Cannabis has held a revered place in many world faiths for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years, being used for many reasons including medical and entheogenic (seeking the divine within) purposes. While dozens (if not hundreds) of new religions that accept marijuana use have formed in the last hundred years, here we've touched on five major faiths that have a long tradition of using cannabis.
In the Hindu religion, cannabis is a closely associated with the god Shiva (who is known to love the herb and used it to relax before meditation) and his followers mimic his consumption of it. Hindus have several origin stories for the cannabis plant, and they believe that the gods gave it to humanity to help us become more compassionate, abandon our fears, and to find love.
Some sects of Tibetan Buddhism have consumed cannabis for spiritual purposes for centuries, but not by all followers, as some consider marijuana forbidden like other intoxicants. Some depictions of Buddha show him holding a bowl of cannabis leaves, called “soma,” and the practice of consuming cannabis is believed to heighten one's awareness during ceremony and prayer or help one meditate.
Rastafarians openly embrace the spiritual consumption of cannabis to help them enjoy life, relax, and become closer with the Creator, who they call Jah. Rastafarianism rejects ideas of materialism, anger, hatred, or oppression and members of this religion believe the regular consumption of cannabis helps get rid of negative energies that linger from these ideas.
Cannabis has a history of use among high-ranking Taoists of southern Asia that dates back to 4th century, and the tradition continues among some practitioners to this day. Taoist priests, shamans, and religious officials used cannabis to cleanse themselves of selfishness, promote a sense of appreciation, and achieve a natural state of harmony. In Taoism, cannabis has long been believed to help one see the future and speak with both good and evil spirits.
5. Norse/Germanic Paganism
Norse mythology associates cannabis with Freyja, goddess of fertility, magic, and death, and many believed her divine essences lived within each plant. Cannabis was so integral to life among ancient Norse people that they celebrated harvesting it with a festival, they wore hemp clothing, and its seeds have been found purposefully buried at some grave sites.