Bees, Honey and Mead by Sue Perryman



This started off as a blog about the history, folklore and magical uses of honey, but while researching it soon became clear that I couldn't write about honey without including bees.

We all know how important bees are to our environment, without them to pollinate plants, a significant percentage of our crops would vanish. Beekeeping has been practised since at least the times of Ancient Egypt and Greece, and bees have appeared in mythology and folklore from ancient times to the modern day.

Ancient Egyptian pharaohs used the honeybee as the royal symbol during the period between 3000 b.c.e and 350 b.c.e. In Homer's hymn to Hermes Apollo suggests Hermes seek out the gift of prophecy from bees.

The bee is sacred to many gods including the Egyptian god Ra, the Greek goddesses Artemis and Demeter, the Celtic goddess Brigid and the Hindu gods Vishnu and Krishna. Bees are regarded as having great wisdom and of being messengers between the worlds of gods and man by many cultures.

Folklore tells that bees must be treated as family members and be told all important family events such as births, deaths and marriages. If a bee flies into your home, it means a visitor will soon be calling. If you kill the bee your visitor will bring bad news.

It was considered an ill omen if a swarm of bees settled on a dead branch, indicating a death in the family. Sighting a single bee is lucky, as long as you don't kill it! When obtaining a hive, you should not pay cash for it, but rather pay back the original owner with honey and comb.

Dreaming of bees can mean you need to look at your interactions and relationships with others. Dreaming of a beehive usually relates to your home, family, work or co-workers. A happy buzzing hive means a happy harmonious home and may foretell abundance and fruitful times ahead. If the bees are swarming around the hive it may point to a lack of harmony and peace around you.

Author J.K. Rowling named Professor Albus Dumbledore after an archaic English word related to bees. She says that when writing about him she imagined him walking round Hogwarts humming to himself, so decided to associate his name with bees. In author Terry Pratchett's Discworld stories, the witch Granny Weatherwax gets her news from her bees, they see all and know all.

In modern folk magic bees are a charm for health and wealth, and are associated with prosperity, luck, communication, fertility, teamwork, productivity, growth, co-operation, hard work and the sweetness in life.

The arrival of Bee in your life is a signal to evaluate how organised, industrious and productive you are, and a reminder to enjoy the sweet things in life.

Rather than use dead bees in your magical work, you could use images of them or make some from clay which you can paint. I made some in this way a few years ago and kept them in a pale blue pouch hanging in my home to attract health and wealth.

Honey

Element: Water/ Earth

Gender: Feminine

Magical Properties: Happiness, healing, love, passion, prosperity, abundance, communication.

Honey is one of the oldest foods known to man. Cave paintings in Valencia Spain, dating back at least 8,000 years ago show two honey hunters collecting honey from a wild bee nest and remains of honey have been found by archaeologists on the inner surface of clay vessels in tombs dating back some 4,700 - 5,50 years in the country of Georgia.

In ancient Egypt honey was used as a food sweetener, for embalming the dead and as an offering to the fertility god Min. It was also an ingredient in some recipes for the Egyptian incense blend of Kyphi.

In ancient Greek religion, the food of Zeus and the gods of Olympus was said to be honey in the form of nectar and ambrosia.

As well as being a delicious sweet food, honey has been used medicinally in many cultures throughout recorded history, although in the West it was discarded in favour of anti-biotics in the mid-20th century. In more recent years raw and Manuka honey have gained popularity as being healing and nutritious and are being researched as a cure for 'superbugs', infections that are resistant to anti-biotics. Heated blended honey is not as medicinal as the raw and Manuka varieties but can still be used magically.

Honey is soothing, lubricating and a natural immune booster. It is especially good for the digestive and respiratory tracts and is a classic remedy to relieve sore throats and dry coughs. Honey makes an excellent offering to the gods, spirits, ancestors and fae. It can be used in magic for love, passion, health, healing, happiness, communication, abundance and prosperity.

In some forms of Hoodoo and folk magic honey is used to sweeten someone's feelings towards you. Fill a jar with honey, write the person's name on a piece of paper, eat 3 spoons of the honey and state your wish out loud. Fold the paper 3 times and pop it in the jar, close the lid. Place a candle on the lid and burn it down.

Honey works well in binding magic or to stick things together as it doesn't dry and can be easily undone if you decide to end the spell.

For prosperity magic drizzle coins with honey and leave in a dish on your altar. Use honey in dishes to bring sweetness, fertility and prosperity. Add honey to home-made body scrubs for love and passion magic or use honey to dress a candle.

Devonshire Honey cake from bbcgoodfood.com

250g clear honey, plus about 2 tbsp extra to glaze 225g unsalted butter 100g dark muscovado sugar 3 large eggs, beaten 300g self-raising flour

Preheat oven 160C/gas 3 and grease &line a 20cm round loose bottomed cake tin.

Cut butter into pieces and drop into a medium sized pan with the honey and sugar. Melt slowly over a low heat until melted. Increase heat and bring to boil for 1 minute. Leave to cool for 15-20 minutes to prevent the eggs from cooking when added. Beat the eggs into the melted honey mixture using a wooden spoon. Sift flour into a large bowl and pour in egg and honey mixture, beating until you have a smooth runny batter.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 50 minutes- 1 hour until the cake is well risen, golden brown and springs back when gently pressed.

Turn the cake onto a wire rack. Warm 2 tbsp honey in a small saucepan and brush over the top of the cake. Leave to cool. Keeps for 4-5 days in an airtight tin.

Kyphi

This is a gorgeous ancient incense blend using honey, for details and the recipe see: https://www.kitchenwitchhearth.net/blog/kyphi-by-gypsy-willowmoon

Mead

This ancient alcoholic drink made from fermented honey and water, played an important role in the myths and traditions of many ancient cultures. It was particularly popular in the Northern Countries where grapevines didn't flourish.

Ancient Greeks believed Mead to be a drink of the Gods and to have magical and sacred properties. Aristotle mentions mead in his Meteorologica.

The Norse god of poetry Bragi is said to have drunk mead from a Brage-beaker, later called the 'Bragging cup'. While Odin was said to have gained his strength by suckling mead from a goat’s udder as an infant.

Mead features in many Germanic myths and folktales, including Beowulf.

The earliest surviving description of mead is in the hymns of Rigveda, an ancient Indian collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns dated around 1700-1100 B.C.

There is a poem attributed to the Welsh Bard Taliesin called ' Kanu y med' or 'Song of Mead'.

Celtic myth tells of a river of mead running through the Otherworld.

Anglo-Saxon's believed mead to be the bestower of immortality, poetry and knowledge.

Some stories say that the term 'Honeymoon' comes from the ancient tradition of giving bridal couples a moons worth of mead to ensure fertility.

Mead comes in at least two varieties: ale type and wine type. To make either type of mead you will first have to sterilize all your equipment. The following recipe will make 1 gallon of mead. I haven't tried this but am including it for those that may wish to. The recipes are from 'Heathen Paths by Pete Jennings.'

Ale mead

You will need: 1lb runny honey 1-ounce rosemary (This acts as a bittering agent. Hops were not used in the Dark age period as far as we know, but rosemary was available and so can be used instead) Juice of 1 lemon (or 1-ounce citric acid) 1 gallon of water Brewer’s yeast plus nutrients. Do not be tempted to use wine yeast - if gives a different result. (Make up the yeast as per the packet of instructions)

Boil the water, honey and rosemary for 45 minutes. Strain of the rosemary and add the lemon juice. Allow to cool, and then add active yeast plus nutrients. Allow to ferment, keeping the container covered. Skim off scum every day. Strain again and bottle (using coloured glass bottles) when fermentation finishes.

Wine mead

Use a similar process for this but use 4 lbs of honey per gallon of water, and a wine making yeast and nutrient, but without the rosemary. When fermentation has settled down after a week or so, strain and transfer the liquid into demijohn bottles with airlocks. Be sure to keep the airlock reservoirs topped up with water. When the bubbling ceases, siphon the liquid using plastic tubing into dark wine bottles, leaving the solid residue behind. You may have to do this more than once. Cork the bottles. Mature it for a year if you can for a mellower taste.




Sources: A Kitchen Witches world of magical food - Rachel Patterson Hoodoo Folk Magic - Rachel Patterson Pagan Portals Animal Magic - Rachel Patterson Wikipedia ThoughtCo.com gypsymagicspells.blogspot.co.uk Kitchen Medicine - Julia Bruton-Seal & Matthew Seal Skyriverbrewing.com

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