Wine is, along with beer, one of the first alcoholic beverages discovered by mankind. It is a “spiritual” drink, since it was thought that spirits lived within it that gave life to man and, therefore, many of the old cultures gave it its own divinity, as is the case of the Roman Bacchus or Dionysus. Greek.
Ancient cultures gave wine a very important place in society, which is why many of them represented it in their religions. This is because it was an essential complement to their diets, since the waters were often more dangerous than alcohol itself, containing bacteria and elements harmful to humans.
Wine was known by almost all ancient cultures, even in China this drink was made and consumed. However, it was the cultures of the Mediterranean that found in it something more than a social drink. The cultivation of the vine appeared in India, from where it passed to Mesopotamia, with Greek wine being the first to be consumed on a large scale. In this sense, wine mixed with bread and water was the usual breakfast of the Greeks, who considered that it provided the necessary energy for the whole day. Also, if you are wondering what is the best iron supplement, wine could be a natural answer, which is why it was customary for even children to have bread and wine for breakfast.
It is for this reason that wine had its place in ancient culture and religion, for example, in the pantheon of Greek and Roman gods in the skin of Dionysus and Bacchus, the god of wine, respectively. In fact, the sacramental use of wine in Christian culture is an evolution of the beliefs of these two divinities.
Myth of Dionysus
The god Dionysus is the son of Zeus and Semele, although in some versions his mother is Persephone. He is the Greek god of wine, fertility, agriculture, and theater. He was a god who inspired his faithful with a ritual madness and led them to ecstasy, it is a liberating deity who, due to the intoxicating effects of alcohol, is capable of freeing the human being from his true being and making him go crazy.
In Greek and Roman mythology, Dionysus was always accompanied by the Maenads, who were divine beings in a feminine form that always accompanied him in his orgies. The first Maenads were nymphs who raised the god himself in their infancy and who later became possessed by his spirit that inspired a kind of mystical madness.
Although today, the perception of this god is that of a fun cult dedicated to fun, in Greece he was very important, coming to deeply influence the culture and philosophical thought of the great thinkers of antiquity..
Bacchus, the Roman god of wine
As Greek culture declined, its space in the Mediterranean was taken over by the Romans. These, who had a divine pantheon very similar to that of the Greeks, were adopting new gods as they conquered cities and assimilated new cultures to their empire.
In this way, when the Romans conquered the area of Greece, they also introduced the cult of Dionysus, whose esoteric cult was carried out in the city of Eleusis, near Athens. As was customary in Latin culture, they renamed him Bacchus and made him the Roman god of wine and fun.
The cult of Bacchus was controlled by the “Bacchantes” women who emulated the Maenads and gave themselves up to the orgiastic worship of the god. During the holy days, these women ascended to solitary mountains where they spent days without contact with men, they dedicated themselves to drinking alcohol and consuming hallucinogens. The “dance of the Maenads” was the central rite of these orgies and in them the maidens danced naked for hours in order to increase their fertility.
These ancient “bacchanals” are the germ of medieval covens that witches carried out in forests and remote places, always without the presence of men.
Other wine divinities
The human being has linked wine with the divinity since ancient times, so much so that there is an inscription from the year 2700 BC in the Sumerian area in which the goddess Gestin is mentioned, whose name means “vine mother” or ” mother stock”. Among the Sumerian deities are also Pa-gestín-dug, whose name translates as “good strain” and his wife, Nin-kasi, which means “lady of the intoxicating fruit”.
In Egypt, where wine and beer figured prominently in liturgies, Horus was the deity of wine. Thus, the wines were known as “Sweat of Ra” or “Tears of Horus”.
wine and religion
In addition to all the deities dedicated to this drink, wine occupied a central space in religions. In this way, it was customary to make libations (offerings of wine) to the gods in Rome, Greece and Babylon.
In Rome, the festivals dedicated to Bacchus were very popular during the imperial period, especially among women and slaves. With the decree of Emperor Theodosius, which made the Christian religion the only one in the empire, bishops and priests began to persecute these festivals, in which excessive alcohol consumption led to debauchery and immodest behavior.
Christianity, for its part, includes wine in its liturgy, similar to the Bacchanalia, where small animals were dismembered to commemorate that Bacchus was devoured by the Titans, Christians consume wine and bread, like meat and blood of Jesus Christ.
As you can see, wine was much more than a social drink, occupying a central position in ancient culture and religion. So, when you enjoy the best Ribera del Duero wines at home, remember that in the past, wine was worshiped as a god.