Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wine Use in Antiquity

Alice C. Linsley

Timeline of Archaeological Discoveries

6000 BC:  At the Chinese Neolithic site of Jiahu archaeologists found pottery shards with residue from a fermented beverage made of a mixture of rice, honey and fruit. Researchers found species of the tartrate from grape, hawthorn, or longyan cherry, or a combination of two or more of these. Ji-ahu means "mound or hill of Ahu." Ahu is an ancient name for the deity of water shrines. Ahu is found in Genesis in only one place: Genesis 41:18, and here the term denotes the bank of the Nile.

4000 BC:  In 2007, a team excavating Areni-1, a cave complex in a canyon between the Little Caucasus and the Zagros mountains, found ancient grape seeds. The cave is near Armenia’s southern border with Iran outside a village still known for its wine-making activities. Ancestors of the Nilotic Luo settled in this area.

3150 BC:  In the late 1980s, German archaeologists found remains of wine making equipment in the tomb of the ancient Nubian king Scorpion I. That find consisted of grape seeds, grape skins, dried pulp and imported ceramic jars covered inside with a yellow residue chemically consistent with wine. Ancient Egyptian murals depict details of wine-making.

Egyptians flavored their wines with tree resins, herbs, and figs and used hieroglyphs to label place and producer, and the vintage according to year of the pharaoh’s reign.

Generally, Nilotic peoples preferred beer to wine and their beer contained high levels of tetracycline. Beer was a staple in Egyptian diets, and was listed in the rations for pyramid builders. Despite the availability of more easier cultivated food resources, barley was domesticated as early as 10,000 years ago even though it is a labor-intensive crop.

It is likely that wine was reserved for special rituals and religious festivals. Plutarch wrote that the “priests of the Sun at Heliopolis never carry wine into their temples, for they regard it as indecent for those who are devoted to the service of any god to indulge in the drinking of wine whilst they are under the immediate inspection of their Lord and King. The priests of the other deities are not so scrupulous in this respect, for they use it, though sparingly.” We are told that Noah was drunk with wine on at least one occasion and the outcome wasn't good. Likewise, the outcome of Lot's drunken stupor was not good.  Genesis seems to be critical of excessive wine consumption.

1600 BC:  In 1963, two plaster basins that appear to have been used to press grapes were excavated in what is now Israel's West Bank.

Wine for pleasure and for ritual use

One of the oldest uses of wine was in religious ritual. In Tantric ritual, wine is called shakti or sakti. Sakti is also the name for the Hindu harvest moon festival. Likely, the word is related to the Falasha word sarki, which also refers to the harvest moon festival at which priests - the harwa - played a role. Harwa is the ancient Egyptian word for priest.

Some Sarki live as Haruwa in the Tarai region of Nepal where Tantric practices emerged. There are many such linguistics correspondences between the Nile Valley and India, Nepal and Cambodia. The Egyptian word for meteoritic iron bja (metal from heaven) corresponds to the Sanskrit word bija, meaning semen or seed. The Hebrew word yasuah and the Sanskrit asvah, asuah or yasuah mean "salvation."

In Tantric practice copulation is practiced to achieve higher consciousness by a spiritual joining of male and female principles. This is called the “transmutation of desire” in order to transcend all desires. Think of this as a spiritual wrestling match in which the weight and momentum of the opponent (desire) is used to overturn the opponent. According to the Rig Veda 10.129, this love (kama) is the generative power that makes all life possible. Kama appears personified in Hindu myth as the enemy of spiritual discipline (asceticism), but he cannot be destroyed. Here we see the tension in Hinduism between desire and pleasure and renunciation of all desire and pleasure.

In the following hymn Kama is praised as the divine source of all creation.

Love (Kama) is the firstborn, loftier than the gods, the Fathers and men. You, O Love (Kama) are the eldest of all, altogether mighty. To you we pay homage!

Greater than the breadth of earth and heaven, or of waters and fire, You O Love, are the eldest of all, altogether mighty. To you we pay homage!  

In many a form of goodness, O Love, you show your face. Grant that these forms may penetrate within our hearts. Send elsewhere all malice! (Atharva Veda 9.2.19-25)

Horite priests and ritual sex

The Horites were a caste of ruler-priests who spread their worldview and religion throughout the ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion. This is before the Vedic Age and long before the Axis Age.

These ruler-priests controlled water systems at a time when the Sahara, Mesopotamia, Pakistan and India were wetter. They are called Horites because they were devotees of Horus, who was called "seed of God." They are related to the Hapiru (Afro-Sumerian) and Habiru (Hebrew or Afro-Semitic). The Arabic yakburu means “he is getting big” and with the intensive active prefix: yukabbiru means "he is enlarging." The Egyptians called the temple attendants ˁpr.w, the w being the plural suffix. The Dravidian east-facing temple was termed O-piru, meaning Sun House.

The Harappa civilization reflects the Hapiru's influence. Har refers to Horus and "appa" is the Dravidian word meaning father. The Harappa civilization dates to about the same time as Egypt's oldest and largest city at Nekhen (Hierakonpolis) in archaeologically rich Sudan.

This is the oldest known center of Horite worship.Votive offerings at the temple of Horus were up to ten times larger than the normal maceheads and bowls found elsewhere, suggesting that this was a very prestigious shrine. Horite priests placed invocations to Horus at the summit of the fortress as the sun rose.

In the ancient world, a temple was considered the mansion—hâît, or the house—pirû—of the deity. The Creator Râ lived in Heliopolis on the east side of the Delta; Hathor-Meri, the virgin mother of Horus had her principal temple in Memphis to the south of Heliopolis (the principal water shrine of the Nilotic Ainu) and on the west side of the Nile. Horus, who was said to be one with his Father, lived further south in Hierakonpolis and Edfu on the west side of the Upper Nile.

Râ, Hathor-Meri and Horus represent the pre-dynastic triad. Their relationship is reflected in the relative locations of the temples. Hathor represents the Feminine Principle, and as such is located to the south (the direction associated with birth and renewal). Râ is to the north, and as his symbol is the Sun, his temple is on the east side of the Nile. Horus is to the southwest, the direction associated with the future. He rises as a lamb and sets as a ram. Against those who claim that the Horites were polytheists, note that only Horus and Hathor-Meri are shown in human form, and usually together, as in Christian icons of the Theotokos and the Christ Child.

The Horites maintained high standards of moral behavior. Before their time of service in the temples they shaved their bodies and did not comsume wine. Plutarch wrote that the “priests of the Sun at Heliopolis never carry wine into their temples, for they regard it as indecent for those who are devoted to the service of any god to indulge in the drinking of wine whilst they are under the immediate inspection of their Lord and King. The priests of the other deities are not so scrupulous in this respect, for they use it, though sparingly.”

Horite priests enjoyed married life, but abstained from sexual relations before serving in the temples. Ritual sex was discussed because it represented a departure from the ways of the Horim. We have no evidence that Horite priests followed the practices condemned by the prophets in Canaan. In the ancient world Horite priests were known for their purity and devotion to the High God.

Drunkeness and sexual misbehavior

Wine consumption and sex are not presented in a positive light in Genesis. There are two accounts of drunken sexual misbehavior. In Noah’s case, his three sons decide what to do while their father sleeps in a drunken stupor and Noah curses his grandson Canaan. In Lot’s case, his two daughters decide what to do while their father sleeps and both become pregnant by their father. Both stories reveal the purity and sobriety of the Horites (Horim). They also stand in contrast to stories involving wine as a sign of redemption, as in the Passover and in the Eucharist.

The symmetry of these stories is remarkable. In the Egyptian Passover Moses is the central figure, but in the Jericho Passover, it is Rahab. Male and female, as binary opposites, are instrumental in bringing about deliverance. Here we find a parallel to the tantric understanding of wine use in the consummation of divine love in Hinduism and Buddhism.  In the West, where we are obsessed with sexual desire (lust), there are no true practitioners, for as a Tantrica of West Bengel has explained: "Those most fit for Tantra almost never take it up, and those least fit pursue it with zeal."

The context of wine use in sexual consummation in the Bible is not exactly like that of Hinduism and Buddhism, however. In the biblical view, male and female are not equals in the order of creation, but in Shakta ritual male and female are equal. This is the difference between the binary worldview of the Bible and the dualism of the Hinduism and Buddhism.

The wine in the Passover Seder is not for common use, but ritual or sacramental. It is used to recount God's deliverance of the Israelites, and also speaks of the consummation of a love relationship, as is evident in Jesus' explanation to His disciples that he would not drink the cup again until the last promise is fulfilled: “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. I say to you, I will not drink this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26:28-29). On that day, the Son of God shall take to Himself the Church, His royal bride. She is not His equal; rather her nobility is derived from her royal Groom.
Related reading:  Ritual Sex and Ancient Egyptian PriestsTwo Passovers and Two Drunken Fathers; Genesis and the Eucharist; Oldest Wine-Making Equipment; Divine Vintage: Following the Wine Trail from Genesis to the Modern Age by R. Haskett and J. Butler; “Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages by Patrick McGovern

No comments: