Bees in Judaism and Christianity
Bees and honey are mentioned widely in the Bible and clearly have significance in Judaism and Christianity.
In Judaism, their symbolic role can, for example, be seen in the celebration of Rosh Hashana. On the eve of the holiday it is customary to eat symbolic foods which may include dipping challah (leavened bread) and an apple into honey. This can symbolise the hopes for a happy and healthy new year.
In Christianity, the bee has historically been seen as a symbol of Jesus Christ’s attributes. The honey reflecting his sweet and gentle character, whilst the sting pertaining to justice and the cross.
There are four mentions of bees in the Bible (Deuteronomy 1:44, Judges 14:8, Psalm 118:12, Isaiah 7:18). In one of these mentions, in the story of Samson, the reference of bees relates also to honey
‘After some days he returned to take her. And he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold, there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion, and honey.’ Judges 14:8
The three other passages refer to the power of bees:
‘Then the Amorites who lived in that hill country came out against you and chased you as bees do and beat you down in Seir as far as Hormah.’ Deuteronomy 1:44
‘They surrounded me like bees; they went out like a fire among thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them off!’ Psalm 118:12
‘In that day the Lord will whistle for the fly that is at the end of the streams of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.’ Isaiah 7:18
There are many references to honey in the Bible. These emphasise the health benefits of honey:
‘My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.’ Proverbs 24:13
They also refer to the pleasurable aspects of eating honey:
‘And when the people entered the forest, behold, the honey was dropping, but no one put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath. But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath, so he put out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it in the honeycomb and put his hand to his mouth, and his eyes became bright.’ 1 Samuel 14:26-27
And they advise to eat in moderation:
‘It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.’ Proverbs 25:27
‘One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.’ Proverbs 27:7
Bees in Islam
Chapter 16 of the Quran, believed by Muslims to be the revelation of God, is called ‘The Bee’. The specific reference to the bees is in verse 68 (the translation by M.A.S Abdel Haleem (Oxford University Press) is used throughout):
‘… your Lord inspired the bee, saying ‘Build yourselves houses in the mountains and trees and what people construct. Then feed on all kinds of fruit and follow the ways made easy for you by your Lord.’ From their bellies comes a drink of different colours in which there is healing for people. There truly is a sign in this for those who think.’ The Bee 16:68
Interestingly, the words relating to the worker bees are grammatically assigned the female gender throughout (as they should be!). Even several hundred years later, the correct assignment of gender, as we discussed in the last article was mistaken.
Honey is also mentioned in the context of paradise:
‘Here is a picture of the Garden promised to the pious: rivers of water forever pure, rivers of milk forever fresh, rivers of wine, a delight for those who drink, rivers of honey clarified and pure, [all] flow in it; there they will find fruit of every kind; and they will find forgiveness from their Lord.’ Muhammad 47:15
The healing characteristic of bees is also emphasized in the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet):
‘A man came to the Prophet and said, “My brother has some abdominal trouble.” The Prophet said to him “Let him drink honey.” The man came for a second time and the Prophet said to him, “Let him drink honey.” He came for a third time and the Prophet said, “Let him drink honey.” He returned again and said, “I have done that.” The Prophet then said, “God has said the truth, but your brother’s abdomen has told a lie. Let him drink honey.” So he made him drink honey and he was cured.’ Narrated by Abu Said Al-Khudri
Bees in Other religions
In Hinduisim early Hindu Vedic scriptures, as old as 1500 BC, have references to pollen and honey which it refers to as:
“the nectar of the Sun”
In the Hindu scripture Srimad Mahabhagavatam, it states:
“Like a honey bee gathering honey from all type of flowers the wise men search every where for truth and sees only good in all religions.”
Honey is also one of the ingredients of Panchamrit ‘the five Nectars’ which also include milk, sugar, ghee, and buttermilk.
In Buddhism, honey is important in the festival of Madhu Purnima. This commemorates the Buddha making peace between two disputing factions of disciples by retreating into the wilderness. The legend is that during this time, an elephant brought him fruit and a monkey brought honeycomb. The monkey, so excited by the Buddha’s acceptance of his gift, jumped from tree to tree and fell to his death. But because of his generosity, he is reborn in Tavatimsa (second heaven). Buddhists observe this festival by bringing gifts of honey and fruit to the monasteries.
Most willow species grow and thrive close to water or in damp places, and this theme is reflected in the legends and magic associated with these trees. The moon too recurs as a theme, the movement of water being intimately bound up with and affected by the moon. For example, Hecate the powerful Greek goddess of the moon and of willow, also taught sorcery and witchcraft, and was ‘a mighty and formidable divinity of the Underworld’.
During the 16th and 17th centuries the association became particular to grief suffered by forsaken lovers, who also adopted the custom of wearing a cap or crown made of willow twigs and leaves. By the nineteenth century illustrations of weeping willows were commonly used as ornaments on gravestones and mourning cards. Willow boughs were also used to decorate churches in Britain on Palm Sunday instead of largely unavailable palm leaves.
Young willow twigs were also chewed to relieve pain. In the early nineteenth century modern science isolated the active ingredient responsible, salicylic acid, which was also found in the meadowsweet plant. From this the world’s first synthetic drug, acetylasylic acid, was developed and marketed as Aspirin, named after the old botanical name for meadowsweet, Spirea ulmaria.
by Paul Kendall
The Yew has been the subject of myths, legends and Acts of Parliament. It has become part of religious beliefs and is featured in a wealth of literary material. The Yew has also been used as a marker in the landscape because of its exceptional longevity.
Probably the most profound way in which trees are regarded is by their association with mythology. Trees bewitch us and offer a sense of mystery, and our association of known myths with particular trees fuels this. This association takes place not only on a species level but also in geographical terms, with individual trees. In mythology, trees take on magical powers and become the centre of our fascination.
The flowers of most poppy species are attractive and are widely cultivated as annual or perennial ornamental plants.
This has resulted in a number of commercially important cultivars, such as the Shirley poppy, a cultivar of Papaver rhoeas and semi-double or double (flore plena) forms of the opium poppy Papaver somniferum and oriental poppy (Papaver orientale). Poppies of several other genera are also cultivated in gardens.
A few species have other uses, principally as sources of drugs and foods. The opium poppy is widely cultivated and its worldwide production is monitored by international agencies. It is used for production of dried latex and opium, the principal precursor of narcotic and analgesic opiates such as morphine, heroin and codeine. Poppy seeds are rich in oil, carbohydrates, calcium and protein. Poppy oil is often used as cooking oil, salad dressing oil, or in products such as margarine.
Poppy oil can also be added to spices for cakes, or breads. Poppy products are also used in different paints, varnishes, and some cosmetics
Ancient Egyptian doctors would have their patients eat seeds from a poppy to relieve pain. Poppy seeds contain small quantities of both morphine and codeine, which are pain-relieving drugs that are still used today. Poppy seeds and fixed oils can also be nonnarcotic because when they are harvested about twenty days after the flower has opened, the morphine is no longer present.
The poppy of wartime remembrance is Papaver rhoeas, the red-flowered corn poppy. This poppy is a common plant of disturbed ground in Europe and is found in many locations, including Flanders, which is the setting of the famous poem "In Flanders Fields" by the Canadian surgeon and soldier John McCrae. In Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, artificial poppies (plastic in Canada, paper in the UK, Australia, South Africa, Malta and New Zealand) are worn to commemorate those who died in war. This form of commemoration is associated with Remembrance Day, which falls on November 11.
WHAT TO SEE IN OCTOBER
Beech nuts are still ripening into October. They're a bit small to collect in numbers but make a tasty nibble on an autumn walk
Scrape off the outer brown skin to reveal the triangular seed. If you do collect more than a few, they can be used in a similar way to pine nuts, sprinkled on salads and risottos. Roast in the oven then place between two tea towels and rub to remove shells. Beech nuts can be slightly toxic if consumed in large quantities due to the tannins and alkaloids.
What to look for
Look out for pairs of three-sided nuts in bristly cases from mid-September and throughout October.
A common tree in woods, hedgerows and gardens, hazel bears its crop of nuts (also called cobnuts and filberts) from late August.
How to use it
If you’re picking hazelnuts early in the season when they’re still green, the shelled nuts make a tasty nibble to munch on while you’re out walking. If you collect enough, the shelled nuts can be roasted in the oven or used to make hazelnut butter.
What to look for
It might be advisable to collect hazelnuts when they’re still young and green in late August to mid-September. Most ripe nuts are found in September and October, depending on the weather.R
osehips are the red and orange seed pods of rose plants commonly found in hedgerows.
How to use it
The hips have a fleshy covering that contains the hairy seeds - the irritant hairs were traditionally used by children to make itching powder. The outer layer is packed with vitamin C and they are renowned for helping stave off winter colds. They are good in wines, jellies, jams and can be used to make a delicately flavoured rosehip syrup for cordial or pouring onto ice cream or pancakes.
What to look for
Look for bright red rosehips from September to November along hedgerows and woodland fringes. Snip or carefully pull the hips close to the base of each pod (to avoid being attacked by prickly thorns).