Appendix 3: The Otherworld Feast

I) Greek mythology: Ambrosia and Nectar (Mead?)

In Greek mythology, the gods of Olympus are described absorbing two sorts of celestial dish on the occasion of grandiose feasts: ‘Nectar’, which is generally believed to be a sweet drink obtained through the refined distillation of some honeyed plants, and ‘Ambrosia’, which Homer interpreted as ‘the food of the gods’.2491 A honey-based product, Ambrosia was used in various medicinal and magical preparations, as well as in the creation of sweet aromas or delicious liquors. The composition and nature of Nectar and of Ambrosia has caused a lot of ink to flow among scholars, particularly because Classical texts contradict each other. As a general rule, Ambrosia is accepted as being solid, while Nectar is liquid. Heinrich Roscher has convincingly, against Dumézil, demonstrated that the term ‘Ambrosia’ had the same meaning as ‘Nectar’, which both referred to honey or substances analogous to honey.2492 This is more than probable since honey, called ‘the Nectar of the Gods’ by Classical authors, was praised as a celestial dish for its incomparable sweetness and multiple virtues. It should be added that Ambrosia or Nectar, when referring to the divine beverage possessing magic properties which ensured invulnerability to the gods and eternal youth and happiness to the heroes, must be mead, the fermented drink of honey and water, which is one of the most ancestral of sacred drinks.2493


Homer, Iliad, IV, 1-4 ; Guirand & Schmidt, 2006, pp. 130, 605, 726 ; Chevalier & Gheerbrant, 1991, p. 29 ; Lenoir & Tardan-Masquelier, 2000, p. 1447.


Roscher, 1883 ; Dumézil, 1924, pp. 86-88.


For reference to Ambrosia and Nectar in Classical mythology, see among others, Homer, Iliad, IV, 1-4 and Hesiod, Theogonia, 639-642.