Blessed Bee’s, Honeyed Wine and the Promise of Life Renewed
Bees are a symbol of life and regeneration of life for many obvious biological reasons as well as the role they play in pollination in agriculture. Propolis is beneficial for human health and has antimicrobial, antimycotic, anti-tumour, anti-plaque and immunomodulator properties.
Outside these obvious reasons bees were seen as sacred to most Ancient Cultures and Religions. Why? (Look for the hidden analogies and allegories below)
Once upon a time there was a Hittite Goddess named Hannahanna. Telepinu the God, disappeared and took all life along with him. Fields lay fallow, fires in the hearths were extinguished, springs and brooks ran dry and mankind and all life on earth began to weaken and die. All the Gods joined forces and attempted to find Telepinu in order to restore LIFE on the planet. The Sun God sent out an eagle, but it did not find Telepinu, the Storm God attempted to find him but failed too. Finally, Hannahanna, the Mother, sent out her bee. The bee found Telepinu where he lay sleeping in a meadow and stung him. Telepinu woke up and was furious. His loud outburst and rage caused earthquakes and floods, restoring life back to its natural state.
The Phoenician historian Porphyry (234–305CE) mentioned that Artemis was also called Bee, by the Greeks. They said that the Soul was conceived as coming down from the Goddess in the form of bees. Votive sacrifices, bees made of gold or metals, symbolizing the divine soul were used to adorn clothes and objects in the home as well as temples.
Persephone’s nickname was Melitodes (honeyed one) and the priestesses of Demeter and Persephone were Melissae or “bees”.
A priestess of Demeter lived in the sacred precinct of Eleusis, in the building dubbed the “Sacred House”. Hers was a life term and she was the one who played the role of both Mother and Daughter during the mystery plays.
It is told that in Corinth there lived a priestess of the Goddess herself. Her name was Melissa. All the women begged her for the secrets of the Mysteries into which she was initiated, but the Melissa refused. Infuriated the women murdered Demeter’s priestess. The Goddess was enraged at the killing of her priestess and provoked bees to fly out of Melissa’s body and mouth, causing a veritable plague in Corinth that destroyed the irreverent women who had killed the Melissa.
It is also interesting to note that close to the Temple of Artemis in Corinth, a sacrificial hearth was found, where initiates left gifts for the chthonic Gods, amongst them little bees made of gems and semi-precious stones.
Also at Eleusis there were the Panageis (all holy ones), the only priestesses allowed to touch the sacred temple objects (hiera) and to carry them during the processions. Once inside the Temple Complex the Mystae would search for the entrance to the Temple of Hades and would discover the temple built inside a cave. Caves were sacred gateways to the Underworld, and here the water nymphs dwelled in the primordial waters, watching over the regeneration of the souls. The Water Nymphs were sometimes named “bees” and were seen as fresh incarnations of the soul. It is interesting to note that wild bees live mostly in hollowed out trees and caves.
Porphyry wrote “All souls, however, proceeding into generation, are not simply called bees, but those who will live justly, and who, after having preformed such things as are acceptable to the gods, will again return [to their kindred stars]. For this insect loves to return to the place from whence it first came, and is eminently just and sober…therefore we must admit that honeycombs and bees are appropriate and common symbols of the aquatic nymphs, and of souls that are married [as it were] to [the humid and fluctuating nature of] generation.”
The Ancient Greeks used honey in their rituals. It was an ingredient in libations and in particular in the rituals of the dead. Honey was seen as a symbol of death (Porphyry). Mead was fermented with honey, and Plutarch tells us that even after the advent of wine cultivation, wine was also drunk with honey. Sacrifices were for the most part performed with sobriety in which libations were made with water, honey. These sober offerings were called nephalia. Wine was never poured to the Nymphs. None of the pitchers carried in procession at Eleusis contained wine. Demeter, did not partake of wine (fermented fruit) but created kykeon (concoction) which is the drink which is proffered to the Mystae after their initiation into the Greater Mysteries within the Telesterion (place of initiation)
In the middle of the Temple there was the anaktoron (symbolic door to the Underworld). The Temple would be in total darkness, but for a fire, burning on the anaktoron and some torches which the priestesses and priests carried. Suddenly a flash of light blinded those present, as the the door to the Underworld would open and the Hierophant (the one who displays divine things) came forth, summoning Persephone from Her infernal abode. Demeter and Persephone would be ritually reunited and Bimos (the son of Persephone – Dionysus) would be born.
The Eleusinian Mysteries removed the fear of death and promised the initiate a happier fate. Cicero wrote: “We have been given a reason, not only to live in joy, but also to die with better hope.”
In conclusion, whether we ponder on how bees gather pollen to make honey within the hive, or how the Initiate gathers wisdom within the sacred and transformative hive of his heart, and the distillation of the spiritual honey of psychological and spiritual regeneration, the birth of self from Self, the child of Promise, the Bee is indeed a Teacher, emblematic symbols of the inner activity which leaves one pure and reborn!
2 A.B. Cook, “The Bee in Greek Mythology,” The
Journal for Hellenistic Studies 15 (1985), 23.
3 Carl Kerényi, Eleusis, Archetypal Image of Mother
and Daughter (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
1967), 13; cf. the Homeric Hymn to Demeter.
4 Ibid., 4, 16.
5 George Mylonas, Eleusis and the Eleusinian Mysteries
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961), 245.
Robert Fludd, Rose and Cross from Summum Bonum,
1629. “The Rose gives Honey to the Bees.”
6 The Eleusinian Mysteries and the Bee by Julie Sanchez-Parodi, S.R.C.Rosicrucian Digest 2009