Praising Sula Benet

Photo of peasant girl from one of Benet’s books.

Someday Sula Benet is going to be widely celebrated inside the cannabis community. Born in Poland in 1903, she became fascinated by early peasant life while still a young girl, and ended up attending Warsaw University, and then was off to Columbia University in New York City for a PhD in Anthropology obtained during WWII.

But before she left for New York, in 1936, Benet announced “Kaneh-bosm,” (fragrant cane), a frequent reference from the Old Testament universally translated as “calamus,” was actually a reference to cannabis. This was 11 years before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, 21 years before R. Gordon Wasson wrote a cover story for Life magazine on magic mushrooms, and 34 years before John Allegro published Sacred Mushrooms and the Cross.

Benet’s work should have led to many breakthroughs in the history of religion, as cannabis played a crucial role virtually unpublicized to this day, but instead the academic community was suddenly diverted into the study of mushrooms. There’s no doubt considerable mushroom iconography appeared during the reign of the Knights Templars, the central bankers of their day. But why was this mushroom angle getting stretched to hide the much bigger cannabis factor?

For over two thousand years, the powers-that-be have had a profoundly anti-cannabis agenda. Possession of cannabis flowers or concentrates used to be considered proof of witchcraft. And when this honest researcher from Poland came along and tried to point out the obvious, she was treated with universal academic disdain and I only found out about her through the efforts of Chris Bennett, who for the past two decades has been the lone voice of reason on this subject, and has written several books documenting the impact of cannabis on civilization and its key role in the evolution of religion. Nice they have the same last name.

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