Mead is humankind’s oldest fermented beverage (from before 8,000BC, possibly as far back as 30,000BC which means Neanderthal man could have enjoyed a cup of mead before disappearing about 23,000BC). Mead is found on every continent except Antarctica. It originated independently in diverse cultures including Egyptian, Celtic, Indian, African and Scandinavian. The word “medicine” is derived from “metheglin” (pronounced muh-theg’-lin), the name for herb-infused mead.
Mead was the only wine of northern Europe until grape wines became available about 6,000 years ago. Cheap imports of sugar after the discovery of the Americas in 1492, resulted in mead becoming increasingly expensive, until, finally, it was available only to the very wealthy and was virtually forgotten by the common folk.
What most impressed us, however, were persistent references to mead in the ancient mythologies, which lead to the dawning realization that mead is a long-forgotten central element of humankind’s earliest spiritual awareness, commemorated in rituals of celebration and remembrance that in modern times are presented as little-understood rote performances
- the traditional mulled wine offered at Christmas was originally a gigantic cauldron of mead kept continually full in the mead-hall.
- celebrating the launch of a ship by breaking a bottle of champagne on its bow was originally an offering of mead to the gods asking them to bless the ship.
- honeymoon referred to the ancient practice of giving the newlyweds enough mead to drink for a month to ensure a fruitful beginning to their union.
“A traditional drinking vessel for mead is called a mazer. They were typically wooden bowls with inlayed silver.”
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