Tupelo Masonic Lodge No. 318 F&AM - Forum

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012



Valley of Corinth, Orient of MS

The [larva] of a bee is scarcely worthy to be called a life, but after it is transmuted by death, it appears in a more excellent and glorious condition…[1]

   The beehive, like the honey which it houses, is a fecund symbol, both rich and enduring. In my previous treatment of this subject[2], I provided a decidedly limited overview of the symbol of the beehive and its cognates, bees and honey, as they were understood in the mythologies and folklores of various cultures. In the present treatment, I will be exploring the possible significance of the symbol as it most readily relates to the actual arcana of Freemasonry, i.e., as an emblem of resurrection and of the immortality of the soul. For this we need but make a return to the remnants of ancient Greece and the neighboring shores of the Mediterranean where, according to scholars[3], the symbol of the bee and its correlating hive were popular objects of worship and veneration, serving as the bridge between this world and that of the hereafter.

    If the reader will recall, in The Beehive: A Migration of Myth I touched upon Ovid’s account of the youthful shepherd Aristaeus and the tragic loss and miraculous, resurrection-like restoration of his cherished beehives. However, in Virgil’s version of the same story, we learn that the initial misfortune which was visited upon Aristaeus was not simply a random act of fate, but was actually orchestrated by the hero-poet Orpheus. But, before we get to that, it will be helpful to first explain a little bit about the colorful figure of Orpheus and, by extension, some of what it is that his corresponding Mysteries entailed.

   According to Greek myth, Orpheus was the son of Calliope[4], the muse of epic poetry, and Apollo[5], the god of music. As the offspring of these two deities, Orpheus was destined for a fame and charisma that could charm even the Lord of the Hades. Indeed, for this is precisely what he did when, armed only with his voice and his lyre, he descended into the Underworld for the purpose of persuading the god Pluto, Lord of Hades, to consent to the return of Orpheus’ deceased wife Eurydice to the realm of the living. And it is here that we come back to our unfortunate beekeeper Aristaeus, whose romantic advances Eurydice was fleeing when she ran upon the fatal serpent, the sting of which was to prematurely end her life and land her in the subterranean Hades. It was in retribution for this fact that Orpheus destroyed Aristaeus’ beloved hives.

   Ill. Bro. Albert G. Mackey once said that “the intention of the ceremonies of initiation into [the Mysteries] was, by a scenic representation of death, and subsequent restoration to life, to impress the great truths of the resurrection of the dead and the immortality of the soul.” It was with the above narrative of Eurydice’s death and subsequent resurrection that the Orphic priests indoctrinated the participants in their Mysteries regarding the truth of the soul’s immortality, and the possibility of its resurrection into the realm of the living. Both Aristaeus and Orpheus, the latter for only a short time, were in the end reunited with that of which they had previously mourned the loss. In Orpheus’ case, it was his beloved wife Eurydice who was restored to life, and in that of Aristaeus, his cherished beehives.

   According to Apollodorus, Orpheus was also said to have been responsible for creating the Dionysian Mysteries. As a type of what Sir J.G. Frazer called the dying god, i.e., a deity whose tragic death is followed by his miraculous resurrection, Dionysus, with his corresponding Mysteries, also taught the truth of the immortality of the soul. Like his father Zeus, as an infant Dionysus is said to have been tended by the Meliai, a sisterhood of bee-like nymphs associated with the ash tree, who fed him on a diet solely of honey, instead of milk. A god of wine and resurrection, Dionysus was frequently depicted as a swarm of honey bees. Greek scholar Károly Kerényi postulated that the association between bees and resurrection in the figure of Dionysus stemmed most likely from the ancient sacramental use of mead, an alcoholic honey drink that was fermented in great subterranean vats, whose use as an entheogen preceded the discovery of the intoxicating potential of the Dionysian vine.

   Similarly, Dionysus’ brother and more ‘civilized’ counterpart Apollo who, if the reader will recall, was also the father of talented Orpheus, too was frequently associated with the hive. For it is said that Apollo’s prophetic ability was the gift of the Thiai who, like the Meliai of Zeus and Dionysus, were a bee-like sisterhood of goddess-nymphs. Additionally, in his manifestation as the solar Phoebus, Apollo could also be considered a dying and resurrecting god, although his myth does not specifically hymn him as such. On the other hand, according to the Greek epic poet Nonnus of Panopolis, Apollo was responsible for the resurrection of his close companion Hyacinth, whom Apollo fatally wounded, though an accident. So, although Apollo himself was not known to have been venerated as a dying god, he bears connotations to the motif of resurrection nonetheless. Further associations of Apollo with the hive could be found at Apollo’s famous Oracle at Delphi, where the curious Omphalos or Navel Stone, a beehive-shaped stone covered with a representation of knotted net-work which is suggestive of stylized bees, was housed. Leicester Holland associated the Omphalos with the Oracle at Delphi’s ability to prophecy, proposing that it served to channel the intoxicating, chthonic vapors from the very Underworld itself which would impel the Oracle to ejaculate the strange utterances for which she was so famous. Tended to by a wholly masculine priesthood, the prophetic Oracle at Delphi was regarded as “Queen Bee” in her hive of otherwise all-male workers – an arrangement that hearkened back to a time when the people which inhabited what would come to be known as Greece were still one of matrilineality and goddess worship – which brings us to our closing discussion regarding the relationship of the beehive to the motif of resurrection.

   Carl A.P. Ruck, the professor of Classics at Boston University, and Daniel Staples, Ph.D. observed in their The World of Classical Myth that at what was once Mycenae in present day Greece can still be seen standing, for the most part intact, the well-preserved remains of the famous Lion Gate, an arching gateway topped with a detailed carving of two lions flanking a single pillar, the same of which serves as the city’s sole entrance. A short distance from this Lion Gate, we are told, can be found the so-called Grave Circle. According to the authors:

“Beyond the [Lion] Gate to the right lies the Grave Circle, a cemetery within the city, where the dead were buried at the bottom of deep shafts…where the corpses were laid temporarily to rest in state, until they rotted, on a bier in grand subterranean vaulted chambers within the characteristic domed shape of a beehive, the…Tholos Tombs. These…tombs imply a belief in the regenerative transition through death, since they were reused over and over again for successive burials…[6]

What Prof. Ruck & Dr. Staples rightly observe is that the ceremonial removal of the deceased from the womb-like, beehive structure following the body’s decomposition would naturally lend itself, if that in fact was not already the idea intended, to the notion of a deathly transmutation – as well as a seemingly miraculous resurrection, when it was discovered by the survivors of the deceased that the remains had mysteriously disappeared from the tomb, perhaps unbeknownst to any but the priests who had tended them.  And even in tombs which are seemingly in no way associated with this manner of bee worship, there are still commonly found during archaeological excavations small, golden amulets depicting the bee-like Thiai sisterhood, whose task it is thus believed was to transport the souls of the dead to the next life, implying a direct connection within the minds of the ancient Greeks between the symbol of the beehive and their belief in the immortality of the soul.

    In closing, I would like to share with the reader a quote from English cleric and scholar Samuel Purchas, who noted so perfectly the relationship between the beehive, deathly transmutation, and miraculous resurrection when he wrote:

“The [larva of the bee] lies dead and entombed in the cell wherein it was bred; but wait with patience a score of days, and you shall see it revive, and appeares a farre more noble creature than it was before. What is this, but an emblem of the resurrection?”


Apollodorus. The Library

Bullamore, Geo. W. The Bee and Freemasonry

Frazer, J.G. The Golden Bough

Holland, Leicester. The Mantic Mechanism at Delphi

Hunt, Charles Clyde. Masonic Symbolism

Kerényi , Károly.  The Religion of the Greeks and Romans

Mackey, Albert G. The Symbolism of Freemasonry

Meyer, Marvin W. The Ancient Mysteries

Ransome, Hilda M. The Sacred Bee in Ancient Times and Folklore

Ruck, Carl A.P. The World of Classical Myth

The Homeric Hymn to Apollo

Virgil. Goergics

[1] -- Samuel Purchas
[2] The Beehive: A Migration of Myth, originally published in The Working Tools Magazine, No. 49 (Feb., 2012)
[3] See The World of Classical Myth by Carl A.P. Ruck and Danny Staples.
[4] Note that the emblems associated with Calliope are the stylus and beeswax tablet, the latter of which is directly suggestive of the bee and its cognates.
[5] Note that Apollo is also said to have been the deity of colonization, a concept of great importance where the art of beekeeping is concerned.
[6] Carl A.P. Ruck & Danny Staples’ The World of Classical Myth, p. 24-5

This article can be found in the upcoming, May 2012, issue of "The Working Tools Masonic Magazine", where this content will be published.

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  1. How far has the masonic order fallen? Here is how much apparently drug addicts/dealers are among those accepted. Gnosis indeed it seems the brothers at this lodge are desperate or seriously lacking in "gnosis".

    1. Dear Tupelo Lodge #318,

      As a concerned citizen, it is my solemn duty to inform you that it has come to my attention that one of your senior members was arrested—and is currently awaiting trial, for felony drug charges in Mississippi. Writing under the pen-name P.D. Newman, I met Danny Newman last year. During this time, P.D. Newman accosted me on several occasions for a donation to his drug book. When I refused to offer a donation, P.D. Newman became increasingly volatile and abusive. I set a strong boundary and asked not to be contacted. Two nights ago, the abusive-alcoholic-criminal P.D. Newman contacted me with a highly abusive and threatening note. I put this correspondence on-file with my lawyer, and made clear to Mr. Newman that further contact from him will result in my filing a criminal complaint and seeking damages against him through civil litigation; I will also be getting a PPO/restraining order against Mr. Newman, which will be place in his NCIC FBI file.

      I have reported Mr. Newman’s felony drug-trafficking arrest, as well as his pending felony-criminal trial, to the Grand Master of Mississippi. Having your freemason organization represented by an abusive, criminal-felon thug would cause any sane person to question the essential integrity of both the freemasons and your lodge. I am now reporting Mr. Newman’s criminal activity to tupelo lodge #318. I will be filing further complaints, and making various phone calls today to continue reporting Mr. Newman’s criminal activity and abuse against my person, home and family.


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