I can remember when I was a kid and going to granny’s to eat breakfast, if you wanted a sweet-ner you got honey. Back then we didn’t have a lot of money and what we ate mainly came from the farm. Even though we didn’t grow pinto beans, we did render our own lard and about everything else came from the garden.
I have always loved honey, but in my opinion, it doesn’t replace sugar. So it got me to thinking, what is the history or honey. I know God created the honey bee, but when was it first used or where. So I got to digging for more information.
Honey’s history is lost in the mists of time, but it is definitely known that it existed for ages. WE know this because fossilized honeybees have been found. They have been found entombed in amber, although there is one instance of a petrified honeybee being found at a geological depth that placed it’s life thousands of years ago. There are evidences that honey and was were used in the Neolithic era. Of course in those times, man obtained his honey from the wild bees nesting in hollow tree’s and rocks. AS civilization developed, it wasn’t long before bee culture came to be an important part of living as taming horses and keeping sheep and goats.
We find honey a most important commodity back in the earliest days of Egypt, Babylon, India, Greece and Rome. In Egypt, honey was used in hundreds of ways as a food, medicine, for embalming and in all sorts of cookery. Ambrosia and nectar, the food and drink of the Greek gods, was made with honey. The romans used honey in cosmetics as well as food and as a preservative. When they took over the British Isles, they brought their bee culture with them. Although the Britons had long been making a potent drink from the honey of wild bees they soon learned to increase their honey quantity and quality by Roman methods.
The Britons also used honey in cooking, but their main use was for heady drinks. The main drink was mead, which was also popular in the Scandinavian countries. Charlemagne, gave strict instructions to the honey industry in Europe and with the spread of Christianity the demand for wax increased due to the use in church candles. Monasteries had their own beehives. The honey market held in Breslau was famous for centuries. In Poland, it was said that the honeycombs were so large that great bears fell into them and drowned in the honey.
The honeybee didn’t exist in America but a poor form of honey was made by a type of stingless bee. When the Spanish, Dutch and English settlers came to America at the end of the 17th century they brought the honeybee. The Indians feared the honeybee and considered them a bad omen.
Wild honey hunting was an ancient sport just as hunting and fishing is to us today. All sorts of tricks were used to rob the hives of wild bee nests. Many hunters used the simple trick of following the bees until the entered the hive. Professional bee keepers and tree climbers were used to ferret out the honeycomb. The finder of a hive had the right to mark the tree or stump with his initials. Anyone caught getting honey from a marked hive was considered poaching and faced punishment by a fine or in Germany, 20 lashes and a fine.
It has been said that certain birds guided the hunters to bee’s nests and were rewarded with a bit of honey for their assistance. In the middle ages, hunting honey was a royal sport, just like chasing a deer or hunting the boar hog. In mythology, honey hunting drew the attention of fauns and satyrs. Hunters in the wildest forests sometimes had to compete with bears for the honey and usually the bear won.
In the pioneer days of America, hunting honey was a profitable business for the backwoodsman. When wild honey sold at a quarter of a dollar a gallon. Some tree’s were known to hold as much as a dozen gallons of honey. You do the math.
From the time religion in any form became part of civilization, honey has been a part of many of it’s rituals. Beginning with the sun worshippers and continuing through the ages to the advent of Christianity. The shape of the papaltiara is said to be derived from an old-fashioned beehive.
Honey came in for it’s share of superstitions and traditions also. In some countries a string dipped in honey and tied around the fruit trees insures a heavy crop. It was a sin against Mary and Joseph who fed the Christ Child to refuse honey to a child, but to send honey to a dying person was bad luck.
Some people believe that where there is honey and bees, the lightning would never strike. In Egypt, in every marriage contract the bridegroom had to promise to supply his bride with a certain amount of honey every year. The term “honeymoon” comes from an ancient custom when the bride and groom were accustomed to eat honey and drink mead throughout the first four weeks of their married life.
Just a little history on Honey. Until next time or I see ya on the trail.