September 2016 Stein of the Month

A Mazer Cup

by Eric Salzano

The September “Stein of the Month”, is in fact not really a Stein at all, it’s a cup, and it’s called a “Mazer Cup”.  “Mazer cups” were special ceremonial drinking  vessels, normally made from Maple Wood, often spotted, or what is commonly called Birdseye Maple. Often these drinking vessels had silver mounts with engravings. Mazer cups and mazer bowls were made mostly between the 11th and 16th centuries.  This cup was made probably made between 1500 – 1600. Normally a honey wine called “Mead” would be drunk from these drinking vessels.

Some of these cups, including this one,  have a silver coin in it. This one is bezel-set on the underside of the lid; it’s  a coin with Alexander the Great on it, the coin is contemporary to the time of Alexander the Great, which means the coin was minted around 330 BC. Basically the coin was about 1,800 years old when the maker of the Mazer cup placed it there roughly 500 years ago. The coin was believed to offer some protection from being poisoned while drinking.

The word “Mazer” is thought to be derived from the old German word “maser”, which means “a spot”, referring to the spots in the wood used to make these vessels. The vessels were often used in  drinking ceremonies, and were meant to be passed between drinkers. By some accounts the cup was held with two hands while the drinker stood up, the person directly to their right, also stood up, and held the lid  with their right hand, to show they had no weapon, or bad intentions. Assassination was a real threat while drinking in the Middle Ages. In fact some of the inscription on this Mazer cup refers to that fact, basically saying “If you are going to pull a weapon, you had better be fast “.

I feel very lucky to own this rare cup, I acquired it from a good friend, who purchased it a number of years ago from ebay Germany, where it was reasonable priced, and incorrectly listed as a “Funeral urn”.