Spirit Garden: Explorations in the Spiritual

Author, shaman, and psychic medium Catt Foy shares experiences and knowledge on a wide range of spiritual topics.

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A Magickal History of "Spirits"

The online dictionary defines “spirits” as being the non-physical part of a person, the soul, psyche, etc.  It is considered separate from our flesh-and-blood bodies. It is usually considered to be our true essence, or true selves. Another definition is in regard to the true essence of objects, ideals, beliefs, among others. Alcohol, then is the spirit, or essence of the ingredients used to make it.

This brief history of spirits is about the deities of alcohol who were worshipped through the ages.

Much of the standard “wisdom” of today encourages spiritual seekers to avoid alcohol at any costs and many’s a website that warns of the dangers of alcohol consumption for any reason.  But a quick glance at history tell us this was not always so.

The earliest indication of the use of alcohol dates back thousands of years—a recent discovery in Israel revealed evidence of a fermented beverage dated to 13,000 years ago. In Asia the earliest residues of an alcoholic beverage dates back to about 7000 BCE in the Yellow River Valley of China. The earliest evidence of wine made from grapes dates to about 6500 BCE.

In China, in India, in Egypt, Greece, Rome, and even Central and South America, alcoholic beverages were revered for their many useful properties.

Mesopotamia. Almost 5,000 years ago, the Babylonians worshipped the Siduri, the goddess of beer and wine and another goddess, Siris, who apparently specialized in beer alone. The Sumerians honored Ninkasi, the goddess of beer.

Egypt. In Egypt the god Bes was the protector of the home and the patron of beer makers, while Nephthys was the goddess of beer. Osiris, in addition to being the guardian of the underworld, was alco the overseer of beer and wine. Yet another goddess, Tenenet, was the deity of beer and childbirth! (Perhaps beer was used to relieve the pain of childbirth.)

Greece. In ancient Greece, we find the deities Dionysus, the god of wine, Methe, the personification of drunkenness, Silenus, god of wine, wine-pressing and drunkenness, and the goddesses Oenotropae—the women who can change anything into wine. There was also the goddess Amphictyonis, who ruled over wine and friendship. The earliest Greek drink was mead, made from honey.  It was expected that newly married couples would take one full cycle of the moon to celebrate with honey mead—hence the “honeymoon.”

Rome. The Romans liked their wine and it was frequently incorporated into celebrations, rituals and other spiritual practices.  Abundantia was not only the goddess of abundance and prosperity, but was the guardian of wine and drinking. The Roman equivalent of Dionysus was Bacchus (the root of bacchanalia). Romans also paid homage to Liber Pater (literally Father of Freedom), the god of viticulture, wine, fertility and freedom.

Europe. The Vikings honored Aegir a god of many talents including ale, beer and mead. In Ireland, the once-triple goddess Brigid morphed into Saint Brigid who was the patron saint of brewing. In ancient Gaul (present-day France) we find Sucellus, the Celtic god of forests, agriculture and alcoholic beverages. In Germanic Europe, we find the sprite (kobold) of the beer-cellar is Biersal (Bierasal or Bieresal).

Africa. The Hausa people of West Africa recognize Ba-Maguje, a spirit who creates thirst leading to drunkenness and often considered a kind of demon. Nokhubulwane is the Zulu goddess of rain, agriculture, rainbows and beer, while the Yoruba recognize Ogoun, the god of rum.

 

a1sx2_Thumbnail1_Du_Kang_1.jpgAsia. In China, Du-Kang is considered to be the inventor of wine and sage of wine and the alcohol industry. Li-Bai is the Chinese god of wine and poetry, and shares the rule of wine with Liu Ling, one of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, a group of historical and deified figures who achieved mastery over several honored talents. The spirit of wine itself is Tao Yuanming. In Japan, Inari is the Shinto goddess of sake, the Japanese rice wine.

America. The Mayans indulged in a drink called balché ruled by the god Acan. Interestingly enough, balché was made from honey and the bark of the balché tree.  The locals bees’ honey also contained an hallucinogenic quality, and the balché was often taken as an enema.  (This probably explains why the Maya didn’t have taverns!)  For the Aztecs and other related tribes, Mayahuel was the goddess of the maguey plant (agave) and its resulting product, tequila.  Another alcoholic beverage made from the fermented sap of the same plant, pulque, allowed the drinkers to commune with the Ometochtli, a collection of spiritual beings. a1sx2_Thumbnail1_Chicha_-_Fiesta_del_Hun_-_Templo_del_Sol_-_Suamox_-_Boyac_-_Colombia.jpg

In addition to using these beverages for communing with spirits, alcoholic drinks provided nutrients, all cultures used them for medicinal reasons, as antisepsics, and for their pain-relieving and emotionally comforting properties. They were also offered directly to the gods / goddesses, entombed with the dead, used in funerary rites, and imbibed by people of all ages.

Whether or not you use alcohol ceremonially or spiritually is up to you.  But this practice carries a long and honored place in human history.

 

 

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Catt Foy has been a professional psychic and astrologer since 1978 and a freelance writer and photographer since 1981.  She is the author of Psycards--A New Alternative to Tarot, and the novel Bartleby:  A Scrivener's Tale.  She holds an MA from Western Illinois University and an MFA in Fiction from Spalding University, and is currently CEO of Psycards USA.  Catt likes to garden, paint, and make jewelry, and is currently working on several other novels.  She lives with her husband and two feline companions in an RV in Eugene, Oregon.

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