The Cultural Coldwars
Episode 2

Weapons of Mass Destruction of Your own ruin - Perception Series

Elizabeth Puckett published on

Beliefs associated with bees go back to Hellenistic Greece and before where they were understood to be related to and a manifestation of the muse from which comes the bees alter identity of the muse's bird. And, the practice of telling of the bees of important events in the lives of the family has been for hundreds of years a widely observed practice and, although it varies somewhat among peoples, it is invariably a most elaborate ceremonial. The procedure is that as soon as a member of the family has breathed his or her last a younger member of the household, often a child, is told to visit the hives. and rattling a chain of small keys taps on the hive and whispers three times:


Little Brownies, little brownies, your mistress is dead.
Little Brownies, little brownies, your mistress is dead.
Little Brownies, little brownies, your mistress is dead.


In order to not to be set hopelessly adrift in this seemingly endless sea of complex and interrelating beliefs, this exhibition has limited its discussion into five areas of inquiry and each exhibit bears a mark which should help the visitor in the identification of the source of the particular belief. The five areas of inquiry are:



Many of the beliefs illuminated in this exhibition are and have been practiced in surprisingly similar forms by peoples separated by hundreds or thousands of miles and often hundreds or thousands of years. One such belief is the belief from which this exhibition draws its name - The Telling of the Bees.

A piece of funeral crepe is then tied to the hive and after a period of time funeral sweets are brought to the hives for the bees to feed upon. The bees are then invariably invited to the funeral and have on a number of recorded occasions seen fit to attend.

There are a great many other practices that are observed concerning bees. Among those that know them well, bees are understood to be quiet and sober beings that disapprove of lying, cheating and menstruous women. Bees do not thrive in a quarrelsome family, dislike bad language and should never be bought or sold for money. Bees should be given without compensation but if such compensation is essential, barter or trade is greatly preferable so that no money changes hands.

The practices and observations, illuminated in this exhibition do not even begin to scratch the surface of the wondrous body of information known as "vulgar knowledge". This extraordinary field of information is the product of the observation, intuition and understanding of the minds of our species, millions of individuals, over many thousands of years. Much of this knowledge has fallen into disrepute in the recent past, a mere few hundred years, a blink of the eye in our collective history.

We would suggest that there is at work in this body of vulgar knowledge a form of collective intelligence about this existence in which we find ourselves, a kind of road map of life compiled by those who have gone before.

Like the bees from which this exhibition has drawn its name, we are individuals, yet we are, most surely, like the bees, a group, and as a group we have, over the millennia, built ourselves a hive, our home. We would be foolish, to say the least, to turn our backs on this carefully and beautifully constructed home especially now, in these uncertain and unsettling times.

In the early years of the development of modern medical and pharmaceutical practice, vulgar remedies were viewed with disdain. In the 18th and 19th centuries, in medical academies of Vienna, Liepzig, Budapest and Paris, surgical exhumation and repair of diseased or traumatically damaged tissue was the order of the day. The extraordinary body of knowledge of anatomy and physiology assembled by the physicians and surgeons of the academies, during these centuries, promised a future of increasingly sophisticated and advanced medical and surgical practice. Folk remedies were viewed as "baneful influences", irrational relics from the past to be "purged".

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