Folklore Spotlight: Honey Bees
Today is National Honey Bee Day! I was originally planning a different post for today, but then I saw this marked my calendar and the idea of celebrating it on my blog was too much to ignore. It didn't take me too long to come up with an idea. "I should incorporate honey bee appreciation day with a side of folklore for my new blog series!" After all, folklore exists in everything, and the tales centering honey bees are no less interesting than any other subject of discussion.
Outside of giving us honey, honey bees are very essential for our environment. I bet you know a lot about the bees' importance to the environment already but did you know bees were counted as family members in Celtic regions? Or that many nations thought bees were the connection between life and death?
"Telling the Bees"
Have you heard anyone say something like, "go tell it to the bees?" Telling the bees is an old tradition from Europe. If a family kept bees, the bees were part of the family and had to be notified of any important event happening in the family's life.
It was customary for a family member to go out and knock on the hive to "tell the bees," if someone died in the family, often draping a black veil over the hive for the bees to mourn in. They needed to know of marriages, births, moving house, everything. If you don't share the news of family events with them, they may leave the hive, and an empty hive means impending doom on the family.
The worst penalty may be if you don't tell them you're about to move the hive. If they don't leave in anger, they'll sting the keeper until he dies! I respect bees and all, but that seems rather harsh if they're counting themselves as important as family!
There is a reward for keeping them happy, besides honey, of course.
Bees were considered to bring great fortune to all they visited by many cultures in the world! In Egypt and Celtic regions, people believed the bees were messengers of the gods and their hums and buzzes contained wisdom. The Egyptian god, Ra, birthed bees from his tears and sent them to earth so they could fly and spread his messages to humanity.
As long as you never harmed the bee, being visited by one meant good luck. If a bee flew into your home, it meant a special visitor was on the way. If you kill the bee, the visitor would bring terrible news, so be kind to the little messenger. If a bee lands gently on a baby's mouth, that child would be gifted with honeyed words, and having a bee land on your hand meant money was on the way. If a beekeeper's bee stung you and you didn't strike at it, the beekeeper would owe you a meal of honey. I absolutely love honey, so I would accept it if that ever happened! I still wouldn't try to get stung though...
Speaking of honey, there is a lot of folklore circling that as well. Many theorize ambrosia, or food of the gods, in Greek mythology to be honey as stories describe it as a sweet food in liquid form. Anyone who ate ambrosia becomes immortal and the gods shared it with a few chosen mortals in some stories, including Hercules.
Honey was also a popular gift to the dead in Egypt. Honey and honeycomb were often used in tombs so the dead could snack on it on the way to the afterlife. In more of a darker tone, bodies were often embalmed in honey and their tombs surrounded by honeycomb. The belief that the dead would reincarnate as bees in the afterlife may have supported this behavior, which leads me into the next theme.
Connection Between Death and Life
All over the world, bees have been a symbol connecting death and life. They were often thought of as protectors to the gate to the afterlife. This may be because bees in ancient Greece would build their hives around cave entrances, where people believed led to the afterlife.
Outside of reincarnating as a bee after death, some nations also believed the soul would leave the body in the form of a bee when a person meditated. I would so love to turn into a bee and fly around flowers and the grass! I would meditate a lot more if I could turn into a bee! It would be exciting, but I don't think I'll want to live as one. Call me lazy if you wish!
It's easy to see how they would be so important to our world. They pollinate millions of plants and give us honey. These little guys have the world on their shoulders! But who knew they had so much stemmed from folklore? I had a ton of fun researching these sweeties, but I didn't know half this stuff and I'm pretty surprised. Now we all have an extra reason to be nice to our striped messengers even if we're at the risk of getting stung.
I've got a lot of gardens around my house and I've seen honey bees as well as some other types of bees. Right now, I've been seeing a lot of little bees that dig holes in the dirt and really like sunflowers. I guess they're not a honey bee though, so they're a different topic altogether.
Go celebrate honey bees and the wonderful nature they support! Maybe eat some honey while you're at it. Also, make sure you preorder A Rokian's Curse! It comes out Monday which is only two days away now. As long as it's on pre-order, you can get a free ebook with your hardcover purchase. Click either link below and send a screenshot of your order to firstname.lastname@example.org~