Honey is a sweet and decadent golden elixir produced by industrious honeybees. This ambrosial nectar has been treasured for thousands of years for its medicinal, culinary, cosmetic, and mystical properties. In this blog I delve into the magic of honeybees from both the perspective of a beekeeper and as a practicing witch.
In this blog I’ll be providing insights on the symbiotic relationship between witches and bees, as well as show you how beekeeping has affected my craft through deepening my bond with nature. I’m also going to talk about the magical properties of honey and beeswax, and how you can incorporate bee imagery into your own rituals and spells, plus the role of beekeeping in promoting sustainability and environmental consciousness.
My goal with this blog is to inspire you to work with nature in a way that is meaningful to you and your craft, while also providing some interesting facts about honeybees in both a spiritual and environmental context. And so, without further ado let's get into it!
The Symbolically Rich Relationship Between Bees & Witches
Bees hold a lot of symbolism and innate magical qualities that a lot of practitioners of witchcraft covet closely, and it's easy to see why.
Bees are the Masters of Cooperation
Honeybees are highly social creatures, living and working together in harmoniously cooperative colonies. Because of this they symbolize community, ingenuity, and the power of collective effort. They serve as a reminder of the importance of working together, supporting one another, and embracing the strength of unity.
Female-Driven Ambassadors of Nature
Bees are also a predominantly female society which includes the worker bees and the Queen who is tasked with reproducing babies, the only ones in the hive who aren't female are the male drones whose purpose is to mate with the Queen. For this reason they are associated with the power and the fertile nature of the feminine which is closely connected to nature, and in the same way bees pollinate the world giving life to Earth feminine energy does the same. For this reason bees are revered as symbols of the divine feminine as well as earth’s magic and the interconnectedness of all living beings. The gentle yet diligent bee reminds us of their role as stewards of the Earth and the importance of honoring and preserving nature.
Bees In a Witchcraft Sense
In witchcraft, regardless of what name, label, title, or bucket a person or group's personal rituals fall under, the practice of magic and witchcraft is a mainly about honoring the elements of nature as we work alongside them to bring in deeper healing to ourselves and our communities much like the honeybee who devotes its life to the overall health and wealth of its colony.
Why did I start Beekeeping?
Between running a business and working on a novel, I wanted to pick up a hobby that would get me outside more, provide a sense of community by being around like-minded folk, and challenge myself simultaneously. I wanted to engage in something where I could show myself that I can do and learn anything I put my mind to even if it seems a little scary or out there. I also really like honey, like a lot. It’s good in tea, on toast, it's delicious when baked into a pastry, it soothes a sore raspy throat from the flu, makes for a great skin-brightening face mask, and it's sweet enough to always put a smile on my face. What's not to love about honey?
So, I signed up for a beekeeping course and embarked on a journey to go get that honey, but in the process of doing so I’ve actually ended up receiving so much more in the form of a new passion that genuinely gets me excited these days alongside my other loves being my spiritual craft and my writing.
Beginner Beekeeping as a Green Witch & How It’s Helped Me Grow a Deeper Relationship with Nature
Actual Photo of the inside of our backyard beehive
Now, I’m currently in my first year of beekeeping, and I’m just tending to one hive who I’ve been caring for since April. But even in the short amount of time I’ve spent with my hive, the spirit of the honeybee has already taught me so many valuable lessons. Lessons that have had a big impact on me within just a couple months, not only as a year-1 beekeeper but also as a practicing witch.
Green Witchery & Animism
For those who are wondering, I'm a Green Witch and an Animist, which means most of my magical workings are in partnership with the natural world, where I use a lot of the resources that are right in front of me. I also enjoy viewing things from an animistic perspective that takes inspiration from both my African, Japanese, and European ancestry, which means I carry the belief that objects, places, and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence and therefore an innate power.
Growing & Learning Under Nature’s Guidance
I had an appreciation for the natural world before beekeeping, but it has deepened even more in the past few months, mainly because how often do we allow ourselves to think about the time and effort it takes to make a valuable resource like honey? Because let me tell you, it is highly labor intensive both for the bees and the beekeeper in more ways than one and I’m just dealing with a singular hive. But that’s also why it's so dang gratifying because it takes a lot to maintain a beehive, especially when you consider apiaries who are managing 25-30 hives at a time to meet the commercial demands for more honey.
We talk a lot about ways we can find more time to appreciate nature and how we can incorporate it into our craft. For me, I’ve found a great deal of magic in learning how to work alongside the bees as a partner rather than a distant observer, and it's such a unique experience to be able to peek into their highly complex world in such a close and intimate way.
It's easy to get caught in the perspective of being a human, and only seeing the world from that vantage point, but when I crack open that hive its like stepping into another world and you begin to remember the complexities of nature happening all around, in the form of watching the bees build comb, nurse their young, and transform nectar into honey.
It's also lovely during hive inspections to be able to gather their excess beeswax and save it for candle making. Plus, there’s nothing even close to watching your little backyard friends fly around collecting pollen.
Stay Calm and Bee Patient
Beekeeping requires a LOT of patience and a calm demeanor. Working with bees demands a steady hand and a composed presence. Any jarring or sudden movements can agitate the bees and send them into attack mode. This requires learning to approach the hive with patience and understanding, because honeybees respond better to calm and gentle interactions that don’t disturb them or their home.
A lot of people fear bees because they assume they are naturally aggressive creatures, but that is far from the truth. One of the first things my beekeeping instructor taught us in our classes was that “bees are a lot like people.” in that they react very similarly to us when they feel threatened or scared.
You Cannot Rush Sweetness It Must Be Earned
It takes a lot of time for a hive to produce honey in the surplus amounts that they do. While it depends on a variety of factors, one jar of honey like the ones you see in the grocery store takes around 20,000 to 60,000 bees collectively visiting millions of flowers to produce enough nectar for a single pound (454 grams) of honey and it will take a new beehive a minimum of 4 months to begin producing honey.
One cannot simply take honey and the act of harvesting honey is laborious, it requires dedication, time management, problem-solving, adaptability, and environmental awareness, as well as having a great deal of care and consideration for the honeybees and their work. The honeybee shows us that sweetness is something to be cultivated. The very same can be said for the cultivation of our blessings.
What Exactly is Honey? And how is it Made?
Let’s get this one out of the way really quick before talking about how you can use it. You've probably tasted honey, but have you ever thought about what exactly honey is? Let me explain, honey is a sweet, sticky, viscous liquid food that is produced by the foraging worker honeybees as a result of them gathering nectar from flowers. The creation of honey is a highly intriguing process that can be broken down into six steps starting from how it is gathered to when the beekeeper begins to harvest it:
- 1.) Gathering Nectar: Worker bees, which are all female, venture out of the hive in search of nectar-producing flowers. Using their long tongues, they extract nectar from the flowers and store it in a specialized honey stomach separate from their regular digestive system.
- 2.) Enzymatic Transformation: Once a worker bee returns to the hive, it regurgitates the nectar into the mouth of another bee. This process is known as trophallaxis. During trophallaxis, the nectar mixes with enzymes present in the bee's mouth. These enzymes begin to break down the complex sugars in the nectar into simpler sugars like glucose and fructose.
- 3.) Evaporation and Water Reduction: The worker bee deposits these partially transformed nectar into a honeycomb cell made of beeswax. The bees then fan their wings over the open cells, creating airflow that aids in the evaporation of excess water from the nectar. As the water content decreases, the nectar gradually begins to thicken into the drippy sticky viscosity we know and love.
- 4.) Wax Capping: Once the water content of the thickened nectar, now turned honey, reaches approximately 18-20%, the bees seal the cell with beeswax to protect the honey from moisture and external contaminants. This sealed cell becomes a storage unit for the honey until it is needed. When you open up a hive, beekeepers can actually observe this capped honey.
- 5.) Honey Consumption: Honey serves as a vital food source for bees, especially during times when floral nectar is scarce, such as winter. Bees consume honey by regurgitating it and passing it among themselves, sharing it with other members of the colony.
- 6.) Harvesting Surplus Honey: Beekeepers can collect surplus honey from beehives by carefully removing the wax caps and extracting the honeycombs. This process ensures that there is still sufficient honey left in the hive to sustain the bees.
Fun Fact: Honey production is a collective effort within a honeybee colony. To make such a confection commercially available it takes a lot of work on the bees and beekeepers' behalf. On average one worker honeybee will only produce 1/12th of a teaspoon (about 0.02 ounces or 0.6 grams) of honey in her lifetime. So, when you see a whole container of honey in the grocery store, you're really seeing a bottle filled to the brim with the effort of thousands of honeybees.
The Magical Properties of Honey & Beeswax
Mural of Ancient Egyptians Baking Honey Cakes
Did you know honey never spoils or rots? There have been numerous instances of preserved honey being found that dates back thousands of years. One notable example is the discovery of honey in ancient Egyptian tombs, including the tomb of Tutankhamun, which dates back over 3,000 years. The honey found in these tombs was still edible and retained its quality due to its low moisture content, high sugar content, and the sealed environment in which it was stored.
Similarly, archaeologists have found jars of honey in ancient ruins and settlements, such as those from the Indus Valley Civilization and ancient Greece, dating back over 4,000 to 5,000 years. These preserved honey samples provide insights into the historical use, production, and importance of honey in ancient civilizations.
Medicinal Uses of Honey
Honey is also heavily utilized in a lot of traditional medicine systems including Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, and ancient Greek medicine. It was used to treat various ailments, including digestive disorders, respiratory conditions, skin diseases, cuts, and burns due to its naturally antibacterial and soothing nature. Honey was often combined with herbs, spices, and other natural substances to create medicinal remedies.
Beeswax is a natural wax with a distinctive yellow/gold color that carries a sweet and pleasant aroma. Beeswax is made by worker honeybees consuming honey and converting it into wax through a process involving digestion and reformation within their bodies. They then excrete the beeswax in small flakes or scales, which they manipulate with their mandibles and mix with saliva to soften and shape it into honeycomb. Beeswax has a wide variety of uses and applications and can be used to craft beeswax candles, cosmetics like lip balm and moisturizers, and to preserve foods like cheese or jellies.
Honey in Witchcraft
In witchcraft Honey symbolizes abundance, healing, and nourishment, and it can be added to a variety of spells to add a touch of sweetness and joy. It can be added to spell jars and is a great ingredient to have on hand for kitchen witchery, and it boasts a variety of healing properties which is great for someone who’s been feeling down under. Here’s a list of ways to utilize honey in your practices:
- Enhance feelings of joy and happiness by taking a spoonful of honey when you're feeling down.
- Burn beeswax candles which are a clean and non-toxic.
- Add to cooking spells by baking honey cakes or mixing honey into your tea or coffee while uttering a positive affirmation.
- Add to spells to increase self-love and affection.
- Add to Glamour spells by creating an enchanting honey face mask or make lip balm out of beeswax and charge it with your intent.
- Add to Abundance and prosperity spells to attract good luck and good fortune.
- Use Honey as an offering to both fairies, deities, and ancestors.
How to use Bee Imagery in your Rituals & Spells
Using the imagery of the bee in your rituals and spells adds sweetness, abundance, good health, and protection to spaces like your altar. Carrying or wearing a bee charm could be a beneficial talisman to carry around to inspire and motivate you to stay focused, work hard, and pursue your goals with determination.
Deities Associated with Honeybees
Honeybee decline, also called colony collapse disorder (CCD), is a global concern that you should be aware of if you aren’t already. Various factors such as habitat loss, pesticides, diseases, pests, climate change, and nutrition deficiencies have been contributing to the decline of honeybees and that also jeopardizes other pollinators such as hummingbirds, butterflies, moths, beetles, and wasps. Honeybees are essential pollinators for crops, making their decline a threat to food security and biodiversity.
5 Easy Ways to help out our Pollinator Friends
Preserving honeybees is crucial for a healthy environment, and while efforts are already underway to raise awareness in order to promote sustainable practices, I wanted to throw in 5 easy ways that you can help out our pollinator friends:
- 1.) Ditch the pesticides and Warn Others: Pesticides, including insecticides and herbicides, can be harmful to pollinators. Minimize or eliminate the use of these chemicals in your garden and choose natural alternatives or integrated pest management methods instead.
- 2.) Provide Nesting Sites: Create nesting sites for native bees and other pollinators by leaving patches of bare soil, providing hollow stems or bee hotels, or building small mounds of loose soil or sand. These spaces offer shelter and nesting opportunities for different species.
- 3.) Educate Others: Raise awareness about the importance of pollinators by sharing information with friends, family, and your community. Encourage others to take actions to protect and support pollinators.
- 4.) Conserve and Set Aside Water: Ensure a clean water source is available for pollinators by setting up a shallow dish or container with stones or floating objects for them to safely access water. Place the water source in a shaded area to prevent it from drying out quickly. For my own hive I made a simple water station out of a terracotta pot and dish which I filled with pond rocks. Be careful, as things like bird baths or uncovered pools and Jacuzzis can be potential drowning hazards for bees
- 5.) Support Organic and Sustainable Agriculture: Choose organic and locally sourced food whenever possible. Organic farming practices promote biodiversity, reduce pesticide use, and provide a healthier environment for pollinators and other beneficial insects. Farmers Markets are a great place to start, and many local beekeepers frequent them to sell their honey, and it’s just great to support local apiaries and the people who are passionate about caring for these amazing pollinators.
Beekeeping has been a very challenging but rewarding practice for me and has helped further my bond with the natural world through experiencing the magic of the honeybee. My goal with this blog more than anything was to inspire you to find ways through my own passion to forge a deeper bond with nature by working closely with the animals and environments who help to nourish and keep us safe.
Being a witch in my opinion isn’t really about using your environment as much as it is working with it. When we co-create with the space we’re occupying, not only are we generating a deeper sense of gratitude for it, but we start to work in flow with the 3-D rather than forcing it to manifest to our whim. It’s a gentler way to work with magic while also doing something that positively impacts that material realm, and a large part about living in the field of abundance is also about learning how to master the art of giving and receiving which is an intrinsic part about developing our ongoing relationship with the realm of nature.
Interested in Beekeeping?
If this blog inspired you to pursue your own beekeeping journey, then I highly recommend signing up for a course that’s offered in your area. It's such a rich experience to be able to learn from seasoned beekeepers and meet fellow new-commers to share tips and tricks of the craft!
And if you're in the Snohomish County area I highly recommend signing up for a course with the SnoKing Beekeepers Association, where I’m currently pursuing my second level of certification. Everyone is wonderfully kind, helpful, and incredibly passionate about anything and everything honeybee related!
Thank you for joining me in this latest blog and stay tuned for our upcoming blog on the Full Moon in Capricorn happening July 3rd!
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