Humans have been harvesting honey from honeybees since the dawn of our evolution (Chimpanzees poke sticks in nests and collect what they can before being driven off by the angry bees!) and bees have been revered in all forms of religion across the world from the very beginning of civilization.
Many religions including the ancient Egyptians revered honeybees as messengers from the gods, who called them “Tears of Ra’, and even used the bee as a symbol to represent Lower Egypt in the Royal hieroglyph as shown below.
Royal Cartouche from Ancient Egypt
Known elsewhere as "The land of the Bee, Egypt exported huge quantities of honey all over the ancient world including Greece. Here, legend has it Melissa was one of three winged nymphs who discovered and then taught man the use of honey and also delivered the power of prophecy from signs in nature to humans.
Ancient Greek Bee Goddess symbols
Closer to home, in Celtic mythology, the honeybee was a messenger between our world and the spirit realm and were associated with wisdom garnered from the otherworld. For centuries, beekeepers across Europe have kept up this ancient tradition of honeybees being messengers through "telling the bees".
Draping the beehives with black crepe on the death of the beekeeper
This is where the beekeeper informed their bees of family news in the household. Marriages, new births and especially deaths were marked by decorating the hive and telling the bees what had happened. The death of the beekeeper required the new beekeeper to introduce themselves formally as their new master and ask for their acceptance.
It was said that not doing this would encourage the bees to desert the hive or the colony to stop producing honey or even die and is a tradition that we encourage new beekeepers to continue today. I'm always talking to my bees and it's a great stress reliever knowing that they will keep my secrets and never talk back!
It’s comforting to know that the very ancient tradition of honeybees acting as messengers is still preserved today, even in a small way...