Score for this meditation: music by Ex Ox
I shall be a holy anointing oil on the feet of our dry cracked world. I have grown up from the soil for millennia - healed and built and tied, woven and burned. I am concrete and paper and clothing and waking dreams. I create from within a limitless potential.
I have been demonized, criminalized, abused, misunderstood, debased and had my powers and intentions questioned and mocked. I am a Witch, and I am weed kin.
What do we Witches and weed have in common? We are misconstrued, dangerous, enviro-healers trying to help save the world, only to be met with the hegemonic forces of capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy trying to stomp us out. We are cannabis kin, and we aren’t going anywhere.
So Legalise us. Cuz we are miraculous.
What is a miracle? We can look to one of our most famous Witches of all time to find out. Jesus of Nazareth did magic, turned over the money-lenders' tables in the temple, befriended lepers and prostitutes. He was a compassionate, feminist, loving conjure man. The story goes that he could heal by touch. But guess what? The healing oil that Jesus and his followers used to anoint the sick most likely contained significant amounts of cannabis.
A passage in Exodus lists the oil as containing cinnamon, cassia, myrrh, and cannabis. According to Chris Bennett, a writer and expert on the relationship between cannabis and religion, Jesus used a mixture containing "kaneh-bosem," which has been identified in recent years as a translation of the word cannabis, to treat pain, leprosy, lesions, swollen muscles, and other conditions.
Was cannabis aide to miracle?
I got drunk when I was 15. So drunk that I kissed a stranger, then was so mercilessly hungover, I couldn’t keep food down and vomited for three straight days. During those three days I came to the realization that alcohol maybe wasn’t for me. I didn’t drink alcohol again until my 19th birthday. Instead I went hard into becoming the pothead I was always meant to be.
Yes, I’m a pothead. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not ashamed. My spouse says at this point, I’m pretty much made of weed. I am definitely marijuana kin.
I am cannabis kin. We go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong.
But just like Witchcraft, cannabis isn’t for everyone. No peer pressure here. It’s okay if it’s not your thing. I had a friend for whom smoking led to selective mutism, the lights turned off and the TV turned on, she would sit in stony silence while I twiddled my thumbs, energized by the same joint that locked her onto the couch. I’m not a fan of alcohol but if it works for you, I won’t judge you for your ethical consumption. I won’t send you to jail or the gallows.
I am called weed, demonized and criminalized. I am called Witch the same.
For I am called weed, demonized and criminalized. I am called Witch the same. See Witches and weed we exist at a crossroad, an intersection between here and there, between humanity and divinity.
I think my body’s rejection of alcohol was a miracle that saved my life. Weed is my kin, and it means me no harm. Alcohol is a BIG part of the culture of southern Ontario where I’m from, but during those 'California sober' teen years, unlike almost all of my friends, I never blacked out. Never broke a bone. Never wrapped myself around an unsuspecting toilet, or had my inhibitions and capacity lowered to the point of actual danger.
Rather than fucking or fighting, weed was gateway to giggles and floaty feelings, experimental art films and naps. Adventures to harmless burnouts’ basement apartments to score and scuttling off to a park with butter knives and blowtorches in tow. We learned science by building bongs and bucket rigs that drew the smoke into homemade chambers. We got creative, rolling joints in the shape of tulips and crosses and gatling guns. And I was weed kin. Soft, fuzzy, nature-loving, witchy, creative and curious. It’s worth noting that when we smoke using a bong, we are engaging all of the elements: earth, air, fire, water and spirit. Part of joint rolling, for me, is the craft, a mini artisanal project created to be burned.
We are an ancient high that puffs and passes in circles though time.
A well-preserved substance found in a 2,700-year-old temple in Tel Arad has been identified as cannabis, including its psychoactive compound THC. According to the BBC “Researchers concluded that cannabis may have been burned in order to induce a high among worshippers. This is the first evidence of psychotropic drugs being used in early Jewish worship.”
We witches are weed kin. Psychedelic herbalists experimenting on the fringes of polite society. We have been politicized and put down. But we are miracles of creation.
Veronica Horne writes, “Evidence of ancient rituals containing cannabis can be dated as far back as 5000 B.C. It was used in ancient Chinese and European rituals and even ancient Scythian funeral rites for kings. All across the world, for thousands of years, [cannabis] appears to have left a mark on religious celebrations and rituals. People used it as a way to more closely communicate with the divine. They utilized it as a means of being lifted out of mundane reality into a broader state of consciousness.”
And that, for me, is part of what Witchcraft itself is for. To help us relinquish the mundane and get caught up in the phenomena of our own hands, or the scent of lilacs or the slow deliberate caterpillar creeping by on the grass. To be amazed and enamoured by plain old grass. To lightly sweep our fingers and feel every soft dewy blade tingling and teeming with life. To lift ourselves up and out. To laugh.
I used to say that I wasn’t even sure if weed made me feel better all the time - just different. And different was what I was looking for.
And while I got wildly experimental with altered states, weed was always bestie, and it’s the only drug that stuck around into my adulthood. To celebrate success or sand the sharp edges off a failure. I am weed kin. We’re friends. We enhance each other's experience.
But lest we get too comfortable and float away on a cloud of smoke, let’s foster our weed kinship with a dose of reality.
You want to know what this [war on drugs] was really all about?” Said John Ehrlichman, Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs under President Richard Nixon “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying?
We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news.
Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.
This was a Witch hunt. This is the real kinship that ties witches to weed: we have been used as fear-mongering scapegoats to embolden and empower the forces of individualism, racism, capitalism and hegemony. And much like witchcraft, the vilified cannabis plant is not just about getting high and kooky, woo woo and whoa dude. Witches and Weed are world savers with bad reputations.
Hemp is the part of the plant that we don’t smoke. But far from useless, hemp is a fucking miracle. It’s naturally resistant to pests and disease, making it extremely hardy and tough.
“Hemp also draws CO2 from the atmosphere at a greater rate than any other plant, and in some cases (such as hempcrete) it continues collecting CO2 even after it has been harvested and processed. One study shows that hempcrete (a hemp-based building material) absorbed an additional 307.26 kg of CO2 per m3 after 28 days.”
Hemp requires four times less water than cotton to grow, but makes a strong yet supple textile.
And then there’s paper…
"In 1916, agricultural scientists in America discovered that it was possible to make paper from hemp pulp. Not only did paper derived from hemp have more favorable properties, it also produced four times the amount of paper per acre compared to trees. Despite it providing a higher yield and being more environmentally friendly, by 1933 the production of hemp fiber was almost non-existent on a national scale. This certainly seems puzzling. Paper made from hemp fibers was used for more than 200 years, dating back to ancient China and the Egyptians. Even the declaration of independence was drafted on hemp paper before being copied onto parchment.
Back when president Hoover was in power in the 1930’s, the owner of one of Americas largest newspaper companies, William Hearst, invested in thousands upon thousands of acres of woodland in order to provide enough pulp for the newspaper industry. Due to the size of his investment in timber, he tried to eradicate hemp as competition in the industry he sought to dominate.
He formed an alliance with DuPont, a petrochemical company that also provided the means necessary to turn wood fibers into paper through a sulfur based chemical process. After realizing the competitive opponent hemp posed to his investment, Hearst began an influential newspaper campaign to dissuade Americans from supporting the hemp industry. He portrayed hemp as an extremely dangerous and malevolent drug, weaving his agenda into the news in a way that would appeal to the racial fears of the time period.
His newspaper had a massive domino effect and happened to be one of the main driving forces behind the illegalization of the growth of plants belonging to the Cannabaceae family. While Hearst struck fear into the hearts of Americans to damage the hemp industry, his associates at the DuPont Corporation were pressurizing the United States congress to pass a bill that would impose sanctions on those who ‘sell, acquire or possess’ marijuana. Hemp, which looked similar, was then cast in a bad light due to the stigma around the family at the time. Essentially, the wood-pulp paper industry succeeded due to it being more profitable.”
Politics, money, power. Propaganda.
Maybe you’ve seen an old film called Reefer Madness in which marijuana consumption turns polite suburban teens into murderous villains, the smoke burning away their conscience and consciousness. And as teenage potheads we watched this film and laughed and laughed. But in retrospect, it’s not fucking funny. The death cult of Corporatocracy and Religiosity convinced millions of people that millions of OTHER people, people who use weed or witchcraft, are bad and scary. Propaganda won and the Earth lost out. And we lost out on a miracle.
"endocannabinoids are literally a bridge between body and mind"
Bradley E. Alger, Ph.D.
Witches and weed are systemic kin:
“The endogenous cannabinoid system—named for the plant that led to its discovery—is one of the most important physiologic systems involved in establishing and maintaining human health. Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. With its complex actions in our immune system, nervous system, and virtually all of the body’s organs, the endocannabinoids are literally a bridge between body and mind. By understanding this system, we begin to see a mechanism that could connect brain activity and states of physical health and disease.”
We are only beginning to understand our kinship with this plant.
But now in the 21st century there’s money to be made, so capitalism extracts, digs its claws into our soil with no regard for those still languishing in prisons and graves.
Me, I don’t smoke to forget. I smoke to remember. Remember my connection to plant and soil, what a brain attached to a nervous system floating inside a galaxy might imagine when compelled to slow down and think differently. Crossing a bridge between mind and body.
I am Witch. I am weed kin. Debase me, demean me, try to eradicate me. I am still here. Extremely hardy and tough. All Witches are weeds. We pop up unwanted to mock the status quo’s false sense of control and laugh. Witches are weed kin. We are growing. And we’re not going anywhere.
Amy (she/they) is the co-founder of Missing Witches and co-author of Missing Witches: Reclaiming True Histories of Feminist Magic and New Moon Magic: 13 Anti-Capitalist Tools for Resistance and Re-Enchantment.