The bee has been associated with the Goddess and Priestesses of the Goddess for thousands of years. The most famous culture that worshiped the bee was the Minoan culture on the island of Crete. As a symbol of The Mother Goddess, bees represented fertility and healing. Since honey has antibacterial properties, it was used in many healing remedies, this made honey sacred. It was also used during ritual by the Bee Priestesses who were called melissae which means "bees". There was a golden seal found buried in Crete, that shows Priestesses dressed as bees dancing together. The photo pictured above is the famous Minoan Bee Pendant, showing two bees carrying nectar back to there hives, and is dated 2000 BCE.
In the book The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image, by Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, write that "Bees have an ancient reputation as the bringers of order, and their hives served as models for organizing temples in many Mediterranean cultures." The tombs at Mycenea were shaped like beehives, as well as the omphalos at Delphi where the famous Oracle at Delphi recited her prophecies.
In Knossos, jars were found which contained honey, and were said to be used during summer festivals. Honey was known as “the nectar of the Gods” in the ancient world and was seen as sacred all the way back to Neolithic times. The Bee was said to be viewed as a Mother Goddess and creator of life. Since bees gather nectar from flowers, and then create this wonderfully healing, sweet and sacred substance, they were highly revered. In the Homeric hymn to the God Apollo, it is said that his gift of prophecy came to him from three bee maidens. The Bee was also revered in other cultures such as in ancient Egypt. The Bee was associated with Kingship in ancient Egypt, it is said that there was even a bee King. In the ancient Mayan world, bee motifs were found, as honey was seen as food of the Gods.
Goddesses associated with the bee are Persephone, Demeter, Artemis, Aphrodite, Rhea, Cybele and Potnia Theron, which is the Cretan “Mistress of Animals”. In Ephesus where the remains of the Temple of Artemis was found along with the great statue, Artemis of Ephesus, there were bee motifs found on the statues legs and waist. Statues of the Anatolian Goddess, some believe Cybele originated in Anatolia, were shown with the Goddess wearing what looks like a beehive on her head. Possibly as some kind of crown, as some ancient Priestesses were sometimes called “The Queen Bee”
As you can see the bee was a sacred and highly revered animal in the ancient world, along with their highly prized honey. We should honor the bees as well today as givers of life as they pollinate our crops and give us food. Is it said to me to hear of all the bee deaths over the recent years. As followers of the Goddess and worshipers of nature, we need to be honoring animals in the same way the ancient priestesses before us did.
To attract bees to your garden plant things such as daisies, marigold, bee balm, echinacea, foxglove, goldenrod and lavender. I hope you enjoyed learning about the ancient reverence of bees and their sacred nectar!
Photo courtesy of TheBeeGoddess.com