I want to talk about bees. They have been working all winter long, walking in formation, eating their stores and shivering to keep the center warm where the women sit who will bring their whole community back to life when its time. It’s almost time.
But first I want to entreat you to listen to your room. And in your room, your breath.
And beneath your breath, your heart. Place your hand on your heart or against your vulnerable throat to hear the bass line that is with you all the time. Let it begin to move you.
Bring your awareness down to feel that internal rhythm in between your hips. Feel the curling serpent of your spine, flock of bones, song of nerve ending, and let them move like a reed in a stream running deep.
Sway, just a little private Salome.
Worship for a moment your own Bastet, dancing goddess of both pleasure and health; or Nataraja Shiva, divine cosmic dancer who manifested the universe through dance and who is honoured with a bronze statute of the dancing god at CERN, the Center for Research in Particle Physics.
You are particle and swarm.
You are dancing all the time.
“The gods Vishnu, Krishnu, and Indra were called Madhava, the nectar-born ones, and their symbol is the bee” divinity is in bee-nectar born. Bubbling in the crook of trees, Dr Julia Skinner tells us people found the first honeymead, ferments and fungi opened our third eyes, inner eyes and we saw the nature of the divine or nature in all ways it is and was already divine … “Hindu Bee Goddess, Bahrami, came to be when a demon set out to destroy the natural and divine world and no God could stop him on their own, but the Gods called upon the Goddess Mother, primal energy, and a new divinity/kinship formed, massive, with bees swarming from her four hands, she closed her eyes and summoned bees, hornets, wasps, flies, termites, mosquitos and spiders from the skies. They crawled onto her body and clung onto her, merging with her to create the divine form of Bhramari Devi. They were multiple, as we are in our own bodies infused with billions of microbe, fungal, mite companions, and together they defeated the end of the world, and the sound of their kinship remains in our essential life sound breath and heart. This buzzing, is imitated in Vedic chants, and it both represents and is the essential sound of the universe.”
The essential sound of the universe is in swarms and particles and in your own heart.
This kinship is how we defeat the end of the world.
“The god of love, carries a bow with a string made of bees.” Bees are particle and wave and strings and weavers of love. “The twin horsemen, the Asvins, lords of light, have a whip dripping with honey… and a vedic prayer rings out O Asvins, lords of Brightness, anoint me with the honey of the bee, that I may speak forceful speech among men.”
Swarming kinship bee with me,
Let me speak truth forcefully.
Let me remember the swarm that we are.
Let us return to our dances.
Wherever you are, no matter how constrained, you can imagine dancing and bathe your cells in neural light. Because the neurons that fire when you dance or when you imagine dancing are almost exactly the same. Neither your body nor your desk job can fucking stop you, holy dancer, bathe in light.
“When a person dances or imagines dancing the area of the cerebrum that holds images of muscle movement is stimulated and sends messages to the hypothalmus… If the dance image is one of deep joy or release the body is put into a healing state through the hypothalamic pathways. The body can bathe every cell in the body with a hormonal flood as the imagery lights up the neural nets in the brain.”
So, imagine your hips are rocking side to side like a boat that is safe in quiet waves, warm breeze, beneath the vast dance of the cosmos. Imagine you are a tree in a summer wind.
Imagine you are holding a sleeping child in your arms and you are rocking and bouncing and humming gently, and you are beyond tired but the movement comes of its own volition.
Rock your child – and by your child I mean that unique spark of life that is in each of us no matter our gender or sex to bring forth into the world, whatever form it may end up taking for you – rock this spark of potential in your mind’s eye. Let your strict spine and tense wrists go soft. Feel the milk, bone, blood of your strength holding you long after you let go.
Feel us buzzing and upholding you.
Feel us swarming and rocking you.
You are one of us.
You are bee kin.
Imagine us dancing together all across the world in this dark cave of listening where we hum and ferment our earthy, funky, messing, buggy, sexy, bloody, sticky divinity. This cave between in our ears is a sacred cave of the divine Minoan bee goddess worship, maybe those temples in stone have been lost but all these billions in bone resonate still.
The humm within us is full of echoes of the ancestors who have rocked us, and the ancestor self who is one of our selves rocks us even when we are alone.
My kid, 3 years old, woke up in the night afraid of bees. They were coming in the doors, she said. She was afraid they’d sting. And I rocked her and told her bees want to play in pollen and ride the wind and snuffle sweet flowers, they don’t want to sting. But they will if they need to.
To be clear, we will fucking sting if we need to. I will sting to protect her, and to protect you.
I told her stories from last year, which she remembers like a dream, of her helping our squash babies by pollinating them for us. She played the bee then because the plants were missing them.
We’ve been missing them, our bee kin. We celebrate when we see them and leave out small bowls of water and sweetness. We leave bowls of sweetness in their honour.
Offer yourself a bowl of sweetness in honour of your bee kin, offer yourself a celebration.
Play the bee to all the livingness around you who have been missing your kinship.
Leave bowls of sweetness. Imagine dancing with the wind and snuffling sweet flowers.
You are bee kin.
I held her as she fell back to sleep and I thought of beekeeper families going out to tell the bees when their keeper has died, because if you don’t tell them they get confused and hurt and flustered and disperse. Julia told us, the families of beekeepers go, and sit with them and mourn. Let the bees understand from your sorrow what has passed, what is missing.
I held my kid and thought of families mourning in silence with the bees, and held the sadness for all that’s missing, and held her fear, we hold swarms of hope and gather and loss, and the intricate patterns of family.
I whispered to her and I’ll whisper to you, little kin, little beloved one, how the bees talk to each other in funny dances, with a buzz and waggle, and a shake and a sway.
We fell back asleep muttering waggle and shake and sway.
Back into the buzz and dance of dreaming, of finding the world to be more magical, hopeful, heartbreaking, and vast than you knew.
You are more vast than you knew
And the dance of the world is always inside you
You are bee kin
You are swarm
Hold this safely in your belly and your heart and in your lungs…
Artemis, Demeter, and Persephone had priestesses called Melissai — bees — or mellisonomoi “bee-keepers”. From Minoan culture on into high Athenian society, up until the Roman empire violently suppressed pagan religions, women who celebrated and tended to the spirit of harvest, of fertility, of creation, were bound up with the dances and knowledge of bees.
In 1954 for “The Classical Weekly” Lillian B. Lawler wrote ‘A mimetic dance of bee priestesses “would have included (quote) “flying” and “flitting” movements; the unfligning of arms..
I love to imagine these prophetic, pollen-dusted, dancing women.
I love to imagine you, prophetic and pollen dusted
Women, men, queer, trans, gender expansive
Unfligning your arms in abandon or invocation.
Winged and pollen dusted.
Dancing to hear better the truths of your bee kin.
Dancing together in celebration in movements learned directly from the dances of the bees themselves.
Because they are dancers, our bee kin, and we have been dancing with them for longer than we remember.
We knew these dances and then we forgot and now we discover them again, we slowly and suddenly slip into to the memory of dancing and it washes our neural nets in ancient light.
We are of bee kin, descendants of Melissai who devoted their lives to the ritual and play and resonances of Bees.
We follow them back to the hive of our communion with our bee kin, with each other, with a resonance that crafts tiny interlocking hexagons of interdependence. Back to the dance.
The Melissai dance here in the cave of our memory. They unfurl, unfling our bodies, our neural hives, they dance in you a DNA memory, a whispered possibility of a sacred sway and play where the lines between us and other soften with the grace of joy. In the Homeric Hymns to Hermes we find,
There are certain holy ones, sisters born —three virgins gifted with wings: their heads are besprinkled with white meal, and they dwell under a ridge of Parnassus. These are teachers of divination apart from me, the art which I practised while yet a boy following herds, though my father paid no heed to it. From their home they fly now here, now there, feeding on honey-comb and bringing all things to pass. And when they are inspired through eating yellow honey, they are willing to speak truth; but if they be deprived of the gods’ sweet food, then they speak falsely, as they swarm in and out together.
Maybe we’ve been deprived of the sweet food of the earth and our dances have lost their truth, but that doesn’t mean we have to stay this way.
In Ancient Crete and Greece, there were who devoted their lives to these sisters and their arts. And then there was everyone else.
And on certain holidays the line between those blurred, and everyone who joined the dance became, for a little while, one of them. Melissa. And this is the dance the witchcraft of beekinship invites you to.
Call yourself what you like, you are called by your secret name, invited, chosen to enter this dance, remember this dance, imagine this dance, and shape-shift with us. Become both bee and bee-keeper, one with the spirit and also one who is tending to Them. Be one with all this magical inbetweenness, caught up in the whirl of the wild dance, dizzy with all its knowledge. Move together, and then fly out to find what the dance told you you might find.
You are called, invited, chosen
You are Melissai, you are bee kin, bee keeper,
Pollen dusten and unflung
The circle of kinship with the humming world in all its inbetweenness includes you always
You’ve always been here and we’ve always been missing you
We leave bowls of sweetness out in your honour.
https://www.jstor.org/stable/4343554?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3A53c6f1a091bf659b2ef48d58349b4385&seq=4#page_scan_tab_contents Bee Dances and the “Sacred Bees”
Lillian B. Lawler. The Classical Weekly. Vol. 47, No. 7 (Feb. 15, 1954), pp. 103-106 (4 pages)
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
With additional sound from: https://freesound.org/people/Benboncan/sounds/73370/