For a Swarm of Bees

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For a Swarm of Bees is an Anglo-Saxon metrical charm that was intended for use in keeping honey bees from swarming. The text was discovered by John Mitchell Kemble in the 19th century.[1] The charm is named for its opening words, "wiþ ymbe", meaning "against (or towards) a swarm of bees".[2]

In the most often studied portion, towards the end of the text where the charm itself is located, the bees are referred to as sigewif, "victory-women". The word has been associated by Kemble,[1] Jacob Grimm, and other scholars with the notion of valkyries (Old English wælcyrian), and "shield maidens", hosts of female beings attested in Old Norse and, to a lesser extent, Old English sources, similar to or identical with the Idise of the Merseburg Incantations.[3] Among some recent scholars the term has been theorized as a simple metaphor for the "victorious sword" (the stinging) of the bees.[4]

Lorscher Bienensegen manuscript

In 1909, the scholar Felix Grendon recorded what he saw as similarities between the charm and the Lorsch Bee Blessing, a manuscript portion of the Lorsch Codex, from the monastery in Lorsch, Germany. Grendon suggested that the two could possibly have a common origin in pre-Christian Germanic culture.[5]

Charm text[edit]

Sitte ge, sīgewīf,[a]
sīgað tō eorðan,
næfre ge wilde[b]
tō wuda fleogan,
beō ge swā gemindige,[c]
mīnes gōdes,
swā bið manna gehwilc,
metes and ēðeles.[d]

 

Settle down, victory-women,

never be wild and fly to the woods.

Be as mindful of my welfare,

as is each man of border and of home.[4]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Sige is a homonym for both victory in war and sunset[2] and it is related to the Sigel (Sowilo) rune.
  2. ^ Jacob Grimm proposed wille instead of wilde for grammatical or poetic reasons but it does not fundamentally alter his translation.[6] Wilde means wildly, whereas wille means willfully, as well as a literal or figurative stream.[2]
  3. ^ Beo may mean both "bee" and "be thou".[2]
  4. ^ Eðel may be both the name of the Odal rune as well as having all of its variant implications ranging from home, property, inheritance, country, fatherland, to nobility.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Kemble (1876), pp. 403-404.
  2. ^ a b c d e Bosworth (1889).
  3. ^ Davidson (1990), p. 63.
  4. ^ a b Greenfield (1996), p. 256.
  5. ^ Grendon (1909).
  6. ^ Grimm (1854), p. 402.

Citations[edit]