Ninkasi, Goddess of Beer

Ninkasi, Goddess of Beer

Credit: ferrebeekeeper.wordpress.com

 

With Mother’s Day quickly approaching this Sunday, we at Flagstaff-Grand Canyon Ale Trail chose to pay tribute to the mother of the brew: Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of beer.

Here’s her history. She was born of sparkling fresh water and created to “satisfy the desire” and “sate the heart.” Her father was Enki the lord Nudimmud and her mother Ninti, queen of the Abzu. She was one of eight children created in order to heal one of the eight wounds that Enki received as a curse for eating forbidden plants.

The Sumerians worshipped Ninkasi around 3500BC and for good reason. She is said to have created the recipe for sikaru, or Sumerian beer. Ninkasi prepared beer daily for the other gods. Ninkasi’s name means “the lady who fills the mouth” and her sigil was a barley spade.

So why was the deity of beer a woman? During Sumerian times, beer was brewed and served exclusively by women.

So raise your pint glass in toast to your mother’s health and sing the Hymn to Ninkasi, a poem written around 1800 BC by an unknown Sumerian poet on a clay tablet. If you read it closely, you’ll find one of the most ancient recipes for brewing beer:

Borne of the flowing water,
Tenderly cared for by the Ninhursag,
Borne of the flowing water,
Tenderly cared for by the Ninhursag,

Having founded your town by the sacred lake,
She finished its great walls for you,
Ninkasi, having founded your town by the sacred lake,
She finished its walls for you,

Your father is Enki, Lord Nidimmud,
Your mother is Ninti, the queen of the sacred lake.
Ninkasi, your father is Enki, Lord Nidimmud,
Your mother is Ninti, the queen of the sacred lake.

You are the one who handles the dough [and] with a big shovel,
Mixing in a pit, the bappir with sweet aromatics,
Ninkasi, you are the one who handles the dough [and] with a big shovel,
Mixing in a pit, the bappir with [date] – honey,

You are the one who bakes the bappir in the big oven,
Puts in order the piles of hulled grains,
Ninkasi, you are the one who bakes the bappir in the big oven,
Puts in order the piles of hulled grains,

You are the one who waters the malt set on the ground,
The noble dogs keep away even the potentates,
Ninkasi, you are the one who waters the malt set on the ground,
The noble dogs keep away even the potentates,

You are the one who soaks the malt in a jar,
The waves rise, the waves fall.
Ninkasi, you are the one who soaks the malt in a jar,
The waves rise, the waves fall.

You are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes,
Ninkasi, you are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes,

You are the one who holds with both hands the great sweet wort,
Brewing [it] with honey [and] wine
(You the sweet wort to the vessel)
Ninkasi, (…)
(You the sweet wort to the vessel)

The filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound,
You place appropriately on a large collector vat.
Ninkasi, the filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound,
You place appropriately on a large collector vat.

When you pour out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.
Ninkasi, you are the one who pours out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.

Translation by Miguel Civil, Professor Emeritus of Sumerology, The Oriental Institute, and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and Linguistics, The University of Chicago.

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One thought on “Ninkasi, Goddess of Beer

  1. Vintage Friday: Happy Mother’s Day | Flossie Benton Rogers

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