Mead is an important part of being a heathen. Mead is to heathens what marijuana is to Rastafarians. A draught of mead, delivered by the beautiful divine maidens, was the reward for warriors who reached Valhalla; Odin, was said to have gained his strength by suckling Mead from a goats’ udder as an infant.
Keep not the mead cup but drink thy measure;
speak needful words or none:
‘Twas Gunnlod who gave me on a golden throne
a draught of the glorious mead,
Nine mighty songs I learned from the great
son of Bale-thorn, Bestla’s sire;
I drank a measure of the wondrous Mead,
with the Soulstirrer’s drops I was showered.
But is the mead heathens make today the same as that of our Ancestors ?
The Ancients knew nothing of yeast, had no access to chemical sanitizer, and would brew and ferment in open vats in the same room in which other cooking and household duties were being performed.
The Hispanic-Roman naturalist Columella gave a recipe for mead in De re rustica, about 60 AD. This is probably roughly how the Scandinavians made mead too.
Take rainwater kept for several years, and mix a sextarius of this water with a [Roman] pound of honey. For a weaker mead, mix a sextarius of water with nine ounces of honey. The whole is exposed to the sun for 40 days, and then left on a shelf near the fire. If you have no rain water, then boil spring water.
You can make mead using this method.
Take a ceramic pot and add distilled water and raw unpasteurized honey. Distilled water is only necessary because of all the chemicals in todays environment that our ancestors did not have to contend with. Add some of the following:
- wild fruit and berries
Cover the pot with a cloth to stop insects getting in. After a few days and it will start to ferment. Stir it each day. There is no need to add yeast as there will probably be some wild yeast on the fruit skins and there is yeast in the air too.
Wait 9 days and then drink it.
Its as simple as that. It will only be mildly alcoholic, but will be full of nutritious probiotics from the wild yeast and still taste sweet. It will be slightly fizzy and tastes amazing. If you rarely drink alcohol then even a small amount will make you tipsy.
If you make mead in the traditional way the alcohol content is variable, but generally very low. This was true of most ancient societies as can be seen by the amount they drank. The daily beer allowance of a pyramid worker was one and a third gallons. In Christian Europe nuns had a daily ration of 6 pints of ale. They would have died of cirrhosis of the liver after a few years if the alcohol content was more than half a percent. The same would have applied to the mead our Nordic ancestors drank.
There are many accounts of people getting drunk in the Eddas and sagas. The nutritional biochemist and historian William J. Darby, who has studied this subject extensively, observes:All these accounts are warped by the fact that moderate users of alcohol “were overshadowed by their more boisterous counterparts who added ‘color’ to history.” The simple fact is that our ancestors did not have the knowledge or technology to make alcohol of the strength we have today. But stories of drunks are entertaining and the ancient chroniclers never let the truth stand in the way of a good story. This is true today as well. For example, the actor Peter O’Toole cultivated an image as a hard drinking hell-raiser . But as his biographer Alexander Larman points out it was largely as act. Many other show business personalities do the same thing.
Glucose not alcohol
There will still be plenty of glucose in your mead and this is important. Every cell in your body runs on glucose especially the brain. The brain, which accounts for 2 percent of our body weight, uses roughly 20 percent of our daily calories. The frontal cortex which manages our self control, is especially vulnerable to low glucose. 130 grams of carbohydrates a day is needed for the brain to function properly. In the modern world we have access to plenty of glucose – too much – but our ancestors had the opposite problem. This is perhaps the reason that mead was so sacred to them.
Humans are frugivores. Indeed as Tony Wright has speculated humans’ symbiotic relationship with fruit played a key role in our development. In northern Europe fruit was scarce and Tacitus makes this point in Germania:
“Their country, though somewhat various in appearance, yet generally either bristles with forests or reeks with swamps; it is more rainy on the side of Gaul, bleaker on that of Noricum and Pannonia. It is productive of grain, but unfavourable to fruit-bearing trees”
Mead was essential as an alternative source of glucose.
Drinking mead of greater alcoholic content than this is unwise.
As this recent study shows even moderate consumption of alcohol can impair the brain’s function. Effects include: :shrinkage of hippocampus, damage to the structure of white matter and reduced lexical fluency.
Encouraging people to drink alcohol by normalizing it as part of a religious ritual is irresponsible.
Researchers have linked alcohol consumption to more than 60 diseases. Here are three examples:
Drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancer. The increased risk comes when the body converts alcohol into acetaldehyde, a potent carcinogen. Cancer sites linked to alcohol use include the mouth, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), esophagus, liver, breast, and colorectal region.
Drinking alcohol speeds the shrinkage of certain key regions in the brain, resulting in symptoms of dementia.