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Friday, December 02, 2005


Perusing a little book we have called Honey for something to post, I guess because honey is on my mind and currently in my tea. It's a sweet, meditative little book (by Isha Mellor). It's all lovely, but for some reason I will excerpt the section entitled Mead:

There's the clip clop of horses on the sunhoneyed
cobbles of the humming streets.
Under Milk Wood
Dylan Thomas

Mead has been brewed worldwide since very early ages, and was probably the tipple of Dionysius or Bacchus before the cultivation of the vine. The various mythological connections of bees with the immortals would have caused beverages made from honey to be important, even sacred, to be used in offerings and libations to the gods.

In Ancient Greece the mead drink was known as Hydromel , and it had the happy property of being able to disperse anger, sadness, and afflictions of the mind. Other honey beverages were known as Ompacomel, which was made with fermented grape juice and honey; Oenomel, from pure grape juice and honey, Conditum, which was honey mixed with wine and pepper, and the famous Oxymel, made from honey, vinegar, sea salt and rainwater. The main ailments these were used to alleviate were those of a rheumatic nature. The well-known honey vine of Ancient Rome was Muslum, and Russia was famous for its Lipez. [I have absolutely no idea what that last sentence means -ed.]

Chaucer's mead was called Piment or Clarre, a mixture of honey, wine and spices. Piment was popular with kings and nobles. Morat was another liquor of this type, and it contained mulberry juice. Mead in the 16th and 17th centuries in England was a beautiful pale gold colour and it sparkled like champagne.

The name for mead seems to vary little throughout the world. In Germany it is called meth, in Greece methu, in India madhu, and in Lithuania medus. In Old Irish it used to be called mid.

[Actually this means the word and the substance it represents are old indeed; the reason they are so similar is that the word goes all the way back to Indo-European, a hypothetical language that existed before it split into the most ancient forms of Sanskrit, Greek, Celtic, Germanic, etc, producing cognates like mead,meth, methu, madhu, medus, mid, etc. Wow! --ed]


A said...

Absolutely loved this post! It scratches three of my biggest itches I guess is why:
Love of mead/homebrewing
history (my training)
and a touch of linguistics thrown in (another love of mine)

Blessings to you, and

thomasw said...

i liked this post, too. though i don't have particular itches that were scratched in the post; that said, etymologies have always interested me

Susan Katherine said...

What about 'cat'? Hmmm - cat; chat; gato; gataki - any more?

A said...

Kat (Danish), Katt (Norwegian and Swedish), Katte (Dutch), Katze (German), Katti (Finish), kottur (Icelandic), and gatto (Italian). :)

papa herman said...

A friend made a beverage that we refered to as "mead" he used honey and apples (and I would imagine yeast.)

It was good.

Rachel said...

I'm not so sure about the Finnish cognate (seeing as it isn't Indo-European). But it could be an argument for some Euro-asiatic proto-language.