cannabis in ancient africa -- 4/20/16

Today's selection -- from Smoke Signals by Martin A. Lee. Historically, marijuana was used in Africa for medicinal and ritualistic purposes:

"Pollen samples indicate the presence of cannabis in sub-Saharan Africa for at least two millennia. Introduced by overland traders from the Arab Middle East and later by Portuguese seamen traveling from India, the herb quickly spread throughout the continent. Black Africans employed a variety of devices -- clay pipes, gourds, bamboo stalks, coconut bowls -- for inhaling 'dagga' as marijuana was called by several tribes, who regarded it as a 'plant of insight.' According to the Tsongas of southern Africa, 'Dagga deepens and makes men wiser.'

"Earth-smoking, which entailed sucking cannabis fumes directly through a hole in a dirt mound, was an ancient tradition among Pygmies in the equato­rial forest. The Zulus ingested psychoactive hemp via steam baths and enemas in addition to smoking it for pleasure; they also smoked it to boost their cour­age before going into battle. A Bantu tribe in the Congo dispensed cannabis as a means of punishment -- miscreants were compelled to smoke a large quantity of marijuana until they either confessed to a crime or keeled over.

"Cannabis had a medicinal reputation in Africa that varied from region to region. Cultivated as a source of fiber as well as for its remarkable resin, the versatile herb served as a remedy for a wide range of ailments, including dysentery, malaria, diarrhea, typhus, and rheumatism. The Hottentots, who applied it as a salve for snakebites, deemed dagga more valuable than gold. Sotho women used marijuana to facilitate childbirth, and Sotho children were fed ground-up hempseed paste while weaning. In West Africa, from whence Armstrong's ancestors hailed, cannabis was utilized as a treatment for asthma."


Martin A. Lee


Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana - Medical, Recreational and Scientific


Scribner a division of Simon and Schuster


Copyright 2012 by Martin A. Lee


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