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Beliefs About Bees Across Time and Culture
The ancient Egyptians believed bees were born of Ra's tears. Napoleon put them on his robes. Childeric I's tomb was buried along with three hundred golden ones. Siberian and South American folklore views them as souls departed from the body. Bees are even associated with Christ—their honey symbolizes His mercy and their sting symbolizing His judgement.
The above are just a few examples of how bees have been depicted both historically and mythologically.
Because much of dream symbolism is based on a symbol's context inside a mythological framework, those with a diverse mythological history are often important symbols that carry vital messages to the dreamer. With mythological symbolism ranging from resurrection to industry, and as symbols used by both royalty and peasantry, bees definitely fall into this category.
Read on to learn more about bee mythology and folklore and how that information can help you understand the meaning behind a bee's buzz in your dreams.
Bees in Mythology
Bees and their primary product—honey—appear as symbols throughout many cultures.
While the details of their mythological stories vary, there are some common themes that pervade each culture's story regarding bees and honey.
Some of the concepts captured in the bees themselves are:
- The soul
- Bridges between heaven and earth
- Prophecy, Power of the Word
- Communication (bees communicate via dance)
What can be gleaned from all of these varied symbols and meanings is that the universal theme found throughout bee mythology is a connection with the Divine.
The eloquence, ability to communicate, the gift of prophecy, the power of the word, and speaking the truth are all God-given gifts—not the products of human study and learning. Immortality, resurrection, and the ability to create are also all treasures stemming from the realm of the Divine.
Bees are the source of many folk tales, and much like bee mythology, these tales have many commonalities.
Some of the primary folk tales regarding bees deal with bees as symbols of:
- Bees' humming was considered a hymn sung to the Divine.
- Bees were thought to have foreknowledge of coming events. As such, they were kept in the loop regarding the beekeepers activities in hopes they would share their own knowledge.
- If bees were not notified of the death of their keeper by sundown, they too would die.
- "Tell it to the bees" refers to the necessity of keeping the bees informed about all life events affecting their keeper. It was thought that bees thrive on communication and feeding them information assisted their productivity.
- A bee entering the home indicates good luck and enjoyable visitors on the way, so long as one doesn't kill the bee.
- If one kills a bee that enters the home, its death portends bad luck and one will be plagued by an obnoxious visitor.
- Bees landing on one's hand mean money on the way.
- Bees landing on one's head indicate a rise to greatness.
- A bee landing on a baby's lips imparts the gift of poetry and eloquence to the child.
- Bees are so pure that they will sting a person who curses in their presence.
- Bees abhor adulterers and will attack them en masse.
- By contrast, a virgin or the pure-hearted have the ability to walk through a swarm unscathed.
Bees are also associated with health-related folklore, including the belief that bees' stings have the power not only to prevent rheumatism, but also to cure it.
Bee Stings and Betrayal
It is interesting to note that the bee's sting is delivered via a barb. This is interesting because dreams have a particular proclivity for employing word play to make their meaning.
A barb refers not only to a bee's stinger, but also to those painful words and jabs thrown out at others, words intended to inflict pain on the person to whom they are directed.
With the bee's communication connection and the barb's association to hurtful words, the leap to interpreting bees stings as injurious words is only as far as a hop. As such, bee stings in a dream can indicate cruel words and the emotional injuries caused by those words.
When a bee stings, smooth barbs catch on the victim's skin. They then retract so that the barb continues working its way into the victim, even after detachment from the bee. In bee dreams, this action might be thought of as the festering of an emotional wound—the way words continue stinging well beyond their initial delivery. The dream bee sting can symbolize how painful words get under the skin and wound the heart.
Bees also release pheromones alerting other bees in the area to the presence of the person just attacked, so that they too may join in the assault. This action might be interpreted in dreams about bees as the way that gossip works, the way that injurious comments are spread about when the gossip is not content to attack a person on his or her own.
Would You Care to Dance With 1200 Bees?
Bees and Communication
Deborah, the biblical poet, prophetess, and judge, finds the meaning of her name in the bee. The name, Deborah, literally translates to "queen bee."
What is more interesting, given Deborah's role in the Bible, is that the root of her name, "dbr" translates to meaning "word." This is fascinating given that one of Deborah's roles was that of prophetess. According to the Bible, prophets were basically spokespersons for God. When a prophet prophesied, the words spoken were not meant to come from the speaker, but from God.
Deborah's name and origins reveal once again how the bee is connected with communication. Since they are so inextricably linked with communication, bees in dreams can herald some kind of ability that is emerging that is related to communication.
Bees in dreams might also indicate inspiration coming to the dreamer that can be used to further work in the waking world regarding communication. Communication need not be thought of as solely verbal, however.
While one might immediately think of a bee's hum as its mode of communicating, the actual manner in which bees communicate is via dance. When honeybees return to their hive after foraging, they perform a peculiar dance known as the "waggle dance" or another dance called the "round dance," which is an abbreviated version of the waggle.
While not clear what the dance signifies, the most accepted theory is that the dance alerts hive members to the distance and location of food. The waggle means food is further away, while the round means it is nearby. Study of the patterns created by the dance indicate that they may be a map of sorts with the dance's twist and turns spelling out the way to the food's locale.
Therefore, one might be encouraged to think outside the box when it comes to bees in dreams and their status as messengers. One might look toward finding messages in the outer world in manners not literal, linear, nor strictly verbal.
Bee communication is cooperative and connected communication. When bees appear in dreams, this can therefore indicate that one feels a connectedness to the other world. It could be a sign that you are actively receiving communication and acting on it appropriately.
Dreams about bees might also indicate a healthy romantic relationship—one rooted in connection, rather than a dependency on one's partner.
The Metamorphosis of Bees
Bee Dreams and Self-Sacrifice
While it is typically believed that all bees die when they sting, this is not actually true. Only the honeybee sacrifices its life during a sting.
Whereas other bee varieties can be aggressive and attack without provocation, the honeybee only attacks when it perceives a legitimate threat to the colony. A honeybee's sting is the ultimate form of self-sacrifice—its blow serves only to protect others as its delivery means its own demise.