Cannabis News

The Mother Plant of the Goddess – Cannabis

CANNABIS CULTURE – Like us, cannabis occurs in both male and female forms a differentiation which marks higher forms of both botanical and animal species .  “Propagation of the female species… is the total concern of the grower interested in the narcotic power of the plant.  It is thus a kind of happy coincidence that the subjective effects of cannabis and the care and attention needed to produce a good resin strain both conspire and accentuate values that are oriented toward honoring and preserving the feminine.”(McKenna 1992).  With such a view in mind it is not so surprising to find that diverse devotees have often come to note something feminine about marijuana, or Mary Jane, and this goes back to ancient times.  Almost two millennia ago Chinese Taoist sages remarked upon this distinction, defining that it was the yin, (feminine opposite to the male yang) that contained the plants magical and euphoric properties.

Interestingly cannabis has been identified with a number of ancient Goddesses. In her groundbreaking historical studies of cannabis, the Polish anthropologist Sula Benet, known now for her identification of the ancient Hebrew term ‘Kaneh bosm’ with the plant cannabis,   wrote:

 Taking into account the matriarchal element of Semitic culture, one is led to believe that Asia Minor was the original point of expansion for both the society based on the matriarchal circle and the mass use of hashish. (Benetowa,[Benet], 1936)

The Matriarchal Circle, refers to the age of the Goddess, and what Benet is identifying is her belief that it was amongst the Near Eastern worshipers of the goddess that the cultic use of cannabis may have originated.

The Matriarchal theory holds that as humanity made the transition from a nomadic hunter-gatherer, into a pastoral agriculturist, much of the earlier focus on animal totems (humanities oldest religious symbols which were used to symbolically attract game), later became focused on the image of the Great Goddess, Mother Earth and the proper worship of her so that the earth would bare its fruits. As the developing mind of humanity struggled to comprehend the patterns of order in the seemingly chaotic world around them, they perceived that all new life was given birth by the feminine. “In the presence of birth, they were doubtful not merely about the father’s identity but about his existence. Sex relations occurred without pregnancy; why should not pregnancy occur without sex relations? Woman alone was the visible life bestower.”(Ashe 1976).

In paleolithic times it was natural for a woman to be pregnant, and there was no particular reason to wonder how it came about…. Man’s role in procreation was not one that could be easily deduced from the pattern of everyday paeolithic life, when intercourse was frequent and pregnancy commonplace, when the only calendar was the moon, and nine months in relation to life expectancy almost as long as two years today…. there is nothing in all the long millennia of the paleolithic era to prove that…[man]knew about… [his role in procreation]”.(Tannahill 1982)

As  Erich Neumann wrote in The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype:

“In the early situation of human culture, the group psyche was dominant.  A relation of participation mystique prevailed between the individual and his group and its environment, particularly the world of plants and animals…For many good reasons, the basic matriarchal view saw no relation between the sexual act and the bearing of children.  Pregnancy and sexuality were disassociated both in the inner and outward experience of woman.  This may be readily understood when we consider that these early societies were characterized by a promiscuous sex life that began far before sexual maturity…In the primordial phase therefore, the woman always conceived by an extrahuman, transpersonal power….”(Neumann 1955\1974)

This primeval concept of the female as the sole creatrix of life gave rise to the cult of the Great Mother and thus many of the most ancient surviving religious artifacts are images of the female form. Her millennia of worship and veneration lasted well into Biblical times.

Evidence that worship of divinity in its feminine aspect had a place of importance in Canaan and Syria is given by the numerous small female statuettes with sexual characteristics emphasized which have been found by archaeologists… it is clear that the worship of the goddess fits in well with the Canaanite fertility cult, and the number of these figurines attest to the high measure of popularity which she enjoyed.”(Ringgren 1973)

  In the majority of hunter-gatherer societies Women generally balanced the males supply of game with there collected harvest from the surrounding wilderness.   It is believed that women, who acted as the gatherers in the early nomadic clan, were the first to recognize how the plants they collected propagated themselves, and this led to the development of agriculture. “Since the cultivation of plants was first undertaken by women, their importance in the social structure greatly increased, which, in turn, gave rise to a cult of Mother Earth, as well as to a mythology of the moon conceived as female.”(Patai 1967) Agriculture, and an abundant harvest, led to more settled communities, and in light of this, it is not at all surprising to find that most of the earliest civilizations were both matriarchally structured and agriculturally based, i.e., Mohenjo-Daro, where evidence of ancient cannabis cloth has been recovered

Cannabis’s relationship with things feminine likely goes back to its primordial discovery in the hunter gatherer period of pre-history. Current archeological evidence places the use of hemp fibres as far back as 25,000 years ago.

These early agriculturally based communities had a relationship and knowledge of the natural world around them that was likely comparable to that of the few un-Christianized aboriginal communities that have managed to survive down to our modern day– groups that have such an intense knowledge of the properties of the plants around them that it astyounds many an acedemically trained botanist and chemist.  As Anthropologist Richard Rudgley has commented on the early matriarchal situation;

“While animal protiens are highly prized, the bulk of the staples are usually the result of female labor.  This division of labor may suggest that in prehistoric time’s women’s role vis-a-vis plants were not limited to the culinary or even medical spheres, but extended into the discovery of psychoactive plants (this has a distant echo in the female dominated European witchcraft tradition…).  Gatherers have an extreemely detailed knowledge of their land and its natural resources, and having considered the technical and intellectual achievements of hunter-gatherer communities past and present we should not be surprised that they were able to identify, collect and process a variety of species…”(Rudgley 1993)

In sinc with the developing soical power and magic of the females, were many of the attributes aquired by the goddesses who represented her;

“As goddess of the food-giving plants, herbs, and fruits, she numinously transforms these basic elements into intoxications and poisons.  It is quite evident that the preperation and storage of food taught woman the process of fermentation and the manufacture of intoxicants, and that, as a gatherer and later preparer of herbs, plants, and fruits, she was the inventor and gaurdian of the first healing potions, medicines, and poisons…. The goddess is therefore not only the queen of the enobled fruit of the soil but also of the spirit matter of transformation that is emodied in… wine [and other intoxicants]….”

“In the pile dwellings of the Stone Age we already find evidence of the growing of poppies, the typical plant of the Cretan Goddess, of Demeter, Ceres and Spes…. The efficacy of the poppy as a magic potion…. is a secret of the woman… (Neumann 1955\1974)

The Minoan Poppy Goddess

With her primordial association with the magical poppy, it is not so suprising to find the Goddess connected with other  sacred plants as well. As noted the development of agriculture first took place durring what is known as the matriarchal period of human culture when the image of the mother Goddess was the most widespread and common motif.  Carl Sagan has suggested that cannabis was humanities first agriculral crop (196??) and more recently entheogen and aphrodisiac researcher Christian Ratsch has noted; “No other plant has been with humans as long as hemp.  It is most certainly one of humanity’s oldest cultural objects”(Ratsch 1997).  With the views of such eminent scholars in mind along with the historicaly known popularity of the goddess at this same time, it only seems conclusive that there had to have been a deep rooted relationship between the ancient hemp crop and the Great mother worshipped by the people who originally planted it.  A hypothesis which is strengthened immesly with a look through the historical record.

  “Let us look at the factors which could have contributed to the start of mass use of hashish in the matriarchal circle. One important factor is that in preparing fibre from plant and during the harvest the strong odor intoxicate the workers . According to ancient customs still surviving in modern times, all work involving hemp is done in mass.  Since antiquity the hemp harvest has been considered a holiday, especially for the young people. In many countries the harvest is a sort of reunion to which guests come with or without masks and give all sorts of presents to the workers. Here we see an obvious link with the masculine secret societies in the matriarchal circle in which there is mass use of hashish”.–‘Tracing one Word Through Different Languages’, Sara Benetowa, (1936), in , The Book of Grass, Andrews,1967.

Benet talks us back to a time in the ancient Old World, when one of the most prevailing artifacts recovered were various artifacts relating to the worship of the Great Goddess. A theory postulated by some anthropologists, that is fostered by these artifacts, suggests that in Palaeolithic, Mesolithic eras and/or Neolithic Europe and Western Asia and North Africa, a singular, monotheistic female deity was worshipped prior to the development of the polytheistic pagan religions of the Bronze Age and Iron Age.

Variations of the Great Goddess figurines that have been recovered from various archeological sites.

 Seated Mother Goddess of Çatal Höyük: (the head is a restoration), Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. remains of Hemp cloth have been recovered from this same ancient site

In light of this, it is interesting to note, that cannabis has through the millennia been connected with a number of Goddesses around Mother Earth.

China’s Ma Ku

Ma Ku, literally, ‘Hemp Lady’, was a Taoist ‘Immortal’, who had strong connections with the ‘elixir of life,’ bringing back to mind that cannabis was deemed one of the Superior Elixirs of Immortality by Shen Nung millennia prior to this and it would seemed to have enjoyed this reputation in the intervening centuries. “…Taoist dreamed of ascending to heaven after so many years of asceticism and by taking an elixir of life concocted from various rare herbs” (Suzuki, 1961).

Something might… be gained by pursuing the mythological connection with the hemp Damsel, Ma Ku, goddess of the slopes of Thai Shan, where the plant was supposed to be gathered on the seventh day of the seventh month, a day of séance and banquets in Taoist communities. (Needham, 1974)

In relation, the Taoist philosopher Wang Yuan (146-168 CE), was said to have invited Ma Ku to a feast on the cannabis gathering day of the “seventh day of the seventh month” where “The servings were piled up on gold platters and in jade cups without limit. There were rare delicacies, many of them made from flowers and fruits, and their fragrance permeated the air inside and out.” Wang served the guests a strong liquor from “the celestial kitchens,” and warned that it was “unfit for drinking by ordinary people.”  According to the ancient account, even after diluting the liquor with water, everyone became intoxicated and desired more. It is believed by some sources that the elixir referred to was a special wine made from cannabis. A Chinese poem about Ma ku by Ts’ao T’ang clearly brings to mind the beauty of budding cannabis:

Blue Lad transmits the word, requiring them to come back:

His report tells that Miss Hemp’s ‘jade stamens’ have opened.

The watchet [Blue-grey] Sea has turnd to dust –

All other affairs may be disregarded:

They mount dragon and crane and come to observe the flowers.

The ‘Blue Lad’ is a Taoist deity, and the poem describes him summoning all the fairies and immortals to witness the blossoming of Ma Ku’s flowers. “Apparently the T’ang literati argued about the identity of this ‘jade stamen-and-pistil’ flower suggesting that the truth was understood only by a few, who knew how to cultivate hemp flowers till (according to one description) they sported ‘whiskers like threads of ice, with golden grain sewn on top’” (Bey, et al., 2004). Conceivably, this could indicate that the Taoist gardeners new the secret of separating the male from female cannabis plants, to produce resinous seedless cannabis known as sinsemillia, a cultivation technique generally assumed to have been developed much later.

Kali Weed

Although Shiva is the Lord of Bhang, cannabis appears in offering to a number of other deities such as those dedicated to Shiva’s consort Kali, Goddess of Life and Death. Kali’s cannabis mantra is, “Om, Hrim Ambrosia, that springeth forth from ambrosia, Thou shalt showerest ambrosia, draw ambrosia for me again and again.  Bring Kalika within my control. Give success; Svaha” (Avalon, 1913). In Tantric rites, cannabis retained its ancient Vedic epithet of ‘Vijaya’ (Victory). As Arthur Avalon (aka, Sir John Woodroffe) explained: “Vijaya, (victory) used in ceremonies to Kali: That is the narcotic Bhang (hemp)… used in all ceremonies” (Avalon, 1913).

In medieval India and Tibet, sorcerers in search of magic powers glorified the use of a marijuana drink (bhang)… in Tantric sex ceremonies derived from the ancient soma cult. A circle of naked men and women is conducting an experiment of the central nervous system. They consecrate a bowl of bhang to Kali, goddess of terror and delight. As the bhang begins to take effect, the worshippers mentally arouse the serpent at the base of the spine, sending waves of energy up tothe cortex. (Aldrich, 1978)

Cannabis also played an important role in the Durga Puja, the annual Hindu six day festival that celebrates worship of the Hindu goddess Durga. Up until the 19th century, at the close of the Durga Puja, it was customary to drink bowls of bhang and to offer them to others. As the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report recorded:

The custom of offering an infusion of the leaves of the hemp plant to every guest and member of the family on the… last day of the Durga Puja, is common in Bengal, and may almost be said to be universal. It is alluded to by many of the witnesses who refer to its use on this occasion as well as on other days of the Durga Puja festival. But, while there can be no doubt as to the existence of the custom, there is considerable divergence of opinion as to the true nature of it. The custom itself is a simple one. On the last day of this great festival the male members of the family go forth to consign the image to the waters and on their return the whole family with their guests exchange greetings and embrace one another. During this rejoicing a cup containing an infusion of the leaves of the hemp plant is handed round, and all are expected to partake thereof, or at least to place it to the lips in token of acceptance. Sweetmeats containing hemp are also distributed. Opinion is almost equally divided as to whether the custom is a mere social observance, or whether it is an essential part of the religious ceremonial of the festival. There is difference whether there is any injunction in the opinion among the witnesses as to Shastras rendering obligatory the consumption of hemp; but Tantric religious works sanction the use, and the custom whatever be its origin may now be said from immemorial usage to be regarded by many people as part of their religious observances. From the evidence of the witnesses it would appear that there is no specific direction in the Shastras of the manner in which the drug should be used but from the references quoted it would appear that the use alluded to is authority that of bhang in the form of an infusion. (IHDCR, 1894)

Freya

It has been said that agriculture led to culture and perhaps in our cultivation of cannabis, the plant has in some way cultivated humanity? Archaeological evidence from 3,500 BC gives clear proof that European man was using cannabis as an incense and inebriant very early on.

Hemp seeds, which could be identified as those of Cannabis sativa, were recovered in the Neolithic band ceramic… layers of Eisenbergin Thuringia, Germany… The layers were dated to around 5500 b.c.e. Hemp seeds have also been found in the excavations of other, somewhat more recent Neolithic layers, such as those in… Switzerland,…  Austria,…  and… Romania… These finds date from a period of peaceful, horticultural, pre-Indo-European cultures who venerated the Great Goddess. The linear band ceramics that lend their name to this Stone Age cultural epoch are decorated with graphics representing the archetypical motifs and patterns of hallucinatory or psychedelic themes… (Ratsch, 2005)

Referring to German authorities, Christian Ratsch states that in ancient Germanic culture cannabis was used in honour of the Goddess Freya as both a ritual inebriant and an aphrodisiac and that the harvesting of the plant was connected with an erotic high festival. “Hemp, sacred to her, was used to promote desire, fertility and health in humans” (Ratsch, 2001). It was believed that Freya lived as a fertile force in the plant’s feminine flowers and by ingesting them one became influenced by this divine force” (Ratsch 2001, 2005). This view is supported by the archaeological discovery of cannabis in a pre-historic German tomb.

Remnants of hemp dating from prehistoric times were discovered in 1896 in northern Europe when the German archaeologist, Hermann Busse opened a tomb containing a funerary urn at Wilmersdorf (Brandenburg). The vessel in question contained sand in which were mixed remnants of plants. It dated from the 5th century BC. The botanist, Ludwig Wittmaack (1839-1929), was able to find among this plant debris fragments of the seed and pericarp of Cannabis sativa L.  At the session of the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory on May 15, 1897, Busse presented a report on his discovery and drew the conclusion that hemp had already been known in northern Europe in prehistoric times… one must agree with C. Hartwich that hemp was already employed in northern Europe at the same time that it was by the Chinese and the Scythians for food and pleasure. (Reininger, 1941)

Interestingly the Scythian Goddess chose as her weapon, the Scythe, a tool used in the harvesting of cannabis and named after the culture from which it is thought to have originated, the Scythians.

The only deity shown in Scythian art was the Great goddess whom the Greeks called Artemis, or Hestia or Gaea (The Earth)…Scythians were governed by priestess-queens, usually buried alone in richly furnished Kurgans (queen graves)…The moon-sickle used in mythical castrations of god was a Scythian weapon. A long handled form therefore came to be called a scythe, and was assigned to the Grim Reaper, who was originally Rhea Kronia in the guise of Mother Time, or Death – the Earth who devoured her own children. Scythian women apparently used such weapons in battle as well as religious ceremonies and agriculture.  (Walker, 1986)

Walker’s comments regarding the use of the scythe and agriculture, can be particularly applied to the Scythians favorite and most versatile crop, cannabis hemp, as the long handled scythe with its curved blade is particularly designed for harvesting hemp, enabling the harvester to cut the hemp along the soil line thus preserving its long fibrous stalks. In relation to the Scythian Goddess, it is interesting to note that along with the cannabis burning braziers found Pazyryk, two extraordinary rugs were also found in the frozen Scythian tomb. One rug had a border frieze with a repeated composition of a horseman approaching the Great Goddess Tabiti-Hestia, the patroness of fire and beasts, who holds the ‘Tree of Life’  in one hand and raises the other hand in welcome. Professors Schultes and Hoffman refer to this carpet in a chapter on cannabis (Schultes & Hoffman, 1979). “Like the Aryans… who composed the Rig Veda, the Scythians may have been grinding the plant and throwing it into their mead and possibly trading it to the Aryans to the south of them in the Indus Valley” (Copeland, 2007).

A Horseman approaches the Great Goddess who holds the tree of life in one hand, on the frieze of a Scythian carpet, carpets such as these were often cloaked over a teepee like structure and used as a hot box over a brazier of smouldering cannabis flowers.

The Scythian Queen

With the strong elements of Goddess worship in the Scythian culture, it is not surprising to find a matriarchal hierarchy as well, and we know from surviving artefacts that Scythian women took powerful leadership roles in the tribe.  As well “Both men and women probably smoked [hemp], since we found two sets of apparatus for smoking with the burial of a man and a woman” (Rudenko, 1970).  Indeed later finds of cannabis seeds at the site of a “Scythian Queen” provide evidence of this.

In 1993, a female Scythian mummy was discovered. The China Daily reported of the find “The mummy was buried alongside six horses in full harness, dishes, a mirror, a brush, and even a small pot of cannabis to help her travel into the afterlife.” A 1995 episode of The National Geographic Explorer, The Frozen Siberian Tombs, profiled a dig centered around a recently discovered Kurgan, and the program televised such things as an over 2,000 year old hemp shirt, woven as fine as silk; A beautifully embroidered and decorated bag, used for holding cannabis; And an exotic Persian rug, testifying to wide ancient trade routes.  This find was in the Altai Mountains of Siberia, an area where the borders of Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan converge. The New York Times story on the find reported; `

…[S]he was elegantly laid out in a white silk blouse, red skirt and white stockings. She had been buried in a hollowed tree trunk alongside horse harnesses, a mirror, dishes and a small container of cannabis, which archaeologists believe was smoked for pleasure and used in pagan rituals. ….That, and the intricate tattoos on her left arm, led the archaeologists who found her to conclude that she was a Scythian princess and a priestess. (Stanley, 1994)

Cannabis was not only used by the Scythians for relaxation and ceremonies for the dead.  These ancient nomads had a class of Shaman-magicians, the Enaries, ancient transvestites, who uttered prophecies in high pitched voices while twisting fibers in their fingers a technique which they held was taught to them by Aphrodite. This at first sounds, bizarre, but in actuality, homosexuality was a very common trait in shamans of tribal peoples, worldwide, who believed that these people, who had characteristics of both sexes, were somehow also living in both worlds, and could travel between the two. It has been recorded that the Scythians believed that the feminine characteristics of the shamans were punishment from the Great goddess for desecrating her shrine at Ashkelon. The messages “channeled” by these ancient diviners was taken as authoritative advice by the chieftains and the tribe.  In this sense, the Shamans acted as the conscience or mind of the whole group.

Cybelle’s cannophori

Another potential foreign conduit for Greek cannabis use may come from the cult of Cybelle. Originally a Phrygrian and Hittite Goddess, Cybelle’s worship is believed to go back to Neolithic times in Anatolia, where she likely originated as a deification of Mother Earth. Her Roman equivalent was ‘Magna Mater,’ or ‘Great Mother’. Cybelle’s cult was popularized around the 5th century BC in Greece, where she was associated with the later cult of Dionysus, whom she was said to have both initiated and cured of Hera’s madness. Cybelle later became a life-death-rebirth deity through the connection with her son/consort Attis.

Cybelle’s original Phrygian priests, known as Gallus, or Galli, assumed women’s clothing after a sacrificial castration, the gender transfer being a form of worship of the Goddess by identification. “We know that the Phrygian tribes… during the 1st millennium BCE were weavers of hemp (and possibly imbibers of intoxicating hemp preparations)” (Merlin, 1973). References to some Gallibeing awakened to this form of worship, after ingesting a certain kind of “herb growing along the banks of the Maeander River” (Conner 1993), as well as acknowledged use of mysterious sacraments amongst the cult, indicate clearly that they were practicing the common trait of mystery religions of the time – ingestion of entheogenic sacraments. Referring to the visionary dream which was said to awaken the Gallus to their new identification with the Goddess, Randy P. Conner commented; “It is possible to see the… drinking or eating of special substances as a fated occurrence that triggered the awareness of one’s destiny.  Such experiences were said to cause an individual to experience sophrene, to ‘recover one’s senses’” (Conner 1993).

Recent finds have established that Cybelle was worshipped among the Thracian tribes (Camphausen 1991), who as discussed were well known for using cannabis to attain mystic states, especially amongst their own transvestite shamans. Interestingly, certain male functionaries of Cybelle and Attis’ cult were known as cannophori, which has usually been translated as “reed-bearers”, but linguistically, with “canno”, this may have implications of “cannabis-bearers” instead. “The Latin name of cannabis, perhaps rectius cannevas, as the Italian name is cannevacchio (our English canvass was made from it) would connect it with…the cannephoroi…” (Bell, 1852)

Archaeological evidence shows the Phrygian culture from which the religion arose used hemp (Abel 1980).  

Cannabis and Aphrodite

Dr. David Hillman has suggested that “the primary component of rituals performed by archaic, classical and Hellenistic colleges of priestesses associated with temples of Dionysus and Aphrodite. From the earliest associations of oracular priesthoods in Cyprus, marijuana was an integral component of cult sacrifices”.

“The temples of Aphrodite-Urania in the Eastern Mediterranean were the earliest Greek localities where incense containing Cannabis was burned at all times during the day and night. Travellers and devotees to the triune divinities of Dionysus, Aphrodite and the Muses, indulged in fumigations of marijuana meant to induce theurgic operations. Cult followers inhaled the fumes of burning marijuana in order to assist in the “motivation of statues” and the production of oracular visions. (Hillman, 2012)

In his 2012 lecture at ‘Cannabis Roots: The Hidden History of Marijuana’  , titled ‘Satisfying the Flame of Desire with Marijuana: Priestesses, Drugs, and the Cycle of Life‘ Hillman claims that:

Priestesses associated with temples of Aphrodite-Urania formed private associations that trained young women in the use of drugs to alter menstruation and the use of poisons as a means of defending and enforcing oracular pronouncement. These colleges date back to the first associations of oracular priestesses who served the temples of Black Night, a god whose cult was associated with the administration of archaic justice under the auspices of the Erinyes, Nemesis and Dike. These colleges referred to their members as “wolves” and the cult deity as the great “She-Wolf.”

Marijuana was used by members of the “wolves” as a medication and aphrodisiac. As a matter of fact, Cannabis appears to have been one of the earliest aphrodisiacs used in Greece. Dr. Hillman will show that the use of marijuana was associated with a specific colloquial drug vocabulary that developed in Greece and Rome. Marijuana was referred to originally as “star” and was the drug responsible for inducing “the quenching of the flame,” a cult term used to express the achievement of female sexual satisfaction by priestesses of Aphrodite involved in both oracular pronouncements and temple prostitution. (Hillman, 2012)

Hera’s Garlands of Asterion 

In the first century CE, Dioscorides, referred to a number of names that had been applied to cannabis, notably asterion which means “little star”, and is related to the shape of the leaves spreading out from the centre. Under the name “asterion” cannabis was used as an offering to the Goddess Hera, wife of Zeus. Pausanias’ Description of Greece Book 2. 17.2, reads: “On its banks grows a plant, which also is called asterion. They offer the plant itself to Hera, and from its leaves weave her garlands.”

“I contend that the proper altered state of consciousness may have generated through the use of psychotropic compounds (mentioned by Iamblichus as one method for inducing ecstasy). I find evidence of the use of such sacred medicines by the oracular priestesses of Delphi and the priestesses of Hera at Argos, where asterion, which is cannabis, was a plant associated with the mysteries.”

Marguerite Rigoglioso, ‘Matriarchal Spirituality and Virgin Birth’, Matriarchal Politics Conference, May 2011 St Gallen, Switzerland

in her book The Cult of Divine Birth in Ancient Greece,  Dr Marguerite Rigoglioso has suggested that cannabis under the name asterion was in use in the Greek Cult of Hera, wife of Zeaus and supreme Goddess of the Greek pantheon, .

The idea that the priestess of Hera may have used asterion… may find support in the identification between the plant name asterion and the original name of Delos, Asteria. …the entheogen cannabis… may have facilitated priestesses’ “astral” trance journeys…

Pausanias (2. 17.1-7) provides a description of the environs of Argive Heraion and its cult practices that further points to priestesses’ intimate involvement with the mysteries associated with the goddess…. above the Argive Heraion flowed the river Asterion, on whose banks grew the asterion plant. The vines and leaves were woven into garlands for the statue of Hera, and the plant was made as an offering to her…. The plants use of an offering to the goddess suggests it was considered particularly sacred: I contend this was precisely due to its psychotropic properties… Hera’s priestesses used asterion/cannabis as a means of conjoining with their Goddess in a state of entheos . The plants name, asterion, “little star,” suggests that it was thought to bring users in contact with the astral realms, in particular with Hera’s aspect as a Goddess of the heavens. (Rigoglioso, 2009)

This same star symbolism has been suggested in the cannabis leaf shaped image over the head of the Egyptian Goddess Seshat.

A Rope Ladder to the Heavens and the Goddess Seshat

In the pyramid text of Unas, which seems to concern the king’s ascension into the heavens through the northern passageway of his pyramid, hemp ropes, here under the name shemshemet or the SmSm.t-plant and this was the means for climbing into the starry sky.

There is general agreement with the view of Dawson (1934a) that shemshemet means cannabis, and the identification was strongly supported by the use of hempen rope making. As a drug, it has remained in active use since pharaonic times. It… was administered by mouth, rectum, vagina, bandaged the skin, applied to the eyes, and by fumigation. However, these applications provide no clear evidence of awareness of the effects of cannabis on the central nervous system. (Nunn, 2002)

In the ancient inscription, the devotee is commanded to say the following words in praise of Unas a celestial Bull, who is the guide of the dead to the heavens:

This Unas is the bull of double brilliance in the midst of his Eye. Safe is the mouth of Unas through the fiery breath, the head of Unas through the horns of the lord of the South. Unas leads the god…  Unas has twisted the SmSm.t-plant into ropes. Unas has united (zmA) the heavens…

Or as Budge translates it: “He raises up the cords (fibres?) of the shemshemet plant, he unites the heavens” (Budge, 1911). A similar indication regarding hemp ropes may be found in the mythology of the Goddess Seshat, who appears to be holding a rope and a stalk in the below depiction. More interesting is the image that appears above the head of the ancient Goddess.

Indication regarding hemp ropes may be found in the mythology of the Goddess Seshat, who appears to be holding a rope and a stalk in the below depiction. More interesting is the image that appears above the head of the ancient Goddess.

Fig 2: Seshat holding rope to the heavens, cannabis stalk, with cannabis leaf above?

A number of different researchers have noted the similarity between a cannabis leaf and the symbol attached to the head of the Goddess Seshat in Egyptian images. Seshat was the Egyptian Goddess of temple architecture and mistress of scribes, presiding over the “House of Life,” also known as the “House of Books.” This temple was a sort of library and school of knowledge, and served as a store place of texts regarding tradition and rituals. Since very early Egyptian times, Seshat’s main function was to assist the king in “stretching the cord” for the layout of temples and royal buildings, and in this one is reminded of the Ur depictions discussed in Chapter 10.

Author and researcher H. Peter Aleff has put forth an intriguing theory that this symbol is associated with the use of hemp cords. “It was… consistent with the ancient Egyptian visual canon that the artists who portrayed Seshat the rope-stretching goddess of measuring and geometry would have labeled her with  pictures of her principal tools, or with easily recognizable symbols for these. Indeed, they combined evocations of these tools ingeniously in her emblem”:


Many Egyptologists have long speculated about the emblem which Seshat wore as her head dress.Sir Alan Gardiner described it in his still category-leading “Egyptian Grammar” as a “conventionalized flower (?) surmounted by horns.” His question mark after “flower” reflects the fact that there is no likely flower which resembles this design.Others have called it a “star surmounted by a bow,” but stars in the ancient Egyptian convention had five points, not seven like the one in Seshat’s emblem.  This number was so important that it caused king Tuthmosis III (1479 to 1425 BCE) to give her the name Sefkhet-Abwy, or “She of the seven points.”

There is no need for such groping speculations because the various elements in Seshat’s emblem simply depict the tools of her geometer’s trade in the hieroglyphic manner.

Her seven-pointed “flower” or “star” is an accurate image of a hemp leaf.  This leaf is made up of seven pointed leaf parts that are arranged in the same pattern as the most prominent sign in Seshat’s emblem.Hemp is, and has long been, an excellent material for making ropes with the low-stretch quality required for measuring cords, particularly when these are greased to reduce variations in their moisture content which would influence elongation.

The characteristic leaf of the plant used in making these ropes was thus a logical choice for the emblem designer who wanted an easily recognized reference to Seshat’s job.  This leaf is so unique that its picture allows no confusion with other items…. the hemp leaf in Seshat’s emblem is unmistakable evidence that the ancient Egyptian rope- stretchers used hemp for their measuring cords, and that Seshat cannot deny her now illegal patronage and ownership of this psycho-active plant.

Add to this flagrant evidence that in Coffin Texts Spell 10, “Seshat opens the door of heaven for you” (7), and the case against her is solid enough to get her busted if she still plied her trade today. (Aleff, 1982/2008).

The Maat Plant

As noted in my book Cannabis and the Soma Solution (2010), Egyptian use of cannabis may be indicated in inscriptions regarding the Maat Plant, depicted in the lower parts of the following stele being tended by devotees and eyed by a waiting harvester with the traditional Scythian hemp harvesting tool the Scythe in hand. Generally this stele has been interpreted as identifying the activities of the dead in the after-world, but often such myths were acted out by devotees on the material plane, so indications of some sort of sacred rite involving earthly offerings of the Maat Plant cannot be easily dismissed.

attached image: Egyptian Stela with the Soma like Maat Plant

The Egyptians associated the Maat plant with Osiris, as we see here from the scenes and texts which are here reproduced from the alabaster coffin of Seti I… In the middle register we see the wicked tied to the jackal headed standards… In the register below we see figures of men engaged in tending a plant… and one figure has a scythe, which indicates he was the reaper of the plant. In the register above we some men carrying on their heads a loaf, and others a feather, symbolic of Maat, the goddess of Truth. The former group of beings (Second Register) are the blessed whose ‘Kau (i.e. dispositions) have been washed clean,’ and who have been chosen by Osiris to live with him in the house of ‘holy souls’. The latter group of beings (Third Register) are the ‘labourers in the wheat field of the Tuat’ (i.e. Other World), and the plants they tended and reaped are said to be ‘the members of Osiris’. The plant was Osiris, and Osiris was the plant, and the blessed in eating ‘the bread of everlastingness’ which was made from the grain of the plant ate Osiris. But Osiris was Maat, i.e. Truth, therefore in eating the bread they ate Truth. In eating his body they became one with him and therefore eternal… (Budge, 1925)

Curiously, Budge interpreted the plant image in the lower part of the Egyptian stele, along with similar depiction in Mesopotamian art (Chapter 10, Fig 16) as a “colossal ear of wheat.” More likely it represents some other plant, one that was harvested with the Scythian tool the Scythe, one which held divine properties and an association with immortality as well as rites for the dead. In relation to this depiction and the suggestion that the Maat plant was prepared into some sort of sacramental loaf, the body of the lord Osiris, it is important to note that in Persia cannabis was also known by the name Sahdanag – Royal Grain; or King’s Grain, and was prepared in a number of confections (Low, 1926).


Goddess Maat

In the account of the Maat Plant and its association with the dead, one is again reminded of the role of cannabis in Scythian funerary rites, as does the Eucharistic elements involving it invoke the mythology of the Soma and Haoma, the original Eucharistic sacrament. It should also be noted that Maat’s symbol was a green feather, and this symbolism has also been used to identify the Soma. “In RV X.89.5 the Soma is called simivat. In the context it should be translated as feathered, literally it means ‘like simi or sami’… The pinnate leaves of the sami… look like a feather…The feather in relation to the Soma-Plant is mentioned in RV IV.27.4” (Richter-Ushanas, 1997). As Homer Smith noted in Man and his Gods:

“Those who lived by the laws of Maat took a sacramental drink, comparable to the Hindus’ Soma or its Persian counterpart Haoma, which conferred ritual purity… Egyptian scribes writing in the third millenium B.C. wrote: “My inward parts have been washed in the liquor of Maat.” (Smith, 1952)

interestingly ancient wine amphora have been recovered in Egypt that contained evidence of cannabis. it is interesting to note the nepenthe, a drug which the Egyptians were said to have used to ease the grieving of mourners for the dead. The Odyssey of Homer (9th-8th century BC) describes the Nepenthes which came to the Greeks from Egyptian Thebes:

“Then Helen, daughter of Zeus… cast a drug into the wine whereof they drank, a drug to lull all pain and anger, and bring forgetfullness of every sorrow. Whoso should drink a draught thereof, when it is mingled in the bowl, on that day he would let no tear fall down his cheeks, not though his mother and his father died, not though men slew his brother or dear son with the sword before his face, and his own eyes beheld it. Medicines of such virtue and so helpful had the daughter of Zeus, which Polydamna, the wife of Thon, had given her, a woman of Egypt, where earth the grain-giver yields herbs in greatest plenty, many that are healing in the cup, and many baneful. There each man is a leech skilled beyond all human kind…”

The historian Diodorus Siculus, who lived in the 1st century B.C., noted that still in his time, more than 7 centuries after the composition of Homer’s Iliad, “people say that the Egyptian women make use of the powder (of this plant, scil. the nepenthes) and they say from ancient times only those women who lived in the ‘Town-of-Zeus’ [i.e. Thebes, which was also known as Diospolis] had found medicines which cure wrath and grief” (1, 97, 1-9; Eus. PE 10, 8, 9-12; cf. also Ps.Iustinus, Cohort. ad gent. 26e).

Numerous scholars have noted on the identity of nepenthe:“It is generally assumed that the drug, which Helen is supposed to have learned in Egypt, was opium, but the effects as described in the poem are much more like Cannabis, which was also widely employed in Egypt and throughout the Near East” (Ruck, et al., 2007).  An idea first put forth by the French Pharmacist Joseph Virey (1775—1846) who suggested in 1813 that hasheesh was Homer’s nepenthe (Bulletin de Pharmacie). Many others have since concurred: “The opinions entertained by the learned, on the nature of the Nepenthe of the ancients have been various. By Th. Zwinger, and… by Sprengel, in his history of botany, it is supposed to be opium… But the best authorities, with whom our author coincides, are of opinion that the Nepenthe was derived from the Cannabis sativa of Linnaeus” (Christen, 1822); “the famous nepenthe of the ancients is said to have been prepared by decocting the hemp leaves” (Watt, 1853); “nepenthe which may reasonably be surmised was bhang from the far east” (Benjamin, 1880). As the authors of The Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians also concluded: “Nepenthes… Perhaps the Bust or Hasheesh, a preparation of the Cannabis sativa” (Wilkinson & Birch, 1878). See also (Walton, 1938; Burton, 1894; Lewin, 1931; Singer and Underwood, 1962; Oursler, 1968; Wills, 1998). It is clearly the Nepenthe that Prof Richard Evans Schultes and Prof. Albert Hofmann are referring to when they wrote in a chapter on cannabis “In ancient Thebes the plant was made into a drink with opium like effects” (Schultes & Hofmann, 1979).

In A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, Yule and Crooke note an interesting connection between a Coptic (Greek-Egyptian) term and the nepenthe; “Bhang is usually derived from Skt. Bhanga, ‘breaking,’ but [Sir Richard] Burton derives both it and the Ar. Banj from the old Coptic Nibanj, ‘meaning a preparation of hemp; and here it is easy to recognize the Homeric Nepenthe’” (Yule, et al., 1903/1996). As Abram Smythe Palmer also notes in Folk-etymology: “Nepenthe, the drug which Helen brought from Egypt, is without doubt the Coptic nibendj, which is the plural of bendj, or benj, hemp, ‘bang,’ used as an intoxicant” (Palmer, 1882). When one returns to the contemporary Avestan term for cannabis, b’aŋ’ha, the similarity in this context, ne- b’aŋ’ha, brings us to an even closer to the cognate pronunciation ‘nepenthe.’

One can also note a similarity to the Indian term ‘panga,’ which refers to a paste made from pounded cannabis leaves mixed with water (Watt, 1908). (It should be noted that by the time the pyramids were built, there had already been large cities in India’s Mohenjodaran-Harappan in India, [geographically close to Mesopotamia and Scythian southwest Asia], for some centuries). The Hebrew term ‘pannag,’ which Dr. Raphael Mechoulam believes identifies a preparation of cannabis (Mechoulam, et al., 1991) is also similar. Interestingly, as nepenthe was a powder it is notable that both of these terms are believed to identify prepared forms of cannabis as well.

As the Nepenthe was infused in wine, it is important to note that ancient Amphorae, clay wine vessels from an Egyptian site, from the time period in question, revealed evidence of cannabis. In the 2004 paper, Pollen analysis of the contents of excavated vessels—direct archaeobotanical evidence of beverages, Manfred Rosch refers to vessels collected from a site in ˇSaruma/Al-Kom Al-Ahmar in Middle Egypt on the Nile:

“At this place the Institute of Egyptology of the University of Tubingen is excavating a graveyard which was used from the 6th Dynasty until the Roman period… Here some wine amphorae were excavated, from the bottom of which we obtained samples of organic material for pollen analytical investigations…. The useful plants, Cerealia and Humulus/Cannabis were present.” (Rosch, 2004)

attached image: Coptic wine amphora from ˇSaruma. Scale size 70 cm.. Broken bottoms of Coptic amphorae from ˇSaruma, showing black organic residues inside containing pollen. Scale size 20 cm. (Photos: B. Huber)

Ashera and the Tree of Life

The ancient Canaanites and Hebrews paid particular reverence to a Near Eastern Goddess  known by the name Ashera, whose cult was particularly focused around the cultic use of hemp.  According to the Bible itself, the ancient worshippers of Ashera, and the Great Goddess under her various manifestations, included wise Solomon and other Biblical kings as well as their wives and the daughters of Jerusalem.

“There is a classic Greek term, cannabeizen, which means to smoke Cannabis.  Cannabeizen frequently took the form of inhaling vapors from an incense burner in which these resins were mixed with other resins, such as myrrh, balsam, frankincense, and perfumes; this is the manner of the shamanistic Ashera priestesses of pre-reformation Jerusalem, who anointed their skins with the mixture as well as burned it.”(Emboden 1972)

                                                                                    

Icons dedicated to her have depictions of a ‘sacred-tree’, or plant, most likely made as a visual reference to the hemp that her followers grew and revered, utilizing it as an entheogen but also as a food and oil source, along with using the fibers in ritual weavings. Sula Benet believed that it may have been here amongst the worshippers of the goddess that the cultic use of cannabis may have originated: “Taking into account the matriarchal element of Semetic culture, one is led to believe that Asia Minor was the original point of expansion for both the society based on the matriarchal circle and the mass use of hashish.”(Benetowa,[Benet], 1936).

An ancient ivory cosmetic casket lid from the 14th century site of Minet al-Beida, depicts the goddess herself in the role of the Tree of life, offering two caprids, holding vegetation which clearly resembles buds of cannabis, but has been erroneously described as both ears of wheat or corn.  “This [depiction]seems to indicate finally the explanation of the Biblical references to the ‘asherah as a natural or stylized tree in the fertility cult.  This was the symbol of the mother-goddess, now known from the Ras Shamra texts as Ashera, the counterpart of Mesopotamian Ishtar, or Inanna….  The tree of life…is called the asherah in the Old Testament. (In the Authorized Version, it is called ‘the grove’.)”(Gray 1969).

The word that the Bible, with evident distaste, translates ‘grove’ was not really a grove at all, but an Asherah: the stylized multibranched tree symbolizing the Great Goddess of Canaan….Asherah’s… tree symbol was alternately the ‘tree of knowledge’ or ‘tree of life.’  In northern Babylon she was known as the Goddess of the Tree of Life, or the Divine Lady of Eden.(Walker 1988)   

Barbara Walker further connects Ashera, with the ancient symbol for the tree of life, by noting that the Eagle headed figures shown in the Assyrian reliefs, are “in the act of fecundating sacred trees, such as the goddess Asherah as the Tree of Life”(Walker 1988). (The identification of this particular symbol is surrounded in scholarly controversy, and in the forthcomming Sex, Drugs, Violenence and the Bible, myself and co-author Niel McQueen add to this debate by identifying as an ancint world symbol for cannabis)

Like the tree of life, the tree of knowledge was… a symbol associated with the Goddess in earlier mythology…. Groves of sacred trees were an intergal part of the old religion.  So were rites designed to induce in worshippers a consciousness receptive to the revelation of divine or mystical truths–rites in which women officiated as priestesses of the Goddess,(Eisler 1987).

In light of Ashera’s recognition as a symbol of the sacred tree and her cults use of cannabis(Emboden 1972), it is of interest to note that in medieval times, certain Moslem groups, referred to cannabis by the name ashirah, seen by them as an endearing term for their hempen girlfriend, (Rosenthal 1971), a tradition likely carried on from the earlier association of the ancient goddess and the Tree of Life, in the form of cannabis hemp.  (That the use of the word in this context, can be correlated to the ancient world usage, is very probable, as the Moslem language developed out of pre-existing Arabic dialects, and numbers of ancient words are still present its vocabulary, a fine example is the more commonly used name for cannabis qunubu).

In the Patriarchal Hebrew view, that came to dominate much of the religious world, we can see from Jeremiah 44 in the Old Testament that both incense and drink offerings, likely entheogenic, played a big role with the Goddess worship that competed so much with the worship of Yahweh, and here in Jeremiah we see the sacred kaneh bosm, associated with cannabis, that was used in earlier times, demonized… “What do I care about incense from Sheba or good sweet smelling cane  [kaneh -cannabis] from a distant land?   Your burnt offerings are not acceptable; your sacrifices do not please me” (Jeremiah 6:20).

The ties between cannabis and the Queen of Heaven are probably most apparent in Jeremiah 44, where the ancient patriarch seems to be concerned by the people’s continuing worship of the Queen of Heaven, especially by the burning of incense in her honour, and pouring out drink offerings:

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel says: “You saw the great disaster I brought on Jerusalem and on all the towns of Judah.  Today they lie deserted and in ruins because of the evil they have done.  They provoked me to anger by burning incense and by worshipping other gods… Again and again I sent my servants the prophets, who said, ‘Do not do the detestable things I hate!’  But they did not listen or pay attention; they did not turn from their wickedness or stop burning incense to other gods.  Therefore my fierce anger was poured out; it raged against the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem and made them the desolate ruins they are today.”

….Then all the men which knew that their wives had burned incense unto other gods, and all the women that stood by, a great multitude, even all the people that dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying, “As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee. But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the city of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then we had plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.  But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings to her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by sword and by famine.”

The women added “When we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour our drink offerings to her, without our men?”

  Then Jeremiah said unto all the people, to the men, and to the women, and to all the people which had given him that answer saying, The incense that ye burned in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, ye, and your fathers, your kings, and your princes, and the people of the land, did not the Lord remember them, and came it not into his mind?  So that the Lord could no longer bear, because of the evil of your doings, and because of the abominations which ye have committed; therefore is your land a desolation, and astonishment, and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day.  Because ye have burned incense and because ye have sinned against the Lord, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord, not walked in his law, nor in his statutes, not in his testimonies;  therefore this evil has happened to you, as at this day. (Jeremiah 44:1-23)

Jeremiah’s reference to the previous kings and princes that burned incense and poured out drink offerings to the Queen of Heaven can be seen as referring to King Solomon, and the vast majority of other Biblical kings up to that time, who worshipped the Goddess alongside Jehovah and other deities in a polytheistic pantheon that was the norm for the time and place.

Ashera has been connected with the origins of other Near Eastern Goddesses such as Ishtar and Ishara, and these Mother Goddesses have likewise been connected with cannabis as well.Referring to the difficulties in deciphering plant identification from the vague and long forgotten names found in the ancient texts, respected Assyriologist Erica Reiner reveals an interesting connection with the ancient world Goddess and “qunnabu”  a term identified with cannabis, that few other Assyriologists have noted:

“Sometimes the etymology of the name is transparent, While ‘sunflower’ (u.UTU sammi samas) probably describes any heliotrope, that is a flower that always looks at the sun: ‘the flower of Samas that faces the setting sun,’ other names composed with the name of a god or goddess are more suggestive. We do not know to what botanical species for example the herb called ‘Ninurta’s aromatic’ (Summerian sim. Ninurta, equated in Akkadian with nikiptu) refers, both varieties of which, masculine and feminine, are mentioned in recipes; however, the name of the herb called Sim.Ishara’armoatic of the Goddess Ishtar,’ which is equated with the Akkadian qunnabu, ‘cannabis’, may indeed conjure up an aphrodisiac through the association with Ishara, goddess of love, and also calls to mind the plant called ki.na Istar.” (Reiner, 1995)

This is a valuable piece of information when trying to understand the ritual practices and beliefs of ancient Mesopotamia, especially regarding the considerably widespread worship of Goddesses such as Ishtar, Ishara, Ninurta. Curiously few Assyriologists discuss the qunubu references in the ancient cuneiform tablets, and when they do, it is usually just in a passing reference, such as Reiner’s citation above. Until serious research is done explaining such passages in the context of the ancient documents in which they originally appear, their full implications will not be understood.

“…[T]he multifaceted goddess Ishara. She does not appear to be a native Mesopotamian deity, but was worshipped by many people throughout the ancient Near East, which has led to a confusing array of attributions – she is known as a great goddess to the Hurrians, the wife of Dagon among the West Semites, and to the Akkadians she was a goddess of love with close affinities to Istar, whose sacred plant cannabis (qunnabu) was known as the aromatic of Ishara… from her widespread worship she is also known as the queen of the inhabited world.” (White, 2008)

This association was likely widespread and considerably ancient, as the continuous worship of the Goddess, under a variety of evolving and related names, and images, can be traced back far into the Stone Age. “The worship… of the ‘Syrian Goddess,’ be she Astarte, or known by whatever other name… was full of… rites, in which the effects on the mind could only have been produced by narcotic stimulants” (Brown, 1868).

Ishara being offered plants…..

In the case of Ishara, she is thought to have been Indo European in origin, and although the use of cannabis in patriarchal cults such as Zoroastrianism has long been identified, even this cultic use is thought to have originated with Goddess worship.

In Irans forntida religioner (Leipzig, 1938) Henrik Nyberg noted that avery interesting list of demons exists…It includes the following female demons: Budhi with the parallel form Budhiza, Kundi with the parallel form Kundiza and finally the old goddess of ecstasy Busyansta, ‘things to come’, the demon of somnolence in Zoroastrianism” (Nyberg, 1938). Apparently these deities were important figures in the early use of cannabis, and may give us some insights into the more ancient pre-Zoroastrian cultic use of cannabis amongst the Aryans:

In Budhiza, true Budhiza, and Kundiza, true Kundiza, one can again recognise the word ‘iza’, which serves as a synonym for Armaiti, the godly tribe, in oldest Zoroastrianism; Budhiza therefore actually means ‘tribe and cult congregation of the goddess Budhi’ and Kundiza ‘tribe and cult congregation of the goddess Kundi’.

Alongside the goddess Kundi there is also a masculine Kunda, who needless to say is now a demon. Vend. 19,41 deals with him as follows “the Sraosa accompanied by Asi would like to slay the demon Kunda, the one with the hemp, so that he no longer has hemp.” Kunda and indeed also Kundi were therefore very closely linked with the old ecstatic substance of hemp, which was used since ancient times by the Aryans in the North and East. Kundiza was a body or guild of ecstatics, who reached the ecstatic state through narcotization with hemp. If, as I believe, the Median town Kunduru, mentioned in the Behistun Inscription and written Kuntarrus = Kundaru in the Elamite version, is linked with this pair of gods, then it must have been an old West Iranian hashish nest….

The goddess Busyansta is probably regarded as the common oracle deity of the West, which views oracle as a divine strength. As she represents the demon of somnolence, then we must assume that she began to function in trance. She [the goddess Busyansta]receives the epithet ‘zairina’, that in my opinion should not be translated as ‘exhausting, flagging’ rather ‘golden’; that is an epithet in the same style as Zairica. It alludes presumably to the ingested ecstasy potion. Maybe it was hemp extract in wine,… (Nyberg, 1938)

Science meets Religion? 

Clearly cannabis has long held a relationship with the divine feminine, but interestingly, their seems to be some sort of biologicial connection as well. “The active compounds of marijuana have some molecular resemblance to certain female hormones (estrogens)”(Weil 1980). This is interesting considering what we now know about the human endocannabinoids system and may as Jack Herer noted, indicate some sort of symbiotic pre cultural relationship with cannabis.

New United States government funded studies at St. Louis Medical University in 1989 and the National Institute of Mental Health in 1990, moved cannabis research into a new realm by confirming that the human brain has receptor sites for THC and its natural cannabis cousins to which no other known compounds thus far will bind…. On the molecular level THC fits into receptor sites in the upper brain that seem to be uniquely designed to accommodate THC.  This points to an ancient symbiosis between the plant and people….  Perhaps these neuronal pathways are the product of a pre-cultural relationship between man and cannabis. (Herer 1995).

These curious biological connections between man and marijuana continue: the hemp seed contains the most complete protein in the vegetable world, and is the highest source of essential fatty acids.  Besides being responsible for the luster of hair, skin, eyes, lubricating arteries, and even the thought process, the “essential oils support the immune system and guard against viral and other insults to the immune system”(Eidlman, M.D., & Hamilton Eh.D., Ph.D.) The globulin edistin found in the seeds protein closely resemble those found in human plasma, (Osburn 1993, Herer 1995, Robinson 1996). Even more interesting is that cannabis seeds contain rare gamma linoleic acid, found only in spirulina, two other rare seed oils, and human mother’s milk, which also contains naturally occurring endocannabinoids. “According to the findings of several major scientific studies, human breast milk naturally contains of the same cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, which are vital for proper human development.”

Terrence McKenna has also pointed too the feminine qualities of this most holy herb;

“Outpourings of style and esthetically managed personal display are usually anathema to the nuts-and-bolts mentality of dominator cultures. In dominator cultures without any living traditions of use of plants that dissolve social conditioning, such displays are usually felt to be the prerogative of women. Men who focus on such concerns are often assumed to be homosexual–that is, they are not following the accepted canons of male behavior within the dominator model. The longer hair lengths for men seen with the rise of marijuana use in the united States in the 1960’s were a textbook case of an influx of apparently feminine values accompanying the use of a boundary-dissolving plant. The hysterical reaction to such a minor adjustment in folkways revealed the insecurity and sense of danger felt by the male ego in the presence of any factor that might tend to restore the importance of a partnership in human affairs.

In this context it is interesting to note that cannabis occurs in both male and female form…..propagation of the female species…is the total concern of the grower interested in the narcotic power of the plant. It is thus a kind of happy coincidence that the subjective effects of cannabis and the care and attention needed to produce a good resin strain both conspire to accentuate values that are oriented toward honoring and preserving the feminine.

…..Because of its subliminally psychedelic effect, cannabis when pursued as a lifestyle, places a person in intuitive contact with less competitive behavior patterns. For these reasons marijuana is unwelcome in the modern office environment, while a drug such as coffee, which reinforces the values of industrial culture, is both welcomed and encouraged. Cannabis use is correctly sensed as heretical and deeply disloyal to the values of male dominance and stratified hierarchy.’ (McKenna, 1992)

In this Age, when women have been liberated and their power can be celebrated, to see the prominent role they have played in bringing back is another testament to the divine relationship shared by queens of both the plant and human world. Moreover, just has the prohibition of cannabis been a crime against humanity and through a loss of access to hemp, even a threat to the world we live in, so has the suppression of the divine feminine been a crime against all women, who have been treated as second class citizens through the same oppressive patriarchal religions which have suppressed the Goddess and her sacred plants, the Messengers of Gaia, who have returned now in our own time, to once again lead us back to the Garden of Mother Nature and off of this Highway to Hell we have been forced to travel.

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