A very strange thing happened tonight. Over the weekend, I got around to thinking about Dante's Divine Comedy again. I was extremely fortunate to get the opportunity to study this work as part of my Italian Degree at UCC. However, I found it difficult to accept that Dante autore(author) used Virgil to guide Dante personaggio(protagonist) through the Inferno, into Purgatorio, and then replaced him with Statius as guide through Paradiso, because Virgil had been born before Christ, and was, strictly speaking, doomed to remain as a heathen in purgatory, through no real fault of his own. I think Dante should have made an exception. I found myself following Virgil rather than Dante Personnagio. Virgil was the MAN as far as I was concerned. The voice of reason, wisdom, yet humanist.
So then I thought about transforming Virgil into a bee, that could stay in Paradiso for just one night, and thereby see and be seen by Beatrice, (apparently the love of Dante's(autore) life and symbol of divine grace in the Commedia). This was the outcome.
BEATRICE AND THE BEE
Oh veil of cloud, you hide the moon,
That gloats on golden hair.
Oh lilting breeze, you drown the song,
That tickles ruby lips.
Oh scent of rose, you trick the maid,
That knows naught of the bee.
Oh river of glass, where floats the smile,
That caused the bee to stay.
Oh change of heart, by author's pen,
That swapped the staff for wings.
Oh twilight of heav'n, where lurks no sting,
That welcomed just for once.
Oh paradise divine, where wisdom longed to dwell,
That accepted a million eyes instead.
Oh Beatrice, queen of heaven,
That all men want to serve.
Oh cast a glance, to the other side
That you might see his reflection.
Oh fleeting moment, let her capture it,
That she might see the bee.
OH FLEETING MOMENT, LET HER CAPTURE IT,
THAT SHE MIGHT SEE HER BEE!
Maureen Walsh 26/7/2010 ©
Imagine my surprise, then, when I set about searching for an image of a suitable bee, that I discovered that bees played quite a part in Greek and other mythologies. Wow what a coincidence, I thought.
The bee, found in Ancient Near East and Aegean cultures, was believed to be the sacred insect that bridged the natural world to the underworld. Appearing in tomb decorations, Mycenaean tholos tombs were even shaped as beehives.
Bee motifs are also seen in Mayan cultures, an example being the Ah-Muzen-Cab, the Bee God, found in Mayan ruins, likely designating honey-producing cities (who prized honey as food of the gods).The bee was an emblem of Potnia, the Minoan-Mycenaean "Mistress", also referred to as "The Pure Mother Bee". Her priestesses received the name of "Melissa" ("bee"). In addition, priestesses worshipping Artemis and Demeter were called "Bees". The Delphic priestess is often referred to as a bee, and Pindar notes that she remained "the Delphic bee" long after Apollo had usurped the ancient oracle and shrine. "The Delphic priestess in historical times chewed a laurel leaf," Harrison noted, "but when she was a Bee surely she must have sought her inspiration in the honeycomb." Ernst Neustadt, in his monograph on Zeus Kretigenes, "Cretan-born Zeus," devoted a chapter to the honey-goddess Melissa.
The Homeric Hymn to Apollo acknowledges that Apollo's gift of prophecy first came to him from three bee maidens, usually identified with the Thriae. The Thriae was a trinity of pre-Hellenic Aegean bee goddesses. The embossed gold plaque (illustration above right) is one of a series of identical plaques recovered at Camiros in Rhodes dating from the archaic period of Greek art in the seventh century, but the winged bee goddesses they depict must be far older.
The Kalahari Desert's San people tell of a bee that carried a mantis across a river. The exhausted bee left the mantis on a floating flower but planted a seed in the mantis's body before it died. The seed grew to become the first human.
In Egyptian mythology, bees grew from the tears of the sun god Ra when they landed on the desert sand. The bowstring on Hindu love god Kamadeva's bow is made of honeybees.
I don't know how or why the 'bee' idea landed in my sub-consious over the weekend, but it strikes me as quite a remarkable coincidence, given my new-found awareness and knowledge of the mythological bee.
Perhaps its something to do with the fact that I just love bumble bees and given the fact that their numbers have been depleted by approximately 50%, perhaps we should all be trying to grow plants that attract them into our gardens.