Throughout history, there have been numerous mythical figures and deities who have been associated with the cannabis plant. It’s not surprising when you consider how long the plant has been around, not to mention the human tendency to immortalise objects. Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, Ancient China, and many more indigenous cultures around the world contain depictions of deities sporting pro-cannabis messages.
Considering Ancient Asia is often said to be the origins of the modern hemp plant, we find the fact that many Asian cultures and traditions still tell her tale is quite intriguing. That’s why this week, we want to take a deeper look at who Magu was, where Magu was known, and the different ways that she is portrayed depending on what culture we look at.
Let’s jump in!
Who was Magu?
Magu was the goddess of longevity and vitality in Ancient Asian cultures. She was known as the protector of women, and of course, the goddess of hemp. She is portrayed as a youthful, caring young woman no older than the age of 18-19, holding either a bucket of peaches, a branch of hemp leaves, or a lotus flower. The letters ‘Ma-Gu’ literally translate to ‘Hemp Maiden’ in Chinese, and at the same time, Taoism recognises her as the ‘Caretaker of Hemp’.
What was magu known for?
Magu was known for many things - although for the most part, we want to emphasise her use of hemp to heal people far and wide. Stories have been passed on of her journey of healing, which began by giving her peach to a sick old lady on the side of the road, who later vanished and left nothing but a peach stone in her place. Magu planted and cared for this peach tree, and continued to give the peaches out to those in her village who were in need. Before long, tales were being told about Magu’s healing peaches.
This was just the beginning. Whilst Chinese historians detail her peaches as the main source of her healing, she was also associated with the use of various parts of the cannabis plant for healing - on a spiritual level. Hence, Taoist traditions often refer to the consumption of hemp seeds for spiritual purposes. It’s said that consuming hemp seeds can proliferate the ‘Second Sight’ and protect against possession, whilst the burning of the seeds regularly occurred in certain ceremonies - often, these are ceremonies where Magu is invoked to do her thing!
What culture taught about Magu?
Magu was known throughout much of Ancient Asia, and her stories are still protected by scholars and historians today. Most notably, there are three countries that still put much emphasis on Magu in culture - Japan, Korea, and China. Each culture portrays Magu in their own way.
Chinese culture is one of the most dedicated to protecting the tale of Magu, but recognise her as somewhat of a demi-goddess - a goddess who had a mortal upbringing. In this case, there are no linked ‘ceremonies’ in traditional Chinese culture that call on Magu. Rather, her stories of love, care, healing, and selflessness are seen as traits to aspire to. Hence, the stories are still told. On the other hand, Korea recognises Magu as a cosmic deity when it comes to the creation of the universe.
When did Magu exist?
Chinese folklore states that Magu existed around the years of 5th-6th century AD. She worked as a seamstress and a horse breeder before beginning her journey healing Asia. This period in time was an era of war and poverty, so it makes sense that Magu inspired so much hope and life in people that tales were written about her.
Was Magu real or a myth?
Whether Magu was real or not depends on what stories you believe. Some people might not be as on board with the Korean creationism theory that partially attributes her to the creation of the universe. However, if we’re looking at the stories of Magu that are preserved by traditional Chinese historians, it’s safe to say that Magu certainly did exist, and lived a life which touched so many people that society wrote stories about her.
What a legacy!
Did you enjoy learning about Magu and the role she played in healing Ancient Asia? Share this article with some friends on social media, or drop a comment letting us know what you think! We love hearing from you.