Symbols of the Craft: The Beehive

The first mention of honey bees appeared in the First Dynasty, in ancient Eygpt, where images of honey bees were found in the Old Kingdom of Niuserre’s sun temple.  The image depicts workers (beekeepers) blowing smoke into the hive while removing honeycombs, and placing honey into pots.

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Mackey’s Encyclopedia explains the bee is a symbol of the obedient people, because, says Horapollo, “of all insects, the bee alone had a king [Queen]. ” When we look at the labors of the honeybee, we deem them an emblem of systematized industry.  Freemasons adopted the beehive as a fitting symbol for industry, a virtue taught in the instructions of a Master Mason’s degree.  It is also a symbol of the lodge, and it sometimes shown with seven bees.

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The meaning of the word industry, by today’s standards, symbolizes a large workforce of man and machine.  When we think of industry in today’s sense it includes large production and manufacturing facilities.  We picture the producers of automobiles, heavy equipment, freight, and technology companies.  However, the true sense of the meaning of industry has undergone a transformation from its humble beginnings.  Industry at one time referred to the employment of a very large number of men [workforce], on one undertaking at one place and at the same time; the great Pyramids, the great wall of China, the construction of the temple at Jerusalem by King Solomon are examples of such undertakings.

Contributing Author:
Brother L. K. Bray III is the current Worshipful Master for Lodge No. 43, F. & A.M. of Lancaster, PA. He is a 32° Scottish Rite Mason, and a Member of the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge where he is a Level 2 Scholar.

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