Witches and Weed: Ritualistic Cannabis Use Then and Now
A magical season is upon us, when the veil between the worlds is thinnest and uncovering its mysteries beckons. From invocation and divination, to séance and shamanism, cannabis has been used in magickal and ritualistic settings for millennia. While much of this knowledge has been lost to the ages, ritualistic cannabis hasn’t gone anywhere. For everything from energy healing and chakra activation, to meditation and psychic awareness, you don’t have to be a witch to let cannabis enhance your own personal rituals.
Cannabis has featured in ancient religion, paganism and spirituality around the world. In Viking culture, cannabis was associated with the Norse goddess of love, Freya. Harvest took place during an erotic high festival in her honor, just as cannabis today is harvested during the time of Samhain, the Celtic pagan festival from which Halloween was born. According to lore, Freya resided in the flowers of the plant, and all one needed to do was ingest the buds to become influenced by this divine feminine force.
More notably, cannabis may have been a featured element in the oracular arts. The Oracle of Delphi herself might have been high when she went into trance and channeled prophecies from the Greek god Apollo.
To access her visions, the Oracle sat suspended over a crack in the earth above a sacred spring from which vapors would emanate. Some suggest the fumes were mildly toxic natural gases. But others, like Dr. D.C.A. Hillman, author of The Chemical Muse: Drug Use and the Roots of Western Civilization, believe the vapor came from hallucinogenic plants intentionally burned to elicit visions. He claims cannabis may have been among them — partly because the bay leaves presumed to have been used are not psychotropic, while cannabis was well known to the Greeks at the time due to trade with Asia.
Long before the Oracle at Delphi, the mysterious Gaddi people, believed to be among the oldest tribes of India, are said to have used cannabis ritualistically for divination. It is believed that the disciples of Shiva in this tribe used the plant to enter trancelike states from which they would make predictions about the fate of the clan and give advice to those gathered.
Later, during the Middle Ages, European witches used a variety of hallucinogenic substances ritualistically. It’s difficult to determine whether cannabis was one of them, since Pope Innocent VIII banned the plant during this period. But since it is clear that witches incorporated a plethora of entheogens like datura, belladonna, henbane and mandrake into their craft, it hardly seems far-fetched to imagine that those who were brave enough to be witches might have been brave enough to use illicit cannabis in rituals, too.
Today, cannabis continues to be revered in pagan rituals and modern witchcraft. And if the season has you so inclined, you can easily create your own magickal cannabis ritual.
Start with cleansing yourself and your space — saging yourself and setting up an altar are a good start. Burn some incense to help get you grounded. After a brief meditation, vaporize (or consume as you like) a small amount of cannabis — enough to get you elevated, but not so high you think you can fly off on a broom. Tune into the energies you want to connect with and take another 1-2 hits. Repeat until your consciousness is altered and you feel the spirit of cannabis inhabit your body.
Keep your heart and mind open and allow any visions or messages to come through. Don’t assess or judge what’s happening; just observe and experience.
When you’re ready, emerge from the ritual. Burn some more incense to gently bring you back to Earth. Once you feel grounded, spend the next few minutes writing down any messages you received and take notes reflecting on your experience.
Cannabis can be used for any ritualistic expression you desire. Follow in the footsteps of those witches and seers who came before us, or boldly blaze your own path. The most important element is simply conscious intention, so feel free to get creative in exploring the ways this magickal plant can be your ally in the spiritual realms. ‘Tis the season, after all.