Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wine, Medicine, Gods, Goddesses.....

On this day, 11 October, the Romans would celebrate yet another festival (they did love their festivals!) Meditrinalia: one of several celebrations linked to the vineyards. This one gave the workers a chance to sample the new wine. It was customary when doing so to pronounce the words vetus novum vinum bibo, novo veteri morbo medeor ("Being old, I drink new wine, and cure the old disease with the new"). Wine was believed to have healing powers. Today the same belief persists - old Russian proverb: "Drink a glass of wine after your soup, and you steal a ruble from the doctor". It has been found that wine opens up arteries and increases blood flow, and that, taken in moderation, wine can increase your levels of HDL cholesterol 9that's the good kind which assists in getting rid of the bad kind).

The festival's name honours the goddess Meditrina, whose family tree varies according to where one reads mythology. Some say she was daughter of Apollo, others say daughter of Ascelpius, God of Healing and son of Apollo (who in turn was son of Zeus - ruler of the gods). Mythical Meditrina was, then, either daughter or grandchild of Apollo, and, some say cousin of Cupid, who was son of goddess Venus and god Mars. One enterprising wine mercant advertising today quips that Meditrina is "the yin to Bacchus’s yang."

Mercury (Hermes) & merchant approach disapproving Asclepius (Physician) and the naked Graces (Meditrine, Hygeia and Panacea)
Asclepius dealt with patients - merchants make deals with clients.
Asclepius is linked with a constellation of idealistic medical ideas.
Hermes is linked with hermetic occultism.
Mercury is identified with mercantile mercenary views.

(Engraved from an original in the then Museum Pio Clemens in Rome
Galerie Mythologique, Recueil de Monuments by Aubin Louis Millin, Paris 1811.)

Ascelpius, Meditrina's father(?) was taught about medicine and healing by the wise centaur, Cheiron aka Chiron, aka in astrology as "the wounded healer". He became so skilled that he succeeded in bringing one of his patients back from the dead. Zeus felt that the immortality of the Gods was threatened and killed the healer with a thunderbolt. At Apollo's request, Asclepius was placed among the stars as Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer.....Ophiuchus - wasn't that the dreaded 13th zodiac sign someone keeps trying to foist upon astrologers?

Meditrina's name might well link to our word "medicine":

Medicine comes to English from the Latin, "medicina" and refers to the art practiced by the "medicus" or physician. The Latin word itself may well derive originally from the root "media" referring to a middle way, or balance, since in classical Greek medicine (that which was known and practiced in the Roman world) health was a matter of balance, and disease was understood as an imbalance of the body (or of the bodily fluids, called "humours"). This balance could be restored by a "medicus" who would use herbs or prepared drugs to do so. However, in classical texts "medicus" can also refer to a surgeon. As an interesting corollary, "medicus" is also the word for the fourth finger of the hand. According to one explanation, this finger was used by the medicus for mixing potions, etc.
All of which meanderings about wine and its celebration remind me of a quote from my favourite piece of poetry: Edward FitzGerald's translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam,
I often wonder what the vintners buy
One half so precious as the goods they sell.


Anonymous said...

GP: Very venusian post about wine and medicine. There is a lot's of truth in what your'e saying there, T!

One of my grand mothers lived very healthy to age 93, drunk a glas or two of red wine or porto every day and practically never saw a doctor, until a fatal accident at the very end.

Faithful to her example I try do do the same, although only 1/4 of my genes stem from that grand-mother. And then there are the planetary natal combinations which even more so complicate things, of course.

PS. Ever noticed that no wine growing region is poor? And never was. O. Kayam may find that one of the reasons for that is that those priviledged regions "dispense much good to the rest of the world". And for that there is a "just return"...

Twilight said...

Anonymous/Gian Paul ~~ Yes, any area with the right soil combo and climate, for the right kind of grapes, will guarantee prosperity for its lucky (or shrewd) owners.

I'm not a wine drinker (gives me stomach ache). I go for the grain instead of the grape, and drink only Scotch, following in the footsteps of my maternal grandfather - who made it into his late 80s....not sure the Scotch had much to do with that though.

Diane said...

Interesting though creepy fact re: Ascelpius' staff and connection with parasitic worms crawling under the skin [yuk!] and their removal by winding around stick. On another note, I used to live in Napa Valley, CA and talk about prosperity! At least for the wine growers. I learn so much from your posts--thank you.

Wisewebwoman said...

Did you read, T, that the vine-growing regions are being forced to move further north due to climate change? Grapes literally burning on the vines.
As to wine, when I did imbibe, it always had to be white, red would give me massive headaches and I never get headaches!

Twilight said...

Diane ~~ Yes - the bit about the worms was too gruesome to include.
:-) If it's true it could put into question the other theory - that the way the caduceus is depicted and what we now see when we look at a diagram of DNA - may be related.

I learn too - whilst researching. So much to know, so little time

Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~~ No - I hadn't read about that, but it doesn't surprise me.

Headaches? Me too, as well as tummy ache - headaches mostly from red wine - and any dark coloured liquor.

JD said...

I have decided to adopt "vetus novum vinum bibo, novo veteri morbo medeor" as my new code for life to replace the previous one of "per ardua ad Bacchus"


"in vino veritas" remains a constant of course

Twilight said...

JD ~~~ LOL! Nice! But will you still be able to pronounce your lengthy new toungue-twisting motto after a few glasses?

mikexplorer said...

wow.. i like reading your posts.. keep posting and keep in touch..

Twilight said...