Witches were the first Beer makers read a little known history.
Did you know that beer is the oldest fermented beverage on the planet? A little known fact is the original brew-masters were women. It's thought that the Babylonians and Sumerians started making beer as far back as 10,000 years ago, and even then brewing was in the realm of women. Even those tough guy vikings, only allowed women to make their beer.
As cooks, healers and gathers for their communities, these women had extensive knowledge on plants that were food and had healing properties. So it makes sense they were the ones to discover fermentation. The whole process of beer making was viewed as mystical and in the realm of magic and many of our symbols of witchcraft today, come from these women.
Women beer makers would wear a pointed black hat when they went to market to sell their brew. This was a brilliant marketing trick that set them apart from the other vendors. You would also find a bubbling cauldron full of wort in their front yard. Very witchy, don't you think? Now lets get to the Broom: These women were the original cottage industry and a broom placed above their door symbolized they were open for business. How very practical of these women. Now any good business women is going to protect her inventory for her craft. Since beer makers need grains and herbs, she always kept many cats to keep the mice from eating her grains. Well this very practical and makes perfect since, so why have these symbols become synonyms with witches?
It was In the14th or 15th century that brewing moved out of the home or abbey to become a commercial and artisan activity. Barred from owning their own property or starting their own businesses, women found themselves gradually shoved out of the brewing tradition and victim to a campaign of fear against them. Simultaneously, witch trials began springing up throughout Europe and anti-witch propaganda tapped into these women beer making symbols to vilify independent women. Whether these hunts arose from fear of this economic independence, or their botanical knowledge at a time when chemistry was poorly understood and mistrusted, it is difficult to say. But after this literal witch hunt, female brewers in Europe were a thing of the past by 1700.
To this day the field is dominated by male brewsters.
The fear that the word "witch" still brings today, always shocks me. When I first started my business, I remember being asked if I was a witch. After some research I found that the general public thinks anyone who brews, knows herbs and has spiritual practice is suspect to being a scary "witch". Seriously you would think this kind of backward thinking would be gone and today would have some education behind the word witch, but in fact the word still resonates fear in the human psyche.
I am choosing to accept that I am a cottage industry, herbal knowing brew master of my bath and body trade and recognize that being called a witch is not really a bad thing. To me it means you think independently, have economic Independence and explore without fear and create your world.
Rock on my witches, Kim (your friendly soap Goddess)