In studies of the communication of honeybees, it has been found that of all the directions, and instructions a bee can provide to others, they cannot point directly up. In Tarot lore, the Fool is interpreted as folly, mania, intoxication, or delerium, which is very much the appearance of a terribly confused but desperate bee. The reversed interpretation of negligence, carelessness, apathy and vanity feels the way a bee in this state would appear to an outsider.
In order to make honey, bees collect nectar into a second stomach in their bodies just for this purpose. When they return to the hive, they regurgitate their collected nectar. It will still take the nectar from at least 10 more bees to fill one cell, then a drying process, before the cell is covered in wax to set. The Magician is about skill, diplomacy, will and subtlety, a successful harvest for a bee. The reverse is the physician, mental disease and disgrace, an unsuccessful harvest which means wasted energy requiring eating the harvest of her sisters.
Beehives contain multiple members with specialized positions which change throughout their lifetime. A worker bee will likely go through a few job changes in her life including a turn at Nurse Bee, where she will raise larvae and prepare the feeding honey in its final phase. The High Priestess is about secrets, mystery, an unknown future. The inverse is passion, moral or physical ardour and secret knowledge. A bee who has graduated to nurse duty, was likely born with all the knowledge she would need, but we have learned that bees teach each other far more than we ever thought!
The Queen is likely the most talked about but most mysterious member of a hive. She is the only member of the colony who *should* ever grow ovaries, and thus is the only one able to produce viable offspring. In tarot, the queen is fruitfulness, action, the unknown but also doubt and ignorance. Her long life, but complicated status is shown there. She uses pheromones to suppress the growth of ovaries in the rest of the hive as well as to instruct the behavior of the workers. The inverse meaning is light, truth and public rejoicing. Her absence or illness is seen in the sudden decline of a once healthy hive.
Honey bee hives contain predominantly female bees. The males present do not have stingers, and are present only for show of force, as in swarming, or mating which occurs once a year. Multiple males pursue the queen into the air to copulate in flight, and in the process, die from loss of external, then internal organs. (Yup) The traditional meanings of stability, power and protection are a little light in the definitions of a male bee, but conviction is pretty much all they are. The inverse, confusion to enemies, obstruction and immaturity, though. These are your guys.
Bees communicate in multiple ways, most of all with pheromone and dance. We've seen bees dance out warnings of danger, directions to good fields, and calls for help using their legs, wings, antennae and abdomens. The hierophant represents alliances, servitude, and inspiration. The reverse gives us society, good understanding, and weakness.
The prevailing goal of a honey bee is to gather nectar to feed her hive. In the process of collecting her nectar, she wil rub ther sticky legs on the stamin of the plants she lands on, giving her additional protein for her provisions, as well as pollinating the plants so that they can reproduce. It is a dance necessary for both, so that flowers have evolved over time to appear more enticing to bees. The Lovers means attraction, love and trials overcome. The reverse, as failure and foolish designs comes of a fruitless journey, with no viable flowers to visit.
In Fall, as the leaves start turning and the air gets colder, some bees will still be found going out, attempting to find nectar for their winter stores. It's an arduous task, made harder by the cold, and so sometimes they have to rest. The tarot meaning is triumph, presumption, and trouble. Sometimes that rest will mean they won't have the energy to return to the hive, and they will freeze to death over night. The reverse is riot, dispute, and defeat.
Bees have so much working against them in this world, but of their enemies, wasps can be devastating. Unlike bees, wasps can sting multiple times, and they can invade in packs. Species in Japan have evolved a method of vibrating so fast, it heats the hive to kill the invaders, but European honey bees just have numbers. The meaning is Power, energy, courage and action. The reverse is weakness, discord and disgrace.
To help wayward bees keep from freezing or being eaten overnight, people have started making and putting out "bee hotels". Many different kinds of bees use them, including wild bees and carpenter bees. In tarot, the hermit is prudence, circumspection, and roguery. Reversed, it is concealment, disguise, and fear.
The Wheel of Fortune is about destiny, fortune success and luck. Honey bees are not combative if there is no reason. When a honey bee stings, they die, so in a situation where two bees land on a perfectly bountiful flower, they can share without concern. The reverse, is increase, abundance and superfluidity.
A sting is a death sentence to a honey bee. Only if she believes her life, her hive, or her queen are in peril will she sting the offender. Her stinger has several barbs at the end, and when she inserts it to the foe, it pulls with it her venom sack, and the rest of her internal organs. It means a powerful weapon, but a costly one. The meanings are equity, rightness, and triumph of the deserving side. The reverse is excessive severity, bias, and legal complications.
For all the magnificence attributed to honeybees, they are still insects, and as such, are still subject to the traps of tiny animals. Especially if a bee is toward the end of her life, and thus less strong, a spider web is an easy trap to get lost in. The Hanged Man is about wisdom, trials and sacrifice. The reverse is selfishness and crowds.
At the end of each Summer, a purge of the hive is required to keep the hive healthy. Over the Winter, the bees constantly vibrate, taking turns resting around the queen in the center, to maintain a warm hive. Male bees have extremely low energy, and so cannot help in this task. The solution is that all the male bees are run out of the hive by their sisters. Without stingers, they have little choice, and usually die just outside the hive. The meanings in the card are mortality, destruction, the end. The reverse, is inertia, sleep and hope destroyed.
For many years, people could not understand how bees were capable of flying. It appeared that their large, stubby bodies could not possibly be lifted by their delicate wings, not to mention being able to remain completely stationary while in flight. Since then we have discovered that they use quick, choppy movements of their segmented wings to not defy physics, just use it. But it takes a lot of energy, which makes their diet of honey necessary. The Temperance card is about economy, moderation, management and accomodation. The reverse is disunion and competing interests.
The Varoa Mite is one of the more insidious of the enemies of the bee. It burrows into her thorax, and is a dark enough shade of red, that it is often invisible to keepers. They can quickly take over a hive if missed, destroying the colony. The Devil in tarot is represented as ravage, violence, force and fatality. The reverse is pettiness, weakness and blindness.
A traditional top-bar beehive contains sixty to ninety thousand bees. The bottom box is called the Super, and is where the queen and eggs remain. Above that, are the boxes for excess honey, which the bees must fill by instinct. If they combs become full, the bees will leave the hive for new space, which is why bee keepers must keep track of them, and keep giving them fresh comb to fill. The card means misery, adversity and ruin. The reverse is oppression, imprisonment and tyranny.
The queen is necessary to the functioning of a hive. She has a few attendents, but besides them, her job is to maintain the functioning and procedure of the workers. Tarot marks the Star as loss, privation, abandonment and sometimes hope. Which seems the definition of the isolation of power. The reverse is arrogance, haughtiness and impotence. And with the illness of a queen comes the destruction of a hive.
In the winter, a beehive has a system to keep the queen alive and warm, but it is vital they don't leave if the external temperature is too low. They are cold-blooded insects, so their warmth is vital to their survival. The tarot calls The Moon danger, darkness, deception and error. The reverse is silence, inconstancy and instability.
Summer is an important time for bees. In Spring, the flowers bloom, but Summer is when the workers need to collect the nectar and pollen for surviving the cooler months. In tarot, the Sun is simply material happiness and contentment and the reverse is the lesser of the same.
When a new queen is needed for a hive, she is sent in a small, sealed box. The keeper removes the front panel, but doesn't release her. Between the new queen and the hive is a cotton-candy portal or a marshmallow cork is inserted which is too thick for her to get through herself, she needs the aid of the workers. She starts sending out pheromones to call for help to eat through the portal. If they accept her, they'll free her before she dies of starvation. The tarot meanings are change of position and renewal. The reverse is weakness, simplicity and decision.
Honey bees find flowers to drink from based on a mild electrical charge. They detect the charge to guide them from flower to flower, when they land on one, the mild charge emitted by their bodies neutralizes the charge on the flowers so that other pollinators don't repeatedly attempt to draw from emptied flowers. The tarot meaning is recompense, route, flight and assured success. The reverse is inertia, stagnation and permanence.
Bee balm (Monarda didyma) is a wildly popular flower to pollinators with multiple individual flowers. Its antiseptic quality has had it used in Native medicine across America. Traditionally, the Ace of Wands is something like a wand emerging from clouds, Bee Balm's bright red flowers look like a beacon for hungry pollinators. The card means creation, invention, birth and money. The reverse is fall, decadence, and clouded joy.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla ) is one of the most well known herbs for its medicinal uses. The Two of Wands is about physical suffering, sadness, sometimes magnificence and riches. The orb of the chamomile flower here is meant to hold the space of the globe traditionally illustrated in tarot. Chamomile tea is even a staple in most kitchens around the world. The reverse of surprise, fear, emotion and trouble seem to pair well with the soothing use of chamomile.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is an easily overlooked herb, as a mint relative, it grows quickly and in abundance. The intoxicating quality it has on cats makes it useful, but its use as a calming tea or insect repellant are also notable. The three of wands is about enterprise, discovery, and commerce, which fits sucha versatile herb. The reverse is an end to troubles, and an end to adversity or disappointment, with Catnip's few downsides, it was a good fit for this card.
Cilantro or Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is a very interesting herb. Cilantro is such a widely used garnish, its absence is sometimes more noticeable. The four of wands in tarot means home, repose, harmony and prosperity. The reversed is similar, with prosperity, and embellishment. The only disagreement to this reading, may come from those who dislike the taste, which is due to a genetic affect, but doesn't keep it out of so many dishes all over the world.
The Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis) seemed particularly fitting for the 5 of Wands due to our modern recognition of the herb. It is a medicinal herb used for inflammation both internal and topical, although now the more common knowledge of it is its use in confectionary, even though the plant has not been used in its production in a very long time. The meaning in Tarot is imitation, gain and opulence. The reverse is disputes, trickery and contradiction.
Sage, (Salvia officinalis) is one of those herbs that is so common, it is easily overlooked in its importance. It has been considered an “essential herb” for generations, used in cooking, medicine and in ritual practice. In traditional Tarot, the Six of Wands indicates Popularity, recognition, victory and progress. The reverse of loss of confidence, Egotism and disrepute. With a plant like Sage, so associated with the feminine and underrecognized religious practices, Sage feels a fitting herb for this card.
Thyme, (Thymus vulgaris) is one of those most common of herbs in gardens and culinary dishes. Thyme was also used in ancient rituals to purify and protect. In bee colonies, a distillation of Thyme oil (Thymol) is used to aid in the protection of honey bees from Varroa Mite. It must be used carefully, because it can be toxic in excessive amounts, but in precise dosages can reduce invasions of Varroa Mite substantially, which is necessary for their health. In tarot, the meaning speaks to challenges to current successes and ventures. The competition can be overcome with determination and clarity of purpose. The reverse is the reaction one could have to the challenge, a feeling of being judged or criticized, feeling overwhelmed and an inability to see the forest for the trees.
Between the first card and second a year later, my feeling for this card switched from Anise (Pimpinella anisum) to Echinacea( Echinacea purpurea), but both for similar reasons. The rest will be written soon, when my writing brain comes back. The tarot meaning is about travel, movement and speed, inversed it is about frustration, delays and hesitating.
Dill Anethum graveolens The upright card in tarot is a test of faith, persistence and resilience. If you have seen a Dill bush growing naturally, it is an aggressive Annual. It grows from tiny seeds into huge, tall bushes in otherwise inhospitable environments. I have seen them break through cracks in sidewalks, or out of tree stumps. The reverse is Defensiveness, Hesitation and Paranoia, part of the process if you are going to grow in locations not set aside for expected plants. It is a highly delicious weed.
Hemlock Belladonna Atropa belladonna or Deadly Nightshade is a well known dangerous plant, due to its tropane alkaloid toxins. In small doses, it can cause hallucinations and delerium. The toxicity does not affect the bees, however as it is within the plant, but not exerted in its nectar and pollen. The upright of the ten of wands is about responsibility, stress and achievement. And the reverse is about getting overwhelmed, overdoing and avoiding responsibility.
Saint John's Wort Hypericum perforatum is considered a medicinal herb which is well known for its use as an antidepressant, though its efficacy is poorly tested. The Page of Wands is about energy, loyalty and a love of learning. This seems to fit with a plant which is widely used for its medicinal properties, even if the scientific community has yet to thoroughly test it. The reverse is about finding meaning and seeking answers.
Chives Allium schoenoprasum is a common kitchen herb, but are also well known for the fact that they both repel pests and are a top choice for pollinators. THey are unusual in the fact that they are native in both Europe and the Americas, fitting the Knight of Wands story of Energy, Impulsiveness and Adventure. The reversed is about Haste, Scattered Energies and Frustration.