Research suggests that Israelites burned cannabis for rituals

Published Jul 29, 2020 09:00 a.m. ET
iStock / Darren415

Rituals are prevalent throughout the world, and one Israeli archaeologist has found evidence of religious rituals where cannabis was burned on altars. A 2700-year-old altar found in a temple in Tel Arad in the Negev held a mixture of animal dung and cannabis residue. Could this be the first evidence of cannabis being used for rituals? Let’s explore a little bit further.

One of the latest studies indicates that there are two limestone altars within the discovered shrine. Other substances were found along with the preserved burnt offerings that have been documented as being on the altar. Frankincense was on one of the altars, and surprisingly CBD, THC, and CBN, all of which are compounds found in the cannabis plant, were also found on the other altar.

Upon the discovery of the substances on the altar, the materials were sent for analysis. The results at that time were inconclusive.  However, recent investigation has determined that the content found on one altar is cannabis residue.

Is there an expiration date?

The finding of THC, the active psychoactive compound in cannabis from over 2700 years ago, suggests that there is no expiration of the cannabinoids found in marijuana. Researchers believe that cannabis may have been burned during the temple services to induce a high to the followers and worshipers within the temple. The temple was first excavated in the 1960s.

This discovery surprised the researchers, but now Arad is now known for providing the earliest documentation of cannabis use in the Ancient Near East.  While neighbouring cultures are known for hallucinogenic substances, this discovery shows evidence of the material being found within the Kingdom of Judah. Researchers believe it is likely that cannabis use at Arad was utilized as a deliberate psychoactive.

Cannabis as a religious beverage

Cannabis and India have a long history together. As early as 2000 to 1400 B.C., there has been mention of marijuana in the sacred Hindu texts or Vedas. The god,  known as Shiva, is frequently associated with cannabis or bhang, as it is known in India. The god Shiva proclaimed the marijuana plant as his favourite food, and additive to drinks was known as the Lord of Bhang.


Bhang is commonly used in Hindu religious practices, rituals, and festivals. One of the famous Hindu festivals where cannabis is used is the spring festival of Holi. The edible mixture is made from the leaves and the buds of the female cannabis plant.  India has been adding this edible mixture to food and drinks at their Hindu religious practices for thousands of years.


Religious symbols for Bob Marley, the well-known supporter of Rastafarianism, include cannabis.  His famous popular quote, "The more man smoke herb, the more Babylon fall," is part of the religious symbol to living in a sacred freedom space. Babylon is regarded as an oppressive government that limits religious freedoms.

Final words

Cantheism, although not a religion itself, is a philosophy that looks at the religious nature of the interaction between man and the cannabis plant. Some people believe that all laws that prohibit cannabis in any way are in contradiction of the Constitution of the United States on behalf of Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, and especially Cantheism and Rastafarianism.

Cantheism  A religion centered around marijuana


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