There is a tradition, seemingly one that goes back hundreds of years or more, of telling the bees of family bereavements or weddings. Sadly, my stepfather passed away recently so I have dutifully told the bees. They didn’t seem to be too bothered, but somehow it made me feel a little better for having followed tradition in a suitably somber manner.
There are varying interpretations of the tradition. Some regard it more as a superstition where if the bees were not told of their keepers demise, they would abscond or ‘refuse’ to produce honey. (There are even tales of bees being sold without telling them of their keepers death and them becoming very poorly and then recovering once their new keeper had draped their hive with black crepe so they could mourn suitably.) Some involve very specific rituals of knocking on the hive and reciting a rhyme. Again, lots of variations here but one such was “Little bee, our lord is dead; Leave me not in my distress.” Another variation involves inviting the bees to the funeral, although it’s not clear whether the beekeeper was supposed to actually take them or if they were supposed to find their own way there.
For my part, the simple act of telling the bees was enough. I think this is something I might actually do more of – simply telling the bees what’s happened in my world, what’s upsetting or stressful, what’s exciting and good. Births, marriages and deaths, maybe birthdays and suchlike. I’m not sure it will make the bees closer to me, but in a way it might make me closer to them.
RIP – David Lloyd
I think you would have appreciated this.