“Brewing”, “herbs,” “broomsticks,” “woman.” When one hears these words together, most often the assumption is that the person in question is a witch. Yet brewing has a very human meaning as well, one that revolves around the avarice of alcohol and its never-ending demand by consumers. It was from this alcoholic context that the trade of alewives arose, women in the Middle Ages through the early modern period who brewed and sold alcohol as a means of income. Due to the alewives’ skills in the kitchen, fashion sense, and the eventual rise of urban guilds, however, the alewife soon became a term synonymous with “witch.” It is likely from these practices that much of the modern views of the stereotypical witch began.
Brewing Was For Women
Brewing belonged to women from the medieval to early modern periods for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is the simple fact that women were tasked with proper kitchen chores, and brewing required many of them. Women kept the kitchen in order, made dough and baked bread; they planted and grew herbs, ground grains and boiled ingredients in a large black cauldron over a sweltering fire for stews. The practice, therefore, was rather economic for women to undertake. They already possessed the skills and tools needed to begin make ale and beer. Further, as there was no shortage in the need for alcoholic beverages (as it was the primary drink in a period when water was unclean), the process was beneficial to the family of the brewer as well.
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