The Growler Guide to the Gods of Beer

Ryan Mitson illustration

Ryan Mitson illustration

There’s something very charming about the old gods. They just seem a little more relatable, a little more human. No unattainable images of perfection to which me must aspire, but can never reach. The old gods were flawed, just as we are flawed.

Pan, the Greek god of shepherds, was an infamous prankster, chronic masturbator and a lover of goats (like, literally). Baron Samedi, the voodoo god of the dead, loved drinking rum, smoking cigars, chasing women, and swearing profusely.

Pretty much every culture on earth that has discovered how to make beer has also chosen to venerate some lucky deity for this wonderful elixir. The beer gods are indeed a motley bunch, so here’s a field guide to spotting these many mischief-makers and ne’er-do-wells should you encounter them in the wild.

 

Dionysus

This Greek god is more commonly associated with wine, but beer definitely falls into his area of expertise. As the son of Zeus, the exceptionally handsome Dionysus spends most of his time completely shit-faced with a devoted following of sycophantic, booze-loving cultists in tow. Basically he’s the trust fund-rich kid-frat boy who throws all the craziest parties at his huge house that his parents bought him and has never worked a day in his life.

 

Ninkasi

The Sumerian goddess of alcohol was borne of pure spring water and is responsible for “satisfying the desire of the heart”. Amongst the earliest examples of preserved human writings are clay tablets containing the “Hymn to Ninkasi,” which is actually a recipe for making the nastiest beer imaginable. Seriously, people have tried making this stuff and it resembles boozy oatmeal. Gross.

 

Inari Ōkami

The Japanese Shinto god of rice and sake is variously depicted as an old man, a young female goddess or an androgynous Buddhist monk. Like a lot of other gods working the beer portfolio, Inari Ōkami is also pulling double duty, serving as the god of fertility as well as the god of foxes. Fertility I can see; there’s a lot of cross-over between the consumption of alcohol and unplanned pregnancy. But foxes?

 

Mamlambo

The South African Zulu goddess of rivers and living waters, Mamlambo is the patron god of beer and beer making. She has a head of a crocodile and the body of a snake and is said to have an insatiable sexual appetite and a pesky habit of eating people’s faces and sucking out their brains. So, you’ve been warned.

 

Ragutiene and Ragutis

The Lithuanian goddess and god of beer, respectively. This happy couple was revered by pagans in Eastern Europe and in recent years have become folk heroes in their native land. They are usually spotted partying with their pal Raugupatis, a notorious third-wheel demi-god responsible for fermentation.

 

Tepoztecatl and 400 Drunken Rabbit Gods

Strap in, this is going to get crazy. The ancient Aztecs didn’t have just one god of booze, they had 400! The 400 Drunken Rabbit Gods each represented the many different methods one could use to get drunk, and the varying levels of drunkenness one could attain. They were led by Tepoztecatl (literally, “Two Rabbit”), who was the god of alcohol and fertility (noticing a trend?). It was all fun and games for the rabbits until they accidentally killed the mother of Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec war god. What followed was a truly epic bloodbath resulting in A LOT of dead bunnies.