A Modern Day Guide to Observing Cannabis’s Ancient Spiritual Traditions
Photos courtesy of Swami Select
Recently I was asked a series of questions about cannabis, consciousness, and spirituality:
1) What does the conscious consumption of cannabis mean to you?
2) Should we treat cannabis as a sacrament? If so, how should cannabis be treated, exactly?
3) Are there any sacred rituals or ceremonies you coordinate or participate in involving cannabis, either alone or in a group?
4) What kinds of benefits do you think cannabis users stand to gain from treating cannabis as a sacred plant?
To be truly conscious in our cannabis consumption, there is a whole series of steps to go through, but most times we do it without actually thinking about it. Conscious consumption is being fully aware of all the sources, the qualities, ingredients, and potency of the cannabis product about to be consumed.
The first question to answer in the process would be: What is your intention in wanting to consume this plant?
And the next: What cultivar and method of delivery will give you the experience that you want?
This gets into the standard basis of “set and setting.” How do you want to use the cannabis, and where is the best place to do it? This isn’t to overthink it. If you want pain relief, or release from anxiety, or to get a bunch of friends in a party mood, you will choose different cultivars and settings. Maybe you use edibles or full-spectrum concentrates for a serious medical condition, or maybe you just want to chill out on the couch with some flower.
Here, the conscious consumer will consider the ratios of the 500 compounds that make up the ensemble of biochemicals which create the magic in the plant. What are the percentages of THC relative to CBD and to any other cannabinoids which have been tested? Do you want THC, CBD, or some other cannabinoid to dominate?
In addition, if the information is available, it is helpful to know the terpene profile of the cultivar in question. But whether there are lab test numbers on the packaging or not, your nose will guide you in picking the right cultivar — or shall we say, chemovar — the chemical variety of the plant best suited for your intention.
Terpenes are volatile compounds that have many of the same effects as cannabinoids, which are themselves a form of terpenoid. In combination, cannabinoids and terpenes are responsible for cannabis’s effects on your consciousness. The smell will tell. So, if you go, “Oh! Wow!” when you first smell the flower or the hash, that is the one to smoke.
Notice, I haven’t used the words “indica” or “sativa” here. That is because the conscious consumer understands that, first of all, there are not any pure sativa or indica landraces left in the West anymore. Everything is a hybrid to some extent. In addition, genetic testing has shown, in many cases, what the grower thinks they grew is not what the DNA sequence shows. Whether a plant has big leaves and grows bushy as an indica doesn’t indicate or determine its THC/CBD ratios or the terpene profile. Any plant genetics can produce a variety of chemovars, with a variety of cannabinoid and terpene profiles, which are the product of where it was cultivated, what the climate was like where it was grown, what the stresses on the plant were, and how it was grown, harvested, and cured.
That means that the relevant data is the list and ratios of all the cannabinoids considered together with the ratio of all the terpenes, not the size of the leaves. Over time, you learn what strength of THC/CBD you like and what terpenes you prefer for each particular purpose.
Once you have decided on the chemovar for your intended purpose, you need to ascertain if the product is pure. If you care about eating organic food and care about the environment, then you surely want to know that what you are smoking or ingesting is pure, organic, and pesticide/pathogen-free. The only way to really know this is to either grow it yourself, know the grower and how they grow, go with a trustworthy brand, or buy from a legal dispensary in a state where lab testing is mandatory.
So, before I even look at the product, I would like to know where it comes from and who grew it. I need to know if it was grown organically, or better yet, grown in the ground, in the open air, for the long season by a farmer who uses regenerative agriculture practices. Although I understand if people like indoor or light-deprived plants, I prefer to smoke sungrown.
As a conscious consumer, I would like to know that the cultivator and the manufacturer are also people with a minded consciousness around cannabis, how their actions affect their environment, and that they take care to provide their customers with the highest quality and purest product they can deliver.
Do they have a spiritual base for their farming practices? What is the relation of their cultivation techniques to the harmonic balance of their local environment? Are they using regenerative farming methods? Is it grown with love? To use hippie jargon, the vibe of the farmer and the trimmer and the brownie maker are put on the buds and in the edible. That vibe is what you are putting in your body, and it will shape your consciousness.
Further, if one is using a cannabis product other than flower for smoking, then one needs to also know the purity of the other ingredients, whether they’re edibles, oils, extracts, or topicals. Once again, using products whose producers have a higher consciousness or greater awareness of the interrelationship of all beings and all life forms will heighten your experience.
Taking up the second question about treating cannabis as a sacrament: What would that be like? Once you have chosen your cannabis and the purity and spirit of the product is confirmed, the next step is to celebrate it and bless it to your use.
My use is creative inspiration, but I also consume the plant for pain relief and relaxation, primarily by smoking cannabis flowers. The process of rolling a joint is the beginning of ritual awareness of the plant itself. As such, it can be seen as treating cannabis as a sacrament in the sense that one is devoting all of one’s attention to the task of preparing the joint. This is an essential part of the experience.
All of the senses are engaged in the evaluation and preparation of the joint. The look of the bud and the fragrance of the terpenes engage the visual and olfactory centers. Then the tactile awareness comes in as you feel the flower when you break it apart, releasing even greater aromas. You sense the dampness, oiliness, waxiness, and texture of the material.
Grinding the buds even stimulates the auditory faculty, particularly when one knocks the grinder pieces together to dislodge plant material. Most likely you are also considering the provenance of the flower during the process.
Rolling the joint is tactile and somewhat dexterity challenging, yet there is a subtle satisfaction in having produced a well-turned cylinder. Just like with coffee, where the quality of the fresh grind shapes the enjoyment of the cup, a good grind of the flower makes for a quality smoke that burns cool with a nice ash and doesn’t go out halfway through.
The penultimate step of the ritual is to puff on the unlit joint prior to lighting, which should give you a taste of the raw plant’s terpene profile. We call it “taking a dry hit.”
To fully employ cannabis as a sacrament, the precursor to lighting the joint, taking a bong rip, using the dab rig, or eating the edible, would be to acknowledge the source of the divinity empowering the plant with a mantra, a prayer, or a simple statement of affirmation. Another ritual use would be to enlist its aid in a healing or creative endeavor with a specific request to the spirit in the plant.
Nikki and I are part of an amorphous group who gather from time to time to specifically use cannabis as a sacrament with a creed and a defined ceremonial sequence, during which a gigantic cannabis cone joint is passed around the circle.
Everyone brings a bit of flower to contribute to the communal joint. We pass it always to the right, with the right hand, and, with the left hand covering the heart, we look the recipient in the eye and say: “Cannamaste!” That person receives the cone with the right hand and repeats: “Cannamaste,” covering their heart with their left hand and meeting your eyes.
Swami Select cannabis, produced at Ganja Ma Gardens, is cultivated with spiritual intent. In the spring, we place the seeds from chosen cultivars’ at the feet of the Goddess Ganja Ma, who is the Goddess of Cannabis. She manifested to me and gave me a cannabis mantra, with the message to bring Her blessings to the Emerald Triangle and to raise the awareness of the spiritual qualities of the plant that has more beneficial uses for humankind than any other plant — and whose spiritual legacy began with the earliest humans.
When we first crack the seeds in water during the proper moon cycle in the spring, a drop of sacred water from the Holy Ganges River in India is added to each container. The ganja mantra is chanted, and the intention is declared that the power of the plant be a source of inspiration and insight to facilitate physical and spiritual healing.
As for the innumerable benefits of treating cannabis as a sacred plant, I have learned that cannabis is always teaching, challenging one to think outside the box. She has taught me about organic living soil cultivation and regenerative agriculture. In the midst of an environmental crisis, regenerative agriculture offers hope for producing food for the world without poisoning the soil with petrochemicals.
She has taught me political action and community organizing. She has opened the door to higher awareness through altering my consciousness and becoming more in-tune with the plant kingdom. She is the everyday psychedelic, which through joy and laughter leads to compassion and understanding. She is one of my gurus, and I am her devotee.