11th January, 2013 by Rupert Millar
Just as it was for the Sumerians, beer was a staple food stuff to the Ancient Egyptians and the secret of its production was allegedly bequeathed to them by Osiris.
Osiris is one of the greatest of the Egyptian gods, lord of the dead, consort of Isis and (here we go again with fertility) responsible for the annual Nile floods.
His green skin is meant to symbolise re-birth and is proposed as one of the origins of Europe’s Green Man already referenced at the beginning of this list.
Osiris was aided in his heavenly brewing, vinifying and judging of the dead by Tenenet and Shezmu. Tenenet, like Nin-kasi was the goddess of beer, which was made in a similar way to the Sumerian brew.
Originally she was a female goddess associated with breadmaking. As making bread was a female chore and bread was used in the making of beer, so she became a beer deity.
Shezmu, meanwhile, is a very different immortal. More demon than god, Shezmu was the punisher of the wicked and the lord of blood.
As the sinful dead came down into the underworld, Shezmu, who had the head of a lion and temperament to match, would tear off their heads and throw them into his wine press.
He would then crush their skulls and collect their blood, which he served as wine to the deserving dead passing, rather more peacefully, into another life – a clear example of associating the colour of wine and blood and assigning to the former particular life-giving properties, even if gained in shockingly gory circumstances in this case.
Shezmu’s gory wine press would not be the last time religion associated blood and wine of course.