By Robert Sullivan and Julia Widdop
Cannabis has been a part of the human experience for thousands of years. Many cultures consider the plant to be imbued with the spirit of a goddess. In China, over 5,000 years ago, she was used in ritual, for medicinal purposes and to produce clothes. She was known as Ma, the spirit of she-who-grows; the one who binds us in unity and oneness.
Jamaicans view cannabis as a sacrament in their religion. Rastafarians see cannabis as a gift from God for good health and happiness. Spiritual systems such as Buddhism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, as well as other spiritual persuasions, have used this exotic herb for the purpose of reaching enlightenment. Cannabis can be helpful in spiritual practices such as meditation, yoga, breathwork, chakra clearing, Chi Gung, Tai Chi and prayer.
The discovery of thousand-year-old shamans’ graves, complete with smoking artifacts and quantities of cannabis, provides historical evidence of the ceremonial use of cannabis. And while the cannabis practices of some cultures have been preserved (such as drinking bhang, a cannabis-milk chai tea, at Shiva festivals in India), many other indigenous cannabis practices have been lost, and must now be reconstructed by modern shamans using spirit-helper guidance and intuition.
In shamanism, cannabis is considered an ally. Through meditation, observation and listening, one can develop a relationship with her. This relationship reveals her true medicine. Through song, chant and prayer, you can invite her spirit to participate in ceremony and learn her ways. In ceremony she is considered the honored guest, and the first song during ceremony is dedicated to her. Silent conversation is the way to enter her world; ask and she will answer. Questions such as, “How can I get to know you?” “Who are you?” or, “Can I be with you as a friend, a loved one, or an apprentice?” will activate a response, which could be an intuitive reception, a feeling, or actual words.
The way of the shaman is to journey into other worlds, revealing extraordinary perception, thought and feeling as a result of the influence of spiritual allies. Cannabis is a doorway to these other realities; she helps you become more comfortable with the experience of entering these worlds. Through her influence, this altered state allows one to be more creative, to dream higher ideas, and produce beautiful images. Cannabis has a heart chakra frequency; the frequency of unconditional love. Unconditional love is the foundation of the cannabis experience: it is this vibration that facilitates unity and connectedness. It attracts kind, helping spirits who empower the process of ceremony.
To prepare for the ceremony* it is recommended that you resist using cannabis for five to seven days before the ceremony. Smoking or ingesting less frequently may enhance the experience. This may be difficult for some, especially those using cannabis for pain, but it can make the experience more meaningful, resulting in greater depth and communication with the spirit of the plant. During this preparatory period, potential participants should clean their temples (physical bodies) by eating nutritious food, drinking plenty of water and exercising. Spiritual work, such as yoga or Chi Gung, is also important; as is remaining peaceful and calm through meditation, relaxation and periods of rest.
The ceremonial space should be warm, soft and relaxing. As people arrive, begin preparing for ceremony by taking it easy and getting to know one another, listening to soft music and partaking of herbal teas or juices. There are many methods of administering the cannabis, such as smoking, vaping, eating or applying topically. However, most cannabis shamans use a pipe to smoke the cannabis, as the sun-wise passing of the pipe is an important part of the ritual; this is the time when participants inform the spirits of their intention for the ceremony, either silently or out loud. Participants who prefer to use edibles should take them about an hour before the ceremony is scheduled to begin to ensure that they are activated in time.
Ceremonies often begin with the shaman and/or his or her assistant smudging each participant. Smudging involves the burning of sacred herbs such as cedar and sage, and fanning the smoke over people or an area to cleanse the aura and clear emotional, mental, physical and spiritual blocks. Often, it also awakens the shaman within. Following the smudging the cannabis shaman may say a few words then s/he will usually declare sacred space and call the spirits of the directions into the circle. This opens the space for helping spirits, ancestors and allies to enter the ceremony. The shaman may use drums, rattles, songs, chants, and perhaps whistles to call in spirits.
This will be followed by the taking of the sacrament. After the taking of the sacrament (cannabis), the shaman assists in helping participants relax and enter an altered state of consciousness through drumming, songs and chants. As the energy begins to flow and the spirit of the plant is activated, the shaman may help participants to connect with the spirits and work directly with the goddess to help fulfill their intention and better understand their relationship with her. Shamans may use meditations, journeying, breathwork, prayer, or other methods; some shamans combine these together.
The ceremony usually lasts about an hour to an hour and a half. Any change in activity is not a break, but a transition into the next part of the ceremony, so participants should maintain ceremonial etiquette; quiet talking, a respectful attitude and reverent thoughts. Any talking should be functional talking. Functional talking, according to wisdom teacher Steven Gray is, “speaking only when necessary to communicate something not otherwise easily conveyed.” At any point in the ceremony, the spirit of the plant may have her own agenda. When this happens the shaman and his or her assistant will respond to the wishes of the goddess. At the end of the ceremony the shaman will thank the spirits of the directions for being in the circle. We recommend that you follow the ceremony with a meal and avoid driving while influenced by the cannabis goddess.
Shamanism is a personal journey of direct experience with Source. You may have a richer and more complex experience if you resist the social impulse to “talk story.” So, rather than talking about this experience with other people, consider going within to consult your higher self in order to make the most of your experience with such a profound plant ally.
*Please note, shamanism is a very individual and experiential practice; each shaman approaches the spirits in his or her own manner, which may vary from the procedures and rituals described here.
Dr. Robert Sullivan (Chi) is of Choctaw and Irish heritage. He holds a PhD in psychology and is a semi-retired psychologist. As a student of the Holy Kabbalah for 47 years his work now is primarily related to divination. He is a healer, tarot reader, lecturer, teacher and cannabis ceremonial shaman, with extensive field experience. Julia Widdop holds an MA in psychology, as well as degrees in journalism and graphic arts. Julia is the founding director of the Shamanic Arts Center in Hotchkiss, Colorado and the producer of Talk Story Media, a social media channel distributing in video, audio and print. www.ShamanicArts.Center.