The Use of Marijuana in the Rastafari Religion

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Rastafari: What comes to mind when you see the word? Jamaica? Dreadlocks? Bob Marley? Chances are one of the first things that comes to mind is marijuana. Culturally entrenched with the Rastafari movement since it began in the 1930s, marijuana – or ganja, as it’s more commonly called by Rastas – is considered sacred and is often referred to as the wisdom weed or holy herb.

The ‘Healing Herb’ of the Nations

So how did ganja come to play such an important role within the Rastafari religion? Rastas believe that the Tree of Life mentioned in the Bible is the marijuana plant and that several other biblical passages further promote its use, such as “Thou shalt eat the herb of the field” (Genesis 3:18), “Eat every herb of the land” (Exodus 10:12) and “The herb is the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2).

Despite what many think, Rastas actually condemn the use of marijuana simply to get high. Instead, it is usually used within religious ceremonies in a highly ritualized manner in order to enhance feelings of unity and help generate visions of a spiritual and soothing nature. Rastafari “reasoning sessions” are religious meetings that involve group meditation, and marijuana is used to help the follower go into a trance-like state. The marijuana is usually smoked in a pipe (or “chalice”) and a short prayer is always recited before it is smoked:

“Glory be to the father and to the maker of creation. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be World without end.”

Reasoning sessions are very important religious rituals for Rastas – it’s a time for them to come together to debate living according to the Rastafari outlook. The effects of smoking marijuana allow the user to reach a sort of “cosmic consciousness,” a state where they become closer to “Jah” (God) and can see the truth of the world more clearly.

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