James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

A Few More Cups of Ganja Tea to Get Closer to God

A Few More Cups of Ganja Tea to Get Closer to God

THC in Nairobi

I have a friend by the name of D who is a practicing Rastafarian. He calls me Empress. A few Fridays ago, he invited me to a reasoning with the brethren and sistren of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, one of the groups of the Rastafari movement; the one, in fact, with which Bob Marley was affiliated. “What’s a reasoning?” I asked, as we watched a YouTube video of Haile Selassie’s 1966 visit to Jamaica. D poured me two cups of ganja tea, one with milk and one without. After a long, pensive sip, he launched into an explanation.

Members of Twelve Tribes meet every Friday to ‘reason’: exchange ideas, eat, smoke herb, and just generally chill out with fellow Rastas. They have a church here in Nairobi. I have been learning a lot about Rastafarianism from D, but he accuses me of having reverted to my Babylonian ways by wearing a weave and urges me to return to the Rastafarian path by going to the reasoning.

D believes that Haile Selassie I is God incarnate, the Messiah returned to earth. During our conversations, I have expressed my skepticism about certain aspects of the Rastafarian faith. I quote from Ryszard Kapuscinski’s controversial book The Emperor, which depicts Selassie as a tyrannical autocrat, leading to his overthrow in 1974. I recall my visit to his former palace in Addis Ababa, the Gannata Leul, where it is said that his remains were found under a palace toilet in 1992, almost two decades after his mysterious death. D rejects this. According to him, nobody knows where His Imperial Majesty was buried, which proves that he is still alive. Haile Selassie is the living God, the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings, Elect of God and the Root of David. He stands up to remove his Haile Selassie portrait from the wall so that I can have a closer look. I take a sip from each cup. I like the milky ganja tea better.

D drinks ganja tea because cannabis is sacred and aids in spiritual meditation. He says the milky one is more potent than the green one because THC—the chemical responsible for the psychological effects of cannabis—dissolves better when steeped in milk, which has fat, rather than water. I find the green one slightly bitter and enjoy the milky one more despite its lack of body and briskness. I have two cups and while I enjoy the flavor, I experience no euphoria, achieve no transcendence. But neither does D. Perhaps I need a few more cups to get closer to God.

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