Girl History Month – The Goddess

Today is International Women’s Day. What better day to honor the Archetypal Woman, especially as She is symbolized by the Bee.

The Bee has been a symbol of the Divine Feminine since time began. This post barely scratches the surface of what is a fascinating and illuminating subject.

For an excellent and thorough discussion of Bee symbolism, I highly recommend Andrew Gough’s website Arcadia. I owe much of this post to his brilliant research.

Bee Goddess, 5000 BC – Neolithic Spain
© www.mothergoddess.com

The Mother Goddess is the oldest deity in the archaeological record, and she is often manifested as a dancing Bee. In the ancient world, dancing Bees were special – the Queen Bee in particular, for she was the Mother Goddess – leader and ruler of the hive, and was often portrayed in the presence of adoring Bee Goddesses and Bee Priestesses.

The Sumerian stele below depicts the worship of the Mother Goddess in the form of a Queen Bee or Bee Goddess surrounded by her followers – the Bee Priestesses. Sumerian physicians considered honey to be a unique and vital medicinal drug. It has been suggested that the Sumerians invented Apitherapy, or the medical use of Honey Bee products such as honey, pollen, royal jelly, propolis and bee venom.

Sumerian stele – a depiction of Bee Goddess worship

The ancient Egyptians also venerated  Bees.  The agricultural, nutritional, medicinal and ritualistic value of the Bee and its honey was important in Egypt from pre-dynastic times onwards, as demonstrated by the fact that King Menes, founder of the First Egyptian Dynasty, was called “the Beekeeper”; a title ascribed to all subsequent Pharaohs. Additionally, the Kings administration had a special office called the ‘Sealer of the Honey’, and Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt bore the title “he who belongs to the sedge and the bee”. An image of the Bee was even positioned next to the King’s cartouche.

The Bee, next to the signature of Hatshepsut, the 5th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty

The Bee is featured prominently in many Egyptian temples, including the pillars of Karnak and the Luxor obelisk, now erected on the Place de la Concorde in Paris. In the ancient Temple of Tanis – which is said to have once housed the Ark of the Covenant, the Bee was its first and most important ideogram. In fact, the Bee is even featured on the Rosetta Stone.

The Egyptian Goddess Neith is the Bee/Mother Goddess.  She was a warrior goddess with fertility symbolism and virginal mother qualities; all attributes of the Mother Goddess – and the Queen Bee.

Neith, wearing the ‘Deshret’ crown of Northern Egypt

Neith was known as the Veiled Goddess, and thus the reference on her temple inscription to ‘lifting a veil’ is intriguing, for Bees are often called hymenoptera, stemming from the word hymen, meaning “veil winged”, representing that which concealed the holy parts of a temple, as well as the veil or hymen of a woman’s reproductive organ. Only later did the veiled wing become associated with the goddess Isis.

Hilda Ransome informs us; “The title Melissa, the Bee, is a very ancient one; it constantly occurs in Greek Myths, meaning sometimes a priestess, sometimes a nymph.” This is an important observation, for the tradition of dancing Bee goddesses appears to have been preserved in a form of Bee maidens known as Melissas – or nymphs, and Greek deities such as Rhea and Demeter were widely known to have held the title. Additionally, the Greeks frequently referred to ‘Bee-Souls’ and bestowed the title of ‘Melissa’ on unborn souls.

Cybele, the ancient Mother goddess of Neolithic Anatolia was revered by the Greeks as a Goddess of Bees and Caves. Curiously, Cybele was often worshipped in the form of a meteoritic stone, or a stone from heaven. Cybele was also known as Sybil – an oracle of the ancient near east who was known to the Greeks as Sibyls. The name inspired Sybil, the title of seer priestesses for hundreds of years to come.

Michelangelo’s Sybil

Apollo was one of the most important gods in the Greek Pantheon and was known as the God of Truth and Prophecy. He is said to have provided a gift of Bees to Hermes; the god of otherworldly boundaries and transformation of souls. The legend is recounted in the 8th century Homeric Hymn to Hermes, for here Apollo alludes to his gift including three female Bee-Maidens who practiced divination;

“There are some Fates sisters born,
maidens three of them, adorned with swift wings.
Their heads are sprinkled over with white barley meal,
wind they make their homes under the cliffs of Parnassus.
They taught divination far off from me, the art I used to practice
round my cattle while still a boy.”

Hermes and a Bee-Maiden

Still another example of Bee veneration in Greek mythology is Aphrodite, the nymph-goddess of midsummer who is renowned for murdering the king and tearing out his organs just as the Queen Bee does to the drone. Aphrodite’s priestesses, who are known as Melissas, are said to have displayed a golden honeycomb at her shrine on Mount Eryx.

Melissa at Mt. Eryx

Artemis was the most renowned patron of the Bee in all of Greece. As the daughter of Zeus and twin sister to Apollo, Artemis was the goddess of nature, particularly forests, hills, rocky outcroppings and rivers; all natural habitats of Bees. Artemis’s Roman equivalent was the goddess Diana, and statues of Artemis/Diana from the Anatolian city of Ephesus portray her covered in eggs, which some have identified as Bee eggs given that a typical Queen Bee will lay tens of thousands of eggs in her short lifetime.

Artemis/Diana

Dear to my own heart is the fact that the Bee in Hebrew is ‘DBRE’, meaning Deborah, and ‘Judges 5’ contains one of the oldest passages in the Bible, and some feel, the earliest example of Hebrew poetry; the 8th century Song of Deborah, or as it is commonly known, the Song of The Bees.

A short excerpt from the fascinating verse describes life under Canaanite oppression; “Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel, Until I, Deborah, arose, Arose a mother in Israel.” Was Deborah a Bee goddess? Like Bee goddesses before her, Deborah represented stability and was a prophetess, a warrior princess, and in this instance, the only female Judge of pre-monarchic Israel in the entire Old Testament.

Gustave Dore’s interpretation of the prophetess Deborah – the Bee Goddess

Girl History Month – Deborah The Matriarch

Deborah the Matriarch

Deborah the Matriarch

Deborah was a prophetess, the fourth Judge of pre-monarchic Israel, and a famous military leader. She led the Israelites to victory over the Canaanites and brought forty years of peace to the land.

She is known as Deborah the Prophetess, Deborah the Judge, Deborah the Matriarch, and Deborah the Mother of Israel.

dore deborah

The Book of Judges chapter 5 tells the story of Deborah’s victory in poetic form. This passage  is called The Song of Deborah and is set forth below.  It is one of the earliest samples of Hebrew poetry and is unique in its portrayal of a woman military leader. It is thought to have been written by Deborah herself.

Deborah the Prophetess

Deborah the Prophetess

Not much is known about Deborah’s personal life. She was probably born in central Israel to the tribe of Ephraim and may have lived from 1200 B.C. to 1124 B.C.  This would would have made her about 36 years old at the time of her victory over the Canaanites, and 75 at the time of her death.

Icon of Deborah the Judge

Icon of Deborah the Judge

Deborah is the only woman judge mentioned in the Bible.  She rendered her judgments beneath a palm tree between Ramah in Benjamin and Bethel in the land of Ephraim. (Judges 4:5)

Judging Under the Palm Tree

Judging Under the Palm Tree

In Hebrew, Deborah’s name, דְּבוֹרָה, translates as ” the bee”.

Deborah and the Bees

Deborah and the Bees

The Deborah number, a dimensionless number used to characterize the fluidity of materials, is named after her. It was originally proposed by Markus Reiner, a professor at Technion in Israel, who was inspired by the Song of Deborah:  “The mountains flowed before the Lord.”  The Deborah number is based on the premise that given enough time even the hardest material, like mountains, will flow.

Deborah is also a Saint. Her feast day is November 1st, All Saints Day.

Icon of St. Deborah

Icon of St. Deborah

Song of Deborah

Of chiefs who took the lead in Israel, of noble deeds by the people who bless the Lord,
Hear, O kings! Give ear, O princes!
I to the Lord will sing my song,
my hymn to the Lord, the God of Israel.
O Lord, when you went out from Seir,
when you marched from the land of Edom,
The earth quaked and the heavens were shaken,
while the clouds sent down showers.
Mountains trembled
in the presence of the Lord, the One of Sinai,
in the presence of the Lord, the God of Israel.
In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath,
in the days of slavery caravans ceased:
Those who traveled the roads
went by roundabout paths.
Gone was freedom beyond the walls,
gone indeed from Israel.
When I, Deborah, rose,
when I rose, a mother in Israel,
New gods were their choice;
then the war was at their gates.
Not a shield could be seen,
nor a lance, among forty thousand in Israel!
My heart is with the leaders of Israel,
nobles of the people who bless the Lord;
They who ride on white asses,
seated on saddlecloths as they go their way;
Sing of them to the strains of the harpers at the wells,
where men recount the just deeds of the Lord,
his just deeds that brought freedom to Israel.
Awake, awake, Deborah!
awake, awake, strike up a song.
Strength! arise, Barak,
make despoilers your spoil, son of Abinoam.
Then down came the fugitives with the mighty,
the people of the Lord came down for me as warriors.
From Ephraim, princes were in the valley;
behind you was Benjamin, among your troops.

From Machir came down commanders,
from Zebulun wielders of the marshal’s staff.
With Deborah were the princes of Issachar;
Barak, too, was in the valley, his course unchecked.
Among the clans of Reuben
great were the searchings of heart.
Why do you stay beside your hearths
listening to the lowing of the herds?
Among the clans of Reuben
great were the searchings of heart!
Gilead, beyond the Jordan, rests;
why does Dan spend his time in ships?
Asher, who dwells along the shore,
is resting in his coves.
Zebulun is the people defying death;
Naphtali, too, on the open heights!
The kings came and fought;
then they fought, those kings of Canaan,
At Taanach by the waters of Megiddo;
no silver booty did they take.
From the heavens the stars, too, fought;
from their courses they fought against Sisera.
The Wadi Kishon swept them away;
a wadi…, the Kishon.
Then the hoofs of the horses pounded,
with the dashing, dashing of his steeds.
“Curse Meroz,” says the Lord,
“hurl a curse at its inhabitants!
For they came not to my help,
as warriors to the help of the Lord.”

Blessed among women be Jael,
blessed among tent-dwelling women.
He asked for water, she gave him milk;
in a princely bowl she offered curds.
With her left hand she reached for the peg,
with her right, for the workman’s mallet.
She hammered Sisera, crushed his head;
she smashed, stove in his temple.
At her feet he sank down, fell, lay still;
down at her feet he sank and fell;
where he sank down, there he fell, slain.
From the window peered down and wailed
the mother of Sisera, from the lattice:
“Why is his chariot so long in coming?
why are the hoofbeats of his chariots delayed?”
The wisest of her princesses answers her,
and she, too, keeps answering herself:
“They must be dividing the spoil they took:
there must be a damsel or two for each man,
Spoils of dyed cloth as Sisera’s spoil,
an ornate shawl or two for me in the spoil.”
May all your enemies perish thus, O Lord!
but your friends be as the sun rising in its might!
And the land was at rest for forty years.

The Divine Mother

The Bee has been a symbol of the Divine Feminine since time began. This post barely scratches the surface of what is a fascinating and illuminating subject.

For an excellent and thorough discussion of Bee symbolism, I highly recommend Andrew Gough’s website Arcadia. I owe much of this post to his brilliant research.

Bee Goddess, 5000 BC – Neolithic Spain
© www.mothergoddess.com

The Mother Goddess is the oldest deity in the archaeological record, and she is often manifested as a dancing Bee. In the ancient world, dancing Bees were special – the Queen Bee in particular, for she was the Mother Goddess – leader and ruler of the hive, and was often portrayed in the presence of adoring Bee Goddesses and Bee Priestesses.

The Sumerian stele below depicts the worship of the Mother Goddess in the form of a Queen Bee or Bee Goddess surrounded by her followers – the Bee Priestesses. Sumerian physicians considered honey to be a unique and vital medicinal drug. It has been suggested that the Sumerians invented Apitherapy, or the medical use of Honey Bee products such as honey, pollen, royal jelly, propolis and bee venom.

Sumerian stele – a depiction of Bee Goddess worship

The ancient Egyptians also venerated  Bees.  The agricultural, nutritional, medicinal and ritualistic value of the Bee and its honey was important in Egypt from pre-dynastic times onwards, as demonstrated by the fact that King Menes, founder of the First Egyptian Dynasty, was called “the Beekeeper”; a title ascribed to all subsequent Pharaohs. Additionally, the Kings administration had a special office called the ‘Sealer of the Honey’, and Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt bore the title “he who belongs to the sedge and the bee”. An image of the Bee was even positioned next to the King’s cartouche.

The Bee, next to the signature of Hatshepsut, the 5th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty

The Bee is featured prominently in many Egyptian temples, including the pillars of Karnak and the Luxor obelisk, now erected on the Place de la Concorde in Paris. In the ancient Temple of Tanis – which is said to have once housed the Ark of the Covenant, the Bee was its first and most important ideogram. In fact, the Bee is even featured on the Rosetta Stone.

The Egyptian Goddess Neith is the Bee/Mother Goddess.  She was a warrior goddess with fertility symbolism and virginal mother qualities; all attributes of the Mother Goddess – and the Queen Bee.

Neith, wearing the ‘Deshret’ crown of Northern Egypt

Neith was known as the Veiled Goddess, and thus the reference on her temple inscription to ‘lifting a veil’ is intriguing, for Bees are often called hymenoptera, stemming from the word hymen, meaning “veil winged”, representing that which concealed the holy parts of a temple, as well as the veil or hymen of a woman’s reproductive organ. Only later did the veiled wing become associated with the goddess Isis.

Hilda Ransome informs us; “The title Melissa, the Bee, is a very ancient one; it constantly occurs in Greek Myths, meaning sometimes a priestess, sometimes a nymph.” This is an important observation, for the tradition of dancing Bee goddesses appears to have been preserved in a form of Bee maidens known as Melissas – or nymphs, and Greek deities such as Rhea and Demeter were widely known to have held the title. Additionally, the Greeks frequently referred to ‘Bee-Souls’ and bestowed the title of ‘Melissa’ on unborn souls.

Cybele, the ancient Mother goddess of Neolithic Anatolia was revered by the Greeks as a Goddess of Bees and Caves. Curiously, Cybele was often worshipped in the form of a meteoritic stone, or a stone from heaven. Cybele was also known as Sybil – an oracle of the ancient near east who was known to the Greeks as Sibyls. The name inspired Sybil, the title of seer priestesses for hundreds of years to come.

Michelangelo’s Sybil

Apollo was one of the most important gods in the Greek Pantheon and was known as the God of Truth and Prophecy. He is said to have provided a gift of Bees to Hermes; the god of otherworldly boundaries and transformation of souls. The legend is recounted in the 8th century Homeric Hymn to Hermes, for here Apollo alludes to his gift including three female Bee-Maidens who practiced divination;

“There are some Fates sisters born,
maidens three of them, adorned with swift wings.
Their heads are sprinkled over with white barley meal,
wind they make their homes under the cliffs of Parnassus.
They taught divination far off from me, the art I used to practice
round my cattle while still a boy.”

Hermes and a Bee-Maiden

Still another example of Bee veneration in Greek mythology is Aphrodite, the nymph-goddess of midsummer who is renowned for murdering the king and tearing out his organs just as the Queen Bee does to the drone. Aphrodite’s priestesses, who are known as Melissas, are said to have displayed a golden honeycomb at her shrine on Mount Eryx.

Melissa at Mt. Eryx

Artemis was the most renowned patron of the Bee in all of Greece. As the daughter of Zeus and twin sister to Apollo, Artemis was the goddess of nature, particularly forests, hills, rocky outcroppings and rivers; all natural habitats of Bees. Artemis’s Roman equivalent was the goddess Diana, and statues of Artemis/Diana from the Anatolian city of Ephesus portray her covered in eggs, which some have identified as Bee eggs given that a typical Queen Bee will lay tens of thousands of eggs in her short lifetime.

Artemis/Diana

Dear to my own heart is the fact that the Bee in Hebrew is ‘DBRE’, meaning Deborah, and ‘Judges 5’ contains one of the oldest passages in the Bible, and some feel, the earliest example of Hebrew poetry; the 8th century Song of Deborah, or as it is commonly known, the Song of The Bees.

A short excerpt from the fascinating verse describes life under Canaanite oppression; “Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel, Until I, Deborah, arose, Arose a mother in Israel.” Was Deborah a Bee goddess? Like Bee goddesses before her, Deborah represented stability and was a prophetess, a warrior princess, and in this instance, the only female Judge of pre-monarchic Israel in the entire Old Testament.

Gustave Dore’s interpretation of the prophetess Deborah – the Bee Goddess

 Happy Mother’s Day!

The Goddess

“Instead of dirt and poison, we have chosen to fill our hives with honey and wax, thus furnishing mankind with the two noblest of things, which are sweetness and light.”  Jonathan Swift

Bees are a symbol of the Goddess, the Divine Feminine.  They are sacred to the Goddess Venus because they fertilize her flowers. Without bees, Her flowers would die out.  They are truly the handmaidens of the Goddess.

The Goddess of the Garden