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Autumn 2008 issue #15

Bees, bees
by Cornelis van Dalen

A land flowing with milk and honeytraditional bee hive
Honey is as old as Methuselah. It is the first encounter with sweetness that is sugar at the time of the Patriarchs. It is sweetness from the flowering of plants, as if it were the flowering of humanity as recorded in Biblical period. As time progressed the sugar people craved came through the conquering armies of Alexander the Great, who introduced ‘a reed that brings forth honey unaided by bees’ – sugar cane. In more recent history the armies of Napoleon who blockaded sugarcane imports, forced the development and production of sugar from beet in Europe. “Thus the passage of time has meant a gradual descent from the blossom to the stem, then the root”. [1]

These three forms of sugar, corresponding to flower, stem-foliage, and root, also have a stimulating effect upon body parts. The forces of root substances build nerves and sense organism. The forces active in blossom are the same that power man’s will and metabolism. The central zone between head and limbs/metabolism is the rhythmical functions of breathing and heart/circulation and feeling. Honey then can be seen to have specific stimulating effect upon the human organism.

The forces which come from milk for the infant child stimulate the growth forces of the head, where the impulses for the formation of the rest of the body are found. Beyond childhood, when the body has been fully formed, where do we obtain these forces? We take honey and eat it and this provides the formative forces for the older person, in the same way a child receives them from milk. A small amount of honey is all that is required; it helps thinking and will and feeling guided by thinking; and helps the metabolism, stimulates the kidney action vitally linked to breathing and nerve function. [2] These forces lessen in old age, but kept in shape, as it were, by honey. Observe the elderly – those in health will invariably eat a teaspoon of honey everyday.

“Honey thus has a deep connection with man’s future developments, as milk has with his past. And just as milk prepared us to enter earthly incarnation, honey prepares us to leave the earth when that time comes. Honey helps us to grow old gracefully and to ripen the wise fruits of living.” [3]

The unfolding of an agrarian tragedy [4]
The honeybee is under threat on many fronts. Bees are dying, are disappearing. [See inset] Just think for a moment the role bees play in the labyrinth of life. In the secret world of Nature and the complex interlinking of all things, animate and inanimate, the bee holds special place.

There are many varieties of bees – the honeybee being the source of honey! Bumblebees large and small fly in and around the garden all summer long. This year a smaller bumblebee came to take nectar from the flowering comfrey plant. But then it sat there and we all thought it had died. In fact it was sleeping in the protection of the flower. Information came to light a few days latter confirming that many bees do not rest in hives. The honeybee does.

Bees are essential to modern agriculture for the pollination of plants; traditionally all winged insects and birds, plus the wind, help in pollination. It is said that in Australia with the introduction of the European honeybee, the eucalyptus forests do not flower as long as they used to. Pollination was mostly carried out by birds with the many varieties of honeyeaters in Terra Australis, at a much slower rate than the introduced honeybees, hence the longer flowering period.

In the spring, honeybees swarm. The colony divides with the birth of a new queen bee. When bees swarm they are observed to following the same flight path each year, which I determined was an energy line or lay line. Once they decided to re-nest in a tree by the house. An apiarist (a local high school teacher) was called in to remove them. He scored a new hive for himself for the effort.

There are many wonderful details about bees which make for an enlightening study. There is great merit in adopting a hive for the garden and become a beekeeper. An intimate relationship develops between the bees and their keeper, indeed between bees and humanity. Is it coincident that the hive’s temperature is nearly the same as the human body? The inner nature of bee life and their honey activity has been equated to love. The relationship between bees and their keeper in holistic beekeeping is profound. In traditional times someone was appointed to go to the beehives to tell them that their keeper had died, so close was the bond between them.

One can easily see that the inner nature of the beekeeper will also influence the quality of the honey the bees produce. This cooperative symbiotic relationship pervades all throughout nature and especially evident in enlightened farming practice. The peaceful dairy farmer’s cows produce milk of better quality and quantity through this relationship. 

The way the bees makes honey is truly remarkable. It is a huge and exhausting task for them. The flower nectar is transformed by saliva of the bee and the blood, producing a truly remarkable viscous substance. This excreted substance is food for the bee. It is stored in a comb built by them in a perfect hexagon shape made of a waxy substance. Traditionally, the bees would be helped by the beekeeper who provided a hive made out of straw; actually the shape of which is that of a head. Today square wooden boxes are used. Some disagree with this, maintaining it is an inferior hive.

Like most of modern material life and consciousness there is much exploitation of the honeybee. This you should be aware of. Traditionally when harvesting honey only a quarter of what is produced by the bees is taken. After all it’s their food! Therefore, when buying honey ensure wherever possible to buy Organic or Demeter certified honey. This means the bees are respected and not exploited to the point of exhaustion. Secondly, the practice of feeding the bees sugar is wide spread. Supplementary feeding is often carried out in the winter months, but feeding of sugar water is widespread in the industry. This exploits the bee to convert it to honey rather than seek flower nectar. Additionally, hives near vast fields of rape with its vivid yellow flower, for example, force bees to overwork. They die from exhaustion. In the USA enormous numbers of beehives are trucked to agriculture fields to exploit, and in return pollinate, the flowers. The exploitative nature of agriculture leaves soil, animals (dairy cows especially) and bees depleted. The demise of human health cannot be removed from this exploitation.   

Sourcing your honey
In the supermarket you will find an array of honey. The bottom self had one priced at 70 pence for a jar and the top shelf near a ‘tenner’ for Manuka honey from New Zealand. Suspicious of prices, I contacted my fellow homoeopath, healer and (former) beekeeper Liz Levelle.[5] Her immediate suggestion was to find a local apiarist to source your honey. It’s a bit like finding your favourite therapist – you select the one you can trust.

Liz says honey is extracted from the comb in a centrifuge – to spin it out gently. It is then filtered and bottled. This is the best honey. It ought not to be heated. Heating of honey destroys many of the healing properties. Honey is heated to stop it from crystallising, or setting.

Commercial honey is blended from various sources; the places are never stated on the label. Rapeseed honey tastes like cabbage says Liz. The Goddess S once was given honey from a beekeeper in Hyde Park, London. Guess what it tasted of? Car exhaust fumes.

The best honey Liz ever received from her bees was from a field of wild flowers she planted in Devon. And to ease the strain of travelling regularly to Devon from London to care for the bees, she decided to bring them to suburban Wimbledon. The first season while the hives were on the roof of the house was magnificent as the flower variety in suburban gardens is very varied and the antithesis of the monoculture rapeseed fields of rural Britain. But that winter the bees were no more; they had disappeared.

Honey as medicinal substance
Honey has served humanity throughout time as a special nutritive substance. As a medicine we need to make special note of its healing power. The storing of honey in the kitchen and in the medicine chest is equally a necessity. Recently ‘medical science’ proved honey to be better than medicated cough syrup of settling children’s coughs. A teaspoon of honey before going to bed gave better relief.

Honey added to drinks provides specific healing. Herbal teas, fruit juices or just water sweetened with honey aids to strengthen a heart weakened in illness.

In traditional Arabic medicine, honey is used to preserve herbal and mineral remedies. The West uses alcohol for this purpose. Dr Alfred Vogel tells us that honey increases the medicinal effect of natural remedies. [6] This is why honey is often included in many traditional remedies. If you are given medicated drops for a condition, add the indicated number of drops to a teaspoon of honey or warm water sweetened with honey.

In all digestive disturbances drink warm water with honey. Some years ago when the whole family came down with gastric derangement, the matter was easily solved with this remedy, which was brought to our attention by our father.

Nearly all would know of the hot-toddy drink for a congestive head cold – lemon juice, honey, brandy and hot water. It’s decongesting, warming and will bring on a fever if the body needs it, and is sedative. Drink this, go to bed and stay there to thoroughly rest.

In all these tips and remedies, a little goes a long way. A teaspoon is all that is required. As mentioned earlier it is the forces of honey which are required; honey brings the forces into the body and there the transformation and transmutation into wholeness occurs.

For healing grazes, minor wounds and cuts, boils, scabs and crusts, use honey as a salve. For burns too! Apply to the burn or graze and cover with a soft bandage. Honey is shown to be anti-bacterial.

Allergies (hay fever). It has been anecdotally stated to eat honey from the locality in which you live to ease or treat hay fever. For asthma, right before going to bed take a mixture of 1 tsp. honey with 1/2 tsp. cinnamon.

For gout and arthritis sufferers an external application of honey will give a great relief. Warm honey in a bain-marie (double saucepan). Fold a cloth three or four times, soak it in the honey and apply it to the most painful parts. Do this in the evening and leave the pack on over night, covering parts with a warm cloth – and a hot water bottle, bag of heated grains or herbs – or at a push gel packs now available. Adding herbs to the honey, for example, a teaspoon of comfrey gel to four tablespoons of honey, will improve the efficacy.

The regular consumption of honey is a tried and proven remedial food. A little honey on buttered wholewheat bread or similar as a part of breakfast is health supporting.

Cornelis van Dalen 2008

Endnotes:
1. Rudolf Hauschka, The Nature of Substance, Sophia Books, 2002. P.63
2. Hauschka 84
3. Hauschka 85
4. When this article was finished, I received the latest edition of NEW VIEW magazine, which carried an article by Matthew Barton. He quotes from a Rudolf Steiner lecture in which Steiner predicted that bee colonies would die out in 80 to hundred years. Prophetic!
5. <www.lizlevelle.co.uk>
6. Alfred Vogel, The Nature Doctor, Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh, U.K. 2003 edition. P. 452

For information on holistic beekeeping and Demeter honey standards please investigate and find further links on: www.themelissagarden.com/beekeeping

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