Zeus' nanny

by Gail Emerson May 19, 2016

A high risk position!


As previously blogged, Zeus was in need of a fair bit of help as a baby since his father wanted to eat him. Cronus had already swallowed all his other children, lest they overthrow him, but Zeus' mother had hidden him too well. Turns out Cronus had overthrown his dad, and he feared his son was a chip off the old block.

One of those who sheltered the infant Zeus was a mountain nymph called Melissa. She cared for the baby and fed him milk and honey. Cronus discovered where Zeus was hiding, and although Melissa got the baby away, she did not escape and was turned into an earthworm.

Years later, Zeus did exactly what his father had feared and overthrew him. Now the all-powerful rule of Mount Olympus, Zeus came across his former nanny wriggling through the earth. In gratitude for her care and giving him a taste for the honey he still loved, he transformed her into a graceful bee.

Melissa the popular girls name comes directly from the Greek word for bee. But this association pre-dates the nymphs who got embroiled in the gods feuds. An early mountain nymph was the one who discovered the tasty uses of honey, and she and her descendants were named after the nectar loving insects. 

A darker myth also shows Melissa as a loyal assistant to the gods - but this tale's ending stings a little more. The priestesses of the goddess Demeter, Persephone's mother, were referred to as bees (Melissae). One of the most elderly priestesses was initiated into the goddesses most important secrets.

One day, the elderly priestess' neighbours surrounded her, desperate to know the key to Demeter's powers. The old woman remained loyal and said nothing so in fury the crowd tore her apart. On seeing this, Demeter sent her revenge by unleashing a plague of bees from her servant's dead body. 

Whichever you prefer, Melissa certainly knows how to keep her secrets.

Daniel's Bee design is available as a greetings card or art print

Shop the whole DM Bugs and Butterflies Collection.

Gail Emerson
Gail Emerson


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