The Bee is considered extremely auspicious to civilizations of all ages, and have played an important part in symbolism since Ancient times.
The list of the virtues of the Bee is very long:
– Bees have been considered to be messengers carrying news to the spirit world in many cultures;
– Bees represent wisdom and immortality;
– Bees symbolize love and also fidelity and virginity;
– Bees represent industry;
– Bees were believed to have knowledge of the future and secret matters.
Nowadays, the Bees are dying and are vanishing from hives due to the use of pesticides and insecticides, especially neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used class of insecticide. An ancient legend asserts that when the Bee dies out, man will shortly follow.
I can only hope that the current “civilized world”, will stop killing these wonderful entities and learn to live in harmony with the Bee.
Thanks to fossilisation, Bees over 100 million years old have been discovered in amber, frozen in time, immortalised in their own honey.
The Greeks call amber electron, and associated it with the Sun God Elector, who was known as the Awakener.
Honey, which resembles amber, was also known as an awakener, a regenerative substance that was revered across the ancient world.
The resemblance of honey with amber led to the Bees exalted status amongst ancient man.
In ancient Sumer, the Bee was the primordial source of inspiration for depicting winged figures.
Bees accompanied Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and during the mythical Golden Age, honey dripped from trees like rain water.
In Egypt, Bees symbolized a stable and obedient society, mantras that later were adopted by Freemasonry.
The Bee was worship throughout the world.
The Bee is the only insect that communicates through dance, yet this largely forgotten trait is one of the reasons why Bee imagery from antiquity is often lost on the untrained eye.
In her authoritative and often quoted book, The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, Marija Gimbutas examines imagery on artefacts from Old Europe, circa 8000 BC, and concludes that they portray the Bee as a manifestation of the Mother Goddess, as depicted below:
(estimated to have been carved between 24,000 – 22,000 BC)
The Mother Goddess is arguably the oldest deity in the archaeological record and her manifestations are numerous, including likenesses of butterflies, toads, hedgehogs – and dancing Bees.
In the ancient world, dancing Bees appear to have been special – the Queen Bee in particular, for she was the Mother Goddess – leader and ruler of the hive, and was often portrayed in the presence of adorning Bee Goddesses and Bee Priestesses.
Dancing Bee Goddesses, from The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe © Marija Gimbutas
Above, the Bee Goddess, the figure in the centre descending to earth among snakes and lilies, is being worshipped by her Priestesses, who, characteristically, take the same form as she does, all raising their hands in a typical gesture of epiphany.
The Queen Bee, whom all others serve, symbolizes, since times immemorial, an epiphany of the Goddess herself.
Minoan Golden Bee. The Bee Goddess worship in Crete.
Bees were sacred in Egypt. Bee Coin – Sicily, Italy, 700 BC. Merovingian Bees.
Bees, like all insects that spin cocoons or weave webs, serve as symbols of the miraculous interconnectedness of life.
The intricate cellular structure that secretes the golden essence of life is an image of the network of invisible nature that relates all things to each other in an ordered harmonious pattern.
This indicates, at least, one of the meanings of the tale in which the infant Zeus is fed on honey in Crete, and why Honey represents the Nectar of the Gods and Ambrosia represents the Food of the Gods.
The bee, following the impulsion of its nature to pollinate flowers and gather their pollen and nectar to be transformed into honey, bee pollen, ambrosia (a.k.a. bee bread), propolis (a.k.a. bee glue), etc., is an example of the activity required of human beings to cultivate and harvest the crops and transform them into food.
Honey also played a central part in the New Year rituals of the Minoans.
The Cretan New Year began at the Summer Solstice, and June 21st was the day when the great star Sirius rose in conjunction with the Sun, as it did also in Sumer and Egypt.
As well, Minoan temples in Crete were orientated to Sirius Star.
In Sumer and Egypt, Sirius was explicitly the Star of the Goddess (Innana in Sumer, and Isis in Egypt).
The rising of Sirius ended a 40-day ritual during which honey was gathered from the hives of the bees in the darkness of the caves and the woods.
The honey was then fermented into mead and drunk as an intoxicating liquor, accompanying the ecstatic rites that celebrated the return of the daughter of the Goddess as the beginning of the new year.
Melissa, the Goddess as Queen Bee, taught mortals how to ferment honey into mead.
All these rites are present in the classical Greek myths of Dionysos, himself originating in Crete and called the Bull God.
A bull was sacrificed with the rising of the Sirius, and the bees were seen as the resurrected form of the dead bull and also as the souls of the dead.
This festival for the rising of Sirius that initiated the New Year was thereby raised to the level of a myth of ‘zoe’ (indestructible life): the awakening of bees from a dead animal.
This intense drama of epiphany suggests that the humming of the bee was actually heard as the Voice of the Goddess, interpreted as the Sound of Creation, known as the Vibration of invisible life being manifested into visible life.
“Tholos” Tomb – 1500 BC. Omphalos – Delphi, Greece.
_The tombs at Mycenae were shaped as beehives, as was the omphalos at Delphi in Classical Greece, where Apollo ruled with his chief oracular Priestess, the Pythia, who was called the Delphic Bee.
The Omphalos , the Greek word for ‘navel’, is shaped like a bee hive.
Paphos, Greece, the site of Aphrodite’s tomb, was known as the navel of the Earth.
The omphalos also refers to the sacred stone found in temples or shrines.
Symbolically, the omphalos brought together a number of important spiritual concepts.
The heart-seat of the great Earth Mother was the very centre of the navel of the world.
The navel cord connects the foetus with outer and inner worlds, and is the source of nourishment until it is time for birth.
Similarly, Aphrodite’s temple was the place where initiates were nourished and birthed into higher planes of consciousness.
In the Greek Homeric Hymn to Hermes written down in the eighth century BC, the God Apollo speaks of three female seers as three bees or bee-maidens, who like himself, practiced divination:
There are some Fates sisters born, maidens three of them, adorned with swift wings.
Their heads are sprinkled over with white barley meal, while they make their homes under the cliffs of Parnassus.
They taught divination far off from me, the art I used to practise round my cattle while still a boy.
These sacred bee-maidens with their gift of prophecy, were to be Apollo’s gift to Hermes, the God who alone could lead the souls of the dead out of life and sometimes back again.
The etymology of the word ‘fate’ in Greek offers a fascinating example of how the genius of the Minoan vision entered the Greek language, often visibly, as well as informing its stories of Goddesses and Gods.
The Greek word for ‘fate’, ‘death’ and ‘Goddess of death’ is e ker (feminine); the word for ‘heart’ and ‘breast’ is to ker (neuter); while the word for ‘honeycomb’ is to kerion (neuter).
The common root ker links the ideas to the honeycomb, Goddess, death, fate and the human heart, a nexus of meanings that is illumined if we know that the Goddess was once imagined as a Bee.
Bees have an ancient reputation as the bringers of order, and their hives served as models for organizing temples in many Mediterranean cultures.
Priestesses at Cybele’s temples in Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome were called Melissai or Melissæ, the Greek and Latin words for Bees.
These Priestesses were often prophets or oracles who entered an ecstatic trance induced by preparations that included ingesting honey.
The Greek word for this state of transfigured consciousness is enthusiasmos meaning ‘within is a god’ – the root of the word enthusiasm.
The Bible mentions a ruler and prophetess of ancient Israel called Deborah, the “Queen Bee”, and her Priestesses were known as Deborahs as well.
In the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, the Melissai feed on honey and are inspired “to speak the truth”.
These traditions made the omphalos the place of sacred utterance – the oracular power associated with the buzzing of bees and the buzzing vibration of life itself.
Signs of Bee worship as the Divine Feminine worship abound in all Mediterranean cultures of around 3,000 years ago at the temples of Artemis.
Goddess Artemis is one of the oldest and most popular aspects of the Divine Feminine.
Born on the Greek Island of Delos, Artemis was sister of Apollo and daughter to Zeus and Leto.
When she was a young girl, her father, Zeus, asked her what was her dream?
She answered that she wished to never have to marry a man and to always be free to roam in the wild forest.
Artemis was known as a patron of young virgins, and a powerful protector of the natural world of fertility.
As with other early Goddesses, ceremonies to invoke Artemis were held in groves of trees, at places of special rock outcroppings, at sacred sites along rivers or at quiet springs.
Artemis was and is to be known as one of the most powerful mistresses of magic.
She allows us to feed our imaginations with many possibilities,
all of which are symbols of fertility that can suit our needs.
The breast-like objects growing out of Artemis’ chest look like bees’ eggs.
Anatolian Mother Goddess wearing a beehive-shaped tiara,
symbolizing “streams of honey” and abundance.
This is the origin of the beehive shaped Mitre of the Cohen priests.
(estimated to 10,000 BC)
The Anatolian Mother Goddess is shown wearing a beehive as a tiara.
This is the introduction of a motif that would flourish in historical times.
Of all the insects represented in the ancient world, bees are foremost in ritual and symbolic meaning.
The Goddess’ tiara announces her status as a Queen Bee and suggests that she streams with honey, a much-revered substance in ancient times, and now.
A tiara, τιάρα in Greek, tiara in Latin, is a jeweled, ornamental crown, traditionally worn by women.
Bees represent birth, death, and regeneration.
Bees have an acute sense of time.
They appear to use their internal circadian clocks in conjunction with the Sun’s position in the sky to navigate.
Because their time memory is so advanced, they can be trained to appear at certain times of the day for feeding.
An individual bee within the hive an communicate the location and richness of a newly discovered food source by dancing and drumming with its wings.
All these wonderful properties are echoed in historical rituals and mythologies.
Throughout history, the Bee has been venerated as nothing short of a God whose life affirming attributes have been adopted by religions, institutions and governments alike.
Ancient civilizations (such as Sumer, Chaldea, Egypt and Greece) revered the Bee as a provider of superfood products and ritualistic, medicinal and agriculturally important by-products.
Just like our ancestors did, we should revere the Bee, too!
Stop killing the Bees!
Start caring and providing for the Bees!