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I recently listened to Purcell's "King Arthur", and at one point in the libretto, the Saxons sing of the "juice that makes the Britons bold" (at 11:40 in the linked video; the movement starts at 11:00), which immediately made me think of Asterix with the magic potion(/juice) that makes the Gauls(/Celts/Britons) strong(/bold).

Is there some underlying mythology about some Celtic potion that makes people bold/strong, or is the connection entirely apparent and spurious? (And in the case of the latter, what does the juice actually refer to?)

As an aside, I also find it interesting that they'd drink British potions in the hall of Woden. What's up with that?

The whole libretto is available here.

(Yes, this is very similar to my other question. King Arthur deals me a few surprises.)

  • 2
    Asterix and his friends were bold enough without the potion; it is mentioned multiple times that they only fear the sky will fall on their head. (Referring to the Celts' answer to Alexander the Great). – Vixen Populi May 11 '15 at 5:09
  • I believe the answer is Red Bull. – MalayTheDynamo Oct 25 '17 at 11:43
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The actual lyric is:

I call you all
To Woden's Hall,
Your temples round
With ivy bound
In goblets crown'd,
And plenteous bowls of burnish'd gold,
Where ye shall laugh
And dance and quaff
The juice that makes the Britons bold

To figure this out, what is Woden's Hall? The simplest source for this is Wikipedia - though it's corroborated in many places:

In wider Germanic mythology and paganism, Odin was known in Old English as Wóden, in Old Saxon as Wōden, and in Old High German as Wuotan or Wodan, all stemming from the reconstructed Proto-Germanic theonym *wōđanaz.

So, Woden's Hall is almost certainly Valhalla, a hall where the fiercest Nordic warriors would sit around waiting for Ragnarok. So what is Valhalla like, as far magic drink is like? For that, we go to the Poetic Edda:

  1. Five hundred doors | and forty there are,
    I ween, in Valhall's walls;
    Eight hundred fighters | through one door fare
    When to war with the wolf they go.

  2. Five hundred rooms | and forty there are
    I ween, in Bilskirnir built;
    Of all the homes | whose roofs I beheld,
    My son's the greatest meseemed.

  3. Heithrun is the goat | who stands by Heerfather's hall,
    And the branches of Lærath she bites;
    The pitcher she fills | with the fair, clear mead,
    Ne'er fails the foaming drink.

Source: The Poetic Edda, translated by Henry Adams Bellows, p. 94

So: the juice that makes the Briton's bold is probably referring to the mead served by the magic goat Heithrun in Odin's Valhalla.

  • I'm sorry if I'm missing your point somewhere, but it seems to me that your answer is missing the crux of the question: Why would Woden be serving the juice that makes the Britons bold? The juice you're quoting from the Edda seems to be that which makes the Saxons bold, if anything. – Dolda2000 May 12 '15 at 4:03
  • @Dolda2000 High quality mead is high quality mead, anywhere in the multiverse. – durron597 May 12 '15 at 4:04
  • Certainly, but why would the Saxons be singing about it as if it were the Britons' mead? – Dolda2000 May 12 '15 at 4:05
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    If you scroll up in the script you provided, it says: A place of heathen worship; the three saxon gods, Woden, Thor and Freya placed on pedestals; an altar. Oswald, his magician Osmond and the earthly evil spirit Grimbald have brought victims for a sacrifice, to ensure victory in battle, and are preparing for the rites. Grimbald goes to the door, and re-enters with six Saxons in white, with swords in their hands. They range, themselves three and three in opposition to each other. The rest of the stage is filled with priests and singers. – durron597 May 12 '15 at 4:10

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