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Nekter Ritual


In this essay, I’ve only been able to deal with the Indo-European sacred drink in a shallow perspective. The topic is a huge one, and would deserve its own book; in fact several have been written about sacred drinks in Vedism alone. What I have done, then, is touch on the more important myths and rituals that deal with the sacred drink, with particular emphasis on those things which deal directly with the Nekter ritual I’ll be giving. Because of the massive amount of information to deal with, and the ways in which it inter-connects, I’ve been unable to give the sort of point by point commentary on the ritual I did for the sacrifice.

The Indo-Europeans, and by extension the Proto-Indo-Europeans, had a sacred drink or drinks. These drinks gave different but overlapping benefits. Immortality, or at least long life and health, is common, as are inspiration, truth, sovereignty, and martial power.

The drinks are found in both myth and ritual. Depending on the culture there may be differences between the mythical and ritual drinks, either in kind or effect. Soma, for instance, brings immortality to the gods, but just long life to mortals; nektar also provides immortality to the gods, but its earthly version brings only healing.

Our search will include mythical drinks (those consumed by the gods, or shared with them in myth), ritual drinks (those prepared and consumed by humans), and a combination of both (ones prepared by humans and offered to gods for their consumption). The most basic ritual use of a drink is as a libation, but in general, however, I won’t be considering libations, except when they consist of a sacred drink. I will begin by presenting some of the evidence from the different Indo-European traditions in turn, and then I’ll give a quick summary. I regret that I don’t have the space here to do an in-depth comparison, but I’m sure that by the time I’m done you’ll have started to see patterns yourself, especially when you look through the ritual.

We find scattered references to sacred drinks in Ireland. They all seem to give first function gifts, primarily sovereignty, but also truth and prophetic knowledge.

The most striking of the Irish sacred drink stories occur in a line of descent that begins with Conn Cétchathach (“Of a Hundred Battles”). Conn’s story is found in Baile en Scáil He finds himself at a feast before the god Lug. At Lug’s direction, a young woman serves drinks from a cup (the text is unclear as to who actually drinks them), with Lug naming a king to come with each one. After all the drinks have been served, Lug and the woman disappear, and Conn is left with the cup, the vat, and the dipper that had been used. The drink is called flaith, ”red ale.” This may tell us what the drink actually was in inauguration rituals; it may also have been affected by the similarity between flaith and laith, “sovereignty.”

Conn’s grandson, Cormac, also travels to a magical land. This time the god is Manannán, who is accompanied by his wife. At a feast Cormac is presented with a cup which will fall to pieces if a lie is said over it, and return to wholeness if a truth is told. In the land is a well from which five streams flow. Hazels grow over it, and drop their nuts into the water, where they are eaten by salmons. Manannán tells Cormac that the well is the well of knowledge, and that no one will have knowledge that doesn’t drink from it. (”Cormac’s Adventures in the Land of Promise”) The third in the line of Conn to encounter a sacred drink is Niall Noígíallach (“Of Nine Hostages”). In ”The Adventures of the Sons of Eochaid Mugmedon”, he and his thee stepbrothers are sent out hunting as a test to see who should be chosen as their father’s successor to the kingship. They encounter, one at a time, a horrific woman (the technical term for this kind of character is the “Loathly Lady”), who demands a kiss in return for giving them a drink of water. His stepbrothers refuse, but Niall goes so far as to be willing to sleep with her. She turns into a beautiful maiden, and says that she is the Sovereignty of Ireland, and that Niall will be the high king, and his descendants after him.

These stories have their reflection in the rituals of kingly inauguration, in which an candidate ascends to the throne through a marriage with a queen at a feast. In the famous horse sacrifice from Kenicunill in Ulster, the king must drink from a broth made from the meat of the sacrificed mare with whom he has had sex; presumably the mare is identified in some way with the queen. His nobles, who are gathered around, must drink from it as well, thereby confirming his new status. (Described by Gerald of Wales, History and Topography of Ireland, 25.)

Stepping outside of Conn’s line, and out of the kingship, we turn to Finn mac Cumhaill. He received not the kingship, but the power of prophecy through his “thumb of knowledge;” when he bit on it, he knew things. There are several stories told of how he acquired this power. In the most famous, told in ”The Boyhood Deeds of Finn mac Cumhaill” he was cooking the salmon of knowledge, caught in the Boyne river, for his teacher. He accidentally burnt his thumb on the salmon, and stuck it into his mouth to cool it off, whereupon he acquired the wisdom his teacher had been looking to obtain.

Less well-known is the version in Finn and the Man in the Tree. Fionn is chasing one of the inhabitants of the síd (the fairy-mounds) who has been stealing food. He kills the thief at the entrance of the mound, but the door slams on his fingers. At the same time, a woman comes by who has been distributing drink to those inside the mound. Fionn again puts his injured thumb into his mouth. It is not said that the remains of the drink have spilled on the thumb, but I think it likely.

The final Irish tales are of the origins of the Boyne and Shannon Rivers. The tale of the Boyne is found in several different versions, as poems 2 and 3 in the third volume of Gwynn’s Metrical Dindshenchas, and in prose form in story 36 in the Bodleian Dinnshenchas and in story 19 of the Rennes Dinnshenchas. Nechtan is the guardian of a well in a síd, guarded also by three male cupbearers; the eyes of anyone who drank from it without the help of the cupbearers would burst. Nechtan’s wife, Boand, either to prove her innocence of adultery (of which she is, in fact, guilty) or because she thinks she should have the right to drink from the water, goes around the well, in one version counter-clockwise (the wrong direction to circumambulate a sacred object). As a result of her adultery, dishonesty, pride, and/or blasphemy, the well overflows, and the blazing water chases her until she reaches the sea, forming the river Boyne; along the way she loses a foot, a thigh, and an eye.

A similar story is told about the origin of the Shannon, which is found in poems 53 and 54 of vol. 3 of the Metrical Dindshenchas, and in prose in story 33 in the Bodleian Dinnshenchas, and story 59 in the Rennes Dinnshenchas. This time the well is under the sea. There are a number of hazel trees growing over it, and their nuts drop into it, where they are eaten by salmons. In one of the tales we are told that the juice from the nuts rises as bubbles and that the knowledge the river gives (which is of poetry and/or magic) comes from them. A number of streams come from the well. Sinann goes to the well to gain the knowledge with the same disastrous effects as Boand caused, although there isn’t any blame attached to her unless it can be seen as implied that she was too proud.

Among the continental Celts, we find the amazing grave of the “Prince of Hochdorf.” Among the finds is a drinking service consisting of a cauldron and some drinking horns. The cauldron would have held 500 liters, and contained the residue of a mead which included over a hundred of different kinds of herbs (Enright, 1996, 134-5), which would have required straining before consumption. There were nine drinking horns, eight actual horns and the ninth larger and of iron (Bettina, 1999, 76), and presumably for the prince himself, likely intended for an otherworldly feast with his nobles.

The Gaulish goddess Rosmerta may belong to this complex. Michael Enright (1996) has argued that the tub she is shown with contains a ritual drink, and that the enigmatic object she holds in her other hand is a strainer. Under this interpretation, she would be a means of providing the Roman god Mercury, with which she was found, with the legitimacy in the area in which she was worshiped. Alternatively, since Enright also connects her with prophecy, she would be associating with Mercury as either the herald of the gods or the god of communication in general.

Turning to the Germanic world, the most information comes, as usual, from the Norse. There are several relevant drinks there.

First, there is the water in Mimir’s well at the foot of the world tree Yggdrasill. It contains (and presumably conveys) wisdom and intelligence. Odin had to pay Mimir one of his eyes in return for a drink (Snorri, “Gylfaginning” 15). Turville-Petre’s translation of strophe 141 of the Hávamál (1964, 42) gives the drink a wide reach of benefits: “Then I began to be fruitful / and to be fertile, / to grow and to prosper; / one word sought / another word from me; / one deed sought / another deed from me.” In other words, fertility, speech, and action; in Dumézilian terms, it is tri-functional.

Second, there is the mead stolen by Odin. It has a complicated origin. The Aesir and the Vanir made a peace treaty by mixing their spittle and forming from it a man, Kvasir, who could answer any question. He was killed by two dwarves, who mixed his blood with honey and fermented it into mead. They ended up having to pay it as wergild to the giant Suttung, whose father they had killed. Suttung took it to his home in a mountain, under the guard of his daughter Gunnlod. Odin went to steal the mead, turned himself into a snake to go into the mountain through a hole, and then won three draughts of the mead from Gunnlod in return for sleeping with her for three nights. He drained the entire amount in the three draughts, turned himself into an eagle, and flew back to Asgard. Suttung chased him, also in eagle form, and before Odin made it home, some of the mead fell onto the earth and became the share of poets (Snorri, “Skaldskaparmal”, 61-3). Here the mead brings peace to opposed factions, and inspirations to the gods and poets.

Finally, there is the mead drunken by the dead heroes in Valhalla. It is the milk of the goat Heiðrun, who feeds on the leaves of the world tree Yggdrasill (Snorri, “Gylfaginning,” 39). It might be said to provide immortality, at least to the extent that anything can be said to be immortal in the Norse cosmology.

Michael Enright, in Lady with a Mead Cup, gives evidence for myth and ritual throughout the continental Celtic and Germanic world, for a ritual in which a woman serves mead or wine to men who are seated according to rank; the serving is also in rank order. She is either the wife or, if there is no wife, the daughter of the highest ranking man present. The most famous example of this is in Beowulf, where Wealhtheow, the wife of Hrothgar, who is the lord of the hall, enters while the lord and his nobles and youths (presumably young men who had not yet attained the status of noble, or perhaps had not experienced battle, as Michael Enright’s translation (1996, 3, line. 621) as “veterans and youths” implies) are feasting. She is carrying a mead cup, which she presents first to the king, and then to his men, apparently in order of rank. She ends with Beowulf, who had not introduced himself yet, and was therefore of unknown status. (Lines 612-41; 10.55-83 in the linked translation.) From this, and other Germanic sources, we can reconstruct a ritual in which a woman (either the wife or daughter of a lord) serves mead to her lord and then to his men, who are seated in a hall. This serving reinforces the social ranking of those present, especially the lord as the chief of the hall and the men in it.

In Greece, a sacred drink appears both in myth and in ritual (as related in myth). The most famous of these is nektar (from “overcomer of death”); ambrosia (“not dying”), while usually identified as a food, is sometimes treated as a drink as well.

These area consumed by the gods to maintain both their immortality and their immortal youth. The ambrosia is brought to Olympos from lands to the far west by doves. They have to pass through the Clashing Rocks, and when the rocks close behind them, the last dove is killed (Odyssey 12.62-5). Nektar is served to Zeus by Hebe, “youth,” the wife of Herakles, or, in later myth, by Ganymede, who has been kidnapped, in the Aeneid 252 ff., from Mt. Ida, by an eagle sent by Zeus, or Zeus in the form of an eagle. His father is compensated for the loss with a pair of horses (Iliad, 5.266).

A relevant myth is of the infancy of Zeus. Rhea had hidden him from Cronos in a cave on Crete, where his cries were drowned out by the Kouretes, youths who struck their spears against their shields as they danced. He was fed by nektar brought to him by an eagle, and then served from the horn of the goat Amalthea by nymphs who are the daughter of Melisseus, “Honey-bee.” Zeus was also fed honey there, or the milk was mixed with honey. (See Theoi.com for quotations from the sources.)

In the realm of ritual, we find several special drinks in Homer. In the Iliad, books 8 and 10, we find a woman feeding horses a mixture of honey-sweet wheat and wine, which as Calvert Watkins (1978, 10) dryly observes is “not ordinary rations for horses, then or now.” In the Odyssey, Book 10, Circe prescribes a ritual for calling up the dead. Odysseus is to dig a trench and offer milk and honey, then sweet wine, then water, and then barley meal. (In Book 11, Odysseus conducts this ritual.) In the Iliad, Book 10, a woman serves Nestor and Machaon, who are seated at a table in a tent, a drink made from a mixture of wine, grated goat’s cheese, and barley. It is served along with a meal of onion, honey, and barley. The two heroes are wounded, but the drink puts them at ease and they forget their wounds for a while.

Thus, from the rituals we find a drink made from wine, honey, milk, and barley, which provides “life” to the dead (by bringing them back for Odysseus to consult) and ease from pain. In its mythological form it is brought by a bird or birds.

The eastern Indo-European world presents us, as usual, with an embarrassment of riches. The drink there is *sauma, hoama/hom in Iran and soma in India.

The preparation and consumption of hom (the modern word) is the point of the yasna, the most basic Zoroastrian ritual (described in considerable detail in Modi, The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the Parsees; a shorter description is found in Williams and Boyd, 1993, 159-66). This beautiful ritual has been very influential in my own work, not just the Nekter ritual, but my general approach to the subject.

As a very short summary, the yasna involves mixing water, three twigs of ephedra, and a pomegranate twig in a mortar, and then crushing the ephedra and leaves to form a drink. The mixture is strained, creating parahom. It is presented (offered) to the sacred fire. This is done by the assistant priest. The chief priest now arrives, and a piece of flat bread, the drōn is consecrated and consumed, along with butter. This bread and butter is a replacement for a sacrificial animal, and its eating a representation of a meal. The parahom is drunk by the officiating priests. A new hom is then prepared, and this time is mixed with goat’s milk. Half of the resultant mixture is poured into the well the water for the ritual came from, and the other half reserved for those who have paid for the yasna to be held. (I’ve left out the very long recitations of parts of the Zoroastrian scripture that take placed in-between most of these acts.)

The pomegranate twigs are from a tree which, in a canonical Zoroastrian temple, grows in the temple’s courtyard, which is where the well is. The goat whose milk is used lives there too, and presumably feeds at least in part on the leaves of the tree. The tree is representative of the “tree of all seeds,” i.e., the source of all life, and the axis mundi. The tree of all seeds is also identified as itself being the haoma plant (Windfuhr, 1985, 705-6). The well connects the temple to the Waters. Ephedra doesn’t so much symbolize as be; it is a provider of inspiration, invigoration, long life, wisdom, courage – in short, everything good. From a physical point of view, the ephedra is a natural stimulant.

Besides obtaining the gifts mentioned, the ritual, in Zoroastrian terms, is part of the combat between Order and Chaos. Pouring the hom into the well “blesses and strengthens the Waters and thereby the rest of creation (Williams and Boyd, 1993, 166). Through the hom ritual, then the physical universe is enlivened by the spiritual one.

The ritual may be seen as expressing the interplay between the parts of the Indo-European universe. Although the Waters are seen as inherently beneficent in Zoroastrian theology, it can’t be denied that the well is an opening to the land below, and thus, in Indo-European terms, a passageway to Chaos. The tree, on the other hand, is, in Indo-European thought, the form of Cosmos. Now, the goat eats from the tree, and thus her milk is the direct result of the tree; it is the tree (Cosmos) in consumable form, and the gift of the tree. By consuming the parahom, the priests receive the gift of Chaos, which has been made safe by being prepared in a ritual, by being, in other words, ordered. This gift is then mixed with the product of Cosmos, indeed, with Cosmos itself, and given to Chaos. Thus the Indo-European cosmic cycle is acted out in the ritual.

Haoma exists in a mythical form as well. There it is said to come from the mountains (Duchesne-Guillemin, 1969, 332) (which is where the ephedra used today grows), whence it is brought by birds, although it originally came from heaven (Keith, 1989 (1925), 171; Hom Yašt).

Haoma can also be considered a god (Duchesne-Guillemin, 1969, 332), who is prayed to for children. Sometimes it is hard to tell which is meant, the prepared drink, the plant, or a divine being. In Yasna 9.8, we find haoma compared to other intoxicants, in verse 12 we are told of how haoma grows in the mountains, and in verse 13 it is being praised as if it were a god, and then in verse 13 it is back to being a drink again, with it asked to give the man who drinks it mixed prosperity and a good mind.

The second divine liquid in Iran is the xvarənah. This is the divine glory that conveys, among other things, kingship. The word is from *swelnos, “solar matter” (Puvhel, 1987, 281) and so it is burning as well as a liquid. In the story told in Yašt 19, he (it was sometimes personified) was possessed by King Yima until the king sinned against truth, whereupon he left him in three parts, each time in the form of a Varaghna bird, a falcon. The three-headed snake Aži Dahāka attempts to steal it, but is scared off by the threats of Ātar, “Fire.” Apām Napāt, “Son of Waters,” then seizes it and deposits it in Lake Vourukaša. In an attempt to seize it and thereby the kingship, the Turanian (i.e., non-Aryan, and therefore ineligible) Frangryasyan dives into the lake three times, but it flees from him, overflowing in the waters of the lake. As well as sovereignty, xvarənah gives power, health, and offspring; it is also a source of immortality (Brough, 1985, 716, n. 21).

In addition to putting the xvarənah in Lake Vourukaša, Apām Napāt dwells there. He is often called “swift-horsed,” and in Yašt 19 is also called “lord of females.”

As usual, Vedic India gives us more than we need, almost too much to handle. In fact, we have to deal not with one ritual drink, but with two, and with myths of others as well. The most famous of these drinks is soma.

This is a plant, a drink prepared from it, and a god identified with both or either (and, in the later period, the moon). The identity of the plant is unknown; it was apparently either too expensive or difficult to obtain, and substitutes were allowed for it at an early date; eventually the actual plant fell out of use completely, and then out of memory.

There have been many theories as to the identity of the original plant, but none have acquired universal acceptance. It is clear, however, that soma was a stimulant. Indra drinks it to be energized for battle, especially his famous fight against Vṛtra. It also inspired priests, and was said to provide immortality, although by this latter is meant only long and full life for mortals.

There are numerous myths surrounding soma, the most famous of which is the “theft of the soma.” The most important texts for this are RV 4. 26 and 4.27. The soma is originally in the possession of the Asuras, the forces of disorder (ṇṛta), who oppose the gods, and who keep it in their mountain fortress. It is stolen from them by suparṇu¸ a raptor (either falcon or eagle). This may be Indra in its form, or Indra may accompany it. While it is returning with the soma, an archer shoots off one of its feathers (or a wing) (RV 4.27.3-4) or a toe (Aitareya-brāhmaṇa III.25, 26), which falls to the ground and becomes a plant which can be used as a substitute for soma (O'Flaherty, 1981, 131, n. 17).

The soma ritual, the agniṣṭoma, is a complex one, involving a number of pressings of the stalks after they have been soaked in water. It can extend over three days, or be limited to one. In the single day version there are three pressings; in the morning, at midday, and in the afternoon. There are numerous sub-rituals, including sacrifices and cake offerings. The rituals are described in varying degrees of detail in numerous sources, including the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, and the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa. Some useful secondary sources are Hillebrandt (1980) and Keith (1989). The juice is mixed at various times with things other than water, including milk, barley, rice, and honey. While the juice as bitter, the soma drink is described as mádhu-, which can mean both “honey” and “sweet,” to the point where we can’t always be sure which is meant. Sometimes this seems literal, because of the addition of honey, and sometimes metaphorical. During the ritual, soma is offered to numerous gods and the ancestors, and consumed by the priests and by the person on whose behalf the ritual is being performed.

We are told in the Vedas that originally the soma ritual was only allowed for the two upper classes, the brahmans and the kṣatriyas, but was later extended to the vaisyas (Varenne , 1991, 235), although it was always forbidden to anyone outside the classes of the Aryas.

The second Vedic drink is surā, which I consider more important for our purposes. Usually incorrectly (and inexplicably) translated “wine,” it is more a beer. It is composed of water; grains, including rice and barley; honey; yeast; and milk. It is fermented in holes in the ground for at least three days. Each day it is uncovered, rituals are performed, and new ingredients are added, primarily various grains in various forms (sprouted, parched, sprouted and parched, etc.) (References are to Kolhatkar, 1999).

The ritual, the sautrāmaṇi, is prescribed for members of the warrior (kṣatriya) class. It may be performed for various reasons – it is part of the rājasūya (the royal consecration ritual, 18), it brings prosperity and offspring (21) and healing (22) -- but most especially for one who has over-indulged in soma. It includes a triple sacrifice, a goat, a ram, and a bull, to the Aśvins, Sarasvatī, and Indra, respectively, three animals associated with each of the Indo-European functions.

Surā is subordinated to soma, as shown in many ways. For instance, the major deities involved are the third function Sarasvati and the Aśvins (the third deity to whom the ritual is dedicated is, perhaps inevitably, Indra). The Aśvins, “Horsemen,” were even originally forbidden to partake of the soma ritual.

The Aśvins are especially connected with surā. In RV 1.116.7 they cause a hundred jars of it to flow from a horse’s hoof as a gift for Kakṣīvat. According to RV 10.131.4-5, they used it to help Indra in his fight against Namuci and with it Sarasvati healed them.

The Vedic texts are ambivalent on surā. Sometimes it is blamed for wrongdoing (RV 7.86.6), and sometimes it is clearly a sacred drink. Since the sautramaṇi is intended to purify the drinker (who is even originally Indra) from drinking too much soma, it may be said that at least on that occasion it is superior to soma.

Nonetheless, I believe it, rather than soma, to have been the Vedicized version of the Indo-European sacred drink. I base this on a number of factors. First, it is clear that the soma can’t be the reflex, at least not in toto, because whatever the plant may have been, it did not grow in the rest of the Indo-European world, outside of the Indo-Iranian area. Second, what is used outside of Indian and Iran is an alcoholic beverage, and sura, not soma, is alcoholic. Third, the ingredients of surā – grain, honey, yeast, milk, and water – correspond to those of other Indo-European drinks. It is true, of course, that these are also included in soma; however, they are not the primary focus of that drink.

There are two other drinks mentioned in the myths and texts, namely mádhu and amṛta.

I’ve already mentioned mádhu as one of the descriptions of soma, but it also seems to exist as a separate drink. We encounter the following myth, alluded to in the Rig Veda, but elaborated in later texts:

The Asvins went to Dadhyañc to ask for the secret of mádhu, but Dadhyañc refused to give it to them because Indra had promised to cut off his head if he did. The Aśvins told him that that was no problem, because they knew how to restore heads. With Dadhyañc’s agreement, they cut off his head themselves, and replaced it with a horse’s head. Dadhyañc taught them the secret, Indra appeared and cut off the horse’s head, and the Aśvins restore the original head (O’Flaherty, 1975, 56-7). (There is an interesting sequel to this story. In a later text, the horse’s head falls into a lake on Mount Śaryaṇāvat, where in RV 9.113.1 Indra drinks soma. It is later used by Indra as a weapon to kill demons with, and therefore may be equated with his thunderbolt; in other words, the horse head in the lake is the fire in the water (O’Flaherty, 1980, 219-20).)

Here it seems that not only is mádhu a drink in its own right, separate from soma, but that 1. it is connected with the Aśvins, and 2. it is worth it to Indra to prevent its secret from leaking out. The connection with the Aśvins is no surprise, since they are often connected with honey. Theirs is the only chariot referred to as a “honey-chariot,” they give honey to the bees (RV 10.40.6), and are even said to create honey in a cow’s udder (RV 10.106.10) (Hillebrandt, 1980, II:317). They are called “mádhu-drinkers,” but never “soma-drinkers,” even though they in fact are offered soma (Hillebrandt, 1980, II:317). It took extra effort to attain the right to drink soma – they were only allowed to do so because they were the only ones who could heal the sacrifice (Hillebrandt, 1980:318).

The value of mádhu to Indra and Dadhyañc is more surprising. Clearly this is a secret of great importance, and to Indra, whose usual interest is with the soma. What is most significant here is that mádhu is identified as a ritual drink other than soma.

Mádhu is connected with horses twice in this myth, via the Aśvins and the horse’s head. It is further connected with horses by the horses that race in the royal vājapeya ritual being given mádhu before and after racing (Hillebrandt, 1980, 468, n. 285). This also shows a royal connection.

Linguistically speaking, it would make sense for mádhu to have been mead, since the words are cognate. However, I am unaware of mead appearing anywhere in Vedic ritual. There is a hint of it, however, in the story of Indra killing Viśvarūpa, who had three heads. We are told in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa 5.5.4.2-3 that with one he drank soma, with one he drank surā, and that with the third he ate ghee and honey. “Honey” would, of course, be mádhu, here paired with the other two sacred drinks.

A stronger possibility is that mádhu was identified with surā, either as a synecdoche or through the connection with the Aśvins. As we have seen, honey is an important ingredient of surā, and the Aśvins are closely connected with it. They are said to be great drinkers of mádhu (RV 8.22.17, in Heesterman, 1986, 48; Griffith for some reason translates mádhupatama as “Chief drinkers of the Soma's juice.”) RV 1.116.7 and 1.117.6 are identical, except that in the latter a word referring to sura has replaced one referring to mádhu (Hillebrandt, 1980, I:321).

A myth that contains a name related to mádhu that sheds light on its function, if not its identity, is that of Mādhavī. In it, Gālava, to repay his guru Visvamitra for his teaching, has to bring eight hundred horses which are white but with one back ear. He finds three kings, each of whom has two hundred such horses, and Mādhavī conceives a successor for each of them in exchange for the horses, recovering her virginity miraculously after each marriage. After getting six hundred horses in this way, Gālava learns that there are no more in the world. He brings what he has to Visvamitra and explains the situation. Viśvamitra says that he should have come to him first, since Mādhavī herself is worth eight hundred moon-colored horses. He then conceives his own son on her, and she once again regains her virginity. She is then offered the chance to choose her own husband from all the world, and she chooses to marry the forest; i.e., she renounces the world and goes into the forest to be a holy woman (Dumézil, 1973, 70-78; West, 2007, 416).

What we see here, then, is a woman whose name is a reflex of *medhu-, who is the mother of kings, who is of equivalent value to (and thus may be identified with) eight hundred special horses, and who has control over her own sexuality, a rare ability and freedom in the patriarchal Vedic/Hindu society.

One reason for the use of mádhu may be reflected in a request for the Asvins to anoint the singer with honey “so that he could speak happily in front of men;” (Hilldebrandt, 1980, II:318) i.e., it provides either inspiration or poetic skill. Since the word “honey” would have been mádhu, the request could have either for honey itself or for the drink made from it.

All in all, because mádhu can refer to either honey, sweetness, or a drink, it is extremely difficult to tease the references to it apart from those to other drinks. At the very least, however, we can say that there was a sacred drink called mádhu, and that honey was an important part of other sacred drinks.

The story of Dadhyañc overlaps with a multitude of drinks. We have already seen how it links with mádhu. This is what is indicated in the Rig Veda. In the Jaiminīya Brāhmaṇa 3.120-9 (O’Flaherty, 1985, 66-7) the Aśvins gain a share of soma through the knowledge of the sacrifice that Dadhyañc gives them. And in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, 14.1.1, the link is made between the story and the ritual of the pravargya. This ritual eventually became part of the soma agniṣṭoma, but it was originally a separate ritual (Houben, 1991, 4). In it the gharma, a large clay vessel, was made, fumigated with smoke from a stallion’s dung (Houben; 1991; 30, 56), baked, and then cooled down with goat’s milk. It is later heated red-hot and a mixture of goat’s and cow’s milk poured in. According to Michael Witzel, who attended one such ritual, when the milk is poured in it “virtually explode[s] several yards high” (Witzel, 2012); there are photographs of this moment in two performances of the ritual in Houben, 2000, 506). The hot milk mixture (what is left after the explosion, I presume) is offered to the Asvins and drunk by those present. The large pot is considered to be the head of the sacrifice, which must be reunited with it. This is done mythically by the Aśvins (Houben, 1991, 26). The goal of the ritual is to infuse the practitioner with the luster of the sun.

There is an important Vedic ritual that combines soma, surā, and honey, the vājapeya, mentioned earlier, which is celebrated only by kings (Keith, 1989, 339-40). It is, in fact, apparently part of the inauguration ritual, the rājasūya. It involves an agniṣṭoma and a horse race (in which the king is to be victorious). During it, both soma and surā are offered, and at one point a cup of honey is placed in the hand of a Kṣatriya or Vaiśya (i.e., a member of the Arya who isn’t a priest), although the honey isn’t consumed.

The final drink to be mentioned is amr̄ta. This means “undying,” and the word is cognate with Greek ambrosia. Like nektar, in some descriptions it seems more of a food than a drink. In ritual it doesn’t seem to refer to a drink of its own, being applied as a title to soma (Keith, 189, 167) and to surā (However, it appears as a separate drink in the early Hindu myth of the churning of the ocean:

The gods, to win immortality, wanted to obtain amr̄ta. They did this by churning the ocean, with the axis mundi world mountain as the churning stick and the great serpent Ananta as a cord to turn it with. The gods (devas) pulled one end, and their opponents, the Asuras, the other, with the deal that each side would get some of the amr̄ta once it was obtained. A variety of things were churned out of the waters, including soma, surā, and finally the amṛta. Then Nārāyaṇa (”Man/Son of the Waters”), whose idea the churning had been, turned himself into a woman and conned the Asuras out of their share. This started a war between the devas and the Asuras, which the devas won (O’Flaherty, 1975, 274-80).

Here soma, surā, and amṛta are each created separately, but from the same act, making them both different and the same. This is a late tale, from the Mahābhārata, and may reflect some confusion among original forms of the sacred drink(s), or merely the free-wheeling system of identifications and multiplications common in the Vedic and post-Vedic traditions.

In another version of the war, from the Kāṭhaka Saṃhitā (37.14a), the Asuras have the amṛta, keeping it in the mouth of Śuṣṇa, Indra turns himself into a drop of honey and falls onto the path in front of Śuṣṇa, who eats him up. Indra then consumes the amṛta, turns himself into a falcon, bursts from Śuṣṇa, and flies back to the gods. (O’Flaherty, 1975, 281.)

From these accounts, and many others which space does not permit me to include here, we can postulate a Proto-Indo-European sacred drink, the rituals and myths for which contain these elements:
1. There is a drink which is both fire and water.
2. It is homologized with the cosmological well.
3. It is dangerous to the unworthy.
4. To the worthy, it gives divine boons in all of the functions. What ties these together is the overcoming of death; the drink is *Nekter, the “death-overcomer” (Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, 1995, 721). For gods, it provides literal immortality, and for mortals a long and vibrant life. For the warrior it grants the martial prowess necessary to gain *klewos ṇmṛtos, the goal of all warriors. For the poet, it brings the inspiration to create immortal words.
5. It is in the possession of Outsiders.
6. It is stolen from them by a thundergod, in the shape of or with the help of an eagle/falcon.
7. It is served by cupbearers, generally female.
8. It determines and/or provides sovereignty.
9. It is most likely alcoholic, based on honey and barley; it is mixed with goat’s milk. 10. Some of the drink is offered to the gods, and some is drunk by human participants.

Not all of these will be obvious from the limited examples I’ve given, but when all of the evidence is taken into consideration (or at least a sufficient amount of it; when dealing with the IE sacred drink, “all” is a pretty big order), these characteristics become apparent.

I have perhaps become too literal in my reconstruction. It is not known to what extent IE rituals paralleled their aetiologies, or whether they included their retelling. The allusions may have been more subtle, relying on an assumed knowledge, rather than being do expository. I’ve written for a modern audience, however, making explicit what would have become part of an ancient person’s cognitive framework as a result of their upbringing. A single ritual can’t make up for a lack of life’s experience, but it’s a start.

References:

Dumézil, Georges. The Destiny of a King. tr. Alf Hiltebeitel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973.

Duchesne-Guillemin, Jacques. Symbols and Values in Zoroastrianism. New York: Harper and Row, 1966.

—— The Religion of Ancient Iran. In Historia Religionum: Handbook for the History of Religions. ed. C. Jouco Bleeker. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1969, 327-76.

Enright, Michael J. Lady with a Mead Cup: Ritual, Prophecy and Lordship in the European Warband from La Tène to the Viking Age. Portland, OR: Four Courts Press, 1996.

Flattery, David Stophlet, and Schwartz, Martin. Haoma and Harmaline: The Botanical Identity of the Indo-Iranian Sacred Hallucinogen "Soma" and its Legacy in Religion, Language, and Middle Eastern Folklore. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1989.

Gamkrelidze, Thomas V. and Ivanov, Vjačeslav V. Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans: A Reconstruction and Historical Analysis of a Proto-Language and a Proto-Culture. tr. Johanna Nichols. New York: Mounton de Gruyter, 1995.

Greppin, John, Xvarənah. Journal of Indo-European Studies 1:2 (Summer, 1973), 232-42.

Heesterman, J. C. The Inner Conflict of Tradition: Essays in Indian Ritual, Kingship, and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.

Hillebrandt, Alfred. Vedic Mythology. tr. Sreeramula Rajeswara Sarma. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1980 (1929).

Houben, Jan E. M. (tr.) The Pravargya Brāhmaṇa of the Taittirīya Āraṇkayaka. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1991.

-----The Ritual Pragmatics of a Vedic Hymn: The “Riddle Hymn” and the Pravargya Ritual. Journal of the American Oriental Society 120:4 (Oct. – Dec., 2000), 499-536.

Kolhatkar, Madhavi Bhaskar. Surā: The Liquor and the Vedic Sacrifice. New Delhi: D. K. Printworld, 1999.

Keith, Arthur Berriedale. The Religion and Philosophy of the Veda and Upanishads. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1989 (1925).

Lincoln, Bruce. Waters of Memory, Waters of Forgetfulness. Fabula 23 (1982b), 19 - 34.

Modi, Jivanji J. The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the Parsees. New York: Garland Publishing, 1979 (1922).

O’Flaherty, Wendy. Hindu Myths. New York: Penguin Books, 1975.

—— Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980.

--The Rig Veda. New York: Penguin Books, 1981.

—— Tales of Sex and Violence: Folklore, Sacrifice, and Danger in the Jaimanīya Brāhmaṇa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.

Polomé, Edgar C. Beer, Runes, and Magic. Journal of Indo-European Studies 24:1 & 2 (Spring/Summer, 1986), 99 - 105.

Puhvel, Jaan. Aquam Extinguere. Journal of Indo-European Studies 1:3 (Fall, 1973), 379 - 386.

----Comparative Mythology. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins Press, 1987.

Snorri Sturluson. Edda. tr. Anthony Faulkes. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1987.

Turville-Petre, E. O. G. Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1964.

Varenne, Jean. The Indo-Europeans. tr. John Leavitt. In A Restructured Translation of Mythologies (2 vol.). ed. Yves Bonefoy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.

Watkins, Calvert. “Let us Now Praise Famous Grains.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 122:1 (Feb., 1978), 9-17.

Windfuhr, Gernot L. Haoma/Soma: The Plant. In Papers in Honour of Professor Mary Boyce, vol. II (Acta Iranica 25) (1985), pp. 699-726.

Williams, Ron G. and James W. Boyd. Ritual Art and Knowledge: Aesthetic Theory and Zoroastrian Ritual. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, 1993.

Witzel, Michael. Report on the Atirātra ritual held in Kerala in April 2011., 2012. Accessed 4/5/2013.



The Nekter ritual, as I have (re)constructed it, is performed as part of a sacrificial ritual dedicated to Xákʷōm Népōt, with additional offerings to Dyé̄us Pté̄r, Perkʷú̄nos, and the cupbearers of Xákʷōm Népōt.


Preparation

The Nekter can be prepared with water and honey sufficiently in advance that it ferments, or it can be prepared the at least the day before the actual ritual, using already fermented mead. I have written this for the second way; it can be adjusted by those who are brewers if they wish to try the first.

Items required:
Purification: small bowl (for purifying yourself), large bowl, spring water to fill them, two or three towels.

Preparation: speltá (if you are performing this at home, you can use your kitchen table), melted clarified butter, butter spoon, frying pan, barley, spoon for stirring barley, bowl for barley, mortar and pestle, second bowl for crushed barley, small pot, glass measuring cup, pitcher, cloth for covering pitcher, and a gold ribbon or gold-plated chain (one light enough that it can be cut with a knife).

Adjust the amount of barley and mead for the number of people who will be at the ritual.

Purify and garb yourself, purify the tools, and create sacred space. (If you are performing this in your own house, offer to Westyā instead.)

Spoon a small amount of clarified butter into the frying pan, saying:

The prize of the people is the cow
and the prize of the cow is the golden butter.
Through the giving of butter
the gods come to us
and we go to them to dwell in their land.

Heat the butter and then pour about a handful of the barley into the pan, saying:

The home of the people is the earth
and the prize of the earth is the barley.
Through the giving of barley
the gods come to us
and we go to them to dwell in their land.

Fry the barley well, stirring it clockwise with the spoon in your right hand to keep it from burning. When it is toasted, spoon it into the bowl to cool.

Once it is cool, take the mortar and pestle. Holding the pestle in your right hand and facing east, knock on the inside edge of the mortar four times, in the east, north, west, and south, saying with each knock:

Wagrṓ ʔṓgʷhim gʷhent.
[With the wágros he killed the serpent.]

Pour some of the barley into the mortar and grind. When you have done this, pour it out into the second bowl and repeat until it is all ground.

Pour the mead in the pot. Put it on the fire, saying:

ʔṇ́gʷnis xakʷākʷe,
dṓnom ḱwéntom Xápōm Néptos
ṇgṇ̄tōt deiwōns ǵnəsḱomom

[Fire and water,
the blessing of Xáp̄m Népōts.
Through the unknown we come to know the gods.]

Heat until bubbles just start to rise. Then sprinkle some of the barley on top of the mead, saying:

Yéwōt xadbherontós
yéwesos xadbherontós
sentō dhéstō
sóntes dhéstō gʷṇ̄ti

[Through the sacrificial barley
By the ritual laws of sacrifice
Along the divine path
Come divine things.]

Let the mixture cool, and then pour it into the pitcher, using the stirring spoon to make sure all of the barley makes it into the pitcher.

Cover the pitcher with a white cloth, saying:

The secret lives in the secret,
in the mystery mystery is born.

Tie the gold ribbon or chain around the pitcher to hold the cloth on. Tie three half hitches. Tie the first by putting the right end of the ribbon over the left, saying:

Blessed be this drink

Tie the second left over right, saying:

set apart as a sacrifice

Tie the second right over left, saying:

a living drink.

Leave the pitcher overnight or three nights and then perform the main ritual..

The Main Ritual

Besides the items required for a usual public ritual, you will need a basket of cups, a ladle, a strainer, a bowl large enough for the Nekter, and a pitcher of goat's milk. The bowl, with the strainer in it, is placed just to the west of the xá̄sā. The basket of cups is placed near the ʔṇ́gʷnis. The ladle, goat's milk, and one cup are placed just to the right of the speltá. You may wish to put the ladle on a cloth to keep it clean, and provide one near the bowl for the same purpose.

Arrange everything else in the way usual for a sacrificial ritual. The Cupbearer carries the Nekter in the procession. She puts it down in the far west of the ghórdhos before taking a place to the right of the Kówəs just to the south of the xá̄sā. The Ǵhéuter carries the milk as well as the mead; he puts the milk down to the right of the speltá as he passes it, and the mead to its left as he takes his place.

Prepare your ghórdhos as usual, and follow the usual ritual order, sacrificing a horse to Xá̄kwōm Népōt. After the offering to the All Gods, begin the actual Nekter ritual.

The Xádbhertor says:

Nisétste, tosio sewe xṛtḗi stḗnói.
Nisétste, tesās sewe xṛtḗu stḗnói.
Nisétste, sṃptḗi xartī.

The Ǵhéuter says:

Sit down, each in his own rightful place,
Sit down, each in her own rightful place,
Sit down, that we may drink together in order.

All sit. The Cupbearer sits across the fire from the Fire Tender, to the left of the Kówəs.
The Ǵhéuter says:

Suḱlúte moi.
Nu pélnom Nektrós weryemi.
[Here me well: I am telling the story of Nekter.]

The Kówəs says:

Listen well to the story of the Nekter.

The Ǵhéuter says:

The Outsiders held the Nekter in their well of Chaos. But it didn't belong there.
Yes, Nekter is Chaos, is fire, is water, is a burning which can overthrow the Cosmos, destroying men destroying the gods destroying even the Xártus.
But that is why it is wrong for the Outsiders to hold it in their untamed land. The Nekter belongs in the divine realm. It belongs in the land of the gods. The gods know how to use it. In their hands the Nekter supports the Xártus protecting not only the Cosmos of the gods but the Chaos of the Outsiders. That is why the Nekter really belonged to the gods.
The Outsiders were thieves. It wasn't right for them to have it and they wouldn't give the Nekter up. Dyḗus Ptḗr, who knows the Xártus, knew the Nekter had to be saved, and he, the one who sees all things, knew what to do.

The Fire Tender offers butter on the ʔṇ́gʷnis.
The Ǵhéuter says:

The Knowing One called to Perkʷū́nos and told him to seize the Nekter. Perkʷū́nos picked up his wágros. He knew how to deal with snakes. The killer of the great snake was not afraid.

The Fire Tender offers butter on the ʔṇ́gʷnis.
The Ǵhéuter says:

Perkʷū́nos set out, accompanied by the eagle of Diwós Patrós. To the land of the Outsiders, he went. Into the heart of Chaos, he went. He went to overcome the Outsiders and seize from them the Nekter.
The Outsiders came out from behind their walls, made arrogant by their knowing of the Nekter. They set their snares, which trap the unknowing. Perkʷū́nos raised his wágros, which strikes without error.
Xáḱskʷe ként.
[And the battle began.]

The Kówəs says:

And the battle began.

The Ǵhéuter says:

Perkʷū́nos fought well and bravely, but he had no Nekter so he was not strong. The Outsiders had Nekter, and they were strong. Perkʷū́nos could fight the Outsiders but without the strength of the Nekter he couldn't win. The Outsiders could fight Perkʷū́nos but without his wágros they couldn't win.
Back and forth went the battle, now this one winning, now that, Perkʷū́nos slowly leading the Snakes from their fortresses.
And while the battle raged, the eagle flew to the Nekter, which lay unguarded by the Outsiders who were fighting far from their walls. He drank it all, in three draughts, emptying its container, and flew back to the gods, Perkʷū́nos riding between his wings, behind his golden-eyed head, filled with Nekter.
With their many eyes, the Outsiders saw this, and followed in rage. But they were too late. The eagle had reached the tree, and now flew high up to the top, through Cosmos where Chaos cannot go if the gods are strengthened with Nekter. It flew to its master, and Dyḗus Ptḗr received the Nekter, the eagle pouring it into the Shining Sky's cup. Now the other gods clustered around, wondering what to do. They wanted the Nekter, but they feared this piece of Chaos among them: Would it burn even them, would it burn even that Tree, and the Cosmos dissolve in the flames of Chaos? Dyḗus Ptḗr feared it too, but he is wise.

The Fire Tender offers butter on the ʔṇ́gʷnis.
The Ǵhéuter says:

He gave the Nekter to Xápōm Népōts to guard. Xáp̄m Népōts put the Nekter at the base of the tree, where the fire of sacrifice burns in the waters of purification, and set about it cupbearers, pure themselves, of unsullied power. Watching well, they keep it safe, he and them; it from others, and others from it. There at the nexus between Chaos and Cosmos, the Nekter is kept, safe from those who must not drink it, lacking purity or strength or wisdom. But they offer their cups, to the brim with Nekter, to those with the right to drink it: May we be such.

The Fire Tender offers butter on the ḥ́gʷnis. The Xádbhertor says:

Swélplm ǵʷelṇtós xapā́s Patréi ǵhewomes.
We pour fuel to the Guardian of the Waters.
Be good to your guests and let us come to you.
May we approach your well and drink the fire safely
that we might be immortal.

The Fire Tender offers butter on the ʔṇ́gʷnis, while the Xádbhertor says:

Xápōm Népōts, wéidwōs, Nekterm mṛ-ḗi xárkti.
Xapsā udéni.

The Ǵhéuter says:

Xápōm Népōts, wise, holds the Nekter in the sea,
Living Water in the waters.

The Xádbhertor says:

Tóm qʷongʷṇ hedmes.

The Ǵhéuter says:

We feed him with butter.

The Xádbhertor says:

Tosyo démz tozmi ǵhóstoi Nektrē bhṛǵhyétu.

The Ǵhéuter says:

May he rise from his home with the Nekter in his hand.

The Fire Tender offers butter on the ʔṇ́gʷnis.
The Xádbhertor says:

May he, through the power of his shining,
make the pouring water a feeding of the tree, not its destruction.

The Fire Tender offers butter on the ʔṇ́gʷnis.
The Ǵhéuter says:

Gʷem ʔenter ʔekwou, woskʷe gʷemyēti.

The Kówəs says:

Between twin horses come, and we will come to you,

The Ǵhéuter says:

Purified, at peace with those who dispense the Nekter, and with their blessing.

The Fire Tender offers clarified butter on the ʔṇ́gʷnis.
The Cupbearer goes to the speltá, sits, and purifies herself, saying:

May I be pure that I might cross through the sacred.

She dips her hand again, touches her lips, and says:

May I cross through the sacred that I may attain the holy.

She dips her hand again, touches her heart, and says:

May I attain the holy that I might be blessed in all things.

The Xádbhertor says:

Three are the cupbearers who serve the drink.
They the ones who bring it to us;
Xápōm Népōts its guardian,
beneath the sea where the waters burn.
He its keeper, he the one who decides to whom it will go.
But they are the ones who pour it out.
We must offer to him to allow us to drinkt.
But we must pour to them to ask them to serve

The Ǵhéuter pours three small libations of milk (he leaves some milk in the bowl) on the north side of the speltá, saying:

Pibéte tóm ǵláktom ṇzmed xapéns.
ʔitxám sté wṇtās lēdétekʷe poqʷontṃ ṇzmei pātās ptéis.

The Kówəs says:

Drink this milk from our wealth and, pleased,
let us drink from that which you guard.

The Ǵéuter gives the bowl with the remaining milk it to the human cupbearer, saying:

Bhér Nektérm ṇzmé ṇzmed sontós ṇmrtōs.

The Kówəs says:

Bring the Nekter to us that we might be immortal.

The Cupbearer drinks the milk. She puts the cup down and picks up the feather and the knife. She then goes to the Nekter. Holding the knife and feather together in her right hand, she cuts the ribbon/chain, saying:

The thunderbolt steals the sacrifice of the snakes.

She throws the ribbon onto the ground to the left of the pitcher. She puts the cloth on the ground to the right of the pitcher. On top of it she puts the knife, with its point facing the west. Still carrying the feather, she picks up the pitcher and brings it towards the fires.

On the way, she stops three times, pouring a drop of Nekter out each time, saying:

May they be satisfied with one drop. [the first time]
May they be satisfied with two drops. [the second time]
May they be satisfied with three drops. [the third time]

When she pours out the third drop, the Kówəs says:

ʔogʷhēs, ʔóinom tóm bherēti.
Snakes, that is all you will get.

At this point she is standing just to the west of the xá̄sā.
The Xádbhertor says:

Nekter destroys the impure, Nekter destroys the untrue.

and purifies himself, saying:

Púros [masc.] / Púrā [fem.] syēm. [May I be pure.]
Xártus [masc.] / Xártā syēm. [May I be true.]

He goes to the where the Cupbearer is, and she hands him the Nekter, which he takes it in his right hand. She sits down to the right of the Fire Tender. The Xádbhertor picks up the strainer in his left hand. He pours the Nekter through the strainer into the bowl, saying:

Fire that falls, Water that rises.
From the one, the other; from the other, the one;
From both combined, entry before the gods,

He puts the Nekter pitcher and the strainer down. He picks up the feather and brushes first the edge of the pitcher, and then the dge of the bowl, saying:

Rising upon the back of the eagle

He puts the feather down and picks up the ladle, saying:

under the protection of the wágros-wielder,

He uses the ladle to squeeze as much of the Nekter out of the grain in the pitcher as possible, saying:

who rescues from the Serpents as the Xártus declares.

He puts the ladle down, picks up the strainer again, and pours the pressed out Nekter through the strainer into the bowl, saying:

Fall from above the lightning-filled rain:
fire seeds the rain;
the rain seeds the ground.

He puts the Nekter pitcher down, picks up the ladle and uses it to press Nekter out of the grain in the strainer, saying:

The wágros-won overcomes death,
the stolen steals away weakness,
the eagle-borne leaves darkness behind.

The Xádbhertor puts the strainer and ladle back down and sits. The Cupbearer pours milk, of a quantity equal to that of the Nekter, into the bowl and mixes it with the ladle. The Xádbhertor says:

Offering creates ritual, ritual creates order, order creates Cosmos.
Through offering Chaos is tamed,

The Cupbearer takes the bowl and ladle to just south of the ʔṇ́gʷnis, where she puts them on the ground and sits down (to the right of the Kówəs). She then puts her hands on either side of the bowl, holding it but not taking it off the ground and while the Ǵhéuter says:

The well reaches down into the depths.
The well reaches down into Bhudhnōn.
The well reaches up from the depths.
The well reaches up from Bhudhnōn.
It brings us flaming water.

The Cupbearer lifts the bowl up to the level of top of the ʔṇ́gʷnis (but not actually over it) while the Ǵhéuter says:

The living waters rise into Médhyom;
They fill it and enliven it.
Chaos flows into Cosmos and Cosmos is renewed.

The Cupbearer holds the bowl over the fire, while the Ǵhéuter says:

Living water, living flame.
Chaos and Cosmos meet here in the center at the point between order and disorder.
Fiery water upwells and threatens to destroy.
But here at the center is the transforming flame of the sacrificial fire,
the fire of offering,
and here the flaming waters of Chaos are tamed and turned.

The Cupbearer stands, holding the bowl, and says:

ʔṇ́gʷnis udéni, ḱĺtos táxus sāgyetor.

The Ǵhéuter says:

Fire in water, the hidden mystery here revealed.

The Cupbearer puts the bowl on the ground again. The Fire Tender offers clarified butter and the Ǵhéuter says:

Xápōm Nepti, Wisudéiwobhoskʷe,
To Xápōm Népōts and all the gods
Our offerings and our prayers.
We pray for wisdom and inspiration.
May we, filled with Nekter, accomplish our ends.

All say:

May we, filled with Nekter, accomplish our ends.

The Cupbearer pours a very small amount of Nekter at the base of the ʔṇ́gʷnis, while the Xádbhertor says:

The Nekter is the gods'.
The Divine drink it.

Carrying the ladle, the Xádbhertor goes to between the Cupbearer and Kówəs, and gives the Cupbearer the ladle. She ladles some Nekter into a cup and hands it to him. He holds it out towards the fire, and says:

Dótorbhos weswom Nékterm dəmes.
We have given Nekter to the givers of gifts,
We have made offering to the gods through fire,
and they have given us in return this blazing water to drink..

He drinks the Nekter in the cup. Then he puts the cup down, and the Cupbearer gives him the bowl. With the bowl at eye level, he turns clockwise, starting and ending in the east, holding the Nekter out to the people, while the Ǵhéuter says:

From the source of the waters flows fiery liquid;
from the well of Xápōm Népōts the gift of Nekter is offered,
Source of life to all who drink it,
Source of power to all who drink it,
Source of holiness to all who drink it.
Drink and be filled with the water that burns,

The Cupbearer says:

Gʷemyéte wisū́s pútos pibótekʷe.
Gʷemyéte pibótekʷe dōnom Xápōm Neptós.

The Kówəs says:

All who are worthy come and drink.
Come and drink the gift of Xápōm Népōts.

The Cupbearer ladles out some Nekter into a cup. She puts the ladle down and drinks it while the Xádbhertor says:

Pō dubū́ táxeus:
Dó̄tres weswom Nékterm dedṇti.

The Ǵhéuter says:

Drink deeply of the mystery:
The givers of gifts give Nekter.

After she drinks, she says:

Ṇmṛtā ʔesmi. [I am immortal.]

She then ladles out some into a cup for the Fire Tender, the Kówəs, and the Ǵhéuter, and the process is repeated. The Xádbhertor picks up the bowl and the Cupbearer the ladle and cups. They go around the space, doing the same with each person, starting with the Ǵhéuter and then the Kówəs.
[Note: there must be some Nekter left over when all have drunk.]

Each person responds:

Ṇmṛtos ʔesmi. [masc.] / Ṇmṛtā ʔesmi. [fem.]

When all the others have drunk, the Xádbhertor drinks again. He returns the bowl to its place and he and the Cupbearer goes to theirs. The Xádbhertor says:

Ṇmṛtōs smes.
[We are immortal.]
Xapās pipḷmes.
[We are filled with living water.]

All say:

We are filled with living water.

The Xádbhertor says:

Ṇmṛtōs smes.
Hṇgʷnī́ pipḷmes.
[We are filled with living fire.]

All say:

We are filled with living fire.

The Xádbhertor says:

Nmṛtōs smes.
Nektrós pipḷmes.
[We are filled with Nekter.]

All say:

We are filled with Nekter.
The Xádbhertor says:

Nekter is our sacrificial fire.
We are become an offering.
We rise to the gods.
We dwell in the presence of the gods.
Through the power of the Nekter we are made immortal.
Ṇmṛtōs smes.

All say:

Ṇmṛtōs smes.

There is a pause to allow the attendees to rest in the presence of the gods. Then the Ǵhéuter says:

It is right for there to be an end to things.
We return blessed by the Holy Ones,
confident that we will attain our goal.

He goes to the Nekter bowl, where he pours the rest of the milk into it. He puts down the pitcher and holds the bowl with both hands. He swirls the bowl three or nine times clockwise to mix the milk and the Nekter and says:

Chaos and Cosmos are joined together, both revivified.

He scrapes the barley from the pitcher and strainer into the Nekter bowl with the butter spoon, saying:

The leavings of the ritual
That which does not belong
We cast them out and keep our world.

The Ǵhéuter, preceded by the Nḗr, brings the bowl and spoon outside the space counterclockwise to the north, to the base of a tree. He pours the mixture onto the ground, scooping any extra out with the spoon, saying:

Cosmos gifts Chaos.
Exchange is maintained.
Cosmos is assured.
The Xártus continues.

He returns to the space, followed by Nḗr, and says:

The water to the water, the fire to the fire.

All say:

We live by the Xártus, continually fed by the waters of Nekter.

He returns to his place and sits, putting the empty bowl just to the east of the speltá. The Kówəs says:

By the drinking of the Nekter we are made immortal and are destined to live in the company of the gods,
But we are human and destined to live among those of the earth.
Through the drinking of Nekter in the company of the gods the Xártus is enlivened,
Through the drinking of Nekter in the company of men, the dhétis is enlivened.
Everything is in its proper place.

The Xádbhertor picks up the plate that had held the sacrifice, and puts it on top of the empty Nekter bowl.


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