Speaker for the Animals

We live in a rapidly changing landscape where people and urban areas are displacing the places for the wild ones to live. Who speaks for the animals? We will.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Bee - Power of Collective Consciousness

Organizational Efficiency,
Cleanliness, Purity,
Symbolizes the Soul, the Sun, or Christ,
The Gifts of Poesy and Prophecy,
Sexuality, the Womb and Death.

What animal archetype could be more appropriate to describe the contradictions within the Western psyche than “Bee?” For like Mankind, Bee stands between the Divine and the Mundane, the most conscious and the least, the productive and the compulsively driven!

Ted Andrews’ research maintains that bees appear in many mythologies around the world. Hinduism considers the Bee to symbolize Vishnu, Krishna, or even Kama—the god of Love. In ancient Egypt, the Bee symbolized royality. In Greece, it was part of the symbolism of the Eleusinian Mysteries. To the Celts, Bee symbolized hidden wisdom. And to Christians, Bee symbolized Christ.

In more modern times, science was for many years confounded by the bee, perceiving it as an insect that was ‘too heavy to fly’, and yet it did. It earned the reputation of being the Rocky Balboa of the insect kingdom: able to “do the impossible.” Like Rocky, Bee became an imago for all who saw themselves as facing impossible odds and yet were determined to win.

Bees are always working, going, gathering pollen and making honey. But like Man, Bee gathers and does far more than required to feed himself. Beekeepers take away much of a hive’s honey to sell, returning very little in security to their tiny charges. But Bee just keeps working, locked in its own world of prescribed roles and duties.

From the outside, Bee is the very model of duty and industriousness—all characteristics admired in western economic thought and culture. Bees are orderly and efficient, managing their hives and work schedules so effectively that businessmen and government bureaucrats might well choose this imago as an ideal model to emulate in their own realms of responsibility. They keep their hives clean and hygienic, providing an idealized model for our homemakers, religious and social organizations: doing good, keeping busy, cleaning house, caring for the children, making money, being and doing “good”, and doing one’s duty.

These qualities of Bee remind us how our modern economic system seems totally dependent upon collective effort and creativity rather than individual effort and creativity; so complex has modern economic life become that it is impossible to think of our capital and technology-driven economy remaining viable without carefully coordinated effort by many persons who possess many specialized skills. Bee does not have much of the artist or entrepreneur in it, for such energies are driven by individualized callings and passions.

But the dark side of these qualities are rigidity, inflexibility, conformity to collective order, mindless activity, and the imposition of collective values and priorities without individual rights or responsibility. Bee thus also symbolizes the compulsiveness of Man’s unconscious programming to work and unthinkingly attend to social or work duties over personal or individual need. Much of Mankind, like sterile worker Bees, spend their lives thoughtlessly leading sterile existences. Or like soldier Bees, our professional soldiers, defending the homeland against all enemies, foreign or domestic. Individual judgment and survival are not important against the needs of the collective.

As the single bee is a part of the hive, so too is the individual’s soul a part of the Anima Mundi—the World Soul. In India, the Soul is viewed as a collective entity—like the hive; Hinduism believe that all humans have a common soul. In the West, it is much more common today to visualize one’s soul as an individual part of oneself. In pre-Christian eras when paganism and the power of the Mother Goddess was supreme in the tribes of man, the soul was also seen as an elemental power—a part of Nature. Bee’s gold color linked it to the Sun and the Solar Energies of Apollo. Even today, spiritual movements such as Theosophy still refer to the soul as the Solar Angel.

The hive is populated by several types of bees. The Queen is the only female allowed to live in the hive. Whenever any bee is fed royal jelly by caretakers and is born female, the Queen will kill them if not prevented by her caretakers. Drones are males whose only purpose is to breed new queens. Soldier bees guard the hive. And workers are sterile eunuchs whose only purpose is to gather pollen and make honey.

As Queen of the Hive, the Queen Bee is the ultimate tyrant. Like many CEO’s of large corporation, She is also captive of her Hive and can never escape her duties. She is the epitome of the Earth Mother or Great Mother archetype, being both the Source of Life for her species and Death Mother of her young, as she destroys her female young as they emerge from their birth chambers. Like the Queen, Man’s business and political leaders ruthlessly cull aggressive challengers from their staffs to ensure that they are never successfully challenged, selecting eunuch-like staff who subordinate themselves to the CEO and are loyal workers.

The shapes of bee hives have associations to burial mounds. Anyone who has visited the famous “beehive tomb” in Greece will recognize the ancient association of the hive with the burial tomb. So too, in our modern organizations, Man has entombed himself in burial tombs of steel and glass, away from the sunny fields of flowers and open skies outside, so that he can attend to his compulsive duties within the Underworlds of government and business without distraction. The hive is also associated with the womb. Sex and death speak through this imago of the eternal cycle of the wheel of incarnation from birth, to death and back again into life.

Bees also have symbolism from early Christian mythologies. In earlier times, bees were believed not to birth young themselves but instead harvested their young from flowers. Thus, bees became early symbols of virgin birth and the immaculate conception. Because of this belief, they were also associated with Jesus’ birth.

Honey, the food produced by bees, was associated in earlier times with “ambrosia”—the food of the gods. As a result, they became associated with the gift of the Muse—poetry and music—and with the gift of prophecy. Priestesses of the Delphic Oracle were called “bees.” And offerings of honey and honey cakes were made on altars to the gods and goddesses of yore. Similar mentions were made in the Christian Bible; Israel’s ‘promised land’ was the Land of Milk and Honey.

Finally, bees are associated with sexuality or lust, due to their capacity to “sting.” Here, the ancient mythic connection between sex and death is imaged, for when bees sting, they die from the wound in themselves when the stinger remains behind and is wrenched out of their bodies. In this, they join the salmon, the mantis, and the black widow spider—all of whom demonstrate the closeness of sex and death in their mating and spawning.

Bee reminds us to hold on to our individuality and not to lose ourselves in collective duties or in our social programming which ties our identities, our self-worth, and our self-respect to what others ‘at work’ think of us. Life is far more than work, but work also gives meaning to life. Like all other archetypes, Bee is paradox. Bee shows us that life is both nirvana and samsara at the same time, and the fullness of our lives is all in how we look at it. Bee is therefore also a reminder to “make honey while the sun shines”, to live life fully and in the present, for tomorrow we die.


Ted Andrews, Animal Speak (Llewellyn Publications: 1998), page 337-338.

Rosemary Ellen Guiley, The Encyclopedia of Dreams (Berkeley Books: New York, 1995), page 166.


Blogger cookie said...

this is amazing what u rote my breath was taken away

5:14 PM  
Blogger cookie said...

this is amazing what u rote my breath was taken away

5:14 PM  
Blogger cookie said...

this is amazing what u rote my breath was taken away

5:15 PM  

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