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A lot of people see bees as, well…just bees. But did you know that these little critters are actually very symbolic? Being such a common species all over the planet (apart from the South Pole), it’s no wonder that bees have become a feature in myth, folklore, and legend. But what do bees symbolize?
The symbolic meaning of bees differs according to culture but they have been used as a symbol of hard work, prosperity and even fertility.
I don’t know about you but I love looking into the hidden meaning of things so I wanted to gain a better understanding of bee symbolism and did some research. I’m really excited to share what I discovered with you.
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Over the ages, various cultures and communities have had their own tales and myths, some of which have become incredibly famous. The humble little bee seems to feature heavily in many cultures from the Romans to the Greeks and even in various religions.
In Roman mythology, bees have a very special place and it’s not uncommon to see a Roman God feasting on honey in order to boost their immortality. In fact, it was even a popular practice for humans to offer honey to statues of their Gods.
There was one God from Roman times called Dionysus – the God of wine, who spent his childhood eating honey and living in a cave. He saw this substance as incredibly sacred and many attribute the practice of apiculture to this God.
Bees were not an uncommon sight in the stories from Ancient Greece with even those as sacred as Zeus having bees to thank for his very existence. You see, Zeus’ father wanted to kill him but his mother was having none of it. So, she ushered her son into a cave which happened to also be home to a colony of bees.
The young Zeus spent his childhood consuming honey and, once he grew up, he defeated his father and became the new godly king! Zeus believed that the honey from the bees was to thank for his victory so he rewarded them with the beautiful golden color that we see today. It’s also said that he gave them the ability to survive the cold but any honey beekeeper will tell you that’s definitely a myth!
Another interesting story from Greek mythology involves the Nine Muses whose connection with bees dubbed these creatures the birds of the muses. It’s said that this group of goddesses would send bees to place honey onto the lips of humans to make them sing sweetly.
When we think of religion or spirituality, we might not instantly imagine bees but if you look more closely, you’ll see that they’re a common theme in many religious texts; most notably within the Christian and Jewish faiths.
One of the most famous references to bees in the Bible comes from the book of Exodus where there is a reference to the land of milk and honey. This was talking about the promised land by God to the Israelites showing that honey was seen as a very precious substance.
However, there are lots of other meanings within the spiritual world when it comes to bees including their symbolism of hard work which also translates into a sign of wealth and abundance. What’s more, bees are references in religion when looking at leadership thanks to the queen bee who leads the entire hive which may contain tens of thousands of bees!
In addition to this, there is a symbol of love for one’s family where bees are concerned owing to their tight-knit communities and that they will do anything to protect their own.
In North America today, we have mainly European honey bees since the native honey bee went extinct after around 14 million years on the continent. However, when these new bees were introduced in the 1600s, the Native Americans nicknamed them the white man’s flies but despite this, bees play a very significant role in Cherokee myth.
For example, it is said that, many years ago when people requested food from the creator, they were given bees which in turn produced honey. The bees in this legend did not sting and presented humans with as much honey as they could. However, this made the humans greedy and the bees could not meet their demands so humans went back to God to complain. Despite being given more flowers, the bees still had a hard time meeting the humans’ demands who became more and more aggressive. In response to this, the creator endowed the bees with stingers as a way of protecting themselves from humans.
As we have seen, bees can represent a whole host of things. They are such hard-working and dedicated creatures that this hardly comes as a surprise. Here is a list of the most common bee symbols in religion, mythology and beyond.
- Bees are known to represent fertility because of their role as pollinators. Did you know that bees are responsible for the pollination of more than a quarter of a million plant species?
- Bees are also a symbol of dedication because of the same quality seen in the workers and queen bees.
- Since bees use their finely tuned senses to detect flowers, they’re also a symbol of focus.
- Bees that live in colonies work together to ensure everything runs smoothly which is why they’re often seen as a symbol of teamwork.
- Owing to the fact that bees allow humans to harvest their honey, they’re sometimes seen as a symbol of generosity.
- Hard work is another bee symbol which comes as no surprise as these are incredibly hard-working animals.
- Finally, bees are often seen as a symbol of prosperity since all of their hard work results in a bountiful harvest of honey.
There are some cultures that believe bees are associated with wealth. For example, if a bee were to enter the home or even just land on you then it’s thought that this is a sign that wealth is forthcoming. Many people will leave their windows open so that bees can freely come and go. However, if you try to shoo the bee out of your home then you’re also pushing away the good luck.
In the home, it’s not uncommon for people to place bee statues or symbols around in line with feng shui. This is also thought to bring luck in terms of wealth.
In the United Kingdom, in Cornwall, there is a belief that beehives should only be moved on Good Friday. This refers back to the Christian belief that there was a hum of bees the day before Jesus’ birth, almost like a foretelling.
We often hear about animals symbolizing various things and the bee is no different. If you’ve ever asked yourself what do bees symbolize then think about their behavior and you won’t go far wrong. These are hardworking creatures that are rewarded with an abundance of honey so symbols of hard work, dedication, wealth, and good luck all tie in with this.
Bees have featured in mythology, religion and various cultures for many thousands of years and they still play an important role in the symbolic world today.