Our Goddess Heritage

This blog seeks to explore the divine feminine by examining the history of women. The analysis of archaeology and history found here is meant to raise questions, not necessarily find answers. In addition, by looking at our female ancestors, we can seek to make connections in our current lives and define ourselves as women in fresh ways.

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African Beer Goddesses

Women and Goddesses are credited as the originators of beer in ancient cultures worldwide. While our culture might frame beer as a stereotypically masculine drink, the history of beer is far more complex and interesting. As we saw in ancient Sumer, women not only brewed beer but also were the primary tavern keepers. For this round of our discussion, we’ll turn our sights to the African continent to find out more about Goddesses who love to drink!

The Dogon culture of the Republic of Mali revere Yasigi as the matron of beer. She is portrayed dancing while holding a beer ladle. A figure of her appears in the photo above, and I love this image! Perhaps she is fresh from successfully brewing and can’t help but celebrate by dancing exuberantly. As with many beer related Goddesses, this is not the only function of Yasigi. She is also the Goddess of dancing and masks. Beer, dancing, and masks form an interesting continuum in relation to identity. Each of the three can alter our thinking and the perception that others have us.

Another Goddess found in Africa, is Mbaba Mwana Waresa of the Zulu people. She is the beloved originator of beer. Mbaba Mwana Waresa is also the Goddess of rain and rainbows. The combination of those with beer seems to point to the life enriching qualities of all three, reminding me of joy and celebration. Each one is a gift to her people.

Ukhamba Beer Storage Vessel

Ukhamba Beer Storage Vessel

These Goddesses support the fact that women have traditionally brewed beer throughout the African continent. Interestingly, the resulting beverages often give people a strong source of vitamin B. In South Africa the traditional brew called umqombothi is made primarily by women. The ancestors play an important role in this process and are thanked as one of the final steps of brewing. Umqombothi has ritual use after men’s initiations and at social gatherings. The drink is also central to contacting ancestral spirits, known as amadlozi.

Beer is an integral part of human culture as a source of nutrition, medicine, spirituality, and festive inebriation. Finding women and the feminine Divine at the center of beer’s history is something that I’ll drink to! We’ll continue our discussion next time with a look at Egyptian history. Finally, we’ll conclude in time for Oktoberfest with a look at women’s role in brewing in European history.

Cheers!

 

Sources and More:

Incidentally, if you are looking for some gluten-free fare to go with your gluten-free Goddess loving beer, check out my recently published cookbook.

Image: Brooklyn Museum 
Umqombothi
Morrissey's Perfect Pint Neil Morrissey, Harper Collins 2008
Real Women Drink Beer



 

 

 

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Emily has a master's degree in literature with a focus on women's history and works as a writing teacher. She is a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids.

Comments

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Tuesday, 17 September 2013

    Fun! Thanks for the info - whiskey next?

  • Emily Mills
    Emily Mills Tuesday, 17 September 2013

    Um. If there is a whiskey goddess, sign me up! I picture a goddess of moonshine barefoot in Appalachia!

    Seriously, though, as a Druid, I approve of this topic, "waters of life" and all.

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Wednesday, 18 September 2013

    Yesterday right after I read your column I headed off for my monthly massage - my masseuse was randomly drinking a beer during my massage (not something she normally does) so I got to tell her about your column and promised to send her the link :)

    And I love the barefoot Appalachia whiskey goddess - my grandpa ran a still in the Trinity Mountains in Northern Ca and my first novel is titled "Barefoot" about a little girl whose family runs a bar...

  • Emily Mills
    Emily Mills Wednesday, 25 September 2013

    So interesting! I love the connections that I'm finding as I blog here.

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