Taiwanese tradition of pot and pregnancy

A small but significant percentage of pregnant women suffer from a debilitating, sometimes fatal condition known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). Described as morning sickness times a million, the only pharmaceutical attempt to combat it ? Thalidomide ? resulted in a rash of babies born with shrunken limbs. Cannabis Culture‘s Reverend Damuzi interviews HG sufferer Wennifer Curry, the inheritress of an unbroken line of Taiwanese goddess-worshipping midwife-shamans and a former compassion club operator living in the US. Curry discovered pot’s effictiveness in treating HG as part of a journey of self-discovery that ultimately involved her cultural heritage and traditions.
(For more on pregnancy and pot, see Reverend Damuzi’s feature article, Cannababies, in the latest issue of Cannabis Culture Magazine, available in stores now.)

Cannabis Culture: How do you find the courage to stand up for your beliefs in the face of nearly guaranteed persecution, to overcome what you call “the ritual of silence?”

Wennifer Curry: I don’t fear voicing my truth since so many women’s lives could be saved. It is more the legal repercussions. I got very vocal and active after I experienced such relief during pregnancy, and I started my own compassion centre in Monterey County, California. Unfortunately we were doing so well that we were often on TV, and they raided me on a large scale, both at work and at home. It was really very embarrassing for them, because they thought we were really bigger than we were. I felt that we were raped in a way, and to feel that when you are pregnant is very, very wrong. That is why I also empathize with women who stay silent through this. I have been there and my life has been threatened, and my child’s life, so that is why it is important to continue speaking up.

CC: That is very brave.

WC: I owe my daughters life to this. I don’t see it as bravery. I see it as compassion. I come from a lineage of goddess devotees. Kwan Yin is the goddess of compassion, and that is very much at the root of my being, and the rest just comes. It is such a crucial part of my lineage, that unless I speak up, our people will face a cultural amnesia that will never be reclaimed in the future.

CC: Is goddess worship big in Taiwan to this day?

WC: There are temples and alters and sanctuaries everywhere. Just in one block there is ten of them sometimes. What is great about our island is that it is very spiritually free and it is very spiritually female. My grandmother goes to the temple all the time. We have goddesses you have never ever heard of or dreamed of. Some families have a bunch of different goddesses that they pray to.

CC: Tell us more about the part of your heritage that you feel is threatened.

WC: My ancestors were midwives, and we know from the oral tradition that they used this, the herb, in their practice. Another goddess that is central to us is Matsu … she is our ancestral mother, and she is of the Lin clan. “Lin” if you write in calligraphy is written in two stocks. You put them under the shed to dry and it becomes “ma” or hemp or cannabis. This is my personal theory, to us Lin clan people this herb was very important to the development of our civilization: medicinally, spiritually, clothing, rope, in every way.

CC: So they’ve used cannabis in childbirth for generations?

WC: I was just talking to my father earlier today, and asked if he remembered what grandmother did. She was the main midwife in her day, and he said “yes, she carried the hempseed oil with her all the time to help people alleviate the pains and swelling and help with the expelling of placenta.” He said there were multiple uses for it, until it was banned by the west, and the law in the US became the law in Taiwan.

CC: How did the US government threaten your own voice you and how did you adapt?

WC: They threatened us behind closed doors that if we didn’t shut up, they would ruin our lives. I chose not to shut up. We were framed, we were lied about, all my photos, all my personal writings were taken and spread around my house, just to rub it in my face, to show they could get into my personal life without my ability to say no. I realized then that I was dealing with a power that was huge, the hegemonic power. If I were to fight back, I would not have all the ammunition they had, in resources and weapons. So I chose to go back to school and get a degree and use my pen as a sword. I promised to myself that if I couldn’t speak my truth in a political sense, I would do it in an academic sense.

CC: What does this say to you about western culture?

WC: What happens when the folks who are supposed to maintain and keep the law are the ones who break the law, and when you are the one upholding the law and you are punished for it? We aren’t fighting for any unjust cause, we are championing lives and trying to help people with compassion and yet we are being severely punished. The cultural stigmatism and legal danger of it all are phenomenally nonsensical.

CC: How would you compare modern culture to the more ancient, herb-using culture it has attempted to erase?

WC: Let me tell you more about my grandmother. Whenever she went to delivery babies, there was never a charge. They gave her a red envelope with money for payment. Sometimes it was the equivalent of a dollar US. Sometimes it was nothing. She wouldn’t refuse the one with less, or be overly gracious for the ones with more money. It was an exchange in the heart. The people who were poor would be balanced out by the ones that were wealthier, and there wasn’t this money thing. If there was a really poor family, my grandmother would put money in the envelope instead. So there was this purity. This is what we have been missing.

CC: And psychedelics?

WC: Terence McKenna addresses it in food of the gods. He says goddess civilizations were more friendly with psychedelic drugs, because they don’t fear the merging, because there is this acceptance and understanding of it, underlying. I think the domination and the censorship of the herb went hand in hand with the censorship of women.