Cannabis and Magick
A few days later we were walking back to his car when we saw a policeman obviously checking the date on the disc. My friends’ impulse was to run, but I grabbed him by the shoulder and told him to just wait. As we watched the policeman swayed slightly blinked a couple of times and then walked away. Then he turned and came back and looked again. This time he peered at it with slightly widened eyes, then blinked slowly and swayed again. Then he meandered off, his walk becoming more purposeful the further he was from the car. There were no comebacks and my friend was VERY impressed with the spell. Needless to say this is not a spell I would recommend someone use today as being caught with illegal drugs in your car is an extremely serious offence. However, it did show the effectiveness of cannabis in an illusion/glamourie spell, and the incident made my friend pay for his car tax the next week.
With the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use in four of the states that make up the United States, and being allowed for medical use to some degree in twenty three at the time of writing, the number of people who use it for one reason or another is on the rise. Back in the 1980s and ‘90s when I was travelling around the UK looking at different Pagan groups and magickal practitioners smoking cannabis resin, and the dried herb, was considered by many to be a normal practice. Both before and after rituals, and sometimes during them. It didn’t enhance the reputation of any of the people and groups that did this, and was frequently cited by critics as one of the reasons that Paganism was not valid spiritual path. It being viewed as more a way of leading a hedonistic lifestyle whilst claiming they were celebrating “The Old Ways”.
Interestingly in the UK I have noticed a drop in people using cannabis as a recreational drug and many covens and gatherings seem to be drug free to the point of using apple juice in the place of anything alcoholic. Whether this is due to better education as to the effects of drugs as a whole, improved emotional intelligence, or the desire not to be seen stoned/drunk/’baked’ on social media I have yet to learn. While this approach has certainly helped the image of Paganism in Britain it does mean that, because of this, the many of the traditions of its use in magick and ritual are not being passed on to the next generation of practitioners.
Hemp, the plant from which cannabis is derived was used by Pagans in the past for divination, spellcasting and various medicinal uses. Astrologically it is classified as being under the influence of the planet Saturn, which governed visions, endings, longevity, and exorcisms. Its ruling Element is Water, and the specific properties of hemp are healing, love, visions and meditation. Its most common ritual use was in incenses that accompanied divination and meditation, but it was also used in love potions and in some healing potions- particularly those to ease anxiety.
A combination of herbs which included hemp, were cast on the brazier of hot coals during traditional Craft divination. This was to disengage the conscious mind and allow the communications of the subconscious mind to manifest more easily and it was usually used in conjunction with a ‘magick mirror’, crystal, or scrying bowl full of water. This technique is still popular with tribal Shamans today in the more remote regions of the world where it is not only used for invoking visions but also for conjuring spirits/entities and for exorcism.
This is usually done in a closed environment with a group all of whom are breathing the smoke from the sacred herbs which may also include mugwort and mandrake, both powerful psychoactive herbs in their own right, or the local variations thereof. The result is usually a group trance which can produce some powerful effects both on the psychological and magickal levels. Psychologically the individuals in the group form what can best be described as a single group mind with the herbal smoke enabling the participants to subsume their individuality. It also makes them much more suggestible which means group hallucination is a common occurrence. Magickally the influence of the incense can enable people to see beyond the physical plane into what many Pagans term the “Lower Astral”. This area of the Astral Plane can be manipulated by thought and imagination and it is believed that it is also the home of Archetypes common to different cultures. Working with this plane the Shaman can not only interact with tribal deities and power animals, but transform psychological complexes into visualisations of these forms and deal with them as though they were those entities.
This can even cause effects on the physical plane in his book “Witness to Witchcraft” by Harry B. Wright, published in 1958, he describes a ceremony he attended near the town of Abomey in what is now Benin. This part of Africa is known by magickal and ethnographic groups as the “Home of Voodoo” and the ceremony that Mr. Wright attended was performed by a group known as “The Covenant of the Leopard”. He mentions the trance-inducing elements including drumming and purifying the area with sacred smoke and herbs. The climax of the ceremony was when five leopards appeared to walk through the dancers and participants and were perceived as so real that one of them left with the sacrificial chicken in its mouth!
The cannabis plant traditionally available to most Pagans until relatively recently was the type classified as Cannabis Indica, or Cannabis Afghanica, which is high in tetrahydrocannabinol(THC) which is the compound responsible for the narcotic effect. Modern times has seen the introduction of a strain of hemp known as Cannabis Sativa which is used as medical marijuana because its active ingredient appears to be Cannabidiol (CBD) which appears to be non-psychoactive but aids in the treatment of anxiety and pain reduction. Because of its lack of psychoactive effect I don’t know if it can be used for the same purposes as the traditional herb. Certainly in the ethically grey areas of love philtres or spells aimed at influencing specific people I suspect not. The THC in Cannabis Indica binds to the various fats found in the human body and tends to hang around for a while after exposure, particularly prolonged exposure. This may account for the suggestibility of people who use it regularly and why it was included in “love” potions and filters. Even used as a component of non-ingested sachets and talismans it can have a real-world effect as my own experiments showed. Perhaps with the decriminalisation of the plant in various areas of the world magickal experimentation may yield more uses for this interesting plant.
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