In 1963, two limestone altars were found at the entrance to the “Holy of Holies” of a Judahite shrine at Beersheba Valley, in Israel’s Tel Arad.
The shrine dates back to the eighth century BCE.
Analysis of the materials on two altars, now housed in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, found they contained cannabis and frankincense, according to a study published Thursday. … This is the first time that physical evidence of cannabis has been identified in the Ancient Near East, according to the study authors.
“[M]any cultures used hallucinogenic materials and ingredients in order to get into some kind of religious ecstasy,” said lead author Eran Arie, curator of Iron Age and Persian Periods archaeology in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. “We never thought about Judah taking part in these cultic practices,” Arie said.
During a toke, have you ever muttered that’s some good shit? The Judahite worshipers may have said the same thing. They literally burned animal feces along with the cannabis. Chemical evidence of both was found on the altars.
Once the cannabis and animal feces were set afire, the waste could have allowed a slow, low temperature burn that was conducive to group inhalation, the study suggested. … Cannabis was burned for a psychoactive role as part of a ritual, since the use of hallucinogenic substances for cultic purposes in the Ancient Near East has been documented.
The tribe probably didn’t grow its own pot:
How cannabis arrived in Tel Arad is unknown, but since there are no known cannabis seeds or pollen remains in archaeological sites in the Ancient Near East, the cannabis was likely imported in hashish form.
It’s fun to speculate on all the ways Christendom would be different today if, over the centuries, the devil’s weed had been viewed as God’s weed instead. Would Sunday services be more attractive if there was guaranteed ecstasy to be had? Would there be fewer religious tightasses? Would more Rastafarians convert to Christianity? Would Catholics with serious munchies demand a second helping of the eucharist? Would Christian rock be tolerable? Would church bands play Cheech & Chong and Phish songs? Would 4/20 be a Christian holiday?
Somewhere there’s a parallel universe where all this is happening. I think I might like it better than our own.
(Image via Shutterstock)