Friday, June 22, 2012

Seshat's Secret

Solving the mystery of what the ancient Egyptian goddess of wisdom was all about brings to light the true nature of the world’s favorite forbidden flower

I am not an Egyptologist, but I played one as a boy in the late 60s.  Attracted by the art, the mythology and the unsolved mysteries, I spent enough time in the Egyptian collection at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to recognize when objects were moved around or rotated off the floor.  One unsolved mystery is the meaning of the emblem symbolizing Seshat, the sexy and mysterious goddess of wisdom, writing and measurement.
I never paid the question much mind as a kid, but recently I stumbled on an image of a Seshat carving sporting what looked like a 5-point cannabis sun leaf; Northern Lights to be exact.  My work with legal cannabis patients and care growers in New England gives me access to such leaves, so I scanned a few and chose point counts to correspond with Seshat emblem silhouettes I made from online photos (see below). 
The notion that Seshat is the patron goddess of cannabis is not so far-fetched.  Her symbol is among the oldest hieroglyphs, and although cannabis is not native to North Africa, it would have grown well there—and been available through trade routes.  Indications for use of cannabis and instructions for preparation are in some of the oldest medical texts in existence.[i]

Temple walls depict festive royal spirituals featuring beer, wine, psychoactive concoctions[ii], ceremonial sacrifices, and exotic dancers including the Seshat priestess herself—turning heads in a dazzling leopard-skin number favored by funerary priests.  Lotus buds soaked in wine produced a spiritual effect of such importance that much of their art and architecture was devoted to the flower.

No temples to Seshat have ever been found, and the psychoactive use of cannabis in ancient Egypt is thought to be less well documented—or maybe the truth is all over the walls and we just can’t see it through the haze of drug war propaganda. 

Prohibition did not start with the banning of cannabis in the 1930s.  It began many centuries earlier with religious edicts that forbid—on pain of death—the use of psychoactive plants as spiritual sacraments.  The industrial revolution went even further by creating a propaganda campaign that turned the world against natural medicines, and by outlawing plants that could deliver euphoric and/or spiritual sensations. 

That’s where Seshat comes in.  We know the ancient Egyptians were intelligent, spiritual, and as a culture, very successful (For the United States to be half as long-lived, our Constitution would have had to date back to the mid-700s AD).  If cannabis was revered in those ancient times the way it is today (mostly in the shadows by people you’d never think…) that’s one more body slam against the crumbling walls of prohibition.

Establishing the Proof

Here are six Seshat emblems from their golden age; The New Kingdom (c.1550-c.1069)[1]

Artistic interpretations and dynastic variations are an excellent measure for eliminating popular guesses.  For example, if the top piece looks like a bow at Luxor and like horns at Karnak, it probably isn't representating either one; the explanation must work across all variations. (Condition 1) 

Since the two parts of the emblem never appear separately, the explanation must describe how the images work together to symbolize one concept. (Condition 2)

Seshat was the deification of wisdom; the goddess of writing, astronomy, architecture, and mathematics.  She was an exotic dancer with spirit-realm connections.  In the Coffin Texts, a collection of funerary spells written beginning in the First Intermediate Period (c.2181-c.2055), spell 10 states:  Seshat opens the door of heaven for you. [iii] The explanation for the symbol must reflect the whole of Seshat’s complex character. (Condition 3)

The human embodiment of the goddess was a royal priestess—a smart, creative and powerful top advisor to the king; the keeper of records and chief architect responsible for laying down measurements for royal projects.  The explanation must plausibly reflect the life and duties of an actual Seshat priestess. (Condition 4)  

First Inquiry:  What is that star-shaped thing?

It’s not a star because the base of the emblem is often not star-shaped at all.  Same for palm leaves.  As for papyrus, that is the least likely candidate since the hieroglyph for that sacred plant is everywhere and it looks nothing like the Seshat symbol. 

Cannabis hemp leaves have been called a match, but that food and fiber cultivar cannot begin to capture the full color spectrum of this goddess and her earth-bound representative.

Cannabis leaves vary greatly between strains, but point counts of 5, 7 and 9 are common.  Here are three representatives collected at legal grows in New England.[3]

Although the emblem renderings above differ widely in shape and artistic style, cannabis is a perfect match for every image in the set.  This satisfies the first condition of the proof.

Second inquiry:  How does the cannabis leaf work with the image above?

Unlike the leaf, the upper shape is portrayed in a variety of ways.  In the hieroglyph and in the emblem from the Red Chapel of Queen Hatshepsut (B) the top piece appears to be flowing down and around the leaf.  When the top is closed, either with a point (A & F) or a cap (C), the image still seems to be coming down from above, like a falling veil. 

Given that the message must be evident in all cases, this wide range of interpretations suggests that the image on top is symbolic rather than physical.  It also suggests that the answer lies in what the designs have in common.

In every carving the upper shape flows down from above and around an image that always looks like a cannabis leaf.  That leaf always rises straight from the crown of Seshat’s head, and always stands at attention under the veil.

The leaf is cannabis, and the veil is the wisdom it bestows.  Taken together the two images represent the source of Seshat’s creative ideas, cosmic intuition and spiritual connection.  This satisfies the second condition.

Third inquiry: Does this explanation reflect the whole of the Seshat mythology?

This might be a hard pill to swallow for nations of people raised to just say no, but nothing about this smart, colorful and spirited multi-tasker is inconsistent with cannabis use. 

This ancient truth is reflected in the lives of creative thinkers and people of action like Steve Jobs, John Lennon, and in the words of the late astronomer, mathematician, philosopher and novelist Carl Sagan.  Writing anonymously as Mr. X in the groundbreaking 1969 book Marijuana Reconsidered, Sagan described cannabis as a spiritual conduit for ideas and creative expression:

"I do not consider myself a religious person in the usual sense, but there is a religious aspect to some highs. The heightened sensitivity in all areas gives me a feeling of communion with my surroundings, both animate and inanimate…Many but not all my cannabis trips have somewhere in them a symbolism significant to me…a kind of mandala embossed on the high. Free-associating to this mandala, both visually and as plays on words, has produced a very rich array of insights.”[iv]

People who use cannabis to spark insights and creativity (artists, professionals, clergy, teachers…mostly all in hiding) would agree that the whole of Seshat—the writer, the spiritualist, the dirty dancer, as well as the no-nonsense nail-the-numbers professional getting baked on the job—are all well within the lifestyles and possibilities of people who use cannabis.  This satisfies the third condition.

Final inquiry: Does this explanation relate to real life in ancient Egypt?

Yes.  Cannabis was known as medicine and would have been available to people with resources and trade connections.  The famously fertile delta would have supported local cultivation, and the variety of point configurations in the drawings supports the notion of favored strains.  The notion of a private palace home grow is also consistent with the mythology; Seshat was known as a secretive goddess who preferred the company of royals.[v]  This satisfies the final condition.

Why this matters

This is more than an academic exercise.  Cannabis prohibition is a war of words and images, and until quite recently our government was in total control.  History will record the irony; the very communication system that was being used to broadcast lies about this so-called recreational drug was suddenly the means by which the people could learn and share the truth about what cannabis really is.

As we head into this new century, few things represent the future better than cannabis, an ancient plant that can deliver food, fiber, fuel, medicine, inspiration, and an occasional laugh.  Seshat reminds us that sometimes the best way forward is to look back and learn from the wise ones who came before.

Carl Hedberg is a writer, speaker and medicinal use explorer working with filmmakers to bring the truth about cannabis to the big screen. (see )

From the lecture; Cannabis Rising: Truth and healing on the front lines of the battle to restore our right to choose.  Twitter @cannabisrising 

[1] A. Temple complex at Karnak/18th dynasty,  B. Red Chapel of Queen Hatshepsut (1473-1458)/18th dynasty,  C. Luxor Temple; Ramesses II (1279-1213)/18th dynasty,  D. Medinet Habu mortuary of Ramesses III (1184-1153)/18th dynasty,  E. Temple complex at Karnak/18th dynasty,  F. Temple of Osiris, Abydos; King Seti I (1294-1279)/19th dynasty

[2] Comparison images (l-r):  Seshat emblem and papyrus hieroglyphs, 2 palm leaves, papyrus stem
[3] Cannabis sun leaves (l-r): Northern Lights (5 points), OG Kush (7), Jack Herer (9).  Not in relative scale to each other.

[v]'s_emblem (Note that the word "sesheta" means hidden things, mysteries, secrets, and through Seshat the Pharaoh was given access to the power of those mysteries).


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. You’ve got some interesting points in this article. I would have never considered any of these if I didn’t come across this. Thanks!.cannabis

    2. Friend, this web site might be fabolous, i just like it. weed

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. The mythical "Tree of Life" and more mysteriously the "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil": both are the same plant. The Tree of Life is a metaphorical ploy describing life and all that has lived in the tree and all that is yet to live. There is a book "Multiple Personality," 1905 by Dr.'s Sidis and Goodhart where they use CANNABIS for AMNESIA TREATMENT (along w/ hypnosis): -- 5th paragraph below the pneumographs.

    What if (because Seshat's symbolism of the ruled palm reed atop the Shenu) the key to knowing the good and evil of your past lives is THC and dysregulation of the normal anandamide memory encoding matrix. The reason it may cause so much "psychosis" is because of the nature of reincarnation in the biomorphic field we call our body (extracellular matrix).

    This is only conjecture and much more research must be done before any conclusions can be drawn, but it makes perfect sense that this panacea has been kept from modern society because of many reasons (spiritual as well as material).

    1. The tree of life and tree of knowledge are two different trees. Guards were installed at the tree of life AFTER Adam and Eve ate the fruit of tree of knowledge because God did not want Adam to eat of that tree and live forever. The tree of life can also be called the tree of souls.

      I am interested in the "veil". It looks to me like the "S" in the Ge'ez script.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Anointed with the sacred oil, the initiate is assisted through an energetic awakening as Seshat symbolism reveals her mystery. Her cannabis/human anthropomorphism, her female - entheogenic nature serves as a living talismanic experience for the anointed initiate, undergoing the "pinpointing" localization experience of heightened energetic awareness. A baptismal firing up of the spinal column paralleling ever greater self knowing.... into gnosis.

      Are hieroglyphs a poly-symbolic road mapping gateway technology to the inner Kingdom? Are we finally waking up to humanity's golden age legacy of time-tested rites of passage, direct experiences within one's own divine energetic temple - the human body? Are they dormant symbols waiting to be awakened within us all?

      "Seshat opens the door of heaven for you" - spell 10 of the coffin texts.

    3. I do understand that most likely because of your association with cannabis your mind would generally think to generate such theory and conclusion. However and unfortunately the points above Seshat's head are points of dimension leading to the open gates to the Holy holy! Egyptologists were at first unsure of the reason for the decoration a top the head of Goddess Seshat. In history her points were described as horns, leaves,or even snakes! These descriptions ate all incorrect. Goddess Seshat was given horns only after she was joined with God Thoth!

    4. "Seshat opens the door of heaven for you" - spell 10 of the coffin texts. This quote further explains my reason for explanation. The decorations describe her current available access and her communication to the source! Gates to the Holy holy!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Lovely! Thanks for your input and deeper perspectives.

    2. All high wisdom and schools of thought owe their respects
      to the original author, the original scribe - The Sacred Plant,
      the Sacred Tree, The "Tree of Knowledge".

      "And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of
      the nations." (Revelation 22:1-2)

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. Thank you Carl for creating a space for all to share. Cannabis rising rocks!!!

    6. One way of bridging the abysmal divide between once having been a super advanced yet extremely superstitious civilization,
      is by bringing ourselves back home to our grass roots, bark, leaves and bud, returning to foundational plant-based spirituality. Through the permitted use of the Tree of knowledge, plant entheogens serve to heighten energy awareness, bypass the ego therefore allowing direct experience with the energetic language of sacred symbolism.

  6. Excellent work. This work is of interest:

  7. This symbol over Seshat's head is "the The Big Dipper" or Plough, is an asterism consisting of the seven brightest stars of the constellation Ursa Major (called by the antique Egyptians "Meskhetyu"). Not Cannabis at all, you smokers... xDDD Instead that, you should read!!

  8. I got great information from this blog.It is very informative..
    Creative Cannabis

  9. I do just want to mention, Day Capo. That Not all the images of the Image above Seshat's head, are 7 pointed stars. Some are 5. In fact, especially because different images depict both 5, and 7 star images, seems to show more evidence of it having cannabis-like origins!

  10. You are missing the key or I should say the other key. The upper shape is a mushroom, in all probability amanita muscaria. Taken alone amanita mushrooms caused nausea but when combined with cannabis it becomes nausea free and more "effective". This combination is the secret in plain site. See here:

  11. I studied Egyptology. There is no proof of cannabis being used in Ancient Egypt, either for medical or recreational purposes. There is not a single script that would mention this. There is no description of emblem above Seshat's head in the ancient scripts, because it was obvious that it's an image of "hibiscus cannabinus" - a plant that was used to make rope in Ancient Egypt.

    As a keeper of knowledge/wisdom and the goddess of scripture - Seshat holds the pen and counts the rope segments, keeping the history and timeline in order. Thoth was the God of Wisdom and provided the knowledge. Seshat wrote it down and was the keeper of it. Rope was used in Ancient Egypt as a measure device not only for structures, but also for time. The rope was made of hibiscus cannabinus, so it's more than obvious why this was chosen as a symbol for Seshat. And the "mushroom" above her had is actually the top part of the crown, on which "hibiscus" is "drawn". Look at the crown of upper Egypt and you will see a similar shape. So, the symbol is hibiscus, NOT hemp. It has nothing to do with Cannabis Sativa/Indica, it's not even in the same group of plants, and there is nothing in common between them, except for parts of latin name, which was given to it later due to similar shape of leaves.

    I'm sorry, but Cannabaceae was never known in Ancient Egypt. This has nothing to do with the fact that cannabis should be legalized, but bringing "facts" that are not actually facts won't help the process. Unfortunately, most people who run such researches are not Egyptologists nor Botanists, but it's easy to check all the information - search for translation of the scripts. Can start with Ebers Papyrus, which is believed to have information about cannabis used in medical purposes. Read the translation of the papyrus and see if you can find anything resembling Cannabis:
    I hope this helps!

    1. That's some really good information, thank you. I never knew Sheeshat was counting the periods on the rope. You know the rope is the DNA and the orbits of our Sun and the star system Sirius. Cannabis is from Sirius. Through Cannabis you can really speak to the Goddess of knowledge and wisdom who I believe is Sirius b. She's the one to tell you about time and language and periods. Cannabis is periodic growing during the Egyptian Cannicular period only under the influence of Sirius. It's 2 periods during the 25920 cycle (one cycle=one period of rope.) Sirius gives us our time since Egyptian times. we celebrate Sirius on new years eve and july 4th. It's that important. We have 365 days in a year cause of Sirius. Have you ever considered Cannabis was the MA'AT plant, cultivated by the Pharaoh's and food for the Gods? The Ankh is the Cannabis for sure. Get some strong high THC land race strain Sativa, like Durban Poison and make the oil and maybe you can meet her. Call me a fool if you want but old Egyptian is about Cannabis, Sirius and the bird language. The Goddess speaks to you in tones or frequencies, like a bird. You seem real smart is why I tell you all this.