We are delighted to excerpt this chapter from the new book, Wake, Bake & Meditate, by Kerri Connor. The book is for those interested in expanding and deepening their spiritual practice with a wealth of information and guidance on how to best use cannabis as a sacred herb. Just the chapter detailing various strains, their flavors, effects, the kind of high one gets, and recommended usage and dosage, is worth the price of admission. In clear, easy to follow chapters, Ms. Connor shares practical advice honed over years, on journaling, meditation, working with a partner and with groups, and how to best use cannabis for spiritual and emotional growth. She has also included a variety of guided meditations to help work through issues such as emotional healing and making peace with the past. There’s even a chapter on Cooking with Cannabis, which includes recipes, as well as instruction on oils and infusions. The following is a direct excerpt from the book. –Ed.
Cannabis has been around for thousands (according to some accounts, millions) of years, with humans partaking as early as twelve thousand years ago. Evidence shows use dating at least back to the Neolithic Age (Gray 2017, 2). It has been used for generations by different religious groups all over the world.
There are already several books on the market that go deeply into the sacred history of cannabis, so in this book we will only take a brief look. If you would like more information about the history of spiritual uses of cannabis, be sure to check out the bibliography and suggested reading at the end of this book.
While all these traditions are different, and each have their own beliefs and guidelines, one thing prevails throughout them all—the use of cannabis as an entheogen, a key to unlock and discover the divine within. It is a spiritual tool that has been used to connect mind, body, and spirit together in what Abraham Maslow named “peak experiences.” These are described as mystical experiences in which one is able to transcend the self and feel at one with the universe (Ferrara 2016, 3). We will discuss peak experiences later.
Our journey begins in India, where the Cannabis indica plant is believed to have originated. Ferrara tells us cannabis was used in India before records were kept and structured religion was conceived, “a time when magic, mythology, healing, and sacrament blended seamlessly in shamanism” (Ferrara 2016, 13).
Think about this for a moment. Imagine a life where all these aspects are combined together in your own spiritual practice to heal yourself, others, and the world. This should be a part of our life’s work. Our ancestors all over the world knew this, and it’s time we remind ourselves and our societies of this again. While progress can be beautiful, it’s also the same progress that pulls us further away from each other, ourselves, and our spirituality. Imagine what the world would look like if everyone could feel the connection between healing and their spirituality.
The Vedic religion of the Indian region was known to use a soma beverage during ritualistic practices, named for the god Soma. Indian author Chandra Chakraberty explains in several books that soma is indeed cannabis, a view shared by many other Indian authors and researchers (Bennett 2017, 45). The Rigveda books contain many references to soma and its uses. This verse from Book 8 I find especially appealing: “We have drunk the Soma; we have become immortal; we have gone to the light; we have found the gods” (Ferrara 2016, 16).
Not only does this show the usage of Soma (cannabis), it describes its connection to deity. This complete feeling of peace, awareness, and connection far outweighs the damage any other humans can do to us. It overrides all negativity, hostility, and disapproval one may find in the outside world and instead fills us with confidence, awareness of ourselves and others, and a positivity we can carry with us always. This is healing from the inside out.
In post-Vedic Hinduism, Shiva became Lord of Bhang—another cannabis beverage that mythology tells us Shiva made from his own body. Dolf Hartsuiker, author of Sadhus: India’s Mystic Holy Men, says the use of cannabis is a sacred act for self-realization and acquiring spiritual knowledge (Bennett 2017, 45–47). Someone who has hit a peak experience knows this to be true, but it may sound hard to believe if you have not yet hit one. However, that is totally okay, because this book will help you get there to experience the oneness for yourself.
The Sādhus are holy people from the Hindu tradition who have given up worldly belongings and connections in the name of their spirituality. They are often seen dressed in bright yet simple orange or yellow gowns, with long beards and painted skin. Sādhus are well-known for partaking in cannabis, as they believe it will help them find “oblivion in the grace of God.” Ferrara tells us that people in the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka) used cannabis in religious practices and ayurvedic healthcare as far back as 1500 BCE and saw it as a “food for the gods worthy of sacrificial offering” (Ferrara 2016, 29).
And while there appears to be no evidence that the Buddha used cannabis, several references suggest he ate hemp seeds. The tantric sect of Buddhism (which holds far different beliefs than the main branch) was known to use the different parts of the cannabis plant for different reasons, including as a “perfect medicine” (Bennett 2017, 48–49).
Moving on, the Zoroastrians of the Axial Age (from 600 BCE to the seventh century) in Iran drank a substance known as haoma— a combination of plant materials, including cannabis and psychoactive mushrooms. This drink was designed to put the consumer into an altered state for a spiritual ritual. The Avesta scriptures (the sacred book for Zoroastrians) reference cannabis in different forms, such as the smokable bud and a potion (Ferrara 2016, 35). It was said to be used to “attain mystical visions that deeply influenced their cosmology” (Bennett 2017, 43).
As Islam rose and the Zoroastrians declined, some aspects were absorbed by Islam, particularly in the Persian Sufi sects. Muslims have a long history of sects on both sides of the cannabis question—while some prohibit it, others find it acceptable. The Sufis used it not only for the feelings it produced but for the creativity it unleashed (Ferrara 2016, 37–45).
This is one of my favorite aspects of cannabis—whenever my creativity needs a boost, it is remarkable how well it helps open my mind to new and evolving ideas. Honestly, I was high when I came up with the idea for this book, and for much of the time writing it. From William Shakespeare to Lady Gaga, weed has been used by many well-regarded individuals to boost creativity.
In Mithraism, cannabis played a small role in the spiritual workings of the initiates as they worked through stages to achieve the highest good. It was used in conjunction with breathing techniques, medicines, rites, amulets, and the repetition of magical words (Ferrara 2016, 36). Does the combination of these aspects into a practice remind you of anything? It’s very similar to meditation, except many people today skip over, including the substance that can open their minds the most.
We know Cannabis indica was being used in the Indian areas, but Kathleen Harrison also tells us cannabis seeds were used as food in China as far back as eight thousand years ago. They used a type of Cannabis sativa for food and its fibers. Three thousand years later, the Chinese used cannabis as a medicine, as offerings in rituals, and as incense whose smoke could affect anyone who breathed it in (Harrison 2017, 23). Today, hemp is used for its fibers, food, and produce CBD products. It’s actively making a comeback, with more states legalizing hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill made hemp federally legal, opening the industry considerably.
As far back as the Neolithic (Stone) Age, Chinese shamans used cannabis as an important component in their rituals. Bennett reports that Chinese history expert Joseph Needham claimed that both the Chinese and Taoists knew of the entheogenic properties of cannabis for thousands of years (Bennett 2017, 40).
According to Ferrara, the Chinese tome Classic of Herbal Medicine (authored by Shen Nong Bencaojing in approximately 100 BCE) tells us that the prolonged use of cannabis allowed the user to communicate with Spirit and/or with ghosts (Ferrara 2016, 55). What the Chinese refer to as communicating with the “spirit light” is what we refer to as a peak experience.
Alchemically trained Daoists also used cannabis for entheogenic purposes and knew how to use it in different forms (such as smoked versus ingested) for different purposes (Ferrara 2016, 63). We can use the same knowledge to do this today.
The Greco-Roman Scythians also liked to get their bud on. Ferrara tells us of portable sweat lodges the Scythians used as early as the fifth century BCE to heal the spirit and mind, in which they would toss cannabis flowers onto hot stones to inhale the smoke (Ferrara 2016, 111).
I would only recommend adding intense heat (such as a sweat lodge or even a hot tub) once you are fully aware of how cannabis affects you and have some experience using it. Heat intensifies the effects of THC, so this isn’t for beginners.
Recent discoveries have opened the door to more information on how the Egyptians used cannabis spiritually, medicinally, and recreationally. Testing of nine mummies revealed high concentrations of THC (Ferrara 2016, 73). There is debate about whether the THC had accumulated through ritual and recreational use or if it was due to medicinal use since cannabis was also used as a sedative. Either way, to have results with high concentrations shows frequent use, at least toward the end of life.
Even Christians from Egypt and Ethiopia smoked from exquisite ornate pipes to prepare for spiritual undertakings (Ferrara 2016, 77). Something is to be said for the device or tool you smoke from. I have many different pipes, concentrate vapes, and dry herb vapes. Which one I use depends on the role I want the cannabis to play at the time. A vape or regular pipe is fine for my daily medicinal purposes. But when I am working spiritually, I have special pipes I enjoy using—my two favorites are one with a hamsa and one with an ohm symbol. I also have a rainbow and gold-colored vape to use in my practice.
The use of cannabis also spread alongside the spread of Islam, as the practitioners already knew what cannabis could do for them and they saw no reason to give it up. Its ability to increase perception levels was highly desired. Mystics who traveled from Syria to Egypt in the twelfth century brought cannabis and grew it as a crop. It was used in both spiritual and congenial settings due to its entheogenic and meditation qualities and for being able to lower inhibitions (Ferrara 2016, 77).
In the sixteenth century, cannabis was used in the Sikh religion of the Punjab region. The Sikhs used bhang, a drink made with cannabis, in their religious practices to such a degree that its use is noted in the Granth Sikh scripture (Bennett 2017, 50).
In Nigeria, cannabis was used not only for peak experiences but to communicate with the spirits of the dead. Its scent was used as an offering to entice the spirits to appear (Ferrara 2016, 78). Many areas of Southern and Western Africa used, and still use, cannabis for fibers, textiles, medicine, and as an intoxicant. Zulu warriors used it before battle to eradicate fear, but they also used it as medicine, for recreation, and to see the future (Ferrara 2016, 82).
According to Ferrara, African slaves who were shipped to Jamaica to work on sugarcane plantations brought their culture. Rastafarians rose from the slaves with a strong belief that cannabis was given to mankind for the “healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2). In the Rastafarian tradition, the Tree of Life (as named in the King James Version), discussed in Revelation 22, is indeed cannabis. They cite Genesis 1:12 in support of their veneration of the holy herb: “And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, and his kind: and God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:12). Rastafarians use cannabis in many aspects of life, including food, medicine, tea, and ritual activities (Ferrara 2016, 95).
Each of these examples further confirms to us that cannabis has been used the world over for thousands of years to enhance spirituality in its many different aspects. While in some religions, it has played a smaller, lesser role, in other religions, it has been a necessity of spiritual practices. Today we can decide how much to incorporate cannabis into our own spirituality. We can also see that it is not the evil devil’s weed some want us to believe it is, but merely a plant with a long and expansive history of beneficial practice.
KERRI CONNOR (Chicagoland) is the leader of The Gathering Grove (a family-friendly, earth-based spiritual group) and has been practicing her craft for over thirty-five years. She is the author of several books, including Spells for Tough Times, and her writing has appeared in several Pagan magazines. Kerri earned a BA in communications and holds a medical marijuana card in Illinois. For more, visit www.KerriConnor.com.
From Wake Bake & Meditate by Kerri Connor. © 2020 by Kerri Connor. Used by permission from Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd., www.Llewellyn.com.