There’s always been a close relationship between divinity and drunkenness, and not just because they both cause unexpected pregnancies (ba-ZING!). Y’see, back in the day, most cultures thought that beer came to us straight from the supernatural. While some people thought the gods taught us how to make beer, others figured they were behind the very process of fermentation (no joke – because they thought it was a miracle, the original name for yeast was “Godisgood”). Apparently those jerks in the dark ages couldn’t figure out that alcohol is just the accumulated death farts of several million eukaryotes.
So instead, a lot of cultures invented these crazy-awesome characters with intricate back stories, all in order to explain the magic behind getting ripped.
And these are our favorites.
He’s fat, bald and stout-nosed. He’s also the oldest, the wisest, and by far the drunkest one in the room. And no, we’re not talking about your verbally abusive grandfather (even though you’ll never be as successful as your brother). We’re talking about Silenus, the Greek God of Beer. “Now wait!” you might say, “what about Dionysus?” Well, Dionysus was the god of wine, not beer. And Silenus was his best buddy. They’d go around doing, you know, whatever the Greek gods do (read: turning into animals and grindin’ all up on the ladies). Wherever they went, Dionysus would take the lead, while Silenus always followed him riding on his faithful donkey. In fact, whenever Silenus would get too drunk, he’d often fall out of his saddle, hence coining the term “getting drunk off your ass”*
*I made this up.
But, it wasn’t all fun and games for this rowdy, red-cheeked dipsomaniac. He was once kidnapped by King Midas (yep, that one) and held hostage until Silenus told him a prophecy. So he said, “That the best thing for a man is not to be born, and if already born, to die as soon as possible.”
He was let go soon afterwards because nobody likes a melancholy drunk.
Radegast was the Slavic god of hospitality. This is easy to tell from his statue that reads “Radhost” underneath, which most scholars agree translates to “Radical Host.” Although he is said to have created beer, he’s most famous for having thrown some bitchin’ parties in the past. I mean, think about it. Pretend you’re hiking up the Beskydy Mountains in the Czech Republic and you’re dying for an ice cold tallboy. And then – BOOM – out of nowhere, there’s a 20-foot tall stone giant wearing a helmet made of dragon, shirtless, sporting a fashionable skirt and holding a horn with what appears to be a rubber ducky on it. Also, his nipples are erect and he’s screaming. If that doesn’t shout “party,” I don’t know what does.
Wooo boy. Ok. So, this Aztec god didn’t actually reign over beer. In fact, beer didn’t come into central Mexico until a few centuries later. But Tepoztecatl was the god of pulque, which is this milky, white fermented beverage you were able to get all the time several centuries ago. Now pulque didn’t come from barley, like beer does, but rather from the uhhh…let’s see here…the maguey plant. Meaning that pulque is made from the same plant as…tequila!? Holy crap you guys! There’s a beer version of tequila! That’s a horrible idea! Oh man. Those poor folks must have been dealing with centuries worth of awful hangovers. No wonder they’re predicting the end of the world in 2012, except they’re not, that’s the Mayans, not the Aztecs. They’re two different cultures. Stop making assumptions.
Now, Tepoztecatl was also known as “Ometochtli” which means “Two Rabbit.” It seems that the rabbit was something of a mythical figure in the pulque world, making them like our Spuds McKenzie? They had rabbit-based festivals and religions and dances and even served pulque out of these ceramic rabbit jars. Not to break the fourth wall here, but this is the only time that writing an article has given me a full-blown dose of the heebie-jeebies. Can we keep going?
Aegir is the Norse God of Brewing. Nobody really knows if he’s a good guy or bad guy. He brews beer in a kettle given to him by his buddy Thor, and when you’re at one of his righteous parties? Your cup is always full. Also, he knows magic. MAGIC.
You might remember Aegir posing as Cody, that skeezy Frisbee player who lived down the hall from you junior year.
Ninkasi is the Sumerian goddess of brewing, meaning that like many of the other great female pioneers of brewing, she’s had to succeed in spite of being surrounded by a hairy buncha drunk dudes. Now, Ninkasi’s specialty wasn’t just brewing (even though they’ve named a very prestigious brewing award after her). She also knows how to “satisfy desire” and “sate the heart” (alcoholics call a woman like this a “triple whammy”). But perhaps the most interesting part of Ninkasi’s story is that she was borne of “sparkling fresh water.” So, Ninkasi was made out of Hamm’s Golden Draft, question mark?
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So there you have it. The next time you spend a Tuesday morning slamming Schlitz pounders and peeing on your stepfather’s car: don’t blame yourself. Just blame one of these crafty deities and rest easy on some stranger’s front lawn in the knowledge that, with a heavy dose of B-vitamins and plenty of water, you can do it all again tomorrow.
Brian Cullen really, really enjoys robots but doesn’t understand how they work. He also enjoys drinking beers, and has a pretty solid understanding of how that works. You can read about his musings about both on Twitter @BucketCullen.