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Wine,Winery

Spring and the Blessing of the Vines Tradition

Welcome to spring!

A good question asked by one of my writer friends was, “When did the blessing of the vines tradition start?” I tried to do quick research, because, honestly, I just knew that it exists; but, I had no clue when the first person decided to say a few words, asking the gods to deliver a great crop for that season. Cave people? Phoenicians? Romans? Native Americans had daily blessing ceremonies? It’s just something that most people do… ask the gods for blessings… from fertility to delivery.

My quick research turned up nothing definitive. Everything from winery events talking about having their next blessing to information stored on Wikipedia, all just stated that it’s a tradition. References to the Bible were made, but where in the bible?

I knew where I needed to go.

Here’s what prompted this question, and where I went.

Question:

I am attempting to write a short article about the Blessing of the Vines. I came across a blog you wrote in September, where you said that the Blessing of the Vines and Harvest dates back to antiquity… Can you tell me what resources are available for more about the history and/or religious connections with the Blessing of the Vines? ~ Kathleen

My answer:

Blessing of the Vines – Tradition…

So… everyone out here just does it, but the real person who can give you great detail is the Reverend Dr. John Staten of Field Stone Winery.

I just spent about a half hour to get the researched version of this tradition, and am now giving up, because I know John Staten can tell us all that we need to know. He’s not only an ordained minister (PhD), but he is also the proprietor of Field Stone Winery.

He’s a dear friend, and I’m Cc:ing him as an introduction for you.

He’s also a long time member of PS I Love You.

John, please see Kathleen’s question below. It’s a great one, and I – too – would love your official answer, as a man of the cloth.

~ John’s answer, which then takes you on a further quest for more info, if you’re wanting to research this subject for your own edification:

Resources re. the Winegrape Harvest “Blessing”

The meaning of “blessing” in its biblical roots (be sure to check out the biblical texts): From The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible:

The three leading meanings which the verb “bless” has in Scripture are:

  1. To bestow divine favor and confer divine benefits (e.g., Gen.1: 22;2;3;9:1-7)
  2. To adore God for his goodness and return thanks (e.g., Ps. 103; Matt. 26:26; cf. Mk. 14:22 with Lk. 22:19 and ICor.11:24). See the example (copy to be faxed) in our winery’s hymn(s), “We Sing the Mighty Power of God”.
  3. To invoke God’s favor on a person (e.g., Gen. 27:4, 27-29; I Chron. 16:2; Ps. 29:8) including salutation and even the ordinary greeting (e.g., “Peace be to you” I Sam 25:5-6, 14; II Kings 4:29] {It is here that an invocation for God’s favor on the ripe and abundant harvest would fit. Though not directly found in the Bible, examples can be found in the harvest-time liturgies of ancient and modern Judaism and Christianity}. See the example (copy to be faxed) in our winery’s central prayer “Blessing of the Harvest” and “Benediction”.
  4. The meanings of “blessing” in the Bible as a noun:
  1. Favors, advantages, conferred by God and bringing pleasure or happiness in their train (e.g., Gen. 39:5; Deut. 28:8; Proverbs. 10:22 etc.
  2. The invocation of God’s favor upon a person {It is here that an invocation for God’s favor on the ripe and abundant harvest would fit here, though, not directly found in the Bible examples can be found in the harvest time liturgies of ancient and modern Judaism and Christianity}
  3. A present, a token of good will (e.g., Gen. 33:11; Josh. 15:19; II Kings 5:15)

The idea of God’s (Hebrew: Yahweh’s) role in the fertility, growth, and harvest of all the fruits and vegetables from the earth is rooted in the book of Genesis: The first key text is Gen. 1-2. (Note that in this first imaginative creation narrative, God, in the earth’s “as the Garden of Eden,” has not provided for humans anymore to eat than vegetables and fruit from the “Garden” (making vegetarians and wine lovers happy!). God is confirmed as the sole creator of the world we live in. (Here is the difference between the “monotheistic” [one God] religions [Judaism, Christianity, and Islam] and the ancient “polytheistic” Canaanite cults before them in the Near East). In the Hebrew Bible the second key Creation text is the account of the great flood and the blessed covenant made with “our ancestor” Noah and his descendents) Noah Gen. 5:28-9:17. God’s “covenant” with Noah and all his descendents (i.e., all who populate the earth) is a great “blessing” (see Gen. 9: 1ff.) Note that, known as “the first tiller of the soil,” was the first to “plant a vineyard”.

The service I’m faxing to you is in the Protestant and Roman Catholic-Eastern Orthodox tradition. Most of these harvest celebrations have been woven into the worship life of these traditions for centuries.

If you can, check out these books for more information about the role of wine (hence, harvest blessings) in the history of religion.

1. Robert C. Fuller, Religion and Wine; A Cultural History of Wine Drinking in the United States, Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1996

2. Charles Seltman, Wine in the Ancient World, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957

3. Hugh Johnson, Vintage: the Story of Wine, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989. Chaps. 1-8.

Reverend John Staten, a former educator, has given anyone who wishes to write an extensive research project, a really great beginning. May your harvest be blessed!

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5 Responses to “Spring and the Blessing of the Vines Tradition”

  1. Anonymous says:
  2. I love this post, Jo! I would love to participate in this ritual one year! Thanks for writing it up! (and I can see how this research of yours might end up part of my research!)

  3. Jo Diaz says:

    Gwendolyn,

    Happy to inspire.

  4. Brian in Texas says:

    Jo, Thanks for the information. I’ve been asked to help research a complete ceremony reflective of the old world tradition for a vineyard here in Texas in April 2013. Any additional information you might have would be greatly appreciated. I’ll also contact Dr. Staten as well.

  5. Jo Diaz says:

    I’ll send you an Email, so you can get through to Dr. Staten.

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