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Andrew Gough
Part 1: Bedazzled

History is rife with lost knowledge and traditions whose meaning has blurred with the passage of
time. I believe the ‘Bee’ is one such tradition, and that its symbolism was important to civilizations
of all ages. Inexplicably, the Bee is dying and nobody is quite sure why. Legend asserts that when
the Bee dies out, man will shortly follow. We will review the implications of the Bee’s apparent
demise in due course, however in this - our first instalment, we will examine the genesis of the
Bee’s symbolism in the mist of prehistory.

The Bee in Prehistory

Anatomy of a female Honey Bee

Thanks to fossilisation, Bees over 100 million years old have been discovered in
amber, frozen in time, as if immortalised in their own honey. The Greeks called
amber Electron, and associated it with the Sun God Elector, who was known as the
awakener. Honey, which resembles amber, was also known as an awakener, a
regenerative substance that was revered across the ancient world. The resemblance of
honey with amber led to the Bees exalted status amongst ancient man and secured its
favor over other fossilized insects. Marcus Valerius Martialis, the first century Latin
poet renowned for his twelve books of Epigrams, commemorates the symbolism:

"The bee inclos'd, and through the amber shewn,

Seems buried in the juice, which was his own.
So honour'd was a life in labor spent:
Such might he wish to have his monument."

A Bee fossilized in amber over 100 hundred million years old - from Southeast Asia

Bees accompanied Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and during the mythical
Golden Age, honey dripped from trees like rain water. In Egypt, Bees symbolized a
stable and obedient society, mantras that would later be adopted by Freemasonry –
and the United States of America. The Bee’s ability to pollinate was not lost on
prehistoric man and contributed to its reputation as a regenerative, transformative and
mystical creature. Indeed, paintings from prehistory confirm that the Bee has been
revered for tens of thousands of years.

In the Cave of the Spider near Valencia Spain, a 15,000 year old painting depicts a
determined looking figure risking his life to extract honey from a precarious cliff-side
Beehive. Honey hunting represents one of man’s earliest domestic pursuits and hints
at the genesis of the Bee’s adoration in prehistory.
Honey Hunting in Spain – approximately 13,000 BC

Veneration of the Bee continued in Neolithic Spain, as the highly stylised rendering of
a dancing Bee below illustrates. The image underscores the quandary with Bee
symbolism; that is, most of us would be hard pressed to identify the image and others
like it, as a Bee. The tradition of the Bee worship in Spain has been preserved to this
day, albeit under the rather macabre guise of Bull fighting. The modern day ‘sport’ is
actually an extension of Mithraism, the ancient mystery school whose rites included
the ritualistic slaughter of bulls. But we are getting ahead of ourselves, for to
understand how bulls are related to Bees we must examine the Bee in prehistory still

Bee Goddess, 5000 BC – Neolithic Spain

The Bee is the only insect that communicates through dance, yet this largely forgotten
trait is one of the reasons why Bee imagery from antiquity is often lost on the
untrained eye. In her authoritative and oft quoted book, The Goddesses and Gods of
Old Europe, Marija Gimbutas examines imagery on artefacts from Old Europe, circa
8000 BC, and concludes that they portray the Bee as a manifestation of the Mother
Goddess, as depicted below.

Mother Goddess, thought to have been carved between 24,000–22,000 BC

The Mother Goddess is arguably the oldest deity in the archaeological record and her
manifestations are numerous, including likenesses of butterflies, toads, hedgehogs -
and dancing Bees. In the ancient world, dancing Bees appear to have been special -
the Queen Bee in particular, for she was the Mother Goddess - leader and ruler of the
hive, and was often portrayed in the presence of adorning Bee Goddesses and Bee
Dancing Bee Goddesses, from The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe
© Marija Gimbutas

Dancing Bee Goddess, from The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe
© Marija Gimbutas

In addition to dancing Bee symbolism, Gimbutas identified images of Bees as stick

men, or schematized figures, with their arms arched over their head like the Dancing
Goddess motif so common in Sumerian and Egyptian reliefs.
Bees as stick men, or schematized figures © Marija Gimbutas

Clearly, the Bee was depicted in manners unidentifiable to the casual observer. And to
be fair, this is no wonder, for the Bee was often portrayed in a highly stylized fashion
anyway, and occasionally its features were distorted due to the unrefined skill of the
artist in antiquity, as well as fact that the artist may have been in a shamanic, drug
induced trance at the time the image was created. Furthermore, the image of the Bee
was often prejudiced by the surface it was created on, i.e. rock wall, statue or mud
brick, etc, and the perspective that this afforded.

So let’s look at several more examples, starting with a well known image that few
would associate with Bee symbolism; a 10,000 year old Anatolian Mother Goddess
wearing a Beehive styled tiara. The Beehive inspired motif was popular in earliest
society and confirmed the Goddesses exalted status as a Queen Bee who ‘streams with
honey’, a substance of considerable importance, and status, in ancient times.

Goddess wearing a beehive tiara from Turkey, circa 8000 BC

Also in Anatolia, this time at the Neolithic settlement of Catal Huyuk, rudimentary
images of Bees dating to 6540 BC are painted above the head of a Goddess in the
form of a halo. Nearby, paintings of Beehive comb cells adorn rock strewn temple
walls, recalling the day when such symbolism was widely understood – and
important. In Anatolia, Bee veneration continued for thousands of years, as
demonstrated by the 18th century BC Hittites, who relied on honey as an important
element of their religious rites.

Catal Huyuk; a wall depicting a Beehive comb – 6600 BC © James Mellaart

Catal Huyuk was first ‘discovered’ in 1958 and is widely regarded to be the most
important site of its kind in the world. The complex was excavated by James Mellaart
between 1961 and 1965 and found to feature two prominent images: the Mother
Goddess, and the bull. Together with the Bee, these images comprise the essence of
our research, as we shall see. However, images of Bees from antiquity are not limited
to Old Europe, for in far away lands such as Australia, Aboriginal cave paintings of
Beehives have been dated to 10,000 BC.
Beehive painting near Prince Regent River, Western Australia. © Eva Crane

In addition to cave paintings, Aboriginals also carved images on the inside of

eucalyptus tree bark, including drawings of men with bags of honey over their

Tree bark carvings of men with bags of honey over their shoulders ©
Eva Crane | An old print showing Aboriginal men carrying sacks of
honey over their shoulder

Similarly, the following images illustrate how the Bee can be misinterpreted as
representing other, more esoteric or otherworldly creatures. For instance, spiraling
circles appear frequently in rock art, and on occasion have been interpreted to
represent planetary alignments or symbols of advanced civilisations. In fact, the
image below represents rock art from the sacred store house of Australia Honey Ant
shamans, who hunted Honey Ants as the only source of honey in an otherwise dry and
arid desert landscape (Spencer and Gillen, 1899). The rocks are located in a valley
where shamans performed rituals designed to increase their supply of honey, for the
sacred nectar provided a variety of medicinal and nutritional uses. Ironically, the
conical images hints at the origins of the ancient Labyrinth design, a structure that
played an important role in Egyptian, Greek and of course, Atlantian mythology;
cultures that venerated the Bee.

Rock drawings from sacred store house of a group of Honey Ant Totem. © Eva Crane

Images from the ancient world are frequently interpreted through modern eyes as
representing supernatural or even extraterrestrial events, due to the extraordinary
images they portray. This is especially true of images whose symbolism includes
figures in flight. Most notably, Zecharia Sitchin, linguist and writer of the
controversial Earth Chronicles series, has devoted a lifetime to interpreting Sumerian
reliefs and believes they represent extraterrestrial contact on earth.

For example, the Sumerian stele below is one of many believed by alternative history
writers to depict figures of alien origin. However, more measured interpretations
believe that this scene, and others like it, depict the worship of the Mother Goddess,
manifest as a Queen Bee or Bee Goddess; a figure who is frequently adorned by her
followers - the Bee Priestesses. Again, this should not be viewed as unusual, for
honey was regarded by Sumerian physicians as a unique and vital medicinal drug. In
fact, it has been suggested that the Sumerians invented Apitherapy, or the medical use
of Honey Bee products such as honey, pollen, royal jelly, propolis and bee venom.
And least we forget, it was the Bee that led ancient man to the plants whose
hallucinogens transported consciousness into the spirit world of the gods.
Furthermore, objects cast in Beeswax were discovered in the earliest of Sumerian
societies. Why then, should the source of these important byproducts - the Bee, not
have been worshipped?
Sumerian stele – extraterrestrial Gods or Bee Goddess worship?

The Mesopotamian civilization of Sumer is believed to have flourished between 5300

- 3500 BC. In addition to producing dozens of cultural firsts – or inventions,
Sumerians appear to have been the first to depict winged figures in art, including
humans with wings. Might this symbolism be attributable to worship of the Bee
Goddess? Could the Bee have been the inspiration for winged figures of all kinds?
Was the Bee the archetype for biblical angels? Although alluring, such assertions are
rather speculative at this juncture, and so we will reserve judgement until we have
examined the Bee and its evocative symbolism in further detail.

Gigantic statues from the Assyrian city of Nimrud - now modern Iraq, and Persepolis
- now modern Iran, appear to have continued the Sumerian ‘winged tradition’ by
depicting bulls with wings. This is intriguing, for ancient cultures the world over have
maintained that Bees are born of bulls, and here we have statues depicting bulls with

A Bull statue with wings from Persepolis, another from Nimrod

The ancient custom of placing a Beehive in the head of a bull was at first a domestic
exercise, and enabled the bull’s head to be purified of all matter before being used for
practical purposes. Only later did the tradition morph into a highly symbolic ritual
where Bees found on the carcasses of dead bulls represented the regeneration of souls.
As we shall see, the belief that Bees were born of sacred bulls was especially
prevalent in Egypt and Mediterranean cultures such as the Greeks and Minoans. Like
the Sumerian reliefs that depicted humans with wings, the representation of bulls with
wings will be duly noted and no conclusions drawn - just yet.

The Bee featured prominently in another ancient culture – the Dogon, a tribe from the
West African region of Mali whose Nommo ancestors and Sirian mythology were
made famous by Robert Temple in his book, The Sirius Mystery. The Dogon belief
system is ancient, and until approximately 140 AD, its zodiac featured the Bee as the
symbol of the constellation presently occupied by Libra. The Bee’s position in the
Dogon Zodiac is significant to esoteric thought leaders such as Cabalists, who
recognize the Bee’s role in establishing balance and harmony in the zodiac - and in
life. Curiously, two of the most common Dogon symbols resemble schematized
figures identified by Marija Gimbutas as Bees; one is associated with vital food
supplies and the other with reincarnation. Together, the Dogon images reflect the
essence of the Bee’s perceived value in ancient times.

Common Dogon Symbols ©

The Bee in Ancient Egypt

The ancient Egyptians shared many similarities with the Sumerians and Dogons,
including the veneration of Bees. Sophisticated Apiculture, or the organized craft of
Beekeeping, was practiced in Egypt for thousands of years. According to Bee expert
Eva Crane, whose authoritative book, The World History of Beekeeping and Honey
Hunting remains the primary reference work in the genre; “beekeeping was very
important before 3000 BC, especially in the Delta.” In other words, the agricultural,
nutritional, medicinal and ritualistic value of the Bee and its honey was important in
Egypt from pre-dynastic times onwards, as demonstrated by the fact that King Menes,
founder of the First Egyptian Dynasty, was called "the Beekeeper”; a title ascribed to
all subsequent Pharaohs. Additionally, the Kings administration had a special office
called the ‘Sealer of the Honey’, and Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt bore the title
"he who belongs to the sedge and the bee”. An image of the Bee was even positioned
next to the King’s cartouche.
The Bee, next to the signature of Hatshepsut, the 5th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty

EgyptologistWallis Budge translated the Book of Opening the Mouth, and in doing so
provided insight that confirmed the Bees’ importance in Egyptian mythology. One
phrase simply read, “The Bee, giving him protection, they make him to exist”, while
another adds: “Going about as a bee, thou seest all the goings about of thy father.”
The later may in fact refer to the Ka, or an individual’s soul - or double, who is
nurtured after death.

Egyptian mythology contains countless references to the Bee, including the belief that
Bees were formed through the tears of the god RA. To put this into perspective, we
are informed that the most important god in the Egyptian pantheon had Bees for tears.
The ancient writings of Am-Tuat (the Otherworld) explains:

"This god cries out to their souls after he hath entered the city of the
gods who are on their sand, and there are heard the voices of those
who are shut in this circle which are like the hum of many bees of
honey when their souls cry out to Ra."

And similarly, the Salt Magical Papyrus states:

“When RA weeps again and the water which flows from his eyes upon
the ground turns into working bees. They work in flowers and trees of
every kind and wax and honey come into being.”

The Egyptian God RA, who cried Bees for tears

The Bee’s association with the tears of RA is interesting, for the ideogram of the Bee
has been interpreted by Egyptologists to represent honey, and its eyes the verb, “to
see”. Many have studied its meaning, such as the Egyptologist Sir Alan Gardiner, who
featured the Bee in his book Egyptian Grammar. So did the German Egyptologist
Kurt Sethe, who believed the Egyptians had forgotten the original word for Bee.
Similarly, the Egyptologist Hermann Grapow felt that the Bee’s title was completely
"unreadable". The point being, Egyptologists agree that they have yet to ascertain the
symbol’s true meaning.

A description of the Bee ideograph from

The Rosetta Stone: The Discoveries of Dr. Thomas Young:
The Classification of the Egyptian Alphabet by Champollion

Intriguingly, Northern Egypt - the land stretching form the Delta to Memphis was
known as “Ta-Bitty”, or “the land of the bee”. Similarly in the bible, the Lord
promises to bring the Israelites out of Egypt and into a land flowing with milk and
honey. Poetically, later civilizations referred to the land of milk and honey as a sort of
mythical utopia; a bountiful, abundant and fertile region, reminiscent of the Mother
Goddess herself.

Bees are portrayed on the walls of Egyptian tombs and offerings of honey were
routinely presented to the most important Egyptian deities. Indeed, honey was the
‘nectar of the gods’, and like the Sumerians before them, Egyptian physicians valued
its medicinal value in many important procedures. In other words, they too practiced
Apitherapy. Egyptian medicine men were often indistinguishable from sorcerers, and
Beeswax was an essential ingredient in the creation of effigies used in rituals. In her
1937 book, The Sacred Bee, Hilda Ransome recounts several examples, stating that
“One of the earliest instances of the magical use of wax is in the Westcar Papyrus.” In
her example, Ransome recounts how a Beeswax effigy of a crocodile comes alive and
eats the lover of mans wife as revenge for violating his marriage agreement.

Honey was frequently mentioned in papyri and was even a vital ingredient in
Egyptian beer. This linked the Bee to commerce, for beer was often used as a form of
wages. In fact, the versatile nectar was so cherished that promises of honey from
husband to wife were included in marriage contracts, and even the Pharaoh Ramses
III offered up 15 tons of honey to the Nile God Hapi, in the 12th Century BC. The
Health Benefits of Honey web site sheds further light on honey’s unique role in
Egyptian society:

“The oldest hieroglyphic carvings in temples, on sarcophagi and

obelisks sufficiently prove that bees and honey had a vital significance
in the daily life of the population of Egypt…Honeycombs, honey cakes,
sealed jars of honey and lotus blooms were placed next to the
sarcophagi as food for the souls of the dead. In the tomb of Pa-Ba-Sa,
in Thebes, the entire wall is decorated by rows of bees. A man is
shown pouring honey into a pail, another is kneeling and praying
before a pyramid of honeycombs. On the wall of the tomb of Rekh-Mi-
Re all phases of the honey industry are depicted; how the combs were
removed from the hives with the aid of smoke, the baking of honey
cakes, the filling and sealing of jars, etc.”

Bee hieroglyph – Luxor © Kenneth J Stein

The Bee is featured prominently in many Egyptian temples, including the pillars of
Karnak, the Luxor obelisk now erected on the Place de la Concorde in Paris, the 20th
Dynasty sarcophagus of Rameses III, a granite statue of Rameses II, the sarcophagus
of a 26th Dynasty priest and on the Pyramid of Unas, to name but a few. Additionally,
at the temple of Dendera an inscription recounts how Osiris emulated the Bee and
provided instructions for knowing the “hsp”, or the sacred garden of the Bee in the
other world - a domain believed to contain the tree of the golden apples of
immortality. And in the Egyptian Delta, in the ancient Temple of Tanis – which is
said to have once housed the Ark of the Covenant, the Bee was its first and most
important ideogram. In fact, the Bee is even featured on the Rosetta Stone.
Part 2: Beewildered

The remarkable service that Bees provide as pollinators of plants and trees and
producers of life-affirming nectar has largely been taken for granted. Only when Bees
started to disappear and actually die in alarming numbers did popular culture take
notice, and only then out of a morbid sort of curiosity. But it has not always been this
way. In fact, Bees were venerated in prehistory and revered in ancient cultures far and
wide, especially Egypt. So how did the veneration of the Bee evolve from there? In
The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image, Anne Baring and Jules Cashford
reflect on the importance of the Bee in one region in particular - the Mediterranean;
“Bees have an ancient reputation as the bringers of order, and their hives served as
models for organizing temples in many Mediterranean cultures.” As we shall see,
these same cultures also worshiped bulls, and in doing so extended an ancient and
sacred tradition into a new age.

A Minoan bull statue

The ancient Mediterranean is renowned for its sophisticated and artistically rich
cultures, and the Minoans – a Bronze Age mercantile society with an extraordinary
reach in overseas trade were arguably its first emissary. Few symbols were as prolific
in Minoan life as the bull. The sacred creature graced Minoan frescos in palaces and
temples, and the ritual of bull-leaping was an especially popular phenomena.
According to scholars, the ritual consisted of an initiate leaping over a bull while
grabbing its horns in order to antagonize the animal into catapulting them upwards,
and while in the air, they would perform a variety of aerobic stunts before collapsing
on the bull. The explanation lacks realism, promoting some to speculate that the bull-
leaper may symbolically have represented Theseus, the mythical hero-king of Athens,
leaping over the constellation of Taurus, the bull. Could this scenario represent the
regeneration of the king’s reign and potency as a ruler – a sort of Minoan Heb-Sed
Festival? Regardless of the rituals true meaning, one thing for certain is that the
Minoan’s fascination with the bull was real, tangible and freely expressed in their art.

Bull Leaper, an ivory carving from the palace of Knossos, Crete

The British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans was the first to coin the name "Minoan",
naming it after King Minos; a mystical figure who commissioned Daedalus – “the
cunning worker” to design the legendary labyrinth. Evans believed the labyrinth was
real, not mythical, and that it existed in the Cretan capital of Knossos; the ceremonial
and political centre of Minoan civilization. Descriptions of the labyrinth recall an
image of a Beehive with winding passages guiding souls on a journey through the
afterlife. And lest we forget that shamanic Bee inspired drawings in Aboriginal
Australia portray what appears to be the precursor to the now familiar labyrinth
design. Additionally, the ‘north house’ in Knossos has been identified by
archaeologists as a site where rituals of human sacrifice were preformed, including
offerings of young children to the gods. Might the Minoans have also offered bulls to
the gods, and if so may this have been the true function of the labyrinth? Might the
labyrinth have been an ancient bull necropolis for the regeneration of souls, like the
Saqqara Serapeum?

Coin from Knossos depicting the Minotaur Labyrinth

In Knossos, jars called pithoi were used to store honey in preparation for the mid
summer New Years celebration. Like many societies before them, the Minoans
considered honey to be the nectar of the gods and an important intoxicant in rituals
that honoured the deities on their feast days. Once again, Marija Gimbutas, author of
the respected work, The Gods and Goddesses of Old Europe, comments on the

“Two lion-headed ginii clad in Bee skins hold jugs over horns from
which new life springs in the shape of a plant. What do these jugs
contain? – probably food of the Gods produced by the bee.”
Honey Jars – Knossos

Honey was also regarded as an elixir in Mediterranean societies; a magic potion that
ensured a long and healthy life. The Roman Emperor Augustus once asked a
centenarian how he managed to live to the ripe old age of 100, only to have the man
reply, "Oil without and honey within." The legendary Greek mathematician
Pythagoras, whose life spanned the greater part of the 6th century BC, attributed his
longevity to a steady diet of honey. In addition to being an elixir, honey was a healing
substance with a variety of medicinal uses. Legend states that the Greek sea god
Glaucus, the son of Minos and Pasiphae, was restored to life when buried in a jar of
honey. The story reminds us of Alexandra the Great, who requested that he be
wrapped in honey as part of his burial preparation for the same reason. Each example
reinforces the belief that honey preserves the remains of the deceased, and in fact
honey discovered in ancient tombs has remained edible thousands of years after it was
first processed.

The importance of Beekeeping in Minoan society was expressed in many different

ways, as Gimbutas recounts; “The Apiculture of the Minoans is documented by
Hieroglyphs, representing actual beehives, engraved images and myths.” Further,
Bee authority Hilda Ransome suggests that the Minoan hieroglyphs for Palace and
Bee; “are grouped together in such a way that they probably denote a royal title.”
Each quote recalls the role of the Bee in ancient societies and confirms that the old
traditions were preserved into a new age.
Minoan Gold Bee pendant from Crete, circa 2000 BC

The Minoans were expert Beekeepers who taught the craft of apiculture to the Greeks.
Once again, we turn to Gimbutas for insight; “Many gold rings of Minoan
workmanship from Crete and Greece portray the bee-headed goddess or the same
goddess holding bull’s horns above her head.” Below, an onyx gem from Knossos
dating to approximately 1500 BC illustrates a Bee goddess with bull horns above her
head, just as Gimbutas describes. In this instance, the figure is surrounded by dogs
with wings, most likely representing Hecate and Artemis - gods of the underworld,
similar to the Egyptian gods Akeu and Anubis. The image recalls illustrations of
dancing Bee goddesses from thousands of years before.

Onyx Gem from Knossos, Crete – 1500 BC

Like the Minoans, the Greeks held the Bee sacred and featured it prominently in their
mythology. Not only did the Greeks believe that honey was ‘the food of the gods’ and
that Bees were born of bulls, they believed that Bees were intricately entwined in the
everyday lives of their gods. Take for example Zeus, the Greek ‘King of the Gods’
who was born in a cave and raised by Bees, earning him the title Melissaios, or Bee-
man. Similarly Dionysus, the Greek god of ritual madness, ecstasy, and wine was
called the Bull God and was fed honey as a baby by the nymph Makris, daughter of
Aristaeus, the protector of flocks - and Bees.

Additionally, Dionysus was said to have assumed the form of a bull before being torn
to pieces and reborn as a Bee. Intriguingly, the cult of Dionysus consisted of a group
of frenzied female worshippers called Maenads’s (Greek) or Bacchante’s (Roman),
who were renowned for their dancing and who were believed to have had wings.
Might these bull worshiping maidens have been Bee priestesses?

Bacchante leading the Dionysian bull to the altar, from a Bas-relief in the Vatican

The title Melissaios - or Bee-man, has a feminine counterpart in Mediterranean

cultures called Melissa, of which Hilda Ransome informs us; “The title Melissa, the
Bee, is a very ancient one; it constantly occurs in Greek Myths, meaning sometimes a
priestess, sometimes a nymph.” This is an important observation, for the tradition of
dancing Bee goddesses appears to have been preserved in a form of Bee maidens
known as Melissa’s – or nymphs, and Greek deities such as Rhea and Demeter were
widely known to have held the title. Additionally, the Greeks frequently referred to
‘Bee-Souls’ and bestowed the title of ‘Melissa’ on unborn souls. The 3rd century
Greek philosopher and mathematician Porphyry of Tyre believed that souls arrived on
earth in the form of Bees, having descended from the moon goddess Artemis, and that
they were lured to terrestrial life by the promise of earthly delights, such as honey.
Ironically, honey was also a symbol of death and was frequently used as an offering to
the gods. The dualistic quality of honey is no coincidence, as the nectar and its maker
– the Bee, appear to represent the very cycle of existence. One could say that as the
Bee returns to its hive, so the Melissa returns to its god in the afterlife; the beginning
is the end and the end is the beginning.

The definition of Melissa – the Honeybee

Bees, Melissa’s and caves go hand in hand in Mediterranean mythology – as we saw

with Zeus, however the tradition may have commenced with the Bronze Age
Mycenaean culture (1500 - 1100 BC) on the island of Ithaca in the Ionian Sea. The
island, which was featured in Homer’s epic poems, the Iliad – the first Greek work to
feature Bees - and the Odyssey, is renowned for a sacred cave with a curious double
entrance; one passage orientated to Boreas – the god of the northern wind, and the
other to Notus – the god of the southern wind. The cave was home to Bee goddess
nymphs – or Melissa’s called Nagaden. Here Bees deposited honey in stone
containers and traveled through the Boreas entrance in order to appease the god of the
southern winds, who was known for destroying crops and giving rise to the planet
Sirius in late summer. The portal was believed to be a divine ‘Path of the Gods’ that
no mortal was permitted to cross, and even today the cave remains elusive to the
casual traveler, residing in near anonymity in the vicinity of an ancient Olive tree
believed to be at least 1500 years old.
The ancient Olive Tree near the entrance to the sacred Bee cave on Ithaca

In many ways the Greeks were students of the Minoans, and one example of this is
Beekeeping. The Minoans taught the Greeks the importance of Beekeeping with
respect to their agricultural, medicinal and ritualistic well being, and the Greeks
rapidly developed their own mythology around the practice. In the process of
assimilating the insect and its valuable by-products into their culture, the Greeks
would have been aware that the Minoan word for Bee was ‘Sphex’, and as we know,
the Greeks renamed the rather indistinct looking statue on Giza plateau ‘Sphinx’.
Coincidently, or perhaps out of respect for their Minoan elders the Greeks proceeded
to feature sphinx’s in their own art, and not only was their design highly feminine, but
it added an element not previously found in earlier designs; they added wings.
Two classical Greek sphinxes – each feminine and with wings

While the implication that Greek sphinx’s were inspired by Bee goddesses is both
alluring and romantic, further etymological analysis is required before the notion has
any real validity. However, it is safe to say that the sphinx appears to most to be the
head of a lioness of some description. And curiously, the tradition of lion guardians
presiding over a sacred complex – ala Akeru, the two Egyptian gods who presided
over the Giza complex, is also found in second millennium BC Greece. Here, one of
the most famous images from antiquity – the Lion Gate, hovers stoically over the
ancient centre of early Greek civilization; a military and cultural stronghold located
90 km south-west of Athens that was known by the name of Mycenae.
The Lion Gate - Mycenae

Like the Bee and the bull, Bee and lion symbolism go hand in had in Greek
mythology, as Hilda Ransome so eloquently describes:

“In a grave in north-west Peloponnese were found two pin heads,

dated fifth century BC. From the volutes spring four lions, their paws
resting on the cone, and between the forepaws of each rises a spiral
ornament; in the spaces between the spirals are four bees, modelled
with absolute realism, even to the veining of the wings. Between them
are three lions, and on the bud itself there are three bees, each sucking
from a small bud, and between the bees are three tiny sphinxes.”

Further, Ransome adds; “Another link between the lion and the bee is found on an
Etruscan gem.” Like the bull and the Bee, did the symbolism of Bees, lions and
sphinx’s once have a special meaning, now lost?

Mycenae also featured a Beehive shaped tomb style called thalamus. The choice of
the Bee’s hive as the model for their most important tombs reinforces the significance
that Mycenaean culture placed on the Bee in the afterlife, and suggests that its
reputation as a symbol of resurrection may have been inherited from the Egyptians
and Sumerians before them.
Mycenaean tomb of Tholos – 1500 BC

Archaeologists have also uncovered statues of female goddesses draped in honey

laden tiaras, buried amongst other Mycenaean tomb artifacts. The finds are nearly
identical to 10,000 year old statues discovered in Turkey that represent the mother
goddess ‘streaming with honey’. The discovery of such a find in Mycenaean tombs is
consistent with the goddess culture of the day and a society that was highly
matriarchal. The statue also resembles the dancing goddess motif that appears to have
originated in Sumerian culture before spreading to Egypt.
Minoan Bee Goddess – laden with honey - Mycenae

At Delphi, site of the most important oracle in the ancient world, legend asserts that
the second temple was constructed entirely by Bees. In fact, the Oracle itself – the
Omphalos Stone, resembles a Beehive and is designed with crisscrossing rows of Bee-
like symbols, reminiscent of the ‘Net dress’ worn by Nut, the Egyptian goddess of the
sky and keeper of the title She Who Holds a Thousand Souls.
The apparently Bee inspired Omphalos Stone - Delphi

Another instance where the Bee is linked with sacred stones is the story of the
goddess Rhea, whose titles included Mother of the Gods, Queen of Heaven and
Goddess of Fertility and Generation. Rhea was the wife of the Titan Kronos, who
feared a prophecy that stipulated that he would soon be killed by one of his offspring.
Fearing for his life, Kronos proceeded to eat his children - one at a time - before they,
could kill him. The Titan’s strategy worked, except for Zeus, who Rhea hid in the
Cave of the Bee. By now, Rhea was wise to her husband’s strategy and needed to be
especially clever should she hope to outwit him. Thus, in a final attempt to save her
only surviving son, Rhea wrapped a large stone in cloth, creating the appearance that
it was in fact a child, and presented it to Kronos as his last remaining offspring, which
he promptly devoured believing it was Zeus. To this day, Greeks hold their Easter
ritual in Crete’s Cave of the Bee, the same cave where Rhea gave birth to Zeus, who
in turn fathered Artemis, arguably the most famous Bee goddess in all of Greek
mythology – as we shall see.
The cave where Rhea gave birth to Zeus © Maicar Forlag

Yet another link between the Bee and a sacred stone is Cybele, the ancient Mother
goddess of Neolithic Anatolia who was revered by the Greeks as a Goddess of Bees
and Caves. Curiously, Cybele was often worshipped in the form of a meteoritic stone,
or a stone from heaven. Cybele was also known as Sybil - an oracle of the ancient
near east who was known to the Greeks as Sibyls. The name inspired Sybil, the title of
seer priestesses for hundreds of years to come, as illustrated below in a series of
paintings by the German artist Herman tom Ring (1521-1597).
A Sybil, from a series by the artist Herman tom Ring

Similarly, the god Apollo anointed Pythia, his chief oracular priestess at Delphi, with
the title ‘the Delphic Bee’. In ancient Greece, a High Priestess was considered to be
the Queen Bee, and her rituals required honey to induce states of spiritual ecstasy.
Thus, it would appear that the tradition of Bee goddesses continued with Melissa’s,
Sybil’s and Delphic Bee priestesses. Might they be different titles for the same exalted
Pythia – the ‘Delphic Bee’ sitting on the Delphic Tripod Cauldron

Apollo was one of the most important gods in the Greek Pantheon and was known as
the God of Truth and Prophecy. Remarkably, he is said to have provided a gift of
Bees to Hermes; the god of otherworldly boundaries and transformation of souls. The
legend is recounted in the 8th century Homeric Hymn to Hermes, for here Apollo
alludes to his gift including three female Bee-Maidens who practiced divination;

“There are some Fates sisters born,

maidens three of them, adorned with swift wings.
Their heads are sprinkled over with white barley meal,
wind they make their homes under the cliffs of Parnassus.
They taught divination far off from me, the art I used to practice
round my cattle while still a boy.”
Hermes steals Apollo’s cattle © Photo by R. Schoder

The legendary Greek god Poseidon carried the title God of the Sea and hailed from
Rhodes; site of many fine Bee artefacts from antiquity. In fact, one of Poseidon’s sons
was a Beekeeper named Eiyrieus. Another was Theseus, who as a young man became
renowned for killing the half-man | half-bull Minotaur that had become trapped inside
the labyrinth. This is the same Theseus who some believe is portrayed jumping over
the constellation of Taurus - the bull, in frescos that depict the Minoan bull-leaping
ritual. Might Theseus’s killing of the Minotaur be an example of a ritualistic bull
sacrifice and if so might this suggest that the labyrinth was in fact a place where
Mithraism was practiced and that the bull-leaping ritual was the Minoan equivalent of
the Egyptian Heb-Sed Festival? The notion is intriguing.

As an aside, the half man | half bull symbolism is peculiar but not entirely unique in
Mediterranean mythology, for example Poseidon was worshiped as a bull on the
citadel of Boeotian in Thebes. These details, combined with Apollo’s link with the
Minotaur suggests an affiliation with Atlantis, as the legendary civilization is said to
have featured a labyrinth and appears to be associated with the island of Crete; a
culture that worshiped bulls, bees and lions.
Bust of the half-man, half-bull Minotaur: National Archaeological Museum of Athens

Another example of the Bee as an important element of Greek mythology is Pan, the
god of all things wild and sexual, and the Greek God of Beekeeping. Icarus is another
example. The Greek god was the son of Daedalus – the master craftsman who built
the labyrinth for King Minos, and who is infamous for having flown too close to the
sun before falling to earth after his Beeswax constructed feathers started to melt. And
then we have Cyrene, a Beekeeper and one of 50 nymphs who road dolphins in the
Mediterranean. As we have seen, Nymphs are synonymous with Bee goddesses, but
could the number 50, which is associated with the planet Sirius, also be related to the
The Beeswax wings of Icarus begin to melt as he flies too close to the sun

Still another example of Bee veneration in Greek mythology is Aphrodite, the nymph-
goddess of midsummer who is renowned for murdering the king and tearing out his
organs just as the Queen Bee does to the drone. Aphrodite’s priestesses, who are
known as Melissa’s, are said to have displayed a golden honeycomb at her shrine on
Mount Eryx. The mythologist Robert Graves spoke of Butes - a priest to Athene who
lived on Mount Eryx and was allegedly the most famous Beekeeper of antiquity.
Butes represented the love-god Phanes, who is often depicted as Eircepaius - a loud
buzzing Bee. Graves also states in his authoritative work, ‘The Greek Myths’ that
Plato identified Athene with the Egyptian goddess Neith, who as we have seen, is
associated with the Bee in a multitude of ways.

Melissa, the Bee goddess of Mount Eryx

Further, evidence suggests that Artemis was in fact the most renowned patron of the
Bee in all of Greece. As the daughter of Zeus and twin sister to Apollo, Artemis was
the goddess of nature, particularly forests, hills, rocky outcroppings and rivers; all
natural habitats of Bees. Artemis’s Roman equivalent was the goddess Diana, and
statues of Artemis | Diana from the Anatolian city of Ephesus portray her covered in
eggs, which some have identified as Bee eggs given that a typical Queen Bee will lay
tens of thousands of eggs in her short lifetime. Alternatively, others believe that the
abundance of small spherical objects represent bull testicles. In either case, the
connection between Ephesus and the Bee is irrefutable, for "Ephesos" is thought to
derive from the word "Apasas", which was the name of the city in the Bronze Age
and a pre-Greek word meaning Bee. Bees are often depicted on statues of Artemis |
Diana and her headdress frequently hints at a Beehive style design.

Statues of Artemis | Diana from Ephesus

(‘the Bee’) showing Bee eggs or bull
testicles, Bees and a Beehive styled

The influence of Greek culture spread far and wide and images of winged sphinxes,
bulls and Bees soon reached many a distant shore. For instance, the ancient Romans
relied heavily on Bees for warfare and deployed Beehives as catapult projectiles in
battle, although the success of the technique ultimately depleted the supply of Bees in
central Italy. However, the roots of Bee symbolism in Roman mythology run far
deeper than warfare. In fact, they date back to Mithraism, a mystery religion practiced
in Rome between the 1st and 4th centuries, as well as in other provinces, such as

Very little is known about Mithraism, besides the fact that it involved the ritualistic
slaughter of bulls and that it is linked with the concept of regeneration. Like other
mystery schools, its principal rituals were maintained orally and never written down.
Some believe that Mithras is connected with the constellation of Orion, due to its
proximity to Taurus. If true, this further binds Mithraism with Osiris and the
regenerative aspect of the Apis Bull, which hearkens back to the Saqqara Serapeum; a
necropolis that may have served as a ritualistic centre for the regeneration of souls in
the form of Bees.

Mithras and the Bull: Italian fresco from the mithraeum at Marino, Italy

So clearly we can see a pattern here; societies that worshiped the bull also seem to
have venerated the Bee. And in Roman mythology there are many examples of Bee
veneration. For example, the Roman Bee goddess was named Mellonia and Marcus
Aurelius, the Roman emperor, philosopher and some would argue the world's first
Socialist, coined the phrase; "What is not good for the swarm is not good for the bee."
Likewise Lycurgus, founder of Sparta, built his model for the perfect Spartan
government on the social strata observed in the Beehive. Bees were depicted on coins
throughout the ancient world, such as Sicily, where a Bee is featured on a 7th century
BC coin. And in Rhodes – the ancient home of Poseidon, an 8th century gold plague
depicts a decidedly Egyptian looking sphinx with a Bee headdress and sternum.
Gold Plaque form Rhodes and a Bee Coin from Sicily

The dissemination of Bee symbolism was propagated by the work of many famous
artists of the day, including writers such as Plato, who as we discussed in our first
installment, wrote of Solon’s enlightenment at the temple of Neith in Egypt. Plato and
other writers such as Virgil and Sophocles were called ‘birds of the muses’ due to the
belief that as infants, their lips were touched by Bees. Their initiation by Bees was
thought to have transformed their lives and set their destiny as great orators, poets and
philosophers. Sophocles in particular confirms his patronage to the Bee with a
haunting turn of a phrase; “the swarm of the dead hums.” However, Homer was the
first Greek writer to reference Bees in his work, the Iliad;

“Even as when the tribes of thronging Bees issue from some hollow
rock, ever in fresh procession, and fly clustering among the flowers in
spring, and some on this side, and some on that side fly thick.”

Additionally, writers such as Virgil, and a Byzantine by the name of Florentinus -

author of the Geoponica, recorded the ancient and undeniably gruesome death ritual
performed on bulls. Florentinus tells us that the ritual was ideally preformed while the
sun was in Taurus and involved beating the bull to death in a dark and confined space.
The dead animal was left for three weeks before being inspected and re-sealed for
another 10 days. After the next visit, the bull’s flesh would have mostly evaporated,
leaving only clusters of Bees where the flesh once hugged the bone. Interestingly,
images evoked from Florentinus’s lucid description feel suspiciously like a
mithraeum – a dark and windowless cave or building where Mithraism was
A Roman Mithraeum
Part 3: Beegotten

My research into the Bee has revealed that this omnipresent creature has been held
sacred since the year dot. Along the way I’ve chronicled how the diminutive insect
has been incorporated into religion, government, art and literature, as well as how its
symbolism – still prevalent in modern times - has largely been forgotten or
misinterpreted as something else altogether. In this, the final part of the trilogy, I will
review the events that have led to the Bee’s present condition, and contemplate its fate
in the light of its most formidable adversary yet; 21st century man.

Hieroglyphic of the Bee from ancient Egypt

Forefathers of the American Revolution incorporated the symbolism of the Bee into
the very fabric of their government. This should not be regarded as unusual, however,
for early American statesmen shared a bond with other more time-honoured nations
that enabled Bee symbolism to be transmitted across the globe and into a new era.
And that conduit was Freemasonry. The Bee remains an important symbol in
Freemasonry and was especially pervasive in Masonic drawings and documents of the
18th and 19th centuries. At the heart of the Masonic tradition are the concepts of
industry and stability, virtues that were important to the Egyptians - as well as other
ancient civilisations - before being adopted by the United States of America. The
recurring theme stems from the stable, regular and orderly society exhibited in a
Beehive. In Freemasonry, the Beehive represents all that is proper in society and
could arguably be the organisation's most enduring symbol.
The Beehive – one of Freemasonry’s most important symbols

Bee symbolism is a vital component of Masonic ideals, although its application within
the craft is not without paradox. For instance, the ‘Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry’
informs us that the Bee is important to Freemasonry for the same reason it was
important to the Egyptians, because of all insects; “only the Bee has a King.” The
quote is peculiar for reasons already discussed; namely because the Bees society is
matriarchal. Are Masons refereeing to the King Bee – as in the Egyptian pharaoh who
bore the title of ‘Beekeeper’, or do they know something we don’t? Could the ‘male
only’ tradition of Freemasonry be an extension of the movement that appears to have
suppressed or at least tempered goddess worship back in pre-dynastic Egypt? The
notion is speculative, but intriguing nonetheless.

The ‘Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry’ provides many references to the Bee, including

the fact that honey is used to illustrate moral teachings. In this regard, the Masonic
initiate is instructed to;

“Go to the bee, and learn how diligent she is, and what a noble work
she produces; whose labour kings and private men use for their health.
She is desired and honoured by all, and, though weak in strength, yet
since she values wisdom she prevails.”

Similarly, we are told that;

"The bee hive is an emblem of industry, and recommends the practice

of that virtue of all created beings…Thus was man formed for social
and active life, the noblest part of the work of God; and he that will so
demean himself, as not to be endeavouring to add to the common stock
of knowledge and understanding, may be deemed a drone in the hive
of nature, a useless member of society, and unworthy of our protection
as masons.”

The Masonic Trophonius of Ledadia, which commemorates two famous architects

Clearly, Freemasonry is an important reminder of the virtues that early society valued
most. And this accounts for the fact that many early American Presidents were
Freemasons, such as George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James K.
Polk and James Buchanan – to name a few. In fact, most Masonic presidents were
Grand Masters of their lodges at one time or another, and as such, would have been
installed into the symbolic chair of King Solomon, the historically evasive king who
is said to have secured the love of the Queen of Sheba after consulting with a Bee.
The Masonic regalia of early American presidents reflects the craft's admiration of the
Bee and include a Masonic apron with a prominently positioned Beehive that
signified the wisdom and industry of man. The Beehive is positioned directly above
an image of a coffin, a vital element of the Masonic 3rd degree ritual, and appears to
allude to the Bee's association with resurrection.
George Washington’s Masonic Apron, with a Beehive located top centre

So, the forefathers of American government were stimulated by the ideals of

Freemasonry, an institution that incorporated Bee symbolism into its philosophy and
maintained an invisible hand in the politics of most nations. Historians inform us that
French Freemasonry was particularly influential in guiding the ideals of early
American statesmen, such as the political philosopher Thomas Jefferson, who shared
a peculiar bond with Marquis de Lafayette, a French military officer with strong
Masonic affiliations and who served in both the American and French Revolutions.

Masonic ideals permeated the genesis of American society, as they did the French
Revolution, and in each instance the symbolism of the Bee was chosen to illustrate the
ethos and vision of the nation. In fact, just five years after the death of George
Washington, France would crown a new leader who would restore the long and
illustrious legacy of the Bee in his country. I speak of Napoleon Bonaparte, who in
1804 was crowned Emperor of France in a coronation robe decorated with 300 gold
Napoleons at his Coronation, wearing a robe adorned with Bees

The Bee was a hugely important icon of Napoleon’s reign, and his obsession with its
symbolism led to his inevitable nickname; The Bee. Napoleon would have grown up
with the symbolism of the Bee ingrained in his psyche, for his homeland of Corsica
was required to pay the Romans an annual tax equivalent of £200,000 in Beeswax.
The young emperor ensured that the Bee was widely adopted in his court as well as on
clothing, draperies, carpets and furniture all across France. By choosing the Bee as the
emblem of his reign, Napoleon was paying homage to Childeric (436 - 481), one of
the ‘long haired’ Merovingian Kings of the region known as Gaul. When Childeric’s
tomb was uncovered in 1653, it was found to contain 300 golden jewels, styled in the
image of a Bee. And of course, these are the same Bees that Napoleon had affixed to
his coronation robe. Sadly, of the 300 Bees only two have survived.
Bee’s from the Tomb of Childeric I

Fortuitously, the tomb of Childeric contained other artefacts that help put the golden
amulets into a broader ritualistic context. In addition to Bees, it contained items of
divination such as a crystal ball and a bull's head made of gold, amongst other unusual
objects, such as a severed horse's head. Childeric’s hoard was entrusted to Leopold
Wilhelm von Habsburg, a military governor of the Austrian Netherlands who was
believed to have been a descendent of the Merovingian dynasty. Six years after his
coronation, Napoleon married Marie-Louise, the daughter of Francis II, the last
Habsburg to sit on the throne of the Holy Roman Empire.

Napoleon’s choice of the Bee as the national emblem of his imperial rule speaks
volumes about his desire to be associated with the Carolingians and Merovingian’s;
the early French kings whose funeral furniture featured Bee and cicada symbolism as
a metaphor for resurrection and immortality. And as we reviewed in Part 2, the Bee
and cicada represent dualism, with the Bee producing the sound of day and the cicada
the sound of the night. The Bee was also a vital symbol of French industry and one of
the most prominent emblems of the French Revolution (1789–1799).

The Bee / Beehive – a popular emblem of the French Revolution

From a civic perspective the Bee was a popular emblem of Napoleon’s rule, and more
than 60 cities throughout France and Europe selected an officially approved heraldic
shield that included three Bees as part of its template.
Two examples of French heraldry Bee shields: Mazamet and La Meilleraye de
Bretagne ©

Of his many impressive feats, Napoleon is probably best remembered for a campaign
he led prior to his coronation; his 1798 invasion of Egypt, a country that was a
province of the Ottoman Empire at the time. One can only muse at the irony of the
man they called The Bee riding horsebackin the land of the Bee, staring at an image
that may have been named after the Minoans word for Bee; ‘Sphex’.

Napoleon and the Sphinx, by Jean Gerome, 1862

Astonishingly, it is thought that the Bee was the precursor to the Fleur-de-lys; the
national emblem of France to this day. The theory is supported by many, including the
French physician, antiquary and archaeologist Jean-Jacques Chifflet. In fact Louis
XII, the 35th King of France, was known as ‘the father of the pope’ and featured a
Beehive in his Coat of Arms. Disappointingly, his efforts to have the Bee adopted as
the Republic’s official emblem were rejected by the National Convention due to their
belief that “Bees have Queens”. Nevertheless, the Bee remained a prominent element
of French culture throughout the First and Second Empire (1804 to 1814, and 1852-
1870) due to the enthusiastic patronage it had previously received.

The Bee as precursor to the Fleur-de-lys

As an aside, the researcher Robert Lawlor studied the design of the Bee and Fleur-de-
lys in his book; ‘Sacred Geometry’ and concluded that the 1:√ proportion of the Fleur-
de-lys is also found in the design of the Islamic Mosque. Intriguingly, the mystical
dimension of Islam known as Sufism maintained a secret brotherhood called
Sarmoung, or Sarman, meaning Bee. Members of the organization viewed their role
as collecting the precious 'honey' of wisdom and preserving it for future generations.

Logo of the secret Sufi society with a Bee near the flame of a candle

The Fleur-de-lys is not unique to France and has in fact appeared in Egypt, Rome and
Israel, amongst other places. However in France, the Bee and the Fleur-de-lys were
iconic and embodied the essence of the Merovingian dynasty. And not only are the
Merovingian’s purported to be decendants of Jesus Christ, they also linked with a
popular modern day mystery involving treasure and heretical secrets in the South of
France. I speak of the mystery of Rennes-Le-Château, a curious story that has inspired
hundreds of books, including Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’. The legend of
Rennes-Le-Château is largely beyond the scope of our discussion, but for a few
exceptions – and needless to say they are peculiar.

The Tour Magdela in Rennes-Le-Château; an icon of the mystery

Rennes-Le-Château is an unassuming yet sombre hilltop hamlet in the shadow of the

French Pyrenees. Here, at the turn of the 20th century, a group of priests – most
famously Berenger Saunière - aroused suspicion with their curious behaviour and
apparent wealth, leading many to speculate that they had discovered a great heretical
secret – possibly involving Mary Magdalene, the treasure of Solomon, hoards of the
Visigoth’s, or a cache hidden during the French Revolution.

Although the legend of Rennes-Le-Château has struck a chord with modern

audiences, its roots stem from the Merovingian kings so revered by Napoleon. And
the origins of the legend go something like this: Childeric I fathered Clovis I, who
succeeded his father in 481 as king of the region that now borders Belgium and
France, and in the process became the first ruler to unite the previously hostile and
independent Frankish tribes. A line of descendants leads to Dagobert I, king of the
Franks from 629–634, who fathered Sigelbert III, who in turn fathered Dagobert II,
who married Giselle de Razes, the daughter of the Count of Razes and the niece of the
king of the Visigoths. The two were said to have married at Rhedae, a stronghold
widely believed to be Rennes-Le-Château, although the association remains
unconfirmed. Years later, in 754 AD, Childeric III died childless, marking the end of
a dynasty that had been in decline since Dagobert II was assassinated near Stenay-sur-
Meuse on December 23rd, 679 AD.
The long haired Merovingian Kings: Childeric I and III

The belief that the Merovingians were special, and that they represented a royal
bloodline, led Napoleon to commission an extensive analysis of their lineage.
Fascination with the mysterious line of kings continued into the 20th century when a
Frenchman by the name of Louis Vazart founded an organization based in Stenay-sur-
Meuse called ‘Cercle Saint Dagobert II’, that specialized in the study of the
Merovingians and Dagobert II in particular. For its logo, Vazart chose an image of a
Bee inside of a 6-sided cone, or Hexagon – the shape of a Beehive cell, surrounded by
a circle. The design recalls the Mayan deity Hu-Nab-Ku, whose name means ‘magical
body’ and whose symbol was a square / pyramid shape within a circle.

Logo of Cercle Saint Dagobert II; A Bee in a Hexagon

Vazart’s selection of the Bee is entirely consistent with the subject matter his
organisation was studying, for France is known as l'Hexagone, due to its natural 6-
sided shape. Coincidently, the centre line of l’Hexagone closely mirrors the old Paris
Meridian, passing near Paris in the north and Rennes-Le-Château in the south. The
Paris Meridian - an imaginary arc that measures the hours of the day – was later
replaced by London’s Greenwich Meridian as the international standard for time
keeping. However, in recent years the Paris Meridian has been romanticized and
somewhat merged with the notion of the Rose-Line, a mythical sort of ley-line that
allegedly connects esoterically significant sites from Roslyn Chapel in Scotland to
Saint Sulpice in Paris, and on to Rennes-Le-Château in the South of France. Despite
its spurious invention, it is worth mentioning that the two sites that top and tail the
Rose-Line; Roslyn Chapel and Rennes-Le-Château, each feature Bee symbolism in
rather bizarre ways. And while we have only begun to unravel Rennes-Le-Château’s
connection with Bees, it would be a shame if we did not pause long enough to first
discuss its Rose-Line counterpart in the north.

France – believed to be in the shape of a natural Hexagon


Roslyn Chapel was founded by William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness, in the 15th
century and is renowned for what many believe to be an elaborate display of Masonic
symbolism. In fact, some believe that the chapel contains treasures of the Knights
Templar or even the Holy Grail itself. Hyperbole aside, Roslyn Chapel does in fact
contain a splendidly carved column known as the Apprentice Pillar, or the Princes
Pillar as it was called in more ancient accounts. The pillar, which stands to the right
of the church altar, is adorned with what is generally regarded as Tree of Life
symbolism; two dragons of Yggdrasil – the World Tree according to Norse
Mythology - reside at its base while a masonry vine spirals vertically around the
column, drawing our attention to the ceiling. The Tree of Life symbolism has its roots
– no pun intended – in the Jewish Cabala, a discipline that has much to say about the
Bee, as we shall soon see.
The Princes Pillar – Roslyn Chapel, Scotland

Recent theories put forth by Alan Butler and John Ritchie in their book; ‘Rosslyn
Revealed: A Library in Stone’, suggest that the ceiling above the Princes Pillar
represents “paradise” on earth. And serendipitously – or allegedly by design - on the
roof of chapel we find a curious stone Beehive with a lone flower petal entrance that
was home to Bees for as long as anyone can remember – as least until they were
removed in the 1990’s. However, the existence of the Beehive in the proximity of the
vine recalls a biblical account of a staff that grows into a great tree, with; “a vine
twisted around it and honey coming from above." As is often the case, hundreds of
years on the original intent of such symbolism is often forgotten. And in this instance,
one is forgiven for speculating that the design of the roof, ceiling and Princes Pillar
were intended to reflect the role of Bees and honey in the greater context of Paradise
and the World Tree of Life.
Roslyn Chapel and the entrance to the stone Beehive. © Filip Coppens

Curiously, the association of the Tee of Life with hexagonal Beehive symbolism is
not unique. In fact, it is featured on the new Euro coin, reinforcing the importance of
the ancient symbolism to this day.

The new Euro Coin: Tree of Life Symbolism within a hexagon

From Roslyn Chapel in the north, the mythical Rose-Line reunites with Rennes-Le-
Château in the south, the village with alleged Merovingian origins. History informs us
that the Merovingian dynasty died out with Dagobert II. However, this has not
prevented others from claiming descent, such as Pierre Plantard, a Frenchman who in
the later half of 20th century promoted his association with the Merovingians - as well
as with Rennes-Le-Château, and was regarded by some as the last direct descendant
of Jesus Christ. Plantard also claimed to have been a Grand Master of the Priory of
Sion, a controversial society with considerable interests in the Merovingian lineages
commissioned by Napoleon. Curiously, Plantard’s family crest featured both the
Fleur-de-lys and the Bee - eleven Bees in fact – an important number in Rennes-Le-
Château mythology.

Plantard Family Crest

The Plantard family crest is strangely reminiscent of images of Jesus Christ crucified
on a 6-sided Fleur-de-lys cross, complete with 11 stars – similar to Plantard’s 11
Bees. The artistry recalls the hexagonal symbolism of the Beehive as well as the Bee
itself, the very image that the Fleur-de-lys is thought to conceal in the first place.
Does Plantard’s family crest hint at a bloodline leading back to Jesus Christ, as
symbolised by the Bee and the Fleur-de-lys - a hidden bloodline that the man himself
promoted throughout his lifetime? To this day, as many believe this to be true as do
Christ crucified on a Fleur-de-lys shaped cross

One of the more interesting links between the Bee and Rennes-Le-Château involves
Henry Lincoln, co-author of the 1982 book ‘Holy Blood and the Holy Grail’ – the
international bestseller that put Rennes-Le-Château on the map with English speaking
audiences around the world. Back in the early days of the mystery, Lincoln had been
in contact with the French author Gerard de Sède, whose 1967 book ‘The Accursed
Treasure of Rennes-Le-Château’, had catapulted the story to national prominence.
The story goes that Lincoln purchased de Sède’s book while on holiday in France and
succeeded in deciphering one of it’s peculiar parchments, giving spark to the flame of
the mystery that still burns today; that is, just what - if anything - do the coded
parchments conceal? Lincoln later came across a ‘Book Club’ version with a strange
photograph of Bees that was not referenced anywhere in the text. Curiously, the title
beneath the photo simply stated ‘Rennes-les-Bains – Thermes Romains’, and no other
reference to the photograph was made.
The anomaly is recounted in Lincoln’s book, ‘The Key to the Sacred Pattern’.
Essentially, the photo depicts a wooden panel on a dining room door with four Bees,
one in each corner, and in the middle, a winged female standing on a globe holding a
wreath above her head like an Egyptian dancing goddess – a motif we now associate
with Bee goddesses, as identified by scholars. Later, de Sède provided Lincoln with
material for his BBC television special about Rennes-Le-Château, including photos
taken by Plantard that de Sède’s had used in his book.

In his book, Lincoln recounts how the back of the photos were simply stamped with a
seal saying “PLANTARD”, along with notation that revealed that the woman in the
centre of the photograph was named Europa – the legendary priestess who was
seduced by Zeus while in the form of a bull, and that the images of Bees represented
apiculture. However, it is said that the notation on the back of the photographs also
included the phrase; “We are the Beekeepers” - a detail not revealed by Lincoln in his
book. The expression recalls the ‘Beekeeper’ title held by Egyptian Pharaohs and
begs the question, was Pierre Plantard inferring the he was a Beekeeper – and if so, of
Pierre Plantard. A Beekeeper – but of what – the Priory of Sion?

Before departing the enigma of Pierre Plantard, it is worth mentioning Philippe de

Cherisey, a friend of Plantard’s who many believe created the documents that
Plantard used to claim descent from Dagobert II. In any event, de Cherisey founded a
magazine called Circuit, whose distribution was said to include the membership of the
Priory of Sion. The magazine is of interest, not just for its alluring readership, but for
the fact that it featured a hexagon imprinted over an image of France with a sword
symbolically piercing its centre, echoing the old Paris Meridian.
The cover of Philippe De Cherisey’s Circut

So the founders of the Rennes-Le-Château mystery – real or imagined - believed that

Bees and hexagonal Beehive symbolism were quite important. They may have even
considered themselves Beekeepers – but of what exactly remains to be determined.
The notion is serendipitous, however, for the keeper of Childric’s Bees after they
were unearthed from his tomb was a Habsburg; a ruling dynasty that governed Europe
for centuries and which is tied to the mystery of the Rennes-Le-Château. It is said that
Saunière was repeatedly visited by a Habsburg, who ultimately informed the priest
where he would find his ‘treasure’. In other words, it was no accident that the priest
found what he did. The theory purports that he was simply ‘reclaiming’ a previously
hidden artefact, aided by a family of great nobility – the Habsburgs.

In ‘The Key to the Sacred Pattern’, Lincoln also draws attention to a series of Beehive
inspired stone huts called “Capitelles”, not dissimilar to the Clochán stone huts in
Ireland, as discussed in Part 2. The Beehive structures are found near a village called
Coustaussa – site of a macabre assassination of a priest, and friend of Saunière’s, who
appears to have become fatally entwined in the cover up of his friends discovery. The
Beehive huts, which are largely unexcavated, are part of what is known locally as the
“Great Camp”. The curious structures are one of the few artefacts that lend credence
to the belief that Rennes-Le-Château may in fact have been the ancient and
formidable Visigoth settlement of Rhedae. Additionally, the Beehive inspired huts
overlook Perch Cardu, a sacred mountain that has long been the playground of
zealous treasure hunters, and which only recently has spawned claims that the tombs
of Jesus Christ and / or Mary Magdalene have been discovered there and that the
‘Temple of Solomon’ resides nearby.

Beehive styled huts near Rennes-Le-Château – Perch Cardu in the distance

Henry Lincoln is not the only writer to feature Bees in his books on Rennes-Le-
Château. Christopher Dawes, author of the superb Rennes-Le-Château adventure yarn
‘Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail’, inexplicably encountered dead Bees throughout his
research for the book. There are many instances of Rennes-Le-Château being linked
with Bees, one notable example being the infamous Latin expression that hangs over
the door of the village church of Saint Mary Magdalene; ‘TERRIBILIS EST LOCUS
ISTE’, meaning This Place Is Terrible. The biblical phrase refers to the words that
Jacob spoke when he awoke from his dream about a ladder that reached to heaven. To
this end, Genesis 35:1 provides the reference;

“And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there:
and make there an altar unto God.”

So Jacob recounted that the place was called Bethel and he had a stone erected
commemorating the spot where he had fallen asleep. The biblical story relates to the
Bee in that Bethel, or Bytal in Hebrew, means ‘House of God’, and the letter ‘Y’ and
the letter ‘I’ are interchangeable, rendering the translation ‘Bit-al’, and ‘Bit’ in ancient
Egyptian means Bee. The translation also suggests that House of God may represent a
repository of knowledge – as in the Beehive. Additionally, and somewhat bizarrely,
Bethel carries the same numeric value as the word ‘meteorite’, which harkens back to
the notion that Bees are related to sacred stones, and stones from heaven in particular,
which we will discuss more fully, shortly.
“This Place is Terrible” – above the church in Rennes-Le-Château

Finally, our last association with Rennes-Le-Château and the Bee is even more obtuse
than the others, for it involves the Holy Grail, an object of desire long associated with
the South of France. The well worn legend of Rennes-Le-Château purports that
Saunière discovered a heretical secret and / or treasure of considerable importance
while renovating his church. As previously noted, he may have been told where to
look by a Habsburg; a dynasty linked with Bees. With his new found riches –
apparently as a result of his ‘discovery’ - the priest renovated his village and church in
a manner that seems gaudy and sensational to our 21st century eyes. The renovations
included the encoding of the number 11 - as in the number of Bees found on
Plantard’s family crest, and the number 22 – the feast day of Mary Magdalene, and an
important number in the Cabala. As part of his renovation, the priest repositioned the
statues of Saints in his church in such a way that when connected in an unbroken line,
or ‘M’ shape, the first letter of each saints name spells GRAAL – or Grail in French,
i.e. St Germaine, St Roch, St Antoine de Padoue, St Antoine, St Luc.
The Grail - commemorated in the Church in Rennes-Le-Château

The region around Rennes-Le-Château is ripe with Grail legends. In fact history’s
most renowned Grail hunter, the German Otto Rahn, explored the province
extensively during the early part of the 20th century. Rahn was inspired by his
understanding that Grail Romances such as Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival were
written by authors who specialized in history – not fiction, and that they portrayed
real historical events, places and people. To this end, Rahn believed that the Cathar
fortress of Montségur was Eschenbach’s historical Grail castle, the Mountain of
Salvation visited by Parzival as part of his initiation into the mysteries of the Grail.
While today’s scholars agree that the region is indeed steeped in Grail legend, most
support an alternative site to Rahn’s Mountain of Salvation, and that is Montreal de
Sos. The archeologically rich cave is nestled in the side of a rocky outcrop in what is
known as the ‘Royal Mountain’, in the nearby region of Vicdessos.
Montreal de Sos – A Grail initiation cave in the ‘Royal Mountain’

Much has been written about the evocative drawings on the walls of Montreal de Sos,
for they mirror many of objects described in the Grail procession of Chrétien de
Troyes provocative but unfinished work; ‘Perceval, the Story of the Grail’ – the first
ever Grail Romance (1190).

Recreation of the Grail etchings on the wall at Montreal de Sos |

A Photograph close up of the Lance in the actual cave

A little known fact is that de Troyes was unable to start until he travelled to Spain and
studied with a Cabalist, leading scholars to conclude that the Cabala uniquely enables
the understanding of esoteric subjects such as the Grail. Some years later, Wolfram
von Eschenbach wrote the Grail Romance ‘Parzival’, and in his account we are told
that the Grail is a stone from heaven. This is interesting, given that the word
‘meteorite’ carries the same numeric value (443) as ‘Bethel’ – which translates as Bee
in Egyptian.

Montreal de Sos is a double entrance cave in the tradition of the Bee goddess cave on
the Greek island of Ithaca, and its location is intriguing, for it faces a peculiar looking
stone in the distance known as the Dolmen of Sem, meaning the ‘Palace of Samson’.
In Part 2, we discussed how the reference to Samson recalls the legend of Bees
coming forth from the body of a lion. Might Bees be associated with the Palace of
Samson, too? The stone is curious in several respects. Firstly, it only vaguely
resembles a dolmen, and secondly it is positioned in such a way as to point directly at
two intriguing landmarks - each in opposite directions. To the Northwest, the Palace
of Samson points at a tiny village named Orus. And to the Southeast, it points at a
nearby mountain range whose summit is called the Forest of the Grail, and whose
valley is known as the Pass of the Grail.

The Palace of Samson – marker stone or dolmen?

Montreal de Sos is in the low lying hill in the centre in the distance |
Orus, or Horus is to the right | the Pass of the Grail is to the left

The researcher André Douzet wrote about the curious stone in his book ‘The
Wanderings of the Grail’, and observed that Orus transcribed as Horus – the name of
the falcon headed Egyptian god, when spoken in French, and lest we forget, Egyptian
Pharaohs were considered the ‘living Horus’ and carried the title of ‘Beekeeper’.
When I explored the mountain a couple of years ago, I discovered that at the centre of
the Pass of the Grail, in the middle of the Forest of the Grail, at the top of the
mountain in a totally secluded path at the precise point where one would be aligned
with the Palace of Samson and the village of Orus in the distance, an apiary - a group
of Beehives - obstructed the path.
Beehives in the centre of the Pass of the Grail

Although the presence of Bees in the middle of a mountain top path is in itself not
significant - as apiaries are frequently positioned in out of the way places such as this
- it is serendipitous, for it calls attention to the notion that Bees are not only linked
with sacred stones, they are frequently associated with lines; Bee-lines. And as I
retreated down the mountain, defeated by my fear of being ‘stung’ should I attempt to
manoeuvre past the hives, I reflected on the symbolism of the Bee for the very first

Entering the Forest of the Grail | A view of The Pass of the Grail