Bees, sacred messengers

Guest Blogger, Selene Weir, has created an informative series about bees for OCLC. This is the first installment.

“The Sphinx, the Pyramids, the stone temples are, all of them, ultimately as flimsy as London Bridge; our cities but tents set up in the cosmos.  We pass.  But what the bee knows, the wisdom that sustains our passing life – however much we deny or ignore it – that forever remains.”   P.L. Travers

Mother Earth will have big problems on her hands if her bee children vanish.  Though they give us bucket loads of sweet honey and beeswax, their most important jobs is to spread pollen from flower to flower.  Every bloomin’ thing on the planet can use some help pollinating their blossoms.  The wind and hummers, among other pollinators, can only do so much!  As of now, our bee sisters and brothers are vanishing at an alarming rate, all over Earth.  Bees contribute to life as we have known it for eons.

Honey Bees. Our thanks to www.public-domain-image.com for use of their images.
Honey Bees. Many thanks to http://www.public-domain-image.com for use of their images.

Due to the mystery of their ways, their link to the afterlife and magical associations, bees are linked to deity and have often been elevated to a symbol of royalty.

The bee was a royal symbol for the Pharaohs.  Since the tears of the Sun God Ra formed the first bees, honey was for the “Royals” only.  Ra wept and each tear rose and flew away as a bee.  Each bee then “busied himself with the flowers of every plant, and so wax was made and also honey.”  Honey was food, medicine, and offered to the Gods in ritual.  Wax and honey were used in the Egyptian’s embalming rituals.  Magically, honey did not spoil, found to this day edible from jars in the pharaoh’s tombs.  Ra is honored during Midsummer Solstice (Litha) in June, also known as the Honey Moon or Mead Moon.  The sweet wine mead is made from honey.

Aphrodite, Botticelli's iconic image of the birth of the goddess.
Aphrodite, Botticelli’s iconic image of the birth of the goddess.

Another deity associated with bees and honey is Aphrodite.  She was the “queen bee” and she called herself Melissa.  Her priestesses were known as the “melissae” or bees.  The Goddess Artemis also had melissae and her priests were “essenes,”  or drones, who assisted the melissae.  Interestingly, bees belong to the order of hymenoptera (veil winged).  In the Goddess’s temple the hymen was the veil placed over the temple’s shrine.   Hymen was the name given to the high priestess of the temple where she performed marriages and celebrated the Honey Moon.

Myths worldwide are connected to the bee.  Greek myth states that the soul of Hades was taken to the underworld by a bee.  In Greece, a baby who had the rare, but good fortune to be “kissed” on the lips by a bee was destined grow up and become a well-known poet, speaker or someone who would spread the word, whatever it was, via speech.

Bees are messengers, too.  To have the honor of being visited in your home by a bee means you are to get ready for a visitor.  Sometimes they may whisper in your ear.  Be kind to the bee, thanking it for letting you know you will be receiving company.  Let it live, for killing it sets you up for bad news from the visitor.

In America, particularly in New England and Appalachia, as soon as the bees were “told” about the death of a person by the family of the deceased, they got busy spreading the news.  It seems like the very word “spread” goes with bees.  As sacred messengers, they spread the news, spread the word and, of course, as their gift to us, we spread the honey.

“Last night as I was sleeping, I dreamt – marvellous error! – that I had a beehive here inside my heart. And the golden bees were making white comb and sweet honey from my old failures.” Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

Many thanks to our Guest Blogger Selene Weir!

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