. photography & perception .

Posts tagged “safi

Rituals. Examined from the anthropological side to the historical and into the spiritual.


A ritual can be anything.. from taking a bath, to drinking a cup of tea.. preparing coffee or rolling a cigarette.

A ritual is (by definition) a specific set of actions done privately or publicly.

The purposes of rituals are varied..

satisfaction of spiritual or emotional needs of the practitioners, strengthening of social bonds, social and moral education, demonstration of respect or submission, stating one’s affiliation, obtaining social acceptance or approval for some event or, sometimes, for the pleasure of the ritual itself.

Many activities that are ostensibly performed for concrete purposes are loaded with purely symbolic actions prescribed by regulations or tradition, and thus partly ritualistic in nature.

Even common actions like hand-shaking and saying hello are rituals.

In psychology, the term ritual is used in a technical sense for a repetitive behavior systematically used by a person to neutralize or prevent anxiety; it is a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Anthropological studies support that rituals carry a greater meaning in human spirituality and concentration, acting as a form of meditation being carried out meticulously.

Such a ritual, is the chillum. Used in American-Indian tribes, as well as throughout Asia, smoking in a circle joins individuals together in a circle of trust.

A chillum is a conical or cylinder pipe used since at least the 18th century by sadhus (wandering Hindu monks) in India and more recently by Rastafarians in Jamaica.

The chillum is a slightly funnel shaped smoking device used for smoking charas and tobacco mixtures. The holy men of India, the Sadhus, have been smoking the sacred chillum for thousands of years. Chillums to the Sadhu is like wine to the Catholic priest.

The Sadhus believe in Lord Boomshankar — the god of pot and another aspect of Lord Shiva. Boomshankar is brought into the chillum when his name is shouted. The Sadhus claim that summoning Shiva into the pipe will get the smoker much more dazed. Hence, closer to God.

The Chillum specifically is said to force great concentration and centering into the person breathing in the smoke.

The Chillum is filled with a high quality oily dark substance, extracted from cannabis plants.

Cannabis has an ancient history of ritual usage as an aid to trance and has been traditionally used in a religious context throughout the Old World. Herodotus wrote about early ceremonial practices by the Scythians, which are thought to have occurred from the 5th to 2nd century BCE.

Anthropologist Sula Benet’s evidence was confirmed in 1985 by Hebrew University in Jerusalem and etymological comparison show that the Holy anointing oil used by the Hebrews contained cannabis extracts, “kaneh bosm” and that it is listed as an incense tree in the original Hebrew and Aramaic texts of the Old Testament.

Early Christians used cannabis oil for medicinal purposes and as part of the baptismal process to confirm the forgiveness of sins and “right of passage” into the Kingdom of Heaven. The Unction, Seal, laying on of hands, the Counselor, and the Holy Spirit are all often synonymous with the Holy anointing oil.Early Gnostic texts indicate that the Chrism is essential to becoming a “Christian”.Some Muslims of the Sufi order have used cannabis as a tool for spiritual exploration.

The use of Cannabis as a hallucinogenic drug by necromancers or magicians is especially notable. It should be pointed out that in ancient China, as in most early cultures, medicine has its origin in magic. Medicine men were practicing magicians.

In northeastern Asia, shamanism was widespread from Neolithic down to recent times. In ancient China shamans were known as wu . This vocation was very common down to the Han dynasty. After that it gradually diminished in importance, but the practice persisted in scattered localities and among certain people. In the far north, among the nomadic tribes of Mongolia and Siberia, shamanism was widespread and common until rather recent times.

Researchers claim that in the 5th century BCE Siddhartha ate only hemp seeds for six years, prior to becoming the Buddha.

Most interpretations of the fifth precept would include all forms of cannabis amongst the intoxicants that a Buddhist should abstain from consuming. However, the Buddhist precepts are, in a sense, guidelines whose purpose is to encourage a moral lifestyle rather than strict religious commandments, so some lay practitioners of Buddhism may consume cannabis and other mild intoxicants in moderation. In addition, cannabis and other psychoactive plants are specifically prescribed in the Mahākāla Tantra.

Modern spiritual figures like Ram Dassand Eli Jaxon-Bear openly acknowledge that the use of cannabis has allowed them to access “another plane of consciousness” and use the herb frequently.


A chillum is a conical pipe traditionally made from a cows horn. Chillums are used as ritual pipes by Sadhu in India to imbibe charas. Also, they have recently been used by Rastas in reasoning sessions and grounations. It is a very social form of smoking as a chillum is generally far too strong to be smoked alone. The whole operation of preparing the mix and smoking the herb, ganja, or charas is something of a ritual. The Hindu god, Shiva is invoked with the ceremony and the smoker considers the spirit of Shiva to enter him with the act of smoking. Rastas believe ritual smoking purges body and mind of impurities, thereby facilitating meditation.

Originally the Chillum was made from fired clay but they also exist in wood, stone and glass. It is thought to originate in India, although they were also found in South America. The Chillum is special as its origin is purely spiritual. Following the 1980s legislation against charas in India, the ready-made clay chillums fell out of fashion. These had been disposable chillums that were simply thrown back onto the ground from which they were made.  The Chillum is a pipe used by Indian sadhu, as well as Rastas of Jamaica. Chillums are still for sale in shops and can be incredibly ornate, set with snakes or Indian gods. The longer the chillum the cooler the smoke will be. Smoking small Chillums brings hot smoke directly into your throat. The larger the pipe, the colder the smoke gets, and the more smoke you’ll get in your lungs.

Hindu Ceremony: The safi cloth is wetted, the stone inserted and then the mix is deposited in the chillum until it is full. Then the mouth piece of the chillum is cupped between two hands forming a closed prism so that the smoker may inhale the smoke without touching the chillum with his lips. To do so would no doubt provoke a violent reaction from all present for such a break of etiquette. A match is struck by a second party and before the smoker inhales various praises to Shiva will be chanted such as Boom Shankar or Boom Bolenath The smoker must puff violently to ignite the chillum adequately which he will then pass always to the person on his right, preferably supporting his right arm with his left (except for Kali chillums which are passed to the left and usually include opium and ganja in the mix). The required etiquette can become quite complex and the average Westerner has little or no chance of meeting the ritual standards of a sadhu. Rastafari Ceremony: A ritual chillum used in Rasta sessions and grounations is made of a cows horn fitted with a large, wooden bowl.