This is my version of the Hymn to Ninkasi, written from three translations of the original Sumerian.  Instead of a traditional hymn form, I used Wickado G (pattern of 4,5,7,6,5,5,3 syllables in each stanza).

Ninkasi is the Sumerian Goddess of Beer and Brewing, and this hymn dates back to nearly 2000 years before Christ.  It contains the earliest known recipe for beer.  Some say it’s the Holy Beer.


Crystal clear womb
Water lifegiver
The earth and mother-goddess
Ninhursaja by name
Cared for Ninkasi
On her arrival
Water born

Towering walls
Grand as canyon cliffs
Ninkasi completes them
To protect the city
Standing on the shores
Of the sacred lake
Called Abzu

The great Enki
Lord of deep waters
He did father Ninkasi
From his love of Ninti
Queen of the Abzu
And she gave to him
A daughter

Smooth and golden
Handle in her hands
Hefting the big dough shovel
She mixes the bappir
Beer-bread with honey
Sweet aromatics
And passion

The bappir goes
In the big oven
Hot with the fire of the gods
Ninkasi bakes it well
Then puts in order
The piles of hulled grains
Safely kept

Ninkasi she
Then waters the malt
That she’s spread across the earth
Her tigers stand guard
Even potentates
Are forbidden from

She soaks the malt
In a holy jar
While the waves they surge and ebb
The cooked mash she then spreads
Across large reed mats
So that they may cool
And be ready

Ninkasi holds
Her holy sweet wort
In delicate goddess hands
Brewing it with honey
And nectar of fruit
From the Tree of Life
All blended

Ninkasi then
It is suggested
Poured her most holy sweet-wort
Into a large vessel
But this is a guess
As the next few lines
Are damaged

Delicate hands
Carrying aloft
Places the fermenting vat
Which rings low and pleasant
Atop a large vat

Ninkasi she
Pours the filtered beer
Out of the collector vat
It is like the Tigris
And the Euphrates
Raging together
At one time


9 thoughts on “Ninkasi

  1. Mmmmm, holy beer. ‘Course, I’d hesitate to make anything drinkable from the Euphrates these days, what with all the enriched uranium fragments from US bombs littering the riverbed.

  2. Totally what Lady Savina said.  Brilliant.  Have you ever had Kronenberg Beer?  I used to love it when I was in college.  I called it ‘God’s Beer.’
    RYC:  I hate Disney. 

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