Friday, April 22, 2011

Busy As A Bee

Now that spring is upon us and the flowers are blooming which makes the bees buzzing so I thought I would do some research on our little friend. Without the hard work of our friend where would we bee? LOL
     Doing the research, it was hard to not find information on the bee without him being connected to the production of honey. I didn't want to focus on the honey aspect or even the mead so I think I found enough to make an interesting posting.
     Many ancient cultures respected the bee very much and they have many legends about the insect. There are cave paintings that have been found in Spain dating from 7,000 BC which are the earliest records of bee keeping. Men have been collecting honey from the honey bee for at least 9,000 years. In some ancient cultures the bee were symbolic of sexuality, chasity, fertility, purity and care. They are also considered to be an image of a human soul due to their natural ability to find their way home from great distances.
     In the Greek / Roman cultures it was thought that Aristaios was worshipped by the peasants as the guardian of beekeepers. In Greece, it was thought that good souls came back as bees. Zeus and Dionysus was feed by bees when they were babies. It was said that Dionysus to have made the first hives and taught the people how to gather honey. There is a legend that Melissa ( which means bee ) cared for the infant Zeus while he was hidden from his father, Chronos, the king of all the gods. Melissa fed Zeus a diet of honey that she stole from the hives. When she was discovered, she was turned into a lowly form of an insect. Zeus knew she kept him alive so he turned her into a bee. Bees were considered a higher form of an insect. Pan and Priapus protected and kept bees. Mellonia was the Roman goddess of the bees.
     The priestesses that worshipped Artemis and Demeter were called 'bees'. The Delphic priestess is often referred to as a bee.
     The Greeks believed that a baby whose lips were touched by a bee would become a great poet or speaker.
     In the Roman legends it was Jupiter that was fed and protected by bees when he was hidden in a grotto by his mother Rea, on Ida Mountain. The Romans believed that a swarm of bees was bad luck and that they were a divine creature which originated directly from the gods.
     The Egyptian culture paid their respects to the bee as well. The bee was the hieroglyphic symbol of the kingdom of Lower Egypt. Bees were thought to be created by the tears of Ra along with the humans. Sometimes the Bees were called the Tears of the Sun. They represented birth, death and resurrection. The Egyptians used the bee venom, in the form of a cream, as an ancient remedy for arthritis and rheumatism. The pharaohs used the honeybee as the royal symbol during the period between 3000 b.c.e. and 350 b.c.e.
     The Chinese word for bee is feng. In many Chinese fairy tales the bees help young men to find the right bride.  They saw the bee as a fickle insect since it flew from flower to flower.
     Vishnu and Krishna, the Hindu gods, are called the Mahhava, the 'nectar born ones' in the Rig Veda. Vishnu was normally depicted as a blue bee sitting on a lotus flower, while Krishna has a blue bee on his forehead. Karma, the Hindu god is portrayed as a bee on a lotus as well. Shiva is shown in scripts as a bee above a triangle. The love god of the Hindu path, Kamadeva, had a bowstring made from honeybees.
     The San people of the Kalahari Desert tells of a bee that carried a mantis across a river. The exhausted bee left the mantis on a floating flower but planted a seed on the dying mantis' body. The see grew to be the first human.
     To the Mayans and Aztecs the bee was well known and respected. In the Mayan calendar, in the month of Mol ( starting Dec 3rd ) the beekeepers held a festival so that gods might provide flowers for the bees. Also in the month of Tzec ( starting Oct 4th ) the Mayans made offerings to the four chac ( rain ) gods. They put beeswax candles on four separate plates. The plates had a border of figures or glyphs that represented honey. These offerings was to bring abundance of flowers, which was the whole purpose of the ceremony. The festival ended with wine made from honey that the hive owners provided for everyone to drink. Ah Muzencab was the Mayan bee god. They were shown on the tops and bottoms of stone columns at Chichen Itza. There were respresented by aged men with long beards, upraised arms and wearing loins cloth.
     The Aztecs had a bee god as well. The honey was their main source of sugar and the honeycombs supplied bee's wax for candle making.
     In the Norse Finnish Kalevala it tells how Lemminkainen was restored to life by magic honey from Mehilainen, the bee.
     In Ireland and Wales, the bee were thought to come from heaven and brought secrets of wisdom with them. In Celtic mythology the bee is a messenger between our world and the spirit realm. Bees were thought to be the conductors of the soul from this world. In Wales, a bee that was buzzing around a sleeping child meant that the child will have a happy life and a virgin was thought could always walk safely through a swarm of bees.
     European settlers introduced the honeybees to North America during the 1600s. Native Americans called the bees the 'white man's flies'. In some areas of New England and the Appalachian Mountains, it was believed that once someone died it was important for the family to 'go tell the bees' of the death. Whoever kept the bees for the family would make sure the bees got the news so that they could spread it around.
     Their are many other superstitions in dealing with the bee. If a bee flies into your house it means that someone is coming to visit. If you kill the bee it will bring you bad news.  Another one, if a bee lands on your hand it means money is coming your way. Bees were thought to hate the odor of cattle and horses. Bees were also thought to be attracted to the sounds of clanging metal and thus bees were associated with the love of music.
     The bee has been a busy worker throughout the world, history and time. Just as our ancient ancestors did let's show them a little respect. I know it's hard to do when we are so scared of them stinging us but consider without them we wouldn't bee here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Yarrow

Yarrow maybe a familiar plant to everyone at least it was for me and never knew it. Now I catch myself looking everywhere for it. I don't have to look real hard. It grows everywhere; in the grass, the meadows, pastures and by the roadside.
     Yarrow is a mingle of the Anglo-Saxon name for the plant, gearwe and the Dutch yerw. It's botanical name is Achillea millefdium. One legend says that Achilles learned how to use the plant from Chiron, his centaur teacher. Achilles would use yarrow to stanched the bleeding of  the wounds of his soldiers. It was thought that the Ancients called the herb, Herba Militias, 'the military herb.' The Highlanders still make an ointment from it for applying to wounds.
     The herb flowers from June to Sept. The flowers are white or pale lilac and look like minute daisies. The stem is angular and rough. The whole plant is more or less hairy with white, silky appeased hairs. The leaves alternate 3 to 4 inches long and 1 inch broad, clasping the stem at the base. The segments are very finely cut which gives the leaves a feathery appearance.
     Yarrow was known by many many names: Milfoil, Old Man's Pepper, Soldiers' Woundwort, Knights' Milfoil, Thousand Weed, Nose Bleed, Carpenters' Weed, Bloodwort, Staunchweed, Devil's Nettle, Devil's Plaything, Yarroway.
     In the Orkneys a tea was made from it it where it is called Milfoil. It is used for dispelling melancholy. Another tea is also made from yarrow for severe colds.
     Of all of the many herbs that we know, yarrow was dedicated to the Evil One and was used for divination in spells therefore becoming known as the Devil's Nettle and Devil's Plaything.
     It gain it's name for Nose Bleed because it was used to stop bleeding of the nose but on the other side of the fence if the leaves are rolled up and applied to the nose it could cause the nose to bleed to relieve headaches. In some eastern countries it is called Yarroway where it is used as a divination tool with it's leaf. The inside of the nose would be tickled while the following lines are spoken.
          "Yarroway, Yarroway bear a white blow"
           If my love love me, my nose will bleed now"

     If someone wanted a vision of their future husband or wife then they could take an ounce of yarrow, sew it up in a flannel and place it under the pillow before going to bed then they would dream about their future spouse.
     It was also used as snuff because of it's foliage and strong smell thus given the herb another name, Old Man's Pepper.
     Yarrow was and is mostly known for it's healing properties for wounds. It was a favorite herb of the Anglo-Saxons. They used it to heal burns and the bites of poisonous snakes and insects.
     Fresh yarrow leaves were chewed to relieve toothaches.

     In the Americas, the Native Americans used it as a medicinal plant as well.
     The Delaware and Algonquin tribes made a tea from yarrow and used it for treating liver and kidney disorders.
     The Lenape Indians pounded yarrow roots with a stone and the boiled them with water to make a remedy for excessive menstrual flow.
     The Ute had a name for it which meant 'wound medicine.'
     The Piate made a yarrow tea to cure a variety of stomach disorders.

     The Pennsylvania Dutch called yarrow Schoof Ribba. They would prepare a 'sweating tonic' from the whole plant to reduce fever and a tea made with the leaves to have a beneficial effect on the liver and gall bladder.
     Horses would be feed yarrow to cure them of any intestinal worms.

     Just as much as there are medicinal uses for the yarrow there are magic uses for the herb as well.  The plant was used to give protection against the same spells that it was used as an ingredient of.
     Yarrow was strewn across the threshold of a house to keep out evil influences. It was worn to guard someone against evil spells. Country people would tied sprigs to a baby's cradle to protect the infant from witches who might want to steal away the baby's soul.
     To ease childbirth, the yarrow was given to a woman in labor. She would hold it pressed to her right side but the herb had to be taken away as soon as the child was born. To be used in this way, the herb had to be collected on Midsummer Eve ( June 21st ).
     Yarrow was also used in exorcism rituals. An Anglo-Saxon charm for a person possessed by the devil in which 13 specific herbs was needed; one being the yarrow. The herbs were made into a drink which would cause the 'victim' to vomit out the evil. Seven masses were sung over it then garlic and holy water was added. Then the drink was to be drunk out of a church bell. I bet that was a chore in itself.  Through-out the term of the possession, the mixture would be added to everything that he/she would eat or drink.
     Even traditional weddings included the herb. Yarrow was frequently placed into wedding bouquets and garlands. It was said yarrow guarantee true love between the couple for seven years.
     The herb even had a beauty secret. If the juice was rubbed in the hair it made the hair curly.
     If the person who gathered yarrow dreamed of it that night then they would soon hear of good news.
     Take a yarrow leaf and hold against the eye would give someone the 'second sight.'

     The Chinese saw the yarrow for it's many uses as well. They used it for improving respiration, skin and for muscle tone. They believed if yarrow was taken for a long time it would increase intelligence. In Chinese the yarrow is called shih. Yarrow was said to grow in exceptional amounts at the grave of Confucius. Chinese legend says that 100 yarrow stalks grew from a single root but when the plant grew to 1000 years old then 300 stalks would grow from the root. Wolves, tigers and poisonous plants was thought to never be found near yarrow.

    I have many times saw that white flower on side of the road and just thought is was an ordinary weed. Through this research I have learned a lot about that small white daisy looking plant. I enjoyed doing the research for this posting.
    
   

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Puck

I think we all are familiar with the mythological figure known as Puck because of his debut appearance in the famous play Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. I did some digging on the character and in general Puck could refer to any fairy, sprite, pixie or hobgoblin that is considered mischievous, a trickster or prankster.
     In English folklore, Puck is mythological fairy or mischievous nature spirte.  Puck could come from the Old English term 'puca'.  It's not really clear where the origin of the word came from but the word can be traced back to Old Norse puki, Old Swedish  puke, Icelandic puki. In the Celtic world ( Welsh pwca, Irish puca).
     He is seen as a half-tamed woodland spirte who leads folk astray with echoes and lights at night in the woodlands. In some tales he is known to come into the farmsteads and sours the milk while in the churn.
     In Middle English the word Puck simply meant 'demon'. The term also known as Pouk was used as a typical term for the devil and Hell was once called 'Pouk's Pinfold'. In Elizabethan lore he was a mischievous brownie like fairy who was also called Robin Goodfellow or a Hobgoblin.
     In the Welsh mythology he was called Pwca, which was a queer little figure, long and grotesque, looking something like a chicken half out of it's shell. He would lead travels with a lantern into the night. When he lead them to a cliff side he would then blow out his lantern and they would fall to their death.
     In Irish mythology he was called a Phouka who sometimes appeared as a horse. People would be tricked to jump on him then he would lead them on a wild ride eventually ending with him dumping them into the water. Phouka was sometimes pictured as frightening creature with the head of an ass.
     Puck was known as a shape shifter as well. He had many appearances. Sometimes he disguised himself as a horse, eagle, an ass, a rough, hairy creature and in one Irish story he was an old man.
     To be mislead by a Puck was known as being 'puck-ledden.'

Friday, April 15, 2011

Jack in the Green

Jack in the Green also known by Jack i' the Green, Jack o' the Green through-out Europe has become a participant of traditional English May Day parades and other May celebrations.  He usually leads the parade through the villages around the square. He is seen wearing a large, leaf or foliage covered garland over or a framework covering his body from head to toe.
     Jack, through time became associated with fertility rites, May Day celebrations and traditional Beltainne ceremonies.  Because of the greenery and foliage that covers his body and face, he has became also associated with the Green Man. The Green Man represented the natural fertility, a spirit of primitive greenwood and also a trickster.  Jack had connections with Puck, Robin Good fellow, Robin Hood and the Green Knight.
     In the 16th & 17th centuries in England, people would make garlands of flowers and leaves for the May Day celebrations. The traditon of making the garlands became a source of competitions between different Work Guilds. The garlands became increasingly elaborate, covering the entire man which became known as Jack-in-the-Green. As I stated the Work Guilds would try to out do each other. The milkmaids in London would carry garlands on their heads with silver objects on them. The Chimney Sweepers took it to another level by covering the entire man with the garlands.
    During the turn of the 19th century, the tradition of the Jack-in-the-Green started to disappear and became unpopular. The Victorians disapprove of the loud noises, partying and the bawdy atmosphere. The Lord and the Lady of the May was replaced by just a beautiful May Queen who was elected to be the centerpiece of the celebrations. The Jack-in-the-Green figure disappeared altogether.
     In 1976, the figure of Jack-in-the-Green was brought back in Whitstable, Kent.  He leads an annual procession of Morris Dancers through-out the town on the May Bank Holiday.
     In Llfracombe, North Devon has had a Jack in their May Day procession and celebrations since 2000.
     In Hastings, Jack is accompanied by attendants who are known as Bogies. Bogies are completely covered in green rags, vegetation and green face paint. The attendants play their music, dance and sing as they guide Jack through the streets, celebrating the coming of Summer.
     As I did my research on this historical figure of our Pagan world,  I found that many places in Europe and even North America is bringing back the tradition of having a Jack in their celebrations and parades. You know as well as I do. You can't keep a good thing down.
   

Apologize

I want to apologize to the followers and readers of Grannulus' Grove. I haven't post or wrote anything in quite awhile because my life has been sort-of crazy around here; from my job closing and transferring me to another location, car problems and etc.  These things have taken up a lot of my time and energy.
 I appreciate all the comments and compliments that I have received here lately from numerous readers of this blog.
 Now that things have semi-quiet down, I can get back to doing what I love doing and that is researching and writing.
 Thanks for hanging in there with me.
  Blessings to you & yours,
   Grannulus