Kamis, 26 Mei 2011




The Bee in Religion

We have already touched upon the importance of the Anatolian city of Ephesus and its association with the Bee, including its name – the Bee, and its Bee goddess, Artemis. However, Ephesus was an important city in the development of Christianity as well, for not only did it house one of the seven churches of Asia, as listed in the ‘Book of Revelations’, but Paul spend several years there and the last house of the Virgin Mary is believed to have resided nearby. In fact, many believe the Gospel of John was written there. Yet perhaps the greatest revelation of all is that Artemis and her high priests of Ephesus were called Essenes, meaning King Bees.
The Essenes were a Jewish religious sect founded in the first century BC who flourished for roughly 300 years in the vicinity of the Dead Sea, and their base at Qumran produced one the important historical discoveries of the 20th century; the Dead Sea Scrolls. They were also Beekeepers, and the first association of the Essenes with Bees was in the 2nd century AD by a Greek traveler named Pausanias.

The Essenes, or King Bees as they were known, maintained the role of priestly officials and were the forefathers of Christianity. Even the Catholic Church referred to Jesus Christ as an Aetherial Bee, a name that symbolized the personification of the clear upper air breathed by the great Greek Olympians. In fact, the ‘Book of Luke’ (24, 41-43) confirms that the first food eaten by Christ after his resurrection was honey:
Jesus said, Have you got anything to eat? And they offered him a piece of broiled fish and a honeycomb, which he ate.” 
This is intriguing, for the archetype for Jesus Christ was Osiris, the Egyptian god of resurrection, and honey was a sacred substance offered to Egyptian gods in the afterlife. Lastly, as an aside, Saint Luke was one of the Four Evangelists, each of whom was represented by one of the four "living creatures" of the ‘Book of Ezekiel’ and the ‘Book of Revelation; Saint Luke by a bull, Saint John by an eagle, Saint Mark by a lion and Saint Matthew by an angel. Perhaps serendipitously, in the Four Evangelists we not only find the esoteric teaching of four Saints, but we find reference to a lion and a bull; symbols that are linked with the Bee, this time via a theology that venerated the insect for the miraculous service it provided.

The Magi were also associated with the Bee, as a work by Jean-Baptiste Alliette (1738 – 1791), more commonly known as Etteila, the French occultist who introduced the Tarot to a mass audience recounts;
“On a table, breast-high to the Magi, were on one side a book or a series of golden pages or plates (the book of Thoth) and on the other side was a vase full of celestial-astral liquid, containing one part wild honey, one part terrestrial water and the third part of the celestial water…The secret, the mystery was therefore in this vase.”
So biblical figures looked to honey as an intoxicant, just as their ancestors did before them. In fact, in the ‘King James Bible’ honey is mentioned no fewer than 61 times, and in Genesis, honey is mentioned as a product of export. And in several instances, biblical figures such as Herod buried their loved ones in honey so as to preserve them for further bereavement. Arguably, the most famous reference to the Bee is in the Old Testament, Exodus 33:3, where we find the phrase “Land flowing with milk and honey”. The symbiotic nature of the two foods is interesting, as each was offered to the gods due to their vital nutritional and regenerative qualities, and curiously, milk comes from cows and honey from Bees. Might this fact also symbolise the bull and the Bee? It’s also interesting that many scholars believe that honey was considered kosher under Judaic Law, while other insects and their by-products were regarded as unclean.
Bees are associated with ancient theologies in many different ways. For instance, we recall from Part 1 that archaeologists observed a circle of bees painted above the head of a figure on a temple wall in the Neolithic settlement of Catal Höyük Turkey, that appear to depict the first ever halo. We also know that early Egyptian Gnostics used honey in their baptismal rituals. Additionally, a quote from Isaiah hints at another aspect of the Bee in ancient religions; “The Lord will hiss for the fly that is in uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.” The quote appears to reference the custom of making certain noises in order to attract Bees. Furthermore, Bee expert Eve Crane notes in her comprehensive work, The Encyclopedia of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting, that objects cast with Beeswax have been discovered in caves in the Judean desert, dating to 3500 BC.
Intriguingly, another link with Bees and the Judean desert is John the Baptist. John is an example of someone who survived in the wilderness on a diet of “Locusts and Wild Honey”; the term ‘Wild Honey’ implying that honey was also domesticated at the time. Intriguingly, the German researcher, Dr. Marius Schneider noted that the Bee produces a low humming sound while the locust produces a high pitched sound, representing the opposite ends of the audio spectrum. Thus, the locust and the bee represent polarity; one personifies the sound of day while the other exemplifies the sound of night. Inexplicably, a Bee shaped crop circle appeared in Wiltshire England in 2004, on the feast day of John’s birth – the 24th of June.

The Bee in Hebrew is ‘DBRE’, meaning Deborah, and ‘Judges 5’ contains one of the oldest passages in the Bible, and some feel, the earliest example of Hebrew poetry; the 8th century Song of Deborah, or as it is commonly known, the Song of The Bees. A short excerpt from the fascinating verse describes life under Canaanite oppression; “Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel, Until I, Deborah, arose, Arose a mother in Israel.” Was Deborah a Bee goddess? Like Bee goddesses before her, Deborah represented stability and was a prophetess, a warrior princess, and in this instance, the only female Judge of pre-monarchic Israel in the entire Old Testament.
While there are other references to Deborah in the bible, such as Deborah the wet-nurse of Rebecca, wife of Isaac the son of Abraham and Sarah (1 Moses 35, 8), and Deborah the ancestor of Tobit and his son Tobias (Tob 1.8), the Deborah of Judges 5 interests us most. That said, Abraham and Sarah were said to have been buried in a cave called Mach Pe Lach, or the Cave of the Patriarchs, in what is now modern day Hebron. The cave is said to have a dual entrance, recalling the double entrance Bee goddess cave on the island of Ithaca, Greece. The significance of double entrance caves has been studied by later day researchers such as the French mystic, Cathar expert and advisor to the Nazi grail hunters, Antonin Gadal who concluded that double cave entrances were special and recognised as such by the gods.

Gustave Dore's interpretation of the prophetess Deborah – the Bee Goddess

Returning to Judges 5, many consider Deborah to be the mother of Israel, a “fiery" character who rendered her judgments beneath a palm tree. Again we recall from Part 1 that the columns in the Temple of Neith – a temple that was dedicated to the Bee, were shaped to resemble palm trees. The significance of the palm tree and the Bee is further alluded to in the Koran in a passage entitled, ‘The Bee’, which states (16:67 – 16:69):
“And of the fruits of the palms and the grapes - you obtain from them intoxication and goodly provision; most surely there is a sign in this for a people who ponder. And your Lord revealed to the bee saying: Make hives in the mountains and in the trees and in what they build. Then eat of all the fruits and walk in the ways of your Lord submissively. There comes forth from within it a beverage of many colours, in which there is healing for men; most surely there is a sign in this for a people who reflect.”
The passage alludes to a special honey based beverage that revitalizes men, suited for ‘people who reflect’. In The Musical Origin of the Symbols of Animals, Dr. Marius Schneider refers to a drink called ‘The Koran’, which is ‘spiritually’ considered to be a sacred honey based beverage. Additionally, Muhammad mentioned Bees and honey in the Koran, including the phrase “and thy Lord inspired the Bee.” And according to Muslim tradition, god revealed himself to the Bees. It is also interesting to note that the prophet Muhammad lived in Mecca, where a sacred stone from heaven is worshiped to this day – as it was in Delphi, where Bee Priestesses were consulted as seers. And as we shall see in our third instalment, the most famous of all Grail Romances portrays the Grail as a stone from heaven. Might it also be related to the Bee?
The Book of Judges also contains the story of the herculean figure Samson, who wrestled and killed a lion before noticing that a swarm of Bees had formed in its carcass, giving rise to the famous riddle; “Out of the eater cam forth meat, out of the strong came forth sweetness.” The answer to the riddle being; “What is sweeter than honey, what is stronger than a lion?” The riddle, which is the oldest known, reinforces that Bees are allegorically born of symbolically important animals, in this case a lion. As we recall, lions and bees are associated with sphinxes; might this be where the phrase ‘The riddle of the Sphinx’ comes from? In any case, the legend was later adopted by the English firm Tate and Lyle, whose golden syrup product borrows from the imagery of the legend of Samson to this day.

Samson and the Bees – commemorated in modern day products

The Bee has other, albeit precarious associations with religious writings and biblical figures, such as the Ark of the Covenant; arguably the most cherished of all biblical artifacts and one that is adorned with images of angels with wings called cherubs. With respect to the Ark, the famous Egyptologist Sir W.M. Flinders Petrie said;
In the holiest of all things, the Ark of the Yahweh of the Hebrews, there were cherubs, one on each side of the mercy seat with wings covering the mercy seat. This agrees with the description of the Egyptian Ark of the Gods with figures of the goddess Ma’at with wings covering the ark.”
So here we have the goddess Ma’at - the daughter of the god RA who cried Bees as tears, placing her wings over the most sacred artifact in religious history. As previously noted, Ethiopians believe that the Bee once defended the throne of God. Curiously, Axum – a city in Ethiopia, claims to house and protect the Ark of the Covenant to this day. Might the cherubs that stand guard over the Ark represent the Bees or Bee gods that once defended the throne of god in Ethiopia?

In several accounts, the Bee is associated with the sound that high priests observed while in the presence of the Ark, and it is said that Aaron, brother of Moses and the first High Priest of the Hebrews, heard the sound of Bees humming while pronouncing the secret name of Yahweh in the presence of the Ark. In his book, The Trumpets of Jericho, researcher David Wilcox writes of a strange tale from war time Germany. The story recounts how the Nazi’s ordered a renowned Jewish initiate to build a modern day Ark of the Covenant in exchange for the release of his son, who was imprisoned in a concentration camp. We are told that while attempting to activate the simulated Ark, the initiate repeatedly heard the sound of Bees humming. The same sound has also been recalled by survivors of near death experiences and UFO abductees – amongst others, as the first sound heard upon passing over to the next level or consciousness. We will explore this phenomenon and the special sound of the Bee’s hum further, in our third installment.
The Bee appears to have been an important symbol in Christian orders of all periods. So much so that even Popes adopted its image. In 1626, Pope Urban III chose the Bee as his official stamp and symbol, but the Bee was sacred in Christian society long before that. Saint Ambrose, a Bishop of Milan and an important ecclesiastical figure in the 4th century, was anointed the patron Saint of Beekeeping. Strangely, Ambrose wrote extensively about Bees and virginity, and two of his more famous passages are presented below:
“Let, then, your work be as it were a honeycomb, for virginity is fit to be compared to bees, so laborious is it, so modest, so continent. The bee feeds on dew, it knows no marriage couch, it makes honey….”
“How I wish you, my daughter, to be an imitator of these bees, whose food is flowers, whose offspring is collected and brought together by the mouth….”

Saint Ambrose – the Patron Saint of Bees, depicted with a Beehive

Another notable ecclesiastical figure who is linked with Bees is Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, the first Cistercian monk scheduled on the calendar of saints by the Catholic Church. Clairvaux was the patron Saint of Bees and candle makers, and of course the process of producing candles involved Beeswax. No doubt influenced by the writing of Saint Ambrose, the Catholic Church believed Beeswax was produced by virgins, due to the belief that Worker Bees did not mate. To this day, the church still requires their candles to contain Beeswax.
There is also a strange religious text called The Book of the Bee, which was translated in 1886 by none other than the Egyptologist E. A. Wallis Budge. According to Budge, the book was written by a Syrian bishop named Solomon (Shelêmôn) in the early 13th century, for purposes of documenting the history of the Christian Dispensation according to the Nestorians; a religious order that believed that Jesus Christ was in fact two distinct entities – a man and the divine son of god. Just why it was called the ‘Bee’ is not entirely clear, but the duelist theme is one we have seen associated with the Bee before.
In Part 1, we referenced images of winged humans on Sumerian artefacts - images that may in fact represent the adoration of Bees. We posed the question; could these images have been the inspiration for angelic figures such as archangels – or as we have just discussed, the cherubs from the Ark of the Covenant? Given that Essenes were King Bees and that Jesus Christ himself was considered a Bee - and that Popes adopted the Bee as their official symbol, we will indulge the question once more with the accompaniment of the images below.

Winged creatures such as vultures, eagles and the legendary phoenix were held sacred by cultures down through the ages. While some were revered due to the complex belief that birds transported the soul of the deceased up to heaven, others were venerated do to the simple belief that birds could fly close to god. However, the question that I struggle with is this; does any winged creature have the breadth and depth of importance, mythology and veneration across the globe as the Bee?
One of the more peculiar links between the Bee and religious orders is the modern day Mormon Church. Founded in 1830, the faith is largely based on the Book of Mormon; a scripture from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Mormon Church is based in the United States of America and its Book of Mormon features the Jaredites, an enigmatic people who migrated to North America from ancient lands during the construction of the Tower of Babel.
The Book of Mormon also features "Deseret", meaning Honeybee, and the Jaredites were said to have led the Bee on a series of migrations across the ancient world. Intriguingly, the Eastern Egyptian Dessert, as discussed in Part 1, is one of the regions that the migrating Jaredites may have traveled through during their journey westwards from the Tower of Babel, as its landscape is dotted with Bee symbolism and boats. It’s also interesting that the Red Crown of Egypt was called “dsrt” and that E.A. Wallis Budge called the Red Crown of Lower Egypt ‘Deshret’ in his book, the Hieroglyphic Vocabulary to the Book of the Dead. Could both words refer to the same root, the common Honeybee?
The Mormon religion was founded in Utah, and Brigham Young - the first governor of the territory and a leader in the Latter Day Saint movement - had hoped to name the state ‘Deseret’ due to his belief that the Honeybee was auspicious and that it represented industry and stability. Although Young was unsuccessful in his quest, Utah nevertheless adopted the Beehive as its symbol and remains the ‘Beehive state’ to this day. Bee symbolism can be found throughout the state, especially in Brigham Young's home in Salt Lake City, a residence known as the Beehive House.
Utah – the Beehive Territory and State
 Beehive doorknob from the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City
© www.utlm.org

Utah was not the only state to have adopted Bee symbolism. In fact, of the 41 States that have elected ‘state insects’, the Bee remains the most popular. Humorously, in Dakota young men played a game called “War upon the bee”, where they would attack a hive with sticks and then stand their ground without crying as the Bees attacked them, or face the embarrassment of having to go and sit with the women should they run away. The game was believed to help prepare men for war by teaching them to confront their fears.
The Deseret Flag of Utah, featuring a Beehive

In his book Notes on Virginia the early American statesman Thomas Jefferson discussed how the Honeybee arrived in North America;
"The honeybee is not a native of our country. Marcgrave, indeed, mentions a species of honeybee in Brazil. But this has no sting, and is therefore different from the one we have, which resembles perfectly that of Europe. The Indians concur with us in the tradition that it was brought from Europe, but when and by whom we know not. The bees have generally extended themselves into the country a little in advance of the settlers."
Jefferson’s theory is intriguing, and not inconsistent with the Mormon legend of the Jaredites Honeybee migration.
In addition to Jefferson, the American statesman Ben Franklin was a known patron of Thomas Wildman's 1768, Treatise on the Management of Bees – a discussion on the management of Bees. And Wildman had been an officer in the Napoleonic Wars, and as we shall see in our third installment, Napoleon was known as ‘The Bee’. At the end of the day, all of this serves to underscore the fact that the United States of America recognized and applied the symbolism of the Bee at the genesis of its creation. However, there is one aspect of the country’s adoption of the symbol that stands above the rest. And that is this; on the Washington Monument in Washington D.C., an austere looking obelisk that was built in the late nineteenth century as a memorial to George Washington – the first President of the United States - and which was arguably the primary emblem of America’s vision as country, it pays homage to the Honeybee as the Lord of the nation. It states: “Holiness to the Lord. Deseret.”

The dedication is peculiar, for it stipulates that the United States of America is founded on and dedicated to the Bee! How is that possible, and if true, what organization would have ensured that the Bee was adapted as a symbol of national unity and stability by the world’s youngest and most powerful county? Certainly only one organization would have had that power; the Freemasons.

The City of Washington D.C. – the capital of the United States of America, is home to the world’s most acclaimed Masonic symbolism, and in our third instalment, we will examine the source of Freemasonry’s association with the Bee, both in United States and in France, where Napoleon, the Merovingian’s and even the mystery of Rennes-Le-Château have a role to play in the modern day tradition of the Bee. We will also look at the symbolism of the Holy Grail, and with the insight of the Cabbalistic tradition, we explore its connection with the Bee.

Lastly, and most importantly, Bees the world over are dying. Albert Einstein is alleged to have said that when the Bee dies, man has four years left. This puts us circa 2012 – the date that the Bee worshiping Mayans calculated as the end of time as we know it. Is the demise of the Bee a real and valid threat to man? Can the Bees be saved, and if not, can we? In our final instalment we will examine these questions, and more.

Andrew Gough

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