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Historic Hemp Culture

Cannabis was (and is) a sacred plant for many people and has historically been used in religious ceremonies in many cultures.

20th century statuette of Ma Gu (‘Hemp Maiden’), the Taoist goddess of hemp.

20th century statuette of Ma Gu (‘Hemp Maiden’), the Taoist goddess of hemp.

samurai armor

© Floris Leeuwenberg

Ancient hemp uses

Cannabis as a sacred plant

The use of cannabis a religious sacrament predates written history and evidence of its place as a sacred plant can be found in most ancient religions, including Buddhism, Shintoism, Sufism and Christianity; and among the Bantu, Pygmy, Zulu and Hottentot tribes of Africa. Several modern religions still practice the ceremonial consumption of psychoactive cannabis, for example Rastafari, while others consider it holy due to its many other properties, revering it as a symbol of strength, purity or wellness. 

Hemp woven fabric

Thanks to the cultivation of hemp, people were able to stop wearing animal hides and switch to clothing made of woven fabrics. Various items of clothing and fabric, ranging from sandals and ritual robes to bandages and carpets, have been found on archaeological digs. First, the long, strong plant fibres were twisted into simple twine; in turn, strands of twine were plaited together to make stronger ropes. Cross-weaving allowed ropes to be made into nets for fishing and hunting. As weaving technology developed, finer and finer meshes became possible, until the net finally developed into true woven cloth.

Collection Items

Check out these collection items


Hemp in France

This postcard is an engaging testimony to the long history of hemp in France.

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Arbuckle’s Coffee postcard, 1889.

Hemp in Russia

Since the eighteenth century, Russia was the largest hemp producer in the world.

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Hemp for Victory

Hemp for Victory is a short propaganda film by the United States Department of Agriculture from 1942.

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