Illustration by James Stanton

Illustration by James Stanton

The Dark Star of Doobage

could cannabis have actually come from outer space? And if it did, was it aliens that brought it to Earth?

Did our ancestors take bong rips with E.T.?

The shelves at your local dispensary are lined with stoney green products with celestial names like Alien OG, Moonrocks, Project Blue Book, and Cosmic Goo, all promising out-of-this-world highs. And indeed, one well-placed dab can certainly make you feel like you are rocketing into space or communing with otherworldly beings. But… could cannabis have actually come from outer space? And if it did, was it aliens that brought it to Earth?

In the beautiful and arid nation of Mali, the Dogon Tribe have been growing cannabis and worshipping the stars as far back as anyone can trace. Cannabis is a word that crops up in many languages, but it has some etymological roots in Africa. “Canna” can mean dog, and “bis” means two, so one way to translate cannabis is “two-dog plant,” which is what the Dogon call cannabis.

In approximately 400 BC, the Greek traveler and professional hippie Herodotus got to hang out for a while with the Dogon stoners during a seven-year moving festival they observed once every 50 to 60 years. (Remember, Herodotus was also the dude who wrote about hot-boxing with Scythians—I’m pretty sure this guy just cruised the ancient world getting blasted with people.) The Dogon Tribe were worshipping a star called “sigu tolo” during this festival. We currently call this star Sirius or the Dog Star. The brightest star in the sky, it rises in the east just before dawn at this time of year. The Dogon call it the “Two Dog Star,” and insist that a goddess from Sirius brought the “two-dog plant,” aka cannabis, to Earth.

All of this could easily be chalked up to these archaic cats simply getting supremely baked in the African deserts and hallucinating some crazy shit while staring at the night sky. (I mean, who hasn’t?)

However. While the region currently is hindered by wars over resources like gold and salt, during its golden age, Mali was known for its advances in art, science, and astronomy. The Dogon Tribe always insisted that Sirius was a binary star—and it is— but Western astronomers couldn’t confirm that by sight until 1862. Further, the Dogon knew the timing of the smaller star’s orbit—approximately 60 years—hence the timing of the festival. They even knew it was the heavier of the two stars. The Dogon insist visitors from the stars gave them all this information when they also received weed.

But the Dogon are not the only group to point up when looking for the origin of marijuana. The Cherokee word for cannabis and their name for a race of Star People they commune with is the same: Galunlati. And in the Hindu belief system, cannabis was thought to have fallen from the heavens as drops of amrita, juices from gods and goddesses as they made love in the sky.

The Dogon still observe this incredible ritual, called the Sigui Festival. For seven years, in alignment with the 50-plus-year orbit of Sirius B around Sirius A, they travel among seven villages, partying in each for a year, consuming incredible quantities of cannabis and celebrating the stellar mysteries overhead as they have done for thousands of years. Traveling stoner witches will be pleased to know the next Sigui Festival is just around the corner, scheduled to take place in 2027.

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