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The Eleusinian Mysteries were the most prestigious initiation of the ancient world. The ritual’s secrets were protected by death vows and have been speculated about for more than 4,000 years.


The nine-day festival was run by a group of women called Melissae, or “bees”: married women, second only in rank to the Priestess of Athena Polias, who presided over Athens.


They amassed incredible wealth, fame, and political status. Temple accounts from the period reveal that it was the priestesses’ money that paid for Greece's glorious architecture.


Fees were earned for sacrifices and granting access to divinity. In return, the priestess made Greece a magnificent place to live.


Oracles, diviners, soul midwives and creatrixes of innumerable festivals, these women ensured that the city-state kept favour with the goddess.


They achieved that by emulating the ways of the world’s most successful matriarchal community, a bee colony. Herbal textbooks speak of a relationship between these women and the Lemon Balm herb (Melissa officinalis).


Journey into the past and into the enchanting dreamscape of the hive with aromatherapist Elizabeth Ashley. A delightful odyssey for anyone interested in herbal wisdom, ancient Greek history, female empowerment, and humankind’s greatest allies, the bees.



Beautiful review by Dr Florian Birkmayer

Meeting The Melissae

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