Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Honeybee: Community & Harmony

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The Honeybee: Community & Harmony is my latest painting in the Animal Spirit Totem series. I have been reading a lot of fascinating literature about the honeybee. This painting celebrates the all that the honeybee contributes to life on earth.

Until recently, the honeybee has been taken for granted, and feared by some. However, the honeybee is an integral part of our existence on earth. Without it, we would not be able to survive like we do now. Honeybees are responsible for fertilizing the flowers and plants we depend on for food. One third of all our food is produced by pollinators, which include the honeybee. Not only does the honeybee play an important role in our ability to provide food, but they can also serve as examples and guides of how to live better lives.

The honeybee teaches about community and harmony. They live in hives comprised of the Queen and many Workers and Drones. The Queen begins building the hive by choosing a home and laying the eggs. While the eggs develop into Workers the Queen continues to construct the hive. Once the Workers are old enough, they take over building the hive, collecting food and caring for the developing bees. The Drones aid in propagation and in controlling the temperature of the hive. The health of the hive depends on the cooperation and health of every one of its members. Every bee has a role and contributes to the over all harmony of the hive.

One lesson we can take from this is that the well-being of any community is dependent on the health and contribution of each of its members. One member cannot take on all the responsibilities, nor can one sit back and reap all the benefits without harming the community in a negative way. Another lesson is that sometimes one can work too hard, ignoring the others in the community who can contribute, risking their health from stress and depleted health. Think of the classic workaholic. Being part of a community means knowing you cannot do it all, and asking for help when it is needed. It also means to step up and help out those who need it.

Honeybees work very hard to prepare for a long winter, collecting pollen and nectar to feed their young and to sustain them during the winter months when food is scarce. We can also learn from the honeybee about conserving and preparing for the future. By balancing working roles, the hive (the community) can run efficiently and create a harmonious living environment.

Honeybees have had a long relationship with humans throughout history and in many cultures. Most of the ancient myths are centered on Europe and the surrounding area, because honeybees are not native to North America (They were brought here by the European colonists).

To the Ancient Egyptians, honeybees were believed to be the tears of the sun god Ra and honey was believed to be a symbol of resurrection and protected against evil spirits.

In Ancient Greece the honeybee was thought to be messengers for the gods. The Priestesses of the Oracle in Delphi were sought to answer questions about the future and past. The Priestesses sat on three-legged stools near a spot where sweet-smelling fumes rose up through an omphalos stone, which was hollow and shaped similar to a bee hive. The exterior of the omphalos stone was carved with the images of honeybees.

The Honeybee was sacred to the Celtic goddess Brigid, who kept an orchard in the Otherworld, which was visited by bees.

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