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'Pandora' by John William Waterhouse, 1896.

Pandora, the Goddess who Unleashed both Hell and Hope upon Humanity

Most people are familiar with the creation of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis. But the story of mankind’s creation in Greek mythology is probably less well-known, and is arguably darker in tone when compared to Genesis. For a start, men and women were not created at the same time. Men existed before the coming of women, and degenerated over the ages. Moreover, the creation of the first woman, Pandora, was not a gift by the gods to man, but a punishment.

In the Greek myth of creation, as recorded in the Greek poet Hesiod’s Works and Days (8th century BC), there were five ages. The first of these was the Golden Age, where men were immortals and dwelled on Olympus. They were made of gold, and lived like gods. When this age ended, the men became good spirits that watched over mortals. The next age was the Silver Age, where men were made of silver, and still dwelled on Olympus. They were, however, no longer immortal. The following two ages were the Bronze Age and Heroic Age. In the former, men were made of bronze, whilst in the latter, the Earth was populated by the heroes of Greek mythology. Both ages were brought to an end by constant wars. The last age, which is the present one, is the Iron Age, where men toil and suffer all their lives.

The Greek Gods of Olympus. ‘The Induction of Ganymede in Olympus’ by Charles Amédée Philippe van Loo

The Greek Gods of Olympus. ‘The Induction of Ganymede in Olympus’ by Charles Amédée Philippe van Loo ( Wikimedia Commons )

As the myths in Hesiod’s works are not arranged entirely in chronological order, it is difficult to pin down in which age of mankind Pandora was created. The story of Pandora, however, is intricately linked with that of the titan Prometheus, whose tale begins at Mekone, and may perhaps be placed sometime after the Silver Age. It was at this place that Prometheus cut up an ox and divided it into two portions. The smaller portion contained the meat of the animal wrapped up in the ox’s stomach, whilst the larger one had the animal’s bones covered by a layer of glistening fat. Prometheus succeeded in tricking the gods, as they chose the bigger portion, whilst mankind was left with the edible meat.

Enraged by Prometheus’ trickery, Zeus withheld fire from man, so that they could not cook the meat. This prompted Prometheus to steal fire from the gods, resulting in his punishment by being bound in chains, and having an eagle eat his liver, which would grow back in the night. Prometheus was eventually freed by the hero Heracles. Zeus was not contented with punishing Prometheus alone, but decided to punish mankind as well.

‘Prometheus Carrying Fire’ by Jan Cossiers

‘Prometheus Carrying Fire’ by Jan Cossiers ( Wikimedia Commons )

The Gift of Pandora

Zeus fashioned a maiden out of earth and water, and gave her a human voice and strength. Then the gods showered her with gifts. Athena taught her the crafts, Aphrodite bestowed on her “charm about her head” as well as “painful yearning and consuming obsession”, whereas Hermes gave her “a bitch’s mind and a knavish nature”. The maiden was then dressed and adorned by the gods. As the maiden was laden with numerous gifts from the gods, she was called Pandora, literally meaning “All gift”.

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Pandora was indeed a sight to behold, though a dangerous one:

Both immortal gods and mortal men were seized with wonder then they saw that precipitous trap, more than mankind can manage. For from her is descended the female sex, a great affliction to mortals as they dwell with their husbands – no fit partners for accursed Poverty, but only for Plenty.

Pandora was then sent by Hermes to Epimetheus, the brother of Prometheus, as a gift. Although Prometheus had warned his brother not to accept any gift from Zeus, Epimetheus had forgotten about the warning, and took Pandora as his wife.

Pandora was a beauty to behold and when he saw her, Epimetheus forgot all the warnings about accepting a gift from Zeus

Pandora was a beauty to behold and when he saw her, Epimetheus forgot all the warnings about accepting a gift from Zeus ( Wikimedia Commons )

Pandora and the Forbidden Box

Zeus, pleased that his trap was working, gave Pandora a wedding gift of a beautiful box. (In Hesiod’s original version, the gift was actually a ‘pithos’ or jar. It was not until the 16 th century, that the word was mistranslated to mean ‘box’.) There was just one very important condition. Pandora was forbidden from opening the jar/box.

Pandora was gifted with curiosity as much as the other attributes given to her by the gods, and her mind became consumed with thoughts about what was kept inside. She could not understand why Zeus would give her a wedding gift but not allow her to see it. Eventually, she could think of nothing else but opening the box and unlocking its secrets, just what Zeus had planned.

Pandora is overcome by temptation and curiosity. ‘Pandora and The Forbidden Box’ by Walter Crane.

Pandora is overcome by temptation and curiosity. ‘Pandora and The Forbidden Box’ by Walter Crane. ( Wikimedia Commons )

Pandora Opens the Box

Pandora could stand it no longer. When Epimetheus left the room, Pandora finally opened the box. Out poured a stream of ghostly creatures that consisted of disease, poverty, misery, sadness, death, and all the evils of the world. Pandora slammed the lid shut, but it was too late, the whole contents had escaped except for one small thing that lay at the bottom – Hope.

‘Pandora Opens the Box’ by Walter Crane

‘Pandora Opens the Box’ by Walter Crane ( Wikimedia Commons )

Pandora released Hope and it fluttered from the box, touching the wounds created by the evil she had unleashed. Even today, hope still remains in humanity in the darkest of times. As the British poet Alexander Pope once famously wrote, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast”.

Featured image: ‘Pandora’ by John William Waterhouse, 1896. ( Wikimedia Commons )

References

Atsma, A. J., 2011. Pandora. [Online]
Available at: http://www.theoi.com/Heroine/Pandora.html

Gill, N. S., 2015. Pandora's Box. [Online]
Available here.

Hesiod, Theogony
[West, M. L. (trans.), 1988. Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days, Oxford: Oxford University Press.]

Hesiod, Works and Days
[West, M. L. (trans.), 1988. Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days, Oxford: Oxford University Press.]

www.greek-gods.info, 2014. Pandora, the first woman ever created. [Online]
Available at: http://www.greek-gods.info/greek-heroes/pandora/

www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com, 2015. The myth of Pandora’s box. [Online]
Available at: http://www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com/pandoras-box-myth/

By Ḏḥwty

Comments

PANDORA literally meaning ALL GIFT? In what language?
Perhaps PANDORA (PA N DORA) in PELASG language mean SAW IN HAND?
PELASG ALBANIAN (who they are the decedent of PELASG - ILLYRI - EMATHIA (MACEDONIA) ETC
PA N DORA - PA NE DORE - meaning SAW IN HAND.

Morgain's picture

The meaning is All Gifts, or All Giving.
PAN = All, every, whole, all-inclusive
DORA = Gifts, giving. from Dorothea (Dorothy), Theodora, gift from God, gift of the Gods.

The myth is a bitter one, hostile to women, parodying older myths where female images of divinity hold jars or containers of abundant foods and other delights. The container itself is a symbol of femaleness, the necked womb.

Curiosity is the fount of intelligence and wisdom. Many or most of the early human technologies were invented by women.  The very first tool was probably a carrier bag, made of grasses, for carrying gathered food (vegetables, roots, nuts, fruits). Lined with clay, used for fire carrying, this created the first pots. Cooking employed containers. Water and food needed containers for porterage, and fire also was carried in clay lined baskets. Water and fire is usually traditionally carried by women. Many societies believe that women are stronger at carrying things, perhaps by analogy with pregnancy. Certainly female stamina is greater, as male strength is designed for high energy short bursts.

A repressive ideology which aims to keep people subservient and slavish typically trains fear of sex, women, and curiosity. Showing the beauty of a woman as treacherous is a typical slavemaster trick. It divides men from women so each are weakened. It removes the joy of sex which strengthens mind and body and spirit.
A similar tale is told in old Wales, of Blodeuedd, the Lady made of Flowers. Like Pandora, she is constructed to be a delight to her husband because of her beauty. But given no choice in her fate, she feels no loyalty to her husband, and betrays him with a lover, and helps her lover kill the husband. The tale metes out vengeance but the (magically resurrected) husband is left bleakly alone and infertile. The moral is that making women into dolls is dangerous, and backfires on the wannabe masters.

Prometheus was a blazing pioneer of rebellion and freedom, later reframed as Lucifer. Again the master class attempt to make him a dire warning of agonising penalty if we dare attempt to win power and technology for ourselves. That may mean a new message now as we face global warming. But note also how the people's hero Heracles rescues Prometheus.
Note also the key reason Epimetheus brings Pandora's terrible gifts into the world is because he is simply stupid, and ignores his brother's warning. He does not look at what he is doing.

A profound question presented by Pandora's legend is what is the nature of Hope?
A simple reading is that Hope is the beautiful balancing power which offsets disease, poverty, war. There is always Hope. Yet hope is cruel and forces us to go on suffering and feeling what we suffer. To switch off, to go unfeeling, to give up hope, is far less painful and can be a way to survive. yet again if we lose hope, we eventually die, as they knew in WWII camps.
Whether we feel Pandora's gift Hope is her greatest kindness or the final and greatest cruelty by Hermes, depends on the person, and on the moment. It can be either, and no fixed answer can hold for long.

Shan Morgain www.mabinogistudy.com

Societies have to repress women, or women destroy those societies. Russia, women got the right to vote, and voted Lenin in. Germany, women got the right to vote, and voted Hitler in. Look at today in America, in another 20 years it will either be an orthodox Roman Catholic nation like Mexico, or an islamic nation as Europe will become. Right now, as Europe is about to fall to islam, women continue to vote for politicians that support the islamic invasion, even though it means they will likely become sex slaves, or be brutally murdered, within in their own lifetime.

The reality is, all your thoughts, hopes and dreams, every belief you hold dear, will be completely extinguished within your lifetime, due to unrestrained rights of women. When faced with this bitter truth, your ilk, can only launch insults, slurs and slander, while doing everything possible that you can, to ignore reality.

Hitler votes mainly came in from male voters.

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