Bees, Beeswax, and Brighid

Queen bee 1
Image by quisnovus via Flickr

A while ago I was at the farmer’s market in Powell River and I decided to buy something from the bee man. There were many awesome things, but eventually I decided on a block of beeswax. I had no idea what I’d use it for, though I was vaguely thinking of it as a sewing aid — much more effective to swipe your thread across beeswax to defray and stiffen it prior to threading your needle.

Instead, however, I put it on my altar. And it continues to stay on my altar to this day, though I do also use it for sewing occasionally. It smells strongly — and if you’ve ever smelled beeswax you know the amazing, delicious scent of which I speak. And as I puzzled out why I’d put it on my altar, a small epiphany came to me: Brighid is associated with bees.

I had no idea if my UPG was academically sound, or if we would ever know truly if Brighid were historically associated with bees. I did some research, and found one reference to the nuns of Kildare — who were sworn to St. Brighid — keeping bees. Good enough for me. (I currently can’t find the source back, but if I do I’ll add in a link to this post.)

Regardless the lack of scholarly sources, Brighid hasn’t vetoed the bee association; in fact, She seems to agree with my estimation. As I’m not recon, academic research does not take precedence over divine inspiration (though the two are closer to equal than unbalanced), and Her approval is also good enough for me.

Bees are immensely important to earth’s ecosystem, pollinating as much as they do. The sweet tooth in me also says they’re important because OMG HONEY. They’re also featured in novels about witches (Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett and The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk, and probably more that I haven’t read yet) and I’m sure that’s not a coincidence. Witches’ covens are often said to ‘hive’ off.

Bees are also negatively associated with feminists by misogynistic MRAs and the like, accusing us of ‘hivemind’ — ie, that we can’t think for ourselves (and they’re just so frackin’ enlightened, clinging to the ideals of patriarchy and never forging any new paths).

Thing is, I don’t see anything wrong with hivemind: what a true sense of community. And I believe that we humans do have a hivemind, deep within our consciousnesses, connecting us all.

This doesn’t mean hearts and rainbows and lollipops because tra la, we’re all the same and covered in glitter. No. It means we’re all connected. And that means that we’re equally capable of all the beauty the human race has to offer as well as all the misery.

The lesson of bees to to learn to work together to create beautiful sweetness. Or the hive will die.

And there, I think, is the association with Brighid. She rules the hearth fire, where the family gathers for warmth and food. She rules the smith, where broken metal is forged back together, made stronger. She rules the fires of healing, mending those who have been hurt — much as beeswax ointments heal minor wounds, and raw local honey helps keep allergies at bay. She gives cattle to those in need, making Her a goddess of social justice as well. And She rules the fire in the head, the great font of creativity we humans have. The place from which our art and beauty — our own form of honey — comes.

ETA: Other participants in the Pagan Blog Project have also written about bees this week. Check out the links below to read their posts.

The Whimsical Cottage: On Bees

La Voix d’Aliénor: Bees and me

Please note that this entry probably makes little to no sense as I’m still wandering in concussion-fog.

18 replies on “Bees, Beeswax, and Brighid”

  1. Thank you for sharing this with us. 🙂 Here, in my little corner in Belgium, I don’t know where to find beeswax but it’s something I really want to find and buy “local”, not online.
    I didn’t know bees are associated with feminists (ie, that we can’t think for ourselves). >___> I think our societies have totally lost the core of the concept of “community”: nowadays we live only for ourselves, in a very egoist way. We are only interested in our profit, our well being, etc. I’m generalizing but it illustrates the idea. The concept of deep connection between members of a community has been lost somewhere in the evolution of man (or the evolution of society).

    1. It’s really amazing the amount of things that can be negatively (and erroneously) associated with feminists. Can’t throw a stone on the internet without hitting at least one of them.

      I wish you luck in finding beeswax…are there any farmer’s markets in your area? That may be a good place to start. 🙂

  2. I think you’re spot on about connecting Brighid and bees, after all she is a queen bee and I also love both honey, the scent of beeswax and bees themselves to. Perhaps she would be the perfect goddess to call upon to ask for help with saving the bees.

    1. Thank you. And perhaps you’re right — I’ve often thought of Brighid as a goddess associated with social justice and environmental concerns in general, so it wouldn’t be a stretch for Her to be associated with keeping our bees healthy.

  3. I agree that people are all interconnected. As much as some people prefer their individualism, it’s hard not to believe in an underlying connection.

    As something random, my name means “honeybee” in Greek, and yet I’ve been scared of bees after being stung by one as a kid.

    1. What’s weird is as soon as I saw your name I knew it meant ‘bee’ or was related somehow, but I’m not sure how I knew that. Anyway, feel you on being scared — well, at least wary of bees: I got stung several times when I was younger, and once the stinger stayed in my body for a year. So. That was fun. (Also, once I woke up because I felt something crawling on me and there was a bee in my bed. How does that even happen. It was winter in BC. What.)

      And the Cult of Individualism is very pervasive, and seductive. So I can see why people hold to it so strongly.

      1. I have some weird bee stories, though maybe not as strange as their being a bee in my bed. I thought a lot of bees died in the winter? Or at least hibernated.

        The reason I am terrified of them after being stung is because the bee was under my dress, and I happened to push on the lump that was the bee and it stung me. (I think I was a little scared of wearing dresses after that too, because I went through a period of not wearing them.)
        Another time, I was hanging out at a pool, and my mom saw a bee flying around me as I was walking by her so she pushed me into the pool. Luckily, I didn’t develop a fear of swimming since that’s one of the only things I can do without modification.

        There’s also this weird event…In October, my boyfriend’s parents came up for a visit,and we went to Value Village to look around. My boyfriend decided to get a new coat,. He tried it on in the store and it was fine. When we were in the car and leaving, he decided to put the coat on again, and a dead hornet fell out of it. He went to get rid of it, and, not even thinking, I said “Are you sure it’s dead?” And he answered me completely seriously that he was sure it was. His parents thought this was absolutely hilarious. For Christmas this year his dad got me a hornet/bee stuffed animal as a nod to that little joke.

  4. You’ve been awarded the Lovely Blog Award by ME!

    I’ll give you the rules (because aren’t there always rules?)

    1. You must thank the person in your blog entry that awarded you the award.
    2. You have to list seven things that make you happy.
    3. You then tag seven blogs that you think qualify for this award (friendly, happy, informative) and let them know.

    Obviously, you don’t have to do this little chore, but you should at least know that I think your blog qualifies as lovely.

    And the picture-thing that goes with the award thing… (I can’t seem to figure out how to get it to post in my comment, so, you get the direct link!)

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