‘Last Night as I Lay Sleeping’ by Spanish poet Antonio Machado has been an inspiration to me for 20 years since I first discovered it. The English translation here is a version by Robert Bly.
My life, actually all life, is a process of learning and discovery, and the rhythm of the poem echos that circular-spiral process which life's journey seems to take. It was natural for me to include a bee charm amongst the first I carved for my charm collection, but I made my first bee related jewellery 2001: an armband with a few lines from the Antonio Machado poem: etched and enamelled in a spiral around the copper metal conduit. The two ends are of beaten gold to express the light and expansion of the spiritual journey, the two ends simultaneously behind and ahead of me.
When we speak of humans being ‘naturally religious’ or ‘naturally spiritual’, we are referring to a bee like quality within us. That need to access a spiritual dimension in our life, to build our natural instincts into a higher, richer order of being.
I understand and aspire to the concept of a mutation from the ‘ordinary’ and ‘unconscious’ existence to one that is more ‘noble’ and conscious : born of due diligence, will power, intent and a certain gift of grace. It is a metaphor for the honey bee. The metaphor concerns the alchemy: collecting pollen and nectar, turning them to wax and honey.
It was not for nothing that the Greeks called honey the food of the Gods.
Bees and honey have been an integral part of shamanism, appearing in a cave paintings from Southern Africa to Spain. In ancient Egypt the hieroglyph for a Pharaoh (god-king) was a bee beside a sedge plant. In Greek mythology a bee was a messenger between gods and men. Powerful old European families often took up the bee to represent their aspirations in their family crests: Napoleon and the Papal Barberini family in Rome.
When I look at honey, and catch the scent of it, I have an immediate sense of the sunlight, the flowers, the beating wings and humming bee sounds that brought it into being. It sometimes feels extraordinary that I can pick a jar of it off the shelf at my supermarket when its very nature seems sacred.
Bee life is a living analogy for the process of initiation. Our modern life has stripped us of so much opportunity for meaningful ceremony: initiation and the valuable acknowledgement of our rights of passage. We are still able to access those meaningful ideas through the symbols that remain, symbols which feed to the very heart of those ancient rituals.
It is not unusual for bee-keepers today- both urban and rural – to speak of their work or hobby as sacred work.
I found this very moving quote from an Canadian beekeeper Nao Sims :
“The thing that has become most clear to me over the years is that beekeeping, more than anything, is a spiritual practice, that the hive is a temple, and that the bees are our teachers. As for the beekeeper, it is my belief that we are the students, students of one of the most ancient mystery schools on earth. Beekeeping is sacred work. To be a beekeeper is an honor and a responsibility. I believe the greatest part of this role is to be of service, to be of service to the bees, in anyway that we can, and this includes holistic beekeeping practices that are dedicated to the well-being of our bees and our planet.” ~ Nao Sims
Beautiful solid silver Bee charms are available from Talisgirl Charms.I carved the originals by hand with a background of shining light rays.