There is an ancient chant in the Tamizh Veda Marai tradition. These are called Thirumurai Padikangal and was composed by the Naalvar or four famous poet saints of Tamizh spiritual and literary tradition. I have been chanting a few of these for more than a decade. Among these is a chant by Thirugnanasambandar dedicated to Swarnathapaeswarar (Siva) in Thiruchithaimoor, Tanjore District.  Suddenly, after I moved to Bangalore, bees started coming in my living space….. including a humongous hive outside my bedroom window. They had to remove it twice. Wasps and bees fly into my apartment regularly and then I discovered that temple of Siva is famous for its bee hives that completely cover the ceiling of the Mani Mandapam and everyday the Aarthi is shown to the hived ceiling by the priest. So, is my chanting of this padikam dedicated to the temple got something to do with the bee connect in my life? Many may not connect the dots…but for me something to do with bees keeps coming into my life…this forward from my dear friend Rajam Subramaniam just reinforces my faith in the divine connection. I have twice been stung by the wasps! TELLING THE BEES There was a time when almost every rural British family who kept bees followed a strange tradition. Whenever there was a death in the family, someone had to go out to the hives and tell the bees of the terrible loss that had befallen the family. Art: The Bee Friend, a painting by Hans Thoma (1839–1924) Failing to do so often resulted in further losses such as the bees leaving the hive, or not producing enough honey or even dying. Traditionally, the bees were kept abreast of not only deaths but all important family matters including births, marriages, and long absence due to journeys. If the bees were not told, all sorts of calamities were thought to happen. This peculiar custom is known as “telling the bees”. The practice of telling the bees may have its origins in Celtic mythology that held that bees were the link between our world and the spirit world. So if you had any message that you wished to pass to someone who was dead, all you had to do was tell the bees and they would pass along the message. The typical way to tell the bees was for the head of the household, or “goodwife of the house” to go out to the hives, knock gently to get the attention of the bees, and then softly murmur in a doleful tune the solemn news. Little rhymes developed over the centuries specific to a particular region. In Nottinghamshire, the wife of the dead was heard singing quietly in front of the hive, “The master’s dead, but don’t you go; Your mistress will be a good mistress to you.” In Germany, a similar couplet was heard, “Little bee, our lord is dead; Leave me not in my distress”. But the relationship between bees and humans goes beyond superstition. It’s a fact, that bees help humans survive. 70 of the top 100 crop species that feed 90% of the human population rely on bees for pollination. Without them, these plants would cease to exist and with it all animals that eat those plants. This can have a cascading effect that would ripple catastrophically up the food chain. Losing a beehive is much worse than losing a supply of honey. The consequences are life threatening. The act of telling the bees emphasizes this deep connection humans share with the insect.

About padmum

You could call me Dame Quixote! I tilt at windmills. I have an opinion on most matters. What I don't have, my husband Raju has in plenty. Writer and story teller, columnist and contributer of articles, blogs, poems, travelogues and essays to Chennai newspapers, national magazines and websites, I review and edit books for publishers and have specialized as a Culinary Editor and contributed content, edited and collaborated on Cookbooks. My other major interest used to be acting on Tamil and English stage, Indian cinema and TV. I am a wordsmith, a voracious reader, crossword buff and write about India's heritage, culture and traditions. I am interested in Vedanta nowadays. I am now an Armchair traveller/opinionator/busybody!
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1 Response to TELLING THE BEES

  1. rummuser says:

    I am surprised to learn about the bees in your life. I hope that you do not come to any serious harm because of that.

    Interesting tradition of talking to the bees. One keeps learning new things all the time.


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