It’s autumn again and with Halloween behind the corner we are slowly entering what call Black Rat season. I met the Black Rat for the first time in the year 2009. It was a cold evening in late November. I decided to make an experimental cocktail out of some ingredients I had in the cupboard. One of them was Black Sambuca which I used as a base for my new invention. As I prepared the drink I began thinking of a name. It so happened that my Halloween plastic rat was on the table top and the Black Rat was born!
It was not until two weeks later when I realized Black Rat wasn’t just a drink I invented. It was a spirit/entity/deity that reached out to me. One that I had to learn to understand. The drink is composed of one part Black Sambuca, one part Piołunówka and two parts ginger wine. It turned out to have a mind of a rat and not just any rat as I discovered years later.
The first time, I got extremely drunk with one too many Black Rats. It was the worst hangover of my life but as well as feeling poisoned I also felt rejuvenated! It felt like the black phase of alchemy, working out through an ordeal symbolically so I can move on in my life. At the time I was trapped in a house with no hot water, winter fast approaching and a landlord unwilling to move a finger. The Black Rat revealed itself to be a spirit dwelling in dark tunnels, sewers and caves where slaves lived their life unloading cargo from ships. A friend of those in difficulty, the Black Rat brings liberation in times of oppression. With my rat on the shoulder I soon managed to find a cozy home and put my life in order. Since then I ritually drink the cocktail to honor the spirit all through the autumn/winter season and especially on the 6th December, the Black Rat Day, the anniversary of my initiation.
A few years later, myself and Anton were reading Val Thomas ‘A Witch’s Kitchen’ where we came a cross the legend of a rat named Yag. It’s a story in which, in return for good treatment, a black rat brings fire to the people. The story is known as the Gypsy Quest for Fire. The lovely legend resonated with our experience of the Black Rat as liberator and trickster. We began wondering if yag and black rat are one and the same. Meanwhile a rare conjunction of Venus, Mars and the Moon took place and we decided to make Black Rats again.
The custom, in preparing Balck Rat, is to light it up before adding ginger wine. Since wine has a lower alcohol content to spirits, usually adding it puts down the flame. This time however when we added wine Black Rats were still flaming. In fact they did so for so long I began worrying glass might brake from heat! Both myself and Anton felt strongly that Black Rat was communicating something to us. Are you a fire spirit? I asked aloud at the same time as Anton said ‘Yag!’ The flames died out immediately leaving us in no doubt about the rats identity.
As another Black Rat season approaches, I wonder what else I will learn about my friend. If reading about the Black Rat inspired you you might want to look on Halloween shop shelves. You will likely find it there. You may also try making your own Black Rat cocktail (1 part Sambuca,1 part Piołunówka, set on fire, add 2 parts ginger wine) and chill out to some ratty music….