Cannabis has been a part of spiritual traditions throughout history. Even today, cannabis use remains essential for some cultures such as the Hindu and the Rastafarian. Although consumption is still restricted in several countries, progress in terms of research and legislation has been made towards legalisation and the use of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes. Countries such as Jamaica keep hold of the ritualistic use of cannabis; Rastafarians use this plant to preserve their tradition and connect with their ancestors.
In his book, “Ritual Use of Cannabis Sativa L.,” William Emboden points out that the habit of using cannabis as a source of euphoria remains intact in ritual practices within non-Western religions—the oldest religions. This feeling of euphoria eased the user’s joyful transition towards the ultimate end, which is why this plant is referred to as the “celestial guide.”
What Is Bhang and What Is its Relationship with Spirituality?
The oldest and most profuse references to cannabis as a divine intoxicant are found in Hindu scriptures. The Vedas describe bhang as the means by which one both communes with the god Shiva and frees oneself from sin. These scriptures narrate the relation between Shiva and cannabis. The story goes that, after arguing with his family, Shiva wandered into the fields to be alone. Oppressed by a scorching sun, he found shade under a hemp plant and then cut off and ate some of its leaves. This was so refreshing to him that he adopted it as his favourite food, thereby becoming known as the “Lord of Bhang.”
Years later, the story vindicated cannabis, this plant obtained an influential position in culture, and, as a result, references started appearing in the literature. According to J. M. Campbell, in the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report of 1893–1894, “He who drinks bhang, drinks Shiva. To the Hindu culture, the hemp plant is holy and the guardian lives in its leaves.” The 17th-century Hindu text, Rajvallabha, concurs that consuming this godly food creates vital energy, increases mental powers, and brings delight to Shiva.
How to Make Bhang
In ancient times, the preparation of hemp resin was a secret of the Brahmin priests, who restricted its public use and established that only bhang could be used in limited quantities and as an offering in religious celebrations such as the Kali, Durja-Puja, and Vijaya Dasmi festivals. Sometimes served with yoghurt and sweet spices, bhang is one of the oldest cannabis recipes. It is made by mixing cannabis leaves and stems together and letting them steep. Nowadays, we have bhang lassi: an infused drink enhanced with seeds, honey, and milk. Its delicate flavour is far from the original drink, but it’s soothing and subtle effect is luring in more and more curious palates.
It is worth noting that, as is the case with cannabis cuisine overall, people are highly encouraged to experiment with little quantities that allow them to regulate the intended effects. The high effect will arrive later but will last longer.