weed plant symbol

Heraldic Cannabis – The symbolic history of cannabis

In Europe, where the use of heraldry has been developed by the many powers in place, cannabis has been used in various countries.

Heraldry is nowadays a not so popular science that finds its roots as long as 3100 BC in Egypt, where an emblem known as serekh was used to indicate the extent of influence of a particular regime but also used to identify military allegiances and in a variety of other ways. In the Book of Numbers, the fourth book of the Hebrew bible, a mention confirms the antiquity of standard and symbols:

And the children of Israel shall pitch their tents, every man by his own camp, and every man by his own standard, throughout their hosts. (Numbers i. 2, 18, 52). Every man of the children of Israel shall pitch by his own standard, with the ensign of their fathers house (Numbers ii. 2). And the children of Israel did according to all that the Lord commanded to Moses: so they pitched by their standards, and so they set forward, every one after their families, according to the house of their fathers. (Numbers ii. 34)

The representation of the family with a symbol known as “Mon” is also common in Japan and is believed to have originated as fabric patterns to be used on clothes in order to distinguish individuals or signify membership in a specific clan or organization.

Since the middle age in the western hemisphere, the practice has also been heavily codified and standardised leading to the creation of local and national flags and corporate logos. The European heraldry even has its own language and syntax making it a real translation work to interpret the meaning of a symbol.

What has cannabis to do with this?

Oddly enough, the Mon of the Maru-ni-Asanoha family represents a stylised hemp leaf pattern. According to some, the plant is used to symbolise the power of growth, being among the most vigorous annual plant used by mankind. It is without surprise that this tradition survived by using this pattern on babies kimono. Hemp Mon comes in a variety of forms as shown in these two examples:

In Europe, where the use of heraldry has been developed by the many powers in place, cannabis has been used in various countries. Every reader is invited to submit their own findings on the wiki-commons page dedicated to hemp in heraldry. Examples of French, Spanish, Portuguese and even German blazons on this page show the important role held by cannabis through the ages.

France has probably the largest number of blazons representing cannabis plants and leaves and a great example is the blazon of Chenevières in the Meurthe-et-Moselle region, south-east of Luxembourg. The hindsight given by heraldic symbol science shows the importance of the plant, not only to this community, but to the ones in charge of codifying these symbols.

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An example among many

According to the Earl Alphonse O’Kelly of Galway who based himself on a document dating back to the late 16 th century, the representation of the hemp plant in a blazon is a symbol of distrust. The use of the standard green colour, however doesn’t explain to whom the distrust is granted, since green represents hope, joy, and loyalty in love. The gold background means generosity and elevation of the mind while the red circle with a square at its centre are millstones, red being used to describe warriors or martyrs as well as military strength and magnanimity.

Well that’s a lot of information for such a simple design but the translation is even more difficult to grasp. A possible explanation can be found in the village’s history, not so long ago, when in 1906 was opened the “Usines de Chenevières” a paper mill company producing fine paper. What one can assume in this case, is that hemp was grown locally, transformed through hard labour and it brought prosperity to the community.

Other examples show the peculiar role of cannabis in history, and many hours of study would be required to compile the blazons that include the symbol of hemp, let alone interpreting them. What is certain is that the presence of cannabis symbolism in the heraldic science is a sign of the importance of one of the earliest crops to be used by our ancestors.


6 thoughts on “Heraldic Cannabis – The symbolic history of cannabis”

“The gold background means generosity and elevation of the mind while the red circle with a square at its centre are millstones, red being used to describe warriors or martyrs as well as military strength and magnanimity.”

–or it could just be the cross-section profile of the hempstalk… 🙂

I recall that smoking pot was a luxurious time of day or evening for friends, and it was a lot of bonding, and some smoked alone and some did not, but it is a cult that follows it. If life was sweet, who would like lemons? It is not the opposite of what people want, but they do it for a substitute; for the best tea it that which is not available to mortal humans.

Robert Sherman Nix III

It is because hemp cannabis was important for ropes and rigging of ships. They did not smoke it in society level, it seems. Or they would have never really have awakened to their day.

Thank you for your comment. Hemp was smoked in Europe in previous years, usually as a substitute for tobacco, which was too expensive for common people to afford. You can find more information about this subject here.

With best wishes,

Why did they get tobacco from Virginia if they had hemp? Do you mean they were smoking rope hemp before going to Virginia? It looks like they would only be smoking rope hemp after getting hooked on pot. But if they can afford to that and take care of their-selves all their life some people might suggest other drugs but I just think people should have goals and true steady happiness is making achievements on goals and satisfaction. Nothing but another day to get through, maybe some people need pot some part of their life but not all the people that get involved with it just because they have friends doing it is not mean their friends will be there when they get more problems and need more support but friends are gone ten years later. Pot is something many go through growing up but some never grow out of it, and i they are happy or sad who can change them, but if drugged up its another obstacle to some people and to some people its a crutch like alcohol they have to afford and to some it is gurney to ride on through life, and to some it is a non-binding temporary experience they can leave at will and have it when it is time and place for it and if using it do not let it use you.

Robert Sherman Nix III

The history of European smoking basically begins with the arrival of tobacco in the 16th century, and the smoking of hemp goes together with this, as I stated previously. Europeans were not smoking hemp prior to the arrival of tobacco. That Europeans would “only be smoking rope hemp after getting hooked on pot” is impossible, since strongly psychoactive varieties were not available to them at that time. I hope this clears things up for you.

In Europe, where the use of heraldry has been developed by the many powers in place, cannabis has been used in various countries.

Weed Symbol: Representation Today vs. History

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The weed symbol today is everywhere around us. Have you ever wondered where does the weed symbol comes from and what it represents since the beginning of time? Well, now we pretty much know what is the plant used for and what its supporters want to achieve by wearing it. However, there are still people affected by the current cannabis prohibition and the way they perceive the iconic weed symbol. There are many Clothing and accessories, sports or casual that have the weed symbol attached to them but if you are the person wearing these you might experience the diversity of beliefs about the leaf firsthand.

What I mean by this is that when it comes to the weed symbol the people and the perceptions they have about it usually tend to fall into three basic categories: the positive, the negative, and the indifferent ones. Namely, those with the positive perception around weed and the weed symbol associate it with advocacy, social change, and medicinal choice. Additionally, for some, the leaf means personal liberties, the belief in a better day and the hope of a brighter world. They see this as an indication of a shared enthusiasm for natural remedies. Or simply it means that you support the plant movement and you like smoking pot. So, when they see anyone wearing these garments they will either be supportive or simply go about their day.

Weed symbol in a cave via vice.

Next, we have the people with a negative association based on the weed symbol and the cannabis plant in general. These misguided negative perceptions people have are usually appropriated by beliefs that this is a harmful drug so you shouldn’t carry the weed symbol around or anything of that sort. These people think the weed symbol represents crime, addiction and the corruption of youth. Negative perceptions can include everything from government interference and regulation to the end of American culture as we know it. When you pass one of these naysayers on the street, they may view your clothing choice as blatant defiance of the status quo. It’s never good nor useful to argue with these people about the importance of the plant and that it isn’t harmful at all. It’s important to have a good approach and respective tone and try to explain why you have the weed symbol on you and how it affects you.

Then, a lot of people that see the weed symbol may recognize it and think: ‘Oh, a weed symbol t-shirt, cool” and go about their day. Whether they have more important things to worry about or fail to recognize your blazing green fashion statement, some folks simply don’t care. They may not even recognize the many medicinal properties of cannabis. They don’t follow politics or stay abreast of current events. This does not mean that they would not support the medicinal use of marijuana or recreational use and its legalization. They simply hadn’t been properly educated on the topic in order to take a stance for or against it. The third type of people simply doesn’t hold strong feelings one way or the other.

Wearing the Weed Symbol

Many fashion designers and trend watches recognize the weed symbol motif as adding value to a product. Something that makes their products more desirable and brings better profit. And many think that buying and wearing clothes and accessories that feature a weed symbol design is the quintessential expression of consumer confidence in a product. In the face of misinformation and blatant condemnation, a section of the population chooses to wear a diversely perceived symbol. The weed symbol is globally recognized, eye-catching and simple, natural and celebrated. Consumers recognize the symbol’s value as a social commentary.

T-shirt with weed symbol via Pinterest.

However, whether we choose to present the symbol of weed or not we should wonder, are we doing this for ourselves or others? Is it a normalizing of the cannabis culture or just fashion capitalizing on a trend? Whatever the motifs behind the weed symbol are, we can all agree choosing to wear the leaf has its consequences. Let’s keep hoping one of them is broad acceptance.

The weed symbol throughout history

We can talk and discuss the weed symbol to infinity and beyond but one thing is for sure. It didn’t just come out of nowhere. It’s not like consumers and nature lovers just discovered the seemingly controversial watermark of weed. In fact, we see this symbol in our clothes industry ever since the 1960s, and that’s only when it made its way into the consumer clothing world. And there are no indications of it going away any time soon.

Especially because the history of the plant is marked since the dawn of time. We can see the weed symbol in many tombs engraved in stone and have many ancient texts that testify for the plant’s effectiveness and medicinal use.

Whether known as hemp or cannabis back in the days, we cannot argue that the Cannabis sativa has been farmed by humans for 12,000 years. In fact, archeological evidence suggests the recreational, medicinal, and psychoactive properties of marijuana have been understood for around half that time. Furthermore, there are Chinese radical characters found written in stone and texts that date back thousands of years, and represents two plants hanging to dry under the roof of a shelter.

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Ancient weed symbol via wiki.

So, according to certain sources, for instance, Michael Backes’ book Cannabis Pharmacy, the cave painting found on the coast of Kyushu, Japan from the Neolithic era (10,000-5,000 BC) represent an illustration of cannabis, which would likely make it the earliest representation of a pot leaf known. However, whether or not this primitive artwork actually depicts the plant is purely speculative, though it’s worth noting that hemp was cultivated in Japan during this period.

Also, it is worth mentioning that there have been some fringe debates about the Egyptian goddess Seshat. Namely, experts say that she may have been a big supporter of the pot. They base their opinions on the fact that she is frequently depicted with a seven-pointed leaf above her head – as you can see in the photo shown below.

Weed symbol has been around for thousands of years indicating our society’s bond to the marijuana plant. People today use it in many different ways. ]]>