Jumping back to Aegyptika, Herodotos felt that there was an affinity between Bacchic, Egyptian, Pythagorean and Orphic beliefs and practices:
The Egyptians wear linen tunics with fringes hanging about the legs, called ‘calasiris’ and loose white woolen mantles over these. But nothing of wool is brought into the temples, or buried with them; that is forbidden. In this they follow the same rules as the ritual called Orphic and Bacchic, but which is in truth Egyptian and Pythagorean; for neither may those initiated into these rites be buried in woolen wrappings. There is a sacred legend about this. (The Histories 2.81)
Pushkin is not the only Russian interested in this fertile intersection, as Jesús Ángel Espinós writes in The realm of Hades and its symbols in Mandel’štam’s Tristia: a transparent path to redemption:
So, through the mediation of bees and their honey Persephone softens her gloomy character and takes on a new redeemer aspect through which the bees, probably a metaphor of the souls of the dead, transmute their honey into sun, and consequently transcend their earthly existence, as can be observed in the final verses of poem I, 208:
Take for joy my wild gift,
A homely and dry necklace
Of dead bees who transformed
honey into sun.
The last word of the poem, “sun”, inserts itself into a fundamental network where metaphors pertaining to “black sun” and to “night sun” claim attention. In both epithets it has been observed as an Orphic influence that refers to Dionysus Nyktelios, the “Dionysus of the night sun”. Broadly speaking, the imagery of both suns, particularly that of the “night sun”, has to be related to Vjačeslav Ivanov, classical philologist and erudite Symbolist poet, who exerted a great sway on Mandel’štam, especially in his youthful years. Ivanov employs the image of “night sun” in several works such as in the articles ‘Мысли о символизме’ (‘Thoughts about Symbolism’), ‘Орфей’ (‘Orpheus’), in the essay ‘Взгляд Скрябина на искусство’ (‘Skrjabin’s View of Art’), and in the poems ‘Ночное солнце’ (‘Night Sun’) and ‘Сердце Диониса’ (‘Dionysus’ Heart’) among others. Orphic rituals enable us to expiate the guilt inherited from the Titans, and consequently avoid the punishments of afterlife and the cycle of reincarnations. In addition, Plutarch suggests that there must have been a work dedicated to Dionysus Nyktelios, which probably described the mourning for the god’s death and the orgiastic rites in honor of his rebirth. Nevertheless, in spite of Plutarch’s witness, the existence of such a work, perhaps an epic poem called Νυκτέλια, cannot be proved. In this hypothetical poem the initiates would be instructed in the symbolic meaning of the night, which should be explained by the opposition night/day, shadow/light, an opposition that can be observed in the Mandel’štamian oxymora “night sun”, and to a lesser extent “black sun”. On the other hand, this interrelation of opposite qualities can be traced back to Ivanov, who closes his poem ‘Ночное солнце’ (‘ Night Sun’) with the following command: “В полночь зови незакатный свет!” (“At midnight call the never setting light!”; v. 7). In sum, from this point of view, the Orphic sun of poem I, 208 (v. 15), created by the honey of dead bees, should be understood as a sun of salvation that, under the appearance of a Dionysus reborn, would set us free from the continuous and numerous gloomy metaphors that dot Mandel’štam’s Tristia. On the other hand, the bees were a symbol of poetic talent in classical Antiquity as must be inferred from the recurrent scene of bees that perch on the lips of future poets when they are still in the cradle or that, in the case of the young Pindar, even build a honeycomb on his lips according to Pausanias (Description of Greece IX, 23, 2), or feed him with honey as Philostratus (Images II, 12, 2, 4) states. So, I might venture that the bees, by means of their poetic force, defy death, which is the same as saying that poetry, incarnated in the honey, reveals itself as immortal.