Trumpeting The Queen Bee

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.

12 Comments

  1. terence hogan 3 years ago

    I had to laugh at your ‘sum of three plus three’, as 6 is one of the keys to the ancient measuring systems I have been investigating.
    Anyway, re Queen Bee ‘piping’
    Happened to be reading an article on bees by a beekeeper of some thirty years standing who has developed a very ‘green/natural’ way of keeping bees healthy and productive. One part of which is being aware of earth frequencies. Specifically that they like frequencies of around 190 Hz
    and that when they swarm they create a frequency of 250 Hz.
    I used a sound analyser on your embedded track of the queen bee piping and the bottom end is 250 Hz.
    Just another bit of information to file away! Never know when it might bee! useful.
    Cheers
    Terry

  2. Florica Stone 3 years ago

    I have listen to the hive tonight .
    it only made half the sound you shared .

  3. David Gould 5 months ago

    Virgil mentions queen bee piping in the fourth Georgic, and compares it to the sound of a trumpet or bugle. Georgics 4.71-2.

    • Author
      Andrew Gough 5 months ago

      Thank you, David. That is really interesting. Thanks again for sharing.

      Best,

      Andrew

  4. Śrīmaccidānandanātha 4 months ago

    Dear Mr. Gough,

    Speak to brother Śrī Amritananda Nātha Saraswati ( https://amritananda-natha-saraswati.blogspot.com/ ), and kindly ask him to teach you Kumbhantara-śṛṅkhalā.

    śṛṅkhalā-jīva-cāla-meruś-ceti rahasyakam │
    vihāyāṣu kumbheṣu kim-artham-anudhāvanam ║173║

    yoga-dīkṣāṃ vinā kurvan vāta-granthim labhate dhruvam │
    sarvajñena śivenoktaṃ pūjāṃ santyajya māmakīm ║
    yujyataḥ satataṃ devi yogo nāśāya jāyate ║174║

    asuḥ prāṇaḥ tad-aṅgau reca-pūrau tad-uktam │
    dvividhā śṛṅkhalā proktā svaṅgā kumbhāntarādikā ║175║

    pūraḥ kumbhaḥ punaḥ pūraḥ kumbha-pūrau punaḥ punaḥ │
    pūrayet kumbhaka-śrāntaḥ pūra-śrāntaś-ca kumbhayet ║176║

    pūrakaṃ pūrakaṃ kuryāt-tathā kumbhaṃ kumbhakam │
    yāvac-chaktis-tataḥ kuryād-recakaṃ kumbhakaṃ punaḥ ║177║

    recakaṃ kumbhakaṃ kuryād guru-darśita-mārgataḥ │
    recakaṃ recakaṃ kuryāt svaṅga-śṛṅkhaloditā ║178║

    haṃsa-vedhaṃ vinā naiva karttavyaś-ca kadācana │
    īśvara-praṇidhānena sidhyate nātra saṃśayaḥ ║179║

    gurum-īśaṃ samullaṅghya yaḥ kuryāt sa vinaśyati │
    nāśiṣyāya pradātavyo nābhaktāya kadācana ║
    aparīkṣīta-śiṣyāya dadan-duḥkham-avāpnuyāt ║180║

    Yours in the love of truth,

    Śrīmaccidānandanātha

    Notes

    “Wherever the yogi goes, all the wheels turn around him like a swarm of bees around the queen bee.” (Tantraloka of Abhinavagupta, Verse 30)

    Source: https://amritananda-natha-saraswati.blogspot.com/p/for-kashmir-saivism-reality-is-essence.html

    Rumbling of the cloud, the roar of the sea, the hum of of bees, the droning of large black bees, the music of the flute, of the lute, of so many other stringed instruments, the sound of drum, of cymbal and so on. And many many other kinds of Nad are there. It is impossible to draw a complete list, ‘Jai Guru’ Nad, ‘Guru Guru’ Nad, ‘So-ham’ Nad, Om Nad, these are part of one’s experience.

    Source: https://amritananda-natha-saraswati.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_12.html

    “When external sounds are shut out and the mind seeks for the Nada within, he hears within himself step by step a great variety of sounds, such as those of drums and thundering clouds, those of small bells and conches, those of the buzzing of black bees and the music of the flute”

    Source: https://amritananda-natha-saraswati.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_20.html

    “Sweats of passion flow in streams down his temples, Their fragrance draws swarms of bees that swirl about driven by his fanning ears.”
    Source: https://amritananda-natha-saraswati.blogspot.com/p/sweats-of-passion-flow-in-streams-down.html

  5. Śrīmaccidānandanātha 4 months ago

    Dear Mr. Gough, In regard to the (initiatory) practice of Kumbhāntara-śṛṅkhalā, a nodding acquaintance of chapter IX (pages 211 to 255) will stand you in good stead: https://archive.org/stream/ObscureReligiousCultsShashibhushanDasgupta1960ThirdEdition/Obscure%20Religious%20Cults%20Shashibhushan%20Dasgupta%201960%20Third%20Edition#page/n265/mode/2up Likewise, (for practical knowledge) see pages 93 to 97 of the Kuṇḍalinīvijñāna-Rahasyam. One hopes the truth of these words finds you. Kind regards, Śrīmaccidānandanātha

  6. Śrīmaccidānandanātha 4 months ago

    My apology, here is the link to the Kuṇḍalinīvijñāna-Rahasyam: http://cincinnatitemple.com/articles/Awakening-of-Supreme-Conscious-Swami-LakshmanKamal.pdf

  7. Śrīmaccidānandanātha 4 months ago

    Śrīmaccidānandanātha said: ‘Subjective’ (in the mind) perception of God is relative to each and every mind’s point of view (formed by saṃskāra) to the ‘objective’ (external reality) perceived as a construct of mind; this external reality is used by the mind to form a false ‘subjective’ image (māyā) of God. As each individual divided mind perceives its own form of māyā, the iterations of this false construct are endless. Only the undivided mind as a true reflection of god is able to perceive God by becoming God; to know God is in truth to “know yourself.” To know One’s own true self is to go beyond both ‘subjective’ (duality of mind) and ‘objective’ (duality of the physical).

    In other words, ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ are a never-ending merry-go-round, a self-driven trap which ensnares the mind.

    The staff of wisdom has the cold knowledge of science at one end and the warm grip of faith at the other, a point of balance exists between the two, this is where the free thinking man using the tools of his own unshackled mind moves the finger of his intellect to the centre, and on finding this point of balance, even on the smallest grain of truth his wisdom will be supported in all things.
    One must use wisdom and morality to find truth; it is in the love of truth that one goes forward into the light.”

    Hence the use of the early Christian (pneumatikós) symbol of the fish (ἰχθύς) representing the star (door or gateway seen by the pneumatic). This symbol (for star) may be equated to the Indus Valley pictogram “meen”, and also “vata + meen” (hence the symbolism of Buddha’s Peepal tree).

    True brilliance is to be found by simply letting go:

    § 178b of the Kumbhaka Paddhati of Raghuvīra describes the practice of letting go, the (undivided) vehicle of the conscious light-body merging as one with the great light of the primordial being (the one before all others):

    “īśvara-praṇidhānena sidhyate nātra saṃśayaḥ ║179║

    Claim possession of one’s own self, by going out forth in front into the bright splendour (great light) in original form (of the light body) and laying down the physical body; in this manner become perfect by ones will, attain one’s aim unloosing (like an arrow/missile) made to spring foreword (before the brow) and hit the mark (179b).”

    The breath stops, a revolving circular ingress opens up before the yogin’s brow, and one’s lucid consciousness leaves the physical body springing through this revolving cloud fringed door and enters a torsion womb of light to become as one with the great light (there are no words thereafter to describe this).

    When one leaves the light and returns re-born back into the physical body, it is to the sound of the inhalated breath (sah!).

    The Bhagavad-gītā (12.5) also describes the same:

    kleśo’dhikataras teṣām avyaktāsakta-cetasām
    avyaktā hi gatir duḥkhaṁ dehavadbhir avāpyate

    The source of suffering are the five afflictions (avidyā, asmitā, rāga, dveṣa, abhiniveśa), additional strength (of will is required) by those (in practice) to produce the desired amount ([of shakti] to rise up, to mount above the skull) of the desired effect ([to] accomplish – to come out [of the flesh] in the vehicle of the conscious light-body) to carry over and pass through to embrace (the heart of consciousness) and make (the un-manifested) visible; because, just, indeed, surely moving (to go), passage (to the) goal with difficulty (through) the cavity of the (revolving) wheel through which the axis runs by the (anointed) embodied ones who possesses a body, it (the goal, refuge [of light]) is obtained.

    Regarding the symbolic allegory of Matsyendranath’s fish, see the Indus Valley pictogram “meen”, and also “vata + meen” (think Star of Brahmin [“the” light seen in meditation]; yes, Buddha’s Peepal tree also represents this same aspect of meditation):

    https://www.harappa.com/script/diction.html

    See also: https://www.harappa.com/script/parpola11.html

    And: https://www.harappa.com/script/parpola10.html

    And: https://www.harappa.com/script/parpola15.html

    And: https://www.harappa.com/script/parpola7.html

    Kind regards,
    śrīmaccidānandanātha

    Notes

    Some suggested supplementary reading:

    https://www.academia.edu/3773137/Translation_of_the_Datt%C4%81treyayoga%C5%9B%C4%81stra_the_earliest_text_to_teach_ha%E1%B9%ADhayoga

    https://www.academia.edu/3203294/The_Yoga_of_the_M%C4%81lin%C4%ABvijayottaratantra._Collection_Indologie_97._Institut_fran%C3%A7ais_de_Pondich%C3%A9ry._Ecole_fran%C3%A7aise_dExtr%C3%AAme-Orient_Pondich%C3%A9ry._2004

    https://www.academia.edu/13710480/Quintessence_of_the_Highest_Purpose_A_Translation_Introduction_and_Analysis_of_%C5%9Ar%C4%AB_Abhinavaguptas_Param%C4%81rthas%C4%81ra

    https://www.academia.edu/19859118/The_Potential_of_the_Bi-Directional_Gaze_A_Call_for_Neuroscientific_Research_on_the_Simultaneous_Activation_of_the_Sympathetic_and_Parasympathetic_Nervous_Systems_through_Tantric_Practice

  8. Śrīmaccidānandanātha 4 months ago

    Dear Mr Gough,

    Research the ‘exterior left and right panels’ of the second shrine of Tut-ankh-amon (see note 1), using the ‘template’ of Indic ‘sahajiya practices’ of raising the sublimated procreative-life-force energy (using the breath) as described in Dr. Shashibhusan Dasgupta’s Book “Obscure Religious Cults (see note 2) in order to understand the text and symbols depicted on the second shrine (which is a set of instructions on [the stages of, and] how to raise the serpent energy in the body).

    Kind regards,
    Śrīmaccidānandanātha

    Notes

    1. See pages 93 to 131 of Alexandre Piankoff’s book “The Shrines of Tut-Ank-Amon”

    https://www.amazon.com/Shrines-Tut-Ankh-Amon-Alexandre-Piankoff/dp/B000H8B0GS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1522933212&sr=1-1&dpID=513CpPr1loL&preST=_SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch

    2. Shashibhusan Dasgupta’s “Obscure Religious Cults” is probably one of the best introductory (no nonsense) books giving insight of the practices of Indian sahajiyism, see:

    https://archive.org/stream/ObscureReligiousCultsShashibhushanDasgupta1960ThirdEdition/Obscure%20Religious%20Cults%20Shashibhushan%20Dasgupta%201960%20Third%20Edition#page/n289/mode/2up

  9. Śrīmaccidānandanātha 4 months ago

    Dear Mr Gough,

    Piece together Harry Burton’s original photographs of the second shrine of Tutankhamun and use them as a reference to work from:

    http://www.griffith.ox.ac.uk/gri/4tutshr25.html

    Śrīmaccidānandanātha

    Kind regards

  10. Śrīmaccidānandanātha 4 months ago

    The Queen Shrieks; The Shock of Ancient Egyptian Poetry:

    http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/queen-shrieks-shock-ancient-egyptian-poetry

  11. Śrīmaccidānandanātha 1 month ago

    Dear Mr Gough,

    Take time to watch this Youtube video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BThTwwNXeLI

    (Wilten’s YouTube video starts to get really interesting from 6:54 onwards)

    Notes

    “πάντων χρημάτων μέτρον ἐστὶν ἄνθρωπος, τῶν μὲν ὄντων ὡς ἔστιν, τῶν δὲ οὐκ ὄντων ὡς οὐκ ἔστιν.”

    “Of all things the measure is man, of the things that are, that [or “how”] they are, and of things that are not, that [or “how”] they are not.”

    – Protagoras (490-420 BC)

    From Homo-mensura (Man-measure) statement (DK80b1 – Diels-Kranz numbering system), quoted in the ‘Adversus Mathematicos VII 60’ by Sextus Empiricus (160 – 210 AD).

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