In the Anglo-Saxon epic poem, Beowulf, King Hrothgar's warriors enjoyed feasted and drowned their sorrows and fears in the finest mead served at Heorot, the king's mead-hall. The mead-hall originated in Europe as a gathering place for the community, where the rulers lived and administered daily functions, and their warriors served as faithful retainers. With the fifth century invasions of Angles from the Jutland peninsula and the Saxons from Germany, tribes brought the traditions of the mead-hall to England.In the early Anglo-Saxon period before Christianity gained influence, a ruler summoned his household for a ritual gathering, where the men drank, made boasts or binding oaths in the service of their lord and received gifts of land from him. As in subsequent centuries, alcohol flowed freely at these gatherings. Guests consumed mead, fermented from a mix of honey and water flavored with herbs, and beer, cider and malted ale all day or over a period of three days. A general understanding assumed that alcohol could cause guests to become boastful, but even drunken oaths were upheld and the safety of those in attendance at feasts safeguarded by the lord.
|Drinking scene on an image stone;|
Source: Wiki Commons
There were everyday gatherings but feasts to celebrate battle victories, special events, seasonal festivals and religious observances must have offered food and drink in copious quantities.Feasts were the means for rulers to forge strong ties between people in a communal setting. They demonstrated the lord's wealth, support and protection of his community, meant to bind them together in his service.