Like Ron, I bought a book shelf for the expanding crown of beer books in the house and, in the reshuffling of this and that, came across this book fully titled "Xhosa Beer Drinking Rituals: Power, Practice and Performance in the South African Rural Periphery" - how did I get my hands on this one? Well, a check into the search engine that comes along with email says I asked for it about 15 months ago and the good folk at Carolina Academic Press were nice enough to send it along.
The book is written in a thick anthropological academic fashion which is good for its focus audience but bad for me as I only qualify for the initial adjective, thick, in terms of this sort of material. But the chapter headings have such promise for the innocent like me. "Brewing, Beer Talk, Preparations and Preliminaries" holds such promise yet I wilt in the face of a sentence like:
However, attention will also be paid to how agency and interest are superimposed on this formal structure, modifying it or contradicting it in relation to everyday power relations, networks and activities.I am being unfair, of course. The book depends on illustrations of actual Xhosa life with beer and how the life with beer in return illustrates Xhosa-speaking culture. Indeed, the level of detail in both observation and description makes the work of beer historians like Unger and Hornsey appear superficial until you realize that is the difference between thorough studies of human actions and the records of human actions. In the chapter on "Beer Drink Oratory and Social Reproduction" there are some quite lovely transcriptions on the blessings and other psalm-like poetic statements given on the occasion of a first home.
One brews ntwana nje' (Nkos!)Through the rituals of the beer drinking, the home enters into the village; by taking a place in the hierarchy, the home gains the blessings of safety, health and joy. Beer can do all this.
So that people should enter the home (Nkos!)
To spit, to drive out misfortune (Nkos!)
To bring back good fortune(Nkos!)...
Is it worth getting a copy? Sure, as it is a fascinating look into how a society can be shaped by its basic elements. You also get the sense that if there were anthropologists around back in European pre-modern period, this sort of detail would be available, too, in relation to our lost celebrations using bride ales, birthing ales and other beers brewed within the ritual cycles of life.
Right now it's priced at $45.00 from the publisher.