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.