|Let's now try to make some sense out of the use of a salamander as the
handle of the LB&C stein discussed above. The first time I encountered the
word salamander, as it related to beer, or beer steins, was in an article in the
June 1986 Prosit. Jack Lowenstein had reprinted a section from the book
"100 years of Brewing", The Western Brewer, H. S. Rich & Co.,
Chicago/New York 1903 (pp. 689-690); titled "Beer Drinking Customs at the
University of Heidelberg, Baden." An excerpt follows:
||"The wretch who has lost his beer honor is indeed a pitiful case. Being
declared under the ban by the president, he is forthwith "chalked
down" (by a beer-honorable fox, as already described) with the opprobrious
title, Bierschisser, on the blackboard, the pillory of weak-kneed
drinkers. From this ignominious position he can only extricate himself by
"fighting out" after the manner to be hereafter explained. Meanwhile
he can take no part in the musical diversions of the evening; he must not
participate in the mysterious rite known as "rubbing a salamander"; he
cannot act as beer judge, umpire, or witness in a beer trial; he can not
challenge anyone to drink, or "drink in response" to anyone who may
challenge him; and generally he is in a very bad way."
In the following, the terms used are a mix of German and
Latin. The translations are how we might expect to hear them in modern English.
The word "salamander," in this case, is derived from the term "Sauft
alle mit einander" (All drink together). However, the word Sauft means
more than just drink; it is one of those over the top words meaning "get
sloshed" or "guzzle." To have a Rubbing of the Salamander ("einem
einen Salamander reiben") proposed to you is evidently considered a
great honor. As the leader, or toast giver, proposes to honor a guest or special
person, all stand and lift their steins at the words of the leader, "Ad
exercitium salamandris praeparatiestisne?" (Are you prepared to do the
salamander?) The drinkers say in unison, "Sumus" (we are). The
leader further orders, "Salamandes inciptur, eins, zwei, drei,"
(Begin the salamander, one, two, three) and each drinker rubs his stein on the
table three times. The leader further instructs them with, "Bibte eins,
zwei, drei" (Drink up, one, two, three) and all steins are emptied in
unison to the count one, two, three. They are then rattled on the table till the
leader once again says, "Eins, zwei..." (one, two...) and all
steins are held still until the leader says,"Drei!" (three)
whereupon all bang their steins on the table.
A variation of this is the "Trauersalamander."
All done as before, except the glasses are "rubbed" in the air and
they are stopped before striking the table. A silent, solemn ceremony honoring a
I believe the student blazer and pipe on the bush behind the
individual at the left of the scene on the LB&C stein is the connection to
the handle that identifies it as a salamander. Even if you don't agree with this
assumption, you will at least know how to "rub a salamander" in case
you are ever called upon to do so.