It is not surprising that the bee would be the first to come on my Dark forest Journey, so near the thinning of the veil, and at the height of Spring. They flitter from Hibiscus to Rose, and visit me in my cottage. I guide them safely back to the window, by the hibiscus tree, and watch as they land on the long reproductive organs to collect pollen to take back to their hive. Without bees the world would collapse, our food crops, and fruit that we rely so heavily on, would falter and we would be to blame, for it is our insecticides and herbicides which have caused the mass bee deaths, and it is us, who look on with morbid curiosity but no urgency to correct our hubristic blunders.
The “Veil-winged” bees were said to bring messages from the gods and the dead to the land of the living, and were believed to be an incarnation of nymphs who have died. To kill a bee, is anathema, to kill thousands is to break the bonds with nature and the gods and to end the world. The plight of the bees reminds me of the vision I had of Hekate with her hundreds of hounds- the call to arms- the dead are warning us, because the dead are of the land and our land is under threat.
We live in the age of apocalypse, and while many pagans stutter and tut, and struggle to come to grips with the reality we as humans have created – denying and even contributing to the collective stupidity of capitalism, resource abuse, and eco-system collapse, the Wild Witches and the Bee Priestesses, the Eco-Shamans, the Folk Healers and the Spirit-workers, beat our drums, and hum our prayers, we plant flowers and food and create the healing ointments. We rip off the band-aid covering the infected wounds of the Earth, and inside we plant the bee plants, the Borage, the Mint, the Lavender, and the Marigold.
“The Vast Majority of life forms that have ever existed are now extinct, their diverse songs gone silent. Yet never before has the extinction of so many varieties of plants and animals been caused by the activities of a single species: Homo sapiens. It is therefore encumbent on Earth’s hominid healers to defend the endangered, and give voice to the voiceless”- Jesse Wolf Hardin
The soft, melodious hum of the bees which resonates in our bellies and our hearts is a call to recognise the sanctity of the world around us, of the nature within us and surrounding us. We are not separate from nature, but we are fragmented, and it is up to each of us to piece ourselves back together, to sew the quilt, and weave the threads of the web of fate.
“There are certain holy ones, sisters born,
maidens adorned with swift wings,
three of them. Their heads are sprinkled over
with white barley meal and they make their homes
under the cliffs of Parnassos.
They taught divination apart from me,
around my cattle while still a boy.
My father took no notice.
From their home they fly, now here,
now there, feeding on the honeycomb
and bringing all the things to pass.
And when they have eaten of the golden honey
they are inspired and want to speak the truth
graciously. But if they are deprived
of the sweet food of the gods
they tell you lies, swarming
to and fro among one another.”
Hymn to Hermes- The Homeric Hymns (Penguin 2003)
The Mellisae were the ancient Bee Priestesses of Artemis and Demeter, who were gifted with prophecy. At Delphi, the oracles were known as The Delphic Bees, and would become intoxicated on the vapours of bay laurel and share their prophecies with the world. The Bees have come to give us a prophecy, and it is one which stings- Either we change the way we do things, or we will die, and we will take down countless more beings with us, in our self-destructive drives for money, power and wealth.
It is overwhelming. We feel at a loss as to what to do, where to begin, how to start? The simplest place is within ourselves. We need to open up our hearts, sing the deep songs, hum the earth rhythms, and spin our magic which comes from deep within. We are all broken, bruised beings fighting from the very first breath we have, for we have entered a world that no longer believes in soul and nature. But it is through nature that we can find our way again.
there’s a heart beat at the door.
Outside, a woman in the fog,
with hair of twigs and dress of weed,
dripping green lake water.
she says “I am you,
and I have traveled a long distance.
Come with me, there is something I must show you…”
She turns to go, her cloak falls open,
Suddenly, golden light…everywhere, golden light…”
-Woman Who Lives Under the Lake- Clarissa Pinkola Estes
It was when I watched “Into the Forest”, that I realised how stagnant I was and how unable to survive in the wild and unknown I would be. I had finished the movie, feeling sad, and strange. Like most suburbanites, I rely on electricity and running water, and sometimes take for granted these conveniences. It is only human after all to forget where we come from, and forget where we are going. All the folktales tell us how easily we become trapped by material things, and greed, and how we don’t listen to our inner voices; how we often forget the wisdom of the ancestors and the animal allies that guide us.
We only need to remember the Earth-given wisdom that we have at our disposal, we only need to learn about the plants and animals around us, and how they survive, we only need to relearn the plant medicine and the healing arts which come from the deep wells inside our bellies and hearts. We only need to open the door and follow the wisdom of the women and witches, the herbalists and plant folk, the bees and the foxes, the birds and the flowers, to find our way again.
In the excellent article “Herbalism in the Age of Mass Exctinction” by Janet Kent, we are given practical ways in which to rewild our world, and rewild ourselves, even in an urban landscape. Some of the excellent workable Techniques which she discusses include:
- Informed observation of nature
- Working with invasive plants as teachers and medicinals
- Aiming for complexity and diversity, and diversifying the garden with pollinators in mind
- Reconciliation Ecology
- Using abandoned lots and empty land for Guerilla gardening
- Plant Rescue and Relocation
- Growing materia medica
- Immersion in nature
We are not doomed, if we change our perspectives, if we change how we do things, and if we adapt to the changing conditions of our environment.
On the Dark moon in Scorpio, I created a healing salve of Wormwood from beeswax and olive oil, I worked as a Melissa crafting an intoxicant for the use of meditation and healing. A small venomous spider visited while I was making the ointment, and I took it outside, smelling the sweet and pungent scents of the leaves and flowers growing in my garden.There is an abundance of life in the suburbs, and I have now taken to pressing and drawing flowers in a book my mother made me to record the beauty around me… the plants of the dead, which grow in the drought, the plants of healing which can be made into medicine, the food plants which I can gather for salads and meals, the plants which feed the bees and the birds, and butterflies.
If it was The Pink fox who taught me of the flowers and herbs for magic and mischief-The plants which are toads, and hounds and witches, it is the Bees which teach me of medicine, and how to craft the healing unguents and balms with their honey and their wax. Pink fox and the bees are connected, as are all things in the web, when we recognise the connections, and look at everything holistically we are able to heal, and grow and thrive.
The bee asks us if we are doing enough of what makes us happy, are our hearts open enough, are we working to benefit the other beings around us, are we following our hearts desires, are we dancing, singing and humming our rhythms into the universe?
Resources and Further Reading
-Animal Speak- Ted Andrews
-“Herbalism in the Age of Mass Extinction” by Janet Kent Featured in Traditions in Western Herbalism 20“16 Class Essays
-The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore- Hilda M Ransome
-The Bee: Part 2 – Beewildered
-The Wild Unknown Animal spirit deck