Oleg Zabluda's blog
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Dawn on Vesta shot by "Dawn" spacecraft.
Dawn on Vesta shot by "Dawn" spacecraft.


Из вереска напиток
Из вереска напиток
Забыт давным-давно.
А был он слаще меда,
Пьянее, чем вино.
С.Я. Маршак.
Really "Пьянее, чем вино"?! Alcohol distillation was invented in 12th century. The ballad describes events from the 10th century. Must be poetic dramatization by Marshak's "Вересковый мёд". Let's check the original "Heather Ale" by Robert Louis Stevenson of the "Treasure Island" fame:

From the bonny bells of heather
They brewed a drink long-syne,
Was sweeter far than honey,
Was stronger far than wine.

Hmm, "Was stronger far than wine". Clear as day. Not surprising either. Marshak was an excellent translator and his translations are always very close to the original, just like mine.

My hypothesis is as follows:

First of all, it was indeed ale made from heather. At that time "beer" was made with hops (хмель) and ale was made with heather (вереск). This is no longer true in modern nomenclature. On the undersides heather leaves may have ergot-like fungus, which is a hallucinogen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calluna_vulgaris#Uses). Clearly "stronger far than wine". This also neatly explains "sweeter far than honey". That was just a hallucination. And clearly non-trivial knowledge - while collecting heather, to look at the undersides of leaves for the fungus, at the right place and time, instead of, say, putting crushed agaric (толченный мухомор) into the brew or something.

А мне костер не страшен.
Пускай со мной умрет
Моя святая тайна -
Мой вересковый мед!
But now in vain is the torture,
Fire shall never avail:
Here dies in my bosom
The secret of Heather Ale.



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