I’m not inclined to read news about drug use, and, to be honest, I barely have time to read about the culture of ancient Israel any more. I very occasionally hear from people who find out that my book on Asherah is free on Academia.edu (it is) that tell me how they plan to use the information. It’s gratifying, but as with anything put out there for public consumption, you never know which direction it’s going to go. Thus I found myself on Lucid News’ website. With the tagline “Psychedelics, Consciousness Technologies, and the Future of Wellness,” ideas begin to form in the mind. But a citation is a citation, and so I read the opinion piece “Drugs, the Israelites and the Emergence of Patriarchy,” by Danny Nemu.
The story follows on the announcement from some time ago that chemical analysis of an interior altar of an ancient temple at Arad (from ancient Israelite times) revealed that it had been used to burn cannabis. The biblical story—now questioned by archaeology—is that there was only one official temple and that was the one in Jerusalem. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in the sixth century BCE and then again by the Romans in the first century CE. We have no access to the altars that stood in the temple, but we do know that incense, particularly frankincense, was valued for its pleasant smell. According to the article in Lucid, a second altar in Arad showed residue of frankincense. Both altars were in a small, enclosed room—the bong of the Lord, as it were—and that together the two forms of smoke would’ve created an intense religious experience for a priest in there for any length of time. Although the article doesn’t suggest this, it could also explain why animal sacrifices were going on in the courtyard, I guess.
You might be wondering about Asherah. While the jury’s out on her actual worship and what it entailed, the academic establishment has decided that she was Yahweh’s spouse and was worshipped together with him in the ceremonies that have been forgotten to time. With all that heavy substance burning I guess it’s not surprising that some things might’ve been forgotten. I don’t really advocate the use of drugs, but the science behind archaeology shows us that religions have used them for centuries and centuries to reach other levels of consciousness. I was in chapel services at Nashotah House where the incense was so thick you could barely breathe. Did such circumstances play a role in the religion that now identifies itself as white-shirted evangelicals? It boggles the mind.