Looking through my notebook from my Autumn visit to Bhutan, I was astonished to find a paragraph that I’d written. It was so profound and core to my reason for visiting Bhutan in the first place, that I had completely forgotten about it!
The information had been eclipsed by another tale: “Buddhists don’t eat honey.” Apparently, the Buddha was punished for 100 years after tasting a single drop of honey. I was so flabbergasted by this that I spent the rest of my travels around Bhutan trying to discover who exactly punished Buddha and why.
To that point, religious texts from the Quran and Bible, all refer regularly to honey being medicine and as close to the heavens as we could get.
The Quran even has a whole chapter called ‘The Bee’, in which a wonderful paragraph states: “ go put their hives in the mountains and trees, and where they choose, and from their bellies emerges a fluid of diverse colours containing healing for the people. Surely in this is a sign for people who reflect”.
I have spent many years now reflecting on this statement and building up a collection of tales and information connecting bees to human healing.
In Oman I know a Doctor who has an Apitherapy clinic. I was previously a little sceptical about the justification of using bee stings for medicine, especially as each bee dies once it has delivered a sting.
Dr Hassan told me of how when he was studying apitherapy in China, he learned that bee stings were used before needles in acupuncture. This tied in with American Beekeeper Jacqueline Freeman’s book ‘Song of Increase’ where she shares her belief that bees sting us to heal.
After reading her book, and meeting Dr Hassan, I began researching meridians and connecting their energetic properties with my own and friend’s beestings. I also use Louise Hay’s symptoms list where she relates each part of the body or illness with an emotional issue.
I had the opportunity to test my theories after a big stinging session last summer whilst moving bees. With only 6 stings in 8 years, I managed 16 stings in less than half an hour on my calves and ankles. I usually find that despite the sharp stabbing during a sting, I am ok until several hours later, even the following day, when the itching and swelling start. I looked up the connection between my stings and emotions and the ankles represented inflexibility and guilt, also were connected with my ability to receive pleasure. I had to head off to my Herbal Medicine course residential the following day and then spent the whole weekend studying the body’s response to stings with histamine, along with contemplating my life in relation to guilt, inflexibility and receiving pleasure!
I was already aware that bees will really only sting us when absolutely necessary, or to bring us back to the present moment, like a finger jabbing our forehead if we approach a hive with our mind and concentration elsewhere.
Visiting Dr Hassan’s clinic, I was interested in all his informational posters and the small box with around 50 live bees in. He keeps three hives at his home, one he takes honey from, one he collects pollen and propolis, and the third one, bees for apitherapy. He visits the hive early on the mornings when he has patients and asks the hive which bees would like to be used that day. The willing bees fly into the clear box and into his clinic they go.
I took a closer look at the bees left in his box, not selected for the morning’s patients and so to be returned to their hive that evening. They weren’t a collection of angry or agitated bees, quite the opposite. Calm bees wandering around the box. Dr Hassan and I reflected that the bees were happy with the agreement he had with them. As he kept his side of the agreement by only taking bees from that hive, leaving all the honey and other products for the colony.
Looking at bees from a human perspective, we would find it hard to imagine such a selfless act, to die to heal another species.
How incredible if insects, or at least bees, understand their purpose, or connection in the circle of life is to heal humans. So, if this is true, what would be expected of humans to complete the circle and maintain balance?
I believe that our obligation is to feed the bees. I don’t mean feed them with sugar or fondant after taking all their honey. I mean planting chemical free flowering herbs in variety and volume. An abundance of fruit blossoms, sages, rosemary, borage, dandelions and trees. With our milder winters, bees are awaking earlier and need to have forage in those dark bare months. Ivy takes 15 years to flower, but is a vital food source in the Autumnal months.
Too many years of neatly clipped hedges and lawns, with not an ounce of nectar or pollen have really affected our bee populations. Over 15,000 queen bees were imported into the UK last year. Beekeepers are either replacing our native queens in favour of Mediterranean mild tempered honey producers, or we are losing so many of our native bees to disease and predators as their immunity is weakened by lack of quality forage, pesticides and chemical treatments in the hive. I raise all my colonies using local stock and allow swarms and wild mating. I believe this will improve the quality and resilience of bees, adapted to their local environment. Research in the Welsh botanic gardens found that bees preferred eleven native plants to feed on, despite a vast selection of over 8000 species within their reach. Perhaps their dying in vast numbers is teaching us how we can complete our part in the circle of life.
So, what was the paragraph I had written yet completely forgotten? “Buddhist monks believe that the highest reincarnation is as a bee. Then as a reincarnated bee the purpose is to teach the other bees how to teach the humans wisdom”.
Learn more about Paula or order her book ‘ A to Bees’ on her website: www.paulacarnell.com