What in blazes is going on with the world’s bees? I keep reading all these stories about how a significant percentage of the world’s beehives are failing and that all the bees are dying.
A phenomenon attributed to everything from global warming to insecticides to radiation from cell phone towers have seen a resurgence in repetitions of a quote attributed to Albert Einstein, citations claiming the noted scientist once said “ if the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. YIKES!
Perhaps you think of bees simply as a summertime nuisance. But these small and hard-working insects actually make it possible for many of your favorite foods to reach your table. From apples to almonds to the pumpkin in our pumpkin pies, we have bees to thank.
More than $15 billion a year in U.S. crops are pollinated by bees. Bees Keep Our Economy Humming!
The Bee has continued through the millennia as a symbol of the soul’s survival after death and limitless existence in the harmony of the Golden age of the World.
The remarkable service that Bees provide as pollinators of plants and trees and producers of life-affirming nectar has largely been taken for granted. It’s only when Bees started to disappear and actually die in alarming numbers did popular culture take notice, and only then out of a morbid sort of curiosity. But it has not always been this way. In fact, Bees were venerated in prehistory and revered in ancient cultures far and wide, especially in Egypt.
In ancient Egypt, the bee was an insignia of kingship associated particularly with Lower Egypt. Honey bees, signifying immortality and resurrection, were royal emblems of the Merovingians, revived by Napoleon.
Bees were portrayed on the walls of Egyptian tombs and offerings of honey were routinely presented to the most important Egyptian deities. Indeed, honey was the ‘nectar of the gods’, and Egyptian physicians valued its medicinal value in many important procedures.
Today we can observe that in the Quran, the honey bee is mentioned more specifically than other animals.
(Surat an-Nahl (The Bee), 68-69)
“And your Lord taught the honey bee ….”
“And your Lord taught the honey bee to build its cells in hills, on trees, and in (men’s) habitations; Then to eat of all the produce (of the earth), and find with skill the spacious paths of its Lord: there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colors, wherein is healing for men: verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought.
It is noteworthy that the amount of honey stored by the bees is much more than their actual need. The question which comes to the mind is why this “excessive production”, which seems to be a waste of time and energy is not stopped? The answer to this question is hidden in the verse which states that the bee is “taught” so by the Lord.
Actually, the Bee is the only insect that communicates through dance, yet this largely forgotten trait is one of the reasons why Bee imagery from antiquity is often lost on the untrained eye.
Bees innately produce honey not only for themselves but also for the human beings. As a matter of fact, bees, like many other beings in nature, are offered to the service of man.
It is generally known that honey is a fundamental food source for the human body. A basic foodstuff, but which can also be a drink – like milk with which it is often associated, honey is a symbol of richness and sweetness in all traditions. In the sacred texts of East and West, milk and honey flow like a stream through the promised land.
All the great prophets refer to honey in the Scriptures. Speech is honey, it represents softness, justice, virtue and divine goodness. The Koran uses holy terms to talk of bees and honey :”Honey is the first blessing that God gave the earth”.
For the Egyptians, honey was the tears of the god Râ and was a part of all the religious offerings in pharaonic Egypt. In Islam, according to the Prophet, it restores sight, preserves health and resuscitates the dead.
In modern psychoanalytical thinking, honey symbolizes the “higher self” , the ultimate consequence of work on one’s inner self. As the result of the transmutation of ephemeral pollen into a delicious food of immortality, honey symbolizes the transformation by initiation, the conversion of the soul, and the complete integration of the person.
The Bee Hive is an emblem of industry, and recommends the practice of that virtue to all created beings, from the highest seraph in heaven to the lowest reptile in the dust. It teaches us that we come into the world rational and intelligent beings, so we should ever be industrious ones; never sitting down content while our fellow creatures around us are in want, especially when it is in our power to relieve them without inconvenience to ourselves.
It is estimated that in North America around 30% of the food humans consume is produced from bee pollinated plant life. The value of pollination by bees is estimated around $16 billion in the US alone. We would be unable to enjoy most of our favorite fruits, vegetables, or nuts without these pollinators. Bees also pollinate crops such as clover and alfalfa that cattle feed on, making bees important to our production and consumption of meat and dairy.
When we look deeply enough, we discover a disturbing force that is fundamental in generating our dilemmas and crises, a force that is not actually hidden at all but is staring up at us every day from our plates! It has been lying undiscovered all along in the most obvious of places: It is our food.
Food is not only a fundamental necessity; it is also a primary symbol in the shared inner life of every human culture, including our own. It is not hard to see that food is a source and metaphor of life, love, generosity, celebration, pleasure, reassurance, acquisition, and consumption.
When we practice eating for spiritual health and social harmony, we practice making certain essential connections that our culturally induced food rituals normally require us to block from awareness.
Food is actually our most intimate and telling connection both with the natural order and with our living cultural heritage. Through eating the plants and animals of this earth we literally incorporate them, and it is also through this act of eating that we partake of our culture’s values and paradigms at the most primal and unconscious levels. As children, through constant exposure to the complex patterns of belief surrounding our most elaborate group ritual, eating food, we ingested our culture’s values and invisible assumptions. Like sponges, we learned, we noticed, we partook, and we became acculturated. Now, as adults, finding our lives beset with stress and a range of daunting problems of our own making, we rightly yearn to understand the source of our frustrating inability to live in harmony on this earth.
Forefathers of the American Revolution incorporated the symbolism of the Bee into the very fabric of our government. This should not be regarded as unusual. Early American statesmen shared a bond with other more time-honored nations that enabled Bee symbolism to be transmitted across the globe and into a new era.
The Bee remains an important symbol to the Egyptians – as well as other ancient civilizations – before being adopted by the United States of America. The way humanity manages or mismanages its nature-based assets, including pollinators, will in part define our collective future in the 21st century
Live and Learn. We All Do.
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