Author Archives: j B

Folk Song/Mythology

The Song of Bhang

– Folk Song / Mythology

Gange Bhang Dono Bhen Hai

Rehti Shivgi Ki Sang.

Charan Karne Ki Gang Hai,

Bhajan Karne Ki Bhang.

…

The Ganges and Bhang

are siblings that

live in God’s head

Informant Analysis:

“My aunt, Suman, in India actually first told me about this song less than a year ago.  This song speaks of the cherished Hindu drink, Bhang.  This drink usually consists of both marijuana and milk, along with other various spices.  This drink in India is like alcohol in the Western world.  It is believed to be Lord Shiva’s favorite drink.  Stories tell of Shiva finding solitude in the shade of a marijuana plant.  Having been made so happy by the plant, Shiva ate from it and rejoiced.  Now, devotees use Bhang to help in their meditation and to allow for the singing of music and for achieving the blissful state that is Shiva.” (J.B.)

Personal Analysis:

It appears that marijuana has had effected Hinduism more so than any other religion.  This folksong alone claims that cannabis is equal to the holy river, the Ganges, and thus, it seemingly praises the plant as a goddess.  Additionally, it is quoted that Bhang lives in the head of God.  Could a more powerful statement be given?  It was selected as Lord Shiva’s favorite drink.  Furthermore, it is said that Shiva adopted the plant as his favorite food.  This is why he is sometimes referred to as the Lord of Bhang.  Yet, either way, this folk song functions in that it sings the praises of Shiva, and also of Bhang and the Ganges.

Jokes/Humor

Marijuana Giggles

– Jokes / Humor

“Marijuana humor tends to adhere to a similar set of guidelines.  The most common form of humor circulating marijuana is simply the exaggeration of the effects of cannabis consumption.  Comedians often call attention to common effects such as the munchies, the giggles, paranoia, psychological addiction, and philosophical enhancement.  Jokes that don’t focus on these elements will then usually be made in the form of a pitch for legalization.  Finally, another form of pot humor has recently become the exaggeration of certain situations.  For example, smoking a two foot long joint, or ripping an eight foot bong.  However, that being said, pot jokes and marijuana humor don’t often spread far beyond these classifications.”

Informant Analysis:

“I think humor is perhaps one of the most interesting cultural aspects of the cannabis society.  It seems that upon hearing marijuana humor, users tend to be very active in relaying the jokes to their friends.  This works so well in that the humor often focuses purely upon the literal act of smoking.  Thus, the jokes are applicable whenever one partakes in the festivities.  Unlike in other countries where cannabis is seen as holy or spiritual, marijuana use in America is often seen as humorous.  The potency and the effects of marijuana are called attention to, and are then laughed at.  For example, comedians like Dave Chappelle and Kat Williams tend to focus on how potent Marijuana can be, and how even the most seasoned smoker can be too high for his own good.”

Personal Analysis:

Cannabis culture in the United States is largely associated with humor.  In fact, that is one of the primary alleged functions of the plant; it makes you laugh.  Moreover, the simple presence of marijuana alone can be considered funny. Therefore, combine marijuana use with its associated humor, and you have a movement which has acquired quite a large following.  Aside from the comedians the informant listed above, it is imperative to note that several major motion picture comedies have formed the basis for their plots based upon cannabis.  Half Baked, Friday, Grandma’s Boy, and Up in Smoke are four key examples.  Each of these films use the simple consumption of marijuana as a means of generating both humor and fan support.  However, each of these films tends to utilize one of the classifications of marijuana humor documented by the informant above.  For example, the concept of exaggeration is clearly evident in Grandma’s Boy when the protagonist is seen lighting up a massive joint.  Furthermore, the entire premise of the film, Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, is formed on the basis of the “munchies” effect of cannabis use.

Annotation: Refer to this film, as its entirety is a token example of marijuana humor.

Harold and Kumar go to White Castle. Dir. Danny Leiner. Perfs. Kal Penn, John Cho. Film. DVD Endgame Entertainment, 2004.

Urban Legends

Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and Snoop Doggy Dogg

– Urban Legends

“A few urban legends come to mind when I think about mary jane.  Two of them have to do with Purple Haze.  The first thing I heard was that purple haze doesn’t exist anymore.  The second thing I heard was that Jimi Hendrix was inspired by it when he was writing his hit single, Purple Haze.  I’ve also heard from a few people that Snoop Dog hired a professional blunt roller.  Even more shocking, I hear that Bob Dylan demanded a pound of weed for every venue that he played at. ” (C.C.)

Informant Analysis:

“Alright well… first of all, I hear friends tell me all the time that they smoked some purple haze, but I’m always suspicious when I hear it.  Cause… Well uh lets see. I guess first of all, Jimi Hendrix obviously did a song called Purple Haze.  So I figure that’s just a common name that uh many people might just associate with weed.  So they see a purple looking herb, and just assume its P-haze cause that’s the first thing that comes to mind.  But I hear that the strain first appeared like fifty some odd years ago.  So therefore, I’d assume that if it did still exist, it would suck.  Weed today is so much stronger than back then, so how would an old strain like that still be considered so popular?  Umm… but I guess it might be safe to assume that new versions of it might exist.  However, I highly doubt they are the same as the first original p-haze plant.   I don’t know for sure what Jimi was talking about in Purple Haze, but I’d assume it was marijuana. Bob Dylan was a crazy SOB, so I guess that’s possible, but he played a lot of venues, so that is a shit load of weed.  And coming from Snoop, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.  But who knows?” (C.C.)

Collector Analysis:

Most of the tales and rumors that surround legendary figures like Hendrix and Dylan are impossible to decipher as fact or fiction.  However, what is interesting to note is that the theme of cannabis serves as a unifying link between these artists.  Despite the fact that all three stars were likely consumers of marijuana, it is of paramount importance to note that their audiences are just as likely to be consumers.  This is what invites so much discussion as to what is true or false.  The fact that the audiences of these artists often partook in the act of smoking might lead one to believe that these legends spawned from the fans.  Then again, the obvious usage of cannabis by these artists certainly grants the stories a sense of credibility.  As the informant stated above, she would not be surprised to learn that any of these stories were true.

As far as Jimi Hendrix is concerned, however, I had heard that his song was inspired by a dream that he had.  If this is not the case, it is far more likely that his song had to do with LSD than with marijuana.  Bob Dylan and his outrageous desires, on the other hand, are a complete mystery to me.

Mythology

Mukelengonga:

The Mountain that Spits Fire

– Mythology

“The Twas that are in Congo, they believe in the weird thing man.  They believe in the Mukelengonga.  They describe it as a mountain that spit fire.  That is what Mukelengonga means.  First people thought it was a volcano, but… but after some time they explained to them that no, it is not a volcano, because volcanoes don’t move.  This mountain moves though, when it is angry.  And some, maybe Russian scientist, came to maybe find out what it is; they took some, it’s a small, it’s a small machine that they put into the… the soil, somewhere.  It can send like signals on a distance, and you can calculate for example the weight of that thing.  And when you have the weight you can calculate how great it can be.  It comes at night sometimes, when they don’t give it weed, it just spits fire.  So you have to be nice to it.  It may be a dragon.  They grew up in a place where there was a mark in the soil, but when you look at it, it looks like a huge foot.  But it’s cracked in the soil, you see.  I don’t know if its maybe because of the imagination, but it looks like a big foot, but its cracked everywhere like this.  They used to see it, and people say it was a dragon that came one day.  And people started shooting it, and it killed ten of them.   That is what the foot mark is.  The dragon came down to attack, and so the foot mark is there because of it. The Twas there worship it.   They may give it weed, but they also give it food.  That forest is really weird, it is a forest that apart from the Twas, no one has really stepped in.  Normal Rwandan people go in, but no civilized people have stepped inside.  The forest takes up 2/5ths of Congo.  It is very big. Even on a map you can see it. You can’t go there though.  The Twas won’t let you in.  Me I read it, I red it, I knew the foot, you know.  But that story I read it like, five years ago. In a science book, its called Science and Vie.  It just talks about crazy shit like aliens like that man.  That issue came with proof, like evidences of many things.  Just mythologies and legends.  It might not be real.” (D.C.)

Informant Analysis:

“The first time they tried to fight it and they couldn’t win.  So they assumed it was God.  That is why they gave it food.  They gave weed, as this is what they gave to royalty. The Twas hoped that the food and weed would make the God less angry.  When you see something more strong than you and it looks weird- then it might be God.  Primitive people think humans are the strongest animal.  When they meet something that they can’t kill, they think it might God. That is why the Rwandas thought the colonists were God, man.  They came spitting fire with their guns, and they were dressed in white and they were white.  They didn’t tell them they were gods, but that they were sent by God to build the church.  Just because they came from God, they believed it.” (D.C.)

Personal Analysis:

It appears that the Twas hold to their beliefs as sacred truths.  Although the presence of a dragon might trigger one to think of this narrative as Marchen, the fact that the Twas worship the Mukelengonga as a God makes it more of an example of mythology.  The actual truth of this story is still questionable.  I first assumed that it was volcano, however, the informant told me that the volcanoes were all inactive.  Furthermore, the fact that the mountain “moves” helps eliminate that possibility.  Additionally, the fact that very few people have ever stepped foot inside this forest has helped preserve the folklore as potentially factual.

It is safe to assume that stories of the Mukelengonga were passed down conversationally amongst the tribes of the Twas.  Maybe these stories were used to highlight how important food and cannabis was to the tribe.  Unlike the Aztecs who sacrificed human life to the Gods, the Twas may have thought of the food and cannabis as more beneficial and important.  This might have been used to help inspire appreciation for such items amongst the youthful members of the tribe.

What I find most interesting is the parallel the informant drew to that of the white colonists.  As the date of origin of the mythology is unknown, it is hard to tell whether the colonists or the Mukelengonga came first.  However, if it had been the colonists, it is possible that the narrative may have been used as a direct metaphor.  I find this unlikely, though, as they point toward the claw footprint as a marking from the dragon.  I think the most likely case of origin would be derived from that of a volcano.  As not all volcanoes are active simultaneously, the Twas may have assumed the mountain “moved” when in actuality, it was a different mountain entirely that was “spitting fire”.  It is possible that the eruptions of multiple volcanoes helped spur the creation of this story.

Saying

Herb of the Rescuer

– Saying

Agatabi n’akotsi k’abatabazi

Weed is the smoke of the rescuer

Informant Analysis:

“Umm the warriors.  The most like valuable warriors is Rwanda.  They had the right to smoke weed.  Sometime the king give it to them.  They say Agatabi n’akotsi k’abatabazi. In English they mean to say weed is the smoke of saviors or something like that.  How do you say to rescue? … Weed is the smoke of the rescuer. It means that people who smoke weed are more awake than people who don’t, man.  You more, you more ready, or something like that, to save, or to rescue.  Its umm, it like grows your awareness.  This is why aside from royalty only the warriors were to smoke weed, as they were the saviors.  But now people repeat this saying in order to question why it is prohibit to us from smoking.  Weed is illegal in Rwanda. Everyone knew that it was only for the King, right.  When the colonists came, everything changed.  It became a little bit more western, and they lost many customs, man.  Weed also became a regular drug, as it is everywhere around the world.  It then became illegal in Rwanda, because it is illegal everywhere else.”

Personal Analysis:

It seems this Haitian saying implies that cannabis increases one’s awareness.   According to the informant, it was used not only by the king, but by the warriors as well.  Judging by the fact that the king gave it to them, it might even be seen as a form of payment.  However, the increased sense of awareness may be beneficial to a warrior who must be aware and on guard at all times.  The informant states that it makes them “more ready to rescue”.  It is possible that this may be a function of cannabis on not just a physical level, but on a philosophical level as well.

More interesting than the origin of the saying, is the new application and context in which this saying is used.  When the colonists came to Rwanda, cannabis was soon made illegal.  It appears that this may have significantly altered a part of Rwandan culture.  Now, it appears this saying is used in order question the illegalization.   The warriors that fought to protect the land in the past have been replaced by those that now fight to restore, or rescue, a piece of Rwandan culture.

Folk Belief

Smokers’ Etiquette

– Folk Belief

“There are a lot of unofficial rules … well, let me rephrase.  There are a set of guidelines to consider when smoking in groups.  These guidelines are what I like to refer to as smokers’ etiquette.  The first and foremost rule is the puff puff pass.  When hitting a joint or blunt, the general rule is to take two hits and then pass.  You are usually expected to the pass to the left.  Sometimes, it is appropriate to take one hit, if you do not know the people you are smoking with very well.  Another rule is to avoid wetting the end of the joint or blunt.  This can be rather disgusting as no one wants to press their lips around your saliva.  It is common courtesy to not pass a bowl that you know is cashed.  Many people might take it offensively.  Of course this depends on where you are from, as on the east coast, for example, someone might be happy to be passed any bowl at all.  Usually, whoever supplies the weed gets to pack the bowl and take the first hit.  However, if the weed is rolled into a joint or a blunt, the roller usually gets to take the first hits.  Like I said, these are guidelines, and there is great variation in accepted etiquette depending upon where you are from.” (A.B.)

Informant Analysis:

“These guidelines are important because they ensure that everything runs smoothly without confusion.  The puff puff pass dynamic is important because if one person is taking six puffs, then everyone else will get less puffs overall.  It is necessary because it helps ensure that everyone gets as equally high as possible.  Passing to the left is a generally good principle because it eliminates any potential personal biases.  No one will get offended if the joint is always passed to the left.  You won’t have to play favorites this way.  Avoiding wetting the joint or blunt is a no-brainer.  The supplier of the weed will often get to smoke first, because, it is his/her weed.  He/she should have all rights to smoke first.  The roller has the right to first hits, however, because the craftsmanship of having rolled a nice joint is potentially of equal contribution to having providing the weed itself.  However, this is the most common example of grey area. Either way, these guidelines are here just to ensure a friendly smooth smoking session.  If they are broken, it is not a major deal, but for consistencies sake, they should be upheld as often as possible.” (A.B.)

Personal Analysis:

Smoking is almost always a group activity.  As a result, in order to facilitate the best possible smoking experience, one should ensure that everyone is treated fairly.  Sharing is a commonly accepted practice, and it should never be taken advantage of.  These informal rules have truly manifested themselves as a smokers’ guide to etiquette.  This is why, when smoking with new friends, it is important to relay how the group-share dynamic generally operates.  That way, there are never any questions or miscommunications.  It is truly fascinating to see how widespread some of these rules have become.  Anywhere in the US, people can be seen following the puff puff pass pattern. This has spread with the help of pop culture devices, such as music.  Alternative rock band Incubus, for example, in the song, Smoking the Herb Again, a lyric reads, “I have a friend, his name is Ted.  He has a problem going through his head.  He doesn’t know how to puff puff give, but I like him so I’ll teach him and I’ll let him live.”  This lyric truly embodies the folk belief and ritual.  Diffusion seems to have reared its head faster with smokers’ etiquette than with any other cannabis folk item, other than perhaps 420.

Folk Ritual – California

Welcome to the Club:

Getting your prescription

– Folk Ritual

“A growing ritual exhibited by many California smokers has become the journey to acquiring a club card.  Essentially, this card allows you to legally purchase and possess marijuana.  This is made possible on the grounds that it is for medical use only.  Access into the clubs which sell the weed requires the possession of the card.  The only way to get the card is to go and see a weed doctor.  What most people don’t know is that getting this card is an incredibly easy process.  There’s a myriad of ways to trick the system.  You can pretty much give a symptom that sounds right, and if the doctor believes you, you usually get a prescription.  It has become a ritual amongst pot-smokers.  A journey that all experienced smokers must make. Groups of friends often travel together when visiting the doctor.  The illnesses that I’ve most often heard used are insomnia, back pain, and anxiety.  I even heard one instance in which a girl complained that high heels made her feet hurt.  She still got the prescription.” (MR)

Informant Analysis:

“I first learned about this last year when I heard from a friend that his dealer was buying medicinal marijuana.  Ever since then, I feel like everyone that would want the card has gotten it.  Now so many of my friends have made the journey and have joined the ranks of legal pot smokers… This ritual is performed within the context of travel and bonding.  Personally, I think it’s hilarious! It is funny to see whos getting cards and what excuses they used.  I don’t personally have a card, but if I considered myself to be a legitimate smoker, I definitely would get one.”  (MR)

Personal Analysis:

It seems to me that this folk ritual exists as a form of ethnic folklore.  It helps grant its followers a sense of identity and belonging.  Access to the medical facilities is not granted without the card; this alone serves to limit membership into this niche group.  Additionally, those that carry a card can not only identify themselves as patients, but also as members of the upper echelon of California smokers.  Furthermore, I find it interesting that the medical marijuana distribution facilities are referred to as, “clubs”.  A club tends to be a selective and limited group.  This defines the situation well as being a patient actually allows access into this select group.  Only members of this group are welcome inside the facilities.  Yet, upon acquiring the card, it is if you are initiated into the group.  It is no wonder that people go to the doctors and to the clubs in groups of friends.  Thus, it can be seen that card bearers gain access to “the club” both literally, and figuratively.  These advantages are certainly contributing to the growth of this ritual.

Urban Legend

The Legend of G13

– Urban Legend

“Well have you heard the story about G13?  Basically, I heard that G13 was a hybrid strain stolen from the CIA back in the ‘70s.  Apparently it was leaked from some government facility out in Mississippi.  They say that it tests at 27% THC, which is pretty fucking ridiculous.  But I mean hey, I doubt there’s any way of knowing just how strong it really is, but I think they even referred to it in American Beauty.  Kevin Spacey bought it from the drug dealer guy… I forget his name, but it was sold at like a thousand dollars or two thousand dollars for just one eighth! That being said, I’m sure you can find it for cheaper out of the clubs around here though.” (JV)

Informant Analysis:

“I was actually first told this from a friend back in high school.  But since then, I’ve heard it numerous times.  Personally, I doubt it was truly stolen, but there is no way of knowing.  The growers might have just spread this story to bring publicity to the strain.  And 27% THC is way more than average.  I don’t know necessarily what context this rumor is explained within and I don’t remember the exact context of the time when I first heard it.  I suppose it is a story that is just passed amongst friends while chilling.” (JV)

Personal Analysis:

It seems difficult to discern between fact and fiction with this particular legend.  My knowledge on the subject is weak, but based on what I have gathered and heard from various informants, I would guess that this legend is pure fiction.  The informant, who wishes to remain anonymous, is probably right in assuming that this story was created by the growers in order to bring attention to the plant. Perhaps the name G13 itself helped inspire the stories.  The “G” in G13 could easily stand for “Government”.

Surprisingly, examples of the urban legend show up in popular culture.  As mentioned by the informant, this strain of Marijuana was in fact addressed in the Academy Award winning film, American Beauty.  One of the films protagonists, Ricky Fitts, refers to it as extremely mellow with no paranoia.  He then sells a small bag of it to Lester Burnham for two thousand dollars.  Most interestingly, he claimed that it was engineered by the US government.  So regardless of the variation surrounding G13, it is clear that the government tends to be the focal point of the legend.

Annotation: An example of this urban legend can be found in the film American Beauty.

American Beauty. Dir. Sam Mendes. Perfs. Kevin Spacey, Wes Bentley. Film. DVD, DreamWorks SKG, 1999.

Mythology

Cannabis and Hinduism

– Mythology

“References to Cannabis in the Hinduism religion can be found throughout all of the major Hindu publications.  For example, it can be seen in the Artharvaveda, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Rig Veda. Marijuana is most often used to reference the Lord Shiva.  It is believed that the plant was Shiva’s greatest gift.  However, stories also point to a plant known as Soma.  The exact ingredients of this plant are often disputed, but most believe that it contained cannabis.  Soma was mentioned in many scriptures and was commonly referred to as the “nectar of the Gods”.  Some creation stories point to the falling of Amrita, the drink of the Gods, as what first allowed cannabis to grow.  Still, others refer to cannabis as Vijaya meaning victory, because it was only after the Gods defeated the demons that they were given marijuana.  In the fourth book of the Vedas, the Artharvaveda, Bhang is said to be one of the five kingdoms of herbs, and it is thought of as to release us from anxiety.” (R.A.)

Informant Analysis:

“I heard some of these stories from my older sister when I was a sophomore in high school, others I had heard from my grandfather.  I have never actually seen Bhang, but I have heard it referred to on numerous occasions.  I feel the main point to be gathered from these stories is that regardless of Western perceptions, in Hinduism, the ganja is holy.” (R.A.)

Personal Analysis:

It seems to me that although most often associated with the Lord Shiva, ganja references in India can be found literally anywhere.  This plant is very common in India, and it is used most often by religious devotees.  Their use of marijuana transcends that of medicinal purposes, but instead functions on a spiritual level.  It is used to help them find God.  In fact, it is used to help them almost become like God, and live in the image and grace of Shiva.  This is of particular interest to me, solely in that the Hindu view of cannabis contrasts quite significantly with that of America.  It is amazing that one substance can be hailed in so many different lights.

Interestingly, the concept of ganja being used to get closer to God was explored in Emilio Estevez’s popular film, Bobby.  Ashton Kutcher plays a drug dealer, and in one scene, he asks two clients why they like to get stoned.  He answers for them by stating, “Because it’s our way, of getting closer, to god.” Although rarely seen in American culture, I suppose this exists as one example of the spiritual uses of cannabis in Western society.

Annotate: Bobby. Dir. Emilio Estevez. Perfs. Emilio Estevez, Ashton Kutcher. Film. DVD, the Weinstein Company, 2006.

Games

Blowing Os and the French Inhale

– Games

“A lot of smokers like to try and blow smoke rings.  They usually refer to this as blowing Os.  There is a significant amount of variation when it comes to the techniques used while playing this game.  I’ve seen some people tap the side of their cheek continuously to help the air flow into O like shapes.  Other people try and just cough the rings out using their lungs.  Ummm lets see… the object of the game is usually to blow the biggest ring.  Hmm, another technique used when smoking is the French Inhale.  Basically, the object of this game is to slowly let the smoke escape from your lips.  You should try and push the smoke upwards.  Then, the key is to inhale the smoke from your nose, creating what looks to be an inverse waterfall of smoke falling from your mouth to your nose.  It looks pretty cool, but people do it with cigarettes too.” (J.T.)

Informant Analysis:

“These games tend to be played amongst experienced smokers.  You usually smoke with the same group of people when you’re smoking weed.  So groups of friends that usually toke together sometimes play to see which one of them is best at it.  In one way, it makes the overall smoking experience more pleasurable.  In another, it allows you to show off and display your smoking talents thus granting you credibility as a smoker.  The bigger O that you can blow, the more credible you look.  Same thing goes with the French Inhale.” (J.T.)

Personal Analysis:

The informant does a great job at summarizing both the context and the meaning of these games.  It seems this game is really more of a trick that smokers use to make the experience more playful.  It gives the smoker something to do other than simply exhaling.  However, I would imagine that not only would these games be played amongst groups of friends, as the informant describes, but also when smoking with new friends or with utter strangers.  If you’re seen blowing large smoke rings then you’re making it clear to the rest of the group that you are a highly experienced smoker.

The act of blowing smoke rings is also commonly done amongst cigar and cigarette smokers.  Cigars provide a thicker smoke, thus making it easier to blow rings, while cigarettes tend to have a thinner smoke, thus making it harder to do than with cannabis.  Blowing rings can be seen all throughout popular culture, especially in films and television shows.  In the film, the Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring, for example, Bilbo Baggins blows a perfect circular smoke ring when smoking with his old, wizard friend, Gandalf.  However, Gandalf is quick to win the competition, in that he blows a huge ship fashioned purely out of smoke strait through Bilbo’s smoke ring.  It seems the director, Peter Jackson, is poking fun at the smoke ring competition.  A ship is clearly impossible to blow with smoke, and it is thereby monumentally more impressive.

Annotation: Blowing smoke rings is also documented as early as in J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit.  It is mentioned by Gandalf in the first chapter of the book.

J.R.R. Tolkien. The Hobbit. Ballantine Books, New York. Copyright 1937, 1938, 1966. p. 7-8.