05 February 2010

Sovereignty and Inebriation


Perhaps when you were growing up, you too read Ivanhoe, Beowolf or other novels about the days of yore in which they drank something called “mead.” Ever wonder what that was?

I assumed it was beer or ale. Nay, ‘tis not. It’s actually a delightfully delicious and somewhat potent wine—honey wine— that is still drunk in Ireland. I had some recently, the real deal carried home from the Emerald Isle, and it was mighty tasty.

Mead is ancient. Many believe it to be the first fermented beverage ever made, the first alcoholic drink, one that pre-dates the cultivation of soil for heaven’s sake. Long before grapes andwine, therefore. Celts, Vikings, Greeks and Romans drank it—as did their gods and goddesses.

The Goddess Medb —Maeve

Initially known in prehistoric times as the Goddess Medb, her very name meant “she who is the nature of mead.” Medb was associated with sacred inebriation, i.e. drinking mead, to help one merge with the oneness of all things. To feel, in a ritual context, the connection between all beings—plants, animals and otherwise—on the earth. Medb’s very body was viewed as the body of the earth. These rituals weren’t just about getting drunk. They were a sacred religious communion with all life, with Earth itself.

After patriarchy arrived, in the form of Celts, Vikings and, later, Christians, Medb was turned into Queen Maeve, a wild, sexual woman who ruled the Connaught region in Ireland , still connected in the ancient way to the land, but now also a warrior. (What a surprise!)

Thanks to Heather Ensworth, author and scholar, I have learned these things about Maeve and come to love not only her wildness, but her sense that she, and she alone, is the boss of herself! Don’t we women need to remind ourselves of this frequently in the days when our rights to choose what happens to our bodies is continually being undermined?

Heather shared this poem about the Goddess/Queen Maeve that she modified from The Goddess Oracle by Amy Sophia Marachinsky. It’s become my new mantra:

I am a Warrioress

A warrioress of the Heart

I am Queen

Of the domain of myself

I am able to respond

in all situations

from the knowledge of who I am

My actions are who I am

My beliefs are who I am

All I do is who I am

That which is outside of me

Stays outside of me

That which I choose to let in

I own and acknowledge

How can I be responsible

If I do not own all aspects of myself?

How can I be accountable

Without being Queen over my own domain?

How can I serve my consort, my children, my community,

If I am unwilling to acknowledge and answer for myself?


If you or anyone you know is getting married soon, wouldn’t this poem be a fabulous credo for both parties as they look to joining their lives? Speaking from my own experience, one of the trickiest aspects of marriage is knowing what’s mine, what I should take in and be responsible for, and what’s not mine and therefore isn’t mine to carry.

Back to mead for a moment. Real authentic mead would make a unique and historical wedding gift. In simpler times, the wedded couple would drink mead for the first month of their marriage. Perhaps this loosened any inhibitions and improved marital relations? Some believed it helped to produce a first son. From this practice, we still use the term, “honeymoon,” i.e., drinking honey wine for a moon after the wedding day.

And whether you’re married or not, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Isn’t a little Maeve-ness in order?

—Cheryl Suchors