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The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore

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No creature has provided man with so much wholesome food as the honey bee. Equally impressive is the number of beliefs and superstitions the industrious insect has inspired. Its honey, which was known to the ancient Greeks as the “food of the Gods,” played an important role in early religious rites and was also mentioned in the folklore of many peoples. Hilda Ransome's wel No creature has provided man with so much wholesome food as the honey bee. Equally impressive is the number of beliefs and superstitions the industrious insect has inspired. Its honey, which was known to the ancient Greeks as the “food of the Gods,” played an important role in early religious rites and was also mentioned in the folklore of many peoples. Hilda Ransome's well-documented and copiously illustrated study of bees focuses on this valuable byproduct of nature and its creator — the "sacred" bee. Chapters cover the folklore of bees and bee culture — from Egyptian, Babylonian, Chinese, Hittite, and other ancient sources as well as practices in modern England, France, and Central Europe. Thirty-five plates of rare black-and-white illustrations depict bees, hives, and beekeepers as they appear in ancient paintings and sculpture, on coins, jewelry, and Mayan glyphs; and carved into African tree trunks. Folk stories from Finland and the bee in America are also described. Hailed by The New York Times as possessing an "oddity, beauty, and broad scholarly interest," this unusual book will attract a wide audience — nature lovers and folklore enthusiasts included.


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No creature has provided man with so much wholesome food as the honey bee. Equally impressive is the number of beliefs and superstitions the industrious insect has inspired. Its honey, which was known to the ancient Greeks as the “food of the Gods,” played an important role in early religious rites and was also mentioned in the folklore of many peoples. Hilda Ransome's wel No creature has provided man with so much wholesome food as the honey bee. Equally impressive is the number of beliefs and superstitions the industrious insect has inspired. Its honey, which was known to the ancient Greeks as the “food of the Gods,” played an important role in early religious rites and was also mentioned in the folklore of many peoples. Hilda Ransome's well-documented and copiously illustrated study of bees focuses on this valuable byproduct of nature and its creator — the "sacred" bee. Chapters cover the folklore of bees and bee culture — from Egyptian, Babylonian, Chinese, Hittite, and other ancient sources as well as practices in modern England, France, and Central Europe. Thirty-five plates of rare black-and-white illustrations depict bees, hives, and beekeepers as they appear in ancient paintings and sculpture, on coins, jewelry, and Mayan glyphs; and carved into African tree trunks. Folk stories from Finland and the bee in America are also described. Hailed by The New York Times as possessing an "oddity, beauty, and broad scholarly interest," this unusual book will attract a wide audience — nature lovers and folklore enthusiasts included.

30 review for The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore

  1. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    This is a Dover reprint of a 1937 book. It is full of fascinating information about bees and bee-keeping around the world, and as a sacred animal. There is a lot of marvelous folklore and old illusstrations covering ancient to modern times. Bees are and have been sacred to people for generations. This is a delightful introduction with a scholarly bent to it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Scot

    What a sweet little treasure! Yes of course I mean bees and honey, but also this book written in the 1930's, and which in many ways it still holds up today. "The Sacred Bee," follows the folklore, mythology, history, and culture of bees, beekeeping, and honey through a variety of cultures around the world, with a heavy emphasis on Europe and the British Isles, as the author is British. Bees and beekeeping have been an integral part of most cultures around the world from Africa to Central America t What a sweet little treasure! Yes of course I mean bees and honey, but also this book written in the 1930's, and which in many ways it still holds up today. "The Sacred Bee," follows the folklore, mythology, history, and culture of bees, beekeeping, and honey through a variety of cultures around the world, with a heavy emphasis on Europe and the British Isles, as the author is British. Bees and beekeeping have been an integral part of most cultures around the world from Africa to Central America to Europe, India and Australia. Honey was sacred, connected to Gods and Christianity, used to make the original intoxicants (mead) and sustained many people. Beekeeping went from wild collection in caves and trees to primitive hives to much more ornate styles. There are some areas lacking because of the time of writing, the understanding of certain cultures and religions, and again a slightly Eurocentric view of the author. Setting that aside, this is a fascinating read for anyone that loves bees or honey, enjoys cultural anthropology, or folklore.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten

    Started off well enough, but got old pretty fast. Be clear that there's no pop-sci/pop-history about it. It's best suited for people who are doing related academic studies, meaning much too comprehensive for the casually curious. Started off well enough, but got old pretty fast. Be clear that there's no pop-sci/pop-history about it. It's best suited for people who are doing related academic studies, meaning much too comprehensive for the casually curious.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Darik Brooks

    This is the most thorough historical study that I know of concerning the honeybee. It is replete with great insight and details about how the honeybee has played such an integral role in spirituality and practicality. Excellent book!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I loved this book!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jen H

    dry but interesting for the history!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Pangloss

    Great little book on the holy bees, just filled with juicy morsels about the sacred little creature! The only problem is that the book needs updated!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Gramer

    Dry in parts, but a well done book. With fun stories

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Fantastic! This book was a really interesting read... deep glimpses and explorations into the world of apiary folklore and history... everything from apiary logistics to magic. However, if you are not into academic reading, you will likely find it a bit dry and slow to read. To best describe what that means: the writing style seems to come from an impassioned apiarist writing from an academic perspective, rather than a scholarly dissertation on melittology... so it will still be accessible to mo Fantastic! This book was a really interesting read... deep glimpses and explorations into the world of apiary folklore and history... everything from apiary logistics to magic. However, if you are not into academic reading, you will likely find it a bit dry and slow to read. To best describe what that means: the writing style seems to come from an impassioned apiarist writing from an academic perspective, rather than a scholarly dissertation on melittology... so it will still be accessible to most. But it truly is a fascinating read, as it explores the folk and historical world of the honey bee, one culture at a time.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nezka

  11. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  12. 5 out of 5

    john Berry

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chad Cockerham

  14. 4 out of 5

    Annieevans

  15. 5 out of 5

    Niki

  16. 4 out of 5

    James

  17. 5 out of 5

    River

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  19. 5 out of 5

    John Schwartz

  20. 4 out of 5

    Racysteed

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

  22. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Corey

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kim T. Otto

  24. 5 out of 5

    Audj

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nik

  26. 4 out of 5

    Adrianne

  27. 4 out of 5

    Devlyn

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Rickards

  29. 4 out of 5

    Heath

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sue Bridgwater

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