How Ancient Religion Got You High

Religion and drugs wouldn’t seem to mix well, but history tells us otherwise.”>

Earlier this year a small group of self-designated nuns in California known as the Sisters of the Valley were embroiled in a legal combat over their right to grow, bless, and distribute marijuana. Its a peculiar lawsuit, the roots of which lie in an error in the newly introduced California Medical Marijuana Safety and Regulation Act. The discrepancy was cleared up but the occurrence drew attention to the Sisters of the Valley and their unusual vocation: to turning stoner culture into healing culture.

Many people, including the founder of the order, would question whether or not the Sisters of the Valley are actual nuns( the founder, Sister Kate, decided to presume the situation of women nun when in 2011 Congress decided that two tablespoons of tomato paste qualified as a vegetable. She felt that if pizza was a vegetable she could be a nun ). But irrespective of their official status, the Sisters of the Valley arent the first group to combination religion and narcotics.

There are veiled references to medications in the religious literature of a number of ancient societies. In Homers Odyssey the protagonist Helen, the daughter of Zeus, casts the antidepressant medication nepenthe into wine that are intended to quiet the drinkers pain and strife. According to Homer, the medication originally came from Egypt, and Helen obtained it from the wife of an Egyptian nobleman.

Although the bans are not Biblical, most branches of Judaism and Christianity disapprove of drugs other than alcohol. But, in 1967, a Polish anthropologist claimed that the plant kaneh bosm, mentioned five times in the Hebrew Bible and used as an ingredient in anointing oil in Exodus, was actually cannabis. This theory has been rejected as ridiculous by subsequent generations of scholars.

Then there are groups for which drug use is an integral part of religious practice and ritual. Most famous of these are the Rastafarians, who smoke ganja as an aid to meditation and religion observance. They quote Biblical passages like Genesis 1:29, in which God dedicates humanity every herb bearing seed to humanity, as proof that God intends them to use cannabis. By contrast, Rastafarians assure alcohol and other drugs as destructive.

References to mind-altering substances in religious and mythological text have led some to formulate the hypothesi that religion in general, and certain religions including with regard to, are the byproduct of a chemically induced hallucinogenic experience. This theoryknown as the entheogenic theory of religionpostulates that visionary experiences or supernatural encounters are the result of deliberate or accidental exposure to hallucinogens.

In their volume Inside the Neolithic Mind , archaeologists David Lewis-Williams and David Pearce argued that Neolithic rock art and religion was shaped by hallucinogens. Others have claimed that the prophesies delivered by the famous Delphic Oracle were the result of vapors that were emitted naturally from the ground.

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