The sacred drink plays a very important role in Indo-European spirituality and pagan worship. We see it in all of the pagan branches. But what do we really know about it? And how do we make it?
Five things (at least) are certain when it comes to the original sacred drink:
1. The big mystery behind it is that it relates to the ‘fiery liquid’ that was there when the cosmos was created (water/ice + fire in combination). This manifests in the Proto-Indo-European god Apam Napat (Neptune). Immortality is born where the sacrificial fire & the waters of the Well meet. So something has to be burnt, and something has to be liquid. See the next two points.
2. Barley is a main ingredient in most IE sacred drinks. So barley is roasted ( =fire) and used according to the following.
3. Most IE sacred drinks are described as sweet, simultaneously meaning ‘honey’. We see this in the PIE medh, Vedic madhu and of course the word mead. So a mead is brewed some time before the ritual.
4. The etymology of most IE sacred drinks (like e.g. soma/homa) points at that it was pressed/extracted. I.e. the mead is first simmered with the barley (water+fire) and then filtered and pressed through the remaining malt and left to ‘age’.
5. Considering that in IE myth it is the primordial cow/goat (like Au∂humbla) that sort of feeds the universe, everything points at that in the very ritual, the drink was finally mixed with cow or goat milk before offered and consumed. Again to represent the primordial cosmology, but also to represent the manifest world and the animal kingdom
6. Lastly we have the more varying and speculative factor – that the sacred drink was also mixed with (or pressed out of) a mind-altering substance or herb. The late Vedics used a plant that only grows high up in the Himalayas, but since that one doesn’t grown in the PIE homeland it can’t be the original. My best guess is that it was rotten barley, which had grown ergot fungi (which actually produces LSD) and/or psilocybin mushrooms. Alternatively cannbis, since this is very very ancient.
So the keywords here are barley, sweet/honey/mead, pressed/extracted, and milk. One could say that the original sacred drink is a mix of mead and ale, processed ritually. The psychoactive substance – if any – has varied a lot. Ergot fungi, cannabis, psilocybin mushrooms, opium poppy, DMT, fly agaric et al. But also medicinal herbs like ephedra (still used today by Zoroastrians). Studies of sacred drink containers with the Greeks have shown that they contained all of the above, and more. On the other hand other studies show that sometimes there was no psychoactive substance at all, other than alcohol per se. This seems to have varied depending on the occasion. The sacred drink is meant to offer the divine recipient all the three IE functions, in this case immortality, divine inspiration, sovereignty, strength, the power to act, and fertility. A mortal who partakes in the consumption obviously can’t count with all those gifts, but at least to some degree.