It is clear then that the rites of intoxication, generally undertaken through the consumption of a sacred beverage, were of great importance in ancient times and most certainly very complex. Enabling human beings to make contact with the deities so as to require their help, they were held at different times, for various purposes and in various contexts. The drink was the only key to the otherworld because its intoxicating virtues allowed the ‘natural world’ to see another reality and to open up to the supernatural world. Even if there is little direct evidence concerning the Celts as regards this practice, it is clear from the names borne by goddesses that the rites of sacred intoxication in relation to the divine held a very important place in their society.
It has been argued here that the Goddess of Intoxication embodied the drink itself, its mighty ensnaring powers allowing human beings to shuffle off their mortal coil, as well as the complex framework of rites and cults attached to it. The intoxicating beverage must have been ritually consumed on various occasions which required the help and advice of the divine world, such as on the occasion of funerary rites to ensure the travel of the deceased to the otherworld, as the Cauldron of Hochdorf proves; and on the occasion of the inauguration of a new king, who, by drinking mead, would have swallowed the goddess - for she embodied the beverage - and thus symbolically mated with the one providing sovereignty. Mead-intoxication rites would also have been undertaken before battles so as to be divinely possessed. The Goddess of Intoxication would have therefore personified this ‘war furor’ reached after ‘ingesting’ her, and would have played a significant role in the preparation and course of the battle. Finally, the Goddess of Intoxication must have had a role of healer and must have represented all the rites of intoxication attached to curing, for she possessed some important beneficial virtues in her beverage.
Interestingly, in an obscure Irish text on peotic theory and methodology, dating from the late 7th c. or early 8th c., poetry, which is called “the words of fair-woman” (briathra bhan bhfionn), that is the otherworld woman, is simultaneously compared to mead and to a beautiful otherworld woman, which are both its metaphor and personification:‘Fo-chen aoí iolchrothach, iolghnuisioc, ilbhrechtach, bé sháor shonaisg.
This archaic poem suggests several ideas. Poetry, mead and the otherworld woman being equivalent, it once again shows that mead was seen as a goddess, who was its very embodiment. Here it may be possible to see a reference to the Mead Goddess, who would have in this case provided the gift of poetry. This idea is highly likely, for poets must have used sacred intoxication to further the complex work of poetic creation, which, besides, required divine intervention.
Gwynn, 1942, pp. 38-40 ; Ó hÓgáin, 1982, p. 196.