The Japanese legend of the two hemp weavers


Sailors brought hemp to Japan, where it was called asa, and plays a part in many rituals and stories.

For example, according to Japanese legend, the earthworm has a white ring around its neck because of hemp. Once there were two women who both wove hemp cloth, which was called nuno or jofu. One woman worked very slowly and produced fine fabric, while the other woman worked quickly to produce coarse cloth. When market day arrived, the slow woman had not woven enough fine cloth to wear, so she insisted that her husband carry her on his back in a huge jar. She went naked except for the hemp fibers around her neck. But the slow woman foolishly mocked the dress of coarse fabric produced by the fast woman. She in turn exposed the nakedness of the slow woman, who buried herself in the earth to hide in shame; she turned into the earthworm. The hemp fibers became the worm’s white ring.

According to Japanese tradition, hemp is associated with purity and plays a symbolic role in their customs of courtship. In earlier times, the man’s family would send hempen articles as gifts to the woman’s family to show that she was acceptable to them. Strands of the fiber were arrayed at the wedding to symbolize the wife’s obedience to her husband. Hemp is easily dyed, and Japanese men expected their wives to take on any “color” the man chose. (13)

Korean papermakers used materials and technologies similar to those of the Chinese hemp, paper mulberry, bamboo, rice straw, and seaweed. A few fragments of early Korean hemp paper have been recovered by archaeologists, including a thick, strong, bleached and glossy piece of Chi-Lin chih (Paper from the Silla Kingdom). This was an item of tribute to the Chinese, whose scholars and artists prized its fine quality. The Fei Fu Yu Lueh notes that the Ming artist Tung Chi-Chang used Chi-Lin for his paintings.

India ~

Cannabis hemp apparently was brought to India from the Chinese Turkestan by migrants about 3500 years ago. The Mahabharata tells of the Sakas (Scythians from Turkestan) bringing gifts of hemp thread when they visited India. The earliest Aryan name for hemp is bhanga, derived from the Aryan word an or bhanj (to break, transitive). The modern term “cannabis” developed from the Sanskrit sana or cana. The name of Bengal means “Bhang Land” (Bangala); Bangladesh means “Bhang Land People”.

The bhang plant is said to have been produced as a shape of Amrita nectar when the gods churned the ocean with Mount Mandara. A drop of nectar spilled onto Earth and bhang sprouted on the spot. It is the favorite food of the deity Indra, and its nectar has been called Indracana. According to myth, Indracana had different colors in each age or cosmic cycle. At first bhang was white, then red, then yellow. In this Kali Yuga, it is green.

The 17th century Hindu text Rajvallabha describes it thus:

“Indracana is acid, produces infatuation and destroys leprosy. It created vital energy, increases mental powers and internal heat, corrects irregularities of the phlegmatic humor and is an elixir of life… Inasmuch as it is believed to give victory in the three worlds and to bring delight to Shiva, it was called victorious. This desire-fulfilling drug was believed to have been obtained by men on earth for the welfare of all people… To those who use it regularly, it begets joy and diminishes anxiety.
[They] attain insight, lose all fear, and have their sexual desires excited.”

The oldest known reference to bhang in India is found in the Atharva-Veda (Science of Charms) circa 1400 BC:

“We speak to the five kingdoms of the plants with Soma as the most excellent among them. The dharba-grass, hemp, and mighty barley; they shall deliver us from calamity!” (Book XI)

“May the bhang and may the gangida protect us against diseases and all the Demons! The one is brought hither from the forest, the other [bhang] from the sap of the furrow.” (Book II.4.5) (20-22)

Throughout Asia, vagabond mendicants dressed only in loincloth eat drink, and smoke bhang to warm themselves against cold weather. Hindu sanyasia mahanta and mantra-data gurus, yogis and fakirs are well respected despite their regular use of ganja for the express purpose of enhancing their meditations. A Buddhist legend claims that Gautama Buddha ate only one hemp seed each day for six years during his ascetic period. (13, 23)

The yogic system of Tantra Sastra has the primary objective of regulating the functions of the mind, and certain drugs, including cannabis, are prescribed for the purpose. Tantric texts divide the plant into four types and say a different mantra for each one. The Brahmana type is white, the Ksatriya is red, the Vaisra is green, and the Sudra is black.
Source:  Korea & Japan ~

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