The History of Beeswax
Where did beeswax originate from?
Usually we would think honey is the most important product from the bee hive, but historically beeswax has played an equally important role.
Virgil, the great Roman Poet (70 BC ) had written of an invention by Pan, who was the gaurdian of the bees. Pan made a flute of reeds held together by beeswax.
Homer, a greek poet (750 BC ), wrote ‘Plug your comrades’ ears with softened beeswax lest they listen, and row swiftly past.’ in his epic poem The Odyssey.
Dating back to ancient times Beeswax has been used by many cultures for a variety of uses ranging from sealing wax for important documents to batik designs, cosmetics and even casting of metal statues and figures. Some of the most vivid paintings are the encaustic paintings, using hot beeswax, made by artists in Egypt about 1,600 to 2,999 years ago. A painter would use an iron plate, heated from underneath with charcoal which melts the beeswax and kept it liquid. Powdered pigments would be mixed with the liquid wax and then applied to a canvas. The finished painting would be exposed to the sun’s heat and the painting would be blended or ‘burned in’.
A big number of Romans were honored by having statues made of themselves made from beeswax. Romans also wore Death masks made from beeswax. Egyptians used wax figures of deities in ceremonies. The Assyrians covered bodies with beeswax and then dipped the bodies in honey.
Beeswax has been found in the pharoahs tombs, sunken viking ships and Roman ruins.
You could call it the duct tape of old having thousands of uses and virtually essential.
Beeswax does not go bad and has even been recovered from ancient ship wrecks, heated up and still usable. Over time though beeswax gets what is called bloom. Bloom is a light powdery substance that comes out from within the wax. It’s not mold and can simply be buffed off.
Beeswax is still used for making the finest candles available and grafting plants. Grafting wax was originally made from using beeswax. The best grafting wax must be pliable and non toxic to the plant tissue and should last for at least two months after the graft has been made to give time for the plant cells to grow and join together. Today cheaper waxes are more commonly used to make grafting wax, but some professionals still choose to use beeswax.
One of the formulas for grafting wax which is probably hundreds of years old contains one part beeswax, one part plant resin, and sufficient lard or tallow to make the wax soft and pliable. A lot of times charcoal is added to prevent the sun’s rays from hitting the newly joined tissue. This is still a practical formula for use in home today.
Beeswax makes the purest candles known. If properly made beeswax candles produce a bright flame, it won’t smoke or sputter and generates a fragrant odor while burning.
Because of the stability of beeswax the candles can be stored for long periods of time without deterioration.