Cannabis: Food For the Soul?

Cannabis: Food for the Soul? 

When you think of cannabis/marijuana, what is the first thought that comes to mind? Some people think of getting high, others might perceive it to be medicine, or consider it as part of their wellness routine. Others may have propagated opinions that are heavily influenced by its prohibition and suppression over the decades – either way, cannabis is thought-provoking; in more ways than one.  

Ancient civilizations utilized cannabis for many things: sailors used hemp in crafting their sails; it proved to be quite durable and resistant to mold. Fifth century Scythians and Assyrians utilized cannabis for religious/spiritual purposes – in fact, across a multitude of cultures and varying belief systems; cannabis was used for divine communion, rites/rituals, or to facilitate a path of Enlightenment! Enlightenment can be defined as obtaining a better, more mindful awareness of self and your surroundings. That got us thinking: Is cannabis more than just a consumable, or wellness product? There’s a lot of clinical research supporting its benefits therapeutically, but can cannabis be food for our souls, too? To answer that, we’ve got to take a little road trip, Campers! Let’s grab our backpack, (and a few Mellow Fellows for the ride) and venture out to Western China, near the Pamir Mountains. It houses one of the oldest, and most well-preserved evidentiary sites of cannabis use!

Funerary Rites in Ancient China: 

Photo credit: X. Wu (Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences).

In 2019, a group of scientists and researchers were excavating an ancient burial site in the Turpan Basin of the Pamir Mountains. At this site, they recovered macro-remains of cannabis (circa 800-400 BCE) that were likely utilized for ceremonial, spiritual, or medicinal purposes. “The archaeological evidence for ritualized consumption of cannabis is limited and contentious. Here, we present some of the earliest directly dated and scientifically verified evidence for ritual cannabis smoking.” [Meng Ren, et all²] These plants were likely smoked – the process of inhaling the smoke/vapor from burning cannabis – or consumed orally. Smoking out of a pipe/alternative device is believed to have been introduced later to Eurasia from the people of the New World. Ancient smoking practices were often communal and involved burning cannabis openly over a roaring fire. In East Asia, cannabis has a long history of being one of the most cultivated, and multi-purposeful tools for grain, medicine, ritual, and recreation. The psychoactivity of cannabis is widely renowned, and hotly debated amongst historians; it is unknown at which point in our, and cannabis’ evolutionary history. when the plant became more recognized and utilized for its psychoactive properties as opposed to functionality.  Psychoactive substances – like cannabis, psilocybin, and LSD – have long been cited for their mind-altering capabilities. For millennia, many cultures such as the Aztecs (1300-1521 AD) used psilocybin (or as they referred to it as: the skin of the Gods) for ritualistic and pleasure purposes. Prior to colonization of America, Peyote, which is a species of cactus, was often used by Indigenous peoples (3780-3660 BC) during tribal ceremonies. If you would like to learn more about psychedelia in the modern age, check out our blog post here!

Modern Take on Ancient Spiritual Practices

Cannabis can be quite an intoxicating compound and has been involved in many spiritual/religious practices across the ancient world and is still prevalent today.  We just learned that some of the earliest evidence of cannabis’ use as a spiritual herb, dates back to ancient China (circa 800-400 BCE.)  Modern spiritualists – that choose to incorporate cannabis into their specific practice – often cite its use for similar principles: it allows for total relaxation of the mind, and a possible elevation of spirit. Now, that’s a very generalized way of defining that experience, Campers – not everyone is going to react to cannabis in the same way. We always advise to be cautious when using any psychoactive substance! A common practice that is often seen as a precursor to most modern spiritual experiences, is mediation or “grounding.” Meditation is about training and developing a better sense of self-awareness. By doing this, you’re able to connect to the present, and what’s currently happening in your external environment. Meditators also learn how to better connect with their emotions and to observe them without judgment. When you “ground” yourself during meditation, you’re setting a strong, energetical foundation for yourself to tune in. When we’re grounded, we connect to the present without becoming lost in our own thoughts, or emotions. For a lot of people, this can be especially challenging – being able to quiet the mind and become fully present in our surroundings, requires strength and discipline. Separating yourself from modern day distractions – like our phones, tablets – can also be challenging; this is where cannabis comes in! Depending on the type/strain, and your body’s natural ability to process cannabinoids, cannabis can be utilized to help calm the mind and provide better focus so you can ground and ease yourself into proper meditation. Its psychoactive properties can also allow the user to feel an elevated sense of awareness, producing a more spiritual experience. 


  1. 12, P. M. (2022, July 15). The history of psychedelics (part 1 of 2). Visual Capitalist. Retrieved September 6, 2022, from 
  2. The origins of cannabis smoking: Chemical residue … – science advances. (n.d.). Retrieved September 6, 2022, from 
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Meditation and mindfulness: What you need to know. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Retrieved September 6, 2022, from 
  4. Johnstad, P. G. (2020, September 22). Cannabis as Entheogen: Survey and interview data on the spiritual use of cannabis – journal of cannabis research. BioMed Central. Retrieved September 6, 2022, from 

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