5 legendary weed-loving women
Today, many women use cannabis for medicinal purposes, and others simply like to be “stoned” and we find in ancient times, the same phenomenon, explains Ellen Komp, author of Toki'n: A 4000- years Herstory of women and Marijuana and is also the deputy director of the cannabis advocacy group California NORML. “What was recorded in history as healing was done in a more ritualistic way, linked to spiritual practices where a shaman or other shaman would consume cannabis and distribute it to their patients.
Although history has often left out tales of women, legends of some surviving goddesses and influential women reveal that cannabis was central to their powers, at least in theory. Here are a few of the greatest names that have crossed the maps and the millennia:
The Ancient Near East: Goddess Ishtar (2300 BCE, probably earlier)
For thousands of years, the goddess Ishtar (also Innana and Astarte) wielded spiritual power over Mesopotamia, the land that gave birth to mighty empires such as Akkadia, Babylon and Assyria, and which roughly constitutes Iraq, Kuwait and parts of today's Syria, Iran and Turkey.
Also revered in ancient Egypt, tributes to this “queen of heaven” and goddess of healing were widespread throughout the region, and an herb called Sim.Ishara was burned in her honor. Sim. Ishara translates to “herb of the goddess Ishtar,” which, according to Assyriologist Erica Reiner, is the same plant as the Akkadian herb “qunnabu,” or cannabis.
With the intensification of wars and battles (and patriarchy) in the region, Ishtar, who was a compassionate healer, transformed into a goddess of war, becoming the representative lover of the ruling king. According to Mr. Komp, this cultural evolution “sexualized goddesses [and holy women] by stripping them of their healing power. One of these powers was the knowledge of plants like cannabis. Later, witch pyres did the same.
A likely precursor to the Greek Aphrodite, among others, Ishtar was also at the center of an ancient Babylonian spring solstice event celebrated with flowers, painted eggs and rabbits, much like the German goddess “Ostara” and the “ Modern Passover. (So feel free to enjoy some cannabis-infused Easter eggs, in the name of Ishtar).
South Arabia/North Africa: Queen of Sheba (950 BCE)
“We don’t know if she’s mythical or real,” Komp says of the legendary Queen of Sheba, who is said to have brought a treasure of gold and spices to the Israelite King Solomon. “The spices she brought are not named, but cannabis was traded in her time along the trade routes she may have taken.
The Queen of Sheba is mentioned for the first time in the Old Testament, then in the Aramaic Targum Sheni, in the Koran (where she is called Bilqis) and in the Ethiopian founding story, Kebra Nagast. His kingdom of Sheba, either present-day Yemen or Ethiopia, amassed impressive wealth by controlling trade routes. Although her legend grows more whimsical with each iteration (she notably had the legs of a donkey), the common thread is her journey north to pay homage to King Solomon, who had just seized power.
In the Testament of Solomon (written c. 100-300 CE), Komp indicates that there is mention of a woman named Onoskelis – meaning donkey-legged woman – who was close to King Solomon and the helped build the temple in Jerusalem using hemp cords. Ethiopian legend says that the Queen of Sheba returned home pregnant with Solomon's son, making her the founding mother of the Solomic dynasty, which lasted for three thousand years until 1975.
Ancient Israel: Goddess Asherah (c. 1800 BCE)
Sometimes considered the mother of Ishtar, the wife of the gods El and Baal, or the wife of Yahweh (later removed from the Bible), the goddess Asherah/Athirat is associated with the tree of life, “bearing the fruit defended which allows men to think like gods,” writes Komp. Asherah tributes were objects of worship consisting of sacred poles or stylized trees, erected by the Israelites for most of their history and mentioned more than thirty times in the Hebrew Bible. King Solomon even built an entire temple in Asherah, which was later demolished by King Josiah.
"A ancient depiction of an Asherah tree from the palace of Ashurbanipal looks very much like a cannabis plant with a cola at the top,” says Komp, noting that the tree’s leaves were inscribed with seven and nine dots. The Israelites were eventually forbidden to pay homage to Asherah, but many still continued to erect sacred poles/trees in her honor. Much later, in medieval times, Ms. Komp notes that some Islamic authors identified cannabis by the name asherah. She continues: “The identity of the tree of life is one of the greatest mysteries of humanity. Why was only one plant banned?
Siberia: Princess Ukok (aka The Ice Princess of Siberia, 1500 BCE)
Preserved by permafrost in the Altai Mountains, the mummified remains of a young woman with an ornamental tattoo were found in 1993 by Dr. Natalia Polosmak. Discovered with six saddled and bridled horses (perhaps her spiritual escorts), Princess Ukok was buried with bronze and gold ornaments, as well as a small container of cannabis. Because of her tattoos, Komp says the “princess” was more likely a high priestess of the Pazyryk people, a tribe closely related to the nomadic Scythians known for their ritual cannabis use.
“Healing and spiritual practices were more linked in the past,” she explains, referring to MRI evidence that the princess suffered from cancer and may have used cannabis for medical purposes. Also, the tall and elaborate headdress found with the remains of the woman is said to represent the Tree of Life (see Asherah, above). (see Asherah, above).
“Many other burial sites in the area have been discovered with traces of hemp who were identified as women, thanks to DNA tests,” explains Mr. Komp.
China: Magu, the Hemp Maiden (300 BCE, or earlier)
“Some people think she was real,” Komp says of the Taoist xian Magu, whose name roughly means “hemp maiden.” Although popular accounts vary, Magu is said to have been a kind young woman who achieved immortality at Magu Shan, or Magu Mountain, of which there are two in China.
Although hemp has been cultivated in the region since Neolithic times, it is mainly used for industrial purposes, with the exception of the Taoists who hold Magu in high esteem. Komp cites 570th-century scholar Joseph Needham who described Magu as presiding over the sacred Mount Tai of Shandong, where cannabis was harvested on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. He also wrote: “There are many reasons to believe that ancient Taoists systematically experimented with hallucinogenic fumes.” Additionally, a Taoist encyclopedia dating from around XNUMX BCE records cannabis being added to ritual incense burners, or censers. Also known as the goddess Mago in Korea and Mako in Japan, many folk tales say that “Magu scratches the itch.”