The oldest known Chinese word for hemp is Ma, from Archaic Chuan or Seal Script - 1,200 BC. The character for the Hemp plant basically shows plants drying in a shed or shack.
Stories are told about the Chinese “Hemp Goddess” named “Magu”. Magu’s name combines the Chinese character MA - meaning hemp, with the character GU, a kinship term for woman or goddess, which is also used in religious titles like Priestess.
Magu was a legendary "immortal; transcendent", associated with the elixir of life, and a symbolic protector of females in Chinese mythology. There are many stories that describe Magu as a beautiful young woman with long birdlike fingernails. Her gown was a pattern of colors, but it was not woven... it shimmered, dazzling the eyes... it was indescribable and not of this world.
Over the course of history in China, hemp found its way into many aspects of Chinese life. It provided clothing and shoes, it gave them material to write on, and it became a symbol of power over evil.
More of the World Discovers Hemp
The Chinese may have been the first people to make use of hemp’s fiber, but in India more uses of the plant were first fully appreciated. Indian mythology says that hemp was present with Shiva at the beginning of the world. It is said that the warriors were known to drink “bhang” to calm their nerves before battle. Hemp was cultivated and used to cure a wide range of illnesses, and of course they also used it to make fabric.
By the third millennium BC, Ancient Egyptian texts show a hieroglyph known as the “shemshemet” to depict cannabis. It is likely that cannabis is one of the first plants ever cultivated, along with wheat and other staple grains. The Egyptians used hemp plant fibers for fabric, rope and cordage.
Cannabis is referenced in the ancient Egyptian pyramid medical texts that cited treatment guidelines and instructions on preparing cannabis. Pieces of hemp material were found in the tomb of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, and pollen on the mummy of Ramses II has been identified as cannabis. Hemp was also used in the construction of the pyramids, not only to pull blocks of limestone, but also in quarries, where the dried fiber was pounded into cracks in the rock. Then they wet the fiber and as it swelled, the rock broke.
The Egyptians had the most advanced medical system in the ancient world, which included written medical guidelines. Medical texts from Egypt indicate that the primary use for cannabis was gynecological to assist women during childbirth.
The debate is still out among some archeologists and scholars as to whether cannabis was widely used. But despite that controversy, the cannabis pollen found in mummies, in addition to their written legacy, serves as physical evidence left behind by the Egyptians.
As Egyptian culture gave way to Arab culture, the medical use of cannabis was used in varying forms. Ninth and Tenth Century Islamic medical texts refer to cannabis as “hashish” & “the royal grain”. While Shaaria law strictly prohibits the use of intoxicants, hashish made its way through the years and is still common in Muslim countries today. Modern Egyptian universities continue to research the medical uses of this ancient plant, upholding a long tradition of their culture.
As time went on, the Scythians carried hemp from Asia through Greece and Russia and into Europe. Later the Arabs brought hemp from Africa into Spain and other ports of entry on the Mediterranean Sea. Hemp fiber was widely used in the Roman Empire, much of which they imported from Babylonia.
Although cannabis was not a major crop in early Italy, hemp seed was a common food. Carbonized hemp seeds were found in the ruins of Pompeii, buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The Romans helped spread hemp through Europe. The Vikings relied on hemp as rope, sailcloth, caulking, fish line and nets on their daring voyages.
Nature also had a part in spreading the global hemp cultivation. As birds migrated across the world they spread hemp seeds along the way. The stigma surrounding the hemp plant (cannabis) is truly an aspect of modern history. Weighing a 10,000 year history of use of industrial hemp against an 80 year ban on it raises some interesting questions. The recent ban of canabis was without question a racist campaign against minorities as an excuse for the chemical and plastic industries to remove their biggest competitor from the market, a clean, non toxic, natural crop, which had been in worldwide use for over 10,000 years, perhaps the ancients knew something we don’t.
Over the last few years, the hemp industry is making a comeback. It was over 70 years ago when hemp was once legal and the government actually promoted and encouraged people to grow it. It was used for many things necessary in the war such as rope, sails, and clothing. When we look back through time... the hemp plant was a staple in many cultures.
Today, we are fighting to gain back the rights to grow the hemp plant. It is a commodity that could provide us with so many products that currently use other precious resources, such as: paper, fabric, plastics, building materials, food source and more. There are actually around 25,000 products that can be made from the hemp plant. Currently, all sources of hemp used in America must be imported from other countries where growing hemp is legal. It’s time to bring it back into American culture.