Traditions in Xel-Há
The Melipona Bee and
In Mayan cosmology, it was believed that Earth was held by four gods: it was the responsibility of the bacabes that the heavenly bodies remain in place forever. The bacab of the east was the honey keeper. For the Maya, the stingless bee, or Melipona, was and still is considered sacred because its honey is medicinal and regenerative. In Maya, the species is called Xuna’an-Kab, Kolel’Kab o Po’ol-Kab.
The Melipona bee honey has healing properties for treating eye (pterygium, conjunctivitis, cataracts), otic (ear infection), respiratory tract (pharyngitis, laryngitis), intestinal (gastritis, typhoid) and skin (liver spots and solar, skin ulcers) problems.
The honey is also used in ritual drinks like the balché. During pre-Hispanic times, the wax and honey were also export items for their good quality and abundance.
Traditions and Melipona Bee
To protect the hives, the ancient Maya cut the logs that had hundreds of bee nests in tree hollows or jobones and placed them inside their huts.
Although the old method is still practiced today, the tradition and the beauty of the sacred Mayan ritual are disappearing. In an effort to keep these traditions alive, Xel-Há celebrates the Mayan ritual and the harvest of honey twice a year.
Melipona Bee Ceremony
The Melipona bee ceremony at Xel-Há is a ceremony to harvest honey. Accompanied by a Maya priest, it is redeemed and instructs the “man who keeps honey” or Xunaan Cab a A ha Muzen Cab, and the “man who guards the hive” Aj Tsiikil Hobon and the lords of the rain and the true God to care for the bees and have plenty of honey.
The Mayan sacred ritual involves cleaning the hives and collect honey during full moons of June and December. The ceremony is performed by a Mayan priest, accompanied by musicians, traditional altars, flowers, and a feast.
An Endangered Species
Melipona bee is endangered because of the destruction of their habitat and more frequent use of the African bee, which produces honey in larger quantities. Central America and Australia are the only regions in the world that houses the Meliponini.