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The Bee – An Excerpt From Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft by Mabh Savage

The following includes an excerpt from Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft by Mabh Savage


An animal that has had many sacred associations throughout the aeons, yet is mentioned all too infrequently in Celtic texts, is the bee. We know the Celts ate honey and drank mead, so they must have had skill with bees, yet it is rarely written of by the scholars of the middle ages who gave us most of the Celtic literature we now refer to.

The bee is a dangerous animal that simply needs to be respected. Yes, a bee can sting you and undoubtedly it will hurt. It can even kill, if you are sensitive or allergic to the venom. However, the reasons for a bee to sting you are so few and far between, that the threat is far less than it initially appears.

Bees form hives; great, thriving communities where everyone knows their place. It’s hardly utopian; there can be violent disputes within a hive! But bees work together and are even considered to have a ‘hive mind’, where everyone knows what needs to be done without being told, and all work together seamlessly.

As a child we had a garden full of the kind of flowers that attract bees and butterflies; buddleia, honesty, hebe, poppies and more. So occasionally we would find a fat, stripy bee stunned where it had flown to vigorously near a door or window. I would pick the poor creature up, its soft coat like velvet beneath my careful fingers. I would put in on a plate near a tiny pool of sugar water. The bee, once it had regained consciousness, would crawl to the sugar water and lap it up with its proboscis. Fascinated, I would watch the tiny straw curl in and out of the bee’s mouth like a miniature party whistle. Once recovered, the bee would simply fly off and return to the industrious examination of every flower in sight.

I never felt worried or scared by the bees. They had a job to do, and as long as I wasn’t stopping them, or threatening their hive, I didn’t even register as anything but part of the background.

The bee is, ultimately, one tiny part of an incredible, living machine. Just like one of your internal organs, or a cell. Of course, some bees are solitary, so I am generalizing somewhat, but as a symbol for working together, systems, order and industry, few animals work as well as bees. Perhaps ants, but I have little experience with ants, so bees it is for me!

  • Industry
  • Productivity
  • Focus
  • Team work
  • Order
  • Matriarchy
  • Nourishment
  • Family
  • Fastidiousness
  • Community
  • Hidden danger
  • Open communication
  • Empathy
  • Avoiding selfishness
  • Putting others first
  • Organization
  • Growth (perhaps of an idea or project)

If you have a garden, find out what plants you can grow in your local area that will attract bees. These will depend on the type of soil you have and whether your garden is in sun or shade, so do a bit of research and with a little effort you should have bees visiting every spring and summer.

Bees are a vital part of our ecosystem and account for a huge percentage of pollination of crops worldwide. In the US, colonies of bees are rented by farms to aid with pollination. About 3 million colonies are rented each year. This doesn’t even include all the wild bees that naturally pollinate whatever they can as part and parcel of their everyday routine. However, for the past 8 years or more, a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder- the failure of hives and the subsequent death of billions of bees- has been closely linked to multiple fungicides and pesticides, most notably but not solely the infamous neonicotinoids. If the bees die, we die- simple as that. Anything you can do to encourage bees and organic farming that avoids the use of these chemicals will ultimately benefit the whole world, particularly humankind.

So add to the list of correspondences ’cause and effect’, and the humbling fact that the tiniest animal really can hold the key to the survival of an entire species; many species in fact.

Support your local bees! Only buy local, ethical honey and plant flowers that attract bees like buddleia or basil. Never kill a bee and if you find a bees nest in an awkward place, report it to the local authorities who should remove it safely. Otherwise, leave them alone and they will continue to make our world a better place.


About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors & Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.