It is little remembered because its meaning has been buried under the sands of time, but the British Isles was at one time referred to, by those who spoke the hidden language, as the Isles of Honey. In those slower-paced days, it was a green and pleasant land which was renown for its tangled orchards of fruit trees, and tended by those who understood the alchemico-magical relationship between the honey bees who suckle on the nectar of the blossoms in Maytime, and the practice of Earth magic and Sovereignty.
They kept their bees in bell-shaped hives which they hung from the branches of apple trees.
The linguistic link between the apple and its prime feeder is found in the word apis mellifica, which is Latin for “honey bee”.
The mellifluous mead produced from the honey was a metaphor for the ecstatic nectars and elixirs that course through the body during shamanic sex magic, which had long been the practice of kings on the night of their coronation.
In the 6th century, the Celtic bard Taliesin acknowledged this connection with the defence of sovereignty in the deeper shamanic meaning of his song Protection of the Honey Isles.
A great festival
About two lakes.
A lake surrounds me,
encompasses the Caer,
which surrounds another circle,
with deep moats.
A deep cavern
opens before me,
shadowed by great rocks.
The dragon comes out,
and crawls towards
the cups of song.
Of the song,
of the cups of gold.
The golden cups
are in his hand,
his hand is on the knife,
and the knife is
above my head.
All glory to you, victorious Beli,
Son of King Manogan
Who defends the Honey Isles.
Manogan was translated from the ancient Welsh texts as the king of the Druids, but to my way of thinking, he was probably their sky god, because we know that Beli was the Druids’ sun god – the son of the sky god. Variations on the name Beli for the Sun are found all across pre-Roman Europe in which the apple is the oldest cultivated tree.
As John Matthews writes in his book Taliesin, The Last Celtic Shaman:
“It is implied that Beli, one of the primal gods of Britain, is the dragon. He has become the guardian spirit of Britain … He is drawn to the offerings of the song in a shamanic manner…Taliesin’s song impels the defence of Britain because he is always aware of Beli’s sword.”
The storytellers of old spun tales about dragons and apples. The word ‘apple’ was used a metaphor for the stars, and the knowledge of the stars, the study of which led to enlightenment. The dragon protected the orchard of apples, in other words, the knowledge of the stars, because true illumination could only be gained as the gift of the goddess.
Apple-bearing goddesses abound in stories which go back to the last major Ice Age when our ancestors lived in the Steppes, in which the beautiful Satana would present her heroes with the gold-and-white apple of immortality.
Even on the most mundane level, we understand that the pollination of the bee is crucial to fertility. But it also has a deeper, multi-dimensional meaning to the shaman who journeys in trance across the Three Worlds. From that perspective, the bee is a conduit and catalyst for the sparking of the dragon energies which generate the illumination and wisdom that a newly-crowned king will need to rule his land. This is achieved through shamanic sexual practises that you can learn much more about in my book The Sacred Sex Rites of Ishtar.
The same metaphor is found in the original story of the Garden of Eden, before the religious scribes bent it out of all recognition. In the ancient Middle East and Aegean cultures, the bee was a sort of psychopomp guide who bridged our world with the Underworld.
The Isle of Apples
Today, these memories and the spiritual lore of those who created the magical protection of the Isles of Honey are still to be found in the morphic fields of the dreaming hills and vales of Avalon in Somerset.
The word Avalon meant “Isle of Apples” in Old English, and in my book, Stories in the Summerlands, I show how it is a diamond-shaped area of more than 100 square miles that is ruled by the passage and the marriage of the dragon Sun (Beli) and the Moon.
That is why it is no coincidence that the town of Glastonbury, at its apex, is host to a huge spiders-web of energy lines and alignments. The most prominent of these are the Michael and Mary lines that perform a sort of spiralling fertility dance on the summit of Glastonbury Tor.
Luckily, the frenetic pace of modern “progress” has had little impact on the lands of Avalon, which is still famous for its cider and mead. Hundreds of old English varieties of apples originate from here, such as the Frederick, Kingston Black, Stroke Red, Yarlington Mill, Dabinet and Sweet Coppin.
During medieval times, the Benedictine monks of Glastonbury Abbey were the successors of the Celtic beekeeper shamans when, for a few hundred years, the town became as rich and influential as Rome as a destination for pilgrims. A slow, meandering stroll through its fragrant orchard of old twisted apple trees is a favourite peaceful retreat for spiritual seekers who still wend their way to Avalon today.