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Cannabis in Ancient Religion and Spirituality: A Fascinating History

Cannabis has been used in spiritual practices for millennia. From the ancient Chinese to the Hindus Scythians and Rastafarians this plant has played a fascinating role in religious traditions around the world.

In the United States the use of medical marijuana has gained acceptance in recent years despite the fact that it remains illegal under federal law. Lets dive into the captivating history of cannabis in ancient faith and spirituality!

Chris Dorcey
Inheal Editor
Post date
April 15, 2024
Time to read
8 mins 42 secs
cannabis spiritual use history

Key Takeaways

  • Cannabis has been used in spiritual practices for thousands of years in many cultures
  • In ancient China Taoists used cannabis for immortality elixirs and spiritual rituals
  • Bhang a cannabis-infused drink is used in Hindu festivals and Ayurvedic medicine
  • The ancient Scythians had cannabis ceremonies to achieve spiritual communion
  • Cannabis has been associated with various deities in ancient Near Eastern cultures
  • Rastafarians consider cannabis a holy herb for connecting with God and promoting unity
  • The use of medical marijuana and smoked cannabis has gained acceptance in recent years despite remaining illegal under federal law in the United States

Cannabis in Ancient China

ancient chinese cannabis taoism

In ancient China cannabis was revered as a sacred herb. Taoists believed it could help them achieve immortality. They would use it to make special elixirs and burn it as incense during spiritual rituals. Cannabis was seen as a way to connect with the divine and enhance spiritual awareness.

The legendary emperor Shen Nung also known as the Divine Farmer was said to have discovered the medicinal properties of cannabis in the 19th century. He included it in his pharmacopeia as a treatment for various ailments.

Cannabis was one of the most important herbs in ancient Chinese medicine and its use for medical purposes has continued to the present day with the recognition of medical cannabis in many countries around the world.

Bhang: The Holy Drink of Hinduism

hindu bhang shiva festival

In Hinduism cannabis is associated with Lord Shiva. Shiva is often depicted drinking bhang a cannabis-infused beverage. Bhang is consumed during the festival of Holi which celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

Its believed to cleanse the body and soul promoting spiritual well-being. Bhang is also used in Ayurvedic medicine the ancient Indian system of holistic healing. The medicinal use of cannabis has a long history in India and the country has recently taken steps to legalize medical marijuana.

Scythians: Ancient Cannabis Shamans

scythian cannabis shamans ritual

The ancient Scythians were a nomadic people who inhabited the Eurasian steppes. They had a fascinating cannabis ceremony that involved burning cannabis seeds on hot rocks in small tents. The smoke would fill the air and the Scythians would inhale it deeply.

This ritual would send them into a state of euphoria and spiritual communion. The Scythian shamans believed that cannabis could help them communicate with the spirits of their ancestors and the gods of their pantheon. Cannabis played a central role in Scythian spirituality and the plant was likely cultivated from the hemp plant for this purpose.

Herb of the Gods

modern cannabis spiritual practices

Cannabis has been associated with various deities throughout history. In ancient Assyria it was known as qunubu and was used as an offering to the god Ashur. In ancient Egypt cannabis may have been used in religious rituals and medicinal preparations.

Some scholars have even suggested that the ancient Israelites used cannabis based on references to a mysterious plant called kaneh-bosm in the Old Testament. Cannabis seems to have been revered as a sacred plant in many ancient Near Eastern cultures.

Rastafari: The Holy Herb

rastafari holy herb spirituality

In the Rastafari religion of Jamaica cannabis is known as the holy herb or wisdom weed. Rastafarians believe that cannabis can help them connect with Jah (God) and achieve spiritual enlightenment. They use it in meditation and prayer sessions as a sacrament. Rastafarians also believe that cannabis promotes peace love and unity among all people.

They see it as a way to combat oppression and promote social justice as exemplified by the teachings of Marcus Garvey. Cannabis is an integral part of Rastafari spirituality and culture.

Enduring Spiritual Legacy of Cannabis

The spiritual use of cannabis has a long and fascinating history that spans many cultures and traditions. From ancient China to India the Middle East Africa and the Caribbean cannabis has been revered as a sacred plant with the power to heal enlighten and connect humans with the divine. Today many people continue to use cannabis for spiritual purposes.

Some modern spiritual movements such as neo-paganism and the New Age incorporate cannabis into their practices. The Rastafari religion also continues to embrace cannabis as a holy sacrament. While the legal status of cannabis varies around the world there is no denying its enduring spiritual and cultural significance.

As attitudes towards cannabis continue to shift and more research is conducted into its potential benefits and side effects we may see a resurgence of interest in the spiritual dimensions of this fascinating plant.

Final thoughts

The history of cannabis in ancient religion and spirituality is a testament to the enduring power and significance of this plant. From the steppes of Central Asia to the mountains of Jamaica cannabis has been revered as a sacred herb with the ability to heal enlighten and bring humans closer to the divine.

As we continue to explore the many dimensions of cannabis both spiritual and scientific we may gain a deeper appreciation for this fascinating plant and its role in human history and culture.

By understanding the potential benefits and risks of cannabis use including the side effects of smoking marijuana and the therapeutic potential of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other cannabinoids we can make informed decisions about how to incorporate this plant into our lives.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some other ancient cultures that used cannabis spiritually include the ancient Egyptians who may have used it in religious rituals and medicinal preparations and the ancient Assyrians who offered it as incense to the god Ashur.

The spiritual use of cannabis likely spread through trade migration and cultural exchange. For example the ancient Scythians who were known for their cannabis ceremonies may have introduced the plant to other cultures during their nomadic travels.

Some potential benefits of using cannabis for spiritual purposes include increased self-awareness and introspection enhanced creativity and imagination deeper meditation and prayer and a sense of connection with the divine or universal consciousness. However its important to note that the effects of cannabis can vary widely depending on factors such as dosage method of consumption and individual physiology.

As with any substance there are potential risks associated with using cannabis including addiction impaired cognition and judgment and negative impacts on mental health particularly in individuals with a history of psychiatric disorders. Its important to use cannabis responsibly and in moderation and to be aware of any potential contraindications or interactions with other substances or medical conditions.

Yes many people continue to use cannabis for spiritual purposes today. Some modern spiritual and religious movements such as the Rastafari religion and certain neo-pagan and New Age groups incorporate cannabis into their practices as a way to enhance spiritual awareness and connection. However its important to be aware of the legal status of cannabis in your area and to use it responsibly and safely.


The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease. FDA has not evaluated statements contained within the blog. Information on this website or in any materials or communications from Inheal is for educational/informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions, correct dosage or for guidance about a specific medical condition.

by Chris Dorcey

A connoisseur of cannabis creativity and true contemplation with more than 20 years of experience, Chris extracts deep thoughts from getting lightly baked and shares his wandering mind. He blends cuisine and cannabis culture into nutritious, delicious recipes and insights for other hemp lovers.

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