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By Witchipedia, Herbs

Mead: Mythology, Magickal Properties & Uses

Updated on:

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Written by: Dawn Black (Witchipedia)

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Reviewed by: Tina Caro

Mead is a fermented alcoholic beverage made of honey, water and yeast. It may also contain various other flavorings, such us herbs and spices, in which case it is called metheglin.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Mead is not only a historical beverage but also holds mythological and magickal significance.

In Norse mythology, it is considered the drink of the gods, associated with inspiration and poetic abilities, as seen in the Mead of Poetry legend.

Mead is believed to have magickal properties related to love, creativity, and inspiration, making it a component in rituals and spells for enhancing these qualities.

It plays a central role in pagan and neopagan celebrations, symbolizing unity, merriment, and communal bonds.

Additionally, mead has been used as an offering to deities and as a traditional drink in various cultural ceremonies, bringing luck and happiness to those who partake.

Mead flavored with fruit and fruit juices is called melomel. Mead made with grape juice is called pyment.

Mulled mead is a popular winter and autumn holiday beverage. Herbs and spices (especially cinnamon, cloves, and allspice) are warmed in mead. Cold mead is a traditional Midsummer beverage.

Mead is the traditional beverage at blots and sumbels.

Ancient Origins

While it’s believed that mead’s origins go all the way back to Neolithic times, the earliest surviving written record of its existence is possibly contained in the Rigvida, a historic book of the Vedic religion dated from around 1700 – 1100 BCE. 

The ancient Greek writer Pytheas mentioned a drink made from honey and grain that he encountered while traveling in Thule, which could have been an early version of the Welsh metheglin – a spiced variety of mead.

A poem, often attributed to the Welsh bard Taliesin (who lived around 550 CE) is called the Song of Mead (Kanu y Med), while the Old English poem Beowulf features Danish warriors drinking mead. In both insular Germanic and Celtic poetry mead was frequently depicted as a drink associated with the heroic or divine.

mead by magickal spot
Copyright: Tina Caro

Norse Mythology: How Mead was Used 

According to Norse mythology, Odin’s goat Heidrun produced mead from her udders, which was drunk by the gods. Heidrum grazed on the leaves and twigs of Yggdrasil, the World Tree, which was evergreen and whose leaves never wilted.

The stags Dvalin, Dain, Duneyr, and Durathor also grazed with Heidrun, and it was said honeydew dripped from their horns down to the Earth, supplying water to all the rivers of the world.

Norse legends also tell of how mead was drunk by warriors in the halls of Valhalla. Valkyrie maidens would bring full horns of the golden-colored drink to the fallen heroes, along with huge platters of boar meat, upon which they feasted.

In some variations of Norse mythology, the water in Mimir’s fountain is mead. Odin, up until that point, had not tasted mead – and therefore had not yet come into the fullness of his powers. According to this telling of the legend Odin makes a bargain with Mimir, offering up one of his eyes in exchange for a taste of the mead in the fountain.

Odin approaches Mimir’s Well, Encyclopedia Britannica

Loki is said to have used mead on several occasions to dull the senses of both gods and mortals in order to wreak havoc, while Ran, the goddess of sea storms, entertained those she drowned in coral caves beneath the waves, where mead flowed freely for her “guests.”

Mead’s Magickal Properties

Honey, mead’s key ingredient, has long been used in witchcraft – often in spells or rituals to sweeten people up or attract desires.

The delicious substance is associated with many deities from a multitude of cultures and traditions around the world, including Freya, Aphrodite, and Oshun.

Honey comes with a tonne of health benefits, too: it has anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties, so is good for us both inside and out.

Ways to Use Mead Today

In recent times many pagan and “alternative” spiritual communities have started to enjoy mead once more. If you feel you’d like to try this ancient drink or use it as part of your practice, you’ll find some ideas below to get started.

Drinking Mead

Of course, trying mead as a drink is the best place to start! Serve light-colored mead cooled, or poured over ice, to get the full benefit of its subtle flavor. For heavier meads, try leaving the bottle out of the fridge for half an hour before serving.

Fancy sampling some warm mead? Heat the liquid in a pan on the stovetop in a heavy-bottomed saucepan (this prevents the mead from burning) on low to medium heat. The drink shouldn’t be heated above sixty degrees Celsius, otherwise it will lose its subtle flavors. If you like, add some festive spices like cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and nutmeg, to create a wonderfully warm mulled mead.

In Cooking

While mead makes for a lovely drink, did you know it can also be used in cooking? The drink can be used in loads of recipes, but there’s one important thing to remember: always cook the carbonation out of the mead before adding it to the dish. Otherwise, the recipe might not come out entirely as you’d expected!

You can use mead in place of white wine in any dish that calls for it – opt for a light craft mead or white pyment for the best effect. Red wine as an ingredient can be switched out for mead, too, by swapping the wine for a rich fruit or spiced mead, or red pyment. If you’re just getting started cooking with mead, you may wish to try using a half-and-half combination of red wine and mead.

Have a go using mead to make mustard – you’ll be amazed at the results – as well as adding it to condiments. A mead marinade is a wonderful way to add the drink’s sumptuous flavors to meat or plant-based substitutes before cooking.

Create a Norse Pagan Altar

Making an altar is a wonderful way to connect with your chosen deities or spiritual practice.

Try creating a Norse pagan altar in your home to represent your relationship to the gods and this practice. You can choose to set up an altar either in or outside. You simply need a flat, stable surface to use, be this a small tabletop or a tree stump.

Start by laying an altar cloth on the surface. This can be in either a shade that connects with a specific deity (such as deep blue for Odin) or a color that you’re simply drawn to.

altar for odin by magickal spot
Copyright: Tina Caro

Candles can be added to the altar ready for burning – you may wish to keep a collection of different colors to hand, as each shade has a different association. 

Other items to add to your altar include items from the natural world, such as pebbles, fallen leaves, or feathers,  small statues or images of specific gods, runes, a drinking horn, or a chalice. If you wish you can leave offerings on your altar, traditional Norse food and drink: mead is a perfect offering to make as part of your Norse pagan practice.

Making the Most of Magickal Mead

Mead doesn’t just taste delicious; its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties mean that it has many health benefits, too. Use the guide above to make mead part of your regular practice, enjoy this ancient drink, and connect with a collective spiritual past.

About Morningbird (Witchipedia's Founder)

I am a homesteading hearth witch who grew up along the shores of the Hudson River and has lived among the Great Lakes for the past 20 years. Together with my musical husband and youngest child, I steward a one-acre mini homestead with herb, vegetable and flower gardens, chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits, and areas reserved for native plants and wildlife. 

I have three children; two are grown, and I have been practicing magick alone and with family and friends for over 30 years.

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