Sula Benet - Early Diffusion and Folk Uses of Hemp. 1967

Early Diffusion and Folk Uses of Hemp. 1967

Benet's writings have gained modern notability among supporters of cannabis use for her interpretations of the herb appearing in Hebrew text as kaneh-bosim (Hebrew קְנֵה-בֹשֶׂם) five times in the Hebrew Bible and how it relates to the religious use of cannabis. Kaneh-bosm is mentioned twice as part of the holy anointing oil used in the temple, and has been interpreted traditionally as calamus (an herb that is known in North American shamanism and in vedic atharva and has been discovered in modern times to contain a molecule known as Asarone that is a precursor of trimethoxyamphetamine, a psychedelic). Through comparative etymology, analysis of ancient texts (including pre-Hebrew Semitic language), and pharmacological consistencies she contends that the word kaneh-bosm actually refers to cannabis and was used in ancient Jewish religious rites, as a medicine and ritual sacrament. Benet's work claims that cannabis use has a long culturally important history, and that the criminalization and demonization of cannabis is a recent invention (an occurrence of the previous century compared to Torah: dating back at least 3,000 years). While Benet's conclusion regarding the psychoactive use of cannabis are not generally recognized among Jewish scholars, there is general agreement that hemp ("Kaneh") is used in talmudic sources to refer to hemp fibers, as hemp was a vital commodity before linen replaced it. Benet claims that traditional identifications of kaneh bosom do not account for hemp shirts being produced from industrial hemp, which Benet claims is "Kaneh" in Hebrew. Benet claims that this kaneh differs from the "fragrant" or "sweet" hemp called especially kaneh bosm, because the latter produces much more of aromatic and psychotropic substances like CBD and THC.

Exodus records Moses receiving the instructions for making and distributing the holy anointing oil, as follows:

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of kaneh bosm, 500 shekels of cassia - all according to the sanctuary shekel--and a hind of olive oil. Make these into a sacred anointing oil” (Exodus 30: 22-33)

The Hebrew term kaneh (קָנֶה) is the standard Hebrew word for "cane" or "reed," occurring 62 times in the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible It usually occurs without the adjective "sweet," and is translated "reed," though twice as calamus (Song of Songs 4:14 and Ezekiel 27:19 KJV). It occurs with the adjective "sweet" in three places (Exodus 30:22-33, Isaiah 43:24, Jeremiah 6:20), where kaneh bosm is typically translated as "calamus," "sweet cane" or "fragrant cane" in English versions.

Sula Benet's theory is not supported, or even referenced or acknowledged, by academic or popular dictionaries of plants in the Hebrew Bible, which typically identify the plant as acorus calamus or cymbopogon citratus.

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