Drug use throughout our history has developed from a intensely sacred and religious practice, to a intensely secular and recreational one. The origins of many controlled substances is with Shamans and Buddhists, with native cultures and ancient civilizations. Many of these traditions have been all but lost, yet they exist still in records and stories. Others are still alive and flourishing, with the drugs uses and use being celebrated and giggled at.
Cannabis has been used by Hindu Gurus since as early as 1500 BCE. The use of the drug is in worship of the god Shiva, also known as the supreme god. Not a bad way to worship your god as you're digging your way through a bag of crunchy Cheetos. The smoking of the drug is said to cleanse sins, unite one with Shiva, and avoid the miseries of hell and the after-life.
Salvia divinorum, also known as the Sage of the Seers, is an herb used around Oaxaca, Mexico by shamans. These shamans take the herb in tea form, crushing the plant and infusing it with hot water. It's used for religious healing ceremonies and provides the user with a psychedelic experience that can include uncontrollable laughter, becoming objects, and feelings of motion.
Ayahuasca is an infusion of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine found in the Amazon, and prepared typically as tea drink. The drug is used for religious ceremonies, as well as to cure diseases and addictions. Taking the drug results is serious hallucinations, as well as copious amounts of vomiting and diarrhea. Maybe thats why its used to cleanse the body of worms.
Amanita muscaria, also known as the Flying Agaric, is a hallucinogenic mushroom used in Siberia by shamans. Typically, the shaman would take the mushrooms, and his followers would then drink the shaman's urine to also feel the effects. The purpose of the drug was to acheive a trance-state, and hopefully not as an excuse to drink someone else's piss. Typically side effects include twitching, seizures, and potentially comas.
Middle Eastern Sufis
Cannabis has been used by some sects Islam for centuries – although some Orthodox Muslims claim the drug is and intoxicant, and therefore haraam (forbidden). But, within the Sufi religious order the use is encouraged, claiming that the drug is not an intoxicant, but allows the user to achieve a higher state of awareness. That and a more talkative and animated couple of hours.
North American Indians
Peyote is a small cactus used by American Indians to trigger periods of deep insight and introspection. As well, the drug is used to treat everything from toothaches to breast pain, as well as child birth. Lets just hope a six year old doesn't complain of a toothache, or he's in for a 10 to 12 hour ride of his life. Peyote is only legal for "bonafide religious ceremonies", but its legal to generally possess in some states.
Damiana is an herb that is both smoked and brewed into tea, its affects are said to be more mild than cannabis. Its uses are to promote a deep sense of relaxation, as well as create lucid dreams for the user. The medicinal benefits of the drug are in treating everything from constipation to coughs to depression. The tea is also brewed and used as an aphrodisiac in Central and South America.
LSA, also known as Morning Glory Seed, was eaten by the Aztecs as a sacrament to their higher power. Eating the seeds led to a tired, dreamy state, with an inability to maintain clear thoughts. The seeds also caused hallucinations, which could explain why the Aztecs decided to butcher 84,000 of their people in four days in the name of the reconstruction of a temple.
Hawaiian Baby Woodrose seeds are consumed to produce a psychedelic effect that leads to visions, cramping, and nausea. The drug was taken by indigenous Hawaiians in connection with worship and festivities. The drug lasts between 4 and 14 hours and can be easily cultivated, as it is essentially a weed.
Opium has been smoked in China for centuries, and the practice still continues among the elderly. The cultivation of opium was originally intended for Chinese ritual use, as well as medicinal purposes. The effects of opium are everything from relief from pain to a sense of well being. The drug has been prohibited and reintroduced to China many times, it is now a controlled substance with varying forms being used for pain relief.
Kratom is said to produce a sense of well-being, with users reporting anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, analgesic, and even euphorigenic effects. The drug is used as both a depressant and a stimulant, and is typically chewed by the user continuously. Buddhist monks chew the drug consistently while in meditation to achieve a sense of heightened awareness and euphoria.
Entheogen was used by oracles in ancient Greece to induce a state of revelation. The drug was typically drank in the form of Kykeon, a drink that was fermented from barley, herbs, and ground goat cheese. Apparently the oracle of Delphi made her prophisies while drinking Kykeon, which could explain why the ancient Greeks had so many issues. It's also said that it was a common drink in ancient Greece, which might explain their creativity, and their downfall.
Khat leaves are often chewed by Muslims, they induce a sense of euphoria and excitement to the user. The drug has essentially the same strength and effect as modern day ecstasy, its religious uses were to induce a sense of euphoria while in prayer.
Members of the Rastafari movement use cannabis in connection with worshiping God, studying the Bible, and Meditation. Rastafarian's see cannabis as spiritually beneficial, specifically referring to it as the "Tree of Life" discussed in the Bible. The plant is also an integral part of the "reasoning sessions" it's members participate in to discuss life and achieve a higher sense of understanding of the world around them.
Alcohol, and specifically wine, are still used in modern day Christian and Catholic ceremonies, taken as a sacrament during worship. Roman Catholic's believe that during the mass, the wine becomes Jesus Christ's blood, and is drank as such. Although Christians don't believe the same, they still drink the wine as part of the ceremony they participate in, to promote community and celebrate God.
by Mehret Tesfaye, Ethiopian Review
August 14th, 2009
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Inside the World of Religious Drug And Alcohol Use