For a Swarm of Bees
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. The charm is named for its opening words, "wiþ ymbe", meaning "against (or towards) a swarm of bees".
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, 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. Among some recent scholars the term has been theorized as a simple metaphor for the "victorious sword" (the stinging) of the bees.
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.
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.
- Sige is a homonym for both victory in war and sunset and it is related to the Sigel (Sowilo) rune.
- Jacob Grimm proposed wille instead of wilde for grammatical or poetic reasons but it does not fundamentally alter his translation. Wilde means wildly, whereas wille means willfully, as well as a literal or figurative stream.
- Beo may mean both "bee" and "be thou".
- 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.
- Kemble, John Mitchell (1876). The Saxons in England, A History of The English Commonwealth, Till The Period of The Norman Conquest. 1. London: B. Quaritch.
- Grendon, Felix (1909). The Anglo-Saxon Charms.
- Grimm, Jacob (1854). Deutsche Mythologie (German Mythology). Göttingen: Dieterische Bechhandlung.
- Bosworth, Joseph; Toller, T. Northcote (1889–1921). An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary with Supplements and Corrections by T. Northcote Toller.
- Greenfield, Stanley B.; Calder, Daniel Gillmore (1996). A New Critical History of Old English Literature. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-3088-4.
- Davidson, Hilda Ellis (1990). Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-013627-4.