Cannabis Culture: Magu ~ The Immortal Hemp Maiden
While America’s cannabis culture is centered mainly around recreation and wellness, this ancient plant was and still is revered for its medicinal and spiritual properties in many historic and current cultures around the world.
In ancient Chinese culture, Taoists had a deity dedicated to cannabis, Magu. Magu’s name literally translates into “hemp maiden.” She’s the protector of women and a healing figure, often associated with the “elixir of life.” Magu was also worshipped in Korea as Mago and in Japan as Mako. As Magu is a symbol of longevity and rebirth, she’s often invoked during birthday celebrations.
Magu is depicted as a young woman around 18 or 19 years old, her youth and beauty a symbol of health and life. Many of Magu’s stories center around her healing the ill and infirm in various ways. In China, she has a mortal origin, once a poor seamstress before her ascent into immortality. In Korea, Magu is more than an immortal goddess, she’s a creator god, able to produce life.
Cannabis has been cultivated in China since Neolithic times when hemp cords were used in traditional pottery and hemp fiber was used to make fabric prior to cotton farming. Magu had some advice for cannabis farmers, offering that the flowers should be gathered on the 7th day of the 7th month, after the pollen had scattered. Magu feasts took place during this time and there’s evidence cannabis was used in ritual incense burners.
On Mount Thai, a Taoist landmark that plays a large part in Magu’s stories, cannabis grows in wild abundance. The Taoists routinely used cannabis and cannabis seeds in healing and ceremonial practices. Consuming cannabis seeds were thought to ward off demonic possession and in other forms, could provide the user with precognition, or “second sight.”
Obviously, Magu held a high place of honor to be entrusted with such a magical and potent plant!