Do bees beelieve in God?
Perhaps it would be more appropriate to ask, does God believe in bees? The answer, apparently, is a resounding yes! In fact, it is quite possible that both ambrosia and ‘nectar’, the two forms of sustenance consumed by the Greek gods, were in reality types of honey. The mythical ability of these foods to confer immortality may well have derived from the healing and antibacterial powers associated with honey.
References to bees and honey are littered throughout the scriptures of most major religions. The Promised Land of the Israelites was said to have been ‘flowing with milk and honey’ and there are numerous other references to honey in the Bible. While wandering in the wilderness, John the Baptist apparently survived on a diet of locusts and wild honey. Bees are also mentioned a number of times, and historically the bee has also been held as a symbol of Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church once required nothing but pure beeswax candles for their places of worship, as they produce a bright flame without odour or smoke. They are even credited with the introduction of honeybees into South America to ensure a ready supply of beeswax.
Honey is also traditionally symbolic of the Jewish New Year celebration of Rosh Hashana, when it is eaten with slices of apple and unleavened bread. Similarly, an entire chapter of the Quran is entitled ‘The Bee’. Both the Quran and the Haditha (containing the sayings of the Prophet) exhort the healing properties of honey, while rivers of honey are described in paradise.
Likewise, honey is pivotal to the Buddhist festival of Madhu Purnima. This commemorates Buddha broking peace between rival factions of his disciples when he retreated into the wilderness. Whilst there, he received a gift of honey from a monkey. Early Hindu scriptures, estimated to date back as far as 1,500BC, refer to honey as ‘the nectar of the Sun’, while honey also features in a Sikh parable to encourage charity towards the poor.
In fact, it is difficult to find a religious creed or doctrine that does not esteem the virtues of bees and honey in some way. The Yoruba people of Africa speak of the goddess Oshun, who was only appeased with gifts of honey, and used it to enhance her beauty. The contemporary Pagan Witchcraft movement (Wicca) sometimes use offerings of honey on their altars. Perhaps the last word should come from the book of Proverbs 24: 13-14; ‘Eat honey, my son, for it is good; honey from the comb is sweetto your taste. Know also that wisdom is like honey for you. If you find it, there is a future hope for you.’