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  Strange Drugs: Cannabis Sativa L.

Drugs Posted by Frater Navitae 353 on Friday January 19, @08:29PM
from the bud-is-the-leaf dept.
index.html [Introduction]

O my Son, yester Eve came the Spirit upon me that I also should eat the Grass of the Arabs, and by Virtue of the Bewitchment thereof behold that which might be appointed for the Enlightenment of mine Eyes. Now then of this may I not speak, seeing that it involveth the Mystery of the Transcending of Time, so that in One Hour of our terrestrial Measure did I gather the Harvest of an Aeon, and in Ten Lives I could not declare it.

– Liber Aleph
If a man wishes to rid himself of a feeling of unbearable oppression, he may have to take to Hashish.

– Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Ecce Homo

Botany of Cannabis

Cannabis was first officially classified by Carolus Linneaus in his seminal text, Species Plantarum, in 1753. It is a tall, annual, diocecious (two sexed) herb thatis air pollinated. It can grow to over seven meters in height under optimal conditions but can survive under a very wide variety of environments. It is most oftenconsidered to be part of the cannabaceae family (which includes hops) and the genus cannabis.

Further classification of cannabis is complicated. There are twodistinctive strains, one which is cultivated for fiber (hemp) and another for drug use. Technically, there is only one species: Cannabis Sativa L. (for Linneaus).Strains of cannabis are classified according to country of origin, thus cannabis from India would be called Cannabis Sativa Indica. However, many botanistsover the centuries have attempted to classify it into over a dozen species. Popular usage has incorrectly divided cannabis into three species: C. Sativa, C. Indica,and C. Ruderalis. Plants that are considered sativas tend to be taller with thin leaves, long internodes and branches. Indicas (India origin) are shorter with broadleaves, short internodes and less branching, though in reality, cannabis originating in India varies considerably. Ruderalis is a short, thin, and sparse strain found in thewild in Russia, an escaped variety of hemp.

History of Cannabis

Cannabis is almost certainly humankind's oldest cultivated plant. This is due to its versatility: food, fiber, oil, medicine, sacrament, drug, etc. In fact, it hasbeen so heavily cultivated and for so long that there are no known varieties of truly wild cannabis. All wild strains have been determined either to have escapedcultivation or to have been pollinated by cultivated fields.

The earliest evidence of the use of cannabis is alleged to have been by Neanderthal humans, as indicated by cannabis seeds found in their gravesites. Later, clay pots made in Taiwan around8000 b.c.e. were found to contain cannabis fibers. Cannabis probably originated in central Asia (it was widely cultivated in China by 4000 b.c.e.) and spread acrossEurope and India by nomadic tribes such as the Sythians. Shen Nung, one of the founders of Chinese medicine, included cannabis in his medicaltext in 2700 b.c.e. This is the first written record of cannabis usage. Ancient Chinese also used the seeds for food (it was considered one of their three maingrains) and, later, the fiber for rope, clothing and paper.

Cannabis cultivation spread from around 2300 to 1000 b.c.e. across Europe, Africa, and India. By 400 e.v., cannabis cultivation had spread to England. By1200, cannabis was used in Islamic paper mills, and by 1500, in English ones. In the 1500s, the Spanish brought cannabis to South America, and the British broughtit to North America for rope making at around 1600. In 1841, Dr. W. B. O'Shaunghnessy, who had worked in India, published a medical text oncannabis. This popularized it in western medicine. Hundreds of papers describing its medical benefits were soon published, and cannabis tinctures and extractsbecame widely used. By 1870, cannabis was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia as a medicine for a variety of illnesses.

In 1910, Randolph Hearst lost 800,000 square kilometers of land in Mexico due to Pancho Villa, and subsequently began villianizing Mexicans and blacks in his newspapers as being marijuanacrazed animals. Soon after this, a series of conferences around the world began considering the possible dangers of cannabis. In 1911, SouthAfrica outlawed cannabis under the claim that it reduced productivity by black Africans in mines. By 1915, California had outlawed cannabis; other states soonfollowed. In 1925, Britain passed the Dangerous Act which made cannabis illegal.

In 1931, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics was formed with Harry Anslinger at its head. Anslinger made marijuana his main focus, considering it to be “the mostviolence causing drug known to Man.” In 1937, the U.S. placed a tax on hemp which made it practically impossible to grow, sell, or research. This was due tocampaigns by both Anslinger and Hearst. Interestingly, by 1948 Anslinger was calling cannabis pacifying, claiming it made people more susceptible to communism. In 1962, President Kennedy fired Anslinger and the tide against cannabis began to turn.

The AMA response supporting cannabis came too late. (They didn't know it was marijuana.) Under pressure from American and international concerns, cannabis was outlawed in nearly every country of the world. However, cannabis use continued to grow (the UN Bulletin ofNarcotics estimated 200 million users worldwide in 1951), popularized in the west largely by musicians.

Currently, cannabis is allowed as a medicine by international law and in many countries. Aswell, many others have decriminalized its use or are considering to do so. The U.S. continues a harsh campaign against cannabis and has pressured Canada intopassing severe and unconstitutional laws against drugs.

Chemistry of Cannabis

Cannabis contains more than 460 known compounds, many of which are psychoactive or medicinal. The main psychoactive chemical is3,4-trans-delta-l-tetrahydrocannabinol, also called delta-1-THC, delta-9-THC, or most often, just THC. Several analogues of THC have been created such assynhexyl, nabilone, and levonatradol. Along with THC, the plant produces two other main intoxicants, cannabidiol (a precursor to THC) and cannabinol(produced by the breakdown of THC). It's the interaction of these three chemicals which is mostly responsible for the complex drug effects. The psychoactivecompounds are concentrated in resin glands which cover the entire plant. However, the largest and densest resin glands occur in the leaves and bractssurrounding the seeds on the female plant.

Sacramental Use of Cannabis

It's difficult to say exactly when humankind first discovered the entheogenic properties of cannabis. Cannabis has been specifically cultivated either for fiber(and seed) or for drug usage. Drug cannabis differs dramatically from fiber cannabis, and when it escapes into the wild it reverts fairly quickly to a fibrous (lowTHC) variety. We know from the Roman historian Herodotus writing at about 450 b.c.e. that the Sythians used cannabis in their sacred rituals (such as thefuneral rites). He stated that they placed the seeds (probably not separated from the buds) on hot coals under small tents and breathed in the smoke. They then“transported by the vapour, shout aloud”. There is also evidence from several gravesites that the Sythians smoked cannabis for pleasure. The Sythians werenomadic tribes from central Asia that spread across Europe starting near 1000 b.c.e., which is about the earliest reference we can find for the drug cultivation of cannabis.The Greek Thracians were closely tied to the Sythians and are alleged to have used cannabis as well, mostly in connection with the ecstatic worship ofDionysus. The noted historian M. Eliade claimed that they maintained a shamanic ritual of divination involving placing dried herbs, including cannabis, on hotcoals and breathing in the smoke. Their shamen or “those who walk in smoke” were called “Kapnobatai”.

Horseback riding first appeared on the Ukrainian Steppes of Central Asia at around 4000 b.c.e. and led to numerous nomadic groups spreading out into the world. Many ofthese brought cannabis with them. Around 1500 b.c.e., nomadic Aryan tribes moved into India and integrated with the existing culture. Cannabis quicklybecame popular there. It's common to find three main preparations of cannabis in India: bhang, ganja, and charas. Bhang is a beverage made from the dried leaves and isoften very mild. Ganja is the flowering tops of female plants (buds) and charas is a form of hashish made by rubbing off the resin.

Among the main deitiesworshiped in India is Shiva, god of destruction. He is said to have been a shaman who lived before 1000 b.c.e. and brought cannabis down from a mountain.A popular form of worshipping Shiva is to smoke charas in a chillum, a straight pipe smoked through the hands (to prevent contagion). The chillum is firsttouched to the forehead with the mantra, “Boom Shiva”. Within a few hundred years, the Hindu reformer, Buddha, is alleged to have lived for six years onnothing but cannabis before attaining illumination. Many Buddhists venerate the plant and have ceremonial uses for it. Cannabis use spread to Japan as welland was used as a blessing in Shinto marriage ceremonies and to drive away evil spirits.

Before this time, cannabis use spread to the Middle East. At around 550 b.c.e., the Zend-Avesta – the holy book of the Zoroastrian faiths – listed hempfirst among its 10,000 medicinal plants. There is also evidence of earlier use by the Hebrew priestcraft. In 1936, an etymologist named Sula Bennet found thatthe Hebrew word “kaneh-bosm” really means cannabis and had been mistranslated in the past. According to his theory, the word appears throughout the Bible, for example,in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. According to him, there are references to cannabis as both an incense used in religious ceremonies as well as anintoxicant.

By 800 e.v., when Mohammed established his religion, cannabis use was still allowed, though other intoxicants were forbidden. The lack of religious and socialrestraints led to cannabis being produced for a number of products (like paper, medicine and rope). As well, hashish (called Khaneh) was being widely produced andused by Sufis and other Islamic holy men and women for religious experiences and communion with God. Hashish production is still high in manyIslamic countries.

Cannabis use also spread through Africa and its use continued as the African peoples were dispersed. I read a book on the Bantu (pygmies) and noted that onewas smoking a huge bamboo bong in a picture. The caption stated that it was marijuana. There are numerous “Dagga” (cannabis) religions in Africa, and some tribes claim that it was brought by the sacred star Sirius. When Africans were enslaved in Jamaica they brought their sacramental use ofcannabis with them and, combining it with Indian use and mythology, created the religion of Rastafari. Many Rastafarians smoke cannabis religiously and use it tohelp them communicate with “Jah” (god). In Egypt and Ethiopia, a Christian group arose, the Copts, that considered cannabis to be a sacred herb, incense, andoil. The Coptic Christians used references in the Old Testament to back up their claims.

As an interesting side note, back in Europe in 1484, Pope Innocent VIII claimed that cannabis was the unholy sacrament of the Satanic mass. It appears thatEurope as a whole ignored this, and cannabis production increased over the next few centuries. It's possible that a few Satanic groups did take the claim seriously,though.

Today, there are numerous religious groups that consider cannabis a sacrament, such as the Church of Delirium, the Church of Gnostic Luminism, the Churchof Hemp, the Refulgent Rocchetta Temple, and the Church of the Universe. And more are appearing all the time. It's quite likely that cannabis will takeits place as a sacrament in the New Aeon.

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