When it comes to hemp and religion, people immediately tend to think of Rastafarians, often Jamaicans with long dreadlocks, smiling broadly as they smoke a huge joint. No doubt you’re familiar with reggae, the distinctive style of music played by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh that made the Rastafari faith community famous the world over.
Rastafarians use the term ganga [pron. ganja] for hemp that is smoked. Smoking ganga, especially as a shared activity, is an essential part of the religion. Reggae music and even football are also part of Rastafari.
Indeed, and as in football, there are no equal rights for women among Rastafarians. If what you want from a religion is equal rights, and not just football and pot-smoking, you’re not going to find it in Rastafari.
Rastafari is what’s known as a revivalist religion. It has its roots in Christianity and invokes the Bible. The Bible is the basic Christian scripture, and it frequently refers to something called "kene-bossm". The official translation of kene-bossm is “reeds” or “palm leaves”, but there are many indications that the term refers to hemp in some of the stories.
Among Christians, the ritual intoxicant is wine, which is drunk at every celebration. In Islam, wine is banned, but other intoxicants are not, so hemp is a very common intoxicant in the Islamic world.
Hemp is also firmly embedded in Hinduism. There, the Lord Shiva is viewed as the destroyer and the creator, and hemp is his sacred plant. During the major festival of Maha Shivarati, all believers are encouraged to drink bhang made from cannabis leaves and smoke chillum pipes filled with ganga.
All depictions: © Hanf Museum