The celebration we know as Easter dates back long before the time of Christ, and has its origins in traditions that involved ritualized sex and consumption of a wide variety of potent psychedelics and aphrodisiacs, including marijuana.
Incubated deep in prehistory, Easter developed through centuries of spring fertility festivals in ancient Sumeria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, pagan Europe and Christian Rome, to become the fractured mass of a resurrected god and egg-laying chocolate rabbit that we know today.
The most recognizable trail of the modern Easter Bunny leads from pre-Christian Germanic peoples, who worshiped the love and fertility goddess Ostara. Ostara was revered in many cultures under many different names, including Astarte, Esther, Ishtar and Eastre. She is the source of the name “Easter” as well as words like “estrogen.” We get the story about the egg-laying rabbit from Ostara, as legend has it that Ostara changed her pet bird into a magical hare which laid eggs for children during her festival.
According to exhaustive research by German entheobotanist Christian Ratsch in his book Marijuana Medicine, Ostara’s spring worship involved the sacrifice, roasting and consumption of a sacred hare, quaffed down with hemp beers, followed by public, collective lovemaking. The Germanic fertility goddess Freya was similarly honored with cannabis as a sacrament.
Cannabis, eggs and fertility were closely associated among Germanic pagans. Ratsch discovered that the hardy Nordic peoples would feed cannabis seeds to hens, so that they could lay eggs through the long winter season. As spring equinox approached, they would use stalks of the plant as arrows to “shoot away winter,” ushering in a season of verdant growth and urgent lovemaking.
Cannabis orgies in celebration of Ostara were eventually outlawed by the Catholic Church. Pagan sacraments like hemp beer fell victim to secular laws, like the Bavarian Purity Act of 1516, which outlawed beer made from anything but hops and barley. Only the sacred hare survived, transformed into a chocolaty economic opportunity for candy makers and dentists.
Easter celebrations around the world always involve eggs. For thousands of years, the egg has been a recurrent symbol in spring fertility festivals like those celebrated by the Germanic pagans. Today we use the term “Dionysian” to describe such festivities, after the Greek god Dionysus, the god of intoxication, poetry, love and orgiastic sexuality.
Although Dionysus has become famously synonymous with wild partying, it is less well-known that he was featured in the epic Greek story of Persephone and Hades. Their sacred marriage, or sexual union, was celebrated in the town of Eleusis, at two notable times of the year. The first, in the spring, was called the “Lesser Mysteries” and featured what early Catholic Church father Hyppolytus (AD 170-236) called “carnal generation,” or sex; and the second, in the fall, was called the “Greater Mysteries.”
At the Lesser Mysteries, initiates ingested some kind of psychedelic. In their book Road to Eleusis, authors Wasson, Hoffman and Ruck suggest that “the winter bulb [consumed at the Lesser Mysteries]may have been a metaphor or analogue for another plant that also seemed to grow suddenly from an egg-like bulb within the cold earth… the mushroom.” Indeed, Eleusian revelers also considered eggs among the sacred, edible objects of the celebration, and Greek stone reliefs and vases depict the deities of Eleusis with mushrooms.
Road to Eleusis further explains that Persephone, who was stolen away to the land of the dead, ravished, and symbolically force-fed a pomegranate seed by the mythic underworld god Hades, came away with child after her mother cut a deal with king-god Zeus for her resurrection. Myth records that Persephone’s child was Dionysus, named Bacchus by the Romans.
Like Jesus and Persephone, Dionysus was a resurrection deity, and his death and rebirth was compared to the seasonal display of trees and plants. Dionysus’ most ardent worshippers, the Maenads, collected and ingested magic mushrooms, among numerous other psychedelic treats, many of which they mixed with wine. These were the “flesh” and “blood” of their god. In spring, hordes of admirers gave stoned, drunken praise to the lustful god at the Greater Dionysia, a civilized, theatrical version of earlier, sexually explicit, rustic practices which again found favor in Rome as the Bacchanals.
Semitic song and dance
The Jewish people have their own Easter celebration of spring sex and intoxication in the annual remembrance of Esther, a semite woman who saved her people from genocide.
Like Persephone, Esther was married by force when a conquering king decided she was the most beautiful maid in the land. Esther used her influence to convince the king not to kill her people after her uncle, Mordecai, refused to bow to the king’s Prime Minister.
Since the king was engrossed in a lengthy, intoxicated feast before he decided to wed, Esther’s victory was celebrated the same way, with a drunken March revel called “Purim,” that also includes eating, masquerades and thematic plays. The theme of the first modern Purim carnival in Tel Aviv, held in 1912, was “Until one doesn’t know,” referring specifically to the desired level of highness to be reached during the celebration.
The Old Testament immortalizes humankind’s timeless spring longings in Song of Songs, also known as Song of Solomon. This erotic love poetry is rich in images of pomegranates, intoxication, spring and sexuality. It depicts the carnal affections shared between a king and his lover, a mysterious woman referred to as “the Shulamite.” Wine and the sexually stimulating psychedelic mandrake (Mandragora officinarum) receive special mention in Song of Songs, and some linguists and scholars also believe the poem mentions cannabis, mistranslated as calamus ? a notion popularized by author Chris Bennett.
Most scholars agree that Esther and Mordecai are the Jewish versions of the earlier Babylonian deities Ishtar and Marduk. Ishtar is born of an egg. Marduk, like Esther, saves his people from genocide and then creates the Earth, winning the powers and names of many deities including fertility goddess Ishtar’s consort, Tammuz, a resurrection god similar to Dionysus.
In his book The Seeding of the Star Gods, author Robert Bauval explains that the roles of Ishtar and Tammuz were played out by the high priestess and king, who made love in a fertility rite inside the stepped pyramid ziggurats of the Babylonians.
Ishtar and Tammuz are derived from the yet more ancient Sumerian deities, Inanna and Damuzi. Damuzi was worshiped by the Jews as Adonai and by the Greeks as Adonis, both of which mean “Lord.” Marduk is thought synonymous with the god Bel, whose name also meant “Lord” and from which the Celtic peoples likely got the name of their spring sex and drugs festival, “Beltaine” or “Lord’s fire.”
The story of Damuzi and Inanna tells of intoxication, spring fertility and the drastic consequences of power struggles between people in love. In ancient Sumeria, poets fashioned cuneiform tablets immortalizing their tear-jerking tale with unbelievably explicit verses and true-to-life plot twists.
Many references to intoxication on mind-altering drinks made from “emmer” grain and barley fill the incredibly arousing body of work. Translators suggest that the emmer drink was a form of beer. It was common practice among the ancients to spice their beer and wine with magical plants and psychedelics, and the best candidate as a spice in Sumerian beer was cannabis, which was available at the time, and popular in the beer consumed by later cultures during spring fertility festivals.
The barley drink may also have contained the LSD-ergot fungus (Claviceps Purpurea), which Wasson suggests was used at the Greater Mysteries in Eleusis, as barley is known as a particularly good host for the fungus.
As in other cultures, Sumerians considered psychedelics an aphrodisiacal prelude to sex. For example, in the Sumerian poetry, Damuzi is careful to get both himself and Inanna high before successfully seducing her.
The love poetry tradition that seduced Sumeria and Israel was also whispered in the ears of Egyptian lovers, adorned with images of pomegranates, spring, sexual desire and intoxication.
In a beautiful verse describing his beloved, a young male lover compares her fingers to lotus buds. Far from a gratuitous metaphor, the comparison summons the intoxication of his paramour’s touch, as the Egyptian blue lotus (Nymphaea caerulea) has sexually stimulating and mentally soothing properties.
In The Mythical Origin of the Egyptian Temple, author EAE Reymond explains the Egyptian creation myth, in which the primeval ones take the lotus before plunging their combined phallus into the Nun, the divine waters of existence. From the fertilized Nun springs the Island of the Egg, the unformed Earth. Through the Egyptian creation myth, we can see beyond Easter as the celebration of regeneration, to Easter as the celebration of the original creative act.
Like the peoples of other ancient cultures, Egyptians celebrated spring with promiscuous sexuality and liberal substance enjoyment. Egyptian springtime came with the flooding of the Nile, which reached its height in August. In the lavishly illustrated Sacred Sexuality in Ancient Egypt, by Antelme and Rossini, the authors describe how Egyptians’ sexual tensions rose with the water. As Egypt became an enormous lake, women and men would take to their boats in praise of the goddess Hathor Tefnut, taunting villagers with displays of nudity; Egyptians would also drink copious amounts of beer and wine during the festival, which lasted several days.
Ancient Egyptians partook of many aphrodisiacal and psychedelic plants that they thought would enhance their sexuality. Those available included blue lotus, mandrake, poppies and a sedative, milky-sapped lettuce, associated with semen in Egyptian myths.
It is known that cannabis was used recreationally during Nile-flood celebrations in the 12th Century, and that it was present in Egypt thousands of years before that ? found on the mummy of Ramses II (1275-1229 BC), and in the tomb of Akhenaten (1352-1336 BC).
Anything thought to enhance fertility was included in Egyptian funeral rites, as this was believed to promote heavenly rebirth. Thus the phallus of mummys were often molded into a permanently erect position. This also explains the presence of cannabis, and other aphrodisiacs such as blue lotus.
Cannabis and the blue lotus share another Egyptian Easter connection. As we saw earlier, lotus appears as an aphrodisiac in the Egyptian creation myth, taken by the creator gods before fertilizing the Nun, the divine waters of existence. Since Egyptians thought of temple-building as a microcosmic reenactment of the original creation, it would seem likely that an aphrodisiac would play a role in both events, and indeed evidence points in this direction.
The first ritual acts of temple building were accomplished by the pharaoh, who played the role of the creator deities. He was aided in this and related tasks by Seshat, goddess of measure, who helped him stretch the cord used to survey and orient the plot. Pyramid texts identify the plant used to make cord and rope as smsmt, the Egyptian word for hemp.
Seshat’s symbol is probably the clearest depiction of a marijuana leaf ever produced by an ancient culture, with seven perfectly proportioned leaflets so typical of stylized versions of the plant today. Some scholars have described Seshat’s symbol as a flower or star, yet no convincing identification of what flower it might be has been offered, and the star in ancient Egypt was depicted with five points, not seven.
Modern research shows that Egyptians used cannabis, and knew about its aphrodisiac properties. For example, experts at L’Oreal perfumes recently teamed up with the Centre for Research and Restoration of French Museums, and reconstructed “Kyphi” perfume, an aromatic mixture used by pharaohs to prolong their lives and enhance their sex drives. These perfume experts and Egyptian scholars told the media that one of the key ingredients of the Kyphi perfume was cannabis!
Old time religion
The old myths and celebrations of Easter may have faded into obscurity, but the meaning of the season still manifests in western culture today ? in more ways than one. The Catholic Church’s Feast of the Annunciation, celebrated on March 25, memorializes the day the Archangel Gabriel came to Mary to tell her she was pregnant with Jesus, reminding us of the sacred sex marriages of countless divine beings throughout the ages. Eggs remind us of the act of the sympathetic magic of sex, hearkening back to the first act of creation. Moreover, spring itself calls to our human nature, our desire to enjoy ecstatic sex, stoned out of our minds on cannabis, mushrooms, LSD, beer and whatever else awakens the spirit and stirs the loins.
This Easter, instead of gorging on chocolate rabbits, why not gather with good friends and potent psychedelics, to celebrate spring and reaffirm your fertility the old fashioned way? You’ll be glad you did!