Pagan News and Views Since 1998
It has been estimated that approximately 70% of our crops are pollinated, to some degree by bees. If bee populations were to plummet, due to chemicals or habitat loss, we would literally be taking food out of our mouths. Our survival as a species is dependent on pollinators such as bees and thousands of other animal species that are interconnected in the web of life. These busy little workers really deserve our respect!
Honey bee (Apis mellifera)
“The bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but because she labors for others” -- Saint John Chrysostom
(Apis mellifera L.) preceded humans on earth by 10 to 20 million years. Honey bees are one of the oldest forms of animal life still in existence from the Neolithic Age. Primeval humans gathered and ate the honey and honeycombs of wild bees, the only available sweet, as far back as 7000 B.C. Bronze Age societies celebrated preindustrial triumphs by drinking mead, probably the first intoxicating beverage, fermented from honey. In fact, the words mead and mellifera (the specific name for honey bees), which are similar in several languages, were derived from root words referring to honey bees, liquor, doctored drink, etc. In the past, words for mead, honey, and honey bee have been used interchangeably, revealing the importance placed on the alcoholic beverage derived from honey. Like honey, beeswax has been prominent in ancient folklore and mythology. In the pre-Christian era, wax was offered as a sacrifice to the gods; used in the rites of birth, circumcision, marriage, purification, and death; and used in embalming, sealing coffins, and mummification. The use of beeswax in religious candles carried over into Christian times and led to beekeeping by clergy and monks in order to ensure an adequate supply of the raw material. In the past, beeswax served as a medium of exchange and taxation; it was exacted as tribute from conquered nations and was used in writing, painting, sculpturing, and protecting works of art, as well as for illumination. Honey, beeswax, and propolis (a mixture primarily of plant resins and beeswax that bees use in nest construction) have been used extensively in pharmacopoeia since 2700 B.C. The principal medicinal value of honey arises from its antibacterial properties when used as a wound dressing. Honey bees originated in southern Asia, probably in the region of Afghanistan. The earliest record of humans gathering honey from wild colonies is from 7000 B.C. Man first kept bees about 3000 to 4000 B.C., perhaps as early as 5000 B.C. There is no way of knowing to what extent honey bees have evolved since then; we can assume that some evolution has taken place, particularly with regard to the social organization of the colony and foraging behavior. Apis mellifem, the most widely distributed of the species of Apis, is not native to the Americas. The first record of the introduction of honey bees to the western hemisphere was in 1530 in South America. It was introduced to North America by colonists from Holland in 1638. However, many American Indian tribes used honey and other bee by-products that were readily available and widely used. Long before European settlers brought the honey bee "Apis Mellifera," to America in the seventeenth century, the early Maya and Aztec Indians kept bees and collected honey from the wild bees, of which there are more than 3,500 species in North America. Since bees visit a broad range of host plants and are able to conserve heat by clustering, they have become widely dispersed and are now found throughout the world. Honey bees are limited in their distribution mainly by an absence of suitable forage and/or less than 19.8 cm (7.8 inches) of rainfall annually. The scientific name, Apis mellifera, was given the honey bee by Carolus Linnaeus in 1758. It literally means "the honey-carrying bee.” A more descriptive name, A. mellifica, or "the honey-making bee” was proposed in 1761. While this second name more accurately describes honey bees (which carry nectar but make honey), the rules governing precedence in scientific nomenclature dictate that the earlier name be retained. Nevertheless, the term A. mellifica can still be found in some bee literature.
Bee Fun Facts:
· The Italian honeybee is gentle in temperament and is now the most widely used bee in the United States.
· The Finnish Kalevala tells how Lemminkainen was restored to life by magic honey from Mehilainen, the Bee.
· Aristotle, Pliny and others wrote that good souls could come back as bees.
· The saying “busy as a bee” refers to this insect’s constant movement and work when the weather is good.
· Medieval scholars believed bees were ruled by kings.
Bees in Lore and Myth:
From early times the bee was used as an image to represent the Mother Goddess and the hive was likened to the womb of the Great Mother. The most famous icon, depicting the goddess with the head of a bee and the feet of a bird, was found in a cave painting in Southern Spain and dates from Neolithic times. It is known that bees existed in their present form long before humankind. In many cultures they were a symbol of immortality and in an ancient Hindu custom that has survived today; a father will feed a child honey while asking Parvati, the gentle Mother Goddess, that the child might live to see a hundred autumns. In Ancient Greece the dead were embalmed in honey in the fetal position in huge urns, waiting for their restoration to a future life. In Celtic myth, bees were regarded as sources of great wisdom and messengers between the dimensions and in Christianity as emissaries of the Virgin Mary. For this reason they were kept informed of any major changes in their owners’ lives as it was thought they would otherwise leave the hive. It is still considered unlucky to kill a bee that goes into a house as she is bringing blessings to the home.
Over the millennia, bees have been adopted as the icon of Rhea, the Greek Earth Mother, Demeter the Grain Mother, Cybele, originally an Anatolian Earth and Mountain Goddess whose worship spread throughout the Ancient Greek world and Roman Empire, Artemis and her Roman counterpart Diana.
Bees like butterflies, another early Mother Goddess representation, are often etched or painted on protective amulets especially for children, babies, pregnant women, mothers, very old or sick people and to guard against loss, rejection, loneliness and grief. But the power and ferocity of the bee should not be underestimated. The potency resides in the Queen Bee and the female virgin worker bees who gather the pollen. The Queen Bee in myth symbolized the Goddess or her High Priestess and the worker bees her priestesses. Priests would become eunuchs to serve the Bee Goddesses, for example at the temple of Artemis, the Greek Huntress and Moon Goddess at Ephesus where her statues were adorned with bees. These priests were called essenes, which means drones, the name given to the male bee.
The bee, found in Ancient Near East and Aegean cultures, is believed to be the sacred insect that bridged the natural world to the underworld. They appear in tomb decorations; Mycenean Tholos tombs were even shaped as beehives. The Goddess was also depicted as a Queen Bee in Minoan culture and this image was closely tied to the early bull worship that originally was dedicated to the Mother Goddess. The bee represented the soul and rebirth in Minoan civilization, partly because it was believed bees were created from dead bulls, especially if the carcass was buried up to the horns in Mother Earth. This idea pervaded other European cultures and still was recorded in mediaeval times in England.
The bee was an emblem of Potnia, the Minoan-Mycenaean "Mistress", also referred to as "The Pure Mother Bee". Her priestesses received the name of "Melissa" ("bee"). In addition, priestesses worshipping Artemis and Demeter were called "Bees". The Delphi Priestess is often referred to as a bee, and it is noted that she remained "the Delphic bee" long after Apollo had usurped the ancient oracle and shrine.
In Greek mythology Melissa is the name of one of the nymphs that helped save Zeus from his father, Cronus. She hid him in the hills and fed him milk from Amalthea and honey. When Cronus discovered this, he turned her into a worm, but Zeus, in gratitude, changed her into a queen bee.
The Homeric Hymn to Apollo acknowledges that Apollo's gift of prophecy first came to him from three bee-maidens, usually identified with the Thriae. The Thriae was a trinity of pre-Hellenic bee-goddesses in the Aegean.
Because bees were divine messengers, honey made into sacred mead, wine created from fermented honey, has traditionally endowed prophetic powers on the favored. However, for two thousand years after Knossos fell the classical Greek tongue preserved "honey-intoxicated" as the phrase for "drunken."
The prophetic Thriae, three maiden seers at Delphi, were the daughters of Zeus and demanded payment in honey. They drank mead brewed from a secret formula from the nectar of sacred bees that lived in the grove. This recipe was handed down to their successors who continued to prophecy at Delphi. The High Priestess, the Oracle of Delphi herself, assumed the name of Queen Bee and the bee symbol was engraved on coins at Delphi. But the most famous mead was that brewed by the Viking giantess Gonlod who is called the mother of poetry. She owned the cauldron of inspiration that the Father god Odin stole from her so that he might possess the gift of inspired utterance.
The Bee is also seen in a number of Aegean and Near Eastern names. Interestingly, the Jewish historian Josephus noted that the name of one of the few Old Testament poets and prophetesses, Deborah, meant bee and she has been linked with the Mycean Bee Goddess.
Bees were a source of great fascination to the Greeks, and their mysterious origins inspired the legend of Aristæus: Aristæus, the son of the god Apollo, had a beehive. But he tried to seduce Eurydice, Orpheus' wife, who subsequently died from a snake bite because she had refused Aristæus' advances. In revenge, Orpheus destroyed Aristæus' hive. To appease the wrath of the gods, Aristæus sacrified four bulls and four heifers. From their entrails, new swarms suddenly appeared, so Aristæus was able to rebuild his hive and teach beekeeping to men. This legend is told by Virgil, the great Latin poet, in his famous ''Georgics''. Like the ancient Greeks, he believed that bees were born spontaneously from animal corpses.
Homer saw bees as wild and never tame, as when the Achaeans issued forth from their ship encampment "like buzzing swarms of bees that come out in relays from a hollow rock" (Iliad, book II).
According to one Egyptian myth, honey bees were the tears of the sun god Ra. When the tears fell onto the soil, they were transformed into bees that built honeycombs and produced honey. Their religious significance extended to an association with the goddess Neith, whose temple in the delta town of Sais in Lower Egypt was known as per-bit - meaning 'the house of the bee'. Honey was regarded as a symbol of resurrection and also thought to give protection against evil spirits. Small pottery flasks, which according to the hieratic inscriptions on the side originally contained honey, were found in the tomb of the boy-king, Tutankhamen.
Throughout ancient Egyptian history the bee has been strongly associated with royal titles. In Predynastic and early Dynastic times, before the union of Upper and Lower Egypt, the rulers of Lower Egypt used the title bit - meaning 'he of the bee', usually translated as 'King of Lower Egypt' or 'King of North', whereas the rulers of Upper Egypt were called nesw - meaning 'he of the sedge', translated as 'King of Upper Egypt' or 'King of the South'. In later times, after the union of Upper and Lower Egypt, the pharaoh rulers used the title nesw-bit - meaning 'he of the sedge and the bee', which is conventionally translated as 'King of Upper and Lower Egypt' or 'King of the South and North'.
The Minoan, Merope, is connected with the bee-mask. Cretan bee-masked priestesses appear on Minoan seals. Before the Hellenes came to the Aegean, Bee of the mythographers recalled the tradition "Merope", the "bee-eater", in the old Minoan tongue. Orion, a suitor of Merope, was born in Hyrai in Boeotia, an ancient place mentioned in Homer's catalogue. According to Hesychius, the Cretan word hyron meant "swarm of bees" or "beehive." Like some other archaic names of Greek cities, such as Athens or Mycenae, Hyrai is plural; a name that once had evoked the place of "the sisters of the beehive."
This name Merope figures in too many isolated tales for "Merope" to be an individual. Instead the "Merope" must denote a position as priestess of the Goddess. But surely Merope the "bee-eater" is unlikely to be always a bee herself. Though there is a small Mediterranean bird called the Bee-Eater, which was known under that name to Roman naturalists Pliny and Aelian, this Bee-Eater is most likely to have been a She-Bear, a representative of Artemis. The goddess was pictured primitively with a she-bear's head herself, and the bear remained sacred to Artemis into classical times. At a festival called the Brauronia, pre-pubescent girls were dressed in honey-colored yellow robes and taught to perform a bear dance. Once they had briefly served Artemis in this way, they would be ready to be married. In later times, a Syriac Book of Medicine recommends that the eye of a bear, placed in a hive, makes the bees prosper. The bear's spirit apparently watches over the hive, and this was precisely the Merope's role among the Hyrai at Chios. The name "Merope" also seems to mean "honey-faced" in Greek, thus "eloquent" in Classical times.
Aphrodite, Greek Goddess of love, was worshipped at a honeycomb-shaped shrine at Mount Eryx. Her High Priestess was called Melissa (meaning bee) and the other virgin priestesses melissae. By virgin this meant that they belonged to no man, but practiced a form of sacred prostitution that celebrated the fertility aspect of Aphrodite, the Queen Bee and the sacred marriage between Earth and Sky. The hexagonal shape of the honeycomb (six was believed to be the number of Aphrodite and later Venus) was the sacred geometric shape of harmony. Bees, which were considered in Greece to be the souls of dead priestesses, were creators of this perfect form and thus greatly revered. Indeed the mathematician Pythagoras believed that the honeycomb form suggested a symmetry that was reflected in the cosmos itself.
Bees are symbols of the Virgin Mary throughout the western world and especially in Eastern Europe. In the Slavonic folk tradition the bee is linked with the Immaculate Conception. July 26, the feast of St Anna, mother of Mary, whose birth also resulted from an immaculate conception, is the time when beekeepers pray for the conception of new healthy bees. In the Ukraine bees are the tears of our Lady and the Queen Bee of any hive is called Queen Tsarina, a name associated with Mary, Queen of Heaven. Throughout Eastern Europe, Mary is protectress of bees and beekeepers and consecrated honey is offered on altars on the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on August 15, the date linked with her ascension into heaven.
In Hinduism, the Bee relates to Vishnu, Krishna or Kama, the God of Love.
Austheia is the Lithuanian Bee Goddess with whom some interesting rituals are connected. It was believed that bees chose their own homes according to how generous the farmer was; when a queen hived off, the people followed until she set up a new location, after which the two families were considered linked through "biciulyste", a kind of kinship-via-bee. Neither bees nor honey could be bought or sold, because they were gifts, not products. Austeja's feast was in August, and the festivities were believed to be attended by dancing bees. The Lithuanian language has several words for "death", one of which is used for both bees and people, while other words are used for other beings. If a dead bee was found, it was buried in the Earth, not left unburied.
Ah Mucen Cab (Ah Muzencab, Ah Muzen Cab) was the Mayan god of honey and bees. Some honeys are toxic and produce psychoactive effects. It's possible that consumption of such honeys were integrated into worship of Ah Mucen Cab.
Melisseus was the rustic Daimon (Spirit) of honey and the art of beekeeping. He was variously described as a Titan, Kourete and Euboian Korybante. Melisseus was also closely identified with the Euboian Aristaios, who was also the reputed discoverer of honey, as well as a Korybantic nurse of the god Dionysos. Melisseus may also be related to the Titan-god Astraios (the starry one), for the amber-coloured (êlektron or soukinos) honey-sap (melissa) which bees were believed to collect from flowers and trees was often described as star-fallen (astron).
Beekeeping (also known as apiculture) was a Minoan craft, and the fermented honey-drink was an old Cretan intoxicant, older than wine. The proto-Greek invaders, by contrast, did not bring the art of beekeeping with them. Bee-keeping is depicted in Egyptian temple reliefs as early as the 5th Dynasty (2445-2441 BC). These show that apiculture was well established in Egypt by the middle of the Old Kingdom. Records from at least one tomb workers' village during the New Kingdom (1550-1069 BC) indicate that the workmen there kept bees and this was doubtless true of other communities throughout Egyptian history. Bee-keeping is also depicted in some 18th and 26th Dynasty tombs. Bees were certainly of great importance in providing honey, which was used both as the principal sweetener in the Egyptian diet and as a base for medicinal ointments. The Egyptians also collected beeswax for use as a mould-former in metal castings and also for use as a paint-varnish.
Bee's Wisdom Includes:
The Royal Queen Bee possesses the following virtues: Messages from higher planes and consciousness, prophetic dreams and visions, industry, wealth, industriousness, diligence, cooperation, productive hard work, sexual attraction, the power of giving back when taking, the ability to turn something unassuming into a wonderful creation, ability to enjoy and savor the sweetness of life, connection with the Earth and living things, divine messages, focus, sensitivity, and realizing the fruit of one’s labor.
In the Koran, bees symbolize wisdom, harmlessness, and the faithful.
If a bee (or a full hive) shows up in your life you may want to ask yourself the following:
· Are you being productive enough?
· Are you taking time to enjoy life or are you being a workaholic?
· Are you attempting to do too much?
· Do you need to work on your communication skills?
· Are you able to work cooperatively with others?
If a bee enters your home, it's a sign that you will soon have a visitor. If you kill the bee, you will have bad luck, or the visitor will be unpleasant.
Bees have often been regarded as wise and even holy insects, having foreknowledge as well as knowledge of many secret matters.
In antiquity they were sometimes divine messengers, and their constant humming was believed to be a hymn of praise.
Because of their status it is still considered unlucky in some places to kill a bee.
In the Celtic cultures, bees were said to have a secret wisdom that came directly from the Otherworlds.
Bees were once considered to deliberately sting those who swore in front of them, and also to attack an adulterer or unchaste person; it was once held to be a sure sign that a girl was a virgin if she could walk through a swarm of bees without being stung.
There is believed to be a very strong link between bees and their keepers; bees cannot prosper in an atmosphere of anger or hatred, and will either pine away and die, or fly away.
There is still a common belief that bees should be told about deaths that occur in the beekeeper's family; in past times this was extended to include every birth, marriage or other notable event in the life of the family. It was especially important to inform the bees of the death of their owner; traditionally this was done by the eldest son or widow of the owner, who would strike each hive three times with the door key and say 'The master is dead!’ If the procedure was not followed, the bees would die or fly away. (In a later century they do not die, but the hives must be turned round.) In many districts the hives were put into mourning by having black crepe draped around them, and at the funeral feast sugar or small amounts of the food eaten by the mourners were brought out for the bees.
An old country tradition states that bees should not be purchased for money, as bought bees will never prosper. It is acceptable to barter goods of the same value in exchange for bees, and in some districts gold was an acceptable form of payment. A borrowed swarm or one given freely is more likely to do well; a stock of bees was often started from a borrowed swarm on the understanding that it would be returned if the giver was ever in need of it.
Bees should never be moved from one place to another without being told beforehand.
Bee-stings were once thought to prevent rheumatism, and in some places a bee-sting was also thought to cure it.
Bees can tell whether a girl is pure or not, and that any girl whose family has a hive and who is about to be married should inform the bees before doing so if she wants a long and happy marriage. She must go to the hive and whisper quietly, 'Little Brownies, little Brownies, your mistress is to be wed.' If she wants to make doubly sure of their blessing, she will leave a piece of wedding cake outside the hive for their enjoyment.
If a swarm of bees settles on a roof it is an omen that the house will burn down.
If a bee lands on a person's hand, this suggests money is on its way. If a bee lands on someone's head, they will be successful in life.
When the bees in a farmer's hives die, he will soon be compelled to move from the farm.
Bees are believed to have originated in Paradise and they are traditionally known as the "little servants of God."
To see a swarm of bees in China was considered lucky.
To the Romans, a swarm of bees meant misfortune, defeat in battle, or death.
Bees also symbolize eloquence, speech, and intelligence. In Hebrew, the word for bee, Dbure, has its origins in the word Dbr, speech. They settled on the mouth of the child, Plato, "announcing the sweetness of his enchanting soul” (Pliny) and also settled on the lips of Saint Ambrose, the patron-saint of beekeepers. According to Virgil, they have a grain of divine intelligence. In some texts from India, the bee represents the spirit becoming intoxicated with the pollen of knowledge.
Because of its honey and its sting, the bee is considered to be an emblem of Christ: it represents his mildness and mercy on one side and his justice on the other.
As the workers of the hive, bees are a symbol of an industrious and prosperous community governed by the queen bee. They have therefore symbolized all that is royal and imperial in France and in ancient Egypt. Three hundred gold bees were discovered in the tomb of Childeric I (on the year 481), which showed that the hive was the model of an absolute monarchy. Napoleon I used bees as a motif on all his carpets, as well as on his coronation robes.
As organizers of the universe between earth and sky, bees symbolize all vital principles and embody the soul. The bee also symbolizes the soul that flies away from the body in the Siberian, Central Asian, and South American Indian traditions.
Bee’s Medicine Is Good For:
· Those who need to be more organized and productive
· Someone who is unhappy with their work
· Anyone who needs a better sense of cooperation allowing one the ability to contribute more, resulting in their own and others ultimate success
· Someone who needs to stay on task or who believes a task is impossible
The Bee animal totem is a strong spirit indeed and its magical properties are one of the most influential of all animal totems.
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