Bee (mythology)

The bee, found in Ancient Near East and Aegean cultures, was believed to be the sacred insect that bridged the natural world to the underworld.  Motifs of a bee god, Ah-Muzen-Cab, are seen in Maya civilization.
The bee was an emblem of Potnia, the Minoan-Mycenaean "Mistress", also referred to as "The Pure Mother Bee". Her priestesses received the name of "Melissa" ("bee"). In addition, priestesses worshipping Artemis and Demeter were called "Bees".Appearing in tomb decorations, Mycenaean tholos tombs were shaped as beehives. The Delphic priestess is often referred to as a bee, and Pindar notes that she remained "the Delphic bee" long after Apollo had usurped the ancient oracle and shrine. "The Delphic priestess in historical times chewed a laurel leaf," Harrison noted, "but when she was a Bee surely she must have sought her inspiration in the honeycomb."


The Homeric Hymn to Apollo acknowledges that Apollo's gift of prophecy first came to him from three bee maidens, usually but doubtfully identified with the Thriae, a trinity of pre-Hellenic Aegean bee goddesses.A series of identical embossed gold plaques were recovered at Camiros in Rhodes they date from the archaic period of Greek art in the seventh century, but the winged bee goddesses they depict must be far older.

The Kalahari Desert's San people tell of a bee that carried a mantis across a river. The exhausted bee left the mantis on a floating flower but planted a seed in the mantis's body before it died. The seed grew to become the first human.

In Egyptian mythology, bees grew from the tears of the sun god Ra when they landed on the desert sand. The bowstring on Hindu love god Kamadeva's bow is made of honeybees.

The Baganda people of Uganda hold the legend of Kintu, the first man on earth. Save for his cow, Kintu lived alone. One day he asked permission from Ggulu, who lived in heaven, to marry his daughter Nambi. Ggulu set Kintu on a trial of five tests to pass before he would agree. For his final test Kintu was told to pick Ggulu's own cow from a stretch of cattle. Nambi aided Kintu in the final test by transforming herself into a bee, whispering into his ear to choose the one whose horn she landed upon.

In Greek Mythology, Aristaeus was the god of bee-keeping. After inevitably causing the death of Eurydice, who stepped upon a snake while fleeing him, her nymph sisters punished him by killing every one of his bees. Witnessing the empty hives where his bees had dwelt, Aristaeus wept and consulted Proteus who then proceeded to advise Aristaeus to give honor in memory of Eurydice by sacrificing four bulls and four cows. Upon doing so, he let them rot and from their corpses rose bees to fill his empty hives.

According to Hittite mythology, the god of agriculture, Telipinu, went on a rampage and refused to allow anything to grow and animals would not produce offspring. The gods went in search of Telipinu only to fail. Then the goddess Hannahannah sent forth a bee to bring him back. The bee finds Telipinu, stings him and smears wax upon him. The god grew even angrier and it wasn't until the goddess Kamrusepa (or a mortal priest according to some references) uses a ritual to send his anger to the Underworld.

As per Hindu mythology, Parvati was summoned by the Gods to kill the demon Arunasura in the form of Bhramari Devi, who took over the heavens and the three worlds. To kill him, she stings him numerous times with the help of innumerable black bees emerging from her body. The Gods were finally able to take control and the heavens and the celestial worlds again.


Both the Atharva Veda and the ancient Greeks associated lips anointed with honey with the gift of eloquence: Achilles and Pythagoras, it was said, had been fed on honey as infants, and the lips of Plato, Pindar,and Ambrose of Milan were anointed with it. The name "Merope" seems to mean "honey-faced" in Greek, thus "eloquent" in Classical times. Honey, "the gift of heaven" according to Virgil (Georgics, IV), even conveyed prescience: the priestess at Delphi was the "Delphic Bee", and in 1 Samuel 14 "Jonathan... put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in a honey comb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened."

Beekeeping was a Minoan craft,and the fermented honey-drink, mead, was made in Crete before wine was first used. The proto-Greek invaders, by contrast, did not bring the art of beekeeping with them. Homer saw bees as wild, never tame, as when the Achaeans issued forth from their ship encampment "like buzzing swarms of bees that come out in relays from a hollow rock" (Iliad, book II). The bee is seen in a number of Aegean and Near Eastern names. The Jewish historian Josephus noted that the name of the poet and prophet Deborah meant "bee". The same root, dbr, gives "word", "indicating the bee's mission to give the Divine Word, Truth", observes Toussaint-Samat.The Greek name Melissa, honeybee, derives from meli, honey.


In ancient Egypt, the bee was an insignia of kingship associated particularly with Lower Egypt, where there may even have been a Bee King in pre-dynastic times. After the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, this symbol was incorporated in the title usually preceding the throne name of pharaoh and expressing the unity of the two realms, He of the Sedge and of the Bee.

Honey bees, signifying immortality and resurrection, were royal emblems of the Merovingians, revived by Napoleon. The bee is also the heraldic emblem of the Barberini. In heraldry, the bee symbolizes diligence and indefatigable effort. Someone is said to be busy as a bee when he or she works tirelessly and regardless of schedules or breaks.

A community of honey bees has often been employed by political theorists as a model of human society. This metaphor occurs in Aristotle and Plato in Virgil and Seneca in Erasmus and Shakespeare and in Bernard Mandeville's Fable of the Bees, or Private Vices made Public Benefits, which influenced Montesquieu and Marx. Tolstoy also compares human society to a community of bees in War and Peace.