Vision and Growth
Letter from the Director,
Dear Friends and Supporters,
It is a lovely winter day where I am sitting, the room filling with warm sunlight. My chickens are nearby and my three hives are tucked in with insulation and black tarpaper which is warming in the sun. I wanted to take this reflective moment to write to all of you and share the deepening vision and marked growth of the College of the Melissae, share personal news AND, most excitedly, at the end of this blog I am offering a snippet from my book!
It has been a year of incredible inspiration, meaningful explorations, group bonding and growth, dreams realized and, on a personal note, one crazy hurdle after the next! Somehow despite car accidents, the death of a beloved pet, my phone and computer biting the dust at the same time, a forced move and health scare, all is well! I’ve got a sweet little van, a new quarter acre farm, a great health report, and two new redheaded chickens who have surprisingly turquoise ears! I have been working on the farm and chicken pens and enjoying a warm new home….and calming down after all of that.
Other more brilliant highlights include a very successful workshop at Findhorn in Forres Scotland, UK, with an additional opportunity to teach and meet the incredible community in Findhorn proper. Corwin Bell taught with me and it was wonderful to work alongside him and visit the Scottish countryside and seashore for a couple days afterward.
(Photo Above: Making candles at Findhorn)
I also had the rare opportunity to attend, present and speak at an International Conference in Istanbul, Turkey. Apimondia, run by a French organization is like the Olympics of beekeeping conference. Presenting here was a long-held goal of mine and was a thrilling opportunity to bring our studies to the world stage and not only spoke but presented a poster for exhibition. I crammed onto that poster, every symbol I could to trace the Sacred Bee to every culture possible.
When I walked to the podium and saw the people before me in African dress, the Saudi and Indian turbans, one cowboy hat, the burkas and sari, the rainbow of races and societies… I spoke to the one thing we all have in common, the Earth, and how the bee speaks Her language. I described how culture and thought may be more deeply inspired by these ancient societies and contributions than we give credit and that each beekeeper in the room has answered her call. with a deep desire to serve the bee. That the answer to the bee’s problems lie in our relationship to the Earth and, yes, the Divine Feminine. I spoke aloud to the Goddess of Artemis and how her Archetype moved through the world as a Bee Goddess. That we were standing on her land.
(Laura Bee presenting at Apimondia; International Scientific Beekeeping Congress, Istanbul, Turkey 2017)
It was such a short moment, but was an epic goal of mine and little did I know how much the Goddess Artemis would perfume the entire experience. In a picture (above) taken of me speaking at the event, my shadow, with a towering veil behind me, mirrors the shadow of the Artemises that stands in Selcuk, the site of my Initiation. In front of the world’s beekeepers, I re-introduced, to our apicultural community, the Sacred Origins of beekeeping and briefly touched on the thread alive in all of us.
This trip was deeply inspirational and informative and will no doubt help craft the College of the Melissae for years to come. My travels to Turkey were an initiation and a graduation. I will be going back with my traveling companion Rebecca Robertson of Asheville, NC. as the land of Artemis, the ancient city of Efes, the Sacre via Artemis and the Artemesian temples have been calling me ever since.
(Photo above: Temple of Artemis as seen from the rooftop of our pensione)
(Photo Above: Ancient road sign at Efes, )
(Photo Below: College of the Melissae Initiate and Contributor Rebecca Robertson and Director Laura Bee playing in the ruins at Efes, Turkey)
GROWTH & VISION
For the past six years we have been working toward a dual track. The general focus has been to simultaneously bring the concept of sacred ethics to the regular beekeeping world and to create an authentic Mystery School that studies the bee from a multitude of angles. When I began the College of the Melissae; Center for Sacred Beekeeping, I had a question: What would happen if we study the bee from all the ways we could? This thought developed into the Six-Fold Path; Science, Sacred, History, Mystery, Art/Medicine and Activism.
We study the Science for many reasons and in many ways. We ensure students are informed, deeply, about the bee’s biology, lifecycle, environment etc. We want to be able to speak to beekeepers the world over and advocate for pollinator species (and by extension Gaia, a natural progression.) Then we do something a little different; we use the concepts from the rest of the Six-Fold Path to ask questions and explore elements of science. For example; Sovereignty of the ancient Bee Goddesses becomes an influential concept when one learns about the scientific principles of Superorganism. The reverse is also true; when one discovers the miracle within the concept of Superorganism, one can develop a greater understanding of the concept of Mother Goddess. We, through science, are strengthening our understanding of sacred principles.
(Photo Above by Rebecca Robertson: Visioning from the steps of the Celsus Library at Efes, Turkey, October 2017)
We are redeveloping (and finding relevance for the modern era) the mind-set of our foremothers who also studied the bee and her principles to create the Priestesshoods of Delphi, Sais, Efes and Parnassus, and throughout, Northern Africa, Europe, India, the Middle East and so on…. Wth the language of Science, anthropology, philosophy and history we reach into a naming, renaming, re-member-ing and inspirationally re-introducing these concepts in both directions. If our current Apiculture can be inspired by concepts of Superorganism Sovereignty, what could happen? Teaching Bee helps us.!
What is good for the Bee is good for Humanity. I feel that if we keep the bee at the center of our ministrations, we can support paradigm shifting consciousness about our environment and the Superorganism of Gaia. The symbol of the bee, points toward the symbol of a healthy and balanced relationship with Nature and Agriculture.
Everybody knows who the Bee is, almost everyone can speak to her current state of suffering, they know that chemicals affect her, that her forage is fading; and that her forage is our food crop. We can relate to this. It takes a half step and two brain cells to make the leap of how all pollinators are affected by these same things and that we are too. The symbol of the bee and the principles of superorganism can live perfectly in the field of science, and offers simple non-spiritual symbols (heck, and scientific, economic etc) for planetary recovery. In the same way, it represents the structure of the ancient priestesshoods whose images wear the crown of civilization. It is shown as relevant in the modern context as those of us who see the Sacred and fearlessly and unapologetically, work within these fields are gathering together to create a thought-swarm. We want the language of Sacred ethics to be part-of apiculture.
We also pose that the same developments and cross-pollination transpire between all of the elements of the Six-Fold Path.
As for the Sacred Bee herself, I began this experiment knowing one or two things: The word Melissae means honeybees and is also a title for Priestess of many old Greek cultures. I also had an experience of hugging an observation hive when I was very young, hearing the sound, which struck a harp chord within my own heart, I was bee-sotted. have spent the past six years falling deeper and deeper into what I have come to realize is a profound and sonorous study. Not only is the Sacred Bee at the base root of many of our language (and therefore cultural) ancestors, hundreds if not thousands of people are currently seeking along the same veins. The bee is not only a profound symbol of environmental healing, she is an archetype of nature encounter and a model drawn upon during the development of civilization, the true Golden Age of our namings. In Western Culture, this deep-rooted mythos is decidedly Feminine.
(Photo Above: Artemis the Beautiful at the museum of Efes in Selcuk, Turkey. Note the bees on her skirt!)
As a part of the development of this Path the College of the Melissae has drawn upon two things. One, What Would Bees Do? And two, What would Bees and her Principles Have Us Do? These questions can only be answered by the Collective as it takes a collective mind do develop culture. It also takes time. We are creating practices and traditions together, and to be authentic, they must hold integrity across time. When terms and rituals naturally become activated and sustained, we see growth in our language and relational experiences. It becomes something we can trust. After six years of creating foundation, the College has begun to have it’s own authentic voice. We have a strong class of second year and initiated Melissae coming forward for the 2018 Study Session to help hold and beautify the container of our work. Thousands of hours of research, recordings, classes, reading and experience are being represented in this work. There is an infinite discovery ahead and the study is intensifying, enriched by continued involvement of students.
Now is the best time to join our collective.
For the past few years my main focus has been the concept of normalizing the Sacred and uplifting the voice of the Superorganism of the Bee in the greater field of Apiculture. I have been fortunate to learn from and work with notable bee leaders such as Les Crowder, Jacqueline Freeman, Michael Thiele, Dee Lusby, Corwin Bell, Gunther Hauk, to name a few. Remarkable, deep thinkers who are also writing and speaking on the nature of the bee and the treatment-free, "trust the bee" science and ethic. Each of these individuals have have also been diving into the Mystery of it all. From the other end of the subject matter we have a consortium inspired to develop ceremonial connections to Sacred Bee Culture, many of whom are not beekeepers, but are deeply recognizing the divine wisdom in the bee's voice and metaphor. (Starhawk in her book The Fifth Sacred Thing, Angie Twydall of Glastonbury, The Path of Pollen in the UK, important works by Marguerite Rigoglioso and Layne Redmond, Aimee Lithuansa and my mentor Debra Roberts, among others.) Andrew Gough is also making amazing connections and is physically documenting and writing about this symbolic emergence as he jaunts around the globe. How fortunate, and proof that this work is needed and, hundredth monkey style, emerging in a plethora of ways. The Bee is speaking to Us!
Describing Vision is hard, creating it is harder still. The process can be full of doubt, bumps in the road, human hang-ups and other nonsense. But when you know, in your bones, than you know you must try and try again. Fall down five times, get up six. Joyfully, now, with my ear to the hive of the Melissae, I hear the humming, the swarming…. Instead of falling, we will soon be flying. From the place I am standing, this study has a pulsing, exciting resonance of potential. I am fortunate to witness so many discoveries, stories of empowerment and personal mysticism and direction, the blossoming of concepts for cultural healing and orchestration, ART! This has given me an even stronger directive, a desire to work harder still. Now there are so many with me! There are so many to serve! Blessedly, with a strong contingent of second year students this work is able to form in a new way. The communal creation of meaningful ceremony and celebration and the Mythos that is singing its way into the story I am writing and the Herstory we are collectively creating. This perfume is being woven by the Muses and the Melissae.
I personally have studied and given myself over to this study for six years with a vow to do so until I am no longer needed. Now it is time to go further! I have received initiation from Artemis herself. I have seen the line of priestesses returning to her Temple and Studies. I have experienced the authentic permission to go deeper. My initiation (a Mystery to be shared with the Melissae) has given me the directive to explore the Oracular and the Encounter with Bee and we prepare and share with others. I have felt the columnar crown of Kybele and Artemis rise from my own crown. Together we are buzzing like a thriving Hive.
This year we will create and demonstrate the practices we have been developing within our school. This year we will also be generating ceremonial space to gather and teach and practice together in the physical realm. This has been a heart song and goal from the beginning and we, singing together, will establish the container and hold the role of Priestesses within the Temple of the Sacred Bee.
With humble song we, the Rahibe, sing: We Call the Melissae Home.
With Joy in my heart,
Laura Bee Ferguson
The College of the Melissae is more than a beekeeping school
The College of the Melissae; Center for Sacred Beekeeping explores a
Six-Fold Sacred Path:
Science, Sacred, History, Mystery, Art/Medicine and Activism
We actively pursue the Science of beekeeping
and question the current beekeeping culture and environment.
In this way we catalyze a paradigm shift and create
a conscious container for the honey bee and her allies to thrive.
How does science serve the past, present, and future of beekeeping?
We study the Sacred of the Bee and recognize
that at the end of Science is an infinite field of discovery that brings us
deep inspiration and connection to the rules of Nature and principles of
pollination, parthenogenesis and superorganism.
What is Sacred and how do we demonstrate its value?
We examine the History of beekeeping and find ourselves
continually spiraling to and from the Herstory.
We recognize the Myths of the Sacred Bee cultures need to be explored
and told in the voice of the pre-Appollon Oracle.
We share these myths as a way to re-enculturate our people
and follow the plethora of ancient Sacred Bee cultures throughout the world.
How is our Herstory reflected, confined, and/or supported by our History?
We describe Mystery as an individual path of personal and Divine Nature empowerment and together we explore animal communication with the bee
through dream-work and ritual practice.
This is supported with symbol study, meditations and creation of foundational language.
How do we authentically explore the Mysteries with modern relevance?
Art and Medicine flow one to the next. All arts are medicine and all medicine is art. This spectrum is enriched with the study of Science, Sacred, History, Mystery!
Our program invites students to create temple arts
to share at our Spring and Autumn Immersions.
How does the Honey bee inspire us to live our art and beecome our own medicine/medicine for the people?
Activism: That which we love, we protect.
This program models and implements our spiritual fortitude through civic life.
With the beauty and grace of initiated Priestesses, Warrioresses, Sisters and Artists,
we learn to embody leadership by teaching, performing, sharing, and
designing world change with the Sacred principles of the bee at the center.
How do your individual gifts contribute to the greater good?
An excerpt from the book The First Melissa
by Laura Bee Ferguson
[Author's note: This story is a retelling of Aegean Myth from the voice of the women in those stories, an attempt to describe the feminine experience as the Gods became male.. What could these ancient Sacred Beekeeping cultures have to do with the current state of environmentalism and the Divine Feminine? Who are the Priestesses, then and now? What did the spiritual state of the classical era feel like?
Note: "The Fingers" are based on the ancient people, the Curates, named thusly as their name translates as "The Fingers of Gaia." In history, these people are the indigeneous Cretens who themselves were early metal-workers and agriculturalists and many of their number moved from historical personage to demi-god.]
The Fingers stood together and thought hummed in a circle. Together they chose to manifest and gently glimmered into form. The men pulled whole cloth from the autumnal fields in long swatches as they swayed side to side, arms harvesting, all naked and brown. One sat and created clever pins out of antler and bone and the women set to braiding hair and cord. Soon they were clothed and their simple gowns tied with swift spun wool plucked from mists and brambles. They marked their faces and feet with the ancient alphabets of protection symbols and geometries. They held their tools and gifts; a flagon, a bow, a magic flute, the hammer and sword and the mirror and comb, a large drinking cup made from a long curving horn.
As they walked they began to sing, the first in the line holding her drum. Along they way they collected fronds and berries, stones to chip and feathers to fletch and once they all stopped on the edge of a brook to admire a lovely honeytree. The tree sang to them, sang her name. The Fingers recognized her Goddess heart full of bees and honey and sang her name aloft, until it became the name of the mountain behind her. When the song simmered into the rustle of leaves, the bees parted into two labial folds, revealing a pearl of honeycomb, richly laced with creamed honey. One of the women reached up with long slender hands and the bees laid the comb onto her marble cool palms. She held it like a butterfly. She thought-imagined back to them a welcome hum, and learned from them the forage of the honey. They sang the song again and again and as she learned it, her sister beside her learned the rhythm, in her way, her head cocked and eyes barely open fingers snapping and fluttering across the drum. The Fingers danced.
As sacrament they each took a coin sized morsel, wax and all onto their tongues. Ah the sensual pleasures of mortality. The moments of honey on the tongue, the glitter of sunlight on closed eyelids, The feeling of feet on the meadow and the marsh, the swish of skirt and slick of sweat and each second following the next racing toward the end of the body. A marvel, really, an inventive vulnerable state that strings moments, one from the next into the necklace weave of a lifetime, The Fingers played with those moments, like beads on a tray. Singing the songs of ancestry, the Fingers fell more in love with the mortals around them.
Their hands stirred the air currents and poets far off in the valley below heard the trickles of poetry ripple down their necks, beckoned on the breeze. Many others paused in their work, the hoe to rest, the sawyer stopping, the weaver's shuttle hushing. The zephyr played the lyre that sat alone on a fresh washed, sunlit hearth. Babies drifted off the nipple, milk drunk to dozing. Kittens curled in sunwarmed hay and purred, fish hovered, slick and sparkly in cold clean streams and birds cooed as they ruffled.
Faces throughout the town raised to the sky, as a collective breath kissed a thousand foreheads at once. Not one heart was troubled, not one. Juice turned to wine.