In a world that starts and ends with patriarchy, it seems ludicrous when one of the most powerful industries gets its origin from women. And what more shocking, than the industry being the brewing one itself.
Yes, you read that right. Beer Industry, also known as the brewing industry, was started by women, not men, however shocking it might be. Even more so, it was this fact that led to so many analogies around the ‘witchy’ concept.
In this article, I bring to you the traditional female-operated brewing industry and the folklore superstition that brought an end to it, thereby giving the monopoly to men.
The Age Of The Beverage
As per wide beliefs, Babylonians and Sumerians started making beer as far back as 10,000 years ago, and even then, women were the primary producers.
If the division of labor is put into consideration according to gender, then this makes more sense since women were appointed for household tasks and beer was a staple in almost every household at that time.
Keeping fermentation aside, beer has always been allied with mythical status. In Baltic and Slavic mythology beer goddess was exalted. Similarly, the Finnish credited their goddess ‘Kalevatar’ for granting this mystical drink to man.
The Vikings too, only allowed their women to brew this “aul” and treated it as a good luck charm for their wars and conquests.
Seen as a sign of peace and well-being, Sumerian gave the monopoly to their women to brew the beverage on religious ceremonies to honor their goddess Ninkasi.
Commercialisation Of Beer
Since the well-being entirely depended on women during those times, they had extensive knowledge of herbs and employed all of their expertise in the brewing practice.
They cured ailments, cooked, and did a little bit of ‘extra stuff’ that is the darker arts that came to be associated with witchcraft.
Around the 14th-15th century, brewing moved out of the common household and became a product of extensive commercialization. And since women were barred from both owning property, as well as starting any business, the beer lost its primary producer gradually.
Appearance Of The Witches
Only a few women could continue their rightful practice but that was possible only under precautionary measures. Traditional ways were sought which included keeping pots of boiling wort outside their homes, keeping a broom outside their doors as a sign of them being open for work, and so on.
Some women employed cats as grain savers that would otherwise be eaten away by mice. Others used tall, pointed hats to mark themselves differently in the marketplace.
Alas! It was also the time when witch trials were in full bloom throughout Europe. It comes as no shocker that these ‘brewsters’ were targeted to vilify independent women and subdue their authorities by insecure men of the industry.
This smear campaign rendered the female brewers helpless and many innocent female brewers lost their lives after being accused of practicing witchcraft. Can’t say about the ones who did use ‘dark magic’ but that’s a conversation for another time.
That being said, history has witnessed men throughout the ages being complexed by women and trying to curb the competition instead of playing fair to defend their teeny tiny egos. The same happened in the brewing industry.
Be it for the fear of women having economic independence, or knowing and cooperating chemistry in an age where it was neither widely known nor accepted, this witch hunt (literally speaking) marked the end of female brewers, the original brewers that are.
As for now, the top 10 beer companies in the world are headed by male CEOs and have mostly male board members. Not an epiphany, since men have left no possible opportunity of throwing women to the sidelines.
The gist being, the glass ceiling pertains not only to the brewing industry but to any and every industry and profession. A male-dominated mindset is one of the major social deterrents that exist.
And it is up to the new generation to play fair but if dirty tricks are involved, then, by all means, do your ‘hocus-pocus’ and make them run for the mountains.
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