Honey Hunters of the World

Honey hunting is a tradition that is older than humanity and has been developed by people (and animals) all around the world. We all like honey. It is interesting to see the different clever and daring rituals people have developed in the quest to harvest honey. As we all know, honey is worth it. The following is a selection from a variety of traditional techniques from around the world, which I will keep adding to. Please feel free to add others. Craving sweetness is hardwired into our physiology.

Honey is basically the only sweetener allowed on the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet. As a result I have become a lot more intimate with honey. I haven’t had much opportunity recently for wild honey. When I lived in Myanmar (Burma) I had pretty good access to the wild forest honey from the Shan hills which was highly valued for its health giving properties. Women used it mixed with turmeric to make little pills which they took after giving birth. One of our friends made these for his wife himself after the birth of his son.

Honey has powerful antibacterial abilities and is even used in hospitals to help heal wounds and the manuka honey I keep in my first aid kit is from my days in New Zealand. The stuff is amazing at healing burns, cuts and all kinds of things and lasts forever!

This is a really beautifully filmed honey hunting expedition to harvest some powerful health promoting but psychadelic honey in Nepal:

Excerpt from The Forest People by Colin M. Turnbull: Honey Season with the Mbuti Pygmies:

The bees began to come in droves after their stolen honey. All day long they buzzed angrily around, so that we kept smoky fires in our huts night and day.

A Cameroonian honey hunter prepares to battle a hive of bees 45 feet above the forest floor protected only by a straw suit.
A Cameroonian honey hunter prepares to battle a hive of bees 45 feet above the forest floor protected only by a straw suit.

Almost every hour someone returned from a secret forage, with leaf bundles tied to his belt, dripping the sticky liquid down his legs. Sometimes it was too liquefied to be eaten, and then the whole bundle was simply dipped into a bowl of clear forest water, making a sweet-tasting drink. But far more popular was the whole comb which could be eaten grubs, larvae, bees and all. If it was very hard, it was first softened over the fire, and this made the grubs squirm more actively so that the honey worked its own way down your throat. It was, however, the best-tasting honey, of all, despite the insects.

Apuma was yet another kind of honey, which came later in the season. It was full of grubs too, but they were all dead, and the honey had fermented. It was made by a different kind of bee and tasted like a bitter liqueur; if eaten in any quantity it could be highly intoxicating. But they Pygmy needs no stimulant in the honey season. He is drunk with the forest, with its beauty and abundance, and with the love it showers on its people. Every night that tiny camp resounded to songs of joy and praise, accompanied by the ringing of the ngbengbe sticks as they were clapped together in complex cross rhythms by boys and girls alike. Every night Masisi told his group, which had steadily grown ever since the beginning, stories about the past. And every night we went to bed content, knowing that the morrow would be even better; for each day we discovered fresh growths of mushrooms, trees full of different kinds of nuts and each night the chameleon gave its long, sad cry, to tell us that on the morrow we would have more honey.

Honey Hunters of Nepal. More photos by Andrew Newey if you click on the image.
Honey Hunters of Nepal. More photos by Andrew Newey if you click on the image.

One night in particular that will always live for me, because that night I think I learned just how far away we civilized human beings have drifted from reality. The moon was full, so the dancing had gone on longer than usual. Just before going to sleep I was standing outside my hut when I heard a curious noise from the nearby children’s bopi. This surprised me, because at nighttime the Pygmies generally never set foot outside the main camp. I wandered over to see what it was.

There, in the tiny clearing, splashed with silver, was the sophisticated Kenge, clad in bark cloth, adorned with leaves, with a flower stuck in his hair. He was all alone, dancing around and singing softly to himself as he gazed up at the treetops.

Now Kenge was the biggest flirt for miles, so, after watching a while, I came into the clearing and asked, jokingly, why he was dancing alone. He stopped, turned slowly around and looked at me as thought I was the biggest fool he had ever seen; and he was plainly surprised by my stupidity.

“But I’m not dancing alone,” he said. “I am dancing with the forest, dancing with the moon.” Then with the utmost unconcern he ignored me and continued his dance of love and life. p271-272

Below is song celebrating the honey hunt.


Honey Hunters from around the world youtube playlist:

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