With all the current hype about legalizing marijuana, it may surprise many to know the connection this herb has to various religions.
Every religion has a different viewpoint on the use of Cannabis and in no way is this herb something new to humanity. Marijuana has been used in spiritual and religious practices of various kinds for centuries. Shamans, healers, priests and the like have used this herb to attain higher levels of spiritual enlightenment and consciousness during ceremonies. Some of religious groups have historically embraced the use of marijuana , and still actively use this substance for its psychoactive abilities.
In modern times, we now have religious groups that do not use marijuana for spiritual purposes, but however, do swear by its medicinal properties. We seek to bring light to marijuana’s awesome contributions to religion.
Rastafari is a religious group originating out of Jamaica that has been affected by the back to Africa movement, as well as Ethiopian culture. They have a strong belief in Haile Selassie as the second coming of Christ or the Sun of God. One of the most well-known religious groups to actively promote the use of marijuana for spiritual ascension are the Rastafarians. Many are very outspoken about their beliefs on marijuana usage in their music, speaking highly of its benefits during meditation. For Rastafarians Cannabis, also called ganja, is a sacred plant which they often refer to as the holy herb and is used as a way of life and is used for various purposes including medicine for healing the mind, body, and spirit. Within this group it is not recommended to use marijuana simply for the purposes of getting high; instead, it is essential for use in rituals and ceremonies to achieve a certain spiritual state.
They believe marijuana is useful in better reasoning and opening their mind to see the truth of what is going in the world around them as well as their own personal growth and development. While it is a large part of their belief system, it is not a requirement that one consume this herb.
They see marijuana as an avenue to connect to God, the Universe, and their self. Rastafarians regard Cannabis as the “Tree of Life” which is also spoken of in the Bible. Rastafarians tend to take a strong stand against any form of oppression and materialism. They also tend to hold a strong belief in one love and unity amongst all people.
Unfortunately, the Rastafari movement has been wrongfully criticized as an excuse for getting high and, in some cases drug smuggling. Marijuana laws have hurt their movement simply because it stands in the way of their freedom to practice their religion as they see fit. Being that marijuana is illegal in many places only aids in giving their religion a bad reputation.
Sikhism derives from the word Sikh which means disciple which has its origins in the Indian subcontinent. Sikhs do not accept caste and class systems; instead, they choose to focus on serving humanity which a focus on justice and freedom. The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, spread the message that there are no restrictions on what God is and this force can never be limited by race, religion or color. While some sects of Sikhism strictly prohibits the use of marijuana, the Nihang faction does include marijuana in their practices.
According to an article written by Cannabis Culture, Sikhs and Cannabis, which includes an actual interview on this subject, Nihang Sikhs are warriors who have been known to win many battles regardless of them having a smaller military presence than their opponents. Nihangs have a tradition where they use marijuana when preparing for battle. However, this is the only known form of Cannabis use in this religious group.
The Sikhs create a Cannabis mixture called Bhang, also referred to as Sukha, which is prepared by grounding fresh marijuana herb into a paste using a very large wooden pestle. This concoction is made into a beverage mixed with cardamom, almonds, and milk. Before consuming, this mix must be strained through a turban cloth.
Some Sikhs feel like the Nihangs usage of marijuana has caused a bad reputation for them, but according to Nihang marijuana was given to them and the sacred herb should be used because of the many benefits during battle.
Some Nihangs use bhang to alter their consciousness, but in fact, many Sikhs believe it should only be used for battle to aid the warrior in fighting with all their strength. While the warriors were engaged in battle living in the jungles, they used marijuana as a digestive aid to help with digesting the nuts and bark they would consume among other things. In fact, marijuana was a part of their survival tactics due to the dangers that lurk in the jungles. You can watch a brief discussion amongst Sikhs about the Nihangs marijuana usage HERE
The Nihangs use of marijuana is controversial for the Sikhs. The goal when using marijuana is not to just get high, and abuse of this substance is prohibited.
Today there are said to be around 14 million Jews worldwide making it the 10th largest religion in the world. Judaism is an ancient Abrahamic religion with quite an expansive history dating back more than three thousand years. By far it is one of the oldest religions, but how has marijuana played a role in Judaism, if at all?
The consumption of marijuana is not necessarily allowed in Judaism, however, some may be surprised to find out that there is a connection between this religious group and Cannabis. According to research conducted by Yosef Glassman and Dr. Mohel, marijuana has some roots in Judaism throughout history. Interesting enough the herb has quite a unique relationship with Jews. It has been used for making certain clothes and even accessories such as schach, talitot and tzitzit.
The Jews have something called Kitnyos during Passover which has to do with marijuana being forbidden at this time. There is a possibility that is was even eaten as food during other times of the year.
According to Numbers, a book in the bible, Aaron the High Priest might have burned Cannabis as an offering during very difficult times. Another interesting finding is that marijuana was used for medicinal purposes to make childbirth easier in ancient Israel.
Unlike many parts of the world medical marijuana has been legal in Israel since 1990. Israel currently has a growing number of people being prescribed medical marijuana.
Judaism has kept its connection to marijuana very well hidden, however, according to many biblical texts such as Genesis 1: 29-30, one can’t deny that this herb comes from God and seems to be encouraged to use for spiritual practices.
An article titled, Kosher Cannabis: Judaism and Marijuana clearly describe biblical and scientific ties to Judaism and Marijuana. Much of the research today comes from that of Jerusalem professors Yechiel Gaoni and Raphael Mechoulam. These professors are responsible for separating the active ingredient of marijuana and the psychoactive part, THC, along with the anandamide. It was not that long ago that Israeli scientist created a Cannabis strain that excluded THC.
There seems to be a greater acceptance for marijuana usage amongst certain Jews when it is for medical purposes; however, very strict religious guidelines remain in place shunning the use of this substance.
Hinduism is the dominant religion in the countries of India and Nepal, although it is the religion of more than 900 million people across the world. Hinduism is unique in that it doesn’t have one particular savior, founder, scripture, or even one agreed set of rules.
In general, Hindus are against using drugs for recreational purposes. That said, Cannabis and Hinduism are undeniably intertwined. In fact, Cannabis was first documented in the sacred Hindu texts, called the Vedas. These texts could stem as far back as 2000 B.C. and describe Cannabis as a plant among five other sacred plants. According to the Vedas, Cannabis houses a guardian angel and is a bringer of joy and liberation that was given to people from the gods out of compassion so as to help ease their troubles, bring joy, and have greater sexual experiences.
According to some Hindu stories, Cannabis comes from a drop of nectar that came straight from heaven. Another story says that the demons and gods churned the milk ocean in order to achieve immortality, and they ended up with Cannabis.
Shiva, an important Hindu god, is connected to Cannabis (known as “bhang” in India). One day Shiva wandered off from a family fight and took a nap below a plant — this led him to test out the leaves, making him feel much better and decide that Cannabis was actually his preferred food. It has also been said that Shiva smoked marijuana before he meditated in order to relax and keep his focus better.
Today, some Hindu mystics in the world actually use marijuana intentionally to help them with their spiritual endeavors. There are also religious festivals that involve locals sharing bowls of Cannabis, or offerings of Cannabis given to the preferred deity in the region.