The Path of the Melissa
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“We have rather chosen to fill our hives with honey and wax, thus furnishing mankind with the two noblest of things, which are sweetness and light.” ~Jonathan Swift
That is, the soother or propitiator (from melissô or meilissô), occurs,
1. As the name of a nymph who discovered and taught the use of honey, and from whom bees were believed to have received their name, melissai (Schol. ad Pind. Pyth. iv. 104.) Bees seem to have been the symbol of nymphs, whence they themselves are sometimes called Melissae, and are sometimes said to have been metamorphosed into bees. (Schol. ad Pind. 1. c. ; Hesych. s. v. Orodemniades; Columell. ix. 2; Schol. (ad Theocrit. iii. 13.) Hence also nymphs in the form of bees are said to have guided the colonists that went to Ephesus (Philostr. Icon. ii. 8) ; and the nymphs who nursed the infant Zeus are called Melissae, or Meliae. (Anton. Lib. 19; Callim. Hymn. in Jov. 47; Apollod. i. 1. § 3.)
2. From the nymphs the name Melissae was transferred to priestesses in general, but more especially to those of Demeter (Schol. ad Pind. l.c.; Callim. Hymn. in Apoll. 110; Hesych. s. v. Melissai), Persephone (Schol. ad Theocrit. xv. 94), and to the priestess of the Delphian Apollo. (Pind. Pyth. iv. 106; Schol. ad Eurip. Hippol. 72.) According to the scholiasts of Pindar and Euripides, priestesses received the name Melissae from the purity of the bee. Comp. a story about the origin of bees in Serv. ad Aen. i. 434.
Keeping bees is a sacred, mystical practice for me. I currently have 4 vibrant hives that I lovingly steward, and I hope to have more. I do not keep bees so much for their honey as for the opportunity to reverently engage with an ancient intelligence that creates and sustains beauty and life on this Earth. I rarely open my hives. I spend more time sitting next to them, marveling at the sight of the bees coming and going, many arriving with hind legs heavily laden with pollen.
I meditate to the hum of the bees. They require a calm and mindful steward, which calls me to a state of presence when I am with them. I feel my bees. I always know when they are going to swarm. I can’t explain it, I just know and it’s always so. They call to me when nectar is scarce and they need to be fed. I lovingly prepare a weak chamomile sugar-syrup tea from a Rudolf Steiner recipe. I would prefer not to have to feed them, but there are times when nectar flow is low or non-existent and they need sustenance or they will starve.
I am in humble service to these exquisite beings and my heart swells with love when I am with them. The bee priestesses of old performed rituals and laid altars for these extraordinary creatures. They honored them as magical alchemists who could transmute the nectar of flowers into a healing and potent food. The priestesses along with many of our ancestors made mead – a honey wine. It was often infused with herbs, creating a medicinal and sacred drink that was consumed throughout Europe and the Mediterranean.
Below, you will find links for books that I have read and recommend, as well as documentaries and related websites on the subject of sacred beekeeping. Practice love and abstain from using pesticides and other harmful chemicals that are killing our bees. Avail yourself of knowledge of this holy creature that graces us with its service to the Earth and Her people.
Toward Saving the Honeybee by Gunther Hauk
Bees by Rudolf Steiner
The Barefoot Beekeeper by P.J. Chandler
The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore by Hilda M. Ransome
The Bee-friendly Beekeeper: A Sustainable Approach by David Heaf
The Beekeeper’s Bible: Bees, Honey, Recipes and Other Home Uses by Richard Jones
Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture, 2nd Edition by Ross Conrad
The Practical Beekeeper; Beekeeping Naturally by Michael Bush
The Thinking Beekeeper: A Guide to Natural Beekeeping in Tom Bar Hives by Christy Hemenway
The Buzz about Bees: Biology of a Superorganism by Jurgen Tautz
Bee by Rose-Lynn Fisher
The Biology of the Honey Bee by Mark L. Winston
When the Drummers Were Women by Layne Redmond
The Shamanic Way of the Bee by Simon Buxton
Making Your Own Mead: 43 Recipes for Homemade Wine by Bryan Acton, Peter Duncan
The Compleat Meadmaker by Ken Schramm
Bee Propolis: Natural Healing from the Hive by James Feamley
Documentary: (click links below)
Who Killed The Honey Bee. Full Documentary
YouTube and Vimeo: (click links below)
"A Talk on Propolis" by James Fearnley
Inspiring Websites: (click links below)
http://www.andrewgough.co.uk/bee1_1.html (In-depth Bee Article)