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Totems: Bees

by Cie Simurro, a.k.a. Thunderbird Starwoman

On a recent bright spring morning while sipping tea on my porch, a bumblebee came with this message: "Even in lives full of sickness or pain, frustration or fear, life goes on - right in front of your noses. Look for it! We carry wild joy, and messages from the devas of the flowers we sip."

Bees are all about sex and wild joy. There are a few male drones, but the workers and queen are female. So where’s the sex? Pollination is 3rd party sex for flowers. Of all insects, bees have the most intimate relationship with flowers. Bees get all dirty with pollen and leave it at the next nectar stop. Fertilization accomplished! Most flowering plants rely on bees and other pollinating insects to carry their pollen from stamen to stigma thereby cross-pollinating the plant and producing seeds and fruit. Some pollinated this way are apples, pears, potatoes and onions, as well as flowers. About 150 crop species depend on bees for pollination (U.S.$19 billion).

Bees, like wasps and ants are insects of the order Hymenoptera. There are solitary bees, and social bees. Honeybees, bumblebees, and stingless bees are eusocial - overlapping generations living and working together (honey production, modifying air temperature through wing-induced air conditioning, or in winter, creating heat by shivering.) Imagine 50,000 bees living together harmoniously, each having deeply instinctual individualized tasks, all directed to the health and well-being of the hive. Perhaps the example of bees will guide us into the 5th world, where each human connects with his/her Higher Self for right action, and we live in peace together for 1000 years.

A single honeybee hive (Apis Mellifera) can produce over 100 pounds of honey a season. This means the bees have flown an estimated million km. (615,000 miles). People with this totem are altruistic workhorses. They are mediators, and facilitators, who get the job done. Hive life is productive and efficient. Interestingly, honeybees are not native to the Americas. Brought over by Europeans who preferred the higher yield of honeybees, they mostly replaced stingless bees, just as Africanized bees are replacing honeybees in some areas. The current practice of trucking bees to pollinate, using high fructose corn syrup instead of nectar and pollen denies bees their vibrancy and joie de vivre. Are you so focused on your goals that you don’t enjoy your life, or live in balance? Studies have shown that people are more productive when they take time to savor. This is a big part of this totem’s energy. Even though they work hard, they work at something that is integral to life and benefits others. That feels good! If you are overworked or driven, just STOP! By that I mean give yourself a week or two to do nothing, rediscovering your own rhythms and dreams again.

Charlemagne’s line used bees as symbols of royalty. Napoleon replaced the fleur-de-lis with the honeybee as the symbol of France. In ancient Egypt, bees indicated royalty, creativity, and wealth. Masonry relates bees to wisdom, diligence, and the joys of laboring for all. Greeks and Romans were avid beekeepers and consumers of their products. In Delphi bees were oracular. The most famous beekeeper in antiquity was Butes, son of the north wind, often shown with red Scottish heather blossoms associated with bees’ generative ability. Bees were sacred to Venus, goddess of love. Celts drank the water left from washing the combs. Meat and salmon were baked in honey. Mead, an alcoholic drink of honey, water, malt and yeast was popular throughout the British Isles. In India, Prana, (life force) is shown surrounded by bees. Creation stories of the Kalahari recreate the pollination process. I always think of Bushman stories of honey and the heart. The term sweetheart, and Sacred Heart evoke strong images. The hexagonal shape (6-sided) achieves the maximum number of cells for comb surface area and also gives strength to the double-sided vertical frames. The sacred meaning of number 6 is the energy of acceptance tied to a responsibility. Sounds like bee energy, doesn’t it?

Bees are brilliant beeings with highly developed brains and nervous systems connected to remarkable instincts. A forager discovers a field of flowers. If she does not want to fly back to the find with her sisters, she communicates its whereabouts with unique dances. Listen to this astounding natural intelligence: if the flowers are less than 100 meters (330’) away, the scout makes 8-10 rapid revolutions. Up to 3 km (2 miles), she does the waggle-dance with her lower abdomen; the more abundant the food source, the more intense the dance. The number of abdominal flicks measures the distance from the hive. Each flick is about 75 meters (240’). Aha, you say, how do they know which direction in which to fly? Aha I say, here’s the most brilliant part. The sideways figure 8 (symbol for infinity) creates a lemniscate design. The tilted mid-line of the two semi-circles makes an angle with a vertical line equal to the angle between the sun’s rays and the food source - even if the sky is overcast. Bees are sensitive to ultra-violet and polarized light, even on cloudy days. Ask Bee to help you prioritize, and direct your choices. As I said in last month’s article, bees do everything by the sun. Even so, the balance of solar and lunar energy in bees is intricate. They are intimately solar, and yet they are also deeply of the Cosmic Mother, the Divine Feminine. In this time when each of us must balance out the masculine or feminine with what is already the strongest, bees have integrated the two polarities into one. The solar embodies the masculine, initiating, questing energy while the feminine carries the lunar dark, receptive, knowing forces. Perhaps the bee totem is prominent in the news now, as it is essential to join these equally in balance for personal and planetary illumination.

Do you know how honey is made? Drop by drop, each bee contributing 1/8 teaspoon in a whole lifetime, honey is made by flower and bee synergy – nectar + bee enzymes evaporated by bees, fanning until it becomes honey. Optimal bee foraging times are first thing in the morning, and toward evening. These are high-energy times for folks with this medicine. Honey lasts so long without refrigeration, that it was used to embalm royalty!

If you are in a period of bee energy, or you love someone whose totem is bee, it may be difficult to get beneath the surface at first to all the good that is there. Bees wear their exoskeleton on the outside of their bodies. However, like their antennae they are actually quite sensitive. Bees are extremely sensitive to touch and smell. Antennae carry out communication and identification even in the darkness of the hive. The abdomen (Nassonoff’s gland) of each worker emits a distinctive identifying odor for each hive. Bees detect intruders through smell. One or more bees guard the entrance, and will give a cry like a thin whistle if they need help. If necessary the whole colony will come. People of the bee know when things don’t "smell" right.

The nuptial flight takes place between the queen and drones, on a sunny day. Unfortunately for the drone this is his only purpose. His copulatory organ breaks off in mating. Ouch! A queen can rule up to 5 years. Queens determine the sex of their offspring as needed (females fertilized/males unfertilized eggs). If the queen, who only mates once, preserving sperm in a special sac has no use for her sons that year, then the few drones who have been eating and lazing around all spring and summer, are stung to death by the workers in autumn. When it is time for a "princess" to become queen, the old queen leaves the hive to form a "prime swarm". This is when the queen, with a large number of workers, and a few drones leaves the hive. Swarming takes place on a sunny day towards noon. Ancients believed that souls swarmed into aliveness at the beginning of creation in the manner that bees swarm to establish a new hive. When the new queen emerges, she stings to death the other princesses, unless there are so many bees, more swarming (another cast) needs to occur.

A queen’s job is to lay eggs, 1,000 – 2000 a day. Queens rule through pheromones, chemical signals which prevent workers from breeding. In eusocial societies, pheromones not only attract sexually, but also maintain social structure, and mouth-to-mouth nourishment (trophallaxis). Queen substance is the secretion the queen emits to maintain the cohesiveness of the hive. Her "maids" take up this substance and pass it on in ever-widening circles to the other workers. People with this totem are nurturers. A queen’s elixir of life, and the way she becomes a queen is royal jelly, a.k.a. bee milk - a special secretion rich in nutrients from glands in the heads of workers. These workers have designated jobs at different stages of growth. At different times, they are ladies-in-waiting for the queen; nannies for the young, hive-keepers, and honey-makers. They take care of the drones, find food (they carry a "pollen basket" on the hind leg), and travel long distances. Talk about doing it all!

Here’s an interesting fact: bees have two pair of membranous wings that hook during flight so they beat together (130 beats/second). Otherwise, how would a "beeing" with a bee body ever fly? Too heavy for liftoff, never mind staying aloft. Their wings move so fast, it makes up for the non-aerodynamic body. If a bee dies prematurely, it’s because her wings wear out. Swift and sure decision making is a characteristic of those with this totem. Bee eyes are amazing: they have compound (6300 ommatidia) in a worker’s eye, and three simple eyes (ocelli) on top of the head, which act as light intensive photo receptors. Bees perceive images near and far, as well as some colors like yellow, blue, purple and white. Yet, they are color blind to the difference between red and green. The Sting: If you need motivation in getting your life organized, a sting can prompt you. A bee will only sting if threatened, or to protect the sisterhood of bees - after which she dies. Males don’t have stingers, and stingless bees bite instead. Propolis, also called bee glue is made from tree sap and used as a filler/glue to line the hive walls and cracks. It also has healing properties. Bees smear it on hives to prevent infection. Bees are very hygienic. In winter, they wait for a warm day to take a "cleansing flight" to relieve themselves. You won’t catch a person with this medicine using another’s toothbrush.

In the Mystery Schools, the stages of a bee’s life were a metaphor for spiritual development. Upon entering life (the egg to larvae stage), one is helpless and without knowledge. Bee bread (spiritual nourishment) is a mix of honey and pollen fed to larvae. From larva to pupa, the seeker of truth disciplines self in meditation (the cell), and other practices. Pupa to adult is the initiate rising into her higher nature. Every creative project of bee people has its stages too: first, the germ of the idea. Will it develop? Second: in the larval stage, lots of nourishment (nectar or pollen) is needed to flesh out the inspiration. During this time, the project should be hidden from view as it grows. The pupa stage is transitional. Like all adolescent energies, it needs to be tried out, but also needs protection. When the finished product emerges, it is achieved, and ready to be put before the public! Ancient Mayans cherished their stingless bees. Their honey had a less sweet, more complex mix of flavors, and did not crystallize. Their bees pollinated 16 local crops; honey was used for eye ailments and fevers, for trade (cacao and precious stones) and wax casts for jewelry and medicine objects. Mayans believed theirs, and their bees’ fate were inextricably entwined – a cautionary tale in these times. Bees living organically in a natural environment have been doing much better than those connected to agribusiness. (See Bee article in June issue or go to wisdom-magazine.com)

Cie does individual healing sessions for people and animals and trains people in Shamanic practice, Joyous Empowerment, and Earth Stewardship. For healing or training call Cie at 413-625-0385 or email cie@crocker.com. To get Cie's Book of Totem articles send $20 + $2 s/h along with your name, address and email address to P.O. Box 295, Shelburne Falls, MA 01370

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