Minne-Drinking

As it was a primitive and widespread custom at a banquet to set aside a part of the food for the household gods, and particularly to place a dish of broth before Berhta and Holda, the gods were also invited to share the festive drink. The drinker, before taking any himself, would pour some out of his vessel for the god or housesprite, as the Lithuanians, when they drank beer, spilt some of it on the ground for their earth-goddess Zemynele. Compare with this the Norwegian sagas of Thor, who appears at weddings when invited, and takes up and emties huge casks of ale.I will now turn once more to that account of the Suevic ale-tub (cupa) in Jonas (see p. 56), and use it to explain the heathen practice of minne-drinking, which is far from being extinct under christianity. Here also both name and custom appear common to all the Teutonic races.

The Gothic man (pl. munum, pret. Munda) signified I think; gaman (pl. gamunum, pret. gamunda) I bethink me, I remember. From the same verb is derived the OHG. Minna = minia amor, minnôn = miniôn amare, to remembered a loved one. In the ON. Language we have the same man, munum, and also minni memoria, minna recordari, but the secondary meaning of amor was never developed.

It was customary to honour an absent or deceased one by making mention of him at the assembly, or the banquet, and draining a goblet to his memory: this goblet, this draught was called in ON. Erfi dryckja, or again minni (erfi = funeral feast).

At grand sacrifices and banquets the god or the gods were remembered, and their minni drunk: minnis-öl (ale), Sæm. 119b (opposed to ôminnis öl), minnis-horn, minnis-full (cupful). Fôro minni mörg, ok skyldi horn dreckia î minni hvert (they gave many a m., and each had to drink a horn to the m.). um gôlf gânga at minnom öllum, Egilss. 206. 253. Minniöl signôð âsom, Olafs helga. Saga (ed. Holm.) 113. Signa is the German segnen to bless, consecrate. Signa full Oðni, Thôr. Oðins full, Niarðar full, freys full drecka, Saga Hâkonar gôða cap. 16.18. In the Herrauðs-saga cap. 11, Thôr's, Oðin's and Freya's minne is drunk. At the burial of a king there was brought up a goblet called Bragafull (funeral toast cup), before which every one stood up, took a solemn vow, and emptied it, Yng. Saga cap. 40; other passages have bragarfull, Sæm. 146a. Fornald. Sög. 1, 345. 417. 515. The goblet was also called minnisveig (swig, draught), Sæm. 193b. After conversion they did not give up the custom, but drank the minne of Christ, Mary, and the saints: Krists minni, Michaêls minni, Fornm. Sög. 1, 162. 7, 148. In the Fornm. Sög. 10, 1781, St. Martin demands of Olaf that his minni be proposed instead of those of Thôr, Oðin, and the other âses.

Those Suevi then, whom Columban was approaching, were probaby drinking Woutan's minne; Jonas relates how the saint blew the whole vessel to pieces and spoilt their pleasure: manifesto datur intelligi, diabolum in eo vase fuisse occultatum, qui per profanum litatorem caperat animas sacrificantium. So by Liutprand's devil, whose minne is drunk, we may suppose a heathen god to have been meant. Gefa þriggja sâlda öl Oðni (give three tuns of ale to Oðinn), Fornm. Sög. 2, 16. Gefa Thôr ok Oðni öl, ok signa full âsum, ibid. 1, 280. Drecka minni Thôrs ok Oðins, ibid. 3, 191. As the North made the sign of Thor's hammer, christians used the cross for the blessing (segnung) of the cup; conf. Poculum signare, Walthar. 225, precisely the Norse signa full.

Minne-drinking, even as a religious rite, apparently exists to this day in some parts of Germany. At Otbergen, a village of Hildesheim, on Dec. 27 every year a chalice of wine is hallowed by the priest, and handed to the congregation in the church to drink as Johannis segen (blessing); it is not done in any of the neighbouring places. In Sweden and Norway we find at Candlemas a dricka eldborgs skål, drinking a toast (see Superst. K, Swed. 122).



Teutonic Mythology, by Jacob Grimm; trans. by James Steven stallybrass, vol 1, p.59-62.



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