In the Ancient World, Hemp was the Tree of Life

Publication Year: 
2001

Image retrieved from realhistoryww.com on September 20th, 2013.

A religious symbol which undoubtedly comes from the ancient east is the Tree of Life. This is found in some of the earliest Sumerian art, and continues throughout Mesopotamian history, being very prominent in the Assyrian friezes of the first millennium B.C. The mythological conception of the Tree of Life is also found in Genesis iii:22 (saggs 1962)

Like the entheogenic references to the Tree of Knowledge, The original Sumerian word for the Tree of Life contained etymological indications of intoxicate. "In Sumerian the words for 'live' and 'intoxicate' are the same, TIN, and the 'tree of life', GESHTIN,is the 'vine'". (Allegro 1970) Likewise the Hebrew word used for life, (as in the Tree of Life), 'chay', has more to do with enlivening, fresh, or merriment, rather than personal immortalization.

In discussing the Eden mythology, Harold Bloom notes that "Everything depends upon those two trees, of life and of knowing good and bad, or are they after all only one tree? Pragmatically they are, since only the tree of knowing good and bad is involved in the catastrophe, and... [the] text as an interpretive afterthought"(Bloom 1990). A View that has been held by other scholars;

The Principle of mythic dissociation, by which God and his world, immortality and mortality, are set apart in the Bible is expressed in a dissociation of the Tree of knowledge from the Tree of immortal Life The latter has become inaccessible to man through a deliberate act of God, whereas in other mythologies, both of Europe and of the Orient, the Tree of knowledge is itself the Tree of Immortal Life, and, moreover, still accessible to man." (Campbell 1964)

Interestingly, it can be demonstrated that, like the Tree of Life's relationship to the mythical soma, hemp has a long history of being associated with the Tree of Life. An ancient world symbol for the tree-of-life appears on the Basalt Stella of Assyrian king Esarhaddon, in the form of the elaborate looking plant directly behind the ancient monarch (fig-1). An earlier study used this for the depiction in the upper level where "King Esarhaddon stands before an elaborate incense chamber with smoking...censer pictured in cut-away in the lower portion of the chamber, the upper chamber is tent-like with an opening," (Bennett, J. Osburn & L. Osburn 1995). The tent was used to hold the smoke of cannabis incense, which the king would inhale by placing his head inside of it; a common means of "marijuana" inhalation in the ancient world, and an act of worship. "Cannabis as an incense was burned in the temples of Assyria and Babylon 'because its aroma was pleasing to the Gods.'" (Benet 1975) An ancient Babylonian inscription reads: "The glorious gods smell the incense, noble food of heaven; pure wine, which no had has touched do they enjoy". In Babylonian religious rites, "Inspiration was... derived... by burning incense, which, if we follow evidence obtained elsewhere, induced a prophetic trance. The gods were also invoked by incense."

The Chaldean Magus used artificial means, intoxicating drugs for instance, in order to attain to this state of excitement, for it was only then that he succeeded... in deifying himself, and received the homage of genii and spirits of nature...This doctrine prevailed also in the Accadian (Babylonian) magic books. This furnishes an affinity of conceptions and beliefs which is of great importance... These incantations, most of which go back to the deepest antiquity, were gathered in collections such as those we have fragments of... Acts of purifications and mysterious rituals increased the power of the incantations.. Among these mysterious rituals must be counted the use of enchanted potions.. which undoubtedly contained drugs that were medically effective (Lenormant 1874).

pp. 9-12 of Sex, Drugs, Violence and the Bible by Chris bennett and Neil McQween (2001)

Assyrians, cannabis, Esarhaddon, magic
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