17 Jun 2021

RANDOM Times •

To survive, you must tell stories…(“,)

The Folklore of Bees

6 min read

In the middle of spring, outside, in addition to the greening of the earth, we notice a change in the local wildlife.
Suddenly, squirrels are everywhere, birds are twittering away madly in the trees, worms are popping in the soil and, everywhere you look, life has returned. Among others, you’ll see bees buzzing around your garden, partaking of the rich pollen in your flowers.
The plants are in full bloom at this time of the spring, and the bees take advantage, buzzing back and forth, carrying pollen from one blossom to another.
Bees benefit other living things by pollinating plants, which in turn helps maintain our food supply.
Without bees to spread pollen, it’s estimated that a significant percentage of crops, and thus, food, would vanish from our planet.
Not by chance, someone said: “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.
This is widely attributed to Albert Einstein but is more likely a rewording of a statement made by Charles Darwin in the Origin of the Species.

Ever hear the phrase “busy as a bee”?
Bees in a hive work repetitively a the same task all day long. A worker bee might travel as much as 16 km (10 miles) a day in search of nectar and pollen to bring back to the hive.
A kilo of honey (2.2 pounds) may involve the collection of nectar from four million plants.
Thus, they are associated with hard work and diligence.
Bees are, in some cultures, associated with purity. This is because the worker bees that produce honey never mate.
When a bee has collected a load of nectar and pollen it carries it back to the hive in sacks on its legs; hence, the expression “bee’s knees” to describe something of great value. Well, It would be nice if that was true, but it likely isn’t, as the origin of bee’s knees is obscure. It might be also a corruption of business, or a reference to the American dancer who popularized the Charleston, Bee Jackson, or something else entirely.
Moreover, nobody wants a “bee in their bonnet” because of the fact that a confined bee is likely to sting even if, paradoxically, a bee on the head is thought to bring good fortune. The first mention of this phrase date back to the late 18th century and describes someone who is obsessed with something.

In any case, bees feature in folklore around the world, and are associated with everything from death to abundance.
In addition to providing us with honey and wax, they are known to have magical properties, and honey and bee venom are used in several different traditions of folk magic.
In some areas of New England and Appalachia, it was believed that once someone died, it was important for the family to “go tell the bees” of the death.
In the most similar tale, Cornish folklore says that the beekeeper must inform his or her bees of an imminent move lest they sting him/her to death.
It’s also said you should never swear at your bees, or they will abscond the hive.
In Central Europe, there was a custom in which brides-to-be walked their betrothed past a hive or nest. If he was stung it meant he would be unfaithful in the future and the marriage would fail.

However, already Ancient Egyptian pharaohs used the honeybee as the royal symbol, during the period between 3000 b.c.e. and 350 b.c.e.
In ancient Egypt, it was believed that Ra, the sun god, created the honeybee from his tears. The bee was then seen as the messenger of the gods, falling from Ra’s face, down to earth, where she could deliver the messages from the heavens.
Moreover, honey played an important role in guiding the ancient Egyptians in the afterlife. Bees, beehives and bee relics, along with honey, were considered funerary gifts for the dead.
Also the ancient Greeks and Romans believed that bees were servants and messengers of the gods and goddesses.
The Romans believed that a swarm of bees was to be avoided because while the swarm was on the move, they were the carrying messages and doing the biddings of the gods.
Jupiter, king of the Roman gods, is said to have given the honeybee her stinger, to protect her honey. His wife, Juno, however, insisted there must be payment for this gift of a weapon, so Jupiter gave the stinger with the condition that the bee dies should she use it.
The Greeks, on the other hand, believed that a baby whose lips were touched by a bee would become a great poet or speaker.
And also in Celtic mythology, the bee is a messenger between our world and the spirit realm. They considered honeybees bringers of wisdom and revered them for their role in the metaphysical.
Bees and honey also appear in the Norse eddas, often connected with Yggdrasil, the World Tree.
Also several deities are associated with bees and honey, including Aphrodite, Vishnu, Pan, Cybele, and the above mentioned Ra, just to name a few.

According to popular belief, If a bee flies into your house, it means that someone is coming to visit and, If you kill the bee, the visitor will bring you bad news.
In folk magic, bees are often associated with health or wealth.
If a bee lands on your hand, it means money is coming your way.
Bees swarm when an old queen leaves to start a new colony and she takes as much as 60 percent of the hive with her. Swarming is often considered a bad omen especially if the swarm lands on a dead or dying tree: there is likely to be a death in the family on whose land the tree stands.
Bees have been thought to be able to predict the weather: If they stay close to their hive then storms are on the way.
In addition, their stings are being used by holistic practitioners to treat pain from both arthritis and rheumatism.
Bees have long been associated also with witches and witchcraft: one Lincolnshire witch was said to have a bumblebee as her familiar animal, another witch from Scotland allegedly poisoned a child in the form of a bee, and in Nova Scotia a male witch was accused of killing a cow by sending a white bumblebee to land on it.

A last note: Dumbledore is an old English word for bumblebee, and popular Harry Potter’s author J.K. Rowling gave the headmaster of Hogwarts School the name Albus Dumbledore in her books.
She did so because her character was always “wandering around the castle humming to himself”, rather like a bee might.
…And a last historic note: honeybees have an acute sense of smell and they are being trained to find unexploded landmines in Bosnia that are relics of the 1990s Balkan Wars.
A very last note: by covering themselves with the pheromones of the queen people are able to attract swarms onto their bodies.
In 1669, Michel Wiscionsky was elected King of Poland, to some extent because bees had settled on him.

However, there are about 20,000 known species of bee of which only a small number make honey…

Images from web and by Anya 😉