An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links to Mythologies,
Fairy Tales & Folklore, Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions
by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.

Common Themes, East & West:

Food and Drink:
Sacrality & Lore

Madonna and Child with Grapes
Detail of "Flight to Egypt" by Flemish artist, David Gerard (1460-1523)
(From Tigertail Virtual Museum)

Author's Note:

In an age where over-eating, anorexia and other eating disorders are tragically obvious, we tend to forget that originally, in worldwide mythology, food and drink were the gifts of Holy Beings, some of whom sacrificed their lives to make such gifts available.  This page looks at some of the lore and history of the sacred foods and drink that have for countless ages nourished our bodies and spirits.....and continue to do so as long as they aren't abused.

Wine, Mead, Ale, Beer

Medieval Woman Picking Grapes
[Courtesy of James L. Matterer's Gode Cookery site -- see below]
Marc Shapiro's Meadery offers "Alcoholic Drinks of the Middle Ages," a huge, carefully researched and footnoted site on medieval  wine, beer, ale, sake, mead, whiskey, brandy, and others I've never heard of.  He shares their history, recipes, and even how fruits and spices were used in them.

Here's a sample from his section called "The History of Wine and Mead":

...The history of wine and that of man are invariably and inseparably intertwined. Most archaeologists agree that grape wine has probably been made for the last 10,000 years6, and that mead has probably been around for even longer7. Mead and beer, were drunk by Man prior to his learning of wine8. These were also the drinks of the gods9. This discovery came to the Greek islands at about the 16th century B.C.. It is speculated that some other wines, namely palm and date, which originated in the region of Mesopotamia10, may also predate grape wine....

Detail from The Wedding at Cana: turning water into wine
By Flemish artist, David Gerard (1460-1523)
(From Tigertail Virtual Museum)
The University of Pennsylvania's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology runs this lovely little site, "Origins and Ancient History of Wine."  After a too brief, but fascinating introduction, it covers such topics as wine in neolithic times, ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the connection between grapes and tree resins.  All the essays include illustrations either from ancient art or from site excavations.  Flaw: the material is too good for such brief essays.
This is from Michael B. Quinion's World Wide Words -- a witty journey through literary works as he looks at "Former Wines are Passed Away: Some almost forgotten liquors":
Wines seem to go out of fashion rather more slowly than clothes but many that were once common have nonetheless vanished as our tastes have changed. With them have gone their names, so that reading older texts can require keeping a dictionary handy to make sense of what the characters are quaffing....

Two Brewers
[Courtesy of James L. Matterer's Gode Cookery site -- see below]
From medieval times to the present, this site looks at brewing a special form of beer in Finland:  "Sahti - A Remnant of Finland's Rustic Past" by Ilkka Sysila:
...this anachronistic style is still being brewed by sahti masters as it was 400 years ago: in wooden vessels with a filter bed made of juniper twigs. As they say in Finland, "Kippis!"

The cradle of the art of brewing beer in Western Europe was Germany. In the 12th century, trade merchants spread the craft to the Baltic Sea, from whence castellans (keepers of the castles) and local tradesmen deployed it even further.  Brewing came to Finland by two distinct routes: From the south straight across the narrow Gulf of Finland and from the west by way of Sweden. Finnish brewing was in full swing by the 1400s (these early Finns must have turned out decent beer: in 1504 the castellan of Stockholm's royal castle of Sweden preferred to procure all the beer he could from Finland)....
This is "History of Mead," a brief page with links that'll take you to detailed information on how to make this ancient drink (in more flavors than you can imagine):
Mead has been around for thousands of years. Honey was one of the first things to be fermented into alcoholic beverages, and mead is mentioned in the Bible, the Rig-Veda, the Aeneid and Beowulf. Mead was sacred to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine.... Mead is also made in other parts of the world. Global brewers and consumers of mead include the Australian Aborigines. Mead is one of many drinks historically made in Africa, and was brewed as a ceremonial liquor in the pre-Columbian Americas....
This unusually attractive site, "Sacred Beverage of Ancient Ukrainians," is a two part speculative series on a Ukrainian drink, sura, analogous to India's soma.  The first author, Taras Kobzar, working from sacred texts, argues that it was a fermented honey drink.  The second author, Yevhen Tovstuha, working from his knowledge of Ukrainian folk medicine, argues that it was made of several fermented sun-loving flowers common to the Ukraine.

Foods, Raw and Cooked

Medieval Bakers
[Courtesy of James L. Matterer's Gode Cookery site -- see below]

This is James L. Matterer's marvelous site, The Gode Cookery.  Jim (a.k.a. Master Huen) is one of the first e-friends I made when I began webbing in 1998 -- I've been his staunch fan ever since.  Here's his own introduction to the site:
A Boke of Gode Cookery is an award-winning Medieval History website dedicated to the food & feasts of the Middle Ages & Renaissance. Here you will find information on Medieval cooking, instructions for preparing authentic feasts, hundreds of recipes, image collections, a Medieval cooking discussion group, graphics, photographs, and history resources. A Boke of Gode Cookery is an ideal website for students, teachers, & lovers of the Middle Ages, recommended by the BBC Online, Encyclopedia Britannica Online, Netscape, AoL, GO Network, & InfoSeek....
That gives you the bare facts.  Now go visit! -- you'll love it.  (Note: my own review of the site is on my European Medieval page.)
This site on "Finnish Bread" looks at folk customs associated with bread, but this is placed in the larger context of the conflict between poverty, survival, and slash-and-burn forest practices designed to free up more land in the Finnish wilderness.  As I read the long essay, I alternated between sadness for both forests and people -- and fascination with the depth of respect these people showed their bread, and the hard-won sacred grains from which it came.
...Here are some interesting old, almost dead customs surrounding the making and eating of bread and drinking coffee in Northern Finland's wilderness settlements....

...Overzealous eating was frowned upon. If someone was too eager to eat a piece of bread, we would gently warn: "Lord's grain beware, a sinner is attacking you"....
From N. S. Gill, the superb Ancient/Classical History guide at, comes this well chosen and frequently updated collection of annotated links on ancient food, ingredients, dining, diet, and recipes in the ancient world.  She looks at Greece, Rome, the Etruscans, Egypt, Southeast Asia, Scythian cups made from human skulls, and much more.  You could spend a long time here exploring all this material.
This is another great page from the University of Pennsylvania's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.  This one is called "Sex Life of the Date" and is based on jewelry from ancient Ur in Mesopotamia re-interpreted by Dr. Naomi F. Miller, an archaeobotanist at the Museum:
...When asked to identify the gold plant-like ornaments from Lady Puabi's diadem (headdress), she noticed that they had been mounted upside down.

By flipping the ornaments and allowing them to hang as pendants, Miller discovered that these ornaments represented the male and female branches of the date palm.  This turnabout upended a long-standing assumption that the ornaments represented ears of grain or a fruiting bush....

...This connection is reinforced: the Mesopotamian goddess Inanna, known for her part in the "sacred marriage" ritual, considered herself "the one who makes the dates be full of abundance."

The illustrated site explores both the jewelry as well as the "sex life" of dates.
This page of text-resources and a dozen or so related links was created by John Porter for his "Food in Antiquity" course in the Program in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada.  From it, I found the site directly below -- but others treasures on Porter's page still remain for you to discover on your own <smile>.
Classics Professor John M. McMahon (Le Moyne College) wrote this intriging paper, "Cultivating Passion: Vegetables, Belief, and Sexuality" for the Newsletter of the Classical Association of the Empire State 31.2 (Summer 1996).  He begins:
Several important aspects of the real or perceived relationship between plants and human sexuality exist in writings from the Ancient Classical World. While obvious references to the efficacy of plants or plant-derived substances figure prominently in some ancient medicinal and scientific works, much of this interesting information remains scattered and half-submerged in works of literature, requiring considerable philological detective work to uncover and to analyze. Once these bits and pieces of information from all sources are identified and reassembled, it becomes clear that for many common plants there existed an elaborate and extensive framework of belief that linked them to human sexual attraction and performance....
The essay is rich and detailed, a delight to read.
This is "Socializing relaxing, drinking, baths," another page from N. S. Gill, the Ancient/Classical History guide at  She only has four links here to baths, food, wine and beer, but if you click on any of them, you'll go to pages with many more links in each category.  This is a great place to browse.
This is a remarkable site from the "Food Museum." It's divided into foods originating in the Eastern and Western hemispheres.  Each hemisphere's section has a long list of foods -- those in hypertext, when clicked, take you to further data ranging from an actual illustrated essay on the plant's history and lore (e.g., banana, lettuce) to a simple image or two with minimal text (e.g., fig, ginger).  It's great fun to click away on your favorite foods and discover more about them!

Genetically Modified Foods

Descent of the Nomad
MorrisoN's Gallery -- used with permission)

This is a level-headed look at "Genetically Modifying 'Frankenstein' Foods" by Rick Hall, the Nutrition guide at  I personally am highly suspicious of such foods because the science behind them is too often slanted towards profit, not people.  However, Hall gives a balanced account and provides a link or two if you wish to explore further.  Also see my Trees & Plants Lore page (near the bottom) for more links on this ongoing debate.


Lore & History of Chocolate

Lore & History of Maize

Also see Common Themes: Trees & Plant Lore

Menu of Common Themes, East & West:

Animal GuidesCreation MythsCrones & SagesDragons & Serpents
Floods, Storms, Rainbows, & Other Weather WondersFood: Sacrality & Lore
Goddesses & Gods of EarthGoddesses & Gods of SkyGreen Men
Landscape: Sacrality & Lore   (Mountains, Wells, Springs, Pools, Lakes, Caves, Labyrinths, Spiral Mounds, Crop Circles, Stone Circles, Feng Shui) Music
Nature Spirits of the WorldRituals of PubertySacred Theatre, Dance & Ritual
ShamanismStar Lore & AstrologySymbols, Signs, & Runes
Time(Calendars, Clocks, Natural Temporal Cycles, Attitudes toward Time, & Millennium Issues) Trees & Plant LoreTricksters, Clowns, Magicians, Jesters & Fools
Weather-Working: An experimental ritual in cyberspace
Weaving Arts & Lore (Cosmic Webs, Spinning, Spindles, Clothing)

Down to Geographical Regions: Africa

If you have comments, suggestions, or wish to report a broken link, you'll find an e-mail address on my home page.
Please, please,don't ask me for homework help.  I'm drowning in e-mails and have neither the time nor, unfortunately, the strong eyesight necessary to give individual help.  I created this huge website and its Search Engine Page so that you can find answers for yourself! <smile>  You'll also find excellent resources on my General Reference page.  If you need further help, please check with your own instructors or librarians.  Thank you for your thoughtfulness.
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Text and layout copyright © 2000-2005 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.

Page designed & created 12-13 October 2000;
published Friday the 13th, October 2000.
Latest Updates:
19 October 2000; 25 October 2000.
29 September 2005: added textured background. Alas, no time for links check.