Article 9: Religion and Drugs
Narcotics have been used in religions since the dawn of time. The first users were shamans to induce visions and enable them to speak to the spirits. Over time religious orders and noble families regulated the use of narcotics, tobacco, and alcohol. There are five recognized narcotics used in religions or banned thereof; these are Alcohol, Opium, Cocaine, Cannabis, and Tobacco. For more information regarding holistic drug rehab centers please visit the mentioned link.
Cannabis has been in recorded use since 2000 BC in India, Nepal, and Greece during the Vedic period and was used in various shamanic rites. Herodotus wrote about the Scythian ceremonial rituals using cannabis, and the Atharva Veda writes about the sacred status of the drug. The modern Rastafari religion uses cannabis for meditation.
This drug was used over 4,000 years ago by ancient Egyptian priests and was a controlled substance only allowed for use by priests, magicians, and warriors. It is attributed to the Egyptian deity Thoth as well as being a treatment for a headache given to man by Isis and Ra. A Minoan goddess with poppy flowers adorning her head, was uncovered in an archeological dig in Crete, this 2,400 year old figurine was found together with smoking apparatus. Greek mythology places opium well into the anthem of Olympus, where the gods of sleep, night and death wear poppies in one form or another.
Alcohol has been accompanying mankind since the agricultural revolution when wheat, barley, oats, and vine were grown and fermented. Alcohol is not forbidden by Judaism or Christianity but is not allowed in Islam. Wine is used to consecrate holy days in Judaism, and is blessed by a special prayer called “Kiddush.” The mass is concluded with drinking of wine symbolizing the Blood of Christ. Many monasteries in Europe are famous for their special beer recipes. Muslims are not allowed to consume alcohol, but they can produce and trade with it.
Hinduism refers to wine as a medicine, and it is considered to be an ancient healing mediation adopted by the Ayurveda.
On the other side of the Indian scale is Jainism, which strictly forbids the use of alcohol. Jainism preaches nonviolence and vegetarianism; it doesn’t allow alcoholic beverages because their fermentation depends on microorganisms which make the alcohol non-vegetarian.
Buddhists avoid drinking alcoholic beverages (surāmerayamajja) since it violates the 5th of the Five Precepts, the basic Buddhist code of ethics which is disruption of mindfulness and impeding progress in the Noble Eightfold Path.
Sikh’s cannot use any intoxicant including alcohol.
Many ancient religions and cults used wine and beer in various ways to consecrate their services, this is found in Egypt, China, Sumer, and Babylon. There is an ancient Chinese edict dated around 1116 BC that states drinking alcohol in moderation are allowed by the mandate of heaven.
In the ancient Mediterranean cult of Dionysus, the wine was a central part of the practice, and reaching levels of extreme intoxication was considered to be possession by the God of Wine, Dionysus as well as in line with the practice of serving the gods Bacchus and Liber. The cult of Dionysus was constantly outlawed by the Roman Senate.
The Vikings of Scandinavia followed a Norse religion where drinking beer was a necessity to celebrate Yule and Midsummer. Their belief that the warrior died in battle and would be transported to Valhalla, a large hall where they sat and drink beer and sung of victories and heroism.
Shinto of Japan requires the drinking of Sake with their gods, the ritual called Omiki is performed before the offerings for a bountiful season are given.
The Voodoo cult of Haiti uses alcohol to inspire the spirit of “Iwa” to enter the body and strengthen the observers resolve to survive life another day.
Since Tobacco is an American plant, it was found in religious and social uses only in native American cultures. Ceremonial pipes were used as a religious ceremony that links the smoker with the spirit world.
Coca is another indigenous plant to the Americas and was used by the Andean peoples living in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, northern Argentina, and Chile from the pre-Inca period through to the present. Traces of coca have been found in mummies dating 3000 years ago. The leaf is chewed inducing a euphoric state that is crucial in prayers, meditation and as offerings to the Apus (mountains), Inti (the sun), or Pachamama (the earth).