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Buzzing Through History: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Ancient Egyptian Sacred Bee

Updated: Feb 4

The ancient Egyptians had a deep reverence for the honey bee and its association with the divine. In fact, the bee was considered a symbol of royalty and was often depicted in hieroglyphs alongside the pharaohs. Recent archaeological discoveries have shed light on the importance of the bee in ancient Egyptian culture and spirituality.


Bees in ancient Egypt
Beekeeping: Ancient Egyptians crafted clay or Nile mud hives, often stacked in pyramids.

Paleolithic Vibroacoustic Device, Our Oldest Human Ancestors and Bee Communication


In the quiet corners of ancient cultures, a remarkable instrument hummed—a bridge between humans and bees. While the earliest written records of beekeeping trace back to Egypt, it appears that indigenous peoples across the globe shared a unique relationship with bees through an unassuming device: the bullroarer. This seemingly simple tool, often celebrated as one of humanity’s oldest musical instruments, held secrets beyond its melodic tones.


The bullroarer, known as the earliest vibroacoustic device, transcended mere music. Indigenous communities on every continent wielded it in ceremonies, invoking ancestral spirits and cosmic forces. In the Dionysian Mysteries of ancient Greece, it swirled, evoking ecstasy and divine connection. Yet, its lesser-known function was as a bee-swarming tool—a bridge to the buzzing world of pollinators.


Imagine a slender piece of wood, stone, or bone, rounded at the ends. Attached to it, a long string or sinew. A slight initial twist, and then the bullroarer spins in a circle. The resulting sound, vibrating between 90 and 150 Hz, surprises with its loudness—a propeller-like roar. Stand near it, and you’ll feel a resonating hum deep within your bones—a swarm of bees encircling you.


For the /Xam, an indigenous people in southern Africa and our oldest human ancestors by DNA analysis, bee communication was sacred. The African /Xam (San) people wielded bullroarers to orchestrate bee swarms. Guided by elders, they spun the bullroarer in a trance-like dance, directing bees to new hives. Modern beekeepers use a simpler version, called tanging, to calm bees and guide them to safety.


Long before Western science explored vibroacoustics, the /Xam had mastered bee communication. Their understanding went beyond sound—it was a copresence, a shared existence with bees. Mimetic sound capacities allowed them to converse with these tiny pollinators.


The Egyptian Sacred Bee: Apis Mellifera Lamarckii


Its scientific name is ‘Apis Mellifera;’ which is the Latin name for ‘honeybee.’ Normally every species develops its own characteristic features according to the surrounding environment, meaning that the Egyptian honey bee Apis Mellifera Lamarckii in the Delta had different characteristics when compared to those living in Upper Egypt.


Ancient Egyptian beekeeping
Ancient Egyptian mud tube hive

In the timeless dance of beekeeping, the A. m. lamarckii honeybee subspecies emerges as a living relic. Believed to be the same subspecies that graced the Pharaohs’ time, it continues to thrive alongside modern hives in mud-tube abodes.


The Egyptian A. m. lamarckii spreads across the desert, delta region, Nile valley, and Sudan. Its appearance mirrors lighter yellow-banded varieties, with notably dark drones. A. m. lamarckii marches to its own rhythm, characterized by an excessive number of swarm cells, year-round breeding, and a penchant for migration. It's frugal with propolis, yet fiercely defensive—a warrior among bees.


The hygienic behavior of honeybees is a vital defense mechanism. Workers uncap brood cells, detect disease, and remove infected larvae or pupae. This behavior curtails the spread of infectious diseases, maintaining colony health. In densely populated insect societies, it’s a shield against pathogens and parasites.


A study led by Kamel and collaborators sheds light on A. m. lamarckii’s hygiene. After 24 hours, 42.9% of its colonies were free from dead broods, while Egyptian A. m. carnica colonies showed no such cleanliness. By the 48-hour mark, 71.4% of A. m. lamarckii colonies had completely cleared killed broods. In contrast, only 8.3% of Carniolan hybrid A. m. carnica colonies achieved the same feat.


Clearly, the results revealed that A. m. lamarckii has significantly higher levels of hygienic behaviors, which could be affecting the survival and efficiency of the whole honeybee colonies. This could be one reason why this species was so highly revered.


The Predynastic Egyptian Bee


Egyptian Sacred Bee

The native Egyptian honeybee was used by the Ancient Egyptians even earlier than the First Dynasty. The bee was known as bjt in hieroglyphs, and this same word was used for honey, but with the addition of a jar and three strokes. During the 20th dynasty, another type of jar (mnt) was used to refer to the word honey.


Before Egypt was united, Upper Egypt was known as the land of the papyrus and the sedge plant, and its king was referred to as n-swt (meaning ‘who belongs to the swt plant’). Lower Egypt was associated with the bee, and its king was known as bjty (meaning ‘the one of the bee’). About 3500 B.C., when Upper and Lower Egypt were united under one king, he became referred to as n-sw-bjty (meaning ‘he who united the two lands’ or ‘he who joined the Sedge to the Bee’).


Hence, the bee was frequently used in the ancient Egyptian texts throughout the ancient Egyptian history down to the Roman period, as it was strictly associated with the royal ideology designating the king as the sovereign of Lower Egypt. Moreover, bjt was also one of the names of the red crown, which is worn by the king.


Ancient Egyptian Bee

Among all insects, the ancient Egyptians favored the bee as it was not only linked to the royal ideology being the sign of legitimacy, but was also represented on top of every cartouche of every reigning sovereign, throughout ancient Egyptian history.



The Ancient Egyptian Bee and the Dynastic "gods"


According to ancient Egyptian mythology, Ra, the force of nature or "god" associated with the sun, wept and his tears fell onto the earth and turned into bees. Thus, bees, their wax, and honey were made out of the tears of Ra, making Ra closely associated with bees. However, he wasn’t the only ancient Egyptian Neter/force of nature associated with them.


House of the Bee- Tempe of Sais
House of the Bee- Tempe of Sais

The temple of Neith at Sais was called pr bjt (meaning ‘the House of the Bee’). The ancient city of Sais is renowned of having a medical school that was associated with the temple. Another force of nature, Nut, was mentioned in the Pyramid Texts as a bee.

  • Dd mdw Tm.t sAt sxmt mwt sxat m bjt (meaning ‘Words to be said, you are the daughter, mighty in her mother, who appeared as a bee’)

  • Dd mdw Nwt xanT m bjt n sxm Tm nTrw (meaning ‘Words to be said, Nut, you have appeared as a bee; you have power over the gods’).


In one of the festivals of Hathor in her temple at Dendera, honey was prohibited from being eaten, probably due to its association with Ra, who had a very strong relationship with Hathor. However, honey was mentioned among the offering list of the Opet festival depicted in the Luxor temple.


In other rituals like the ‘Opening of the Mouth,’ honey was an essential part of the religious offerings as both the bee and honey had a relevant connection with the souls’ resurrection. Ancient Egyptian literature metaphorically linked bees to the creator Neter, Khnum, who is described as the ‘laborious bee.’ Moreover, in the book of the imy-dwAt, the caves of the earth are described as the place where the bees live.


Uncovering the Mysteries of the Sacred Bee in Ancient Egyptian Culture

In the whisper of the bullroarer, we find echoes of ancient wisdom—a reminder that our connection to nature transcends language and science. Through archaeo-acoustics and the study of ancient texts, we are able to unlock the mysteries of the sacred bee in ancient Egyptian culture. The bee's importance in their society serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness of humans and nature, and the importance of respecting and protecting our environment.

 

About the Author

Mohammad Awyan Archaeo-Acoustics & Sound Healing Egypt

Mohammad is the grandson of Abd’el Hakim Awyan, a famous Egyptian wisdom keeper known for his work on the Pyramid Code. Mohammad and his family have lived on the land at the base of the Sphinx and Pyramids for many generations. Since childhood, he has studied the mysteries of Egyptian archaeoacoustics and sound healing with his grandfather and other scholars. Mohammad has a bachelor’s degree in tourism and has hosted several successful tours of Egypt, sharing his wealth of knowledge and expertise to help people answer questions about Ancient Egypt that they may not have been able to answer before. His personal expertise is religion, spirituality, and the ascension of human consciousness. He has been on tours with his equally famous uncle Yousef Awyan and had many discussions with other researchers of Egyptian history, archeology and energy like Ibrahim Karim, Hugh Newman, Andrew Collins, Robert Schoch, and Brien Foerster. In addition to this, he has studied hieroglyphs with Professor Mohamed Hassan Gaber. Mohammad is also the founder of Archeao-acoustics & Sound Healing, a website dedicated to sharing information about the different manifestations of vibrational energy in Egypt. He currently resides in Giza with his wife and family. You can find more information about Mohammad at archaeo-acoustics.com



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