AskDefine | Define libation

Dictionary Definition



1 (facetious) a serving of an alcoholic beverage
2 a serving (of wine) poured out in honor of a deity
3 the act of pouring a liquid offering (especially wine) as a religious ceremony

User Contributed Dictionary



From libatio, from libare



  1. The act of pouring a liquid or liquor, usually wine, either on the ground or on a victim in sacrifice, in honor of some deity.
  2. The wine or liquid thus poured out.
  3. A beverage, especially an alcoholic one (often used humorously).


act of pouring a liquid as a sacrifice
  • Dutch: plengoffer
liquid poured out
  • Dutch: plengoffer
alcoholic beverage
  • Dutch: plengoffer

Extensive Definition

A libation (spondee in Greek) is a ritual pouring of a drink as an offering to a god. It was common in the religions of antiquity, including Judaism:
"And Jacob set up a Pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a Pillar of Stone; and he poured out a drink offering on it, and poured oil on it". (Genesis 35:14)
Isaiah uses libation as a metaphor when describing the end of the Suffering Servant figure who: "poured out his life unto death". (53:12) Christians see Jesus Christ as fufulling this prophecy. The liquid that was used in libations varied; most commonly it was wine or olive oil, and in India, ghee. The vessels used in the ritual, including the patera, often had a significant form which differentiated them from secular vessels. The liquid was poured onto something of religious significance. The libation was very often poured on the ground itself, as an offering to the Earth.
In Ancient Greece the term "spondee" (libation) is meant type of sacrifice. The term includes all offers to the gods, with discharge on to an altar, various nutritious or precious liquids, as perfumes, wine, honey, milk, oil, juices of fruits.
The libations that include wine are said oinosponda, all other nefalies. The later are offered in celestial deities as in the Muses, the Sun, Selana, Io, Venus, Urany, as well as to Earth deities and the ancestral spirits.
Ancient Greek texts often mention libations. Euripides describes the dire consequences of failure to include certain gods in libations in The Bacchae, a theme common to many Greek tragedies. The use of a libation composed of barley, wine, honey and water to summon shades in Hades is also referred to in the Odyssey.
In his Pneumatica, Hero of Alexandria described a mechanism for automating the process by using altar fires to force oil from the cups of two statues.
In Shinto, the practice of libation and the drink offered is called Miki (神酒), lit. "Liquor of the Gods". At a ceremony at a Shinto shrine, it is usually done with sake, but at a household shrine, one may substitute fresh water which can be changed every morning. It is served in a white porcelain or metal cup without any decoration.
In the Quechua and Aymara cultures of the South American Andes, it is common to pour a small amount of one's beverage on the ground before drinking as an offering to the Pachamama, or Mother Earth. This especially holds true when drinking Chicha, an alcoholic beverage unique to this part of the world. The libation ritual is commonly called challa and is performed quite often, usually before meals and during celebrations.
In Cuba a widespread custom is to spill a drop or two of rum from one's glass while saying "para los santos" (for the Saints).
In hip-hop culture, libation has taken the form of pouring a small amount of a drink onto the ground in remembrance of ancestors or friends who are no longer with us. The liquid is poured onto the ground before the first sip is taken. Hence, the famous quote: "One for me, and one for my (fallen) homies".
Libation is also commonly recognized as the break within the famous performance of Agbekor, a ritual dance in African culture.


See also

libation in Bulgarian: Възлияние
libation in German: Trankopfer
libation in Modern Greek (1453-): Σπονδή
libation in Spanish: Libación
libation in French: Libation
libation in Italian: Libagione
libation in Hebrew: נסך
libation in Dutch: Libatie
libation in Polish: Libacja (rytuał)
libation in Portuguese: Libação
libation in Swedish: Libation
libation in Chinese: 奠祭

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

beverage, bumper, burnt offering, collection, draft, dram, drench, drink, drink offering, drop, ex voto offering, gargle, gulp, guzzle, heave offering, hecatomb, holocaust, human sacrifice, immolation, incense, infanticide, jigger, jolt, lap, mactation, nip, oblation, offering, offertory, peace offering, peg, piacular offering, portion, potation, potion, pull, quaff, round, round of drinks, sacramental offering, sacrifice, scapegoat, self-immolation, self-sacrifice, shot, sip, slurp, snifter, snort, spot, suck, sup, suttee, sutteeism, swig, swill, thank offering, tot, votive offering, wet, whole offering
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