Holy Smokes: Did Moses and King Solomon smoke POT?
Working in the publishing business has its perks, and one of those is getting to see new releases of books that sometimes never land in the bookstores. Today, I happened to be reading through some product literature that I had put off for some time and discovered a book that was published a few months ago about the usage of drugs in the Bible. In the flyer for the book (SEX, DRUGS, VIOLENCE AND THE BIBLE, by Chris Bennett and Neil McQueen) this blurb caught my eye:
What will be surprising to most modern readers is the frequent use of intoxicants, like wine, strong drink, and mandrake in the Bible. Perhaps even harder to accept will be the copious use of cannabis (Hebrew kaneh-bosm) by both the Hebrew Priests and Kings for shamanistic purposes… a tradition that was continued by both Jesus and his followers.Well of course anyone can say anything to promote a book but I decided to look and see what I got when I entered kaneh-bosm into a search engine …and blow me away there is interesting stuff being written about this. I would LOVE to hear what you Bible thumpers and JW’s say in response to this article by the author of this book, entitled: KANEH BOSM: THE HIDDEN STORY OF CANNABIS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Some excerpts from the article:
The first solid evidence of the Hebrew use of cannabis was established in 1936 by Sula Benet, a little known Polish etymologist from the Institute of Anthropological Sciences in Warsaw (1).Now a bit about “wise” King Solomon…
The word cannabis was generally thought to be of Scythian origin, but Benet showed that it has a much earlier origin in Semitic languages like Hebrew, and that it appears several times throughout the Old Testament. Benet explained that "in the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament there are references to hemp, both as incense, which was an integral part of religious celebration, and as an intoxicant (2)."
Benet demonstrated that the word for cannabis is kaneh-bosm, also rendered in traditional Hebrew as kaneh or kannabus. The root kan in this construction means "reed" or "hemp", while bosm means "aromatic". This word appears five times in the Old Testament; in the books of Exodus, the Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.
The word kaneh-bosm has been mistranslated as calamus, a common marsh plant with little monetary value that does not have the qualities or value ascribed to kaneh-bosm. The error occurred in the oldest Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint in the third century BC, and was repeated in the many translations that followed (3).
THE HIDDEN STORY
When we take a chronological look at biblical references to kaneh-bosm, we reveal more than just the story of cannabis in the Old Testament. Another exciting and concealed story emerges as well, that of the suppression of the worship of Astarte, also called Ashera, known t o the ancient Semites as the Queen of Heaven.
The First Reference
MOSES & MARIJUANA
The first mention of kaneh-bosm in the Old Testament appears with the prophet- shaman Moses. At the beginning of his shamanic career, Moses discovered the angel of the Lord in flames of fire from within a bush.
It is later in his life however, that a definite reference to cannabis is made. Sula Benet explains this reference as follows:
The sacred character of hemp in biblical times is evident from Exodus 30:22- 33, where Moses was instructed by God to anoint the meeting tent and all its furnishings with specially prepared oil, containing hemp.
Anointing set sacred things apart from secular. The anointment of sacred objects was an ancient tradition in Israel: holy oil was not to be used for secular purposes...
Above all, the anointing oil was used for the installation rites of all Hebrew kings and priests.
This first reference to kaneh-bosm is the only that describes it as an ointment to be applied externally. However, anointing oils made with cannabis are indeed psychoactive and have been used by such seemingly diverse groups as 19th century occultists and medieval witches (4).
Closer to Moses' own time, cannabis was used as a topical hallucinogen by the ancient worshippers of Asherah, the Queen of Heaven. Asherah has also been referred to as the Hebrew Goddess (5).
The shamanistic Ashera priestesses of pre-reformation Jerusalem mixed cannabis resins with those from myrrh, balsam, frankincense, and perfumes, and then anointed their skins with the mixture as well as burned it (6).
THEN THE LORD SAID TO MOSES, "TAKE THE FOLLOWING FINE SPICES: 500 SHEKELS OF LIQUID MYRRH, HALF AS MUCH OF FRAGRANT CINNAMON, 250 SHEKELS OF KANNABOSM, 500 SHEKELS OF CASSIA - ALL ACCORDING TO THE SANCTUARY SHEKEL - AND A HIND OF OLIVE OIL. MAKE THESE INTO MAKE THESE INTO A SACRED ANNOITING OIL, A FRAGRANT BLEND, THE WORK OF A PERFUMER. IT WILL BE THE SACRED ANNOITING OIL.
THEN USE IT TO ANOINT THE TENT OF THE MEETING, THE ARK OF THE TESTIMONY, THE TABLE AND ALL ITS ARTICLES, THE LAMPSTAND AND ITS ACCESSORIES, THE ALTAR OF INCENSE, THE ALTAR OF BURNT OFFERING AND ALL ITS UTENSILS, AND THE BASIN WITH ITS STAND. YOU SHALL CONSECRATE THEM SO THEY WILL BE MOST HOLY, AND WHATEVER TOUCHES THEM WILL BE HOLY.
ANOINT AARON AND HIS SONS AND CONSECRATE THEM SO THEY MAY SERVE ME AS PREISTS. SAY TO THE ISRAELITES, "THIS IS TO BE MY SACRED ANOINTING OIL FOR THE GENERATIONS TO COME. DO NOT POUR IT ON MEN'S BODIES AND DO NOT MAKE ANY OIL WITH THE SAME FORMULA. IT IS SACRED, AND YOU ARE TO CONSIDER IT SACRED. WHOEVER MAKES PERFUME LIKE IT AND WHOEVER PUTS IT ON ANYONE OTHER THAN A PREIST MUST BE CUT OFF FROM HIS PEOPLE."
THE PRIESTS OF POT
The above Old testament passage makes the sacredness of this ointment quite clear. Moses and the Levite priesthood jealously guarded its use, and enforced this discriminatory prohibition with God's commandment that any transgressors be 'cut off from his people'. This law amounted to a death sentence in the ancient world.
SMOKE IN THE TENT
Lacking the invention of pipes, it was the practice of some ancient peoples to burn cannabis and other herbs in tents, so that more smoke could be captured and inhaled. In the last installment of this column we discussed such a group, the ancient Scythians. The Scythians were a nomadic people who travelled and settled extensively throughout Europe, the Mediterranean, Central Asia, and Russia. They burned cannabis inside small tents and inhaled the fumes for ritualistic and recreational purposes.
Moses and his priests burned incense and used the holy ointment in a portable 'tent of meeting', the famous Tent of the Tabernacle. As cannabis is listed directly as an incense later in the Bible, it seems likely that Moses and the Levite priesthood would have burned cannabis flowers and pollen along with the ointment and incense which God commanded them to make.
AND AARON SHALL BURN INCENSE EVERY MORNING: WHEN HE DRESSETH THE LAMPS, HE SHALL BURN INCENSE UPON IT. AND WHEN AARON LIGHTETH THE LAMPS AT EVEN, HE SHALL BURN INCENSE UPON IT, A PERPETUAL INCENSE BEFORE THE LORD THROUGHOUT YOUR GENERATIONS.
THE SCYTHIAN CONNECTION
Given that the Scythians and Israelites were involved in a trade of goods and knowledge, it is not surprising to find the similar technique of using tents to retain smoke. Benet commented on the often overlooked connections between these two groups.
The Scythians participated in both trade and wars alongside the ancient Semites for at least one millennium before Herodotus encountered them in the fifth century BC. The reason for the confusion and relative obscurity of the role played by the Scythians in world history is the fact that they were known to the Greeks as Scythians but to the Semites as Ashkenaz.
The earliest reference to the Ashkenaz people appears in the Bible in Genesis 10:3, where Ashkenaz, their progenitor, is named the son of Gomer, the great-grandson of Noah.
GOD WITHIN A CLOUD
A reading of the Old Testament reveals that Yahweh "came to Moses out of the midst of the cloud" and that this cloud came from smoke produced by the burning of incense. As scholar Ralph Patai commented in his book The Hebrew Goddess, "Yahweh merely put in temporary appearances in the tent of meeting. He was a visiting deity whose appearance in or departure from the tent was used for oracular purposes."
One is reminded of the ancient Persian sage Zoroaster, another monotheist like Moses, who heard the voice of his god, Ahura Mazda, while in a state of shamanistic ecstasy produced by cannabis. The Greek oracle of Delphi also revealed her prophecies from behind a veil of intoxicating smoke.
The insights achieved from the use of cannabis, whether inhaled in the Tent of the Tabernacle or applied topically, could have been interpreted by Moses as messages from God. This is similar to modern shamans who interpret their experiences with plant hallucinogens as containing divine revelations.
The Second AppearanceWell this should be enough to give you an idea of how interesting this article is. Be sure to check out the other references to Pot in the Bible in Isaiah and Jeremiah. I tell you this is cool stuff.
The next Biblical account of cannabis comes under the name kaneh and appears in relation to King Solomon. In Solomon's Song of Songs, one of the most beautifully written pieces in the Old Testament, Solomon mentions kaneh in describing his bride.
COME WITH ME FROM LEBANON, MY BRIDE, COME WITH ME FROM LEBANON. DESCEND FROM THE CREST OF AMANA, FROM THE TOP OF SENIR, THE SUMMIT OF HERMON. . .
HOW DELIGHTFUL IS YOUR LOVE, MY SISTER, MY BRIDE! HOW MUCH MORE PLEASING IS YOUR LOVE THAN WINE, AND THE FRAGRANCE OF YOUR OINTMENT THAN ANY SPICE!. . .
THE FRAGRANCE OF YOUR GARMENTS IS LIKE THAT OF LEBANON. . .
YOUR PLANTS ARE AN ORCHARD OF POMEGRANATES WITH CHOICE FRUITS, WITH HENNA AND NARD, NARD AND SAFFRON, KANEH AND CINNAMON, WITH EVERY KIND OF INCENSE TREE.
SONG OF SONGS 4:8-14
THE GARDEN OF THE GODDESS
The ancients worshiped the Goddess as a nude female image, the earth they lived on and the nature around them. The fertile rays of the sun on the earth was thought of as God's fertilization of the Great Mother. In light of this symbolism, it is not surprising to find Solomon's Song to be full of both erotic and vegetative imagery (8).
In The Woman's Book of Myths and Secrets, Feminist Scholar Barbara Walker explains
the Old Testament 'Ashera' is translated 'grove', without any explanation that the sacred grove represented the Goddess, genital center, birthplace of all things. In the matriarchal period, Hebrews worshiped the Goddess in groves (1 Kings 14:23), later cut down by patriarchal reformers who burned the bones of Ashera's priests on their own altars (2 Chronicles 24:4-5).
SOLOMON AND THE QUEEN OF HEAVEN
In The Temple and the Lodge by Baigent and Leigh, the authors state that Solomon's 'Song of Songs' is a hymn and invocation to the Phoenician mother goddess Astarte. Astarte was known as "Queen of Heaven", "Star of the Sea" and "Stella Marris".
The authors show us that Astarte was conventionally worshiped on mountains and hilltops, and then point to a quote from I Kings 3:3.
SOLOMON LOVED YAHWEH; HE FOLLOWED THE PRECEPTS OF DAVID HIS FATHER, EXCEPT THAT HE OFFERED SACRIFICE AND INCENSE ON THE HIGH PLACES.
I Kings 11:4-5 offers an even more explicit example of Solomon's ties to Astarte.
WHEN SOLOMON GREW OLD HIS WIVES SWAYED HIS HEART TO OTHER GODS; AND HIS HEART WAS NOT WHOLLY WITH YAHWEH HIS GOD AS HIS FATHER DAVID'S HAD BEEN. SOLOMON BECAME A FOLLOWER OF ASTARTE, THE GODDESS OF THE SIDONIANS.
THE SPIRIT OF THE SCYTHIANS
Solomon's practice of burning incense on high to the Queen of Heaven may have been a custom done in the same spirit as that of the Scythians, who burned cannabis in mountain caves and consecrated the act to their version of the Great Goddess, Tabiti- Hestia (9).
Archeological finds show that the worship of the old Canaanite gods was an integral part of the religion of the Hebrews, through to the very end of Hebrew monarchy. The worship of the Goddess played a much more important role in this popular religion than that of the gods.
Skipper…setting up his sacred tent and looking for his sacred herbs