Patron Saint of Bees

Who knew? There is an Irish patron saint of bees. And a woman at that!

February 12 is the celebration of St. Gobnait, 6th century patron saint of healing for the sick. In 2008, I visited Ballyvourney, County Cork where the shrine built for Gobnait in the 12th or 13th century still stands. On the land given to her by  St. Abban, she established a nunnery, with an old graveyard and medieval parish church known as Teampall Ghobhatan ( the church of Gobnait). There is also a holy “healing” well for the ailing who come to partake of the waters. The interesting thing I noted is that Gobnait had bees crawling up her cloak (cement bees that is) and the base of the statue was adorned with bee symbols (look closely!) Little did I know back then, where the trajectory of my life would take me…back to the hive.

Gobnait was [also] the patron saint of bee keepers and kept her own bees.  There are a number of  legend  in which she unleashes her bees to attack enemies. In one  story soldiers came to Ballyvourney and stole livestock, as they left the village the saint  let loose her honey-bees upon them.  Another version of this tale has a band of robbers stealing her cattle and she sends her bees  after them and they promptly return the  cattle. It is this legend that inspired the Harry Clarke window. Many modern depictions of the saint  associate her with bees such as the  statue at her shrine in Ballyvourney by  Séamus Murphy.

In my beekeeping years, I have come to study the powerful association of bees to human art, literature and theology. Evidently the history books show that we have an ancient, deep and abiding connection with bees. I’m not surprised that our wonder and awe of bees has been re-animated as they have become endangered.

For millions of years, bees have been associated with resurrection, thrift, prosperity, healing, fertility and many other fascinating adjectives. More are returning to the folkways of bee medicine. All the elements of the hive are full of healing properties—from the sting for arthritis to pollen as protein and allergy antidote, to propolis and honey as anti-bacterial. And of course honey is wildly delicious!

I end with a lovely bit of a poem/prayer by Christine Valters Paintner….in honor of St. Gobnait and the bees.

Is there a place for each of us,
where we no longer yearn to be elsewhere?
Where our work is to simply soften,
wait, and pay close attention?

She smiles as bees gather eagerly
around her too, wings humming softly
as they collect essence of wildflowers,
transmuting labor into gold.

anitas-pics-244

old graveyard at Teampall Ghobhatan (the church of Gobnait)

 

 

 

 

 

One thought on “Patron Saint of Bees

  1. I must say it was hard to find your site in google.

    You write interesting content but you should rank your website
    higher in search engines. If you don’t know how to do it search on youtube: how to rank a website Marcel’s
    way

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s