THE FOLKLORE OF PLANTS: Cannabis | Community

Cannabis sativa was used to make rope in ancient China. The rope served as proxy snakes to beat sickbeds, driving out the demons who caused illness. Quality textiles and many other useful things are still made from the hemp plant.

“Hemp for Victory” is a 1942 U.S. Department of Agriculture film (available on YouTube) about hemp’s importance in the war effort. It was needed for rope for ships, as traditional eastern supply sources had been cut off. The film highlights the cultivation of hemp in Kentucky and Missouri.

Science doesn’t differentiate between hemp and marijuana. They are the same species.

Hemp has 0.3% or less of tetrahydrocannabinol; marijuana has more. THC is the substance that produces the high. This is comparable to purple and orange carrots; the purple may have more beta carotene, but they are still both carrots.

The criminalization of marijuana in the United States was a state-by-state process, which eventually led to federal legislation. Its decriminalization seems to be following a similar route. As individual states and municipalities are making possession of small quantities legal, initiatives for a single national policy are being suggested.

The 2018 Farm Bill made it legal to grow hemp throughout the United States. Growing marijuana (with the exception of medical marijuana facilities) is not legal nationwide.

Cannabis has a long cultural history in several countries. China was once known as “the land of mulberry and hemp.” Silkworms were fed on mulberry trees, and hemp was used both medicinally and in the manufacture of textiles. Oils and teas were made for pain relief. Consuming small quantities of the seeds would allow a person to communicate with spirits.

The Ancient Egyptian Ebers Papyrus, a medical text, gave formulas for hemp-based elixirs. They treated pain, inflammation and depression.

The goddesses Seshat and Bastet were depicted with cannabis leaves on their heads. Their worshippers consumed the plant during religious ceremonies.

The ancient Greeks used cannabis incense to ward off evil spirits. It was also used in shrines and by oracles to cleanse themselves. Theophrastus, the first Greek botanist, mentions the plant in his writings.

In India, the Vedas (sacred Hindu texts) are a source of knowledge regarding nature and spirituality. Cannabis is mentioned in Vedic scriptures as a sacred plant. It was believed to have a guardian angel living in its leaves.

Cannabis, in all its forms, has proven useful to humans for millennia.

– A reference librarian, Lisa Karen Miller has been gardening and researching plant lore for many years. Have plant lore to share? Email

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