Since humanity began to reside in the world, they have started to develop a number of systems that will make sense of their surroundings. Myths are one of them. Myths are known as narratives that are shaped around a particular religion and culture and that explain traditions about humanity, universe and nature. Myths have a very important place in recognizing and making sense of a culture and community.
The main characters in myths are usually gods, demigods and other supernatural figures. Apart from this, there are also myths involving people, animals and their combinations.
Did you know that bees and honey also appear in myths and folklore around the world? As ELVISH, we would like to share some of them with you…
“In mythology, the bee, found in Ancient Near East and Aegean cultures, was believed to be the sacred insect that bridged the natural world to the underworld.” ¹
Shamanism is known as the oldest healing tradition in the world. Moreover, it is a way of life. Its foundation is about connecting with nature and all creation. It belongs to all indigenous tribes, that is, to all cultures in the world. It is called “universal spiritual wisdom.”
In shamanic practices, people encounter and work with a variety of spiritual allies. These spiritual allies are also called “the animal spirits”. There is love and commitment in this relationship. Spiritual allies become personal to humans. Spiritual allies decide for themselves who they want to choose and come up with their own way of communicating with people.
“Bees inhabited the sacred grove, the enchanted forest, the timeless realm between the living and the dead. The sweetness of honey had a mystical sense; it was a taste of the sweetness of wisdom, the wisdom of the numinous other world.” ²
Bees have an important role in wild nature depictions. The Priestesses of Artemis, the Goddess of the mountains and the forest and the moon, were called Melissonomoi, beekeepers. A fragment of early Greek poetry, Alcman 89, describes creatures of the wilderness:
Birds of the Muses “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 Melissae, the Greek and Latin words for bees. These priestesses were often prophets or oracles who entered an ecstatic trance enduced by preparations that included ingesting honey. (The Greek word for this state of transfigured consciousness is enthusiasmos — ‘within is a god” — the root of our word enthusiasm.)³
Bee Shamanism has a very rooted and mysterious position in Shamanism. Wherever there are honey bees, there is this information. Today, honey, pollen, propolis and royal jelly are widely used for medical reasons. In fact, the origins of “Chinese acupuncture” are based on the ancient method which is stinging bees into the meridians of the body.
The San people living in the Kalahari Desert tell a story about the bee. According to the narrative, a bee carried a mantis across the river. The bee is tired and left the mantis on a floating flower. But before the mantis died, the bee planted seeds in his body. This seed grew and became the first human.
Uganda’s Baganda people have a legend called “Kintu”. Accordingly, Kintu is the first man on earth and lives alone with his cow. One day, Kintu asks Ggulu, who lives in heaven, for permission to marry his daughter Nambi. Ggulu puts Kintu through a five-test trial before accepting it. In the final test, he tells Kintu to pick his own cow from a herd of cattle. Nambi transforms herself into a bee and helps Kintu. She whispers in his ear to choose the one whose horn she landed upon.
According to Hittite mythology, Telipinu, the god of agriculture, had an outburst of anger. As a result, he didn’t allow anything to grow. The animals didn’t give offspring. The gods went to seek Telipinu but they were unsuccessful. Then the goddess Hannahannah sent a bee to bring Telipinu back. The bee has found Telipinu. It stung him and put wax on him. God got even more angry. The goddess Kamrusepa ( or a mortal priest according to some references ) used a ritual to send his anger into the Underworld.
According to Hindu mythology, Parvati was summoned by the Gods to kill the demon Arunasura. Arunasura is in the form Bhramari Devi, he has conquered the heavens and the three worlds. Parvati emerged countless black bees from her body to kill Arunasura. Then, with the help of bees, she stung Parvati many times. Thus, the gods regained control of the heavens and the celestial worlds. Apart from that, the bowstring of the Hindu god of love Kamadeva was made by honeybees.
Egyptian mythology has interesting legends about bees and honey. According to this, the bees were placed on the desert sands. They were created from the tears of the sun god Ra. Ra is the most important god of Egypt. When Ra’s tears fell to the ground and touched the ground, they were transformed into bees that provided liquid gold- honey- to Ra’s followers. The bee was seen as the messenger of the Gods.
Bees accompanied Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. In the mythical Golden Age, honey dripped from trees like rainwater.
In Egypt, bees symbolized an obedient and stable society. Later these mantras were adopted by Freemasonry.
In the period between BCE 3000 and BCE 350, the honey bee was used as a royal symbol by the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt.
In Egypt, the bee was a symbol of the life-giver. Birth, death and resurrection…
Aristaeus is the god of beekeeping in Greek mythology. Eurydice stepped on a snake while running away from him. That’s why Aristaeus caused her death. Her nymph sisters killed all of his bees. So they punished him. Aristaeus saw the empty hive where the bees lived and cried. He consulted Proteus. Proteus advised Aristaeus to sacrifice four bulls and four cows in memory of Eurydice. After doing this, he left them to rot. To fill empty hives, bees rose from the corpses.
Honey resembles amber. It is also known as a revered, refreshing and enlightening substance in the Ancient World.
The similarity of honey and amber gave bees a high status among ancient people.
The ancient Greeks believed that bees were the servants and messengers of the gods and goddesses.
In ancient Greece, the goddess of agriculture, Demeter, is known as the “pure queen bee”.
Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty. One of her symbols is the honeycomb.
It is said that the first person to find the honeycomb was a fairy named “Melissa”. She tasted honey, mixed it with some water and offered it as a drink.
Zeus is known as the main god in Greek mythology. Zeus has many names. One of them is Melissaios which means “bee man”.
“The Homeric Hymn to Apollo acknowledges that Apollo’s gift of prophecy first came to him from three bee maidens, usually but doubtfully identified with the Thriae, a trinity of pre-Hellenic Aegean bee goddesses. A series of identical embossed gold plaques were recovered at Camiros in Rhodes; they date from the archaic period of Greek art in the seventh century, but the winged bee goddesses they depict must be far older.” ⁴
Bees and honey also appear in the mythologies of other cultures:
- The Romans believed that swarms of bees should be avoided. Because when the bee swarm was on the move, they carried God’s messages and carried out God’s commands.
- The ancient Celts also saw honey bees as messengers between worlds. Honey bees bring wisdom for them.
- In Christianity, bees have all the virtues that are important in a monastery: dedication, cleanliness, courage, sociability, wisdom, chastity, administrative skills and spirituality.
- Bees and honey are also associated with the World Tree Yggdrasil in Norse mythology.
- The bee is a symbol of wisdom. Because it collects pollen from many flowers. The bee turns it into bees’ gold and nutritious honey.
Bees are frequently featured in Classical Mythology. They are known by the name “The Birds of Muses”. To make honey, they gather divine nectar from flowers that smell like heaven. This honey has antibacterial properties. It is believed that honey is a divine source of food. With its sweet taste, honey is the main ingredient of ancient medicines.