The stories now known as “fairy tales” are generally simplified versions of more ancient stories, usually with deeper meanings and teachings within them. In many cases these stories relate to the use of magical plants, including cannabis.
During much of the Middle Ages, Europe was subject to the torturous inquisitions and prohibitions of the medieval Roman Catholic Church. This time was known as the Dark Ages, because knowledge and learning was forbidden. The use of medicinal and psychoactive herbs was considered witchcraft, punishable by death.
Teachings about subversive topics, such as the traditions surrounding the use and benefits of these magical plants, had to be transmitted secretly to avoid persecution. The stories were parables, or allegories which encapsulated certain aspects of their lives. Many of these seemingly innocent stories have survived into modern times as so-called fairy tales.
One clue to the often underlying drug-related themes in many fairy tales is the common presence of “magic mushrooms” in relation to fairies. The Amanita Muscaria mushroom, with its red skin and white spots, is commonly seen in illustrations of fairies, gnomes and other wee magical folk. It was used throughout medieval Europe as a shamanistic, mind-expanding tool.
Also sometimes known as Fly Agaric, stories of this mushroom and its effects form the basis of many modern day fairy tales and traditions. For example, the colors of Santa Claus’ suit were developed from the red and white of this popular psychedelic fungus.
Jack & the budstalk
The best example of a well-known fairy tale whose underlying meaning relates to the use and benefits of marijuana is Jack and the Beanstalk.
In the traditional version of the story, Jack leaves the home of his widowed mother with only a cow, which he is supposed to sell for money. Instead Jack trades the cow for some magic beans, and his mother is angry with his decision. Yet the beans sprout up into a towering plant, which Jack climbs until he is high among the clouds.
In the clouds, Jack enters a castle, the home of a frightening giant. Jack outwits the giant and manages to steal his golden treasure. The giant chases Jack back down the beanstalk, but Jack cuts the stalk and the giant tumbles to his death. Jack and his mother live happily ever after.
To better understand the deeper meanings of this popular fairy tale, it is necessary to take a fresh look at the story and the symbolic elements it contains.
The first clue to the layered meaning of the story is that Jack is “the widow’s son.” This term is often used by magical societies like the Freemasons, to signify an initiate first setting out on the path. This term was also used to describe King Arthur’s pure knight Parcifal, who passes through the Chapel Perilous to claim the Holy Grail.
The cow that Jack trades for his beans is his “Sacred Cow” which must be sacrificed for the initiate to be able to receive mystical knowledge. A parallel exists in the once-popular Roman god Mithra, who reluctantly kills a sacred bull so he can receive the wine of the mysteries.
The beans Jack receives represent the marijuana seeds which can quickly grow into a very tall plant. The term “bean” was commonly used as a euphemism for cannabis seeds during Europe’s Middle Ages. One annual celebration involved farmers predicting the next year’s hemp crop by randomly choosing the “King and Queen of the Bean” from among their community. If the man was taller, then the male hemp plants would be tallest; otherwise the female plants would be biggest.
Another medieval reference to the use of the word “bean” to mean cannabis seeds is the 16th century writer Rabelais, who used the term repeatedly in his pot-laden pair of bawdy literary masterpieces, Gargantua and Pantagruel.
Jack’s “climbing the beanstalk” is a metaphor for an inner journey, the ingestion of the plant making the initiate “get high” and leave normal consciousness.
Once he is high among the clouds of cannabis smoke, Jack enters the castle of his own mind. There he encounters an angry giant, the manifestation of his own personal demons that have been exposed and magnified by the marijuana experience.
If the initiate is able to keep his wits in this dangerous situation, then he has the chance to obtain a golden treasure, sometimes represented as a magical harp, or a hen that lays golden eggs. These both represent an internal state of increased self-awareness and personal enlightenment, metaphorically expressed as a self-renewing source of gold, or the music of a divine harp.
In cutting down the plant to defeat the giant, perhaps there is a warning as well, that the plant is only to be used for certain reasons, and that it must ultimately be cut down or else our inner giants can enter into daily life and wreak havoc.
Another common theme in many fairy tales is the spinning of hemp straw into gold. This action appears in a number of stories, the most famous of which is Rumpelstiltskin.
The story involves a girl who is put into the position of needing to spin hemp or straw into gold. A magical dwarf performs the task for her, allowing her to become a queen. But in return, she must give the dwarf her firstborn child, unless she can guess his name. She spies on him and learns his name, thus freeing herself from his power.
In this story the maiden is able to become queen through the alchemical transmutation of base straw into gold. This is a metaphor for converting raw hemp (straw) into golden hashish. The illuminating power of the hash transforms the maiden into a queen.
The spinning wheel at this time would have been mainly used to spin hemp fibers into thread, another hint at the true nature of the substance involved.
These are just a few of the many common fairy tales which can be explored for their more deeply held meanings. Stories such as Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Snow White, Goldilocks, Rapunzel, and others all contain multiple interpretations and metaphorical teachings.
The study of fairy tales is fascinating, and can reveal great truths and mind-expanding wonders hidden within these simple pagan parables.