Sacred Drink

“For Our Blessed Lady’s sake, bring us in good ale” - 15th C folksong

From time immemorial, both the making and subsequent drinking of ales and wine have been linked with the Sacred. Whiskey, it is said, began after Irish monks learned the art of distilling on the continent. For the Greeks and Romans, Dionysus (or Bacchus) is the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, and of religious ecstasy. The apple, too, has a long association with the Divine. The tree was revered by the Druids; Avalon, where King Arthur rested, was derived from the word for apple; and the Vikings had the sacred apples of Idunn. Cider, therefore, must be doubly holy! Orchards were perhaps introduced to monasteries by St Augustine. Certainly, monks were known to make and sell cider in the Middle Ages. Some do to this day, for example, Ampleforth Abbey in Yorkshire. At Buckfast Abbey, instead, the monks make a strong wine.

“Stand fast root, bear well top, Pray God send us a good howling crop. Every twig, apples big, Every bough, apples enow” - Sussex howling chant

There are rites to encourage a good harvest, and subsequent successful fermenting. The Wassail (from the Anglo-Saxon Waes Hael - be healthy!) is performed around Twelfth Night. Several trees within the orchard are blessed by having cider poured on their roots and cakes placed in their branches.

“And my blood is drinke indeed” - John 6:55

The Eucharist - Bread and Wine!