Evidence Indicating the Semitic Origin of Cannabis

The name cannabis is generally thought to be of Scythian origin. Sula Benet in Cannabis and Culture argues that it has a much earlier origin in Semitic languages like Hebrew, occurring several times in the Old Testament. He states that in Exodus 30:23 that God commands Moses to make a holy anointing oil of myrrh, sweet cinnamon, kaneh bosm, and kassia. He continues that the word kaneh bosm is also rendered in the traditional Hebrew as kannabos or kannabus and that the root “kan” in this construction means “reed” or “hemp”, while “bosm” means “aromatic”. He states that in the earliest Greek translations of the old testament “kan” was rendered as “reed”, leading to such erroneous English translations as “sweet calamus” (Exodus 30:23), sweet cane (Isaiah 43:24; Jeremiah 6:20) and “calamus” (Ezekiel 27:19; Song of Songs 4:14).

Benet argues from the linguistic evidence that cannabis was known in Old Testament times at least for its aromatic properties and that the word for it passed from the Semitic language to the Scythians, i.e. the Ashkenaz of the Old Testament. Sara Benetowa of the Institute of Anthropological Sciences in Warsaw is quoted in the Book of Grass as saying: “The astonishing resemblance between the Semitic ‘kanbos’ and the Scythian ‘cannabis’ leads me to suppose that the Scythian word was of Semitic origin. These etymological discussions run parallel to arguments drawn from history.

The Iranian Scythians were probably related to the Medes, who were neighbors of the semites and could easily have assimilated the word for hemp. The Semites could also have spread the word during their migrations through Asia Minor.

Taking into account the matriarchal element of Semitic 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.”

The Ancient Israelites were a Semitic people. Abraham, the father of the Israelite nation, came from Ur, a city of Babylonia located in mesopotamia. The Israelites migrated throughout Asia Minor and could easily have spread the religious use of marijuana.

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