Baring the Aegis: Hellenismos
Hellenismos, otherwise known as Greek Reconstructionist Paganism, is the traditional, polytheistic religion of ancient Greece, reconstructed in and adapted to the modern world. It's a vibrant religion which can draw on a surprising amount of ancient sources. Baring the Aegis blogger Elani Temperance blogs about her experiences within this Tradition.
I'm fairly certain most--if not all--of you know the myth of Pandôra. For those who may not, or not know it completely, I will retell it first:
After the Titanomachy ends, Zeus claims His throne as rightful King to the Deathless Ones. Humanity did not yet exist. While most Titans were locked away in Tartarus by Zeus, Prometheus and Epimetheus--who were brothers--had been either neutral or on the side of Zeus during the Titan War and were therefor given a task. Prometheus was given the task of creating man and Epimetheus was ordered go give good qualities to all creatures of earth. So did Prometheus and Epimetheus. Prometheus shaped man out of clay and Athena breathed life into him. Epimetheus spread swiftness, cunning, fur and wings but ran out of gifts when he came to man. Prometheus remedied the situation by allowing men to walk upright and gave them fire.
It soon became apparent that Prometheus loved man more than the Olympians. When Zeus decreed that man must give sacrifice to the Deathless Ones, Prometheus stood ready to aid humanity. He butchered an animal and divided it in to piles; the bones and fat formed one of them, the good meat wrapped in the hide of the animal, the other. Zeus vowed that He would abide by the choice He made now, and picked the tasty looking pile of bones. Zeus was angered but could not take back His vow. What He could take back, was the gift of fire, and this He did.
Mankind suffered greatly without fire and Prometheus traveled either to the sun or Olympus to reclaim fire for his beloved mankind. This, of course, angered Zeus even further and so He devised a plan. First, He imprisoned Prometheus. He ordered Hermes to tie Prometheus to a mountain and had a giant Eagle come every day to eat his liver. As an immortal, Prometheus' liver grew back over night so his torment was endless. Before Prometheus had been taken prisoner, however, he had told his brother Epimetheus never to accept a gift from Zeus, as Zeus' wrath would undoubtedly also extend tot he mortal race he had created.
There are countless versions of this tale. It's featured heavily in Hesiod's Theogony and Works & Days but there seem to be older versions of the myth in which Pandôra was not made by Zeus but was an epithet of Demeter or Gaea who became a separate Deity. As such, Pandôra was a harvest Goddess, a Goddess risen from the earth to bestow gifts upon humanity. This would certainly seem closer to the meaning of her name; All-Giving.
The problem with the 'Pandôra's Box' myth as written above is in the inconsistencies. If Zeus wanted to punish mankind, why give them a beautiful woman? Why not drop the jar in front of some poor farmer and have him open it? Was there no curiosity in man at all? Why give Pandôra the ability to craft, sing and work diligently when she's there solely to punish mankind? If the pithos was a prison for the evils of the world, why was Hope locked in there as well? And if the pithos was, indeed, a prison, shouldn't we be without hope now? The same is true for a scenario in which there were actual gifts in the jar; why was Hope kept from humanity?
Scholars have tried valiantly to answer these questions but it doesn't become much clearer. There is a very old reference to pithos and Zeus in Hómēros' Illiad:
"There are two urns (pithoi) that stand on the door-sill of Zeus. They are unlike for the gifts they bestow: an urn of evils (kakoi), an urn of blessings (dôroi). If Zeus who delights in thunder mingles these and bestows them on man, he shifts, and moves now in evil, again in good fortune. But when Zeus bestows from the urn of sorrows, he makes a failure of man, and the evil hunger drives him over the shining earth, and he wanders resepected neither of gods nor mortals."
Could one of these have been given to Pandôra? And if so, which one? Was it the pithos holding the kakoi or the pithos holding the dôroi? Her name seems to indicate the latter, the myth the former. If it's the pithos holding the kakoi, why was Hope in that jar? Shouldn't Hope have been in the other jar? If it was the pithos holding the dôroi, why was it a good thing Hope stayed behind? Don't we need hope? And if Hope is a bad thing, why was it in the jar of blessings? Another possibility is that, when opening the jar, the blessings--because this theory works only if the pithos that was given to Pandora was a pithos of blessings--Pandôra caused mankind to lose the blessings Prometheus had bestowed upon them. All that was left, was Hope.
Aeschylus, writer of a Greek tragedy dating back to C5th B.C. indicated that it was not Zeus, but Prometheus, who saved Hope from leaving the jar and, as Aeschylus explains it, our hearths:
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