In modern America, public opinion on cannabis is rapidly changing. Less and less people view hemp or marijuana as a dangerous, live ruining drug habit, and many have embraced it as a wellness trend. But is this an evolution of thought, or are we actually returning to an old way of viewing cannabis?
Let’s take a look back at the relationship of cannabis within the ancient Chinese and Korean civilizations. Specifically, the Goddess Magu and her association with hemp.
Brief Rundown On The Origins Of Cannabis
People have been growing hemp for an extremely long time. In fact, according to some anthropologists, cannabis may be one of the first-ever crops cultivated by early humans. Evidence suggests that ancient peoples around the area of what is now Eastern Aisa grew hemp for its fibers and potentially for its psychotropic properties as early as the pre-neolithic era. One archeological dig site near Oki Islands found containers filled with hemp seeds that date all the way back to 8000 BC.
Today, we know more about the benefits of hemp flower, but during those times, cannabis crops were largely harvested for stalks and seeds. Hemp seeds could be hulled and used as a nutritious addition to the early human diet, and the fibrous stalks were made into some of the oldest textiles known to us.
Shennong, a mythical Chinese figure who is said to have discovered agriculture and passed it down; spoke of the divine five grains—a holy list of crops that provide sustenance for the society and may have been passed down by a supernatural being. Confucius later documents this in the famed Book of Rites.
Who Is The Goddess Of Hemp
It’s well established that hemp was an important crop to the ancient Chinese civilization both for practical and spiritual reasons, but it goes even further. In the Chinese Taoist tradition, there’s a hemp goddess known as Magu, whose name literally translates to hemp maiden.
The story depicts the Magu hemp goddess as a beautiful young woman who not only heals the spirits and bodies of mortals, but also assists in the ushering in of springtime and the new cycle of vegetation and herbs.
In one version of the Taoist myth, Magu is described as first beginning her life as a mortal seamstress, struggling alongside her horse breeding father to keep food on the table. One day, a client of Magu pays for her services with a peach. However, instead of bringing the peach back to her home, she gives the sweet fruit to an elderly woman and decides to make a bowl of porridge for her as well. When she returns, her father, furious she has given away the peach, locks her away. When Magu is finally released, she goes out to find the old woman she had intended to cook for but finds only the peach pit where the woman had been. The legend goes that Magu planted that peach seed, and it grew into an incredible tree, bearing healing fruit, which she used to tend to the sick and infirmed in her village.
Perhaps what’s most interesting about the Magu myth is what it points to—the longtime association of cannabis with healing. While the alternative medicine and wellness communities of today seem far removed from ancient China, the fibrous hemp plant weaves the two cultures together with a common thread.