Beeholdium

I am excited to present my updated Hidden Hive of History in Glastonbury – the ancient Beekeepers Island – at the inaugural Beeholdium festival this month.

Beeholdium

As you may know, the Hidden Hive of History is my body of research around the veneration of the honeybee.

In my two-part talk I will examine the lost tradition of the most deified god or goddess that has ever existed: the honeybee – the forgotten god of the ancients. The presentation will graphically chronicle a sacred tradition that has existed for over 100 million years. In the process I will illustrate how an awareness of this lost tradition brings new insight into enigmas such as Atlantis, the Sphinx, goddess worship, the Grail, religion, politics, Freemasonry, the Illuminati and, most importantly, our own wellbeing and the preservation of our planet, Earth.

It is going to be a fantastic weekend, with loads of amazing presenters and exhibitors. You can check it all out here (www.beeholdium.com).

I hope you can join me.

Andrew

Trumpeting The Queen Bee

I recently had the pleasure of meeting two fascinating bee experts, Debra Roberts and Filiz Telek. The three of us dined at an unassuming, but superb, little restaurant in Istanbul’s Galata district and, as you might expect, we discussed bees.

Resturant

The Galata restaurant where we dined. © Andrew Gough

We took turns enthusiastically sharing our stories, and over dessert Debra, who teaches beekeeping, recounted the first time she experienced queen-bee piping, or the name given to the extraordinary noise made by the queen bee during its birth and introduction into the hive.

Debra

 Debra preparing to smoke the beehive

I was enthralled, but had to confess that I was only vaguely familiar with the phenomenon. Debra asked me to look into it, for she felt it must have been important to ancient cultures, and was hoping to trace its influence. Later that night she emailed to me an audio recording of the queen-bee piping, and I listened to it intently. I became more mesmerised by the haunting sound with each and every play.

Debra’s recording of the queen bee piping: 

Adult_queen_bee

 An adult queen bee

I knew that ancient cultures were aware of at least some of the bee’s idiosyncratic traits. For instance, the Greek philosopher, Aristotle (384–322 BCE), had written about the bee’s waggle dance, and my research suggested that he was not the first to notice, or be influenced by, this ancient form of satellite navigation. But was there evidence that the ancients knew about queen-bee piping and, if so, did they incorporate the unique sound into their customs and rituals in any demonstrable way?

As I listened to the recording with my headphones, I at first thought the queen-bee piping sounded like bagpipes, or other ancient wind instruments, even the didgeridoo. Upon further contemplation, it also reminded me of a trumpet; an instrument, serendipitously enough, that has a long history of being used in ceremonies where ‘royalty’ is introduced, much like when the queen bee introduces herself to the hive and affirms her supremacy with that astonishing sound. I was intrigued.

I spent the next few hours poring through my beekeeping library, and other sources, and although I could not find direct evidence that the ancients mimicked or otherwise paid homage to the sound of the queen bee’s piping, I was surprised at how many ancient musical instruments had been crafted to replicate the sounds of nature – animal noises in particular.

I also came across the musical genre known as ‘drone’, a minimalist style characterised by the use of sustained notes – just like the buzzing sound of a bee. Before becoming popular with experimental artists like the Velvet Underground, Brian Eno and an assortment of German bands (such as Can and Kraftwerk), drone music was accompanied by Byzantine chants, or what is known as drone-singing. Curiously, many musical scholars believe that drone-singing was an attempt to imitate the bagpipe; an instrument that contrary to popular belief, did not originate in Scotland. In fact, a sculpture of bagpipes, over 3,000 years old, has been identified on a Hittite slab at Euyuk in the Middle East, and bagpipes were known about and practised by numerous ancient cultures, including the Egyptians.

Turkey Piping

I came across a variant of ancient instruments, including bagpipes, on a recent trip to Hierapolis, an ancient city situated on hot springs in Phrygia, south-western Anatolia. © Andrew Gough

The fact that ancient Egyptians practised a reeded form of the bagpipe that was later adopted by Rome is interesting, for the Egyptian King was known as the ‘Beekeeper’, held the title ‘He of the Sedge and the Bee’, and featured an image of a bee in his cartouche. Esteemed positions in the Royal Court of the Old and Middle Kingdoms held the title of the ‘Sealer of the Honey’ and ‘Overseer of the Beekeepers’, reflective of the importance of bees, and their by-products, in Egyptian culture. Even the ancient Goddess, Neith, lived in the ‘House of the Bee’, and the equally ancient God, Osiris, was buried in the ‘Mansion of the Bee’, both in Sais, the former delta capital, whose pillar inscriptions spawned the legend of Atlantis.

Additionally, many Egyptian royals included images of beekeeping on the walls of their tombs, such as the Theban Tomb (TT100) of Rekhmire, a noble of the Eighteenth Dynasty, who held the title of High Priest of Heliopolis, Vizier and Prince during the reigns of Thutmosis III and Amenhotep II. There is also the Theban Tomb of Pabasa (TT279), Chief Steward to Nitocris I, Divine Adoratrice of Amun, of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty. However, the most ancient, and perhaps the most notable, is Nyuserre Ini, the sixth King of the Fifth Dynasty, whose Sun Temple and pyramid at Abu Gurab, in Saqqara, illustrates the art of Egyptian beekeeping, fully formed, around 2400 BCE.

Andy at Sun Temple

 Author at the Abu Gurab Sun Temple, on the spot where the relief depicting beekeeping was located before a recent earthquake collapsed it. © Andrew Gough

abeille-miel-peinture-egypte-ne-user-re-abou-ghorab

 A sketch of the beekeeping relief from the Abu Gurab Sun Temple, 2400 BCE

However, the ancient Egyptians also revered the trumpet and two allegedly magical trumpets, one silver and one bronze, were found in Tutankhamun’s tomb. Not only do they remain the oldest operative trumpets in the world, they are believed to incite war when played. So, did the bee-loving Egyptians embrace the bagpipe or trumpet, because it reminded them of the queen-bee piping? As much as I would like to believe this was so, I simply could not say.

Tut tuttrumpet

 Tutankhamun’s trumpets

I was also reminded that the sound of bees humming – not a buzzing sound per se, but the explicit sounds of bees – has been recounted by individuals during yoga, near death experiences, apparitions, and even alien-abduction experiences. In Indian mythology the sound of a bee humming was emulated in Vedic chants. Certainly, the sound of the bee seemed significant, but the question remained, what about the sound of the queen-bee piping?

It was approaching 2am, but I carried on and soon dug up a curious reference to bees and piping in the Old Testament:

Isaiah 7:18:  “And it will be in that day that the Lord will make a piping sound for the fly which is in the end of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee which is in the land of Assyria.”

Academia’s explanation for the seemingly perplexing statement is that the fly and the bee refer to the armies of Egypt and Assyria, respectively. While this elucidation is possible, I remained unconvinced, and have my own theories, although they remain a work in progress. Still, for now, I could offer no better explanation, other than to say, it’s an interesting turn of phrase, and I am going to continue to give it some thought.

At first glance I had been unable to confirm Debra’s suspicion that the sound of the queen-bee piping was revered by the ancients, but my investigation has only just begun. And with this sort of thing awareness is the first step towards enlightenment. Time will tell what the bees want me to know.

The Fleur-de-Lis and the Bee

Stylised images of bees, many of which are indiscernible to the pedestrian eye, have symbolised goddesses for tens of thousands of years. One quite famous image that many believe symbolises a bee, albeit a more modern image than the famous goddess statues from pre-history, is the fleur-de-lis. As tantalising as this association may be, I’ve always felt that it lacked sufficient visual evidence. However, I recently came across an intriguing family crest in southern Germany, which may begin to change my opinion on the matter. Before examining the find, I would like to review another iconic image that has received somewhat greater acceptance with respect to its association with the bee. I speak of the double axe.

goddess_gough13

Did the double axe of the Minoans depict a stylised bee / goddess?

In 1958 an obscure but scholarly book, Apiculture in the Prehistoric Aegean, suggested that the double axe of the Minoans was actually a stylised bee. This resonates with my own research, which has revealed that archeologists in the Neolithic settlement of Çatalhöyük, Turkey, observed that the double axes they were excavating resembled butterflies, images of which are easily mistaken for bees. (Çatalhöyük contains a wealth of bee symbolism, which I have chronicled in my research and which I discuss in my lectures.)

In other words, the double axes of both cultures appear to have been veiled in similar, if not identical, symbolism. This is intriguing, for DNA has revealed that the people of Çatalhöyük migrated to Minoan Crete. What’s more, the word labrys, derives from the ancient Turkish (Lydian) word for ‘double axe’, and Knossos, the capital of Minoan Crete, was known as the ‘Palace of the Double Axe’. Given that the double axe represents a stylised bee and/or goddess, this renders Knossos not the ‘Palace of the Double Axe’, but rather the ‘Palace of THE BEE (Goddess)’.

This realisation also demands that we re-examine the notion of the ‘Labyrinth’ at Knossos (which I discuss in my lectures), as this word also derives from labrys. Linguistics aside, even on the most cursory of levels the bee’s significance in Knossos is hard to refute. Take, for example, the account of King Minos, whose son drowned in a vat of honey, an illuminating fact whose implications have been largely overlooked.

Jar

One could see how a child could easily drown in one of the gigantic pithoi, or storage jars, used at Knossos © Andrew Gough

This brings us to the assertion that the fleur-de-lis may also have represented a bee, a theory supported by many, including the French physician, antiquary and archaeologist, Jean-Jacques Chifflet. However, to understand how such an iconic symbol could represent a bee, we must first understand the bee’s importance in French culture.

Napoleon Bonaparte, the famed military and political leader of France, ensured that the bee was widely adopted in his court, as well as in the clothing, draperies, carpets and furniture of the country at large. By choosing the bee as the emblem of his reign, Napoleon was paying homage to Childeric (436–481), one of the ‘long-haired’ Merovingian kings of the region known as Gaul. When Childeric’s tomb was uncovered in 1653 it was found to contain 300 golden jewels, styled in the image of a bee, and these are the same bees that Napoleon had affixed to his coronation robe.

Napoleon’s choice of the bee as the national emblem of his imperial rule also spoke volumes about his desire to be associated with the Carolingians and Merovingians, the early French kings whose funerary furniture featured bee and cicada symbolism as a metaphor for resurrection and immortality. The bee was a hugely important icon of Napoleon’s reign and his obsession with its symbolism gave rise to his nickname, the Bee.

The bee was also a vital symbol of French industry and one of the most prominent emblems of the French Revolution (1789–1799). In fact, Louis XII, King of France, was known as the ‘father of the pope’ and had featured a beehive in his coat of arms. And so the bee remained a prominent element of French culture throughout the First and Second Empires (1804-1814 and 1852-1870) due to the enthusiastic patronage it had previously received.

beeas fdl 2

Does the fleur-de-lis represent a bee?

Despite the plausibility that the fleur-de-lis may symbolise the bee, I had remained skeptical of the possibility until, that is, only recently.

In August 2014 I travelled to Lake Constance, an idyllic setting in the shadow of the Alps, nestled on the borders of Germany, Switzerland and Austria, to present the body of research I call the Hidden Hive of History.

The day after my presentation, on my birthday, I received an unexpected present, for on the shore of Lake Constance, in Konstanz Cathedral, I found a coat of arms that visually associated the bee with the fleur-de-lis.

CoA

Does this Coat of Arms in Konstanz Cathedra represent the fleur-de-lis as a bee?  © Andrew Gough

The coat of arms, one of many in Konstanz Cathedral, depicted six beehives beneath three fleur-de-lis, complete with an entrance to the hive. It even depicted two bees on either side of the hives. Above the image is a gold crown, representing royalty, a concept that has been associated with bees for thousands of years. While many coats of arms depict bees and many, of course, depict the fleur-de-lis, this was the first time I had seen them associated in such an unambiguous fashion.

The coat of arms in Konstanz Cathedral does not prove that the fleur-de-lis symbolises the bee, but it does graphically illustrate that there exists a belief that the bee was, and still is, a vital symbol of our past, present and future. And that is worth remembering.

World Premiere of Vanishing of the Bees

I have my friend Simon Buxton to thank for introducing me to Maryam Henein, the talented Co-Director / Producer of Vanishing of the Bees, and I recently had the pleasure of attending the world premiere of her important new film.  

 

Along with Co-Director / Producer, George Langworthy, Maryam has produced a superb, must-see film that captures the world of the honey bee and its relationship with man in compelling fashion. The film is provocative and unrelenting in its message: pesticides appear to be killing the honey bee and if the US Environmental Protection Agency and others do not intervene and stop the web of corruption that is allowing the problem to go unattended, then the results will be catastrophic – and not just for the honey bee.

Maryam Henein
© Vanishing of the Bees

 

Vanishing of the Bees is a wonderfully crafted film, engaging and lovely to watch. More importantly, it highlights what is truly at stake:

Bees represent a $16-billion industry on the edge of collapse and, tragically, the species is at the point of annihilation. Not only does this present catastrophic agricultural consequences, but an ancient and sacred tradition is now in jeopardy.

The film’s excellent website succinctly highlights the dilemma;

“Bees provide 1/3 of everything we eat and without them farming would be thrown into chaos. 80% of insect-pollinated plants rely on the honey bee to bring them to life. Without the honey bee crops of over 90 fruits and vegetables would be seriously diminished, if not completely lost…”

A still from Vanishing of the Bees
© Vanishing of the Bees

 

Despite the serious and rather distressing reality of Vanishing of the Bees, the premiere, which was held at London’s posh Mayfair Hotel, was a celebration of the directors’ success in getting the message out.

With the proud filmmakers, Maryam Henein and George Langworthy

 

A highlight of the evening was the speakers’ panel, held immediately after the premiere. Chaired by the film’s supporters, the co-operative, the panel of experts addressed a variety of spirited questions from the audience, which underscored the political complexity that the resolution of the dilemma will require, what with powerful corporations such as Bayer dictating the acceptance of their own products by the US government; products that appear to be killing the honey bees.

The speakers’ panel: director, Maryam Henein, addresses the audience

 

In addition to Alison Benjamin, co-author of the excellent book, ‘World Without Bees’, the panel included David Hackenberg, the former president of the American Beekeeping Federation and, arguably, the single most important voice in beekeeping today. It was Hackenberg who first spoke out on the demise of the bees and who has acted as the movement’s advocate ever since. Hackenberg is featured in the film and his insights on the night were memorable and special.

With David Hackenberg, the man who focused the world’s attention on the demise of the honey bee

 

The gala was also attended by its share of UK notables, including Oasis front man Liam Gallagher, who extended his support for the honey bee and mused: “I like honey. If it weren’t for honey, I’d have a rough voice". 

Oasis’s Liam Gallagher meets a bee
© http://vanishingbees.co.uk/blog/>

 

I was also able to meet up with EastEnders star, Michelle Collins, who gave her support to the honey bee, and even the honey bee himself!

 

With EastEnders star, Michelle Collins, and ‘the honey bee’

 

The evening was a great success, but, make no mistake, the situation is dire. Awareness is half the battle, however, and films like Vanishing of the Bees are vital to the solution. What can you do to help?  Look for Vanishing of the Bees in a theatre near you. Support it. Watch it. It’s a great film. Then, take action.

Congratulations to all involved. Viva Maryam and George. Viva the honey bee.

© http://vanishingbees.co.uk