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Religion and history are full of miraculous stories and larger than life characters. From Jesus to Christopher Columbus, the burning bush to the Garden of Eden, we are taught that these people and stories are the righteous among us- they are our examples and our best case scenarios. But what they also share, is a rich history of marijuana moments. That’s right. Recent science, biblical scholarship, and historical evidence prove time and again that many of our favorite biblical stories and historical characters grew and smoked marijuana. It was included in holy rituals and everyday necessities that you definitely didn’t learn about in history class.
Adam and Eve
“...and the tree was desirable to make one wise; so she took of its fruit, and she ate, and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. And the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves and made themselves girdles. And they heard the voice of the Lord God going in the garden to the direction of the sun, and the man and his wife hid from before the Lord God in the midst of the trees of the garden.”
Did they share the first joint in history? The opening of eyes, the realization of God. It definitely sounds like a good trip. And there is plenty of scholarly reason to back this up. As we know, cannabis grows almost everywhere in the world, and the Garden of Eden is believed to be in the Middle East, a territory where marijuana grows willy nilly. If we are to believe that man and woman were created on the last day, surely they were surrounded by lush flora and fauna, just one of which could have been cannabis.
Temple Incense Offerings
“Also, one will beautify [sabbath candle lighting] when the wick is made from cotton, flax or cannabis…” - Code of Jewish Ethics
Incense offerings were a standard part of Judaism in the time of the temple (587 BC-5CE). So was burning candles for the Sabbath. There are many instances in Jewish history where cannabis is named as a recommended building material, clothing material, and, incense. All of this points to cannabis being not just wild but cultivated and used, daily, to get closer to God. Surely, this led to use and possibly even regular use among a select few or a wide many. Unfortunately, the use of cannabis in temple rituals and other Jewish rituals has been flushed from history due to modern interpretations of the text. Bar Mitzvahs would reach a new level if things were different.
Some of you may have heard those two words before. They stem from the Old Testament and are included in the ingredients with which the priestly anointing oil was made. Kaneh Bosm, which could sound like cannabis, was in that mixture. Actually, nine pounds of it was in that mixture. The anointing oil was believed to give priests the ability to speak with God and guide the people in the proper way. In the New Testament, Jesus also takes part in a ritual of oil made partly from Kaneh Bosm, resulting in prophetic statements.
The story goes that Hasan Ben Sabah, a powerful Arab master of the 5th century used hashish, weed, to entice young men into a small, private army. He then used this band of assassins, or, hashishin, to raid, loot, and murder enemies. Believed to have hypnotic powers, the men were overcome with joy and hunger, and they happily gave their lives to the joy of plunder and murder. And, in their downtime, they smoked a lot of ganja. If you had the chance to be part of a murderous clan, you'd probably choose the one that smokes a bowl after a hard day's work, no?
Moses and the Burning Bush
“An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from within the thorn bush, and behold, the thorn bush was burning with fire, but the thorn bush was not being consumed. So Moses said, "Let me turn now and see this great spectacle why does the thorn bush not burn up?"
There is heady evidence that the bush at which Moses received the commandment from God to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt, was in fact a marijuana plant. We know the location of the bush, Mount Horeb, and we know that marijuana is indigenous to the area. Furthermore, it was said that the bush was on fire but not burning. Couple that with hearing God and you’ve got the makings of a marijuana fueled prophecy. Granted, this prophecy freed the Jewish people from Egypt and altered the history of the planet, but hey, lots of crazier stories have resulted from that magical plant.
Shakespeare. The bard. Arguably the greatest poet, playwright, author of all time. He was a genius, no doubt. But many geniuses also drink, smoke, and do drugs. It seems Shakespeare was one of them. Clay pipes containing traces of THC were found in the garden of his house in Stratford-Upon-Avon in the 1980s. Not illegal and cultivated privately all over Europe, it makes perfect sense that Shakespeare would have drawn from his hash pipe before, during or after a long day's work. He even writes about “a notable weed” in one of his sonnets. Did Shakespeare give us the slang name "weed"?!
Egypt was chock full of marijuana. Used for medical purposes, it was cultivated, smoked, made into resin, and even drank. Many Pharaohs' tombs have been found to contain resin. While the Chinese were the first to cultivate marijuana and use it for medical purposes, roughly a thousand years before the Egyptians, it was the Pharaohs who took it to a new level. They baked it into breads, smoked it in pipes, and thought so highly of it that they put huge hash blocks into their tombs. Can't think of a better piece of luggage for a long ride on the river Styx.
The most famous of all hemp farmers, the first president of the United States cultivated hundreds of acres of the durable and fun plant. Marijuana was in common use when America was first founded, and Washington led the wave of use. A tobacco farmer familiar with all things smoke, surely this man, the founder and genius behind democracy as we know it today, needed to relax every once in awhile. There are even records showing that Washington separated the female stems (the THC) from the male. To this day, this is the only way to get high on hemp, otherwise known as weed. Washington was actually our second wealthiest president, with an estate at the time of his death valued in today's money at about $500 million. I wonder what an ounce cost back then.
The man who explored the world and eventually found America kept excellent logs of his journeys, including what he brought with him. In these logs, we see that he kept cannabis sativa seeds and even a few bushels of hemp. While there was already marijuana cultivation happening on the American continent from the Aztec empire up to the Native Americans, Columbus brought a different type of seed and a different style of smoking. Sativas weren't native to the land at the time. It is even said that a hash pipe was shared between Columbus and the Native Americans during the first Thanksgiving feast.
Cannabis: A History
Was marijuana the original "gateway drug" to enlightenment? Whatever your opinion on the controversial plant may be, it's place in history cannot be ignored. In this comprehensive book, Martin Booth speaks to the history of both medical advance and religious enlightenment when it comes to cannabis. And above all, Booth chronicles the fascinating process through which cannabis became outlawed throughout the Western world, compared to it's past purposes. What is the real history of cannabis?