They Call Her Santa Maria, the holy herb, sacred plant of Pachamama

They Call Her Santa Maria.

Who is “They?”

In the context of the story that follows, “they” is a group of people I know who treat cannabis as a sacred plant. They hold great respect for her, and, for the most part as I’ve observed them, meet her in carefully considered “settings”—as in “set and setting.”

Even in the most casual of engagements with her, they at least take a moment to acknowledge her in gratitude and devotion. And even in those situations, they seem mostly to stay present with her, not getting lost in wandering superficial thought and conversation, not clutching at straws of comforting entertainment to escape the heart-filled, ego-dissolving space that can open up when the mind calms down.

Who is “Her?”

I don’t know the answer to that question from personal experience, although she does feel like a feminine energy to me. She can be powerful, uncompromising, and even overwhelming. But, with the possible exception of high dose oral ingestion, when you’re able to stay present, relaxed, and openhearted to her energy, she can also be an incredibly tender and sweet dance partner and lover.

An ‘Origin’ Story

They call her Santa Maria at least in part because of a story that has come down to them from nearly half a century ago. There are elements of this story I’ve been asked not to speak publicly about for reasons I’ve been asked not to speak publicly about. This is the kernel of the story minus a few identifying specifics. In line with the understanding of more than one great artist, I’ll be going beyond the facts to get to the essence. You might think of it as a true fable.

A spiritual leader and plant medicine master—I’ll call him a shaman for this story—of great wisdom and vision was at the time of this seminal event living deep in the forest with his community. This was a man with a reputation for having an open communication channel with the Great Spirit, or Great Spirits. He was well known in his community and beyond for being a master journeyer with powerful “generating-the divine-within” medicine plants, in particular, with a legendary visionary brew of the region.

Word of this remarkable community began to spread and one day a young visitor showed up at the shaman’s forest encampment and offered him some cannabis, a plant he had not previously known. The shaman accepted the offering and told the young man he would like to discover its characteristics privately.

The Keeper of the Garden

After spending some time alone with her, the shaman reported to his people that he had had a vision of a woman tending a garden. She showed him a cannabis plant growing in her garden and said it was her plant. She told him that few people understood the plant and many were misusing it. She asked him to help correct that misunderstanding and let people know that when met with humility, respect, and a clear and simple presence of mind, her plant has remarkable gifts of healing and awakening for us humans wandering confused in the struggle-inducing illusions of our thought-generated virtual realities.

So then, why the name Santa Maria? Since the European people first invaded their ancestral lands and aggressively forced their Christian religious beliefs down the throats of the locals, native people all over the world have attempted to keep the essence of their traditional spiritual practices alive by incorporating elements of Christianity. That often meant using the language and the icons of Christianity.

The shaman of this story and his sylvan spiritual community were among those “syncretic religions.” He interpreted—or as the story suggests, actually experienced—the keeper of the garden as Saint Mary, or Santa Maria in the Portuguese and Spanish of the area. He also understood her as Mother Earth, or Pachamama.

That way of viewing and meeting Santa Maria has since been passed down to people like the group I know. A number of the core members of this group understand how to meet her with a relaxed discipline that opens the doorway to her peaceful and loving medicine. In doing that, they light a lamp of inspiration as we enter a period of renewal in our relationship with this ancient spiritual ally.

 

 

  1. From the, “Ritual Use of Cannabis Sativa L.” by Emboden
    A particularly interesting account of a Tepehua Indian ceremony ( no relationship to Tepecanna) with cannabis was published in 1963 by Mexican ethnologist, Roberto W. Garcia of the University of Veracruz, Mexico. The Tepehua belong linguistically and culturally to the Totonac of Veracruz, the northernmost branch of the Maya language family. In his account of the Tepehua religion and ritual, Garcia describes in detail a communal curing ceremony focused on a plant called Santa Rosa, “The Herb Which Makes One Speak” which he identified as cannabis sativa. According to Garcia, it is worshipped as an Earth Diety and is thought to be alive, comparable to a piece of the heart of God.

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