If a bee enters your home, it’s a sign that you will soon have a visitor. If a bee flies into the house it is a sign of great good luck, or of the arrival of a stranger; however, the luck will only hold if the bee is allowed to either stay or to fly out of the house of its own accord. If you kill the bee, you will have bad luck, or the visitor will be unpleasant.
A swarm of bees settling on a roof is an omen that the house will burn down.
“If bees stay at home, rain will soon come. If they flay away, fine will be the day.” – Folklore/Proverb
It’s bad luck to give away a hive: the bees must be sold for a fair price commensurate with their worth.
Bees should never be moved from one place to another without being told beforehand.
There will be a disaster shortly if they become lazy.
If bees suddenly swarm on a bush or tree there will be a death nearby.
Bees can tell whether a girl is pure or not, and that any girl whose family has a hive and who is about to be married should inform the bees before doing so if she wants a long and happy marriage. She must go to the hive and whisper quietly, ‘Little Brownies, little Brownies, your mistress is to be wed.’ If she wants to make doubly sure of their blessing, she will leave a piece of wedding cake outside the hive for their enjoyment.
Bees have often been regarded as wise and even holy insects, having foreknowledge as well as knowledge of many secret matters. They were divine messengers, and their constant humming was believed to be a hymn of praise. Because of their status it is still considered unlucky in some places to kill a bee.
A bee landing on someone’s hand is believed to foretell money to come, while if the bee settles on someone’s head it means that person will rise to greatness.
Bee-stings were once thought to prevent rheumatism, and in some places a bee-sting was also thought to cure it.
They were once considered to deliberately sting those who swore in front of them, and also to attack an adulterer or unchaste person.
It was once held to be a sure sign that a girl was a virgin if she could walk through a swarm of bees without being stung.
There is believed to be a very strong link between bees and their keepers; bees cannot prosper in an atmosphere of anger or hatred, and will either pine away and die, or fly away.
Bees were highly prized in Medieval Europe for their honey and wax. The honey was used as a sweetener and medicine, as well as the key ingredient in mead — a mildly alcoholic drink that was consumed for its nutritive and restorative properties. Beeswax provided the cleanest-burning source of light at the time, which was necessary for illuminating dark, enclosed spaces. It was the norm to find bees kept at monasteries and manor houses, where they were tended with the greatest respect and considered part of the family or community.
Bees were considered to have a special intelligence regarding the mysterious unfolding of the universe.
Swarming bees were a cause for attentiveness: If they clustered around a dead branch, a human death was imminent. If they flew into a house, a stranger would soon call. If they rested on a roof, good luck was on its way. If there was discord within the resident human community, the bees would stop producing honey, die, or fly away.
Bees were informed of important activities in their keepers’ lives, such as long journeys, births, marriages and deaths. The “telling of the bees” was a closely observed tradition. The bees were “put into mourning” after being informed of a death. From England to Germany, bees were put into mourning and the hives were draped with black crepe fabric. A piece of the funeral bread would be left nearby, while gently singing to the bees to tell them what had happened. If not, it was believed they might fail to thrive or leave their hives. These doleful little rhymes were recorded and eventually made their way to the United States.
It was considered bad luck for money to exchange hands when procuring a hive because of the intimate and sacred relationship between bees and their keepers. Bees should be bartered for or given as gifts.
An old country tradition states that bees should not be purchased for money, as bought bees will never prosper. It is acceptable to barter goods of the same value in exchange for bees, and in some districts gold was an acceptable form of payment. A borrowed swarm or one given freely is more likely to do well; a stock of bees was often started from a borrowed swarm on the understanding that it would be returned if the giver was ever in need of it.
BY JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER
Here is the place; right over the hill
Runs the path I took;
You can see the gap in the old wall still,
And the stepping-stones in the shallow brook.
There is the house, with the gate red-barred,
And the poplars tall;
And the barn’s brown length, and the cattle-yard,
And the white horns tossing above the wall.
There are the beehives ranged in the sun;
And down by the brink
Of the brook are her poor flowers, weed-o’errun,
Pansy and daffodil, rose and pink.
A year has gone, as the tortoise goes,
Heavy and slow;
And the same rose blows, and the same sun glows,
And the same brook sings of a year ago.
There ’s the same sweet clover-smell in the breeze;
And the June sun warm
Tangles his wings of fire in the trees,
Setting, as then, over Fernside farm.
I mind me how with a lover’s care
From my Sunday coat
I brushed off the burrs, and smoothed my hair,
And cooled at the brookside my brow and throat.
Since we parted, a month had passed,—
To love, a year;
Down through the beeches I looked at last
On the little red gate and the well-sweep near.
I can see it all now,—the slantwise rain
Of light through the leaves,
The sundown’s blaze on her window-pane,
The bloom of her roses under the eaves.
Just the same as a month before,—
The house and the trees,
The barn’s brown gable, the vine by the door,—
Nothing changed but the hives of bees.
Before them, under the garden wall,
Forward and back,
Went drearily singing the chore-girl small,
Draping each hive with a shred of black.
Trembling, I listened: the summer sun
Had the chill of snow;
For I knew she was telling the bees of one
Gone on the journey we all must go!
Then I said to myself, “My Mary weeps
For the dead to-day:
Haply her blind old grandsire sleeps
The fret and the pain of his age away.”
But her dog whined low; on the doorway sill,
With his cane to his chin,
The old man sat; and the chore-girl still
Sung to the bees stealing out and in.
And the song she was singing ever since
In my ear sounds on:—
“Stay at home, pretty bees, fly not hence!
Mistress Mary is dead and gone!”