Saint Gobnait, Patron Saint of Bees and Beekeepers

Gobnait (Gobnet, Gobhnet, Gobnaid, Gobnata, or Gobnatae), was born in County Clare, Ireland, sometime in the 5th or 6th century. Gobnait is Irish for Abigail (“Brings Joy”). As the patron saint of beekeepers, her name also has been anglicized as Deborah, meaning “Honey Bee.”

Monasteries and oratories in Gobnait’s time would have resembled stone beehives.   A Clochán is dry-stone hut with a corbelled roof, dating from the early Middle Ages or earlier. Most archaeologists think these structures were built on the southwestern coast of Ireland since the Bronze Age.  An “Oratory” was a small stone Church for reading the Gospels aloud (all 150 Psalms were memorized for use in their daily prayer: praying the hours).  Many of the Oratories were only large enough to hold twelve people—the number of monks considered optimal in early Irish monasteries.  Some later Monastic communities had hundreds of monks—and their families!  Some of  the Celtic Monasteries allowed married monks—the position of Abbot sometimes even passing from father to son.





One of the miracles attributed to Saint Gobnait was that she protected a parish by unleashing a swarm of bees.  

She was also known for her care of the sick. One story tells how she kept the plague out of the village of Ballyvourney in Ireland by designating it consecrated ground. Saint Gobnait’s Day is February 11th is still celebrated by the community of Ballyvourney, in County Cork. During a Mass at the well, everyone takes water from it.  She had a strong relationship with bees and used the properties of honey in the treatment of illness and healing of wounds.


St Gobnait, patron saint of bees

Medieval beliefs about bees:  “Bees are the smallest of birds. They are born from the bodies of oxen, or from the decaying flesh of slaughtered calves; worms form in the flesh and then turn into bees. Bees live in community, choose the most noble among them as king, have wars, and make honey. Their laws are based on custom, but the king does not enforce the law; rather the lawbreakers punish themselves by stinging themselves to death. Bees are afraid of smoke and are excited by noise. Each has its own duty: guarding the food supply, watching for rain, collecting dew to make honey, and making wax from flowers.”

About these ads

About LaLA Honey

I am a treatment-free beekeeper in the Berkshires.
This entry was posted in Bees in Poetry, Painting, and Other Arts, Bees in Religion and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Saint Gobnait, Patron Saint of Bees and Beekeepers

  1. Hilary Dinsmore says:

    Is it possible to tell me, what is your source for the “Medieval beliefs about bees” section of your blog? Thanks much!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s