Chris Bennett a man i highly respect and know, wrote this insightful reading:
WHAT WERE THE TREES OF LIFE & KNOWLEDGE?
The Eden myth's description of "every tree that is pleasant to see"(GENESIS 1:9), "can instead be rendered 'every tree that is desirable for vision'"(Merkur 1988). The description of Adam and Eve's eyes becoming opened after eating from the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil seems to symbolize a spiritual transformation of some sort and indicates that the forbidden fruit of the tree contained some sort of mind expanding alkaloids. "The character of spiritual transformation is most evident in connection with intoxicants, poison and medicine. The feeling that he is transformed when he imbibes them is one of the deepest experiences of man.... such a transformation is experienced not as corporeal but as spiritual"(Neumann 1955\91)
“Ambrosia eaters often enjoy a sense of perfect wisdom, resulting from a close co-ordination of their mental powers. Since ‘knowledge of good and evil’, in Hebrew, means ‘knowledge of all things, both good and evil’, and does not refer to the gift of moral choice , the ‘Tree of Life’ may have once been the host-tree of a particular hallucinogenetic (sic) mushroom. For example, the birch is host to the amanita muscaria sacramentally eaten by certain Paleo-Siberian and Mongol tribes.” (Graves and Patai, 1963)
It has been with such a view in mind that a number of modern researchers have suggested that the prohibited Tree in the Eden myth likely "originally involved... psychedelic sacrament... in which the worshippers ate certain (hallucinogenic) foods"(Wilson 1989)" . The mushroom bard Terence McKenna explains that through Adam and Eve's ingestion of the entheogenic forbidden fruit, they metaphorically "attained consciousness of themselves as individuals and of each other as 'Other.'" (McKenna 1992) Indeed, McKenna's views are in line with that of other researchers, who have suggested that the very development of subjective consciousness itself, may have first begun with the ingestion of psycho-active plants by early man.
The symbolic fruit of the tree of knowledge which grew in the Garden of Eden--and which Eve tasted on the advice of the serpent and to which she turned Adam on--reverberates in the myths of many cultures and in the literature of sacred drug plants...Eating the fruit made Eve and Adam "as gods, knowing good and evil," approximating the effects of sacred drug plants that temporarily produce feelings of cosmic perspective
Regardless of which sacred drug plant may have been symbolized by the apple, it was a controlled substance and eating it resulted in "the first drug bust of pre-history" (according to drug historian M.R.Aldrich), for which Eve has borne the responsibility and blame. Some view the Eden myth as a patriarchal cover-up of suppression of the goddess religion that preceded it. (Palmer & Horowitz)
Historically, the Bible can be seen as a compendium that developed out of existing religions, and was influenced by other cults throughout it's composition. In light of this, it is difficult to discuss the symbolism of the Garden of Eden, without discussing the many cults, and their deities, on which the myth’s symbolism is based upon. A look at these groups, and their historically known use of the entheogens, offers some interesting insights into the identity of the mythical trees of the Garden of Eden.
THE HAOMA\SOMA CONNECTION
Both the Tree of Life and the Tree of knowledge have long been associated with the Iranian haoma and its Vedic counterpart the soma. The terms soma and haoma are now widely recognized as references to a long forgotten hallucinogenic plant that was used in ancient rituals. As scholar E.K.Bunsen pointed out as long ago as 1867:
The records about the "Tree of Life" are the sublimest proofs of the unity and continuity of tradition, and of its Eastern tradition. The earliest records of the most ancient Oriental tradition refer to a "Tree of Life", which was guarded by spirits. The juice of the sacred tree, like the tree itself, was called Soma in Sanskrit, and Haoma in Zend; it was revered as the life preserving essence.(Bunsen 1867)
A view that was shared by T.W. Doane author of the ground-breaking study in comparative theology BIBLE MYTHS AND THEIR PARALLELS IN OTHER RELIGIONS, which noted other aspects of the Persian myths concerning haoma and their similarities with those of the Garden of Eden;
The Persian supposed that a region of bliss and delight called Heden, more beautiful than all the rest of the world...was the original abode of first men, before they were tempted by the evil spirit in the form of a serpent , to partake of the forbidden tree Hom.(Doane 1882).
A number of different candidates have been suggested as the plant identity of haoma/soma, the most popular being the amanita-muscaria mushroom, as originally proposed in a hypothesis from the banker and mycologist R.Gordon Wasson . "Both the secular and cultic use of the Amanita Muscaria mushroom in Siberia probably go back more than 6,000 years, and cultic use has spread beyond the cool temperate climates where the mushroom grows"(ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA)
One of the pharmacological mysteries is the nature of Zoroastrian haoma and the early Hindu soma, both sacred drinks made from plants. Their source may have been the Amanita Muscaria mushroom, the mind-affecting chemicals of which pass into the urine with their properties very little diminished; their are scriptural references to sacred urine drunk as the source of divine insights . Allusions to twigs and branches of haoma, however, suggest other plants, perhaps hemp. The mushroom, which does not grow in hot countries, may have been introduced to India, by Aryan invaders from the north; subsequently, other plants may have been substituted until their identity was confused and lost. (ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA)
The knowledgeable editor-in-chief of High Times, Steve Hager , religious scholar A.L.Basham, and Orientalist Alain Danielou are among the people that believe hemp is the most likely candidate for the ancient soma . In favour of the hemp\soma theory are ancient writings which indicate that the stalks of the haoma were woven together and worn around the neck as an amulet for protection, an act of weaving that would be hard to accomplish with a mushroom, but not with the fibrous cannabis-sativa. The recent comments of the respected French scholar Alain Danielou, the first Westerner to be fully initiated into the cult of Shiva, has certainly added some strength to the claim that soma was made from cannabis;
"This ancient sacred drink was likely to resemble a drink what today is called bhang, made from the crushed leaves of Indian Hemp. Every Shivaite has to consume bhang at least once a year. The drink, which intensifies perceptivity, induces visions and above all leads to extreme mental concentration. It is widely used by Yogis. Details concerning its preparation are to be found as early as the Vedic period. The description of the way soma was prepared and its immediate use without fermentation, can only apply to bhang and is identical to the method employed today." (Danielou 1992)
The confusion about the plant identity of haoma, may in part be answered by the alternative theory that the terms haoma and soma were used as a cover term to describe a variety of drug plants, that became haoma/soma after being consecrated by a priest, in much the same way that the modern Roman Catholic priest magically turns common bread and wine into the body and blood of the lord through prayer and ritual . When the plants were used in ceremonies in which the sacrament was consecrated and consumed, it may have been referred to under the generic name Soma. Such would allow for a variety of plants sources for the haoma, but likely with a focus on the two main candidates, cannabis and the shamanistic mushroom.
It has long been acknowledged that the Zoroastrian religion influenced the writers of the Bible in many very important ways. Beliefs and ideas such as Heaven and Hell, an afterlife, a coming saviour, and even of the final apocalypse, have their origin in the Iranian faith . Although the similarities between the Persian and Hebrew creation mythologies, (especially the haoma with the tree of life), are indeed very apparent, it is our view that the Hebrews did not adopt this cosmology from their Persian neighbors. Instead these profound similarities indicate a common source for both Persian and Hebrew creation mythologies, one which was adopted in the early stages of both cultures, and came from a pre-existing Mesopotamian and Semetic cosmological influence. The adoption of key aspects of Zoroastrian cosmology by the Hebrews does not take place until much later Biblical times, at the end of the Age of Kings.
IN THE ANCIENT WORLD, HEMP WAS THE TREE OF LIFE
A religious symbol which undoubtedly comes from the ancient east is the Tree of Life. This is found in some of the earliest Sumerian art, and continues throughout Mesopotamian history, being very prominent in the Assyrian friezes of the first millennium B.C. The mythological conception of the Tree of Life is also found in Genesis iii:22.(Saggs 1962).
Like the potential entheogenic references to the Tree of Knowledge, the original Sumerian word for the Tree of Life contained etymological references to intoxicate. "In Sumerian the words for 'live' and 'intoxicate' are the same, TIN, and the 'tree of life', GEShTIN, is the 'vine'". (Allegro 1970) The Hebrew word used for life, (as in the Tree of Life), 'chay', has more to do with enlivening, fresh, or merriment, and the continued fecundity of nature rather than personal immortalization.
In his discussion of the Eden mythology, Harold Bloom points out and questions that "Everything depends upon those two trees, of life and of knowing good and bad, or are they after all only one tree? Pragmatically they are, since only the tree of knowing good and bad is involved in the catastrophe, and also is J's own invention. The Tree of Life is prevalent in the literature of the ancient Middle East, and I suspect that J interpolated this traditional tree into...[the] text as an interpretive afterthought"(Bloom 1990). A view that has has been held by other scholars;
The principle of mythic dissociation, by which God and his world, immortality and mortality, are set apart in the Bible is expressed in a dissociation of the Tree of knowledge from the Tree of Immortal Life. The latter has become inaccessible to man through a deliberate act of God, whereas in other mythologies, both of Europe and of the Orient, the Tree of knowledge is itself the Tree of Immortal Life, and, moreover, still accessible to man ."(Campbell 1964)
Fig. 1. The Basalt Stela of King Essarhaddon.
Interestingly, it can be demonstrated that, like the Tree of Life’s relationship to the mythical soma, hemp has a long history of being associated with the Tree of Life. An ancient world symbol for the tree-of-life can be found in the Basalt stela of Assyrian king Esarhaddon, in the form of the elaborate looking plant directly behind the ancient monarch (fig-1). GREEN GOLD used this for the depiction in the upper level where "king Esarhaddon stands before an elaborate incense chamber with smoking...censer pictured in cut-away in the lower portion of the chamber, the upper chamber is tent-like with an opening," (Bennett et. al. 1995). The tent was used to hold the smoke of cannabis incense, which the king would inhale by placing his head inside of it; a common means of marijuana inhalation in the ancient world, and an act of worship. "Cannabis as an incense was burned in the temples of Assyria and Babylon 'because its aroma was pleasing to the Gods.'" (Benet 1975) An ancient Babylonian inscription reads: "The glorious gods smell the incense, noble food of heaven; pure wine, which no hand has touched do they enjoy". In Babylonian religious rites, "Inspiration was... derived... by burning incense, which, if we follow evidence obtained elsewhere, induced a prophetic trance . The gods were also invoked by incense."(Mackenzie 1915).
The Chaldean Magus used artificial means, intoxicating drugs for instance, in order to attain to this state of excitement, for it was only then that he succeeded, so to speak, in deifying himself, and received the homage of genii and spirits of nature...This doctrine prevailed also in the Accadian (Babylonian) magic books. This furnishes an affinity of conceptions and beliefs which is of great importance... These incantations, most of which go back to the deepest antiquity, were gathered in collections such as those we have fragments of... Acts of purification and mysterious rituals increased the power of the incantations... Among these mysterious rituals must be counted the use of enchanted potions... which undoubtedly contained drugs that were medically effective.(Lenormant 1874) .
In the second quarter of the first millennium B.C., the "word qunnabu (qunapy, qunubu, qunbu) begins to turn up as for a source of oil , fiber and medicine "(Barber 1989). In our own time, numerous scholars have come to acknowledge qunubu as an early reference to cannabis . "It is said that the Assyrians used hemp as incense in the seventh and eighth century before Christ and called it 'Qunubu'"( Schultes & Hoffman 1979).
Further, the pioneering research of etymologist Sula Benet led to the claim that "The ritual use of hemp as well as the name, cannabis... originated in the Ancient Near East"(Benet 1975). Benet's research is in agreement with that of the earlier German researcher Immanuel Low, who also regarded the ancient Near East as the location from where the modern name cannabis was derived. (Low 1925; reprinted 1967) This ancient Assyrian name qu-nu-bu , is the phonetic equivalent of the ancient Hebrew name for hemp, quaneh-bosm , and the strong connections between the two can be seen in the similar ways both Mesopotamian and Hebrew worshippers utilized the plant.
In a letter written in 680 BC to the mother of the aforementioned king Esarhaddon, reference is made to qu-nu-bu, that give clear indications as to what substance was burning in the king's incense tent. In response to king Esarhaddon's mother's question as to "What is used in the sacred rites", a high priest named Neralsharrani responded that "the main items.... for the rites are fine oil, water, honey, oderous plants (and) hemp [qunubu]". As was mentioned, the symbol behind king Esarhaddon, which also appears in numerous other depictions, has "in modern literature on the subject...[,been] often described as the tree of life...but unfortunately no texts are known which describe in more detail the contents of these pictures"(Ringgren 1973).
Likewise, not one single item from all of the existing ancient pictorial inscriptions has ever been suggested as an illustration of the ancient qunubu, which by all accounts played a very important role in both life and worship in the ancient Near East, particularly in the Sacred Rites, which likely are what the aforementioned inscriptions represent. This study proposes that the unidentified symbol of the sacred plant, and the undepicted plant for the word qunubu, are in fact a word and picture that describe the same thing--- Cannabis, which was grown and revered as the Tree of Life in the ancient Near East.
The reason that this connection has not been noted before may be due to the fact that in the Ancient Near East matters involving religious and technical methods were considered closely guarded secrets. Professor H.W.F. Saggs noted that texts dealing with such matters ended with instructions such as; "Let the initiate show the initiate; the non-initiate shall not see it. It belongs to the tabooed things of the great gods" . Such holy knowledge was either only passed along verbally and not committed to writing, or "were written in a manner which was deliberately obscure..."(Saggs 1969). The image of the Tree of Life and its divine association with the king, as well as the use of cannabis as an holy incense and entheogen both fall into such a category
Amongst the first to connect the sacred and unnamed tree in Assyrian art with the mythical Tree of Life, was Sir A.H.Layard, who described and commented on the symbol over a century and a half ago. "I recognized in it the holy tree, or tree of life, so universally adored at the remotest period in the East, and which was preserved in the religious systems of the Persians to the final overthrow of their Empire.... The flowers were formed by seven petals"(Layard 1856) The "seven petals", referred to by Layard, can be seen to be more likely stylized depictions of the seven distinct spears of the cannabis leaves, just as the pine cone like objects held by the figures often surrounding the plant, represent the pine cone like buds of the sacred qunubu.(See Fig. 2)
Behind the sacred tree and Esarhaddon in fig. 1, sits the Bull of Creation , while below are the early tools of ancient agriculture, perhaps indicating an intimate connection between the three symbols. Carl Sagan has speculated that early man may have begun the agricultural age by first planting hemp . Sagan used the pygmies from southwest Africa to demonstrate his hypothesis; the pygmies had been basically hunters and gatherers until they began planting hemp which they used for religious purposes. (Sagan 1977). (The pygmies say they have been using cannabis since the dawn of time, which more likely means; since the pygmies conception of time .)
As the oldest known piece of woven fiber was made from hemp, along with the fact that the agricultural history of cannabis, extends far-back beyond recorded history, one could speculate with Dr.Sagan, that cannabis was indeed the first crop of ancient man. Cannabis' hybridizing, whether for narcotic or fiber purposes, is certainly known to predate recorded history. Indeed, with its useful fiber, nutritious seeds, and fragrant incense it could have easily been conceived of as a Tree of Life in the ancient world. In line with this view, are the words of the feminist Biblical scholar Tikva Frymer-Kensky, which would seem to indicate an intimate connection between weaving and the forbidden tree, possibly hinting at a candidate offering both entheogenic and fibrous properties.
The coming of knowledge is stated very simply: "the eyes of both of them were opened and they perceived that they were naked", a category they had not perceived in their childlike innocence, but, in addition, they are now able to sew themselves loincloths out of the available fig leaves. Somehow the knowledge of this skill of sewing, the beginnings of cultural knowledge, has come with the eating of the fruit of the knowledge of all things.(Frymer-Kensky 1992).
As Harvard University Professor of ethnobotany, Richard Evans Schultes has commented: "Early man experimented with all plant materials that he could chew and could not have avoided discovering the properties of cannabis (marijuana), for in his quest for seeds and oil, he certainly ate the sticky tops of the plant. Upon eating hemp, the euphoric, ecstatic and hallucinatory aspects may have introduced man to the other-worldly plane from which emerged religious beliefs, perhaps even the concept of deity. The plant became accepted as a special gift of the gods, a sacred medium for communion with the spiritual world and as such it has remained in some cultures to the present." We can be sure that such effects were attributed to the plant by its ancient Near Eastern partakers, just as they have been by partakers of the plant the world over.
Fig.3 Basalt Stela of King Assurbanipal and the Tree of Life
Engravings from the time of Assurbanipal, another ancient Assyrian king associated with cannabis, also depict the sacred tree shown in the basalt of his father, king Esarhaddon . (SEE FIG.3 AT LEFT) Professor Widengren postulates that every temple had a holy grove, or garden with a Tree of Life that was taken care of by the king, who functioned as a 'master-gardener'. By watering and caring for the Tree of Life, the king gained power over life (Widengren 1951). As a scribe of the Assyrian king Assurbanipal recorded in 650 B.C.: "We were dead dogs, but our lord the king gave us life by placing the herb of life beneath our noses," (Ringgren 1973). This last points to an incense, and by its name, the "herb of life", we can easily visualize it as the plant depicted in the ancient stone engravings. Interestingly, we find that Assurbanipal's ancient cunieform library contained recipes for hashish incense which "are generally regarded as copies of much older texts" and this archeological evidence "serves to project the origins of hashish back to the earliest beginnings of history.".(Walton 1972)
The Tree of Life, also known as the Plant of Life, and Herb of Life, is a symbol of primordial antiquity, but its name and recognition as such was a later development. The original name for the symbol guarantees its identification as hemp, as shall be discussed in the genesis and connection of the image with a serpent-like god from the ancient Mesopotamian pantheon.
THE GREAT INSTRUCTOR AND THE TREE OF LIFE.
Fig. 5 The Anointing Priests of Oannes
Fig. 4 The Basalt Stela of King Ashurbanipal.
Agri-culture, led to culture and so it is not surprising to find the amphibious deity known as Oannes, credited with inventing the plow and bringing agriculture to humanity by the ancient Babylonians, was said to have started the first civilization as well. In the third century B.C., one of only a few surviving Babylonian priests, Berossus, recorded that "in the first year of the world there appeared, from the Persian Gulf, a being named Oannes" . This god is said to have brought with him the knowledge of reading and writing as well as many other of the skills necessary for the development of culture:
This Being [Oannes] in the day-time used to converse with men...he gave them an insight into letters and sciences, and every kind of art. He taught them to construct houses, to found temples, to compile laws, and explained to them the principles of geometric knowledge. He made them distinguish the seeds of the earth, and shewed them how to collect fruits; in short, he instructed them in everything which could soften manners and humanize mankind. From that time, so universal were his instructions, nothing had been added material by way of improvement. When the sun set, it was the custom of this Being to plunge again into the sea, and abide all night in the deep; for he was amphibious.--Fragments of Berossus, From Alexander Polyhistor,(300 BCE)
The older depiction of the sacred tree with Oannes (Fig. 5) is the obvious predecessor to the basalt stelas of king Esarhaddon,(Fig. 3) and his son Assurbanipal. (Fig. 4) Both included the god, under his earlier names of Ea & Enki, in their pantheon ,and paid him special reverence as his emissary in their role as king . The weave behind the tree in fig 3, indicates a reference to hemp’s fibrous-stalks and the eye pictured above it likely refers to the plants entheogenic properties . It was said that Oannes brought a number of cultural skills and handicrafts, like weaving, to ancient humanity. The woven basket Oannes and his priests always carry for collecting the fruit of the sacred tree(Fig.6 ) are likely made from fibre of the Tree itself.. Later depictions show the basket being used to collect the pine-cone like buds of hemp from the image of the sacred tree by bird-masked shamans (See Fig 2), who as winged angels, indicate the power of the sacred fruit to take its partaker between worlds. Identical to the different uses attributed to the sacred qunubu, these ancient images of the tree of life associate it not only with leaves and buds similar to hemp but also connect it with the production of annointing oil, incense and fiber. Associations which would seem to ties both image and plant name together.
In earlier Sumerian times, Oannes had been known as both, Ea, "God of the House of Water", and En-ki "the Lord (en) of the goddess Earth (ki)" (Campbell 1962) . A connection noted by numerous researchers, such as renowned ancient Near East and Biblical scholars , Helmer Rinngren(1973), Joseph Campbell (1962,1964) and John Gray;
"According to...myth Oannes, a being half fish and half human, issued from the sea to teach men writing, science, the arts, the building of cities and temples, agriculture and the amenities of life, all in fact that was distinctive of Sumerian culture, and disappeared each night under the waters. This, it is true, may simply be a version of the Sumerian tradition which regarded Ea the god of waters as also the god of wisdom. Certainly Oannes seems a likely version of Ea." (Gray 1969)
Not only was this primordial deity depicted in fish form, but: the “Babylonian god Ea, as god of the Euphrates, was shown in serpent shape, or riding a serpent.” (Graves and Patai, 1963)A number of Biblical myths and traditions have their origins with this ancient figure, especially the Biblical tales of the flood, as shall be discussed later. Like Yahweh, Ea was credited with initiating mankind's creation. "On instruction from Ea the goddess-mother Mama (or Mami) created a first man out of clay mixed with blood from a god who was sacrificed" .(Ringgren 1973). Similarly in Genesis 2:6 a " mist came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground-- the Lord formed the man from the dust of the ground..." . As with his forerunner Ea, "Yahweh proceeds to mold man out of the moist earth, like a potter. The Hebrew word used here for 'made'... is the regular word used for the potter's operations"(Hooke 1963) .
As well, the story of Eve's creation from the rib of Adam has its predecessor in the tale of the creation of the goddess Ninti to heal the rib of an ailing Enki\Ea "Ninti... means 'the lady of the rib'...[and] the Sumerian word ti has the double meaning of 'life' as well as 'rib', so that Ninti could also mean 'the lady of life'... in the Hebrew myth the woman who was fashioned from Adam's rib was named by him Hawwah, meaning 'Life'. Hence one of the most curious features of the Hebrew myth of Paradise clearly has its origins in this somewhat crude Sumerian myth"(Hooke 1963). In line with this view is the hypothesis accepted by a number of scholars, such as the respected Babylonian historian, H.W.F. Saggs, that the name of Ea's servant and adopted son, Adapa's may in fact "be related to the biblical Adam."(Saggs 1962). If this is correct, then the story of Adapa, "may be regarded as a myth about the first man."(Hooke 1963). A view shared by the eminent Jewish historian Raphael Patai, and English poet Robert Graves.
“Another source of the Genesis Fall of Man is the Akkadian myth of Adapa, found on a tablet at El Amarna, Pharaoh Akhenaton’s capital. Adapa, son of Ea, the Babylonian god of Wisdom, was attacked in the Persian Gulf by a Storm-bird, while catching fish for his father’s priests, and broke its wing. The bird proved to have been the South Wind.. Ea summoned Adapa to explain his violence and warned him that, having displeased Anu. King of Heaven, the gods would offer him the food and drink of death, which he must refuse. Anu, however, learning of this indiscreet disclosure, foiled Ea by offering Adapa the bread of life and the water of life and, when he refused them at his father’s orders, grimly sending him back to earth as a perverse mortal. This myth supplies the theme of the Serpent’s warning to eve, that God. Had deceived her about the properties of the forbidden fruit.” (Graves and Patai, 1963)
Further, the features of Ea's idealistic homeland Dilmun "may underlie the Hebrew accounts of Paradise." (Hooke 1963). Reminiscent of the serpents role in the Garden of Eden story, the myth of Dilmun records how the goddess Ninhursag "makes eight plants spring up...in spite of a prohibition Enki eats all eight of them....There are obviously certain similarities between this myth and the biblical picture of paradise...the eating of the forbidden plants is distantly reminiscent of the tree of knowledge in the garden of Eden."(Rinngren 1973). In another tale, Enki angers the goddess mother of mankind and like the devil the serpent is said to represent, he is "exiled from the earth to the abyss."(Campbell 1962).
Ea\En-ki\Oannes, is depicted as a fish-man, having his roots in the living-water, but more importantly, he has connections with a sacred tree similar to that which is described in the Garden of Eden. In the ancient Sumerian texts, Ea\Enki\Oannes is described as being wise like the biblical serpent and as he "who knows the plant of life and the water of life."(Ringgren 1973). Professor Mackenzie, also noted this in 1915, commenting that "In a fragmentary Babylonian charm there is a reference to a sacred tree or bush at Eridu [Eridu is thought to be the cradle of Sumerian civilization]. Professor Sayce has suggested that it is the Biblical ‘Tree of Life’ in the Garden of Eden... It may be that Ea's sacred bush or tree is a survival of tree and water worship."(Mackenzie 1915) :
Ea is...the god of wisdom, 'the king of wisdom, who creates understanding', 'the experienced one (apkallu) among the gods', 'he who knows everything that has a name'. It is he who gives the king wisdom. He is also the god of the art of incantation. In his temple 'the house of Apsu' in Eridu there was a notable tree, kiskanu, whose branches were used in ritual sprinklings...The incantation priest was the representative of Ea.(Ringgren 1973)
R. Campbell Thompson, of the British Museum, disagreed with Sayce's theory, mentioned above, that the kiskanu was the original Tree of Life. This difference was based on what Thompson saw as Sayce's misinterpretation of the etymological evidence. However the Sumerian name of the tree, kiskanu, which would seem to be at the base of the disagreement between the two scholars, serves as our connection between the Tree of Life and cannabis. The kiskanu tree "was the central point of various rites. A holy grove in the temple is...mentioned." (Ringgren 1973). The second part of the name of this notable tree, kis-kanu has phonetic similarities with the early names for cannabis, through the linguistic root an, "which is found in various cannabis related words"(Abel 1980); such as the ancient Sanskrit name for hemp kana, or kene, Persian canna, and of course the original Assyro-Babylonia name for hemp kannab, (later becoming qunubu).(Benetowa 1936).
That the kiskanu tree was used in ritual sprinklings such as those indicated in the ancient depictions of the Tree of Life and it’s eagle headed genies, is of particular interest---For as we shall demonstrate later, the ancient Hebrews utilized kaneh-bosm (fragrant cane--cannabis, in some biblical passages the single word kaneh is used) as an entheogen in their holy anointing oil, a practice adopted from the Canaanites , Assyrians , Babylonians , Egyptians and other groups from the ancient near east. (THC, the psycho-active ingredient of cannabis, is fatty soluble, and can therefore be passed through the skin when mixed with animal fat or vegetable oil ). In fact the Hebrew term Messiah, and the later Greek translation Christ, both mean "the anointed", and refer to the sacred and psychoactive Hebrew anointing oil, which is now known to have contained hemp. (See chapter-Moses????).
In mythology, one of Ea's servants and adopted "son", the hero and temple fisherman, Adapa, was referred to as the "ointment priest", indicating the importance of the rite. The ancient mythology has it that Adapa's "command was like the command of Ea". It was the ritual anointing of the priesthood of Ea, that empowered them to act as the god's representative. Through this shamanic rite they became "he whose ear Enki [Ea] has opened". Religious scholar John Gray commented upon the Sumerian pantheon's chief god, Anu's resentment of Ea's giving the knowledge of the god's to a mere human, Adapa ,as being "strongly reminiscent of the divine resentment at Adam for presuming to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil." (Gray 1969).
A ritual enactment of Ea and Adapa's relationship was applied to kings, who received their wisdom from Ea. Thus, it is not surprising that Ea appears in hymns from both Ashurbanipal and Esarhaddon with special reverence, or that the two kings are compared and connected to Ea's anointing priest, Adapa . The mythology surrounding the god also indicates that he could 'open the ear' of his initiates if they burned incense to him , indicating a similar psychoactive ingredient to that found in the anointing oil. Likewise it was the ritual anointing of Moses and the Levite priesthood with the sacred cannabis ointment, along with burning the oils and vegetable matter of the plant before the ark of the covenant, which enabled them to speak on behalf of the Lord.
Another popular ancient Near Eastern deity, Dagon ( from Odacon) , "is believed to be identical with Ea."(Mackenzie 1915). Dagon, is referred to a number of times in the OLD TESTAMENT. As one of the main gods of both the hated Philistines and Canaanites, he of course became one of the chief enemies of Yahweh (Judges 16:23, Samuel 5:4). This likely contributed to his demonization as the Biblical serpent. Married to Atargatis, the Philistine form of Astarte, Dagon was the father of Baal , another highly despised deity of the Philistines and Canaanites. Even more interesting is the profound, but little recognized influence that Ea-Dagon's cult has in the story of Moses and the Levite priesthood. (See chapter Moses???). Like his counterparts of Ea, Enki and Oannes, Dagon was depicted both as a fish-man, and serpent-man (Walker 1983) .
With Ea-Oanne's-Dagon's reputation for bringing knowledge, agriculture and crafts to mankind; along with his involvement with a sacred tree; his serpent and fish imagery; and particularly his association with the hated Philistines and Canaanites, it becomes apparent that this ancient Mesopotamian deity was the prototype of the crafty serpent referred to in the Genesis tale. "This demonization of earlier deities and religious symbols is a well documented and recurrent mythical motif in recorded history."(Eisler 1995). "The civilization of Mesopotamia and Syria helped shape the Western concept of the Devil...Sumerian civilization stands directly behind that of Babylonia and Assyria, which directly influenced both the Hebrews and the Canaanites. Canaan in turn influenced...Israel." (Russel 1977) Dagon's demonization lasted right down to Christian medieval times and the ancient fertility deity was considered to be one of the leading demons of hell .
THE GODDESS AND THE TREE
Just as the god Ea-Oannes was transmogrified into the lowly and sinister serpent in the Biblical creation story, so was the figure of Eve as initiator a diabolosized view of women in the ancient world. "By extension, all women still suffer in their sexuality as a result of this myth's social influence." (Mathews 1992). "Originally, Eve was not Adam's wife, but his mother; she was not a human, but a goddess; and the outcome was not tragic, but triumphant--after the magic fruit was eaten, Adam himself became a god. (there is still a hint of this in the Genesis version, in which Yahweh says nervously, 'Behold, the man has become one of us [the gods], to know good and evil.') What was originally involved was probably a psychedelic sacrament, like the Eleusian festival in Athens, in which the worshipper ate certain (hallucinogenic) foods and became one with the Mother Goddess Demeter."(Wilson 1989). The sin that the Biblical "Mother of All", Eve, committed in initiating Adam with the forbidden fruit of knowledge can be compared to that of the Greek hero Prometheus, who disobeyed the God's and brought fire to humanity. "Like Prometheus, Eve acts on her own initiative...transforms human existence: and...she suffers as the result of her gift to humanity."(Frymer-Kensky 1992)
This depiction of Eve as culture hero has an inner coherence and logic to it, for Eve's role in the primeval scene is the woman's role in the life of human beings, and that of the goddesses of the ancient Sumerian pantheon. The goddesses are figures of culture and wisdom just as women are the first teachers of cultured existence, the transformers of raw into edible, grass into baskets, fleece and flax [and hemp] into yarn and linen then clothes, and babies into social beings. They are the mediators of nature and culture in daily life, and Eve the first woman is the first transformer who begins the change from "natural" simple human beings into cultural humanity. (Frymer-Kensky 1992)
As humanity made the transition from a nomadic hunter-gatherer, into a pastoral agriculturist, much of the earlier focus on animal totems (humanities oldest religious symbols which were used to symbolically attract game ), later became focused on the image of the Great Goddess, Mother Earth and the proper worship of her so that the earth would bare its fruits. As the developing mind of humanity struggled to comprehend the patterns of order in the seemingly chaotic world around them, they perceived that all new life was given birth by the feminine. "In the presence of birth, they were doubtful not merely about the father's identity but about his existence. Sex relations occurred without pregnancy; why should not pregnancy occur without sex relations? Woman alone was the visible life bestower."(Ashe 1976).
In paleolithic times it was natural for a woman to be pregnant, and there was no particular reason to wonder how it came about.... Man's role in procreation was not one that could be easily deduced from the pattern of everyday paeolithic life, when intercourse was frequent and pregnancy commonplace, when the only calendar was the moon, and nine months in relation to life expectancy almost as long as two years today.... there is nothing in all the long millenia of the paleolithic era to prove that...[man] knew about... [his role in procreation]".(Tannahill 1982)
This primeval concept of the female as the sole creatrix of life gave rise to the cult of the Great Mother and thus many of the most ancient surviving religious artifacts are images of the female form. Her millennia of worship and veneration lasted well into Biblical times.
Evidence that worship of divinity in its feminine aspect had a place of importance in Canaan and Syria is given by the numerous small female statuettes with sexual characteristics emphasized which have been found by archaeologists... it is clear that the worship of the goddess fits in well with the Canaanite fertility cult, and the number of these figurines attest to the high measure of popularity which she enjoyed."(Ringgren 1973)
It is believed that women, who acted as the gatherers in the early nomadic clan, were the first to recognize how the plants they collected propagated themselves, and this led to the development of agriculture. "Since the cultivation of plants was first undertaken by women, their importance in the social structure greatly increased, which, in turn, gave rise to a cult of Mother Earth, as well as to a mythology of the moon conceived as female." (Patai 1967) Agriculture, and an abundant harvest, led to more settled communities, and in light of this, it is not at all surprising to find that most of the earliest civilizations were both matriarchally structured and agriculturally based, i.e., Mohenjo-Daro and Crete. (The matriarchal origin of agriculture clearly predates the later mythology attributing agriculture to Ea-Enki-Oannes-Dagon. It can be seen that in rising out of the great mother ocean, the amphibious phallic God took with him many of the Great Mothers attributes. )
As goddess of the food-giving plants, herbs, and fruits, she numinously transforms these basic elements into intoxications and poisons. It is quite evident that the preparation and storage of food taught woman the process of fermentation and the manufacture of intoxicants, and that, as a gatherer and later preparer of herbs, plants, and fruits, she was the inventor and guardian of the first healing potions, medicines, and poisons.... The goddess is therefore not only the queen of the ennobled fruit of the soil but also of the spirit matter of transformation that is embodied in... wine [and other intoxicants] ....
In the pile dwellings of the Stone Age we already find evidence of the growing of poppies, the typical plant of the Cretan Goddess, of Demeter, Ceres and Spes.... The efficacy of the poppy as a magic potion.... is a secret of the woman... (Neumann 1955\1974)
Fig. 7 Goddess with Poppy Headdress. The “typical plant of the Cretan Goddess.” (Neumann 1955)
With her primordial association with the magical poppy, it is not so surprising to find the Goddess connected with other sacred plants as well. Thus the Goddess, like Eve who was derived from her, (and Enki-Oannes who took on many of her attributes), had a long history with the image of the sacred tree, as can be seen from ancient depictions on Near Eastern Seals. (fig 7, 8 & 9).
Like the tree of life, the tree of knowledge was... a symbol associated with the Goddess in earlier mythology.... Groves of sacred trees were an integral part of the old religion. So were rites designed to induce in worshippers a consciousness receptive to the revelation of divine or mystical truths--rites in which women officiated as priestesses of the Goddess.(Eisler 1987).
The Feminist scholar Buffie Johnson noted that not only is the "Mother Goddess, strongly connected with the Tree of Life, [she] is in a sense the tree itself. At the same time she is outside the tree, vivifying it to bud and flower."(Johnson 1981). Thus a Babylonian Prayer to the goddess Ishtar proclaimed;
Who dost make the green herb to spring up, mistress of mankind!
Who has created everything, who dost guide aright all creatures!
Mother Ishtar, whose powers no god can approach!
In relation to Ishtar and the "green herb", it is interesting to note that the goddess's Sumerian counterpart and forerunner, Inanna's "earliest known symbol was an elaborately tied bundle of reeds ending in streamers."(Douglas 1997) Conceivably, the "bundle of reeds", could have been a bundle of long slender cannabis "cane" stalks. For as we shall show, the worshippers of the goddess grew hemp for both its fibre and its intoxicating properties. When grown close together for fibre purposes, the hemp plant produces a long tall slender stalk that resembles reeds.
Fig. 11 The Goddess Astarte with long stalked flowering plants. Gold pendant from Ras Shamra
(fig11)The Goddess with long stalked
flowering plant, and as bundle of reeds
fig.10:b, compare to hemp bundle?????????
Hemp’s origins as an agricultural crop set down its roots during the Matriarchal period, and because of this there has remained strong mythological ties between hemp and the goddess which lasted throughout the OLD TESTAMENT period. In the ancient world and up to near modern times, when hemp was cultivated for fiber purposes, it required a large number of people to take part in the harvest and this led to further communal development. It is important to note that "in preparing fibre from the plant and during the harvest the strong odor intoxicates the workers...Since antiquity the hemp harvest has been considered as a holiday, especially for the young people."(Benet 1975). In time, the dates that developed around the agricultural cycles were adopted by other emerging religions and changed to suit their mythologies, coming down to us in the form of many of our modern holidays, or holy-days.
The etymologist, anthropologist and cannabis research pioneer, Sara Benetowa (a.k.a. Sula Benet), stated that the word cannabis, thought to originate from an early Scythian term, was "derived from Semitic languages [like Hebrew] and...both its name and forms of use were borrowed by the Scythians from the peoples of the Near East"(Benet 1975). The Semetic people included such groups as the ancient Philistines, Canaanites, and most well known, the Hebrews, whose own religion, like their language and alphabet developed out of the preceding Canaanite culture.
The ancient Canaanites and Hebrews paid particular reverence to a Near Eastern Goddess known by the name Ashera, whose cult was particularly focused around the cultic use of hemp (fig 11). According to the Bible itself , the ancient worshippers of Ashera, and the Great Goddess under her various manifestations, included wise Solomon and other Biblical kings as well as their wives and the daughters of Jerusalem.
"There is a classic Greek term, cannabeizen, which means to smoke Cannabis. Cannabeizen frequently took the form of inhaling vapors from an incense burner in which these resins were mixed with other resins, such as myrrh, balsam, frankincense, and perfumes; this is the manner of the shamanistic Ashera priestesses of pre-reformation Jerusalem, who anointed their skins with the mixture as well as burned it."(Emboden 1972)
Fig. 11 Asherah figurine found at Tell Duweir, Palestine, dating from the period of the Hebrew monarchy.
Icons dedicated to her have depictions of a 'sacred-tree', or plant, most likely made as a visual reference to the hemp that her followers grew and revered, utilizing it as an entheogen but also as a food and oil source, along with using the fibers in ritual weavings. Sula Benet believed that it may have been here amongst the worshippers of the goddess that the cultic use of cannabis may have originated: "Taking into account the matriarchal element of Semetic culture, one is led to believe that Asia Minor was the original point of expansion for both the society based on the matriarchal circle and the mass use of hashish."(Benetowa,[Benet], 1936).
An ancient ivory cosmetic casket lid from the 14th century site of Minet al-Beida, depicts the goddess herself in the role of the Tree of life, offering two caprids, vegetation which
clearly resembles buds of cannabis, but has been erroneously described as both ears of wheat or corn.(fig. 12) "This [depiction] seems to indicate finally the explanation of the Biblical references to the 'asherah as a natural or stylized tree in the fertility cult. This was the symbol of the mother-goddess, now known from the Ras Shamra texts as Ashera, the counterpart of Mesopotamian Ishtar, or Inanna....The tree of life...is called the asherah in the OLD TESTAMENT. (In the Authorized Version, it is called 'the grove'.)"(Gray 1969).
The word that the Bible, with evident distaste, translates 'grove' was not really a grove at all, but an Asherah: the stylized multibranched tree symbolizing the Great Goddess of Canaan....Asherah's... tree symbol was alternately the 'tree of knowledge' or 'tree of life.' In northern Babylon she was known as the Goddess of the Tree of Life, or the Divine Lady of Eden.(Walker 1988)
Barbara Walker further connects Ashera, with the ancient symbol for the tree of life, by noting that the Eagle headed figures shown in the Assyrian reliefs, are "in the act of fecundating sacred trees, such as the goddess Asherah as the Tree of Life"(Walker 1988). In light of Ashera's recognition as a symbol of the sacred tree and her cults use of cannabis (Emboden 1972), it is of interest to note that in medieval times, certain Moslem groups referred to cannabis by the name ashirah, seen by them as an endearing term for their hempen girlfriend, (Rosenthal 1971). A tradition likely carried on from the earlier association of the ancient goddess and the Tree of Life, in the form of cannabis hemp . (That the use of the word in this context, can be correlated to the ancient world usage, is very probable, as the Moslem language developed out of pre-existing Arabic dialects, and numbers of ancient words are still present in its vocabulary).
In ancient times Asherah was widely known by such titles as Progenetress of the Gods, the Mistress of Fruitfulness and Sensual Pleasure, and She Who Traverses the Sea (i.e. the Moon). Asherah was also known as "the Lady of the Serpent" and "was depicted as a woman, holding one or more serpents in her hands"(Merkur 1988). Referring to the earlier association of the Goddess with the serpent, and Hebraic reversal of Near Eastern mythology, Riane Eisler wrote; "The fact that the serpent, an ancient prophetic or oracular symbol of the Goddess, advises Eve the prototypical woman, to disobey a male god's commands is surely not just an accident."(Eisler 1987).
Importantly, a further Canaanite ephitet of Asherah was 'the Living One', whose Hebrew form hawwah is anglicized as Eve.... Not a goddess but a legendary woman, Eve represents a slightly different syncretism of Canaanite Asherah in the Southern kingdom of Judah. Eve remained closely associated with a snake and with 'every tree that is pleasant to see and good for food, the tree of life in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil'(Gen 1:9)"(Merkur 1988).
Again like her earthly counterpart Eve, who was the Mother of All Living, Ashera, was also known as the Mother of All Gods . Throughout the many centuries that this popular goddess was worshipped, her mythology combined and overlapped with that of other Near Eastern goddesses, (Astarte, Anath, Astargatis, Ishtar), making it hard at times to see a historical distinction between them. The renowned Judaic scholar Raphael Patai, in his influential book, THE HEBREW GODDESS, has done much to establish the paramount role that Ashera, and these other Goddesses played in Semetic culture, particularly among the I Hebrews, where at times they were worshipped right along side Yahweh, on occasion even being referred to as his consort. "Recently discovered tenth-century B.C.E. inscriptions from Judea invoke the blessing of Yahweh and his Asherah testifying to their combined cult"(Gaddon 1989) .
Ashera's Canaanite consort was El, whose cult and Temples were later assimilated with that of Yahweh. Ashera was also associated conuptually with the aforementioned Dagon, and both El and Dagon are listed in ancient inscriptions as the father of the populr god Baal, perhaps indicating a point of controversy between the cults of the two male gods, that was taking place before the later theosophical invention of Yahweh. Interestingly, like Ashera, all three of these figures (Baal, Dagon, El) had a profound influence on the developing characteristics of Yahweh and his cult, and adding to the overlapping confusion of these deities, by the time of the later Age of kings, "Ashera was linked to both the Hebrew Yahweh and Canaanite Baal as their consort"(Gadon 1989).
Besides her association with these male gods, Ashera shared many aspect with her two daughters, Anath and Astarte . Hebrew scholar Raphael Patai was amongst the first to note that together this trinity represented the different aspects of the Triple Goddess, i.e; Virgin-Maiden-Crone. Both in the texts of the OLD TESTAMENT and "in Canaan there is a tendency for the distinctive functions of the three goddesses to fuse together"(Gray 1969). "It can be assumed that the three goddesses mentioned represent different developments of the motif of the feminine generative power as something divine and important for the continuation of life and the community"(Rinngren 1973). All three of these goddesses were worshipped by the ancient Semites at different times throughout the Biblical period. In much later OLD TESTAMENT times, during the age of Prophets like Jeremiah, the Hebrew priesthood became particularly incensed with the worshipers of the Goddess, as her cult successfully competed for popularity (particularly with women and homosexuals) against the cult of Yahweh.
GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION....
As the late Joseph Campbell described, in the Near Eastern seals, "an atmosphere of substantial accord prevails at the cosmic tree, where the goddess and her serpent spouse give support to their worthy son's quest for release from the bondage of birth, disease, old age, and death....The ultimate source of the biblical Eden, therefore, cannot have been a mythology of the desert--that is to say, a primitive Hebrew myth--but was the old planting mythology of the peoples of the soil. However, in the biblical retelling, its whole argument has been turned, so to say, one hundred and eighty degrees."(Campbell 1964)
The ground, the dust, out of which the punished couple had been taken, was, of course, the goddess Earth, deprived of her anthropomorphic features, yet retaining...her function of furnishing the substance into which the new spouse, Yahweh, had breathed the breath of her children's life...they would return to her, not the father in death....Adam and Eve were thus the children of the mother-goddess Earth...As the mother of all living, Eve herself, then, must be recognized as the missing anthropomorphic aspect of the mother goddess. And Adam, therefore, must have been her son as well as her spouse: for the legend of the rib is clearly a patriarchal inversion (giving precedence to the male) of the earlier myth of the hero born from the goddess Earth, who returns to her to be reborn....[A]s in the early Bronze Age seals...we have clear and adequate evidence throughout the biblical text that the Lord Yahweh was himself an aspect of the serpent power , and so himself properly the serpent spouse of the serpent goddess of the caduceus, Mother Earth. (Campbell 1964)
The Story of Eden, as it appears in the Old Testament, justified the exaltation of the nomadic Hebrew sheep-herders over the sedentary Canaanite agriculturists whose lands they descended upon and exalted the Hebrew's relatively new god, Yahweh, a God of the desert who came as an all consuming fire, over the Canaanite's Mother Goddess and her serpent spouse-son, who was himself was a symbol of nature's renewal. Most interesting about the image of the goddess, the sacred tree, the serpent, and even the cherubim is that all of them reappear, in what is believed to be much later Biblical times, during the time of Moses and again afterwards in the inner Temple during the age of Kings . Even more importantly, the propagandized prohibition of foreign cults and the sacraments of the ancient world instituted with the Garden of Eden mythology set the stage for all later Biblical drama. The theme of propaganda against both competing deities and their worshippers continued in Genesis with the story of Cain and Abel.
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