July 16, 2013

Pandora: The First Woman

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , at 7:45 am by Babs

In Greek mythology, Pandora (“all gifted”) was the first woman, fashioned by Zeus as part of the punishment of mankind for Prometheus’ theft of the secret of fire.  According to the myth, Pandora opened a container releasing all the miseries of mankind – greed, vanity, slander, envy, pining – leaving only hope inside.

The myth of Pandora is very old, appears in several distinct versions, and has been interpreted in many ways.  In all literary versions, however, the myth is a kind of theodicy, addressing the question of why there is evil in the world.  Hesiod, both in his Theogony (briefly, without naming Pandora outright, line 570) and in Works and Days, ca. 700 BCE, has a very early version of the Pandora story.  In modern times, Pandora’s Box has become a metaphor for the unanticipated consequences of technical and scientific development.  The evidence of the vase-painters reveals another, earlier aspect of Pandora.

The Myth According to Hesiod

The titan Epimetheus (“hindsight”) was responsible for giving a positive trait to each and every animal.  However, when it was time to give man a positive trait, there was nothing left.  Prometheus (“foresight”), his brother, felt that because man was superior to all other animals, man should have a gift no other animal possessed.  So Prometheus set forth to steal fire from Zeus and handed it over to man.

Zeus was enraged and decided to punish Prometheus and his creation: mankind.  To punish Prometheus, Zeus chained him in unbreakable fetters and set an eagle over him to eat his liver each day, as the eagle is Zeus’s sacred animal.  Prometheus was an immortal, so the liver grew back every day, but he was still tormented daily from the pain, until he was freed by Heracles during The Twelve Labors.  Another possible reason for Prometheus’s torment was because he know which of Zeus’s lovers would bear a child who would eventually overthrow Zeus.  Zeus commanded that Prometheus reveal the name of the mother, but Prometheus refused, instead choosing to suffer the punishment.

To punish mankind, Zeus demanded that the other gods make Pandora as a poisoned gift for man.  Pandora was given several traits from the different gods: Hephaestus molded her out of clay and gave her form; Athena clothed her and the Charities adorned her with necklaces made by Hephaestus; Aphrodite gave her beauty; Apollo gave her musical talent and a gift for healing; Demeter taught her to tend a garden; Poseidon gave her a pearl necklace and the ability to never drown; Zeus made her idle, mischievous, and foolish; Hera gave her curiosity; Hermes gave her cunning, boldness, and charm.  Thus the name Pandora – all gifts – in Hesiod’s version derives from the fact that she received gifts from all deities.

The most significant of these gifts, however, was a pithos or storage jar, given to Pandora either by Hermes or Zeus.  Before he was chained to the rock, Prometheus had warned Epimetheus not to take any gifts from the gods.  However, when Pandora arrived, he fell in love with her.  Hermes told Epimetheus that Pandora was a gift to the titan from Zeus, and he waned Epimetheus not to open the jar, which was Pandora’s dowry.

Until then, mankind lived life in a paradise without worry.  Epimetheus told Pandora never to open the jar she had received from Zeus.  However, Pandora’s curiosity got the better of her and she opened it, releasing all the misfortunes of mankind: “For ere this the tribes of men lived on earth remote and free from ills [kakoi] and hard toil [ponoi] and heavy sickness [nosoi argaleai] which bring the Keres [baleful spirits] upon men; for in time to keep one thing in the jar: hope.  The world remained extremely bleak for an unspecified interval, until Pandora “chanced” to revisit the box again, at which point Hope fluttered out.  Thus, mankind always has hope in times of evil.

In another, more philosophical version of the myth, hope [Elpis] is considered the worst of the potential evils, because it is equated with terrifying foreknowledge.  By preventing hope from escaping the jar, Pandora in a sense saves the world from the worst damage.  The daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora was Pyrrha, who married Deucalion and was one of the two who survived the deluge.

Problems and Mistranslation

Most scholars contend that Pandora’s “box” is a mistranslation, and her “box” may have been a large jar or vase, forged from the earth, perhaps because of similarities in shape between a jar and a woman’s uterus.  There is also evidence to suggest that Pandora herself was the “jar”.

The mistranslation is usually attributed to the 16th Century Humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam when he translated Hesiod’s tale of Pandora.  Hesiod uses the word “pithos” which refers to a jar used to store grain.  It is possible that Erasmus confused “pithos” with “pyxis” which means box.  The scholar M.L. West has written that Erasmus may have mixed up the story of Pandora with the story found elsewhere of a box which was opened by Psyche.  The original Greek text from 700 BC of Hesiod’s Works and Days, whence we get the earliest extant story of Pandora and the jar, does not specify exactly what was in the box Pandora opened.

M.L. West has written that the story of Pandora… pandoapoakdook… and her jar is from a pre-Hesiodic myth, and that this explains the confusion and problems with Hesiod’s version and its inconclusiveness.  He writes that in earlier myths, Pandora was married to Prometheus, and cites the ancient Catalogue of Women as preserving this older tradition, and that the jar may have at one point contained only good things for mankind.  He also writes that it may have been that Epimetheus and Pandora and their roles were transposed in the pre-Hesiodic myths, a “mythic inversion”.  He remarks that there is a curios correlation between Pandora being made out of earth in Hesiod’s story, to what is in Apollodorus that Prometheus created man from water and earth.  (Appolodorus, Library and Epitome, ed. Sir James George Frazer.)


The story of Pandora’s Box can be interpreted in more than one way, but is often thought to be a version of “curiosity killed the cat”.  Various feminist scholars believe that in an earlier set of myths, Pandora was the Great Goddess, provider of the gifts that made life and culture possible, and that Hesiod’s tale can be seen as part of a propaganda campaign to demote her from her previously revered status.  For an alternate view of Pandora, see Charlene Spretnak’s Lost Goddesses of Early Greece; A Collection of Pre-Hellenic Mythology, 1978.  The presence of hope in a jar full of evils for mankind raises questions about whether Hope is a comfort for the evil mankind experiences, or whether the hope for something better must be interpreted as the damnation of mankind.

Pandora As Depicted By the Vase-Painters

Jane Ellen Harrison turned to the repertory of vase-painters to shed light on aspects of myth that were left unaddressed or disguised in literature.  The story of Pandora was repeated on Greek ceramics.  On a fifth century amphora in the Ashmolean Museum the half-figure of Pandora emerges from the ground, her arms upraised in the epiphany gesture, to greet Epimetheus.  A winged Ker with a fillet hovers overhead: “Pandora rises from the earth; she is the Earth, giver of all gifts,” Harrison observes.  On another vase showing the fashioning of Pandora she is inscribed with her alternate name: [A]nesidora (“who sends up gifts”).  “Pandora is form or title of the Earth-goddess in the Kore form, entirely humanized and vividly personified by mythology.”  and she quotes a scholium on a passage of Aristophanes mentioning a sacrificed white fleeced ram to Pandora: “to Pandora, the earth, because she bestows all things necessary for life”.  Thus Harrison concludes “in the patriarchal mythology of Hesiod her great figure is strangely changed.  She is no longer Earth-born, but the creature, the handiwork of Olympian Zeus.”

In Summary

Pandora plays an intriguing role in Greek mythology.  According to the most well-known legend, she was the first woman, created by the ruler of the gods, Zeus.  Zeus was assisted in this task by other Greek deities, including Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, who used her powers to bestow upon Pandora grace and loveliness; Hermes, messenger of the gods, gave Pandora persuasion; and Apollo, god of music and the arts, favored the woman with musical skill.  Because of the gifts of the gods, Pandora was very attractive – her name even means “all gifts”.

However, Pandora had a flaw.  She was curious.  When she encountered a jar that belonged to Epimetheus, she could not resist learning about its mysterious contents, and so she therefore opened it.  This jar contained all of the evils, which were then released into the world.  The only thing that remained in the jar was hope.

She, as the first woman, created after man, is sometimes compared to Eve in Hebrew myth.  Pandora was originally a title of the goddess Rhea (the name means all gifts) – but the story of Pandora and her jar (not box) was more the anti-feminine invention of the poet Hesiod.

But even if Pandora had a jar and not a box, women as portrayed in ancient art are forever putting things tidily away in boxes of various kinds.  There’s even the myth of Danae, where she and her son Perseus were themselves tidied away in a box and dumped at sea.  Francois Lissarague has discussed the idea that the box is symbolic of women’s life in Athens – she was to a large extent herself seen as a container – for the sperm, for the child, who spent most of her life in a container (house) designed for the purpose of allowing no unauthorized person to open the box.

There is a second myth which is less known that says Zeus created Pandora, in good faith, to be a blessing to man.  Zeus sent with her box containing the marriage presents, which were given by every god.  Pandora, being curious, opened the box and all the blessings flew out, save one, Hope.

It is said that the second myth seems more logical, for how could Hope be stored in the same container as all manner of evil and illness.  Unlike today’s associations with Pandora, we need to remember that this goddess’ name mans “all-giver” or “sender of gifts”.  And when the evils of the world threaten, let us not forget that Pandora’s box still, and always, holds hope.

October 4, 2012

Lilith – The First Feminist Goddess

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , , at 9:59 pm by Babs

The many legends of Lilith – “My name thou knowest not, and yet shall know, and know too late.  But, know thou this indeed: joy is my sister.  Sister I, to death.”  Lilith’s legend stems from many cultures including Babylonian, Sumerian and Hebrew.

Of these she is most well-known for her role in Hebrew writings.  This Sumerian and Hebrew Goddess, once honored for her wisdom, freedom, courage, playfulness, passion, pleasure and sexuality in pre 2300 BCE, was portrayed as a demon by Levite priests at the dawn of patriarchy.  Her liberationalist attitude and assertive behavior was threatening to the emerging patriarchal society, and led to her expulsion from Eden to be replaced by the more subservient Eve.  But let’s piece together the story.

Hebrew Tradition:

It is said that Lilith was the twin sister of Adam and dwelt with him in the Garden at Paradise.  Adam was created from dust, so the story goes, and She was created just as Adam was therefore claiming to be his equal.  Adam was king of Eden and Lilith wished to be co-ruler with him, but the Lord of Light permitted it not.  Lilith was beautiful and wise and soon She wearied of her brother, Adam, who was less wise than she.  When Adam wanted to lie with her She wanted to know why she must submit and be on the bottom.  This shows She was in full control of her own sexuality.  Lilith refused to bear children from Adam.  The Lord of Light was angered and turned Lilith out of Paradise.  In som translations she fled and in others she left willingly.  Regardless of hour her exit was made, She gives up paradise before submitting to a man.

Later, She went to Yahweh (god) and tricked him into giving his sacred name, his name of power.  Because Lilith now had power over Yahweh, she demanded he give her wings and she flew to the desert. (Isis???) Adam begged Yahweh to send Lilith back to him and Yahweh sent the three angels Senoi.  Sansenoi and Samangloph to find her and bring her back.  They found her on the banks of the Read Sea, copulating with demons, and giving birth to hundreds of demon children.  She refused to return and was told that she would lose a hundred of her children every day if she did not, but still she refused.

Slight variations in Hebrew legend show She was cursed to give birth to one hundred demon children a day who were then killed because she would not return.  Parentage of the demon children also vacillates… from a demon to Adam himself which will be explained in a moment.  Her revenge for this curse (either the killing of her children or the giving birth to demons or then seeing them killed) is also varied.  One version has Her taking revenge by stealing or killing human children.

In another version She is the snake of the garden who tempted Eve.  Yet another revolves around her replacement… Eve.  You know the story, Adam and Eve fell from favor with Yahweh (which may or may not have had something to do with Lilith in the form of a snake) and Adam decided upon celibacy.  Then Lilith took her revenge every night by coming to him as a succubae, capturing his semen and making demon babies.  For this reason Lilith is believed in Jewish folklore to be a succubus, a sexual vampire or demon who came to men at night and caused wet dreams.  The Queen of Sheba, portrayed in some legends as a seductive temptress or sorceress, is associated with Lilith in Jewish tradition.

It is also said that Samuel, an angel of the Lord of Light and a son of god, fell in love with Lilith.  To Samuel, Lilith bore three half-god half-human children, all called the nephilim.  Their wisdom, power and beauty were so great that the children of Darkness were afraid of them and called them monstrous names to defile them.  Lilith would not be defiled.  From her beloved Samuel she learned the wisdom of the Lord of Light and became the first with.  She lived as a daughter of the night mother, calling the people to dance and be youths by the light of the moon.  Her symbol was the night owl, and those who followed her called her Arionrhod.  The children of Darkness trembled and barred their doors at night seeking to protect them lest Lilith take them and teach them the ways of the wise ones, the witches of old.

Lilith is the archetype for the woman who refuses to be dominated by man.  She is a largely misunderstood archetype who has been called Poetess of Darkness, Imp of Impetuosity, and Occasional Serpent of Seduction.  She is deeply committed to her personal freedom and keeps her moral strength alive.  Some stories says she is a demon, others a fallen angel.  She has a mysterious power that is permanent, direct and instinctual.  To be cast out for not obeying your husband is enough to make you a snake or a demon in the history of the Jewish people.

her name means “Screech Owl” or “Night Creature.”  She is mentioned in the Bible as the Hebrew god, Yahweh, threatens the destruction of Edom (a land located to the south and east of the dead Sea) He describes what will happen after it is laid waste: “… The night creature shall rest there and find for herself a place of rest” (Book of Isaiah Chapter 34 verse 14).  Like in the Inanna legend, Lilith’s presence symbolizes a dark time of fear or desolation.  She is the focus of misogyny which is defined as the hatred of women and Robin Morgan went to far as to say. “Every organized patriarchal religion worked overtime to contribute its own brand of misogyny.”  Curious to also note history is written by the victors (here I am referring to the patriarchal society_ and you will note that Lilith has been edited out of the final version of the creation story and Eve is the root of all sin.

Sumerian Tradition:

Lilith is the first feminist Goddess, dating to 2300 BCE or earlier.  The earliest representation of Lilith seem to be a great winged Bird Goddess, a wind spirit, or one associated with the Sumerian, Ninlil, Goddess of the Grain, and wife to Enlil.  This powerful dark-mother goddess is referred to as a demon by Levite priests who wrote the Bible, likely due to her assertive behavior at a time when patriarchy was new.  As the “hand of Inanna”, Lilith was notorious for bringing men from the street and fields of war to Inanna’s temple for holy sexual rites, in which the intention was to civilize the people.  The sacred sexual customs were, in fact, considered the greatest gift of Inanna.

For the Sumerians, She was the original wife of Adam, with whom She claimed equality because they were created together in the image of Elohin (a word for “god” which had feminine as well as masculine linguistic roots).  In her hands She holds the rod and ring of Sumerian royal authority (or glyph of 100,000).  Lilith wears a stepped crown or turban and is accompanied by the bird of wisdom and the king of beasts.

In Sumerian/ Babylonian myth Lilith is a demon-goddess, called “The Dark maid” or “Maiden of Desolation”.  She is associated with owls and is the creature of the night depicted on a Babylonian clay plaque from 2000 – 16000 BCE as beautiful winged woman with bird’s feet and claws.

As a young woman, Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love and war, plants a sacred huluppu tree from which She hopes to make Her throne (representing Her power as an adult woman) and bed (representing Her full sexuality).  But Lilith, along with the serpent and the lion-faced anzu bird, eventually drives Lilith out and Inanna is then able to claim Her throne and bed.

Sumerian myth has Lilith as Eve’s dark sister and first wife of Adam and she became representative of all that is dark, wild, and intensely creative and free in human nature, existing beyond the reach of society’s boundaries or control.

According to the Farrars, “Lilith was not her original name, which appears to have been lost.  She acquired it by identification with the Sumerian “night hag” Lilitu.  As such, she is the ‘screech-owl’ or ‘night monster’ of Isaiah xxiv:14.”

They go on to say, “So much for the blackening process.  Lilith (whatever her own name was), is clearly a concept much older than Eve.  Whether she was the First Woman, co-equal with the First Man – or father back than that, the uncreated Primordial Mother who gave birth to the First Man (or the first Male God) and then mated with him – she was totally unacceptable to emerging Hebrew patriarchy.  So Eve was invented – created by a male God out of Adam’s male body, as complete a reversal of the natural order as Zeus’s giving birth to Athene by swallowing her pregnant mother, Metis.”

In recent times, Lilith is revered as a strong woman, confident in her sexual powers, who refused to be subordinate to the husband she was given to, who left Paradise willingly rather than submit to a man.

Lilith in a reading indicates tension and its underlying dark fears that must be faced.  Sexuality is a strong undercurrent in this situation and needs to be recognized.

Various legends of Lilith saw her as a threat to children, possibly in revenge for the killing of her own demon babies.  Patricia Monaghan says, “Lilith threatened children as well, for she has power over all infants in their first week… Mothers could protect their children however, by hanging an amulet marked “Sen Sam San” for the protective angels Sensenoi, Samangalaph, and Senoi” – around the child’s neck.

“Because she liked her victims smiling she tickled the infant’s fee.  It giggled, thereupon Lilith strangled it.  mothers were also wary of kites, pelicans, owls, jackals, wildcats and wolves, all disguises favored by Lilith, who went as well by 40 other names and represented a terrifying power that the Sumerians called Lamasthu, the Greeks Lamia, and other people Gilou, Kishimogin, or Baba Yaga.”


Suggested mantra: Equality

Suggested Affirmations:

  • I forgive
  • I welcome forgiveness
  • I am free from judgment
  • I deserve to be free from guilt
  • I am creating the life I love
  • I am tolerant of unenlightened people
  • My vital energy resurfaces naturally
  • I am honest and truthful in all I say and do

Essense: Goddessence essential old blend relates to the Solar Plexus Chakra is known as the power chakra.  It rules our personal power, metabolism, and is where intuition is manifested on the physical plane.  When healthy, this chakra brings us energy, a strong sense of self, spontaneity, and non-dominating power.

If you are doubting the strength of her gifts and abilities, recharge and revitalize your personal power and send of intention with this blend of seven 100% pure essential oils.  Take charge of your life with such goddesses as Bodicea, Caffeina, Lilith, Pallas, and Pele.

Ingredients for a Solar Plexus Chakra oil blend would include lemon grass and eucalyptus oils which are used to cleanse and decongest the chakra and me ready for the energies of rosewood (used for its restorative qualities) peppermint to promote a pleasant sense of stimulation, bergamot to uplift, and lime and lemon myrtle to promote clarity, assertiveness and self-confidence.

Gemstones: Amber, Tiger Eye, Garnet, Bloodstone, Tourmaline, Smoky Quartz

More about Lilith:

In Western tradition, she was the original partner of Adam, created equally together in the image of Elohin.

Lilith’s cameo appearance as the first wife of Adam in the Garden of Eden (but dumped him when he whined just a bit too much), was followed by her appearance as the paramour of lascivious spirits in the Red Sea or the bride of Samuel the Devil (both causes of slander and libel), then as the Queen of Sheba and Sermargard (i.e. men such as Solomon the Wise do not do stupid things; they are bewitched by seductive women!), and as the Consort of God Himself in fifteenth century Cabbalism (the latter which was just one more justification for The Albigensian Crusade).  But her greatest role seems likely to be as handmaiden to The Great Goddess, Inanna.

As Adam’s first wife, however, Lilith really got into trouble with patriarchy.  She had the audacity to want to be treated as Adam’s equal.  According to Hebrew mythology, the Babylonian Talmud, the Zohar, and the Alphabet of Ben Sira, Lilith refused to lie below Adam, and thus set the archetypal example for later feminists.  God allegedly threatened her by decreeing if she did not submit to Adam, that “one hundred of her children would die every day.”  Lilith chose exile, which really got Adam’s goat!  Despite being ostensibly happy about having Lilith out of his life (and later blessed with a subservient, if not occasionally misguided Eve), Adam apparently never gave up resenting Lilith for having chosen exile to being with him.  Not a lot has changed in thousands upon thousands of years: A woman deciding her life is better alone than with a particular man is still the greatest of insult to that male.

The male patriarchal traditions, therefore portrayed the situation as one in which the first woman on Earth, who was created equal to man and a free spirit to boot, would be condemned to survive for eternity as a she-devil, mating with demons and devils and bearing monsters instead of human children.  “This image was to serve as a threat and warning to any woman who might consider leaving her husband or defying male authority.”

But it was all to no avail.  For now Lilith, as the sexiest aspect of the Dark Goddess, at a time in The Great Cycle known as the Dark of the Moon, is back, stirring up trouble, and reminding us all of “a time in the ancient past when women were honored and praised for initiating and fully expressing their personal freedom and sexual passion.”  And if you think she’s not fully capable of raising havoc with the patriarchy, consider the classic portrait of Lilith by Hon John Collier, 1887. (above)

In addition to the good news that “Frodo Lives”, Lilith is also present; if only as an archetype within every male and female, a primal, instinctive feminine sexuality.  Lilith’s type is the free and unrestrained animating, pulsating, transforming sexuality that evokes the original orgiastic aspect of The Great Goddess.  She is that part for which the masculine both fears and longs for – the woman who runs with the wolves!  Lilith is the woman who refuses to nurture men, and thereby threatens their survival.

As the Goddess of the Dark Moon, Lilith “ruthlessly destroys all that is not our true individuality or appropriate life path.  She will not lead us to our goal by revealing what it is, but rather by eliminating everything that it is not.  The black aspect of Lilith closes all the wrong doors that face us.”

“The blank Lilith in us will accept nothing less than our true individuality, not in the sense of separateness, but in the sense of who we intrinsically are.  When we are secure in acknowledging and expressing our true self, we do not falsify ourselves in order to be accepted by others.”  “Consensus does not require the kind of compromise that pressures us to give up our essential values while mediating with another person.”

In all respects, Lilith’s charging to the forefront during the Processional Cycle’s Dark of the Moon, is the good news.  It’s also a slight taste of what is to arrive with the ultimate Return of the Goddess in the very near future.  Say, maybe around 2012 C.E.  Are you ready??

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