Oaxaca legend has it that the goddess of agave and fertility, Mayahuel, was cold and sober. She spent day after day giving of her agave nectar, asking for nothing in return. As the days went on, her heart withered.
One day, a figure approached the goddess carrying a small satchel of Butcher’s knives, and a canteen. His hands were strong, his sun-kissed skin speckled with desert sand and smudges of ash, his eyes deep and dark. As the Butcher knelt down to her, she braced for him to cut her and drink her nectar as others did. Instead, the Butcher cleared the dry, dead leaves from around her roots, pruned back branches that were shading her from the sun, gave her water from his canteen and continued on his path. Mayahuel heart, overwhelmed by the stranger’s compassion, exploded into a fury of Alebrijes (spirit guides)- each representing a different stage of the intoxicating love she felt from the Butcher’s selfless act.
The Gods were furious with her display of appreciation for a mortal man, and as punishment cast darkness and violent storms over the land of Oaxaca. In a panic, Mayahuel sent the strongest Alebrije- a renegade rabbit, to track her caregiver, demanding the rabbit guide and protect the Butcher with the same love he had shown her. The rabbit climbed the highest mountains, traversed the desert, and followed the rivers, dodging lightning strikes from the Gods and looking everywhere in the stormy night until it spotted the Butcher.
The renegade rabbit leapt at the Butcher, knocking him out of the way of one last smiting strike, which hit a nearby agave plant igniting it in flames. As the agave heated, a sweet, smoky nectar started to pour from the plant. The Butcher took a sip of the deep, earthy, elixir. As the drink hit his lips, he was revitalized by a wild wave of strength and warming intoxication- Mezcal; this is why Mezcal is known as “the gift of the goddess”. The Butcher filled his canteen with Mezcal and cooked over the fire. He ate and drank in comfort, protected by the rabbit Alebrije until his belly was full and the storm passed. As a thank you to Mayahuel, the Butcher continues to stoke the fire, cooking over its flame, and collecting the sweet, smoky nectar to share the warmth and compassion of Mezcal with the people of Oaxaca and beyond.
Mezcal is now known as one of Mexico’s greatest contributions to the world. People enjoy Mezcal for many reasons. They drink to find courage or to swallow betrayal, they toast to good health and have a sip when they’re feeling ill. Mezcal is drunk in sorrow and in joy, in sickness and in health, to those in heaven and when you feel like hell. ¡Salud!