A short history

     As it is very possible that mead was the first alcoholic beverage to be made by man it should come as no surprise that myths and stories of many types can be found that are associated with it. Different cultures have attributed the powers of life, wisdom, strength, and courage to honey and mead. And let us not forget about its aphrodisiac qualities! Throw in a miracle involving mead and you have a rather potent and important brew.

The earliest popular myths surrounding mead come to us from the Greeks. Bacchus was considered the God of Mead before he was the God of Wine. Some women would sacrifice mead to Aphrodite in the hopes that it would bring them the best lovers. A  special mead was also brewed for a ritual orgy called a Dionysia, named for the God Dionysus. I think my fellow guild members and I will have to research the recipe for that one.

When stories about mead are sought perhaps no group comes to mind before the Viking people and their gods. The Norsemen were said to have toasted one another with mead drank from the skulls of their enemies.   Stories abound about one god  getting tricked into the bed of another after being plied with mead. Odin, greatest of their gods, succumbed to and utilized this form if deceit. The gods did not know how to make mead so Odin stole it from the dwarves. He flew into their caves in the form of a giant eagle and drank up all of their mead. After returning he spat it all out into barrels with such force that some few drops spilled out. It was believed that those mortals fortunate enough to taste one of those drops would be gifted with the poets tongue.

Other groups and cultures have their own stories to tell. The Hindus believed honey to be a magical dew that drips from the heavens and was collected by bees. As mead is made from honey it was believed to make people very fertile. The Scots have a saying…mead drinkers have as much strength as meat eaters. Robin Hood stole “met and met” from the King. The words are believed to mean meat and mead. Even the Catholic church has its own mead story. When St. Brigitte was visited by the King of Leinster they ran out of drink. She matched the miracle of Christ by turning a vat of water into mead.

In our own time we have a couple of traditions and stories which derive from mead drinking. The word honeymoon comes from the practice of a couple drinking honey wines for a month following their wedding. One such custom called for the groom to be given mead until he was unable to stand. He was then brought to his bed where his new bride was waiting. It was believed that they would then concieve a son that very night. If a son was born nine months later the meads maker was praised for the quality of his brew. Another story tells of how Satyir the gypsy (a fellow brewer) can get whatever he desires for the price of two bottles of mead. I’ve seen him get quite a haul myself.

We’ve been drinking it for wisdom, strength, courage and love. It has been used to induce love and poetry. Mead has been drunk for so many reasons and by so many people. Each has their own story. So, let us all lift a glass and make a toast…to our own stories as yet unwritten and made through mead!

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