_By Andrea Fasoli
Never in the history of humanity has there been a single natural resource so prevalent and so pervasive among many different cultures and civilizations.
Since the dawn of men we can see that one common denominator has always been present, almost invisible to the attention of our modern society because of its vast utlity, its influence and ultimately the reason for its exhile and renegation: Power. I'm talking about the one plant that beheld the strenght, stability and prosperity of many ancient civilizations and even to this day has the ability of forever changing the way we live. For millennia Cannabis L. Sativa has been a vital aspect of our ancestors' great endeavors and accompanied them throughout the incredible journey we call evolution, by becoming an integral part of who we were and hopefully for who we are and whom we will be.
In order to understand the veil of mistery that sorrounds this incredibly vast topic, we must understand that Cannabis Sativa, as a specie of plants, was so frequently used by people in numerous societies that not only it became something ordinary to cultivate, it became so prevalent in almost every culture and social hierarchical level of many societies that its presence acquired a sense of invisibility from collective attention due to its vast abundance. This point may seem dull and far fetched at first glance, but its very important to then understand how the transformation of this plant's perceived image and value was abrupted and forever changed the world's trajectory. With that being said we shall first examine the extent of Cannabis use among various cultures and societies across our historical timeline, before closing the circle and coming back to the recent distateful portayal of the plant's image, which led to its complete and utter eradication.
Thanks to the wonders of science and human technology, experts were able to bring to light an exploration site that provided astounding revelations about our past: "Archaeologists discovered an ancient village in China, containing the earliest known record of the use of the cannabis plant. This village dates back over 10 000 years to the Stone Age. Amongst the debris of this village, archaeologists found small pots with patterns of twisted hemp fibre decorating them. This use of the cannabis plant suggests men have been using the marijuana plant in some manner since the dawn of history.”(1) The ending of this quote beautifully conveys the bond that our specie and this plant shared. Our ancestors' greatest virtue was their incessant curiosity to learn more, and when discovering the uniqueness of the Cannabis L. Sativa specie, with the sharing of knowledge and useful implementation of this plant throughout the centuries, some were able to bring "the first evidence of the medicinal use of cannabis in the book Pên-ts’ao Ching, attributed to the Emperor Shen-nung of about 2000 B.C."(1)
Ranging from the far east all the way to the craddle of civilization, "several cannabis commentators believe that the peoples of the Near East, now known as the Middle East, were the first to use cannabis for religious purposes due to man’s inability to engage in introspection. The Sumerians of the Ancient Near East developed their own ‘personal deity’ whom they would worship each day by burning cannabis and it became entrenched into Sumerian religion because they believed it was putting them in touch with their gods."(1) It is not hard to understand why our ancestors gained a spiritual influence from the consumption of this plant; as I am sure many of you reading this article will be able to relate regarding the peace of mind, tranquility and deeper understanding of yourself that can be reached, once benefitting from the miracolous properties of Cannabis. Believe it or not every time you consume the flower from this plant you'll be able to relate to countless individuals that lived millennias ago... transcendent!
If that first notion in it of itself does not make you intrigued and fascinated, there are plenty of stories that you will be able to relate to and truly comprehend the vast utilization of Cannabis:
"It has always been a customary part of life in India, and was intimately associated with magical, medical, religious, and social customs in India for thousands of years. The most potent Indian preparation of cannabis called ‘charas’ has the same religious importance to many Hindus that wine has to Christians celebrating the Eucharist. While the cannabis plant’s pre-eminence in India was, and continues to be its association with religious life and as a social lubricant, cannabis was also used as a medicinal aid. In Indian folk medicine, hemp boughs were thrown into fires in order to overcome evil forces. Sushruta, a legendary physician of ancient India, recommended it to relieve congestion, a remedy for diarrhoea and as an ingredient in a cure for fevers."(1)
"The cultural use of cannabis is widespread throughout Africa. Aside from Egypt, where cannabis has been grown for over a thousand years due to the influence of India and Persia, the first archaeological evidence of cannabis in central and southern parts of Africa comes from 14th century Ethiopia where two ceramic smoking-pipe bowls containing traces of cannabis were discovered. Researchers also believe that later on, around 1500 A.D., the fully developed trade routes between Arabia, Turkey, India and Persia with the East African coast, permitted the Arab traders to introduce cannabis to the more southern parts of Africa. The habit of smoking cannabis, which many tribes called ‘dagga,’ spread from tribe to tribe quite quickly. Several different pipes began to be developed out of gourds, bamboo stalks and coconut bowls. When smoking cannabis reached the northern areas of Africa, it was the North Africans who developed the water pipe, which cooled and to some degree purified the smoke.” (1) That's right ladies and gentlemen, the ancestor of the bong & bubbler were originally created in Northern Africa!!!
"In 1549, the French and the British imported Angolan slaves from the southwest coast of Africa to work as labourers on the sugar plantations of northeastern Brazil. “The slaves carried the seeds in cloth dolls tied to their ragtag clothing. The planters permitted slaves to grow their maconha between the rows of cane, and to smoke and dream during the periods of inactivity between harvests. Cannabis came to be regarded in Brazil as the opium of the poor, used for cordage and clothing, comestible and spice, energizer and invigorant, as well as medicine and euphoriant." (1)
Even today, there are some North American tribes, especially those from Mexico, who have used cannabis as sacred gift under the name Rosa Maria or Santa Rosa, and continue to use it today. Indians in the Mexican states of Veracruz, Hidalgo, and Puebla practice a communal curing ceremony with a plant called Santa Rosa, identified as cannabis sativa, which is considered both a plant and a sacred intercessor with the Virgin. Although the ceremony is based mainly on Christian elements, the plant is worshipped as an earth deity and is thought to be alive and to represent a part of the heart of God. (1)
From the very early signs of human civilization all the way to the 19th century America, we can attest to the importance that this natural resource had; due to its omniscent presence across time and space. Medicinally speaking Cannabis has no rival in the whole plant kingdom! We can understand that such specific virtue, among many belonging to this plant, was definitely one of the most wide spread methods of implementation and In "1839, the homeopathy journal American Provers' Union published the first of many reports on the effects of cannabis. In 1860, the Ohio Medical Society catalogued the conditions in which cannabis had been successfully used. Among those mentioned were neuralgia, nervous rheumatism, mania, whooping cough, asthma, chronic bronchitis, muscular spasms, tetanus, epilepsy, infantile convulsions, palsy, uterine hemorrhage, dysmenorrhea, hysteria, withdrawal from alcohol, and loss of appetite - an imposing list of disorders drawn mainly from O'Shaughnessy's and other reports published in England."(2)
When you grasp the gravity that this plant posessed, the sheer weight of importance Cannabis had in everyone's lives, you might begin to question the world around you and ask: how could it all go away, suddenly, and now we are redescovering it all over again? When you type in Cannabis on the online search bar, the results will seem infinite; because the amount of knowledge that people have been able to accumulate over the course of our evolution on this plant is gigantic. Studies upon studies have been made to understand the infinite complexity of the plant and yet we always seem to be surprised at its ability to provide us new value and opportunities; which is why it is very frustrating seeing how we successfully managed to eradicate such a useful natural resource because of greed and thirst for power.
From the data given and the evidence within this article, we can definitely observe a wide array of definitions for this plant and it seems that we liked to name it our own different ways: as if throughout history every society and culture understood this plant through the lense of its own perspective and interpreted the way it saw fit. This morfing capability of representing so many different cultures and defined by many names, such as: Dagga, Ganja, Hashish, Kif, Bhang, Maconha and many more, created a dangerous paradigm to be existing in. It allowed for a greater flexibility to be recognized by numerous words and when the language needed to identify something can be changed, then the entire perception and understanding of the plant could be easily manipulated. We go back to the 2nd paragraph and see how the vast availability of this plant, presented in its many different forms of commercial products and uses allowed the North American society to take it for granted and now understand that many other cultures, just like the people living in the US, loved Cannabis and simply decided to use it in a different way and define by another term that would impart greater meaning and symbolism in their traditions. Hence why another popular slang in the Mexican culture, Marijuana, was so easy to adopt and be weaponized into the United States of America of the 20th century... oh did they exploit that word for the worst.
Cannabis L. Sativa is definitely one of, if not the greatest example of mass manipulation of perception ever perpetrated by mankind. With that being said it is not the only example in history where one entity's image was transformed entirely to serve a new purpose, with a new meaning. Just to give you two very clear examples of how things that once held a benign understanding, were then utilized by another group of individuals to distort its perception in the eyes of the people and such negative connotation carried on within the collective consciousness would taint such artifacts forever:
I know what you are thinking, it pretty much resembles the Swastika sign used by the Nazis during WWII, nonetheless it has been carried by the Buddhist religion for thousands of years and it is recognized as "Manji." Originally known as a symbol of piece, was then stolen from another culture to instill in it its own malignant endeavors:
Another great parallel is the astounding resemblence that this type of clothing has gained when shifting cultures and be adopted for a new and evil purpose:
In this picture we have a traditional ceremony carried out in the nation of Spain, mostly prevalent in the southern region of Andalucia and it symbolizes the religious passage of the year many christians define as Easter and in the Spanish language it is known as: Semana Santa.
On the other hand here we have the horrible spin off of this type of ceremonial costume that was taken and implemented in a completely different context:
It is evident that objects, symbols and even plants can originally stem from a benevolent and just cause to be ultimately taken from its original context and defined with a new perspective; with a different history that people immediately will associate it with. It is true that as a specie we are a paradox in it of itself: As human beings we are capable of grandeur gestures and acts of kindness, while at the same time be able to committ such horrific atrocities! It is up to us to learn from our mistakes, from our history and make repair of what we damaged. Sad to say that we usually tend to always want to move forward and never look behind to see where we came from and what actions led us to the place we are today. It is crazy to think how certain aspects of our heritage and culture can be a force for good throughout many centuries and then be suddenly casted into the shadows of evil; because of the action of few, yet influential individuals. We tend to think in a linear fashion, always ready to acquire new knowledge relevant in our present, while quickly discarding the past and its valuable lessons. People tend to identify things and reevaluate their perception according to the newest experiences they are subjected to, thus replacing previous knowledge and understanding. For once it would be good to take a step back to look at the greater picture and understand that everything can change for the worst, even the few aspects and values of our lives that we thought would be forever lasting, if we don't pay eternal vigilance.