The bee, found in Ancient Near East and Aegean cultures, was believed to be the sacred insect that bridged the natural world to the underworld. Appearing in tomb
decorations, Mycenaean tholos tombs were even shaped as beehives.
Bee motifs are also seen in Mayan cultures, an example being the Ah-Muzen-Cab, the Bee God, found in Mayan ruins, likely designating honey-producing cities (who prized honey as food of the gods).
Bees have an ancient reputation as the bringers of order, and their hives served as models for organizing temples in many Mediterranean cultures. Priestesses at Cybele's temples in Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome were Melissae, the Greek and Latin words for bees. These priestesses were often prophets or oracles who entered an ecstatic trance induced by preparations that included ingesting honey. Sacred bee-maidens with their gift of prophecy were to be Apollo’s gift to Hermes, the god who alone could lead the souls of the dead out of life and sometimes back again.