NINKASI AND SIDURI
Divine Patronesses of the Brewer's Art
The Babylonians used beer and wine both religiously and socially. Beer (KAŠ šikaru) is especially important, as is its primary place of the consumption, the Tavern (ÉŠ.DAM aštammu). Throughout Babylonian history the aštammu was a small, intimate place, usually having three to five tables, ten chairs a few beds. It served as inn, restaurant and brothel. It seems to have been traditional for a woman to run an aštammu, although crackdowns on their practice are attested as early as Old Babylonian times (Oppenheim, On Beer and Brewing, p. 12).
It is not always easy to discern the difference between what should be called beer or wine in ancient times, but we may consider the use of the fermenting malt of any type of grain to be the hallmark of beer, whereas the fermenting of the natural maltose of fruits like dates and grapes defines something as a wine. In all periods, many types of emmer and barley beer were brewed, while in the Kassite period of Babylon (circa 1600 to 1200), a wine of dates, figs and raisins became increasingly popular. Of beer and wine, however, the former is far more frequently mentioned in our texts: it is a libation to the Gods and Goddesses, to Guardian Spirits, to ancestors and heroes. It is also the only craft to have specialized divine guardians, the Goddesses Ninkasi, "Lady of Beer," and Siduri, "She is my Bulwark." Another name for Siduri is sabitum, "Ale-wife," the name of the profession of a female tavern-owner. This Siduri plays an important role in the 10th tablet of the Gilgameš Epic. In addition, these two Ladies are aspects of Istar, so it is to she that the beer and its professors ultimately belong.
This chapter presents three texts important to understanding the place of beer in Babylonian society.
The first is a list of Sumerian/Akkadian equivalences, giving beers, their ingredients, and perhaps indications of the processes that the ancient brewers used to make them. Although difficult and fragmentary, I am including it so that readers of this book who happen to be brewers may find clues to making the types of beer of which the Babylonians were fond. A commentary with some suggestions and a general recipe for Babylonian Beer follows. I would be very interested to hear of any results that brewers achieve with this information.
The second is a pair of songs, the first in praise of Ninkasi, the second a Sumerian drinking-song, so far the only one known. The structure of the stanzas induces me to sing them with a rollicky tune, but other people may want to sing them differently.
Finally, there are several illustrations showing the way that Babylonians drank their beer, which was from a large vessel through a straw. This could have been a way to avoid the grain husks floating in the brew, or a way to make it more potent.
XXIIIrd Tablet of the Series HAR.ra = hubullu
(Text and translation Louis F. Hartman and A.L. Oppenheim, On Beer and Brewing Techniques in Ancient Mesopotamia, JAOS Supplement no. 10)
1. [ ] [(beer) ]
2. [ ] same (= beer) of the teggu
3. dark beer kurunnu-beer
4. kurun beer same
5. whitish kurun beer naspu
6. dark kurun beer ulusinnu-beer
7. beer of emmer same
8. excellent ulusin beer ulusinmahhu-beer
9. reddish beer reddish
10. excellent beer kasmahhu-beer
11. beer (mixed) of two parts beer of two parts (each)
12. beer (mixed) of three parts beer of three parts (each)
13. beer (mixed) of one part (of) equal parts
14. beer of the Netherworld opened
15. threefold beer third beer
16. beer with a head cleared (?)
17. beer with a head mixed
18. beer without a head not same
19. beer made turbid turbid
20. beer which has been stirred mashed
21. beer which has been made very turbid same
22. beer which has been [ ] same
23. beer which has been diluted (?) same
24. beer which has been clarified clear
25. beer for infusion(s) beer for infusion(?)
26. beer for aspersions same
27. beer for the sacrifice same for the sacrifice
28. beer for the sacrifice beer for the (divine) repast
29. beer for the (divine) repast beer for the sacrifice
30. beer for the (divine) repast same for the (divine) repast
31. beer for the main (divine) repast same for the sacrifice
32. beer for the main (divine) repast same for the (divine) repast
33. beer for the nisag-offering same for the nisannu-offering
34. beer for the ...nisag-offering same for the (libation?) jar
35. [ ] ... same
36. Sweet beer [..] same same sweet
37. Steeped beer mixed (beer)
38. [ ] same
1. .... [ ]
2. .... [ ] [ ]
3. wort (?) [ ]
4. diluted (?) wort (?) same
5. "mother-brew" agarinnu-brew
6. agarin-brew same
7. ... crushed(?)
8. beer-bread beer-bread
9. beer-bread which has been.... same [ ]
10. beer-bread which has been broken (?) up same [ ]
11. beer-bread which has been crumbled .....
12. beer-bread which has been set out (in water?) wetted
13. beer-bread which has been dried dried
14. whitish (?) beer-bread .....
15. mash (?) nartabu
16. mash (?) soaked in water wetted
17. mash (?) soaked in water process (and product) of steeping
18. mash (?) soaked
19. mash (?) agitated by means of an al same
20. mash (?) ... .....
21. beaten mash (?) whipped
22. crushed mash (?) broken in small pieces
23. crumbled mash (?) same
24. mash (?) (agitated) by hands mixed
25. mash (?) of .... .....
26. "flour and green-malt" isimanu-ration
27. titab-mash (?) made of cleaned green-malt lilappu-mash
28. soaked titab-mash (?) steeped
29. cleared/clarified titab-mash (?) ready
30. cleared/clarified titab-mash (?) same
31. sprouted (?) titab-mash (?) opened
32. sprouted (?) titab-mash (?) .....
33. mash (?) (left standing) for a day closed (?)
34. mash (?) (left standing) for a day ready
1. mash (?) which has become clear na-as-pu-tum
2. mash (?) which.... same
3. green-malt green-malt
4. soaked green-malt steeped
5. water-treated green-malt process (and product) of steeping
6. green-malt which has sprouted provided with horns
7. green-malt from which sprouts have grown same
8. green-malt with excrescences (?) sprouts
9. large green-malt same
10. large green-malt na-RU-tum
11. green-malt which has been cut up (?) same
12. beaten green-malt whipped
13. crushed green-malt crushed
14. pounded green-malt same
15. (KA.LAL)of green-malt pi-rik-tum
16. (U + KID) of green-malt pu-UD-[x]
17. (durdu-ur) of green-malt pu-TAR-tum
18. lump of green-malt lump
19. dregs (?) of green-malt sediment(?)
20. refuse/offal of green-malt offal (?)
21. crushings (?) of green-malt same
22. flour (?) made of green-malt samunakku-flour
23. pulpy dish (prepared) of green-malt pulpy dish
24. (la) of green-malt karkasu
25. groats groats
26. fine groats fine
27. fine groats cleaned
28. fine groats heavy (or: thick)
29. su.ur.ra groats sar-[x]
30. bu.bu groats kar-ku-su
31. cereal-feed for (the fattening of) cattle feed
32. (la) of the cereal-feed for cattle ki-[ ]
33. [ ] [ ]
34. [ ] [ ]
35. [ ] flour of emmer-wheat
36. [ ] [ ]
1. [ ] ku-uk-ku-su
2. [ ] ha?-am-su
3. [ ] sifted
4. [ ] flour for provisions
5. [ ] same
6. [ ] same
7. [ ] fine flour
8. [ ] flour for sacrificial purposes
9. flour for (ritual) spreading same for (ritual) scattering
10. flour for (ritual) spreading same same
11. flour for (ritual) scattering the same (Sumerian) word with (added) u
12. flour for the bar flour for bar
13. flour for gan.da.di the same (Sumerian) word with (added) u
14. flour ..... the same (Sumerian) word with (added) u
15. flour affected by water flour affected (touched) by water
16. flour not affected by water same same not same
17. flour affected by insects same same by insects
18. processed flour same supiltum
19. flour for siki-bread same for siku-bread
20. ..... same of groats
21. flour of crushed barley same isququm
22. same fine same same fine
23. .... same for the takkasu dish
24. same, fine same for the fine takkasu-dish
25. dapin-paste same for the tappinnu-paste
26. kukusu-paste same for kukusu
27. ... same for the tumagu
28. ... same for the sap-ri-e-ti
29. [ ] same for the su-me-da-ti
30. kneaded dough
31. pinched off pinched off piece of dough
32. [ ] same
33. [ ] [ ] bread
The text is a lexical list, that is, it is a table of Sumerian words and logograms listed alongside their Akkadian equivalents. Such lists are our most important source for the translation Sumerian and Akkadian. As a lexical list, however, it is not an instruction manual or recipe for the subjects it covers. Nevertheless, because of the detail and ordering of the material we can deduce a great deal about brewing in Babylon, and try their method ourselves. The text may be seen as listing the the ingredients, processes, and results of the brewer's craft in reverse order from the products - the beers - back through the mash, the "beer-cakes," the wort, the malt, and ultimately the grains themselves and the type of flours they make; the next tablet in series covered the topic of "bread."
Summarizing Hartman and Oppenheim, the Babylonians used the following process in general to brew beer:
1. Preparing malt won from barley or emmer-wheat; this consists in the application of moisture and warmth to the cereals. The treatment is designed to provoke germination, that is, to change the starch of the grain into maltose sugar. The germination is called parahu, and the container in which it is done is called naprahtu.
2. After water and warmth have caused germination, the green-malt (Sumerian munu , Akkadian buqlu) is dried by either spreading it (setu) in the hot sun or roasting it (napu) in a kiln. This stops growth and preserves the maltose at a maximum.
3. The malt is then crushed (gaz, hasalu) with pounders called bukannu. Sometimes a seive (nappu) was used, perhaps to separate the crushed hulls from their sweet content. When omitted, the resulting beer must be drunk through a tube.
4. The malt is either kept in earthen containers and sacks, or baked with aromatics, herbs or other things into bread-shaped lumps or cakes (bappir2, bappiru). The baking is done in a special kiln called udun.bappir.
5. Green-malt (munu3), aromatized malt-cakes (bappir2), and hulled groats (NIG.HAR.RA), were then soaked in water, a procedure termed luhhumu and nadu.
6. Fermentation. Hartman and Oppenheim: "There is no textual evidence whatsoever (on) the ways in which the Mesopotamian brewers dealt with the introduction and the control of fermentation....one can but discuss the various possibilities. The conversion of the starch contained in the above the described mash can only be brought about by a special enzyme (maltase) contained e.g. in human saliva and certain animal fluids, and also by plants of the fungus family (yeasts) found on ripe barley grains or simply present in the air. While fermentation of some kind is thus practically assured, there exist many varieties of yeasts and consequently many types of fermentation which yield alcoholic beverages of very different taste and strength. To ensure that beverages of a specific quality are produced in the mash-tun, the brewer has to cultivate one variety of yeast either consciously or through the constant use of the same tools, especially of the same mash-tun. The latter method, primitive yet very efficient, offers perhaps the explanation why the Egyptian and Mesopotamian brewers carry their mashing container along. It is not only the sign of their calling but the guarantor of successful brewing. In the cracks and recesses of the tun grows a microscopic fauna which produces that very variety of yeast which yields the beer which the brewer's customers expect him to brew. Technicallly more advanced is the method of preserving some of the dregs and sediments from a previous brewing, to add them (as a kind of leaven) either to the dough of the bappir or to the mash."
7. The mash-tun (gakkul,namzitu) contains the fermenting mash, where it is stirred by means of the mixer ( nablalu).
8. When fermentation is complete, the mash is transferred to a container called tebibtu, "clarifying vat," where the dregs and sediment are allowed to settle.
9. The cleared brew is then filled into storage and/or transport-containers. At this point beers can also be improved in taste by adding odoriferous plants, or strengthened by mixing various types of beer, or mixed with water, etc.
Miguel Civil, in the commentary to the songs which follow, gives additional insights into Babylonian brewing. The ingredients:
"The various materials and intermediate products are dealt with in the text in the following order:
Ninkasi Hymn HAR.ra = hubullu
bappir 13 - 30 iii 8 - 14
munu 21 - 24 iv 3 - 24
sun 25 - 28 iii 15 - 25
titab 29 - 32 iii 27 - iv 2
dida 33 - 40 [ ]
fermentation and pouring 41 - 48 ----------
"1. bappir is a cooked mixture of (fermented?) dough and aromatic herbs,... shaped into cakes and counted by number, (or more) usually measured by volume. (Probably did not use malted cereal). 2. munu is the cereal which, after germination, will become greenmalt.
3. sun is a crushed greenmalt infusion (mash), before decoction.
4. titab is the cooked mash. It is not clear if the crushed greenmalt could be roasted without previous watering, or if all titab had to pass first the sun stage.
5. dida is the sweetwort, i.e., an infusion of the mash with the lukewarm water, with the addition of substances rich in sugar."
A Hymn to the Beer Goddess and a Drinking Song
(Miguel Civil "A Hymn to the Beer Goddess and a Drinking Song" Studies Presented to A. Leo Oppenheim pp. 67-89; Civil's revised translation of the 'Hymn to Ninkasi' (some suggestions used here) appears in an article by Solomon H. Katz and Fritz Maytag "Brewing an Ancient Beer" which records the efforts of of Anchor Steam Brewing company in 1992 (?) to brew the beer recorded in the song; I downloaded the article from the 'Net so I'm not sure of its original provenance. In singing the songs you should ignore the fragmentary lines 37-40, 56 and 69, which are included only for completeness and for the interest of brewers)
(1) a-zal-le ù-tu-da x x x x Borne by the flowing water..........
dnin-hur-sag-gá-ke4 mí-zi-dè-eš dug4-ga Tenderly cared for by Ninhursag,
dnin-ka-si a-zal-le ù-tu-da x x x x Ninkasi, borne by the flowing water........
dnin-hur-sag-gá-ke4 mí-zi-dè-eš dug4-ga Tenderly cared for by Ninhursag.
(5) uru-zu làl-hur-re ku ús-sa Having founded your town by the Sacred Lake,
bàd-gal-bi šu mu-ra-an-du7-du7 She finished its Great Walls for you;
dnin-ka-si uru-zu làl-hur-re ku ús-sa Ninkasi, having founded your town by the Sacred Lake,
bàd-gal-bi šu mu-ra-an-du7-du7 She finished its Great Walls for you!
(9) a-a-zu den-ki en-dnu-dím-mud-e Your Father is Enki, Lord Nudimmud,
ama-zu dnin-ti nin-abzu-a Your Mother is Ninti, Queen of the Sacred Lake;
dnin-ka-si a-a-zu den-ki en-dnu-dím-mud-e Ninkasi, your Father is Enki, Lord Nudimmud,
ama-zu dnin-ti nin-abzu-a Your Mother is Ninti, Queen of the Sacred Lake!
(13) si níg-silax gišmar-mah-a du8-a-zu You are the One who handles the dough with a big shovel,
šim-làl-ta ub4-ba bappir2 he-he-a Mixing, in a pit, the bappir with date-honey.
dnin-ka-si si níg-silax gišmar-mah-a du8-a-zu Ninkasi, you are the One who handles the dough with a big shovel,
šim-làl-ta ub4-ba bappir2 he-he-a Mixing, in a pit, the bappir with date-honey!
(17) bappir2 udun-mah-e du8-a-zu You are the One who bakes the bappir in the big oven,
zar-gú-nida-àm si sá-sá-àm Puts in order the piles of hulled grains;
dnin-ka-si bappir2 udun-mah-e du8-a-zu Ninkasi, you are the One who bakes the bappir in the big oven,
zar-gú-nida-àm si sá-sá-àm Puts in order the piles of hulled grains!
(21) munu3 sahar-gar-ra a si-ga-zu You are the One who waters the earth-covered malt,
ur-me-me nam gam-gam-ma-àm The noble dogs keep away even the potentates;
dnin-ka-si munu3 sahar-gar-ra a si-ga-zu Ninkasi, you are the One who waters the earth- covered malt,
ur-me-me nam gam-gam-ma-àm The noble dogs keep away even the potentates!
(25) sún dug-a a gar-ra-zu You are the One who soaks the malt in a jar,
i-zi zi-zi-dam i-zi gá-gá-dam The waves rise, the waves fall;
dnin-ka-si sún dug-a a gar-ra-zu Ninkasi, you are the One who soaks the malt in a jar,
i-zi zi-zi-dam i-zi gá-gá-dam The waves rise, the waves fall!
(29) titab gikid-mah-a bara3-ga-zu You are the One who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
šà-šed8 AN dab-ba-a Coolness overcomes.
dnin-ka-si titab gikid-mah-a bara3-ga-zu Ninkasi, you are the One who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
šà-šed8 AN dab-ba-a Coolness overcomes!
(33) kašdida-gal šu-tab-ba gál-la-zu You are the One who holds with both hands the great Sweetwort,
làl geštin téš-ba sur-ra-a Brewing it with honey and raisin;
dnin-ka-si kašdida-gal šu-tab-ba gál-la-zu Ninkasi, you are the One who holds with both hands the great Sweetwort,
làl geštin téš-ba sur-ra-a Brewing it with honey and raisin!
(37) [NÍG..............................................] [..........................]
[kašdida dug-šè mi-ni-in-x-x ] [You....... the Sweetwort to the vessel]
dnin-ka-si NÍG x [...................] Ninkasi, ....................
kašdida dug-šè mi-ni-in-x-x You ....... the Sweetwort to the vessel!
(41) dugníg-dúr-bùr-e gú-nun-di-dam The filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound,
lahtan-mah-a mi-ni-in-si-sá-àm You place appropriately upon a large collector vat;
dnin-ka-si dugníg-dúr-bùr-e gú-nun-di-dam Ninkasi, the filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound,
lahtan-mah-a mi-ni-in-si-sá-àm You place appropriately upon a large collector vat!
(45) kaš-si-im-duglahtan-na dé-a-zu When you pour out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
ídidigna dburanun-na sag sì-ga-àm It is like the onrush of the Tigris and Euphrates;
dnin-ka-si kaš-si-im-duglahtan-na dé-a-zu Ninkasi, when you pour out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
ídidigna dburanun-na sag sì-ga-àm It is like the onrush of the Tigris and Euphrates!
gigakkul-e gigakkul-e The Gakkul vat, the Gakkul vat!
(50) gigakkul-e duglam-sá-re The Gakkul vat, the Lamsare vat!
gigakkul-e níg ur5 šag5-šag5-ge The Gakkul vat, which makes the liver happy,
duglam-sá-re níg šà húl-húl-e The Lamsare vat, which rejoices the heart,
dugu-gur-bal níg é-a me-te-bi The Ugurbal jar, a fitting thing in the house,
dugšà-gub-bé níg kaš si-si-ge The Šagub jar, which is filled with beer,
(55) dugam-am DU.DU-duglam-sá-ra-ke4 The Amam jar, which carries the beer of the Lamsare vat,
gibunin-úbúr giba-an-du8 (.....)-ke4 The .....reed buckets and the reed pails of.....
dug-sig5 dag-dug-e sa-gi4-a The beautiful vessels are ready on their pot- stands!
šà-dingir-za hu-mu-ra-ab-hun-e May the heart of your God be well disposed towards you!
igi-gigakkul-àm igi-me na-nam Let the eye of the Gakkul vat be our eye,
(60) šà-gigakkul-àm šà-me na-nam Let the heart of the Gakkul vat be our heart!
èm šà-zu gur4-gur4-ru ní-bi-a What makes your heart feel wonderful,
šà-me-a gur4-gur4-ru ní-bi-a Makes also our heart feel wonderful!
ur5-me bí-šag5 šà-me bí-húl Our liver is happy, our heart is joyful!
sig4-nam-tar-ra a dé-zu You poured a libation over the Brick of Destiny,
(65) silim-ma hé-gál-e ki ús-sa-zu You placed the foundations in peace and prosperity,
dnin-ka-si za-da hu-mu-u8-da-an-ti May Ninkasi live together with you!
kaš geštin hu-mu-ra-an-bal-bal-e Let her pour for you beer and wine,
gurunx-làl-e gù-nun ha-ra-ni-ib-bé Let (the pouring) of the sweet liquor resound pleasantly for you!
gibunin-úbúr-a kaš-ku7-ku7-dam In the ...... reed buckets there is sweet beer!
(70) sagi lú-tur-ra lunga bí-in-DU-en I will make cupbearers, boys, and brewers stand by,
a-nigin2-e nigin-na-mu-dè While I turn around the abundance of beer,
gur4-gur4-re-gá gur4-gur4-re-gá-mu-dè While I feel wonderful, I feel wonderful,
kaš-nag-e me-e sì-ga-mu-dè Drinking beer, in a blissful mood!
gurunx-nag-a ul-ti-a-mu-dè Drinking liquor, feeling exhilarated!
(75) šà-húl-la ur5-šag5-ga-mu-dè With joy in my heart and a happy liver -
šà-gá šà-húl-la gál-la-bi While my heart full of joy,
ur5-šag5 túgpala3-a ša-mu4-ra-mu-dè And my happy liver I cover with a garment fit for a Queen,
šà-dinanna ki-bi ba-ab-gi4 The heart of Inanna is happy again,
šà-ga-ša-an-na-ke4 ki-bi ba-ab-gi4 The heart of Inanna is happy again!
bal-bal-e-dnin-ka-si-kam A balbale of Ninkasi