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CANNABIS CULTURE – The Indo-European language is the mother tongue of many modern dialects. Even before this language was spoken the ancestors of these people, the proto-Indo-europeans, were ritually using cannabis — a technique of worship that continued for thousands of years and spread throughout the ancient world, leading to its continued use in various religions.

The Proto-Indo-Europeans were a  prehistoric ethnolinguistic group of Eurasia who spoke Proto-Indo-European (PIE), the ancestor of the Indo-European languages according to linguistic reconstruction. The Indo-European language that grew from it, is the Mother tongue of  numerous modern languages.  Indo-European comprises most of the languages of Europe together with those of the northern Indian subcontinent and the Iranian Plateau.  The Indo-European family is divided into several branches or sub-families, the largest of which are the Indo-Iranian, Germanic, Romance, and Balto-Slavic groups. The most populous individual languages within them are Spanish, English, Hindustani (Hindi/Urdu), Portuguese, Persian, Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi, German, and Russian.

Knowledge of the Indo-Europeans comes chiefly from that linguistic reconstruction, along with material evidence from archaeology and archaeogenetics. The Proto-Indo-Europeans likely lived during the late Neolithic, or roughly the 4th millennium BC. Mainstream scholarship places them in the Pontic–Caspian steppe zone in Eastern Europe (present day Ukraine and southern Russia). It is in these same regions we find the earliest evidence of the ritual use of cannabis, and dating back to this same period. This was a technique of religious ecstasy still found at Indo-European sites thousands of years later at diverse locations.

In 2016 a slew of news articles have come out with Headlines like Founders of Western Civilization Were Prehistoric Dope Dealers (New Scientist) Was Marijuana the Original Cash Crop? ‘ (Men’s journal) ‘Surprising 5,000-Year-Old Cannabis Trade: Eurasian Steppe Nomads Were Earliest Pot Dealers’ (Ancient Origins) ; all stemming from a multi-authored  academic Paper, Cannabis in Eurasia: origin of human use and Bronze Age trans-continental connections(Tengwen, Wagner, Demske, Leipe, Tarasov, 2016), that was published in the journal Vegetation History and Archaeobotany* and which detailed the paramount role cannabis played in the trade, tradition, and spread of Indo-European Culture. So the above evidence regarding the role of cannabis in the origins of Western culture should not be underestimated. This archeology has shown how the Proto-Indo-European Yamnaya culture brought cannabis into Europe. Ritual use of cannabis in funerary rites in the region inhabited by the Yamnaya goes back at least 5,000 years, as evidenced through a find of skeletal remains and burnt cannabis seeds recovered at a burial mound at modern day Gurbăneşti, Romania. (Rosetti, 1959). 

Similar evidence that Proto-Indo Europeans burned cannabis in a cave in Ukraine 5,500 years was suggested by the late British Archeologist Andrew Sherratt, who has also suggested that the corded ware culture  was evidence of a cannabis beverage in use during the Neolithic period. The Corded Ware culture comprised a broad archaeological horizon in Europe between through c. 3100 BCE – circa 2350 BCE, ending in the early Bronze Age. Sherratt suggested that like poppy shaped vessels used to hold opium preparations, corded ware had hemp cords pressed into the clay, not only for a design but to indicate the contents and a cannabis based beverage was widely in use throughout Europe.

The late British archeologist Andrew Sherratt, pointed to the use of tripod bowls which he suggested were used to burn cannabis in the Ukraine region from 3,500 BCE, as evidenced by carbonized seeds. The authors of The Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture note that “Hemp has not only been recovered from sites in Romania but also from a Yamma burial at Gurbanesti (Maldova) where traces were found in a ‘censer’ (a shallow footed bowl believed to have been used in the burning of some aromatic substance). It has been found in a similar context from an early bronze age burial in the north Caucasus…. Ceramics were more elaborate than those of the Yamma culture and included, especially in female burials, low footed vessels interpreted as ‘censers’, presumed to be used in rituals involving some narcotic substance such as hemp” (Mallory, et al., 1997). “It seems, therefore, that the practice of burning cannabis as a narcotic is a tradition which goes back in this area some five or six thousand years and was the focus of the social and religious rituals of the pastoral peoples of central Eurasia in prehistoric and early historic times” (Sherratt, 1995).

The late British Archeologist Andrew Sherratt, who suggested that a ritual cannabis infusion was at the core of the so called ‘corded ware culture’.

Sherratt suggested that the cannabis burning braziers referred to above eventually went to the way side, and were replaced by a beverage, although he believes that cannabis use continued through this cultural shift. The “disappearance of ceramic braziers in northern and western Europe” was followed “by the appearance… of prominent forms of pottery drinking vessels. Corded-ware beakers and early bell-beakers are ornamented with impressions of twisted cord: if these are hemp fibres, then the decoration may indicate that their contents were connected with cannabis” (Sherratt, 1995). A view shared by other researchers: “As cannabis can also be infused, i.e., served as a component in a drink, it has also been suggested that the spread of cord-(hemp?) decorated pottery from the steppe westward may also have been part of this same complex” (Mallory, et al., 1997).

Evidence of cannabis in a grave where the body was laid over flowers have been discovered in Hattemerbroek in Gelderland, Amsterdam, at a tomb that showed characteristics of corded ware culture, drinking cups were also found at the site which dated to 2459 – 2203 BC.

As the authors of the exhaustive Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture have noted, “There are… at least three chronological horizons to which the spread of hemp might be ascribed: the early distribution of hemp across Europe; during the Neolithic c5000 b.c. or earlier; a later spread of hemp for presumably narcotic purposes around 3000 b.c.; a still later spread, or, at least, re-emergence of hemp in the context of textiles during the first millennium b.c….” (Mallory, et al., 1997). In regards to an association with burial rites. Celtic use of cannabis has also been identified through pollen analysis of a bowl from a rich woman’s grave of the late Hallstatt Period at Niedererlbach, Bavaria (Rosch, 2005). The authors of  The Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture  likewise note that “hemp has… been discovered in an iron age contexts in western Europe, e.g. a Hallstatt burial, presumably Celtic, at Hochdorf in Germany” (Mallory et al., 1997). Cannabis was also found in later Viking burial sites as well. 

More recently Russian researchers have been making similar suggestions, specifically about the Aryan ancestors of the Vedic Indians. In the article ‘Aryan settlements in the Urals: A precursor to Indian Civilisation?‘, Strong archaeological evidence which indicates that the Aryans lived in Arkaim, by the Urals, before they went to India via Central Asia. The article quotes the archeologist Sergei Malyutin:

Malyutin says that the Aryans came here from the west, probably from the Volga, and then moved to Central Asia and then India. He believes that their sacred drink included cannabis boiled in milk with an addition of ephedrine [i.e., ephedra].

“Why do you think they are the same Aryans that later came to India and Iran?” I ask Sergei Malyutin.

“The Rigveda and Avesta contain descriptions of the place where the Aryans came from – it has birch trees and climate looking like ours,” he says. “They had similar burials and the skeletons are of the Indo-European anthropological type… There is another, key feature, chariots, which were used only by the Aryans at that time.” (Konstantinov, 2012) [emphasis added]

It was this sort of high mobility that led to the spread of cannabis throughout the ancient world, and in fact the development of hemp rope has been attributed to the harnessing and domestication of the horse. it is unclear that archeologist Sergei Malyutin, was basing his research on the work of Prof. Victor Sarianidi at BMAC,  where claimed 4,000 year old archeological evidence of cannabis and ephedra, and in some case opium poppies, at a t temple site were suggested to indicate the plants were used in the preparation of soma/haoma. Or he may have came to his theories about the drink of the Aryans, based on another group known for both burning and drinking cannabis preparations, that came out of the Russian steppes, and spread across much of the ancient world, Western Europe, Persian, Israel, Egypt, India and even deep into central China, a series of Indo European tribes, now known to us collectively as the Scythians. As we shall this group as well has its important part to play in understanding the mysterious identities of soma and haoma.

Cannabis was also part of the earliest trade routes we know of as well, as noted in ‘Cannabis in Eurasia: origin of human use and Bronze Age trans-continental connections’, indicating it would have been part and parcel of any “Aryan” migration. “A marked increase in cannabis achene records from East Asia between ca. 5,000 and 4,000 BP might be associated with the establishment of a trans-Eurasian exchange/migration network”. (Eurasia is the largest continent on Earth, comprising all of Europe and Asia).

Descendants of the cannabis burners in the Ukraine region, the Scythians, would later spread the cultic use of cannabis, both burned as an incense and drank, and the root word kana, throughout much of the ancient world. One of the names of the Scythians was “Haomavarga” the Haoma gatherers, and ancient texts indicate they also burnt the haoma as well as drank it. A Scythian wineskin that had evidence of cannabis infusion, as well as gold cups, described by the Russian archeologists involved with the find, as ritual vessels for drinking “haoma” have also been discovered and these contained residues of both cannabis and opium. Indo-Europeans in China, known as Gushi, likewise burnt cannabis in funerary rites similar to the Scythians 2,800 years ago, a ritual act that can be traced back to the Proto-Indo-European homeland in Romania 5,000 years ago.

In my book Cannabis and the Soma Solution I have proposed that the combined sacramental use of soma and haoma, grew out of the common Indo-European ancestry of both the Vedic and Avestan authors, and an earlier widespread cultural and cultic use of cannabis. Cannabis was the sacrament of our ancestors and we have a collective indigenous natural right to access this gift of nature.

For a further look at Soma see – The Cannabis Soma/Haoma Theory: A Synopsis Based on the Latest Textual and Archeological Evidence

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