If you're at all familiar with ancient Greek mythology, you may recall that Demeter is the Goddess of Agriculture and The Harvest, who presides over grains and the fertility of the Earth and sustained humankind with the earth's rich bounty. And you've likely heard of the story of Demeter and her daughter Persephone who was kidnapped by But there is much more to her story than you may know. Let's dig a little deeper....
The Eleusinian Mysteries, were the secret rituals of the mystery school of Eleusis and were observed regularly from c. 1600 BCE - 392 CE. Exactly what this mystic ritual was no one knows as the initiated were sworn to secrecy as to the details of the ritual. What we do know is that these mysteries celebrated the story of Demeter and Persephone and that those who participated in the mysteries were forever changed for the better and that they no longer feared death, providing them with a higher understanding of life and what waited beyond death. We also know that Demeter's Eleusinian priestesses were sometimes called Melissae, and her daughter, the goddess Persephone, was sometimes referred to as "The Honeyed One". Persephone, being the Queen of the Underworld, was allowed to cross from the land of the living to the land of the dead and back again only with the changing of the seasons, linking her intimately, like the bee, with the cycles of nature and the birth-death circle. Dwelling as they often do in rock clefts, caves, and tree-hollows, bees are easily associated with the Underworld. Passing through narrow crevices that symbolize gateways, the Melissae act as messengers between the realms, able to share the wisdom of the Earth with mortals.
Now, here's where things get really interesting.... Lemon balm's botanical name is Melissa officinalis and this magickal herb has long been associated with bees. (The word melissa is Greek for honeybee.) Bees sure do adore her, no doubt, but the association goes much deeper than that. Since antiquity, beekeepers have crushed lemon balm leaves around their hives to calm the brood - interestingly, the leaves contains phytochemicals similar in scent to the pheromones the bees themselves use to mark their hive. In Greek mythology, Melissa was one of the nymphs that nursed baby Zeus on honey and goat milk while hiding him from his father, Cronos, who meant to kill him. The nymphs had the ability to take the form of bees and were known collectively as the Melissae. These "bee priestesses" kept and served at the temples of Demeter and Artemis. These women worked intimately with the bees, weaving them into their rites and rituals and devoting their whole lives to the preservation and sharing of their wisdom and teachings. The Melissae - and the bees themselves - are considered divine messengers, conduits for prophecy, speakers of divine truths. In fact, the Path of Pollen, aka the Way of the Melissae, which is a very old Shamanic tradition of working with honeybees that is still orally taught today, can trace its origins back to these women.
In the Homeric Hymns, we hear Apollo say that he was actually taught the art of prophecy by three Melissae dwelling in the caves of Mount Parnassos near Delphi:
There are certain holy ones, sisters born — three virgins gifted with wings: their heads are besprinkled with white meal, and they dwell under a ridge of Parnassus. These are teachers of divination apart from me, the art which I practised while yet a boy following herds, though my father paid no heed to it. From their home they fly now here, now there, feeding on honey-comb and bringing all things to pass. And when they are inspired through eating yellow honey, they are willing to speak truth; but if they be deprived of the gods' sweet food, then they speak falsely, as they swarm in and out together.
— The Homeric Hymns English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White
The message to be inferred from that passage seems to contain both a blessing and a warning. Honey is a precious gift, the consumption of which inspires truth-telling, wisdom, and calm order. But all beekeepers know that there must be moderation when harvesting from the hive: if you take too much honey, the bees will not survive the winter. We are reminded of the bees’ centrality to our existence. We now know that 80% of plant pollination is due to these persistent workers who come to life, bring forth life, die to perpetuate life, and never cease to function as one of the best organized societies observable in nature.
One of the best ways we today can honor the bee and its rich history is to nurture native pollinator plants in our gardens, create pollinator friendly habitats that welcome and tend to the needs of our wide variety of native bees and other pollinators, utilize non-toxic and bee-friendly gardening methods and advocate for the ban of toxic pesticides that threaten our honeybee populations. For those of us who use bee products (including honey, propolis, beeswax, bee pollen & royal jelly), you can also support local beekeepers who ethically and sustainably manage their hives, choose to be more conscious about the amount of bee products you consume, and support bee havens in your community. If you'd like to learn more about beekeeping and pollinator habitats, visit the hyperlinks denoted above. If you're interested in the art of "sacred beekeeping", visit the College of the Melissae.
(pic from our own hives a few years back)
The mythology of the bee is almost inexhaustible and each of the myths has different versions. What is certain is that the bee has always been associated with the generative forces of nature. There is much wisdom to be gained from observing the bee, not just the common honeybee, but also our wild, native and non-honey-producing bee species, as well. Perhaps the bees have more to teach us about life than we have yet to learn. Praise be the pollinators!
The Healing Harvest Collection
Our September product collection combines Demeter's harvest favorites - grains (in the form of oats), flowering herbs (like lemon balm, calendula and chamomile), and honey - to create a skincare montage that is fitting for a Goddess!
Artisan Botanical Soaps
What a rich collection of soaps we have for you this month! Faerie Nectar (pictured above) offers generous plant-based benefits with the inclusion of skin supportive herbal infusions of calendula, nettles, lemon balm, selfheal and more. Of course, she's got raw local honey (from The Gallant Bee) for extra rich lather and skin protective properties. That dripping "honey" though! Swoon!
Queen Bee is our ode to The Melissae. Honey and lemon balm both feature prominently in this exquisite bar. It smells ahhh-mazing, too!
Our sweet little Baby Bastille bar is sure to be a
popular one! With over 70% olive oil combined with coconut oil, cocoa butter and castor, this simple but very mild soap is formulated for the most sensitive skin types, including baby's delicate skin. And yes, we sell that cute card and seed packet in our retail boutique! It's the perfect lil gift set! :)
Hoppy Thoughts is our newest beer-based soap. We've paired a Pittsboro Pilsner from Thirsty Skull Brewing Co with a hops-infused avocado oil from our own home-grown hops for this soothing soap. Keeping it local, y'all! ;)
The soothing aroma matches its skin soothing properties - smooth cedarwood, cypress, oakmoss & amber alongside timeless lavender. Elegant, earthy and irresistible. (Oh and if you wanna try that Pittsboro Pilsner, stop by 580 Craft Beer and grab one on tap! And while you're there, get your tix to the 2nd Annual Chatham County Beer Festival!)
Constant Gardener is our fave for scrubbing away all the dirt and grime from a long day of digging in the soil. With its generous, chunky size and real loofah slice grown and dried by our sweet friend, Emily, over at HeartSong Farm, you'll soon be reaching for this bar for all the messy jobs. Our butter-rich formula ensures all that scrubbin' won't strip your skin! Plus, how freaking cute is that little ribbon?!
Calamine Calm is pretty in pink but she's no pushover! Real calamine powder, colloidal oats, and a triple butter base ensures a skin soothing trifecta. Got bug bites or poison ivy? She's got you covered!
Helios is a stunning golden hued bar brimming with the healing power of calendula, chamomile and carrots. Minimalist beauty at its best.
Black Chamomile & Honey elevates your bathing experience from ordinary to exceptional! Sticky sweet amber honey meets earthy herbal notes, tranquil chamomile & bergamot, grounding black musk and tonka bean with fleeting floral and citrus top notes. A unisex fragrance everyone will love!
Gentle natural skincare & haircare
Oats are a hands-down favorite for the gentlest, most soothing skincare ingredients. Oats have long been treasured in skin care, known for their soothing properties, itch relief, and ability to lock in moisture. So if you’re suffering from any eczema or plain ol’ extra-dry skin, oats are the way to go.
Chamomile Oat Milk Dream Creme - This beautiful chamomile and oat-based facial cream is silky smooth, gentle, and oh so soothing. Richly emollient and deeply moisturizing! If you suffer from any sort of skin sensitivities, give this luxurious moisturizer a try.
Wild Oats & Honey Facial Cleansing Milk - A super gentle, soothing facial cleanser with all the anti-inflammatory protection of oats and honey. Oat proteins repair and improve the skin's sebum while improving moisture retention. Raw local honey, aloe vera, and lavender hydrosol add to the anti-inflammatory and protective properties of this mild cleanser. The resulting product is creamy and lotion-like with a low lather and great rinse-off. Sensitive skin will love this soothing and nourishing cleanser that refreshes and hydrates!
Rosemary Restorative Hand Cream - Newly formulated for maximum impact! Loaded with plant-based skincare allies and powerful botanical extracts to hydrate hard-working hands and offer lasting moisturization. Don't miss your chance to grab this one while it's in stock!
Lavender Lemongrass ACV Hair Rinse - Bringing back a fave from a few years back! Our raw apple cider vinegar hair rinse combines locally procured cider vinegar from the good folks over at Chatham Cider Works with hair lovin' herbs, most of which were harvested on our own farm. This rinse is great at removing icky buildup from both traditional shampoos and solid shampoo bars.
Bubble Box Suds-cription: Farm & Field Collection
This month's Bubble Box is a minimalist skincare lovers treasure box! We're teaming our Helios bar with the Chamomile Oat Milk Dream Creme and a sweet little surprise - a charming honeycomb bath bomb!
Don't forget - you don't have to subscribe to enjoy our Bubble Boxes. You can purchase them individually online or in-store. They're perfect for last minute gifting!
Catch us this Thursday, Sept 1st, at the Pittsboro Farmer's Market. We'll have all the new soaps with us, but only a limited number of other skincare products. Remember, we're only at market once a month so don't miss out! Of course, you can always find ALL our products and more in our retail boutique Friday thru Sunday.
We'll be open for First Sunday! If you're shopping the vendors up at the Circle, hop on down and visit us! We're just 2 blocks away! Free samples for First Sunday shoppers! :)
On Sunday, Sept 11th, we'll be joining our friends and fellow Circle City Merchants over at Reclamation Home Furnishings for their Vintage & Artisan Market. This event runs from 12-5 so our shop will be closed that day, but you'll be able to find us just a few blocks away!
Sept 21st - Merry Mabon! It's the Autumn Equinox! Stop by the shop for a special gift! :)