Saturday, 27 June 2009

The Bees Knees

Rabbinic tradition related a notable conception of the relation of manna to dew. Drawing primarily on Mekhilta Yoma 75b, the medieval Bible commentator Rashi summarized the midrashic variants as follows:

"There was a layer of dew" [Exod.16:13] The dew lay on the manna. At another place [Num.9:9] it says "And when the dew came down," and so forth ["upon the camp at night, the manna fell upon it"] The dew fell upon the ground and the manna fell upon it, and then the dew returned and fell upon it. Behold, it was as though it were carefully packed in a chest.

--From the Mystery of Manna By Daniel Merkur

Manna is the name of a food which, according to the Bible, was eaten by the Israelites during their travels in the desert. In the description in the Book of Exodus, manna is described as being available six mornings a week, after the dew had evaporated. The God-sent manna fell only six days in the week so that the Sabbath would remain holy. Moreover, twice as much fell on Friday (to accommodate the Sabbath).

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work" (Exodus 20:8?10)

This is actually a commandment; it is the Fourth Commandment. I have always puzzled over this one. We all deserve at least one day off a week don't we? But do we deserve to be punished if we don't take it? What if we have a different day off - Monday or whatever ? In the grand scheme of things - does it really make any difference which day I rest? Does it really matter how many days a week I don't work?

"For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth ... and rested on the seventh day. Wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it" (Ex. 20:11)

For Muslims it is Friday which is the holy day; for Jews, it's Saturday. Maybe God's not too hung-up-on the Sabbath. Maybe God would prefer it if we were just nicer to one another. Maybe God is trying to draw our attention to something.

Israel is often named in the Bible as a "land of milk and honey," but it was largely thought that this referred to "honey" made from dates and figs, as the book does not mention honeybee cultivation. The new discovery shows that indeed, 3,000 years ago, the Holy Land harbored an extensive beekeeping industry. By those times, Rehov could have had around 2,000 inhabitants, mostly Canaanites (the ancient Jews came from a Canaanite population).

We've all heard of the expression "busy as a bee". Bees are well thought of as industrious, and hard working. One day I was reading something about the everyday life of bees, when I was struck by the significance of six days in their larvae stage.

There are three stages in the development of a bee. The first is the egg stage. The Queen lays an egg in the bottom of each cell. The egg is centered in the cell and one end is stuck to the bottom.

For a Worker Bee larvae this stage lasts three days. Worker Bee larvae are fed Royal Jelly for three days, after which they are fed Bee Pollen and Honey.

Then, after six days in the larval stage, the cell is capped with wax and the bee spends the next 12 days in the pupa stage. After a total of 21 days the adult worker bee emerges!

The way the cells are capped also reminds me of how slabs are pushed in position to cover the entrance of a tomb. After he died on the cross, Jesus was taken by Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus to be buried in a tomb. Joseph placed Jesus’ body in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. It was Preparation Day (the day before the Sabbath), and the Sabbath (Saturday) was about to begin, so everyone hurried home. According to the Bible, the women were the first to return on Sunday (Easter Sunday). Jesus was resurrected on the third day.

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don't be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him." (Mark 16:1-7 )

It is not hard to find differences between what we know of the teachings of Jesus and what we know of the teachings of the Essenes. Some believe Jesus to have been an Essene. The Essenes called themselves Therapeutae, "healers," claiming that their austere lifestyle gave them the power to cast out demons of sickness and even to restore life of the dead. Due to the various spellings of "Essene" the word could also mean "pious one," or "doers," or "doers of the Torah".

The Essenes were members of an ascetic Jewish sect of the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD. Most of them lived on the western shore of the Dead Sea. They are identified by many scholars with the Qumran community that wrote the documents popularly called the Dead Sea Scrolls. They numbered about 4,000 members. Admission required two to three years of preparation, and new candidates took an oath of piety, justice, and truthfulness.

According to Philo of Alexandria and other writers of the 1st century AD, the Essenes shared their possessions, lived by agriculture and handicrafts, rejected slavery, and believed in the immortality of the soul. Their meals were solemn community affairs. The main group of Essenes opposed marriage. They had regular prayer and study sessions, especially on the Sabbath.

One day, Jesus sat amidst people who listened to his words with amazement. He said: "Seek not the Law in your scriptures, for the Law is life, whereas the scripture is dead. The Law is the living word of the living God to living prophets for living men. In everything that is life, is the Law written. You find it in the grass, in the trees, in the river, in the mountain, in the birds of heaven, in the fishes of the sea, but seek it chiefly in yourselves. God did not write the Law in books, but in your heart and in your spirit. "
--From the Gospel of the Essenes.

When I read the above statement from the Gospel of Essenes, I thought it something which could just as readily have been said by Heraclitus, or Zeno. It was Zeno's statement "man conquers the world by conquering himself", followed by his understanding of God as the Universe, which most attracted me to Stoicism. If you think about it, the only way God is ever going to be able to be omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient is by being the Universe itself. Zeno, and Stoic philosophy, was heavily influenced by Heraclitus.

The Heraclitean notion of fire which is physis, logos, and God was reinterpretted, and appropriately elaborated and became the central idea of the ontology of Zeno and the Stoa. This divine fire or aether was for Zeno the basis for all activity in the Universe. For the Stoics, God penetrates the world "as honey does the honeycomb". Sometime later, the Gospel of John identifies Jesus as the incarnation of the logos, or Word of God, through which all things are made.

The Chaldee word for a bee is DABAR which also means a WORD, thus the bee is symbolic for the Word of God, Jesus Christ. The bee is also associated with the lion, in Samson’s riddle of the lion and the bees. Another connection, for Jesus Christ is the Lion of Judah. Samson unaided slew the roaring lion and from its carcass took immortal honey, and out of the LION of Judah came the WORD of God; out of His death came eternal life for man.

The sacredness of the bee has a long history throughout the world. Bee carvings have been found on the temple walls of ancient Egyptians. Indeed, references to honey and its healing powers are found in ancient papyri dating back to 5000 BC. Bee pollen then and now is described by some as "a life-giving dust".

Although the bee has not been deified by the ancient Egyptians, it was worshipped as a source of eternal life. An early title of the pharoahs was Bity, meaning "the one of the bee". The tomb of the ancient Egyptian king Ramses III (1198-1167 BC) has bee designs in it. In most Egyptian funeral vaults, bees are shown in all phases of honey gathering.

The mystical dimension of Islam known as Sufism maintained a secret brotherhood called Sarmoung, or Sarman, meaning Bee. Members of the organization viewed their role as collecting the precious 'honey' of wisdom and preserving it for future generations.

Deborah was the name of one of the greatest prophetesses of Ancient Israel. The Jewish historian Josephus noted that the name Deborah, in Hebrew DBVRH, means "bee".

In India, old Hindu pictures of the god Krishna, as an avatar of Vishnu, has a blue bee in the middle of his forehead. The Hindu gods Vishnu, Krishna and Indra were called Madhava or "nectar born ones", and were often represented as bees perched on a lotus flower. Soma, the moon, is called a bee. Siva is represented as a triangle surmounted by a bee. Kama, god of love, has a bow-string of bees.

In Ancient Crete the bee signified the life that comes from death (as did the scarab in Egypt). The Cretan Zeus was born in a cave of bees and was fed by them, and Zeus also had the title of Melissaios, "Bee-man"; he fathered a son, the hero Meliteus, by a nymph who hid the child from Hera in a wood, where Zeus had him fed by bees.

Dionyous was fed on honey as a babe by the nymph Makris, daughter of Aristaeus, protector of flocks and bees. The priestess of Apollo at the Delphic Temple was called the ‘Delphic Bee’ and the bee was also the symbol of Diana and Ceres, supposedly because of its virginity.

At Ephesus, on the West coast of what is now Turkey, where the many breasted Artemis was worshipped, the bee appeared as her cult animal. Her temple at Ephesus was a symbolic beehive. Her priestesses were called Melissae (bees) and the eunuch priests were Essenes (drones). The title of drone is somewhat fitting for a eunuch because the male bee is castrated by the queen bee during the performance of mating mid-air. Pausanias, Greek traveller and geographer of the 2nd century AD, had said that the "essene" meant "King Bee".

The worship of Artemis merged with that of the Virgin Mary, whose tomb was said to be located there, with the establishment of the church of Our Lady of Ephesus in AD 431 . Bees are symbols of the Virgin Mary throughout the western World and especially in Eastern europe. In the Slavonic folk tradition the bee is linked with the immaculate conception.

Bee symbolism is a vital component of Masonic ideals, although its application within the craft is not without paradox. For instance, the ‘Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry’ informs us that the Bee is important to Freemasonry for the same reason it was important to the Egyptians, because of all insects; “only the Bee has a King.”

Drones are male honey bees. Male honey bees develop when the queen bee lays unfertilized eggs. It is not clearly understood what prompts a honey bee queen to lay an unfertilized egg versus a fertilized egg. The fertilized egg hatches into a worker bee. Can we then not say that the drone is of virgin birth?

Drones are characterized by eyes that are twice the size of those worker bees, and queens. When comparing the head of the drone with those of the queen, one readily notices the compound eyes, those crescent-shaped projections on the side of the head. Three small points, present as well in queen and worker, in a triangle at the top of the head are small eyes, or ocelli. The ocelli are actually three eyes arranged in a triangular pattern, each eye consisting of a simple dense lens, which is made from a thickening of the head exoskeleton, and sensory retinal cells beneath the lens.

A queen bee can lay up to 1500 eggs in one day. In her lifetime, she may lay more than a million eggs. She lays her eggs in special nursery cells of the honeycomb. Each little egg is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. It hatches into a larva in 3 days and comes out of the cell. Worker bees feed a substance called royal jelly to the larva. Royal jelly makes larva grow rapidly. Queen bee larva eat royal jelly for 6 straight days.

Worker bee and drone bee larva are fed royal jelly for 3 days. They then are fed a watery mixture of honey and pollen. After the 6 days of eating, the larva are sealed back into the nursery cells where they make little cocoons and turn into pupa. In about 2 weeks the pupa turn into adult bees. They chew open their wax nursery cells and come out as adults.

The word "apis" meant "bull" to the Egyptians and also "bee" in Latin. This may not be a coincidence. The antennae, or feelers, of a bee protrude like two long "horns " from its head. It used to be believed that bees could be spontaneously generated from the carcasses of bulls, especially if they were buried up to the horns in the ground. This process was known as bougonia. Virgil describes the practice in his Georgics book IV, attributing it to the Egyptians. Some see the bougonia as not so much a symbol of resurrection or rebirth, but rather "an exchange of death for life".

It has been said that the Goddess was depicted as “Queen Bee” by the Minoans and that bees were believed to have been closely tied to bull worship, once dedicated to the Goddess. The bee and the bull had similar mystical meanings. The Minoans believed that the bees were the spirits of dead sacred bulls. Seals and gemstones often showed a bee on one side and a bull on the other.

Also of note are the bee-masked priestesses which appear on Minoan seals and the Goddess figure of Merope, meaning “honey-faced”, found in Greek mythology. This evidence points towards the possibility that the female representation found in the pendant of gold bees is not merely decorative, but an intentional composition created to symbolize the Great Goddess.

We used the honeybee, Apis mellifera, in which queens are highly polyandrous and able to maintain sperm viable for several years. We identified over a hundred proteins representing the major constituents of the spermathecal fluid, which females contribute to sperm in storage. We found that the gel profile of proteins from spermathecal fluid is very similar to the secretions of the spermathecal gland and concluded that the spermathecal glands are the main contributors to the spermathecal fluid proteome.

A detailed analysis of the spermathecal fluid proteins indicate that they fall into a range of different functional groups, most notably enzymes of energy metabolism and antioxidant defense. A metabolic network analysis comparing the proteins detected in seminal fluid and spermathecal fluid showed a more integrated network is present in the spermathecal fluid that could facilitate long-term storage of sperm.

Abstract: Research on model organisms has substantially advanced our understanding of aging. However, these studies collectively lack any examination of the element of sociality, an important feature of human biology. Social insects present a number of unique possibilities for investigating social influences on aging and potentially detecting new mechanisms for extremely prolonged, healthy life spans that have evolved naturally.

Social evolution has led to life spans in reproductive females that are much longer (up to over 100-fold) than those of males or of nonreproductive worker castes. These differences are particularly dramatic because they are due to environmental influences, as all individuals develop from the same genomes.

Social insect colonies consist of semi-autonomous individuals, and the relationship between the colony and the individual creates many interesting predictions in the light of the common theories of aging. Furthermore, the variety of lifestyles of social insects creates the potential for crucial comparative analyses across distinct social systems.

Queen cups are larger than the cells of normal brood comb and are oriented vertically instead of horizontally - I wonder what is the significance of these factors on development? The queen bee larva is given unlimited rich food, and a larger chamber to grow in, and more exposure to circulating air - all of which must only benefit her growth - but why does it matter that she is vertical?

The compound eyes of bees exhibit hexagonal packing systems, and in some way echo the structure of the hive. The beehive's internal structure is comprised of a densely packed matrix of hexagonal cells made of beeswax, called a honeycomb. Which reminds me of something. When one casts an eye over the "machine" that Maxwell designed to help him in his calculations of EMR, one can't help but see the hexagonal dipolar vortices as a honeycomb structure.

It's funny how the honey bee performs the waggle dance to tell her sisters about a nearby food source in the shape of a figure eight. This figure eight represents a dipolar vortice; one vortex is outlined in a clockwise direction, and the other vortex is done in a counter-clockwise direction. One could almost imagine it was the humble bee which inspired Maxwell into creating his formulas for EMR.

All snowflakes, though never alike, are invariably hexagonal. A hexagon has six sides and six points; in numerology six is the number of man; it is the number of imperfection; the human number. Mind you, just to illustrate the inconsistency to be had in some of these things, others might find that six is far from imperfect:

The [six days of creation] is not perfect because God created the world in 6 days, but rather God perfected the world in 6 days because the number was perfect.
--Vincent Foster Hopper, Medieval Number Symbolism, 1938.

Bees are able to regulate the temperature of the hive throughout the seasons. In the winter the bees cluster around the queen and take turns moving to the cold exterior of the cluster. In the summer they cool the hive and dehydrate the nectar into honey by fanning their wings. If the temperature of the hive rises due to extreme summer temperatures the bees, via an unknown signal, alert all hive members. In response the bees stop what they are doing, even those that are foraging for nectar at a great distance. These tiny insects each collect a drop of water to bring back to the hive to cool it, rushing back and forth with a cargo of moisture until the heat emergency is over.

Amber sounds like it should be related to ambrosia. Etymologists, however, tend to think it has come by mistake from anbar, an Arabic word meaning 'ambergris' (perfumed secretions of the sperm whale); while 'ambrosia' comes from the Greek a - mbrotos meaning 'not mortal' or 'immortal'. So it seems there is nothing between them. Yet they have much in common.

Honey is a key ingredient of ambrosia, and most of the world's amber comes from the Baltic which is characteristically honey-coloured. 'Likeness' rules sympathetic magic. Still in Ajan they go further saying amber is actually honey that has run down the mountain and solidified by the sea.

Honey and amber appear in tombs of Egyptian pharaohs back to 3000 BC, for probably the same reason - both are preservatives. Honey was used for embalming, as was mythical ambrosia; and amber perfectly preserves insects, like bees, in its fossilised resin from pines millions of years old.

Aum is explained in the Upanishads as representing the vast Cosmos and its parts, including past, present and future. It is from this primal vibration from which all physical, mental and spiritual manifestations come forth. This sound can be heard as the sound of one's own nervous system.

Meditators and mystics hear it constantly, very much like the sound made by an electrical transformer or a swarm of bees, or a roaring river or the rushing of the sea. It is a strong, inner experience, one that yogis hold with great reverence. It is the word from which Amen derived.

This is probably one of the longest posts I've made so far. It's hard to resist making it even longer. There's such a wealth of interesting facts, historical tit-bits, and mysticism surrounding the everyday bee, that I almost feel like I am unable to stop myself diving back in and immersing myself in more.

All this talk of the elixir of life has drawn me back to the ear. I think it's possible that the elixir of life has something to do with the otolith organs of the inner ear. I figure that the rate of perception, the rate at which the brain communicates with itself, could be manipulated by the otolith organs, and thereby bend our perception of time. It's in the ear we find we produce something very much in common with honey bees: wax.

Okay it's not exactly beeswax, but tiny glands in the ear canal produce cerumen, which protects the sensitive eardrum. Sound waves bounce off of the eardrum and make it vibrate—very important for hearing. Ear wax protects this tightly stretched membrane from dirt and dust.

Earwax is best described as having shades of amber. The exact composition of earwax varies from person to person and ranges in color from golden-yellow to tan to dark brown or even black. Scientists have not yet discovered exactly what pigment is responsible for giving earwax its color. Indeed, earwax was used in medieval times as a pigment in illuminated manuscripts.

Wet-type earwax has been seen to fluoresce weakly under a UV light. Step with me on a tangent here, but some pieces of amber are known to fluoresce. The Dominican blue amber is known to fluoresce even in daylight. I was wondering, if only for the sake of asking, that there might be something important which shares properties in both earwax and amber?

Many thanks:

Animal Magick By D. J. Conway
The Biology of the Honey Bee By Mark L. Winston
Masonic Symbolism By Charles Clyde Hunt
The Lore of the Honey Bee By Tickner Edwardes

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