Rituals from the Mead Myth


After the war that was perpetrated by the first tribes of the Gods, a truce was struck. The ills between the Æsir and Vanir, were reconciled by having each member of the respective tribes spit into a bowl.

The culmination of this ritual, resulted in the creation of a being, in the shape of a man, whose name was Kvásir. This man was an intermediary figure between the two tribes. In another version, the truce between the Gods was finalized after an exchange of individuals from each tribe, each taking up an office in their new lands. He was upheld as the wisest man; whose only comparison was to Mimir.

Now, the name Kvásir holds some indication as to what this ritual may actually be about. The term kvass– is used as a cultural link between the Danish kvase, a liquid that results from crushing and the Slavic kvasu. Reconstruction into Proto-Germanic gives *hwassaz, later becoming Old Norse hvass, shows more of sharp definition, in relation to intellect; of sight and sound. There is additionally a Nynorsk term vass, with the same meaning as hvass.

Despite the linguistic dissolution, the kernel of this word remains the same between all these different stems in Northern Indo-European languages. Early kw-, gw-, and gwh- stems from Proto-Indo-European influenced these terms, and became the stems /kw/, /xw/, and /gw/ in Proto-Germanic. These are subtly interchanged in later Germanic languages, becoming /kv/, /hv/, and a voiceless /hw/.

Though it seems that in later literature, the –á particle in Kvásir has been dropped from common use, as noted by Guðbrandur Vigfússon:

As scribal abbreviations were common among Old Norse scribes, this may have simply been dropped because of being a misprint, or a misunderstood sign. The letter Q was also used for the /kw/, and /kv/ sounds, to differentiate from the letter K itself. This has since been discontinued in most Germanic tongues aside from English.

There are clear connections to the process of fermentation, which as a literal transition of substances and growth into another. This acts as a representation of a sacred bond. As a rousing force, the stage of fermentation in Alchemy, is often seen as a twofold operation – with the death of the twin being in conjunction, and the production of new life all together. Union for the sake of creation.

From legal cohesion to matrimony, there is an archetypal truth to this type of coupling; a stirring of two forms towards evolution. Distinct, yet coming together as one to be introduced as a new entity.

With the most common being the ceremony of marriage, it was meant to secure favor towards the future with a child. These are fundamentally transactional, as there was likely a specific exchange, and the resulting product was both a child – and shared/acquired resources.

This point is elucidated further when the kvá- root is observed. The root often holds a meaning concerned with union, in some faculty or another. As shown below:

    Kván, or queen; used broadly as any woman.
    Kvánarmál, or matrimonial affairs.
    Kvánbænir, or queen-boons; a courting process.
    Kvánfang, or queen-fetching; matchmaking.
    Kvánfang eiðr, also denotes marital oaths.
    Kvánga, kvángan, and kvángask, all mean for a man to take a wife.

The other uses for the root of kvá-, are when used for the words kvátra, kváðan, or kvára. One means a type of game played in Iceland during the 13th century – think ‘quarters’, and the other is used for a resin substance, from kvoða. The final word means to rattle. These are likely liturgical influences.

The use of these terms all denotes that kvá-, holds a principle of union. Hence, the use within the myth for the name of the fashioned figure that is the embodiment of the truce between the two tribes.

The initial scene of the Mead Myth shows an underlying form of a unifying custom; a transaction solidified by mingling the essences of two different people together. Kvásir is essentially the euhemerized element of the myth; a child of the two tribes, and thus represents a new inspired, fermented form. Kvásir was known for his intelligence and disseminated his solutions to many problems that were among the two tribes.

Some basic ritual elements have been drawn from contents in the story and may be used in accordance to one’s own tradition. This may be used as a varying form to the leikr rite of foster brotherhood, to still hostilities, or to solidify a specific pact between two parties.

The ritual is not complicated and does not have much flair. It may be enacted anywhere the participants choose. Meant to produce good tidings, it is more than just an exchange of items between two people. It develops a certain amount of gæfa, or luck, which is intrinsically linked with gifts and heartfelt exchange. Shared gæfa, is shared spirit.

Be fully assured before use of this ritual, as the sharing of gæfa, is to be upheld in all your dealings with the party you are bonding with. If broken, no matter by which party, both parties run the risk of a damaged gæfa.

For the sake of simplicity, only a dual form will be presented below.

Implements needed for this ritual:

  • Ritual bowl produced by (x) party; this is a bowl that no food has been eaten out of; of wood or metal.
  • Mead produced by (y) party.

The operation is as follows:

• A sacred space is designated by the two parties.

• The mead is poured by (y) party into the ritual bowl, being held by (x) party.

• The mead is passed until drained.

• The party who drains the bowl, spits into the bowl, and the opposite party does the same.

• The ritual bowl is then poured onto the earth by (y) party; hands are shaken as a sign of the bond.

• Gifts are then exchanged between the two parties.