Heraldic Cannabis – The symbolic history of cannabis

Heraldic symbols against the white background

In Europe, where the use of heraldry has been developed by the many powers in place, cannabis has been used in various countries.

An Egyptian hieroglyph

Heraldry is nowadays a not so popular science that finds its roots as long as 3100 BC in Egypt, where an emblem known as serekh was used to indicate the extent of influence of a particular regime but also used to identify military allegiances and in a variety of other ways. In the Book of Numbers, the fourth book of the Hebrew bible, a mention confirms the antiquity of standard and symbols:

And the children of Israel shall pitch their tents, every man by his own camp, and every man by his own standard, throughout their hosts. (Numbers i. 2, 18, 52). Every man of the children of Israel shall pitch by his own standard, with the ensign of their fathers house (Numbers ii. 2). And the children of Israel did according to all that the Lord commanded to Moses: so they pitched by their standards, and so they set forward, every one after their families, according to the house of their fathers. (Numbers ii. 34)

The representation of the family with a symbol known as “Mon” is also common in Japan and is believed to have originated as fabric patterns to be used on clothes in order to distinguish individuals or signify membership in a specific clan or organization.

Since the middle age in the western hemisphere, the practice has also been heavily codified and standardised leading to the creation of local and national flags and corporate logos. The European heraldry even has its own language and syntax making it a real translation work to interpret the meaning of a symbol.

What has cannabis to do with this?

Oddly enough, the Mon of the Maru-ni-Asanoha family represents a stylised hemp leaf pattern. According to some, the plant is used to symbolise the power of growth, being among the most vigorous annual plant used by mankind. It is without surprise that this tradition survived by using this pattern on babies kimono. Hemp Mon comes in a variety of forms as shown in these two examples:

Heraldic symbol with a yellow shield and a hemp plant

In Europe, where the use of heraldry has been developed by the many powers in place, cannabis has been used in various countries. Every reader is invited to submit their own findings on the wiki-commons page dedicated to hemp in heraldry. Examples of French, Spanish, Portuguese and even German blazons on this page show the important role held by cannabis through the ages.

France has probably the largest number of blazons representing cannabis plants and leaves and a great example is the blazon of Chenevières in the Meurthe-et-Moselle region, south-east of Luxembourg. The hindsight given by heraldic symbol science shows the importance of the plant, not only to this community, but to the ones in charge of codifying these symbols.

An example among many


According to the Earl Alphonse O’Kelly of Galway who based himself on a document dating back to the late 16th century, the representation of the hemp plant in a blazon is a symbol of distrust. The use of the standard green colour, however doesn’t explain to whom the distrust is granted, since green represents hope, joy, and loyalty in love. The gold background means generosity and elevation of the mind while the red circle with a square at its centre are millstones, red being used to describe warriors or martyrs as well as military strength and magnanimity.

Well that’s a lot of information for such a simple design but the translation is even more difficult to grasp. A possible explanation can be found in the village’s history, not so long ago, when in 1906 was opened the “Usines de Chenevières” a paper mill company producing fine paper. What one can assume in this case, is that hemp was grown locally, transformed through hard labour and it brought prosperity to the community.

Other examples show the peculiar role of cannabis in history, and many hours of study would be required to compile the blazons that include the symbol of hemp, let alone interpreting them. What is certain is that the presence of cannabis symbolism in the heraldic science is a sign of the importance of one of the earliest crops to be used by our ancestors.


6 thoughts on “Heraldic Cannabis – The symbolic history of cannabis”

  1. HIBLA hemp movement

    “The gold background means generosity and elevation of the mind while the red circle with a square at its centre are millstones, red being used to describe warriors or martyrs as well as military strength and magnanimity.”

    –or it could just be the cross-section profile of the hempstalk… 🙂

  2. Robert Sherman Nix III

    I recall that smoking pot was a luxurious time of day or evening for friends, and it was a lot of bonding, and some smoked alone and some did not, but it is a cult that follows it. If life was sweet, who would like lemons? It is not the opposite of what people want, but they do it for a substitute; for the best tea it that which is not available to mortal humans.

    Robert Sherman Nix III

  3. Robert Sherman Nix III

    It is because hemp cannabis was important for ropes and rigging of ships. They did not smoke it in society level, it seems. Or they would have never really have awakened to their day.

      1. Robert Sherman Nix III

        Why did they get tobacco from Virginia if they had hemp? Do you mean they were smoking rope hemp before going to Virginia? It looks like they would only be smoking rope hemp after getting hooked on pot. But if they can afford to that and take care of their-selves all their life some people might suggest other drugs but I just think people should have goals and true steady happiness is making achievements on goals and satisfaction. Nothing but another day to get through, maybe some people need pot some part of their life but not all the people that get involved with it just because they have friends doing it is not mean their friends will be there when they get more problems and need more support but friends are gone ten years later. Pot is something many go through growing up but some never grow out of it, and i they are happy or sad who can change them, but if drugged up its another obstacle to some people and to some people its a crutch like alcohol they have to afford and to some it is gurney to ride on through life, and to some it is a non-binding temporary experience they can leave at will and have it when it is time and place for it and if using it do not let it use you.

        Robert Sherman Nix III

      2. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

        Hi Robert,

        The history of European smoking basically begins with the arrival of tobacco in the 16th century, and the smoking of hemp goes together with this, as I stated previously. Europeans were not smoking hemp prior to the arrival of tobacco. That Europeans would “only be smoking rope hemp after getting hooked on pot” is impossible, since strongly psychoactive varieties were not available to them at that time. I hope this clears things up for you.

        With best wishes,


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    The Sensi Seeds Editorial team has been built throughout our more than 30 years of existence. Our writers and editors include botanists, medical and legal experts as well as renown activists the world over including Lester Grinspoon, Micha Knodt, Robert Connell Clarke, Maurice Veldman, Sebastian Maríncolo, James Burton and Seshata.
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