. A spiritual journey with cannabis could also mean supporting local cannabis growers or gaining a more profound awareness when smoking with friends. It can undoubtedly elevate your spiritual experience.
Cannabis use has important aspects in spiritual practice and rituals dates back thousands of years to Ancient civilizations and religions. Let’s take a look at several cultures where smoking marijuana is used as plant medicine and for spiritual enlightenment.
The Scythians were a nomadic tribe who dominated Central Central Asia and Eastern Europe until the third century BC. The world knew them as users of marijuana; however, they were an incredibly productive group of people.
Little is known about the Scythians and their culture. The Greek historian and legend Herodotus is the only person in ancient history who allows us an insight into their lives. Although, there is a significant debate about the accuracy of his accounts. Modern historians suggest he never visited Scythia, but either way, he remains the best Western source regarding these nomadic tribes.
We do know that Herodotus completed a series of journeys in the middle of the fifth century BC. His notes say he visited Syria, Egypt, Cyprus, northern Greece, Thrace, Macedonia, and the Crimean Peninsula. His work of literature, Nine Books of History, includes a chapter dedicated to the infamous Scythians. By his account, Herodotus was particularly impressed with the Scythian ritual of the dead and noted that the hemp in the tribes’ land looked like a thicker, taller flax plant.
We know that many ancient cultures used hemp for textile purposes; however, the Scythians had multiple uses for cannabis. According to Herodotus, this nomadic tribe threw the hemp seeds on hot stones during the funeral burning ritual to produce a particular incense.
The legendary historian Joseph Needham stated, “the hallucinogenic properties of hemp were common knowledge in Chinese medical and Taoist circles for two millennia or more.” Other scholars also associated Chinese wu or shamans with the entheogenic use of cannabis in Central Asian religious culture.
Traditional Chinese medical texts listed herbal uses for cannabis and noted some psychological effects. The Chinese pharmacopeia, Shennong’s Classic of Materia Medica, described the use of cannabis fruit and seeds as well. In the fifth century A.D., a Taoist priest wrote that necromancers use cannabis combined with ginseng to set forward time to reveal future events. Later, the pharmacopeia repeated this description, for instance, the Classified Materia Medica.”It was noted that marijuana taken in excess produces hallucinations and can cause one to stumble. Still, if taken long-term, it can assist one in communicating with spirits and lighten their body. The dietary therapy book “Nutritional Materia Medica” prescribes daily consumption of cannabis in the following case: “those who wish to see demons should take it for up to a hundred days.”
Cannabis has been cultivated in China since Neolithic times; for instance, people used hemp cords to create the intricate line designs on Yangshao pottery. Early Chinese literature references utilizing the hemp plant for clothing, fiber, and food. The botanist Li Hui-lin noted linguistic evidence that the “stupefying effect of the hemp plant was commonly known from extremely early times.” Li indicated that shamans in Northeast Asia transmitted the medical and spiritual uses of cannabis to the ancient Chinese Wu. The use of cannabis as a hallucinogenic drug by necromancers or magicians is especially notable. In ancient China, we should point out that medicine has its origin in magic, as in most early cultures. In northern Asia, shamanism was widespread from the Neolithic up to modern times.
In ancient China, shamans were commonly known as wu, which was very common during the Han dynasty. After that, shamanism became less essential, but the practice persisted in certain locations among specific peoples. Among the Northern nomadic tribes of Mongolia and Siberia, shamanism was frequently practiced until recent times. Clarke and Merlin, authors of Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany, concluded that: “After the rise of Confucianism, the ingestion of cannabis resin for psychoactive and ritualistic purification was eventually suppressed in Japan, as it was in China.”
In the late 1940s, Rastafari became associated with cannabis smoking within the Pinnacle community of Leonard Howell. Rastafari spiritualists view cannabis as a profoundly sacred plant with many health benefits. The use of cannabis, particularly in chalices, is an integral part of Rastafari’s “reasoning sessions,” where members can come together to discuss life according to the Rasta. They feel that cannabis brings them closer to Jah, allowing the user to search for more profound truth and meaning.
While the use of cannabis is not necessary to practice the Rastafari religion, many members use it frequently as a part of their faith and spiritual experience. The Watchman Fellowship states, “The herb is the key to a new understanding of the self, universe, and God. It is the vehicle to cosmic consciousness.” Cannabis is believed to smoke out the human heart’s corruption, and placing the ashes on one’s skin after smoking cannabis is considered a healthy spiritual practice.
The Quran doesn’t directly prohibit cannabis; however, there is some controversy among Muslim scholars. Some deem it similar to intoxicants and alcoholic drinks and therefore believe it forbidden. However, many Middle Eastern scholars consider cannabis to be permissible. The scholars who consider cannabis forbidden to refer to a statement by the prophet Mohammed about alcohol, which states: “If much intoxicates, then even a little is haraam.”
However, early Muslim translators differentiated cannabis from alcohol, and despite restrictions on alcohol, cannabis use was prominent in the Islamic world until the 18th century. In the modern-day, cannabis is consumed in many parts of the Islamic world, even sometimes in religious practices, particularly within the Sufi mystic movement. The Sufi tradition credits the discovery of cannabis to Sheikh Haydar, a Sufi leader in the 12th century. Other Sufis attribute its origin to the fictitious “Green Man.”
In 1378, the Emir of the Joneima in Arabia authorized one of the world’s first-recorded cannabis bans. Many new-age Islamic leaders feel that medical cannabis is permissible in Islam, but not recreational cannabis. A military order that emerged after the fall of the Fatimid Caliphate is known in English as the Assassins. This name derives from an Arabic word meaning “hashish-smokers,” after their purported use of hashish in esoteric rituals, brainwashing, and celebrating a successful assassination. However, historical scholars disagree on the extent to which these claims about the Assassins are trustworthy; some of these claims may be embellishments spread by the group to further their murderous reputation.
In Buddhism, the Fifth Precept is widely interpreted to mean “refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to heedlessness.” However, many translate this to be referring solely to alcohol. Cannabis and other psychoactive plants are sometimes prescribed in the Mahākāla Tantra for medicinal purposes.
Viewpoints on herbal and psychedelic drugs vary widely among Buddhist sectors. The Theravada tradition interprets the Fifth Precept more literally and tends to be more anti-alcohol and anti-drug than the other Buddhist traditions.
A significant component of the Mahayana Buddhism ethical code is that one should adopt anything beneficial for oneself and others while avoiding anything harmful to oneself and others. This leaves more room for medical interpretations of cannabis.
- Herbal medicine and natural psychoactive drugs are deeply linked with Tantric Buddhist traditions and Tibetan Buddhism.
- In Theravada Buddhism, cannabis is discouraged.
- In Mahayana Buddhism, cannabis is slightly discouraged.
- In Vajrayana Buddhism, cannabis is only discouraged or encouraged in specific contexts.
Buddhism is strongly associated with psychoactive drugs in Western societies thanks to the hippies of the 1950s through 1970s. Although Buddhism does not explicitly encourage such medicines, Buddhist scriptures generally have little to say against any drug other than alcohol. Generally speaking, the Dalai Lama and many other Buddhists accept medical marijuana and the use of cannabis as a plant medicine.
Shiva is one of the three major gods in Hindu belief. To put it frankly, he was open about his love for cannabis use and even held a festival to celebrate and partake with other holy men. Every year, thousands of holy men called “sadhus” travel to the capital city of Kathmandu to gather at Nepal’s sacred Hindu temple, Pashupati.
The Night of Shiva Festival celebrates the day Shiva saved the universe from darkness and his wedding day to the goddess, Parvati. During the festival, the Holy men sit around with guests, smoke cannabis with a cone-shaped pipe called a chillum, relax, and enjoy the spiritual journey of the night. The yearly ritual also includes smearing ashes over attendees’ foreheads as a blessing. Then, they start bonfires to offer Shiva warmth and symbolize the end of the winter season.
Some believe that cannabis was frequently mentioned in the Bible as the Hebrew word kaneh bosm. This word means cannabis and may have been mistranslated as calamus, a similar herbal plant closely related to the iris. If so, cannabis is, in fact, mentioned a few times in the Old Testament chapters of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Psalms. In the book of Exodus, God commands Moses to make a sacred oil using kaneh bosm, myrrh, cassia, and cinnamon leaves infused in olive oil. The sacred plants were also said to have been found growing over the grave of the legendary King Solomon after his death.
For ancient Germanic pagans, cannabis was connected to the Norse love goddess of love, Freyja. Their people hosted a festival to celebrate the harvesting of the cannabis plant. The Pagans believed that Freyja lived within the plant’s female flowers, so anyone who ingested them became influenced by her divine feminine power.
Types of Cannabis plants
- Indica plants produce airy, more developed buds than Sativa. It originates from the Kush region near Afghanistan and is from a colder, mountainous climate. Indica leaves are shorter and bushy and have dark, whole leaves and clumpy buds. It has higher THC lower CBD and is known for its relaxing high. This type of weed is excellent for nighttime due to its physical high and pain-relieving effects.
- Sativa weed plants are from the warmer climates, producing tall, long leaves and dense, thick buds during the flowering stage. Cannabis sativa has more CBD cannabinoids and less THC and is the perfect strain to consume in the morning due to its energetic, cerebral high.
- Hybrids are cross-germinated from two different strains to form a combination of Indica and Sativa. Typically, one or the other will be dominant and will, in turn, produce the effects experienced by the user. Hybrid strains of cannabis remains prevalent and offer a more balanced high.
- Hemp and Ruderalis are legal in the US, thanks to the Farm Bill of 2018. They are shallow in THC, causing little to no psychoactive effects. Ruderalis is from Russia, is an auto-flowering plant, and has short, thin stems with large leaves. Hemp is more similar to Indica and Sativa, but it doesn’t produce much THC. Hemp is used in the textile industry and for its production of alternative cannabinoids, such as CBD and CBG.
What is a Cannabinoid?
Cannabinoids are found in the cannabis plant as well as produced naturally by the human body. We have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) that internally produces cannabinoids. The two most commonly known cannabinoids found in cannabis are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The word cannabinoid can refer to THC or any chemical that acts on cannabinoid receptors.
What Does a Cannabinoid Do?
Cannabinoids from the cannabis plant have been used for hundreds of years to alleviate symptoms of different health ailments. They act on and bind to cannabinoid receptors in the body and trigger different responses. There are specific receptors that can be used to manage medical conditions when using cannabis. For example, they have been known to help with diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, chronic pain, and cancer by reducing inflammation.
Cannabinoids act by mimicking a natural endocannabinoid system like anandamide, which are fatty acids that activate cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoids bind themselves onto fat-soluble molecules that enter a cell’s lipid bilayer. Cannabinoids then attach themselves to what are called CB1 and CB2 receptors. When the right connection between cannabinoid and receptor is made, the body is stimulated to have a certain response.
Psychoactive Effects Of Cannabinoids
The effects of cannabinoids vary from person to person, depending on an individual’s biology and cannabinoid receptor type. Not everyone experiences the same effects when consuming cannabinoids, and the intensity of those effects also varies. Some people feel relaxed and happy after cannabinoid consumption while others may feel sleepy or drowsy. It is important to remember that cannabinoid use should be approached cautiously, as they can have adverse side effects, especially when consumed in high doses. If you are thinking of trying cannabis or its cannabinoid chemicals, it is best to speak with a healthcare professional who can help you determine which strain and dosage would be best for you.
When used recreationally or for spiritual purposes, cannabinoids can produce euphoria, relaxation, and altered sensory perception. Some are more likely to cause these effects than others. THC is most likely to cause euphoria, relaxation, and increased appetite. CBD is often the choice for people looking to manage chronic pain, nausea, anxiety, and depression without the psychoactive effects brought on by THC.
Cannabis is becoming one of the most popular drugs for micro-dosing in Western Civilizations.
The trend of cannabis microdosing is relatively new, but many people believe that using it in small doses can be beneficial. It can help ease chronic pain, increase focus, and even boost creativity as well as provide mental and spiritual growth. Essentially the idea is to take the lowest effective dose, rather than taking the highest dose for the strongest effect. The idea is to get the most benefit while taking the lowest amount needed which lines up with many religious philosophies of avoiding excess marijuana use.
Microdosing can be a great option for those who have a low THC tolerance, or simply do not like the way it feels to get really high. Taking intermittent lower doses, even of a very potent strain is a preferred experience for some. Anecdotal evidence suggests that microdosing cannabis is helpful for its ability to stimulate certain parts of your brain, like your amygdala which is responsible for emotional response.
The idea of cannabis microdosing has grown in popularity among many groups including medical marijuana patients and young professionals. Many young professionals feel that taking a minimal dose of THC throughout the day provides them an advantage. small regular doses throughout the day help with mood management, stress relief, anxiety relief, and many who use microdosing report it actually stimulates a deeper interest in their work than if they were not partaking in micro-dosing.
Psychedelics and Meditation
Although there are thousands of meditation studies, there are only around twenty known studies of psychedelics. This is primarily because psychedelics are considered a controlled substance and remain illegal in the United States. Because of these limitations, there is little scientific knowledge about their effects on the conscious mind.
Combining psychedelic experiences and meditation can positively affect one’s emotional process by increasing one’s ability to contact the present moment directly and enhancing positive emotional experiences. Being present with our feelings includes reducing mind-wandering and bringing kindness and openness to negative emotions.
Meditation and psychedelics can take us beyond ourselves, helping us connect with our surroundings. Learning to quiet the self-obsessive thoughts from time to time can help expand our sense of self to include our environment. In doing so, we can remain independent while harmonizing with our surroundings.
Cannabis as a Teacher
While cannabis use may come with a societal stigma, it can be used to promote a healthy mindset by tapping into your cosmic consciousness and helping you get to know yourself on a deeper level. Using cannabis in a mindful way can provide new insight into the workings of your mind to promote spiritual growth. Some spiritual practices utilize cannabis and other herbs as an integral part of being able to expand one’s consciousness.
Entheogenic Uses of Cannabis
Cannabis has served as an entheogen for physical and spiritual healing dating back approximately as far back as 2000 BC. Spain introduced weed to the New World in the 1500s. Cannabis use in many shamanic and pagan cultures helped them to create profound spiritual experiences related to their society, achieve enlightenment, and reveal mysterious facts about the human mind and subconscious.
Entheogens are psychoactive substances that alter perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, or behavior to engender spiritual development. An anthropological study has established that entheogens have always been used for spiritual purposes across the globe.
Recent Data and Studies
While cannabis has a rich history of spiritual use, its legalization and slow destigmatizing in Western culture has led to more recreational use during the last ten years. A recent study by J Cannabis Res aimed to explore the characteristics of spiritual cannabis use compared to recreational use and the use of psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin. The study utilized a several research methods involving qualitative interviews and a quantitative survey for two groups. Hopefully, this will lead to future research on cannabis to expand one’s consciousness through psychological effects.
Here’s what they concluded:
“The study found evidence of a group of spiritual cannabis users who tended to regard cannabis as an entheogen. These spiritual cannabis users had a different mode of engagement with cannabis than recreational users, and reported cannabis experiences that in some aspects resembled experiences with psychedelics. Recent research has not given much attention to spiritual aspects of cannabis use, but the study indicates that spiritually motivated use remains prevalent and deserves further study.”
According to a recent Pew Research Center online survey, many adults in the United States support some extent of cannabis legalization. However, American adults’ religious affiliation and level of religious commitment impact the circumstances in which they think others should use marijuana.
Here are the statistics:
- Among those who identify with any religious group, 54 percent believe marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use.
- Thirty-five percent say it should only be legal for medical use.
- Among unaffiliated people (atheist, agnostic, or none), approximately 76 percent say marijuana should be legal for recreational and medicinal purposes.
- 91 percent of adults surveyed concluded that marijuana should be legal in some ways, including 69 percent who say it should be legal for medical and recreational use and approximately 31 percent who say it should be legal for medical use only.
Can you smudge with weed?
Absolutely. You can use a cannabis smudge stick in the ceremonial burning practice of smudging. It’s an ancient ritual passed down from older generations of native tribes in America, Africa, and Asia. Their primary purpose for smudging was during sacred ceremonies and as healing medicine. We use it to cleanse homes of negative energy, relax, and as incense in the present day.
Including cannabis in your spiritual practice
- Create the perfect meditation space of quiet and calm
- Set a positive and clear intention
- Utilize cannabis as a smear, a smoke, or a tincture
- Remain present and allow your thoughts to flow
- Remember to breathe and relax
Best Strains for Spiritual Practices
Here’s our list of the top 25 cannabis strains for meditation and spiritual enlightenment:
- Laughing Buddha
- Blue Dream
- Critical Cure
- Northern Lights
- White Buffalo
- Mars OG
- Girl Scout Cookies
- Super Silver Haze
- Oregon Lemons
- Super Glue
- Hindu Kush
- Lamb’s Bread
- Kosher Kush
- Sour Tsunami
- Blue Haze
- Jack the Ripper
- SoCal Master Kush
- Granddaddy Purple
- Big Buddha Cheese
- OG Kush
- White Widow
Here, we have a handy THC calculator and some recommendations for those who may be newcomers to cannabis use.
For cannabis beginners, start with a low dose edible or tincture (1 ml ), then up your dosage as you feel comfortable doing so. For best results, increase your dosage slowly over a few weeks to possibly reduce any discomfort and ensure safe cannabis consumption. When it comes to smoking cannabis, start with one small hit and see how you feel in thirty minutes. These effects will come on a lot quicker than an edible high.
A New wave of Cannabis Spirituality
Around the world, cannabis is being added into certain spiritual practices like yoga to incorporate meditation and mindfulness. In addition, there are also some newer cannabis-based religions and churches, including:
- The First Church of Cannabis in Indiana
- The International Church of Cannabis in Colorado
- The First Cannabis Church of Florida
- The Healing Church of Rhode Island
- The Coachella Valley Church of California
- The Hawaii Cannabis Ministry
Many of the values represented within these religions:
- unity and love
- tolerance and acceptance
- equality and equity
- kindness and compassion
These cannabis-based religious communities honor the plant connection with oneself, our communities, and our planet. You may be wondering the difference between the new world of spiritual cannabis use and recreational use. These cannabis “religions” refer to the cannabis plant as a sacred teacher with spiritual properties than can enlighten and guide the user through a deep meditation. They place the utmost importance on setting a clear intention before consuming the herb. This spiritual practice will often accompany a ritual for honoring, appreciating, and understanding cannabis and its connection to the divine.
People have been using cannabis within various religions worldwide for thousands of years. Due to the presence of the cannabinoid THC in the plant, marijuana can produce psychoactive effects allowing it to bring about a sense of calm and relaxation that can help with spiritual awakenings and meditation purposes.
Whether you currently use weed within your spiritual practice, are simply interested in learning about the plant medicine, or if you’re just interested in cannabis recreationally, why not try to be mindful next time you’re smoking? Next time, try thinking about the connection between yourself and the Earth when lighting up. There’s something unique about the cannabis plant. Some believe it could even be a gift from the universe to encourage your spiritual side to shine through unknowingly.