July 7, 2016
A well-known Bulgarian livelihood is beekeeping. It’s no wonder the country has a day, actually two, honoring beekeepers. On July 8, Prokopi Pchelar (pro-copy pchee-lar) or Procopius the Beekeeper, beekeepers perform rituals to entice bees to produce an abundance of honey. They also give away jars of honey and bread coated with the sticky substance as a way to protect family and friends since they believe honey has magical and curative powers.
Aristaeus, Ancient Beekeeper
The first Thracian beekeeper was Aristaeus. He was indirectly responsible for the death of Eurydice, wife of Orpheus, the renowned lyre-player. Aristaeus became enamored with Eurydice and chased her. As she fled, she stepped on a snake, which bit her and she died. Thereafter, her companions, the nymphs, caused the bees of Aristaeus to die as his punishment. With the help of his mother, the water-nymph Cyrene, Aristaeus was able to bind the prophet Proteus, who then told him what to do to regain his bees.
“You have to appease their [the nymphs] anger, and thus it must be done: Select four bulls, of perfect form and size, and four cows of equal beauty, build four altars to the nymphs, and sacrifice the animals, leaving their carcasses in the leafy grove. To Orpheus and Eurydice you shall pay such funeral honors as may allay their resentment. Returning after nine days, you will examine the bodies of the cattle slain and see what will befall.”
Upon returning to the location, Aristaeus discovered a swarm of bees in the carcass of one of the slaughtered cattle. This led the ancient people to believe that bees were born from decaying flesh.
To learn more about this ritual and other Bulgarian and Thracian Rituals get a copy of our book: Light Love Rituals: Bulgarian Myths, Legends, and Folklore.