Saturday, June 9, 2018

Juno/Hera and the Asterion Plant

Juno by Rembrandt (1665)
The month of June is named for the Roman Goddess Juno, known as Hera in Greek mythology.

Hera's devotees wove garlands made from the asterion plant to adorn her statues, according to the historian Pausanias. Asterion ("little star") was one of the ancient names for cannabis, according to the first century C.E. Greek physician Dioscorides, writes scholar Maugerite Rigoglioso in The Cult of Divine Birth in Ancient Greece. 

While others (Kerenyi) have identified the asterion as "a sort of aster," Rigoglioso counters that the aster's dominant feature, the flower, is not mentioned by Pausanias in describing the asterion plant. Also, the asterion was "twined to create garlands in accord with the widespread use of cannabis for rope-making in the Greek and Roman worlds." (Butrica 2002, "The Medical use of cannabis among the Greeks and Romans," Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics 2(2): 51-70).

Writings at least as early as the 5th century BCE indicate that the Greeks knew cannabis to be a substance capable of engendering a non-ordinary state of consciousness. The Greek god Dionysis is known today as an alcoholic, but some modern scholars (e.g. Jonathon Ott) think what we call Greek wines used alcohol mainly to make tinctures of psychoactive plants. Some of these infusions are thought to contain hemp, dubbed "potammaugis" by Democritus (c.a. 460 b.c.) and possibly why we call it "pot" to this day.