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The Interactive Scholar
by Barbara Ardinger
Beltane 2002, Vol 1-3
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The Interactive Scholar --
What It's All About

My purpose in writing this column is to stir up our brain juices and engage our opinions, to get us thinking and talking together.

My goal is to promote both thought and dialog. I want us to think together, to wonder why we believe some of the things we think we believe. Let's reconsider the "facts" upon which we base our beliefs. Are they true facts or are they fond reconstructions of what we want to see as truth?

My plan is thus to ask some questions about things that interest me. I hope that you will be inspired not to just talk to your computer but to look for answers with me.

If you'd like to "interact," to think and talk with me and others here, consider the questions I pose in my article at left, or those below. Send me an email with your thoughts, experiences, questions, research, and scholarly intuitions about these or other questions/issues that interest you. With your permission, I may print some of our communication to embody this dialog.
  • When you read a book, a piece in a magazine, or a posting on the Web, do you believe everything you read just because it's in print? Do you ever wonder if an author is just making things up? Simply passing along stuff we like to believe because it makes us feel good, but which may not be accurate?
  • Have you ever read a book you think is just plain dumb? Do you ever want to argue with an author, provide correct information, or at least begin a conversation?
  • Scholar's Challenge: Find an author's web site and send an email. Ask a question, make a comment, interact about some 'fact' you question or want more information about. (Remember that courtesy is more likely to elicit a reply than bad manners <grin>.)

Other Topics We Might Explore Together (please let me know things you'd like to see added to this list)

  1. Swords as women's ritual tools
  2. Revisiting Dr. Margaret Murray as source of Wicca
  3. Revisiting Gerald Gardner as source of Wicca
  4. Scholarship and Plagiarism, which is which?
  5. Goddesses Yesterday and Today
  6. Backlash & the Goddess & Marija Gimbutas

Let's interact: scholar@matrilocal.org

Religion or Mythology:
Belief, Deity and The Blessed Bees


"If it's what I believe, it's religion.
If it's what you believe, it's mythology"

Do you remember this old saying? Some believers of some religions (including ours, however we define it) are so convinced that their way is the only way that they demonize every other religion. They turn other religions into mythology and then trivialize the mythology. They fail to recognize mythological elements in their own foundational stories, and disregard parallel stories in other or earlier cultures.

What is the difference between religion and mythology? If there is a difference, what is its significance, and to whom is the difference significant?

Here's something else to think about. In the standard-brand religions, they say that God Created Man In His Own Image. In our religion, we believe that the Goddess Created Everything In Her Image. Both of these statements are statements of belief. We do not, however, know if they are statements of fact. There's no empirical evidence. Neither CNN nor the New York Times sent reporters to the Creation to watch it happen. Although physicists believe that it all started with the Big Bang, no one had a tape recorder there to hear the Bang.

Some modern philosophers say that Man Created God In His Image, which may be why the standard-brand god looks an awful lot like someone's grandfather. If this is true, that we create our gods, is it also true that Everything Created the Goddess [in Its Image]?

bee on blue groundI happen to know something about creating goddesses. My forthcoming book is about Finding -- or making up -- modern goddesses to deal with issues the ancients never imagined: cars and freeway traffic, renting an apartment, taxes, everything about computers, including email and the Web and the Net.

Invocation to the Blessed Bees

Twinkle, twinkle, Blessed Bees,
As I ask you, grant it please.
Wisdom, wealth, abundancies,
As I will't, so mote it, Bees.

You know how pagans go around saying "Blessed be" during rituals? While I was Finding goddesses (and an occasional god or consort) for my book, my friend, the novelist Elizabeth Cunningham, suggested the Blessed Bees. The Bees are our Found Good Neighbors, our power animals. I wrote an invocation to Them, which I use in rituals and when I need divine assistance.

I also invoke Blessed Bees in gift and garden stores. I find Blessed Bee puppets at toy stores, and last spring I found bee socks at Sears. (I bought several pairs and sent some to Elizabeth.) Now this isn't just my little pagan hobby.

The Bees are coming into existence. Things are happening that I cannot attribute to the action of more familiar gods or goddesses. I'm not invoking gods or goddesses.

Can you join this experiment and invoke the Blessed Bees? You can change the third line of the invocation to specify what you want. Rhyme isn't important, but try to maintain the simple rhythm of the invocation. Invoke the Bees awhile and look for Bee toys and other goodies. Get the Blessed Bees in your consciousness, in your belief system, in your rituals. After a month or two, see if you get any results, and let me know what your results are. Let's see if we can answer that unanswerable question about who does the creating.

The Blessed Bees: Food for Thought

As ancient rock paintings and old stories tell us, people have long been interested in bees. There are rock paintings perhaps 10,000 years old that show people collecting honey, which was probably used for magic as well as nourishment. An Egyptian myth tells that when the god Ra wept, his tears turned into bees that produced the first honey, and it is known that honey was offered to gods and goddesses in Egypt, Sumer, Babylon, Greece, and Rome. Honey has been used for food in Central America and Mexico, in India, and throughout Europe. Scott Cunningham lists the following magical uses for honey: purification, health and healing, love and sexuality, happiness, spirituality, wisdom, and weight-loss (as a substitute for sugar). Other gifts of the bees, from early on until the present day, are venom, pollen, propolis, beeswax, and royal jelly.

Bee Goddess
Copyright © 2002 Sage Starwalker. All rights reserved.

We also hear about the Melissa, or bees, who were the priestesses of Demeter and Artemis. It is said that one Melissa was a Cretan princess who fed honey to the infant Zeus. When the god grew up, he turned his nurse into a real bee. Maybe she was already a goddess, for we can also see little bee-shaped Minoan figures (who have curly punk haircuts) that date from about 1700 B.C.E. In Lady of the Beasts, Buffie Johnson says that the work of Arthur Evans and Marija Gimbutas suggest that "the bee goddess had a place in ancient Crete" and may have had some connection with Athena.

For such tiny insects, bees have carried abundant symbolic burdens. In Egyptian hieroglyphics, the bee signified royal nomenclature, partly, J.E. Cirlot writes, "by analogy with the monarchic organization of these insects, but more especially because of the ideas of industry, creative activity and wealth which are associated with the production of honey." In the story of Samson and Delilah (Judges xiv), the bee also signifies wealth: "Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness" (Judges, xiv, 14). Cirlot also tells us that according to a Delphic tradition, bees built the second temple at Delphi, that in Orphic teaching souls were symbolized by bees (because they swarm as souls were believed to swarm from the divine unity), and that in early Christian symbolism bees symbolized diligence and eloquence.

Many writers have liked the symbolism of the hive and its government. Bees work together, ruled by their queen, to produce the wealth of honey. The French poet and essayist, Guillaume de Salluste (1544-1590), wrote "For where's the state beneath the firmament/ That doth excel the bees for government?" and Shakespeare's Henry V observed, "So work the honeybees, /Creature that by a rule in Nature teach/ The act of order to a peopled kingdom" (I,ii,187). The modern philosopher, George Santayana, also compared human society to the hive: "The human race, in its intellectual life, is organized like the bees: the masculine soul is a worker, sexually atrophied, and essentially dedicated to impersonal and universal arts; the feminine is a queen, infinitely fertile, omnipresent in its brooding industry, but passive and abounding in intuitions without method and passions without justice" (from The Life of Reason, written in 1905).

If you want to know more about bees in general, read Lauck’s wonderful book:
Joanne Elizabeth Lauck, The Voice of the Infinite in the Small: Revisioning the Insect-Human Connection (Mill Spring, NC: Swan Raven & Co., 1998), ch. 10.

References:
+ Honey as food in history: Scott Cunningham, The Magic in Food (St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1990), 169-72.
+ Melissa: Patricia Monaghan, The New Book of Goddesses & Heroines (St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1997), 214.
+ Minoan "bee goddess": Buffie Johnson, Lady of the Beasts (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), 156-7.
+ Symbolism: J.E. Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols, trans. by Jack Sage (NY: Philosophical Library, 1962), 22-23.
+ The three quotations are taken from Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 14th edition.

Graphics Credits:
+ Lespugue, Copyright © Kathleen Hanna, Earth Momma's Worldused with permission.
+ detail, God Punishes the Priest Fiorenzo, Luca Signorelli, courtesy of CGFA
+ bee on blue ground, courtesy of Free Image Archive
+ golden bee, courtesy of About Clipart
+ bee on flower, courtesy of gloz grafx wurld
+ Bee Goddess, after Buffie Johnson, Lady of the Beasts,
felt pen on acid-free paper. Copyright © 2002 Sage Starwalker. All rights reserved.
+ bee and purple flowers, courtesy of About Clipart

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