Tag Archives: bees

To make a bee stone

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

                         — from The Lake Isle of Innisfree, by William Butler Yeats

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Being an avid gardner, I know just how important bees are.  Without them to pollinate our crops, we’d all be in deep trouble.  Every year I look for them, and am reassured when I do see them out in strength.

In the eleventh century, a Benedictine monk at Winchester Abbey jotted down the following in his notes on bee-keeping:

” Writ pysne circul mid pines cnifes orde on anum mealm stane 7 sleah aenne stacan on middan pam ymbhagan 7 lege pone stane on uppan pam stacan paet he beo eall under eordan butan pam gewritenan”

“Write this circle with the point of your knife on a malmstone, and drive a stake into the ground in the center of your apiary, and put the stone on top of the stake so that it is completely under the earth but for the writing.”

It’s a bee-keeping charm referred to as Columcille’s Circle.  I first learned about it in a paper by Martha Dana Rust entitled The Art of Beekeeping Meets the Arts of Grammar: A Gloss of “Columcille’s Circle.” 

The inscription within the innermost circle is “contra apes ut salvi sint & incorda eorum,”  meaning “Against bees so that they may be safe and in their hearts.”   The stake was to fix the bees in place, so when they swarmed they would not wander off your property.

A whole new (or old!) way to mind your own beeswax. 

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