African Images of Beekeeper and Bees (Egyptian)

Bees and honey have magic. Since ancient times the flowering sweetness of honey has been associated with great eloquence (“honeyed words”); while features of bee society and behavior have identities all their own. A “queen bee” is still the dominant female in common parlance, and when we work “as busy as a bee” or appear “as a hive of industry,” we express symbolism with roots in ancient cultures.

Retelling of Mantis & Bee Myth in Drama

Prehistoric rock art of bees and their nests, from the dawn of human history, was executed by the San of southern Africa, whose descendants still live in the Kalahari region of Namibia, Botswana, Angola and South Africa. Bees seem to have held a special place as part of the creation myth since the Stone Age.

Mantis (“Cagn”) of the San People

The San people drew images and told stories of an exhausted bee, who had carried a mantis insect across a river and lay the mantis on a floating flower. Just before the bee died, it planted a seed in the mantis’ body. That simple seed became the first human.

Queen Bee in Gold

To probe that creation myth a bit deeper, at the time, the story goes that the African gods and other living creatures existed in the Sky, because Rain and Flame were one. Flame created the earth, and his mate, Rain, carried the rainbow as a girdle around her waist. At the beginning of the world, Flame’s legendary hero was the Mantis, who hovered above the earth, which was covered with water. [2]

The gods sent Mantis to discover the purpose of all life, and Mantis asked the Bee to guide and carry him. Bee carried Mantis over the tumult of the dark and turbulent waters. After many days of searching, Mantis fell asleep and the Bee became wearier and colder as he searched for solid ground. Mantis felt heavier and heavier. Bee struggled bravely, as he flew slower and sank down towards the water.

At last, the Bee saw a great white flower, half-opened, floating in the water, awaiting the sun’s first rays. He laid Mantis in the heart of the flower, and planted within him the seed of the first human being. Then Bee died.

But as the sun rose and warmed the flower, Mantis awoke, and there from within him, from the seed left by Bee. The first San was born.

Bee Colony Collapse Disorder

With the collapse of thousands of bee colonies around the world, it is no wonder that many people have reached back in time to try to understand the long lasting relationship between man and bees through time. With reverence and careful honor, we will find a way to sustain these important insects and preserve their critical role in the pollination and propagation of our food, flowers and harvests. Beyond sweet honey, we need bees to keep our body fuel growing.

[1] Adapted from The Beekeeper’s Bible, Abrams, 2011.

[2] Copyright, Gateway-Africa.com © www.gateway-africa.com – 1987 – Christian Fourie / Chrigi-in-Africa