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Hemp in the cultural history – part 1

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Advocates of a more liberal approach to hemp often speak of its cultural and historical significance. However, the majority of the Swiss population is not aware of this importance. Hemp is usually associated either with intoxicating experiences or – in far fewer cases – with its quality as a food. In the following article, would like to offer you for the first time an excursion into the cultural history of hemp. In a short list you will learn in which religions and cults hemp played or still plays an important role.

In various Buddhist groups hemp has been used for various rituals since the 5th century B.C. – be it for initiation rites or for the attainment of mystical experiences. For certain Tibetan Buddhists hemp is considered the holiest of all plants. In addition, Siddharte Gautama, the “historical Buddha“, is said to have fed exclusively on hemp seeds in the 6 years before his enlightenment.

Some tales speak of Shiva, one of the main gods of Hinduism, bringing down hemp from the Himalayas to his followers so that they could attain edification and enlightenment. Furthermore, there are some Hindu monastic orders, the Sadhus, who regularly smoke hemp for ritual and meditative purposes.

In the Rastafari religion hemp is smoked primarily for the purpose of communication with God. It is not, however, that the common ritual consumption of hemp is a must.

In the Shinto, the ethnic religion of the Japanese, hemp was for a long time attributed a binding force in marriage. In addition, it was said to have a defensive power against evil spirits and to provide cheerfulness and happiness in interpersonal relationships.

Also in Sufism, an ascetic-spiritual Islamic current, hemp plays an important role. For more than a millennium, the hemp plant has been considered by Sufis as a path to divine revelation and as a means of attaining unity with Allah.

Very briefly:
Hemp has played an important role in various faiths for thousands of years. Mostly it is used for ritual purposes. Sometimes it is used to help people in life itself, sometimes it is used to enable or intensify communication with God.

Source: Herer, Jack (2016): Die Wiederentdeckung der Nutzpflanze Hanf, Cannabis, Marihuana. Herausgegeben und mit einer Vorbemerkung von Mathias Bröckers zur Neuauflage 2013, S. 118f.

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