craft, primitive

Telling the Bees

Telling the Bees

It was once a widespread superstition that any important family news should be shared with the bees.  ‘Telling the bees’ was particularly important if there was a death in the family – if the bees were not told it was thought that they would either die, or swarm and leave their hive forever.  Sometimes a set routine was followed :  the teller might first knock on the hive with the key to the house, or a set phrase would be used to impart the news, such as ‘Bees, bees, your master’s dead, and now you must work for your missis’.  The hives were often draped in black cloth when there was a death in the family, and the bees were ‘invited’ to the funeral.  At its most extreme, the custom also involved briefly lifting the hives at the same moment as the coffin was lifted to be taken from the house for burial, thus symbolizing the bees’ inclusion in the funeral procession.  Telling the bees was a commonly observed custom in the 19th century, and while such traditions as draping the hives with mourning cloth date from that century, it is not known how much older the practice of keeping your bees informed of family news might be.  Some modern day beekeepers continue the tradition of politely informing their bees of any changes in the household.

There are a number of other superstitions relating to bees, all of which are characterized by the belief that they are sensitive to human behaviour and quick to take offence.  Bees are said not to like bad language, and will not thrive if the family that owns them is quarrelsome.  Well into the 20th century, many people believed that bees should not be bought and sold in the normal way because this would offend them.  They were most commonly bartered (a swarm in exchange for a small pig, for example).  At a push, some beekeepers thought that bees could be exchanged for gold, and while some saw no harm in giving them as a gift, others believed that bad luck would follow this.  Bees have also been thought wise and pious, and were once said to hum in their hives at midnight on Christmas Eve to honour the birth of JESUS.

{All text belonging to LOST CRAFTS  by Una McGovern.}

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Discussion

4 thoughts on “Telling the Bees

  1. Love this.

    Like

    Posted by crooked little house | June 10, 2011, 6:22 pm
  2. Very interesting, I love reading about bee culture, this was really informative!

    Like

    Posted by Twirly Curly Bird | June 10, 2011, 6:58 pm
  3. Oh, I love the idea of telling the bees. How fun! Thanks for sharing.

    Like

    Posted by Kimberly | June 10, 2011, 7:54 pm
  4. wow, ive never heard that, interesting. I like your picture, cute!

    Like

    Posted by karen | June 12, 2011, 10:37 am

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“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the Breath of a Buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which run across the Grass and loses itself in the Sunset”. – Crowfoot , great warrior.

norwood walkabouts

{my first blog}

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